SHC GM-free session 24: Finale

Recap:

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

Mechanics

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

Mechanics

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

Mechanics

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

Mechanics

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

Mechanics

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

Mechanics

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

Mechanics

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

Mechanics

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

Mechanics

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

Mechanics

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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