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.
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.
“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!