Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Game Recap: Playtest Group Busts Crime

Hey, everybody! It's been a while since we had a minute to update you on the progress and actions of the playtest games, but I have an hour now, so one update, coming at you! This will be just a game update, since we have some other posts queued about mechanics waiting in the wings; if you're looking for information about the gameplay itself, don't worry, it's on its way, too.

This particular game has started comparatively recently, and is being run by John, with two players who are old hands at multiple RPGs, two players who have only ever played D&D before, and me as a control/helper. Allow me to introduce you to Team God-Touched, who I have informally named just now. (I know you have briefly heard about them in long-ago posts when they started up, but it's been a while, so the refresher will do us all good.)

The characters are as follows:

Jennifer Clarke: Jennifer is a high-powered lawyer working both corporate and criminal cases, doing her best to live up to the legacy of her intensely successful and judgmental lawyer mother, since passed away. In addition to being a partner in her own law firm, a respected advisor to the police, and a highly skilled marksman, she discovered that she had also been chosen to serve the goddess Athena - told to her by her dead mother, of all people, who began speaking to her through old pictures in albums and explaining her divine mission, not to mention expressing her intense disappointment in all of Jennifer's inadequacies. Jennifer is affectionately referred to as "Action Lawyer" by most of her companions, who are somewhat starstruck by her take-charge attitude and great skill at leaping tall buildings and shooting monsters that would otherwise be eating them.

Bernard Fitzroy X: Bernard is an amateur scholar and archaeologist from a long line of them; having discovered that his ancestors defaced important relics in Egypt with the equivalent of nineteenth-century name graffiti (as many nineteenth-century British dudes did), he is on something of a low-key crusade to redress this wrong by trying to advance and preserve knowledge and relics in the modern age. He's somewhat timid and bookish, and was introduced to the world of the divine when a gigantic ibis, sent by his divine patron Thoth, physically kidnapped him, flew him around the area in a dizzying journey while conversationally explaining that he needed to work for a god now and oh, by the way, there's a prophecy that he's going to die horribly, and then literally dropped him on a car on the freeway. He is accordingly deeply suspicious of pretty much all birds.

Ananda (Annie) Harper: Annie is a semi-famous jazz musician, born in the United States to immigrant parents and now supporting them in comfortable style on her touring and award earnings. She spends most of her time in general relaxation, working part-time as an artist-in-residence for a local college's music department and composing and touring with her concert in her professional life, and spending lazy hours in the garden and craft fairs with her wife Victoria, a local artist and eccentric. Her call to the divine came when she heard enchanting music from the college auditorium and found Sarasvati playing music there, and was told (after an awestruck time appreciating the song) that she had a mission and that a number of other divinely chosen people would be coming to act as helpers and bodyguards to make sure she achieved it.

Anathasios (Nate) Prokopis: Nate's the youngest of the group, a seventeen-year-old from New Jersey who has spent most of his short career doing petty odd jobs for small-time mobsters and other no-good characters. He's out for number one, having come from a large family that made it hard for him to distinguish himself, and in spite of his tender age is pretty thoroughly cynical and self-serving. He discovered his divine calling through a good-old-fashioned trolling; Hermes decided to appear inside his van while he was doing a delivery down the east coast, filled his van with explosives/stolen money/dead bodies in rapid succession, and then blew up a gas station which caused Nate to immediately become wanted for terrorism. Add to that the fact that Nate shortly discovered he was actually transporting diseased corpses for his not-so-savory bosses, and his first week was not exactly a fun one.

Emilia Vinter: Emilia is something of a hippie - she just wants to eat superfoods, get harmlessly high once in a while, and enjoy communing with nature, but the world keeps getting in the way of that plan, so she works for an outdoors amusement/nature park area and tries to avoid everything that keeps making life a little less serene for her. Unfortunately, being called as a servant of the divine doesn't make that easy; she was visited by the great Skadi herself, who appeared in all her gigantic glory, boomed a bunch of instructions at her that she could not understand because she doesn't speak Old Norse, and then skiied away, leaving a freak blizzard to thoroughly ruin her place of employment for part of the season. It has since become apparent that she has some kind of prophesied destiny - but she's not doing great at achieving it, since she still hasn't been able to find out what it is.

