Or, what’s one extra torso murder between friends?
Fight the Power! Close the Hellmouth!
Urban arcane roleplaying using Buffy the Vampire Slayer roleplay rules
For a series of sessions we’ve been dealing with the “main” problem where the white hats have had demoniacs to deal with, helped and hindered by a variety of allies and enemies. They still have the dismembered and frozen body of the latest demoniac, T-Bone, to dispose of quietly.
We now move more to the “secondary” problem, of how the giant loop tunnel relates to factions seeking the Apocalypse.
As part of the arrangements for disposing of T-Bone’s corpse, the white hats help out the Phyllis Wheatley again. Some of the young women of that charity have missed their underwear and a hot trail leads to the secret loop tunnel under Central. At the end of last session the white hats encountered a tallish weird female-like demon surrounded by Goblins wearing underwear on their head. The Goblins have handguns and let fly!
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.
Victor “Vic” Creed, 6’6 ex-paratrooper, hideously scarred, built for combat.
Roosevelt “Arby” Brown, 5’7 slim and quick grifter, built for ducking and running away.
Steve “The Cutter” Cutter, 6’ fast-handed boxer, built for fighting and smooth-talkin’ the ladies.
Scene: Fight scene in the Loop tunnel
Theme: Boom Boom
Vic carries a lot of body mass and figures, hey, I can survive a few bullets. As the other white hats drop or throw themselves to one side the big guy charges! Two bullets strike him.
[Adequate shots at the range, minus Vic’s armor, deduct 40 life points]
There’s still enough light [both Arby and Cutter manage not to break their flashlight] that Vic can get a fair view of the foul female-like creature looming over the Goblin gunnies: dark greenish skin, weird snake-like hair, hands that are pulling fire together out of the air. Grabbing one of the gunnies in front of him, he uses it as a shield as the flames sear across the tunnel, ending two flanking Goblins and charring his ‘shield’ to a tattered crisp. His scalp is burnt, and the skirt of the bullet-damaged duster.
At that point, the other Goblins flee like lightning, the demoness steps closer and delivers a stunning spin-kick that hurtles Vic back into Cutter and both onto the ground, Arby squeaks past them with his catch-pole, and Doc summons San’ Pièrres lumen. He has already sent the Goblins packing with a fear spell.
[This second attack from the demon is correctly picked up on by the white hats as an ‘uh-oh’ signal. As is the force needed to kick Vic any distance. Vic takes another 27 life points damage.]
The light blazes. Arby has correctly timed his eyes being shut, and lunges forward, easily snagging the demoness’ neck. But though blinded, she can feel the pole, and grasps it in a grip of iron! As he feels her whipping back on it Arby lets it go. She rips it clear in a tangle of cheap nylon cord and scythes the aluminum pole around.
But by that time Arby is behind her. Vic is charging again, and Arby kicks her behind the knees as Vic slam-tackles her. [She is still blinded at this point so no dodge or fend.] Cutter is not far behind, still clutching his axe.
[Doc throws in a third and most difficult spell at this point, a spell to speed the white hats up. He blows a drama point and scrapes in with it.]
The two largest white hats immobilize her as Arby wriggles out from under. Her snake-like hair stings them multiple times as Cutter breaks her neck.
Unfortunately that doesn’t actually kill her! She thrashes in agony. It does stop her casting spells though, so averting his gaze from her eyes, Cutter chops through her neck, needing several blows. And at last she is still.
Vic decides to bring her head back to the Prof, since Doc’s verdict is ‘She be demon mon.’ He wraps it in the tattered remains of his duster.
Meanwhile Arby has retrieved two reasonable-quality revolvers, with six rounds between them, and a hip-flask of cheap bourbon, which is used to sanitize stings and burns. And fortify Arby’s courage. So with bold spirits he examines the side-tunnel the Goblins fled down and pronounces it safe.
[Vic has used a couple of drama points to reduce damage, and is still fighting fit.]
Scene: Loop tunnel and side-tunnels
Theme: Down and out in New York City
The side-tunnel is certainly whence the Goblins fled, and at length Cutter, who is now in the lead, arrives at a junction cell large enough for all four of them. It appears to him that the Goblins fled into a Goblin-sized lateral. He closes two laterals, and opens a main vent ahead. The vent has a sigil traced on it, not easy to spot but one Doc’s expertise is equal to.
