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RetCon 2014: Day the Second – Spaghetti Dinner


Saturday night was time to play the All Flesh Must Be Eaten game that I had been anticipating since RetCon 2013.

For those who don’t know, last year I had the extreme pleasure of playing a vital role in the Saturday Night AFMBE game.

“See? I have this patch right here! Do you know what this means boy?”

N7 - 'cause I'm hard core

It means “I’m a paint-balling wannabe soldier with no authority whatsoever, and a Firearms Skill of 1.”

“You think you have the right to ask me to turn over my gun because you *claim* to be an officer of the law? Well where’s your badge, law-man?”  I wait a beat to glare meaningfully at the individual in the hospital gown standing before me. “Well that’s what I thought. I am the one with the gun, and I am not stupid enough to turn that gun over to you because you asked. You didn’t even ask nice! What’s that? You think you have more skill with this here firearm than I do? Would you care to be a demonstration of my shooting ability?”

For the record – the person playing the alleged law-man was being a big jerk.

For the record – I am capable of playing an even bigger jerk.

I may have died that night, but I died so that the hotties might live. I died secure in the knowledge that, had I lived, I would have gotten laid.

Since that time I have been told, in no uncertain terms that I must play in the Saturday Night AFMBE game at RetCon 2014 and, if possible, play an even bigger jerk.

challenge accepted

 

This year I got to play a trigger happy gun toting maniac with a wide variety Firearms Skills of either 4 or 5 (very nice for AFMBE) , and a slight Cruel Streak (1). Welcome to a “Fistful O’ Zombies”!

We started off the evening at the local saloon, which a group of banditos had just walked into.  This looked like an opportune time to start polishing my shotgun while consuming my whiskey.

One of the banditos was giving the waitress a look that did not sit right with me, so when a different bandito (there were three) flipped a card table over I took that as a good excuse to blow a whole in the chest of the rude guy with the lewed eye. The preacher-man in our party decided to try to heal this poor unfortunate soul who had done nothing to deserve getting shot in the chest (giving that waitress the stink-eye was what you’d call “ill-advised”), but when he laid his hallowed hands on the guy the body shot backwards through the chair he had still been sitting in and fell on the floor in a smoking heap. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who hated banditos. I figured maybe it was time I started goin’ to church regular again.

In other news, shit was about to get real.

We managed to put down two of what we now knew to be zombies at the bar but the third escaped. We tracked him, and discovered that a whole zombie gang was headed straight for town! We acquired a map of the town indicating the day (tomorrow), and a name, but not much else. The sheriff was drunk, the townies were in danger, and after we cleared those three undead gang members from the saloon we pretty much had an all-you-can-drink-buffet goin’ on for us here so we were NOT going to let that saloon go down without a fight!

We fought zombie horses, we fought a whole gang of zombie a*holes, we fought a demon straight outta Hell and somehow or other they all wound up with lead poisoning by the time the evening was through.

Was my character a big jerk? Yes. Yes she was. She shot people in the face with a shotgun just for lookin’ at other people funny. She was rude, loud, obnoxious, and certainly better than any hombre! I could go into detail, but I’m pretty sure you had to be there.

When the game was over there would be only one day left of RetCon 2014.

It always ends too soon.

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RetCon 2014: Day the First


Ran “Adrift” as an “All Flesh MUST Be Eaten” module tonight. Never having run AFMBE before I was a little nervous, but it ran very easily and I had a blast!

One highlight (of many) was how easily the biologist whipped up a super deadly poison, and used it to kill a creature who was cooperating with them. The team then came close to accidentally poisoning a community of amphibioids by dumping the poisoned amphibioid’s body into the lake. I did specifically state that the level six success meant that the poison would work far more effectively than they could have imagined. Let me tell you, they would have brought down a lot of messy amphibioid death on themselves if they hadn’t argued about it and wound up burning the body instead.

And when that same biologist performed an autopsy and declared himself not guilty of killing the creature, who must have had a bad reaction to something he ate, I was amazed by how he managed to not lie at all during it. Well done, sir.

For the record, they poisoned the creature because the physicist (who left Earth to get away from the aliens that had been patiently awaiting the perfect moment to abduct her) was convinced that it was highly intelligent and playing possum until the perfect moment to strike. How she convinced the others of this I’m not quite sure, as I was working with the medical doctor who was trying to teach it to speak English.

The medical doctor was not pleased by the rather sudden and unanticipated death.

I was also impressed with how close to the lake they choose to be despite the fact that most of them couldn’t swim.

One poor redshirt NPC (Codename: Alpha) almost drowned in the lake except that the medical doctor jumped in and saved him, and the team contemplated trying to transplant the poisoned amphibioid’s gills into his chest so he wouldn’t drowned anymore. Remember that super poison? Yeah, I remembered it too.