The mission they've all been sent on has to do with a local gangster by the name of Ramsey Amon (a name causing Bernard intense symbolic suspicion), who appears to be selling drugs laced with material from dangerous underworld insects, and whose lieutenants, human-seeming creatures that only the God-Touched can see are actually hyena-like hybrid monsters, are spreading disease and filth to various food industries in the city. No one is sure why he's doing that, but they know they need to stop him before the entire city starts suffering from an unprecedented wave of disease and decay.

A lot has happened in the time that this group has been attempting to handle their sudden plunge into the world of magic and mayhem, so I'm going to present it in the form of a bulleted list of highlights, and next time we'll pick up with them where they currently are!

  • Bernard is dropped on top of Nate's van in the middle of the interstate and has to climb in the window at 75 mph. Neither of them are happy about this situation.
  • Upon stopping at a local bar and grill to figure out what's going on, Bernard meets Emilia when he sees her about to eat contaminated food and slaps it out of her hand. Since Emilia can't tell the food is contaminated, this does not make a good first impression.
  • Jennifer, who stopped in for some dinner, recognizes Nate as a wanted criminal, and he convinces her that he's innocent and she should represent him. She agrees.
  • Annie makes friends with Emilia when she also steps in for dinner, and then the entire party notices that there appear to be a couple of guys poisoning the food in the kitchen.
  • While clumsily trying to investigate, Jennifer accidentally alerts the kitchen workers, who are secretly hyenas, to her presence, and all hell breaks loose. Both hyenas are killed, but shots are fired and everyone ends up fleeing the scene in Nate's van. The van has to be emptied of rotting human remains first. Nate doesn't want to talk about it.
  • The group goes back to Annie's house and tries to make sense of the situation. Everyone kind of thinks Bernard is crazy because he keeps yelling about things they can't roll high enough to see.
  • One of those things is a snow fairy, who seems to be causing or exacerbating the freak blizzard. Everyone except Bernard and Jennifer just sees him as a normal college student and keeps trying to stop them from harassing him. The snow fairy leaves through a portal in the snowy sky, and Jennifer makes a huge leap and manages to get into the portal after him.
  • Jennifer emerges in the mountains of South Carolina and has some awkward dates with the snow fairy while she tries to convince him she's not interested. Everyone else gets back in Nate's murder van to go take a road trip to retrieve her.
  • Jennifer is attacked and must fight off bands of roving hyenas while trying to run home along the highways. Nate and company finally find her and help her, but fire giants also attack, possibly attracted by Emilia and her mysterious destiny, and they end up setting another gas station on fire. Jennifer tells Nate his "I am not a gas station burning terrorist" case is not looking great here.
  • After crashing through a toll in an attempt to escape enemies, everyone ends up in a regional South Carolina jail. Nate decides to use a Gambit in an attempt to break everyone out, which results in a giant seeking revenge to turn up, tell him off for not being a worthy enough foe, and impersonate a police officer while they escape.
  • They do, but Bernard reminds everyone that the giant might go home and carry on the charade with the real police officer's wife, so they convince her that they're FBI agents from the X-Files division, and take her back to North Carolina for her own safety. Everyone gets new FBI code names invented by Annie.
  • Emilia discovers some weird things going on at her workplace, and uses her tracking skills to find out that it appears that there are some alfar regularly frequenting the place at night. Annie rents the place for a midnight concert with friends as a cover so everyone can investigate.
  • During investigation, the alfar turn out to be hostile and to not speak anything but Old Alfar, which no one else understands. Violence erupts; Annie discreetly evacuates the civilians who have no idea what's going on while the combined efforts of the other Heroes plus an apparent inter-alfar squabble keeps them from killing everyone. The leader keeps yelling Emilia's name in the middle of his unintelligible sentences, much to her confusion and discomfort.
  • Meanwhile, Bernard, being sensitive to these things, notices other occult clues in the area, and realizes that there are also some witches in the vicinity doing some kind of ritual. He talks to the local squirrel population, who tell him he should come have squirrel fun with him. He declines.
  • Back at Annie's house, everyone is attacked by giant death scarabs with horrible decay powers. The bugs are defeated, but most of the Heroes end up in the hospital, where they discover that there's at least one hyena here poisoning the food, too. The alfar leader, resurrected by the Gambit efforts of Emilia (so she can hopefully find out about her destiny), keeps buzzing the hospital and shouting her name, and chases Nate down the highway for a while.