This vent leads to an old brick sewer, repurposed as a general utility tunnel. As best they can tell they are following the line of a street, with gas lines heading up into buildings above them. After a few minutes of not finding a manhole to check exactly where they are, they decide on a return to the main loop.
Questing on, they locate a sigil, and its proximity to another side-tunnel recollects Doc for the location. It’s the Ward Office. The sigil is deeply carved now.
Deciding against confronting two demoniacs – Boss Creed and Barnabas – they return to the Phyllis Wheatley to report that the thieves have been dealt with for the time being, and that underwear ain’t coming back.
Scene: Phyllis Wheatley
Theme: Here I am
The women’s network has gone, taking Reverend Brown and its own special aura of disapproval with it.
The shy intern has coffee brewing. They are parched and hungry by now.
“Damn! That gotta be the best coffee I ever had!” Cutter exclaims, realizing he said it aloud when he sees the intern blushing. She suggests in a tiny voice that she could fix sandwiches, and they agree.
Over this meal, which is as near to mid-day as makes no difference, they plan their next move. Cutter calls around for Reverend Brown, who is now at her church. She agrees they have kept their end of the bargain.
“Head over the Meadow Funeral Home,” she instructs. “Elisha there a solid man, he knows not to ask questions.”
The white hats plan to split up. Arby is going to pawn the Saturday-Night Special and the empty fair-quality revolver. Then he’ll go back to his pad, get pimped out and meet up with the other three at the ranger station.
Cutter will drop by his pad with Vic and Doc, where they can wash up and he can get his best threads on. Then they’ll go to the funeral parlor, arrange things, and meet up at the ranger station.
Scene: Meadow Funeral Home
Steve pulls up in the battered Ford van and the white hats stroll out. Vic didn’t bother to do more than knock the worst dust off, and looks a mess, so stays at the van. The parlor is dead quiet. A youngish professional greeter solemnly greets them. He is Elisha. He shakes Cutter’s hand using the grips and snaps that show he is down with the Movement.
Elisha introduces them to the cheapest end of coffins – “it’s more than he deserves” comments Cutter – and gets the paperwork ready once they have made a decision to take the rear seats out of the van and use it to transport the coffin.
With a final “solid, brother!” from Elisha they take the paperwork and drive the coffin away.
Scene: Following Arby
Themes: Sweetback’s theme/Don’t look back
Meanwhile Arby has gotten changed and pulls his own van – the Nealemobile – into safely neutral territory on the fringe of the entertainment district. He pimp-rolls to the stoop of the most obvious pawnshop, where a couple of drunks are lolling. One raises his bottle and mutters something, the other staggers to his feet and explains,
“What ma frien’ hea’ tryin’ say is, Moroni wan’ talka’ you.”
With a guilty start Arby realizes he didn’t return Moroni’s message last night. Nor the night before. And he’s in the kind of area where Moroni’s contacts will see him. He hustles inside and accepts $15 for the two revolvers.
[Arby uses Int and Crime to select a pawnshop, but makes a merely adequate level. Int and Influence drive the price up from $10.]
The afternoon sun behind him, Arby heads up to the ranger station along Woodland. Passing St. Joseph’s cemetery he notices a small group of Haitians, Setro and his people. Right next to them, the old pumping-station, and he spots a couple of figures ducking down out of sight there. He can’t tell if they are child-size, or larger.
The State Police now have a cruiser, rather than yesterday’s truck, parked at the turn-in to the station. And Benny’s rusty junker of a car seems to have stalled part-way down the lane.
Flashback scene: ranger station
Theme: Pick up the pieces
Coffin hidden under a tarp, Cutter rolls past the Smokies and up to the station. He means to check if they got a man inside still.
They do not, but a tense Benny Li is in the common room.
Messages are stacked over there. [Doc tucks them away.] Yes, this would be a good time to get the body out. Yes, he can help. He’ll drive his auto up the lane and fake a breakdown. It will be very believable, the way the bodywork looks.
With the van reversed, the three white hats ease the coffin into the common room. So far so good. Now for the body in the freezer!
“You know, the legs ain’t gonna be the problem…”
“Yeah, we can just toss them in.”
“An’ likewise the head…”
“Yeah, anytime, c’n put that any place.”
“But he kinda curled up now, ain’t gonna fit that mutha in nohow.”
