Music, Cthulhu

Compacts and Conspiracies



    Living With The Vigil

    For many hunters carrying the Vigil, the hunt is only one part of their lives. Many belong to hunter organizations-the more localized compacts, or the globe-spanning conspiracies.

    Joining such a group comes with varying advantages-safety in numbers, a paycheck, access to unique weapons and critical information, and camaraderie. But it also comes replete with new problems: competition, cover-ups, and a rigorous set of rules to which one must adhere or face the always-unpleasant consequences.

    Compacts and Conspiracies is available now at RPGNow.com.

    Cold Feet, Part IV

    Last time, the characters fought the zombified body of their friend, John. They broke that spell and helped him pass on, and then decided that they'd go catch the Obituary show that Saturday. They spent most of the day Friday figuring out the Disappear Tactic (which they didn't wind up using, at least not this time). Maxine called up Kenny "Knell" Blaisdale's family and asked for him, but learned that he didn't actually live there. She and Mike went to the club that Friday night and did some recon. Max learned that she could easily reach the roof, and there was access to the sound booth from there. She also talked to her buddy who ran the sound booth, and asked if he could get the microphone windscreen after Knell was done with the sound check - she claimed for a cousin who was a big fan, but mostly because she'd heard that having a piece of a witch might protect them from magic.

    Mike also rigs up some nifty earpieces so they can hear each other talk, though during the show itself they'll be of limited use.

    The next night, they went to the show. Well, mostly. Jerry hung out in the diner across the street. Mike started out outside, and Max stayed on the roof. Samuel and Cheryl got metal'd up and went in, and got a table by sheer good fortune - the folks occupying it got up and left suddenly.

    Outside, Mike and Max saw Knell pull up on his bike. He looked nervous and jumpy, not like stage fright jitters before a show, but just paranoid. They waited until he went in, and Mike slipped some ball bearings into his bike's tank, hoping to prevent him from getting away later. Note, though, that at this point the characters don't have a clear idea of what they're going to do about him.

    Inside, Cheryl and Samuel watch the opening acts and wait for Obituary to come on. Mike walks in to join them, and feels weird prickly feelings walking by a table with a girl with black-and-blue hair and something in Greek tattooed on her chest. She seems to be watching Cheryl and Samuel, and when Obituary comes onstage, she watches Knell, too, but doesn't seem to enjoy the music much. When she gets up for a drink, Samuel follows her and tries to chat her up. She tells him something about the "harmonies clashing," and that her name is Belle. She mentions that Samuel is too old to be here, but doesn't seem annoyed or scared...in fact, she seems sad. Wondering about her (and why she trips Mike's Unseen Sense, they figure she's here for Knell, but aren't sure why).

    After the show, Belle catches Knell outside and they exchange information. Belle leaves, and Jerry follows her to an apartment complex. As she walks to her door, she cocks her head as though listening to something, and then waves at Jerry and smiles sadly.

    Meanwhile, back at the show, Obituary is selling CDs in the parking lot. Cheryl buys one and gets it signed (and Knell clearly starts when he sees her), and she notes to him that there's no song called "Black Invitation." "Not yet," he says, and she walks away...but then stumbles, suddenly weakened. Samuel catches her. She regains her footing and gets in line again, angry. Knell stands up and makes a call on his cell, and all four hunters on the scene hear him in their earpieces. "Here's your chance to fuck off," he says.

    "You killed John," says Max, not at all willing to let him off.

    "Yeah, I know that must sting," he says. "But go away, or I swear I'll stop your hearts." Cheryl stumbles again, everything going dark, but she fights it off.

    Max, up on the roof, decides at this point she's had enough and flings a can of cat food at Knell's head (cheap, good weight, more or less aerodynamic). She misses, though, and whacks someone else in the head. Cheryl collapses for real this time, apparently dead. Samuel calls for people to call 911, and Cheryl revives shortly thereafter. The hunters light out - this isn't working out well.

