SHC GM-free session 17: the search for Videnko


The Chicago Peers Birkby Cliff Dan Hitch and Sandi have successfully taken a quick look at 1922 Chicago – finding it not overrun with vampires but having indications of a strong vampire gangster presence. They have traveled by rail across the plains and over to California. The immediate thread they are following is: Locate Videnko, who is holding St. Vitellius’ Cup.

As a side comment – though this type of play does not require it – I am trying to keep track of luggage that the five are carrying. Give or take a little imagination,

  • Birkby has a share of the money given them by Charles, and some research documents; he is probably carrying the special (yet to be defined) item Ralph Hagen loaned them.
  • Cliff has his heavy bag, and some spare ammo; Maxwell’s silver hammer shrinks to small size when not in use, so once he drops the bag he’s only encumbered by the flak vest under his coat. He wears his Colt Python in a shoulder rig at present, though if the California leg lasts more than a few days he will probably buy a customized gunbelt and holster.
  • Dan always has his cross-cane, and is probably carrying some of the money and some Witch-hunter paraphernalia; he’s also taken to wearing a concealed bullet-resistant vest.
  • Hitch is probably carrying the wizard-staff Sandi picked up; he is also carrying the satchel or case with the bulk of the funds, and some research documents are tucked into it. He hasn’t bothered arming with weapons for a while, so is lightly encumbered if not carrying the satchel.
  • Sandi has two gun-safes which appear to be leather cases. They are mostly full of non-essential gear such as spare ammo, CS-guns, flash-bombs and a stun gun. Other than these cases, which are unbreakable and heavy but easily dropped, she wears her twin Glocks and has spare clips.

They all wear period clothes now, with due allowance for personal quirks and practicality. For example Sandi’s trousers make her appear far more butch than she has ever appeared. But as long as she can wear a long coat, not much notice will be paid to that anyway.


Scene: Sacramento

Last plans are being laid. It’s half a generation since the great quake and fire of 06 and San Francisco will be sprawling out and up. The Videnko letters Birkby and Hitch studied give some clues as to where to look first.

“We can’t rule out anything crazy, such as a Communist cell, but the letters slant strongly towards Videnko being an orthodox Russian, increasingly devout,” Hitch summarizes.

“And no wonder, with the thought of a Master Vampire on the loose,” Dan agrees.

“Are we gonna, like, do infil on the Russians?” Sandi wants to know.

“San Francisco is part of the US Sandi,” Hitch assures her, “I’m expecting to find one or two Russian communities, but they’ll speak English.”

“If he is God-fearing, I’ll reveal the truth to him and God will assure our success,” Dan declares.

“Hey yeah, we could bring him in on the whole thing,” Cliff adds.

“If he has powers…” Birkby trails off, but looks very thoughtful. He’s been deprived of his electronic toys so long he has passed through the withdrawal stages, but it does leave him thinking about other means of wielding arcane power.

“I think we’ll just stick to the plan, you know, not telling anyone anything about us or where we come from, if at all possible,” Hitch reminds them firmly, and would perhaps say more, but the train whistle sounds and the Peers board again.

Scene ends


Chaos check is fine.

Plans will be mature.

Chaos drops to 4.


Scene: San Francisco rail station

There’s a big brass band playing and a local dignitary waiting to speechify. A banner they can’t quite read.

“Did someone decide to telegraph through?” Hitch asks suspiciously, but Cliff and Dan deny any part of this.

The Peers breathe a sigh of relief, or possibly disappointment, when it’s obvious the dignitary stepping off the reserved coach that was added at Sacramento is the subject of the party.

Apparently, someone named Bill Richardson is a shoo-in for something gubernatorial now, thanks to the tireless boosting of people connected to locals. There’s a great deal of mutual back-slapping and cigar-end spitting. Except for some roughnecks and day laborers, waiting to take the stage down again, who look pretty glum about it all.

“Maybe we can use this,” Birkby suggests. “You know, attach ourselves, go under the radar.”

“We are just passengers, on a large train, in San Fran on business. There’s been no indication anyone is watching us at all.”

“That just means they’re better than us,” Birkby insists.

“Say, Paul, are you thinking of staying at some swanky hotel with politicians?” Sandi asks, a note of suspicion in her tone.

“Look, we’re all tired, let’s get into a hotel and discuss over dinner,” Hitch urges.

The five walk away from the boosters and drift with the hundreds of other passengers in search of a cab. Shills for cabs and hotels and rooming-houses clamor around them: there’s no shortage of choice.

Scene ends


PCs: all five

NPCs: any number, including some thrown up by events.

Chaos check 3 alteration. Focus 78 ambiguous event. Meaning 31/81 heal victory.

Further? 91/70 rudely mysterious.