“Well, we got us some popsicle-straightening to do.”
Between them Vic and Cutter get the frozen torso more or less snapped straight [six levels of success on hard Strength tests between them] and jammed in. Cutter hastily screws down the lid once all the bits are inside. Then they wrestle the filled coffin back into the van.
And depart out up the back service lane, past the athletic track and up Fairhill into the outskirts where they will find the crematorium.
Scene: the same
Theme: Sweetback’s theme
Arby arrives on foot – he’s had to leave his van up where Benny is pretending to fix his motor – and finds he’s just missed the other three. All is quiet.
Not too sad to have missed the hard labor, he checks upstairs and chats to Laura and shows her how his binoculars are much bigger than hers. Would she like to swap? No, she’s really happy with the lightweight military binocs. Arby uses his pair to check back on the cemetery and pumping-station lot, learning that the Haitians have packed up and are driving away from the former, and there is no sign of activity at the latter. The sun is very low now, practically level with the station, so there’s not a lot else he can pick out.
Finally unable to put it off any further, he grabs the phone book and looks up the number he knows Moroni is most likely to be at and gets put through to the gambling saloon. And eventually someone connects him with Moroni the mob bastard.
Theme: Easin’ in hell
With paperwork from Elisha the white hats have no trouble with the crematorium guys. It’s no more than “He’p us with this here coffin huh?”
They don’t offer a comment on not having a hearse or lacking bearers. The solemn music starts up as the coffin is slowly rolled into the furnace area.
One of the attendants offers them a look ‘behind the scenes’ which is eagerly taken up. Turns out that at the temperature the furnace operates at, frozen corpses aren’t a problem at all.
[All white hats get an xp for the operation. I thought it was good division of labor and also used the right kind of help, such as Benny. The whole episode was entertaining but with the chance of disaster, like a lot of the campaign.]
Scene: Filtration Plant
Theme: Papa was a rolling stone
All four white hats have joined up. Before heading down to speak to Moroni, they have called on the Professor to update him on the sigils and show him the demon head. They are all feeling good: they are fresh from a hug and kiss from Captain Kelly who right at this minute is planning what she can stock the freezer with.
Professor Roosevelt identifies the demon as a Sister of Jhe. The Sisterhood seek the Apocalypse and work with anyone that wants to bring it about. They work in covens, usually around five strong though with luck, this could be only three.
The sigil at the tunnel junction has the effect, as best he can guess, of preventing small critters like Goblins from using it. “You might even be onto the private exit of the Jhe sisterhood,” the Prof suggests.
Using a map and Arby’s memories of their paces and Cutter’s practical knowledge, Doc guesstimates that the tunnel was under Central Avenue. It would eventually lead to Downtown by way of the Juvenile Courts, though there are some apartments that way as well.
[Cutter and Arby contribute levels of success, in a variant of Research, as Doc uses Int and Knowledge to make this estimate. Arby has to survive a Fear test to use his memory, as usual.]
By this time it is early dinner time, and the white hats nosh some kosher deli food from the Prof’s stores. It is excellent. Then it’s time to head down to see Moroni.
Scene: Saloon Bar of the Bar & Grill, entertainment district
Theme: I can’t get next to you
Once again Vic’s general disrepair attracts glances, but he is not barred entry. They wait at the bar until Moroni turns up.
He is not pleased at the delay! He spends a good minute turning the air blue and lecturing them, then more calmly explains that the favor expected for lawyering them out of arrest is being called in. He’ll contact the Bianchi’s mouthpiece and they will stay here until the meet is ready. Are they OK for cash? Moroni peels off a C-note and slides it onto the bar, but Cutter politely turns this down. Moroni shrugs and tells the barkeep the first drink is on the house.
[Cutter’s player uses his background of being a Sopranos fan to avoid getting into mob vig loans here]
Alone and more relaxed, Cutter calls on the others to drink a toast. They survived, took down a major demon they ain’t got dime one ‘bout how to tackle, finally got T-Bone gone, an’… say, where-at’s Arby?
Arby has itchy palms being this close to gambling. [I enforce this as his player is not acting on his drawbacks.] He sneaks outside and joins a crap game out back. It’s not something his quick fingers can help much with but he raises the $15 to $20 by the time Vic’s bellow splits the air. With Vic threatening him, Arby has a good excuse to quit while he is winning.