    And at this point, we should have divvied up Practical XP and called it a night, but I started the next scene.

    They talked among themselves about what kind of power Knell had, and they got a text: "Magic. Death." They asked aloud if this was "C", and the response was, "Yes. My name is Cypher. We need to meet." And then an address.

    They headed there, and a woman answered the door. She was in her 30s, rather dowdy, and obviously a shut-in. She was afraid and circumspect, out of her element, but told them as much as she could. She was like Knell in that they were both capable of magic, but Knell used a very different sort than she did. Knell was something of a savant, unable to theorize about magic but much more powerful than his age would indicate. He'd been given wardenship over the Warner Theater (apparently these "mages" met there sometimes), mostly to shut him up and keep him busy, but rather than behave appropriately, he'd just used his position to scare people and pull stupid pranks...which had led him into conflict with the characters.

    Cypher told them that she'd moved to Erie from Cleveland after a bad experience some time back. She said that the folks in Erie had the wrong attitude - they looked at non-magical folks as pitiful, powerless and inferior. That was why people like Knell were coddled. He'd been taught the Black Invitation because he'd lured the characters away from a gathering by transplanting the ghost of Skylar Beihn and having them deal with it, but he was never supposed to actually use the Invitation. Now he was out of control, but what happened tonight at the show would almost assuredly get some attention.

    The characters asked for someone else to talk to, but Cypher, true to her name, doesn't know or trust anyone in Erie. She told them to talk to Belle, but to call her "Mitternacht" - her name among magical folk. Belle was new in the area, but might help them; she had no loyalty to Knell.

    And that led to the discussion of what to do about Knell. Cypher told them that they scared him, because they hadn't just folded up and run away. Samuel noted that if Knell ever wised up, they were all dead, because he could kill them pretty easily. The characters discussed killing him, but neither Cheryl nor Samuel were OK with that (Jerry didn't seem comfortable either), because they didn't feel that they could make that decision.

    But what, then? Knell is too powerful to let run around loose, he's already murdered someone and pulled their soul back to their body to make an undead slave. The mundane courts can't touch him, normal jails won't hold him, and the magical folk don't seem willing or able to police their own. Cypher said that the events at the club had drawn some lines in the sand, but what did that mean for the characters? And were they still safe?

    Next time, they'll talk to Belle/Mitternacht, probably after getting some more Practical XP, and we will finish this story.

    Cold Feet, part III

    Last time, the characters met John Marron, a homeless, probably schizophrenic man, in the course of their ghost-busting activities. Over the week or so of downtime, they (Maxine in particular) have tried to help him out - getting him into the VA, trying to get him back on his meds, just keeping him safe and off the streets.

    Today (5/25/06), the characters are going about their business. Max, Jerry and Mike are at the theater working. Samuel is at his church, trying to do some research on the Black Invitation. And Cheryl is at a bridal shop, trying to help a bride-to-be make up her mind about some things.

    During the interlude, the mysterious "C" hasn't talked to them. At all. No texts, no strange whispers, nothing. Samuel's research into the "Black Invitation" has taken him to some unsavory places, but it seems that this ritual is meant to call up a ghost, but one that has already "passed on". To what degree this conflicts with Sam's religious framework is an ongoing question, but it does raise the point: If the ghost in question has already passed on, where is it when the Invitation is extended? And is it really a ghost that's being called up?

    Cheryl, at the shop, hears a voice whisper "Help me." She excuses herself and walks into a hall, and the voice tells her "they're going to dig me up. Help." She calls the others, and they arrange to meet at a coffee shop.

    There, they discuss what's happening and mention that "C" hasn't been in touch. They see a Scrabble board fall off a shelf (good coffee shops have game shelves) and dump the tiles out. They move on their own and spell "Lakeside" - there's a Lakeside Cemetery in Erie. They ask the ghost's name, and it tells them "Relin." Figuring that maybe this "Relin" person might be in danger of being exhumed, they head out there while it's still light.

