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!
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.