The medical doctor wound up stumbling across the planet’s big nasty secret, but I won’t post any spoilers here because it’s time for me to catch a few winks before “RetCon 2014: Day the Second” begins!

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We’re Off To Free the Wizard!


The Mages have stumbled upon a powerful Seer operative who has a hidden, subjugated personality. This personality is not entirely happy with the things he has witnessed himself doing as a Seer. This personality could be a great help to the Player Characters with little things like freeing people from the oaths that they made to the “Guardians of the Veil” who were really Seers in disguise. After a little heavy-handed arm twisting they have finally decided that freeing this personality might be a good idea.

Well, most of them decided that. Others are not entirely convinced, but they’re all going anyway dammit!

Sadly for them they decided to let slip to the Seers that their star operative hidden in the Consillium is losing control of his inner Mage. Naturally this means that the Seers, headed by the Arch Master Mastigos who was directly told of the potential containment breach, devoted some energies to improving security around this guy’s psyche. Go Team Mages!

The Bridge:

First the Mages have to find a way in to Morgan’s Oneiros. This won’t be incredibly easy as they haven’t invested a great deal of time in getting to know him well. In fairness, his dominant personality has been kind of a douchebag. He did lock them in a house filled with a horde of acid-vomiting zombies, a whirling silver chandelier of death, a flame-throwing stove, staircases that turn into slides that dump you into pits of even more acid-vomiting zombies, and other assorted fun.

Morgan knows how to throw a party.

There is one thing that they do know about Morgan for certain though – Morgan is the one who brought Narsil into the Guardians, and as it happens the Consillium Library’s Chief Relic-Hunter, Reenie, was there when it happened. That she was there brings this particular moment in time into the Temenos, a shared piece of Astral Space where memories held by more than one person exist, and makes her a bridge to that moment’s place in the Temenos. If the Mages can get there they might be able to use it as a  bridge into Morgan’s own dream space. It’s a risk, but it’s one they will have to take.

The Bridge Memory happened just before Narsil and Glamdring’s Wedding was supposed to happen. Glamdring was busy getting ready to walk down the aisle when Reenie just happened to wander into the hallway in time to hear raised voices in the groom’s room. Curious to know what was going on, Reenie stayed in the hallway and saw Narsil leaving with a black-robed Guardian of the Veil. Narsil did not look pleased. The black-robed guardian was Morgan. This is the point where the Mages can jump into his Oneiros, if only they can figure out how to do it.

I pictured it happening in much the same way as Sally possessing someone in the US version of Being Human. (Sadly, I am woefully behind with the UK version.) For those who haven’t seen it (like my Players, as it turned out):

http://www.syfy.com/videos/Being%20Human/Clips/Season%202/vid:17763682

I figured they would worm their way in through his back just the way it happens at about the 35 second mark. Since they hadn’t seen it it took them a few tries to figure it out, but ultimately figure it out they did and away they went!

The Labyrinth:

Anticipating a potential problem with his operative, Dr Blair (aka Brahms, aka Head of the NYC Seers of Panopticon), constructed a Labyrinth at the edges of the man’s Oneiros. And what Labyrinth is complete without a Minotaur I ask you? And so the players need to make their way through the Labyrinth into the main part of Morgan’s psyche. In game mechanics terms, they had to hit a target number of successes to find their way out by whatever means they could come up with that would make sense to the situation. Fate could have them happen to turn the right way, Matter could take “walls” out of their way, Prime could give them a line on the floor to follow, Space could help them keep their bearings, etc, etc. Successes would accumulate over multiple rolls, and botch rolls would reduce the number of successes they had already accumulated. Along the way there are pit traps filled with punji sticks, tentacles reaching out of the walls to grab them, nasties crawling along the floor, and the heavy breathing of the Minotaur.

I built the Minotaur to be impressive. He had massive, sharpened, blood-stained horns on his head and a vicious ramming attack that gave him oodles of dice to beat them with! He also had a massive hammer that he could whomp down on their heads. His hide was thick enough to give him some natural armor points, backing up a large number of hit points. His roar could induce fear en masse!

And yet, every time his initiative came up that stupid SOB would F@%$ing whiff! He didn’t do A SINGLE POINT OF ACTUAL DAMAGE TO THESE JERKS!

 

The GM was not pleased.

 

That’s the last time I bring in a Minotaur to do a mind-altering drug’s job.

Mages Make Me Cry

These Are The People in Your Oneiros


Finally the Player Characters are on their way to resolving this storyline! No more Doing the Time Warp, no more ‘oh so there’s a serial Mage killer wandering around, whatever, let’s go hang out at the museum! ‘ They are actually going to take actions that will resolve this season’s arc story. It’s been a long time coming.