  • Annie chooses to stay with the injured Victoria in the hospital, while Nate and Jennifer go to tackle the legal system and attempt to deal with the accusations against him. Jennifer performs lawyer wizardry to get an immediate court date, and although there was ample video footage of Nate committing crimes, the prosecution suddenly discovers that it has all been replaced with obvious prank footage by some unknown party. The case is thrown out and Nate is unsure whether he is grateful to or still pissed off at his divine patron.
  • Back at the law firm, Jennifer's partner orders sandwich delivery, but Jennifer sees that the sandwiches have been poisoned and the delivery boy is a hyena. She and Nate throw the sandwiches away, which causes the confused partner to order more, and they repeat this several more times until the delivery boy gets suspicious and angry.
  • They then tail the delivery boy to the sandwich shop, where they plot his demise. They're not good at concealing their intentions, so he realizes they're after him and flees the scene. Nate steals a bicycle to chase him while Jennifer leaps across building roofs in pursuit.
  • Nate and Jennifer end up attacking and beating the delivery-boy-hyena almost to death with the bike chain outside City Hall. The justice system is not amused. Jennifer keeps them out of jail, but only barely.
  • After another death bug attack on Annie's house, Bernard and Emilia track them to the basement of a local storage building. Everyone but Annie goes to investigate, and discovers several tunnels beneath the building, including two death bug nests, a horde of angry death spiders which Bernard tries to reason with and succeeds in turning into his mortal enemies, and some hyenas. The Heroes realize they're outmatched and flee.
  • Everyone tries to have a relaxing night at home, only to be attacked by the zombies of eighteenth-century sailors, who arise from the graveyard of the Celtic shrine across the street. Emilia runs over them with her car and Bernard performs magical rituals to prevent them from arising again. When the police are called by neighbors who claim they saw Bernard raising zombies with his rituals, Jennifer explains that her client sometimes likes to "engage in rave activities" when stressed. Somehow this works.
  • During a farseeing trance, Emilia sees a giant valknut emblazoned in the grass like a crop circle at her former place of employment. Bernard wants to investigate, so he, Emilia, and Annie go to see what's giong on. Bernard realizes that the crop circles have been placed by the witches he saw traces of earlier, and also that he forgot to tell anyone else about them.
  • Bernard performs an impressive magical ritual to break down the barrier around the valknut, and in so doing discovers that the witches have been using his preordained doom as a sort of fate-battery for their own spells. He is not pleased.
  • Inside the former barrier, Bernard discovers a portal into the fairy realm, which neither Emilia nor Annie are able to see. A fairy attempts to entice them from within the portal, telling them to come explore the meadows and ride on the chocolate train. Bernard attempts to demonstrate the portal by sticking his head in it, which causes him to vanish and travel to Faerie. Emilia is deeply upset that he did not take her with him to enjoy the chocolate train.
  • Left on their own with no idea what's going on, Annie and Emilia meet the witches, who have come to see what happened to their spell. The witches invite them to come home and watch Wheel of Fortune with them, but Emilia is suspicious and convinces Annie to take a rain check. After fighting off grass that attempts to eat them, they go home, concerned about the missing Bernard.
  • Death bugs attack several more times, and without Bernard to heal their wounds, the Heroes begin taking heavy casualties. Eventually Nate becomes near to death, and after storing his body in her art shed, Annie takes Emilia to attempt to find the missing Bernard before Nate dies. Jennifer stays behind to guard the house.
  • The witches have replaced the magical barrier, but without Bernard, Emilia and Annie can't see it and blunder right into it. The magical shock almost kills Emilia, and does kill Annie, who is saved by the divine intervention of a none-too-pleased Sarasvati, who tells her to get her helpers to stop being useless and start defending her properly. Restored, Annie desperately drags the unconscious Emilia to safety and flees. Emilia joins Nate in the almost-dead shed.
  • Meanwhile, Bernard finds himself in Faerie at the chocolate train station. The platypus fairy acting as stationmaster explains to him that he can't get home through the portal he used to enter, but there's another one down the train line. The train fare costs human babies as a currency, however, so Bernard finds himself at a loss for how to get there.
  • A helpful old lady fairy offers him one of her babies-for-trade, and when he reacts with moral outrage, bewitches him to go climb a giant mushroom and fetch her a glowing silver star thing from the top. He does it, but with extremely bad grace, and frequently falls off the mushroom due to his lack of facility when it comes to outdoor sports.