    At the cemetery, they look around the welcome center to grab a map, but no one's there. Max looks in a window and sees someone slumped over a desk in an office. Jerry enters the office with Mike, and finds the caretaker on the desk, dead, the desk covered in blood. He reaches for his phone - and then someone attacks.

    The figure is gray-skinned and has a wound in his throat, but it isn't bleeding. But the shock of seeing a zombie isn't as horrid as who the zombie is - John. Jerry grabs a hammer off the desk and swings, but the zombie puts a good beating on him. Max kicks in the window and helps Jerry out, the zombie does some grappling, and Mike stabs it, but then it walks through the characters and runs. They can't catch it - it's fast, and it's running right through obstacles.

    Shaken (but laden with Practical Experience!) the characters call the cops and sit there for several hours answering questions. And then they head their separate ways. Cheryl goes to her place to do some research, trying to track down a real address for Kenny Blaisdale, whom the characters have all figured for the aggressor here. Mike calls Mandy, the owner of the curio shop, and learns that John was out front this morning but that he was acting crazier than usual and refused to come into the shop to have lunch. Mike instructs her not to approach John if she does see him, and he and Max go to the Y where John had been staying. Jerry goes to Lowe's to buy some equipment (he already bought an EM field detector, because those totally detect ghosts). Samuel heads back to the church to do some more research.

    At the Y, Max and Mike learn from the dude at the desk that John was in a few hours before, but hadn't left (that the dude had noticed). They checked his room - empty, but trashed. Things torn apart. They did find a small pocket Bible, the sort that street preachers hand out, and in the middle they found the words "I DON'T WANT TO KILL HER" written. They took the Bible and headed out, troubled, and bribed the guy at the desk to call if he saw John.

    Meanwhile, Cheryl was looking for Kenny through Classmates.com and other such sites. She figured she could find him, it would just take a while. And then she saw a reflection in her screen - John was standing behind her.

    He put a fist through her monitor. She ran, he picked up the monitor and threw it at her, knocking her down and injuring her. She ran from the apartment, and fortunately her neighbors had already called the cops. The police arrived and checked the place, but John was already gone. They took her to the hospital and she asked them to call Samuel.

    Samuel, of course, called the others and they met her as she was being released from the hospital. They headed back to Cheryl's so she could pick up a few things, and Max went across the street to the convenience store and asked the dude working what he'd seen. His video security showed John ranting outside the store a little while ago.

    The characters regrouped at Samuel's house. Samuel called someone he knew at the church that handed out those Bibles, and learned they'd been handed out near the Y today - makes sense. The characters did some digging and found an address probably for Kenny Blaisdale's parents, and then talked about their next move and what was going on. All evidence pointed to Kenny somehow manipulating John's corpse into attacking them, and had probably conned them into going into the graveyard to begin with (they were still wondering about "Relin"; change a vowel sound in there, it'll make more sense). But why? And what next?

    Mike decided that Mandy deserved to know that something was up, so he and Samuel drove out to the curio shop and explained that John was in bad shape. They didn't tell her the truth, however, but did warn her to stay away from John if she saw him. They walked her to her car, and then decided to check out the abandoned building where John had been staying.

    Inside, they found something awful. Symbols drawn on the carpet, a card table, and what looked like a basin of blood. They took some pictures, and then got the hell out.

    Back at Samuel's place, Mike sketched out the symbols and they did some research. The symbols didn't seem to correspond to anything Greek, Asian, etc., but they did find a picture of similar symbols at Pictures of Walls. The tag line directed them to a blank web page, but looking at the source code showed URLs of videos, all with impossible things happening. A man flying, holding onto a stick. A guy jumping across buildings, clearing a gap that no one could. And these videos were all tagged "netz0."

    But rather than digging further into this, Max was pretty adamant that they clean up this ritual site. They bought lots of bleach and other supplies, went back to the building and started cleaning up. Samuel was in the room with Cheryl while the others were dumping the blood into the sewer when John jumped through the window.

