I’m always nervous going into a convention game. Call it “stage fright” if you like. With my regular troupe I pretty much know what I’m getting into, but GMing a group of players you’ve never met before… well it can be a bit daunting. I have all my story lines ready, all the clues that they can find are plotted out, the PCs are fully statted and given some personality nudges, but no amount of planning on the GMs part can determine what kind of players you get at your table.
RetCon, once again you did not disappoint!
Hunter: the Vigil: I had three modules to run this weekend, and the schedule had me starting off with my “Hunter: the Vigil” adventure: Quit While You’re Ahead. I had decided to do something slightly different this year and set my modules in the same game world as the adventure I ran for RetCon 2010, Asylum. In that adventure, the players are a film crew hired to shoot the pilot for a paranormal TV series called “Truly Terrifying Tales”. The crew arrives on the scene, shit gets real, and hilarity ensues! For this year, I decided to look at those same characters after the events of Asylum. They have been through that experience, and now they are aware of the supernatural. Their footage (and that first group of players came away with incredible footage!) was not taken as seriously as they would have liked and it is instead being turned into a low budget horror movie, but life goes on. They have now been hired to shoot a series called “50 Shades of Play” about the wonderful world of strippers. Since this is the World of Darkness they will be crossing paths with the supernatural once again! I was in a “1950’s Horror Movie Theater” state of mind, and so I decided to base this particular scenario on the film “The Brain That Wouldn’t Die”.
Highlight of the Hunter Session for the GM: The film crew’s decision to interview the decapitated head! I had given myself a detailed run-down of how a poor young woman mere months from her wedding day became a severed head attached to a dialysis machine and a respirator waiting for her husband-to-be to arrive with a suitably attractive replacement body for her (because a dialysis machine wouldn’t be nearly as much fun as a stripper body on the wedding night), but never in my wildest dreams did I dare to think that I would actually get to play out an interview with her! She was, as one would expect under the circumstances, stark raving mad and the film crew was able to convince her that they wanted to interview her fiance because what he was about to achieve was too momentous to not be preserved for posterity. I was expecting a big fight scene with the group of Hunters, a bunch of animated headless corpses being controlled by the will of the severed head, some animal mix-ups that the good doctor was practicing on before he got to human experimentation… you know, good times! Instead not a single drop of blood was shed, two strippers were saved (one pre-surgery and one post-surgery), and whoever suppressed that last bit of footage these guys got is gonna have even more fun with this one! It’s a wrap people!
World of Darkness – Innocents: I had never run this system before. In fact, I’d never even played this system before. The basics are all typical “World of Darkness” which I have years of experience with, but Innocents does have some differences. For the record, I greatly prefer “Assets/Faults” over “Virtues/Vices”.
This particular group of 12 year olds had just been dropped off at their new boarding school by their disgustingly wealthy families. Naturally the school has a diabolical plan for these poor youngsters. The kids are all miscreants. They are little con-artists, hackers, pranksters, thieves, bullies, and partiers. Their parents really don’t feel like putting up with them, so they are willing to pay this school ludicrous sums of money to turn these kids into model citizens. The school has unsurpassed results! This is mostly owing to the fact that they are removing the kids’ souls from their bodies and replacing them with the souls of disgustingly wealthy old people who aren’t quite ready to die yet. Naturally, these disgustingly wealthy old people pay an exorbitant fee to the school for this service, so the school wins on both sides of this transaction. The old people are young again. The families get well behaved and respectable heirs… everybody wins! Except the kids of course. The kids pretty much loose.
Highlight of the Innocents Session for the GM: The person playing the party-girl decided to pull out all the stops this game! That child coached her classmates into milking the nurse’s office for every last ibuprofen they could get, scored all the mouthwash on the floor to mix cocktails with, and had tears of laughter rolling down my face pretty much the whole game. This was a tough act to keep up with, but when my con-artist (played by the only person at the table that I knew before the game started: Aenaiyah) asked the group if someone could possibly create a diversion “like, if the nurse thinks someone has a back injury they won’t want to move the person so they’ll have to come to you!”, and my bully replied “I think something can be arranged” I knew no good would come of it. I had given him the fault “cruel”.
Defenestration is the act of throwing someone or something out of a window.
Sadly one of the players wound up really needing to leave by 11pm, whereas I had been scaling things to reach a story milestone at 11pm (either an escape attempt or the players stocking up for a fight with the administration… or both!) such that we could end by 12am – the scheduled session end-time. As a result the ending of the story was more rushed than I had wanted it to be. Instead of having school security snag the kids attempting to escape the grounds and drag them back to perform the soul-swapping ritual early, I decided to simply have them chased by dogs and let them escape if they could climb up the fence fast enough. A fight simply would have taken too long. The party girl decided that she was too scared to leave, but don’t fret. I’m sure the administrators treated her very well and gave her all the pain killers her little heart could desire right up until the big moment.