I enjoyed working out what they might see in Morgan’s personal dream-space. I had decided very early on when I was designing the campaign that Morgan had enlisted in the army as a young man to escape a bad situation at home. His father had died when he was a young child, and his mother had remarried. His step-father was not a kind man. I liked the irony of his running to the disciplinary structure of the army to escape  the extreme disciplinarian his mother had married after his father had died. Additionally, his being in the army combined with his decision to cut ties with his family made him a convenient subject for experimentation – by the Consillium. The Consillium was trying to Awaken Mages and this newly developed drug, LSD, looked like it had promise. People who took the drug hallucinated, and their hallucinations were not unlike Mage Sight. Under controlled conditions perhaps they could use it to trigger true Awakening.

Their experiments were less than successful.

The results were wildly unpredictable, and those few who did seem to have had an Awakening were… odd. It was as if their souls were not quite connected to a particular Watchtower.  No good came of that, and so the Consillium, in its infinite wisdom, hushed the whole thing up and did not speak of it again.

Meanwhile, the Seers have also heard of LSD and they are thinking that maybe it can be used to lull an Awakened mind back to sleep. As such, the Seers are experimenting too, and the players have uncovered some documentation from Project Lullabye. (the Players know next to nothing about the Consillium’s efforts.)

Morgan wound up caught between the two. He did experience an Awakening, of sorts, and then the Seers caught up with him and tried to lull his soul back to Sleep. They too were less than successful with this, but they did manage to create an alternate personality in him and that personality was able to reign in the more erratic personality byproducts of being tugged between two Watchtowers. That this new personality was a true believer in The Great Eye was gravy for the goose as they say.

All of this gave me some interesting elements to play with when crafting Morgan’s Onerios. This week we’ll cover some of the interesting denizens of Morgan’s subconscious.

Morgan’s Daimons:
You are probably familiar with the cartoon depiction of having a tiny angel on one shoulder telling you to be a good person, and a tiny little devil on the other shoulder telling you to eat the cookie. That is essentially what a person’s Daimons are. As for his positive daimon, that would be his biological father. After his death Morgan’s father took on mythic proportions in Morgan’s psyche. If only Daddy hadn’t died life would have been so much better! Daddy loved me and thought that everything that I did was great and wonderful and perfect. Daddy loved Mommy and made her happy. Daddy loved me and made me happy too. Daddy was the source of all the goodness in Morgan’s  life, or so he saw it, and so what better figure to fill the role of his positive daimon?

Sadly for the players the Seers have trapped Morgan’s positive daimon. In reality Morgan’s father has died, so in Morgan’s Oneiros the representation of his father is locked in a morgue drawer deep in his subconscious. Summoning him from there will be no easy feat… which is how the players met his negative influence.

It would have been extremely easy to have chosen Morgan’s overbearing step-father as his negative daimon, which is precisely why I didn’t do it. Morgan’s step-father is an important character in his psyche to be sure, but I felt that his mother would make a far more interesting daimon for him. For starters, the Players would naturally assume that she was the angel on his shoulder. Figuring that she would have a positive influence on him they might try to deliberately summon her specifically. Alternately if they attempted to summon his positive daimon and didn’t entirely succeed they could summon her instead.

I went for subtlety here. Her negative influence could come across as being a positive one for a time. She would urge him (and the Players if they interacted with her) to be calm, to be cautious, to not do anything rash. This can all be very good advice… if it isn’t being used to lull one into a state  of absolute compliance. Her ‘attacks’ are designed to make those around her lethargic, apathetic, and accepting of the bad things that happen to them.

As I stated earlier, Morgan’s step-father is absolutely a larger than life figure in his Oneiros. He is the man who ruined his once happy life. He wasn’t all that big on dealing with kids in general, and so having to put up with someone else’s kid wasn’t exactly his cup of tea. This poor child would clearly never amount to anything in life because he had the wrong biological father and as such was doomed from the start. Morgan’s step-father is a representation of his crushing self doubt. Step-Dad has intimidation based attacks that cause those around him to cower with fear. He can also summon hecklers to make Morgan (or the Player Characters since they are there now too) feel bad about himself, lose his confidence, and further fill him with doubt. These hecklers commonly take on the form of soldiers in his unit, though they can also be school mates, coworkers, or women he dated depending upon what part of Morgan’s psyche they are being summoned into.

Next week we’ll take a look at some of the key scenes in Morgan’s Oneiros. Remember how the Player Characters told the Seers that Morgan was becoming a loose cannon? We’ll punish them for that mistake. I promise!