    He took Cheryl down with one punch, and then grappled Samuel. The others ran in, and Max ran up John's back and broke his grip on Samuel, who then began the Exorcism Tactic. It worked almost immediately (John was out of Willpower), and his body collapsed. His soul rose up, and spoke with them, finally free of the voices.

    He apologized to Cheryl for hurting her, and explained that he'd been in this building and had just passed out (the characters had smelled traces of chloroform in the bathroom, which raised further questions - where did Kenny get it?). Kenny had chained him down and bled him out, and then somehow sent him after the characters, intensifying the voices in his head until he'd gone mad. John also mentioned that Kenny seemed guilty, and kept looking over his shoulder like he expected someone to come after him. Max, crying, told John that he was free now, and he disappeared, leaving the characters there.

    The characters prepared to leave, and then someone hurled a Molotov cocktail through the window. The place caught fire and they characters left, and saw a motorcycle zipping away. Jerry caught the plate, but they're pretty sure they know who that was - Kenny "Knell" Blaisdale.

    They spent the next day perfecting the Disappear Tactic. Saturday, they're going to Sherlock's to catch Obituary, Knell's band. We'll see how he likes it when his space gets invaded.

    Cold Feet, part II

    So, last time the characters dealt with a ghost that wasn't really a ghost. Kenny "Knell" Blaisdale apparently somehow made himself a ghost and gave the characters a runaround for a while, before they finally forced him to become physical again, whereupon he left them.

    Now fast forward two weeks. The characters have been reading up on ghosts and exorcisms (working on the Exorcism Tactic) but haven't seen anything wonky or gotten any mysterious texts. And then today, they all get a text saying "12th and Peach. 11PM." They call each other and arrange to meet up.

    The intersection in question has an office building, a disused office building, a pay-parking lot and a Starbucks, so they hang around at the coffee shop for a while. Their invisible patron tosses more texts their way, notably that they should keep their voices down. S/he tells them that they aren't bugged (a concern that Cheryl raised) but that s/he could hear them anyway. S/he also stated that s/he wasn't a ghost, and told them to be patient and watch. "You'll see t" - and then the texts stopped.

    The characters looked around, and Mike, not the most patient of people, took Maxine and went looking around the other buildings. Max thought she saw movement in an second-floor window of the office building, and parkour'd her way up and peered in. She didn't see any people, but did see a fresh cup of coffee sitting on a desk, steaming. She tried to remember who had left the coffee shop as they got there, and remembered a man with a cane and a dark-haired woman.

    The others got booted from the coffee shop when it closed and waited in one of the cars, wondering what they were meant to see. And then Cheryl glanced at the disused building and saw a woman in the window reaching for something...and then vanishing. A bit freaked, the characters went to check it out.

    The door to the building was unlocked, and the characters entered and started looking around. Mike got prickles down his neck (Unseen Sense, dontcha know) and Jerry, standing by the window, saw glass exploding inward and a body flying at him...and then all was back to normal. He relayed this to the others, and with the help of some Blackberrys, they noted that a young woman named Skylar Beihn had been knocked through a window a few years back by a careless driver and killed. But the weird bit was, the window in question had been a curio shop down a few blocks, so what (if anything) was she doing here?

    They started searching more carefully and found that the back door had been propped open. They found muddy footprints and followed them to the men's room. Samuel opened the door and got punched in the chest for his trouble - a homeless man named John was using the place crash space. He calmed down when the characters convinced him they meant no harm, and he revealed that the panhandled outside the curio shop, that Dave and Mandy, the owners, were nice people. They let him get back to work and started looking for more info.

    During all this, Cheryl would occasionally seize up and say a few words in a ghostly voice - Skylar attempting to talk through her. She asked them not to leave, in particular, and was asking where she was. She seemed to be confused about why she wasn't in the curio shop, but she wasn't communicating well (she's a ghost, duh). The characters checked upstairs, but found nothing of note, so went back down and tried talking to her. She got frustrated, though, and Maxine annoyed her with some flippant comment. So Skylar appeared briefly, picked Maxine up and through her through the front window.