  • At the top of the mushroom, Bernard discovers that the silver star is in fact a silver star baby, and the moon, it's mother, is coming to kill him for attempting to kidnap it. He's pretty horrified at himself at this point and is almost glad to be shot with moon lasers. The moon mother tattoos him with a permanent moon brand and kicks him back off the mushroom.
  • Bernard goes back to the station to have it out with the old fairy woman, only to discover that she left hours ago. The platypus fairy takes pity on him and lets him sleep over at his house for the night. The next morning, Bernard finally finds a portal back out, and wanders around in the woods of the normal world eating nuts and berries and wondering what his life has come to.
  • Annie and Jennifer again head out to the woods to try to search for Bernard. Bernard tries to call them, but discovers that his phone has been invaded by fairies, who want to charge him mysterious "services charges" for calling people and attempt to install magical software on his phone. He manages to override the magical infection to call Jennifer, but the feedback on the other end electrocutes her and she also falls over, near to death. Through luck he manages to find the truck and get in, and Annie runs him back toward her house with all due haste.
  • Back at the house, Bernard has the unconscious Heroes removed from the shed in order to heal them in the near future, and notices that there are death bug nests beneath where they were lying. He fails to mention this to anyone else, however, until the bugs start swarming. In his defense, he really wanted a shower after being lost in the fairy realm.
  • Two of Annie's old students arrive unexpectedly and are confused by all the strange goings-on. They are only too happy to help Jennifer and Nate try to clear out an insect infestation, but are quickly disillusioned by the giant swarm of lethal bugs unleashed upon them. Annie tries to safeguard Victoria and the other local mortals inside the house, but the bug tide threatens to swallow it up.
  • In the desperation, another Gambit is used. This one goes poorly, and causes a gigantic portal to Jotunheim to open up in Annie's backyard, from which a huge giant appears and drags the college students to their doom. The bugs are all swallowed up by the huge sinkhole - but so is Annie's house, which mostly falls into it and is destroyed. Annie gets herself and Victoria out in the nick of time.
  • The police are not amused by Annie's house being the epicenter of yet more disaster, but since they can't charge her with causing citywide sinkholes, they have to leave the Heroes alone. Annie and Victoria have a tearful heart-to-heart in the hospital, in which they decide to get Victoria her own apartment away from danger. Victoria accuses Annie of having feelings for Jennifer. The medical staff keeps getting underfoot.
  • The Heroes move their base of operations to Jennifer's law offices. Annie decides this has gone on long enough and demands that they clear out the bug nests under the storage building. Through a strategy of caving in tunnels leading to scary stuff and Jennifer shooting everything that moves, they manage to kill the two hyena creatures there and discover that they were cooking meth and lacing it with death bug innards. Everyone is disgusted except Nate; Bernard has to explain several times to Nate that he should not do any of the death meth.
  • The Heroes steal the death meth barrels to prevent them from being retrieved and distributed by bad guys, but are not sure how to transport them. Nate leaves to steal a grocery store semi-truck, while Jennifer hefts the barrels out of the tunnels and then everyone runs screaming into the darkness to escape the armed gangsters who are none too pleased about their theft.
  • The Heroes smuggle the death meth to the local toxic waste treatment plant, where they leave it with a note that says "please throw this away, it is bad so don't open it." They feel accomplished.
  • Upon being told by Jennifer that there is a hyena in the hospital, Annie panics because Victoria is still there and demands they handle the situation. They plan for Annie to lure the hyena out and attempt to form a truce with it with Jennifer as backup, while Emilia holds down the fort at the law offices and Bernard and Nate come up with a strategy to get rid of the already-contaminated food in the hospital kitchen.
  • Annie tries to broker a truce with the hyena. It doesn't go well. Jennifer knifes it to death and then they both tearfully explain that they were attacked to the police, who are still tired of seeing their faces.
  • Bernard and Nate, not sure how else to handle it, sneak into the kitchens and begin smashing everything, as well as stealing the hyena's poison cooler. They use way too many powers on security because Nate keeps evading detection and then Bernard keeps volunteering that he is totally a criminal.
  • Annie organizes a food truck rodeo to draw out the other hyenas. She is offended when no one else agrees that this is a brilliant plan.

All right, now you're all caught up! Future updates will be less concise and also less long. This group is still young and not quite sure how this whole "hero" thing is supposed to work... but gosh darn it they are very determined.

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