Mages Make Me Cry

The Moral of the Story Is:


One of the things I loved about the idea of running the Mage campaign had always been the size of the playing field. Mages can do anything, which can be a real painus in the anus to deal with in the physical world, but they don’t necessarily always need to have their adventures in the physical world do they now?

When I was coming up with the ideas behind the Project Lullaby (headed by a Seer using the Shadow Name Brahms) set of stories I always figured that there would be several astral journeys involved. When Damien joined the campaign and his player specifically asked if I foresaw astral sessions I was overjoyed! This was exactly the kind of thing that I had been hoping for.

And then they didn’t ever take the bait.

I had handed them the fact that both the Consillium and the Seers were experimenting on the potential uses of a little substance called lysergic acid diethylamide – more commonly called LSD. I had many great plans of walking the group through freaky drug trips. I also handed them a list of names of murder victims, and gave one of those victims a parent who had Brahms’ Lullaby playing in the background of her thoughts. The Mastigos wants to take a stroll through her brain to see what the deal is – but nobody else wants to do it. The rest of the group takes no interest at all in this lead beyond the very mundane conversation they have with her at her house regarding her daughter’s death.

I handed them a crazy Mage who kills newly Awakened folks on the orders of… someone they know not who… who is not likely to simply tell them what they want to know (he is a bit insane) but maybe they could wander through his head and figure out what’s really going on. They naturally opt to kill him outright and wash their hands of the situation.

Damien himself was stabbed by an unknown assailant and his memories of the situation are jumbled. Aenaiyah runs a post Cognition using his corpus as her focus which brings events somewhat clearer, but there is still much he does not know. Do they traipse through his brain to find out more? Of course not.

I make the involvement of Damien’s ex-wife with the enemy impossible to ignore. She is all kinds of personally involved with the kidnapping of Aenaiyah’s sister. After several sessions of punching her in the face and asking her questions they finally, FINALLY, have their arms twisted to tiptoe through the synapses – and hilarity ensues! These really are my favorite sessions of the campaign to date. (And we’ve had some good sessions!)

Earlier in the story the Mages found the hidden journal of a man who is very clearly suffering from multiple personality disorder. One of this man’s personalities is very clearly involved with kidnapping Aenaiyah’s sister, Betsy. They found out that the poor girl was in America at all and had in fact been bagged and tagged by clearing a printer jam in one of his safe houses and finding an upcoming edition of Sick, Sad World stuck in the printer that detailed the fact that the girl had been taken. The journal is being written by the part of him that wants to fight against the personality who was in charge during the kidnapping. The journal speaks about swearing someone to an oath against his wishes and not being happy about it. You’d think it would be easy to get them to consider taking a stroll down this guy’s memory lane – but no. Instead they tell the Seers that one of their operatives is having a crisis of faith and that they are willing to kill this guy for the Seers if the Seers give Betsy back. Because, you know, the head of the Seers who the Mages by now know is a Mastigos Arch Master would want one of his most successful operatives killed by them over a trifling difficulty like this. He wouldn’t simply take measures to keep the personality trying to thwart him in check. Why would he want to do that?

And then… and then… they go and tell Glamdring that they told the Seers that they know that Narsil is compromised, and when she asks why they would do that they tell her that it’s better to have everything out in the open.

I could have had Glamdring kill them all right then and there (she’s like Brock Samson if he happened to be a hot red-headed chick who is an Arch Master Thyrsus Mage) but she’s all about honor and duty (she is the head of the Adamantine Arrow in New York City after all) and with difficulty she restrains herself and simply throws them out of her office.

I’m thinking that if she kills them later maybe everyone will think the Seers did it – and if I’m thinking it, you know Glamdring is thinking it.

I’m generally not one to railroad a game, but this very quickly turned into a situation where I had to make it blatantly obvious that if the players didn’t step up and figure out a way to fix this their characters were all going to die. More than that, their deaths would be slow and torturous. And then their bodies would be disposed of in a way that made the Seers look guilty – or made the players themselves look like Seer spies (which wouldn’t be all that difficult under the circumstances). And their ghosts would be held captive by the outrageously pissed off red-head who had planned on marrying Narsil until she, an Arch Master of Life Magic, died. (which would probably not be any time soon.)

And when that didn’t work I smashed them repeatedly in the face with the Sledgehammer of Obvious Truths and eventually they realized that if the man who swore Narsil to his Guardians Oath (against Narsil’s will) had buried deep inside of him a personality that really wanted to RELEASE Narsil from that oath that MAYBE IT WOULD BE A GOOD IDEA TO GET INSIDE HIS BRAIN AND HELP THAT PERSONALITY DO THAT!!!

Which only goes to show:
You can lead your players to clues but you can’t make them think.

Mages Make Me Cry

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