    More angry than hurt (parkour, baby, means you don't take falling damage easily), Maxine was about to leave, but the others talked her out of it. Clearly they needed a way to communicate, and they said as much. They noticed a light switch flicking up and down, and after settling and on for yes and down for no, they started a ghostly game of 20 questions.

    Skylar was able to tell them that she didn't know how she'd arrived here, and she couldn't get back to the shop. There was nothing in particular there, no one item that seemed to bind her (the initial theory was that some object had been moved from the shop to the building, perhaps by John). The characters talked to John again, and he revealed, in somewhat delusional ramblings, that the owners of the shop would talk to Skylar when they were upset, telling her it was OK. John was getting agitated, so they left him alone, and talked to Skylar some more. She indicated that whenever she tried to leave, something stopped her. Since she couldn't explain that with yes/no, she spoke through Samuel, and said that it was like noise, like being on top of a speaker, and it just drowned her out when she tried to go "home."

    Knowing that they needed to help her pass on, or at least get back, Samuel and Mike went out to the street and tried to text their patron. No response...not on the phone. A whispered voice behind the told them not to turn around, that it hadn't been able to text them. It said it couldn't tell them everything, that more was going on that it could tell them. "Can't or won't?" Samuel asked, and it said, "Can't. I would tell you, if I could."

    Mike made some mentioned of their souls being in danger, and the voice responded, "No. Souls aren't what's at stake here."

    It told them that they could help Skylar pass on, and gave them the home number of Mandy and Dave (the curio shop owners, remember), and told them that Mandy was still up. And Samuel and Mike went back to the building. Samuel called Mandy and told her what was happening, and Mandy wasn't buying it until Skylar used Samuel's voice and said, "It's OK, Mandy."

    Mandy joined them, and they performed (a variant of) the Exorcism Tactic and helped Skylar passed on. She appeared, floated upwards, and apologized to Maxine for hurting her. And then she vanished into the dark.

    Mandy told the characters what she knew. Skylar had occasionally made ghostly disturbance at the shop, but she and her husband calmed her. John panhandled there, and he actually had family in the area, but he didn't take his meds and he was too paranoid and unstable without them to hold down a place or a job. She did mentioned that a man came into the shop recently and bought an electric guitar, and she identified Kenny Blaisdale from a picture. She told them that if they needed anything, they could come to the shop and she'd try to help (Ally!).

    The characters left, and their patron texted again. "Thank you. It's gotten worse. You may be in danger."

    How, they wondered? Didn't we pass their test?

    "I'm not with them. They've given him the Black Invitation."

    That sounds bad.

    "Yes," the patron respond. "It's something he shouldn't know."

    We'll find out what that is, perhaps, next time.
    matt, summer, gardens

    Hunter Demo at MGD

    I'm going to be running a short demo of Hunter at Madison Games Day in a couple weeks.

    I'm snagging a couple of the characters from the Hunter Quickstart and adding in a few twists of my own. Basically the characters are going to get caught up in a turf war between two vampires and their minions. This will give them a chance to do a little investigation and take part in one or two heavy action scenes.

    The demo is only 2 hours long so I don't have a lot of time to show off all the cool bits of the setting/system, but hopefully just enough to get them hooked.

    Anyone run demos of Hunter recently? Advice?
    Zombie

    Horror Recognition Guide

    Last night, I read John Winchester's Journal (JWJ) from cover to cover, so it's time for a review.

    ...

    In the red corner, we have Horror Recognition Guide (HRG). HRG is a collection of 17 Hunter: The Vigil short stories set in the WoD. The collection is presented as a series of diary entries, newspaper clippings, and related media grouped together as a briefing file.

    In the blue corner, we have John Winchester's Journal, a meta-prop from the American TV horror-drama Supernatural that chronicles the 25+ year vigil of a monster hunter from his first Exposure to his end game plans.

    ...

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