Mage: the Awakening: This session was also tied to the Asylum session that I ran during RetCon 2010. You see, that film crew escaped with all that awesome footage of supernatural creepiness, and somebody has to suppress it and keep supernatural baddies in check. Enter the Mages.
While the Guardian of the Veil Mastigos Narsil from my campaign world deals with the film crew, and Gladmring, the NYC Head of the Adamantine Arrow, is dealing with some horrors stumbled upon by the campaign Mages, someone needs to find out what drove that film crew from the Asylum grounds, and deal with it. According to a well placed source, the problem appears to be zombies. It’s time to send in the B Team.
Highlight of the Mage Session for the GM: I completely expected my favorite moments of this session to involve the use of Post-Cognition. This seemed even more likely when two of the players who played Asylum at RetCon 2010 signed up for the game, since it was their run through that I had based this scenario on. (A later run-through saw a very… different… outcome.) While describing the events of the zombie-raising ritual as seen by a Mage using Post-Cognition was indeed amusing (and yes, I decided that the spell granted a much longer vision than it normally does for purposes of hilarity) it actually turned out to be not my favorite part of the session after all. The best part: My Very First TPK!
Making a Note Here: Huge Success!
How did this happen you ask? Paradox. When I asked the players if they would like to mitigate their paradox rolls, and started to explain how they could do that, they tapped their chins and said “go ahead… right here… I can take it!” And so I rolled. And I got successes. And it was good. And had the Moros Mage not turned himself into a zombie-magnet so that they wouldn’t need to bother looking for the zombies they might have even survived. Had any of them thought to end the scene by turning off that spell and running into the nearby crematorium the adventure may have continued. Had, when one of them did think of ending the scene by running into the crematorium, they actually done that and ended the scene I might not have had nearly as much fun as I did. But these guys, they told me to bring it. And verily, it was brought! The Thyrsus Mage (aka: the healer) was not in play, and the Moros Mage was looking a little beat up. As a result my Acanthus Mage asks if he can speed up time in a bubble around the injured Moros Mage so that enough time will pass for his bashing damage to heal. Gotta love those Acanthus Mages, am I right?! So, being a sick and evil GM, I say of course you can do that, but it will be vulgar you know. It will be 6 glorious dice worth of vulgar.
“Are you sure you want to do this?“, asks the GM.
“Kick me in the Jimmy.”, says he.
And I roll.
And I roll a Temporal Anomaly.
And the radius of this anomaly shall be 80 yards.
And the players tell me: Don’t hold back. Enjoy it.
And enjoy it I do!
The Moros becomes a 2 year old. The Acanthus becomes an 86 year old. The Obrimos is suddenly an awkward teenager. The 2 year old Moros Mage is still attracting zombies from all over the site, and he’s what’s for dinner in no time at all. The first round of attacks leaves him with one hit point, which leaves him wanting his teddy bear, which makes him think it’s a great idea if the nearest thing to him would happen to turn into a teddy bear, which turns the Acanthus Mage into a teddy bear.
The Acanthus Mage reflexively attempts a Shifting Sands spell to prevent this whole turn events by preventing himself from casting that accursed time bubble in the first place, but he’s in the middle of a temporal anomaly and only gets one success. I rule that he arrives just in time to see a version of himself turn into a teddy bear but whether it’s past-him seeing future-him turn into a teddy bear on arrival, or future-him watching past-him turn into a teddy bear is far too confusing for me to be sure of.
Next round ZOMBIE BABY! Because the 2 year old Moros Mage was killed by a bite attack he turns into a zombie, but is quickly dispatched by his erstwhile friends. One down, two to go.
The Acanthus Mage manages to successfully cast Acceleration on his teenaged Obrimos companion, who in turn tries to convince the Acanthus to get the hell out of Dodge and report back on what’s happening. The Acanthus does not do this. The Obrimos rushes in and fights off several zombies before being turned himself, and then it’s player against player as Zombie Obrimos tries to eat the Acanthus’s brains!*
More zombies are pouring in… Zombie Obrimos is doing his best to chow down on the Acanthus… and ultimately he sucks out that final Acanthus hit-point! The GM wins!
The GM WINS!!
*Clearly only enough to be an appetizer. He’s an Acanthus after all.