Scene: Over-decorated side-room, gambling house
Theme: Time is tight
The Bianchi consiglieri is accompanied by two youngish goons, each dressed in an over-styled suit, each suit slightly bulged around the left armpit.
He explains that up until recently Bianchi had an alliance with the Kinzey Foundation but they now have a disagreement. Bianchi wants a deniable heist – hence the white hats – into the Foundation stronghold, the Terminal Tower.
They will be getting into the 21st floor – he provides a circuit-board-looper kit that comes in a suitcase – and breaking into the strongroom. There, they should find and steal a case that contains a garland type of decoration. It could look like flowers, or more likely vines. DO NOT PUT IT ON YOUR HEAD he re-emphasizes until they all nod that it is clear.
Less likely, the garland will be on display. Without touching it, move it to the case and steal it.
Worst-case scenario, Johnsson the KinzeyCorp chief will be wearing it. In that case, the ‘no violence’ rule this all operates under is waived and they want his head removed. Then, with or without the head, bring the garland back.
The consiglieri affirms what the white hats are guessing – this artifact connects directly to hell, and the demon connected to it can either completely possess the wearer or in the case of a powerful magus, work co-operatively with him. Either way, not good. The Bianchis like this city the way it is and have no wish for an Apocalypse. But it looks like the Kinzey Foundation wants one.
As an aside more than anything, the white hats also get the Bianchi opinion that the demons they are fighting, such as T-Bone’s one, are also opposed to the Kinzey faction, and working as a quite separate faction. The sisterhood of Jhe – here the consiglieri looks them up on a rolodex-like reference – are allied with one or other faction, depending which they think will have most success to bring on the apocalypse. Like the Professor he has no clue as to why they are using Goblin minions and why wearing underwear on the head is a thing for these Goblins.
Given how near Halloween is, they might be thinking they are almost out of time. That’s not the case. Halloween is irrelevant. Mid-November is the absolute deadline for avoiding this Apocalypse.
Moroni will continue to be the go-between for contact with Bianchi. Good luck and so long.
So with much to think about and plan for, the white hats now split up to get a solid night’s sleep, agreeing to meet at the Soul Food Diner near Brother Gloves by nine a.m. to start planning the scout mission into the Terminal Tower.
Another early end to the session. It felt best to stop there and perhaps give the white hats time to catch up on other calls. Moroni’s messages were not the only ones.
Disposing of a body crops up in various genres but Modern is probably where it most often comes up as a puzzle in its own right. Although it was mostly happenstance – I certainly had no pre-conceived plans – it has been entertaining over a few sessions. I do feel sorry for T-Bone’s parents and aunt and will try to feature their appeals for their boy to come forward.
The updated “secondary” thread now looks like this:
2 Kinzey Foundation is a relative newcomer. It is supposedly charitable but has its own law division and its security wing, KinzeyCorp, is a law to itself.
2.1 KinzeyCorp has stalled W&H from the takeover of the Phyllis Wheatley and other properties that roughly align with the ‘loop’ tunnel.
2.2 But Johnsson, KinzeyCorp CEO/local chief, is not necessarily trustworthy.
2.3 KinzeyCorp Security has taken over BlackHand Security’s contracts.
2.4 Asha Barkley was freelancing for the CIA.
2.5 Asha was originally looking for the killer of her brother, Haile Selassie.
2.6 She progressively pushed the white hats to go after the Rolling 40s, dirty cops, then Corridor Boys.
2.7 When the Corridor Boys were removed, and the dirty cops were reduced in power, Asha was removed.
2.8 There are rumors that the CIA wanted to control the Corridor Boys/Rolling 40s turf.
2.9 An intense gun battle broke out at League Park between two factions, neither specifically known or named. Boddington said one was “our friends in suits;” evidence from Bust-a-move suggests “Little Italy.”
2.10 When the white hats got busted in the Corridor Boys’ turf, the Bianchi family, one of the old Little Italy families, got them out of it.
2.11 Jim Fairbanks was working freelance for the Bianchi family.
2.12 The Bianchis claim that until the gun battle at League Park they and the Kinzey Foundation were allies, but the Foundation has gone off the rails.
2.13 The Bianchis have outlined a heist mission, no violence, against the Kinzey Foundation offices in the Terminal Tower. With the proviso that if Johnsson is found to be wearing the target artifact, violence is very much permitted.