A booster for Bill Richardson! A local bell-wether seat has gone Bill’s way! (Later this year, William Richardson successfully stands for reforming the various reforms just undertaken by the two previous governors. Sounds familiar…)

And there seems to be mysterious lower-class NPC(s) in the scene. I break out the mysterious NPC description a little more: glum laborer. Well, Bill’s Republican platform was definitely not in favor with laborers, so makes sense.

Chaos rises to 5.


Scene: a Russian Orthodox Church, on Fulton Street

Dan makes an attempt to work with the priest, a spade-bearded man with the glint of a pirate in his eye, but makes no headway. It’s extremely hard to negotiate, even about ‘donations’ when the money you’re dealing in has about a century of inflation between you and your target. Rather than spend half the budget on something that may be worthless, Dan bids God bless and leaves. They can always come back later.

Scene ends


Chaos check 5 alteration. Focus 14 npc action.

Meaning 64/86 spy hope.

NPC description, 5/47 sensible highwayman.


There was a Russian Orthodox Church on Fulton Street back in the 20s.

Now to try to work on the priest!

Dan gets a terrible Diplomacy roll and even an action point won’t boost that to the 35 or so needed.

Chaos rises to 6.


Scene: a swanky hotel, Nob Hill

Much against the inclination of some, Paul Birkby’s wish for comfortable surrounding has got them up the steeps of Nob Hill and booked into a hotel where a private dining area can be rented.

It has an unexpected boon: the hotel manager proves a live-wire and most of the company has a much-needed laugh.

As he leaves, he throws a piece of advice over his shoulder:

“You good folks seem to have a mite on your minds. I found I chased like a hare after this or that advantage until I learned to go back to my first goal, and the first advice I got on it, and think it all through again.”

Over a coffee or two (or in Birkby’s case a stiff tipple) the Peers painstakingly set out the path that has led them here. And the letters.

“Videnko was a Red Army serviceman. He gets here about this time, part of a general move after the civil war. We may have assumed he was disaffected: or fled to keep the cup from vampires: but what if he had other reasons? Anything – any number of reasons could be behind the move.”

“Yes, we ought not to be building all our preconceptions into our plans.”

“Say, we do know he is here?”

“It could even pay to check that. But after 1920 the Federal authorities started to get antsy about Red agents coming in posing as White refugees…”


“Let’s set that aside, but say some research down at the local version of Ellis Island might be needed.”

Birkby instinctively grabs for his mobile device at this point, then his hand claws in frustration, and slowly unclenches.

“Seems to me,” Dan ventures with uncharacteristic diffidence, “The local Russians are still a good bet. Perhaps not the Priest but just some local club for Russians?”

“Like an ex-pat thing,” Hitch muses.

“Or a smoke-filled back-room where revolution is plotted over samovars of tea,” Birkby suggests drily.

“And this is where the useful ability to chat in any language comes in,” Hitch retorts with a smile.

“Mm-hm. So, me then.”

“You’ll be fine,” Hitch assures Birkby. “But in fact it can be applied to anyone. As long as meetings are kept shortish, there’s no problem even asking Sandi…

“No, I’ll just stop right there. We can rule out girls and – sorry Dan – non-whites. It’s between you me and Cliff.”

“Huh? Sure I could talk to Videnko, about what exactly?”

“Look joking apart, I can do this,” Birkby assures them snappishly. “It’s not as though they can hurt me. Once we find Videnko, I’ll negotiate.”

“I’ll enhance your personality…” begins Dan but he’s cut short.

“I like my personality un-baptized, uncircumcised and un-enhanced thanks!”

Scene ends


Chaos check is 3 alteration, again focus is NPC action. NPC 11/86 ‘lively lord’. Further NPC focus 27/81 ‘review advice’.

Meaning of the NPC action, 46/10 ‘develop good’. I take this to be positive rather than just going over the same ground. The characters will move in a fruitful direction (even if I’m personally not sure about it!) The discussion between them all about who does what when will no doubt continue for days.

Chaos falls to 5.


Scene: A smoke-filled back parlor in Little Russia

With much drinking of vodka and smoking of pipe or cigar Birkby gains some headway, reporting back daily. Then one day he reports:

“Could have gone better. But I have found Videnko.”

“Fantastic! What does he have to say?”

“Ahh… well there’s the rub! I got chased out at gunpoint!”

“What? How come?”

“He’s a Communist Anarchist paranoid delusive, who thinks I meant to steal the cup!”

Scene ends


I have no idea where the investigation is going so just roll and get chaos check 2 interrupt.

Focus 53 ‘close a thread’. There’s only one thread in play at present, finding Videnko. So it is completed. Good news, maybe great news.

Meaning 97/25 transform friendship. This sounds like a good thing. But on the other hand a friendship was what Birkby was cultivating and that can transform in to hatred. And besides, it’s Birkby.

I make a simple open Diplomacy check for Birkby, and he rolls a 3.

Session ends!

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