Friday, 25 November 2016

This Old House (Part 3)

The third and final part in a series of short AP reports for the game of Blood & Water played as part of the Gauntlet Hangouts' Story Games Sunday.

Act Five:Brokering Bad

Three montages open this episode: Charlie going about his business with the weeping woman always standing at his shoulder, unseen by others; Manfred rehearsing with the band and cooking, as more and more of the band's followers succumb to necroherpes; and James murdering three more of the people on his revenge list, by the end of which his spiritual form is wreathed in coiling smoke and drifting sparks.

Image result for bonfireDue to staff shake-ups at Channel 5, Charlie is sent with Geoff the cameraman to film some local colour for the weather report and ends up at a new age ceremony intended to re-align the world's chakras after the bout of freak weather that has been experienced. He meets a woman there who can see the weeping woman, but he gets caught up in the ritual before he can speak to her further and we later see a viral video of him dancing naked around a bonfire.

Manfred concentrates on his real ambition, to run his own food-van business and finds a second-hand vehicle on Craig's list; the seller puts him under pressure to buy though, so Manfred turns to James for the cash. James gives him the money in exchange for Manfred flushing away the protective amulet that Charlie had acquired, which makes him uncomfortable whenever he is near it.

James has his own business to attend to, when Olivia's boss, the Bald Man, summons him to a meeting to discuss his situation and offers him a full partnership in his old firm if he will call off his vendetta against the surviving three conspirators; he gives James 24 hours to think about it. After a little spying & subterfuge, James establishes that the Bald Man is working for the conspirators, for reasons that are as yet unclear.

Charlie tracks down the woman from the new age event at a small museum/gallery/head-shop and she offers to intercede with the weeping woman for him; the spirit possesses the woman and demands that he right the imbalance he created when he dumped Brandi by text message. When he shows reluctance, the spirit changes tack and talks of gaining life instead; he agrees to this and the spirit leaves the woman's body, but the strain has been too much for her and she dies! Charlie calls 911 and ends up being interviewed by Detective Worth, the same one who had been investigating the murder of Skip Jackson! She knows there is something weird going on with the residents of the boarding house and presses Charlie for answers: he accepts her card and says he will call her if he has anything to tell her.

Image result for inside vaultWith his 24 hours up, James turns down the offer made by the Bald Man, but on a call to him, he finds that one of the conspirators has got a new proposal and has abducted Brandi and Madeleine as a desperate last resort to leverage him into calling off his vendetta. As James hunts them down, Charlie calls Detective Worth and all three housemates converge at the offices where the women are being held captive in a vault. As Detective Worth learns more than she wants to about the supernatural world and basically forces Charlie to agree to leave the city, James draws deep upon his supernatural powers, bursting open the vault in an orgy of destruction that rains debris onto his friends in the street and only just saves the lives of Brandi and Madeleine as he marks off yet another target on his list...

Final Act: Scratching That Itch

Things move quickly as James nears the completion of his goal whilst the NYPD move to protect the final two victims on his list, Ms. Brent and music investor Mr. Chalker: the latter was last seen heading into a VIP room at a gig attended by Manfred, Mr. Gorman the music promoter and Anyanka the mummy, who has helped seal the deal for Manfred's band. Charlie gets a call from Geoff at Channel 5 telling him to get into the studio and help cover the hot breaking story, while Manfred calls Mr. Gorman, who seems to be stuck inside a sarcophagus at the Museum of Natural History.

Acting on a tip-off/call for help by James, Charlie takes Geoff to the home of Ms. Brent, which is eerily quiet and dark; as James spies inside, Charlie knocks on the front door and rouses a child from bed who comes to answer it. Tragically, Ms. Brent has taken matters into her own hands, poisoning herself and her family rather than face James' wrath: the child is the ghost of her murdered son who closes the house around him in order to feel safe! Charlie frees them by embracing his destiny as a spirit guide and opening a door to the afterlife for the child to pass through; James is not deterred by this tragedy and finds out from Manfred that Mr. Chalker, the final name on his list, is at the Museum.

Image result for aztec maskManfred liberates Mr. Gorman from his sarcophagus and gets directed to the Aztec exhibit, where he last saw Anyanka and Mr. Brent heading to; in this recreation of an Aztec Temple, Anyanka is leading the praise of Chalchiuhtotlin, the God of Disease, to a kneeling congregation of band followers infected by necroherpes! As Charlie and James head up towards the museum, they see a crowd of a hundred more heading in, their skins covered in disfiguring sores, all chanting the name of Chalchiuhtotlin! They bust through a police cordon and enter the museum, where Mr. Brent is revealed as the avatar of Chalchiutotolin, who recognises James as the avatar of Xiuhtecuhtli, god of fire, and invites him to join him in bringing the True Faith to New York! Nothing will sway James from taking his revenge though and he slays Mr. Brent, just as Detective Worth enters; her attempt to perform an arrest is derailed when the spirit of the weeping woman returns, having found a wronged woman with a strong enough will to act! A possessed Detective Worth is fought by Charlie but James deals the final blow: having completed his business on Earth, a door to the afterlife opens for him and he draws the weeping woman's spirit through with him! Charlie also gets drawn into the doorway, but is saved at the last moment by Steve, his coyote spirit guide, who bounds through the door and closes it after him!

In some short epilogues taking place three months later, we see that Charlie has kept his promise to Detective Worth and left New York; now him and Manfred are touring the USA in Manfred's refurbished food van, bringing excellent street cuisine to the supernatural corners of the nation. Finally, in a cutaway to elsewhere, we see James alone at a desk, doing paperwork; his desk is surrounded by empty ones, which are surrounded by more empty ones and as our point of view rises directly above him, we see James dead centre in an endless office floor of empty desks...

The End

Many thanks to Daniel, David and Horst for playing: it was a very different experience for me GMing this game in a Hangout instead of at a tabletop, so I appreciate their patience and enthusiasm.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

This Old House (Part 2)

Part 2 in a series of short Actual Play reports for the game of Blood & Water being run through the Gauntlet Hangouts as part of Story Game Sunday.

Act 3: The Mourning After

Following their gig, Manfred skips the hedonistic after-party and goes home to cook, but the next morning, an urgent call from Jack, the lead guitarist for the band, summons him to the squat-like commune other members of the band use. Upon arrival, Manfred finds that Jack wants some assistance of an initmate, medical nature, after catching necroherpes from a night spent with Anyanka, the Meso-American mummified handmaiden, who simply followed the band out of the museum after their last practice. Manfred recommends some bean extract to relieve the itching, but it seems Brandi, Charlie's girlfriend, will be in need of it too, as she has also crashed at the band's place after the gig...

Meanwhile, back at the boarding house, Charlie tries to deal with the ghost of Skip Jackson, who doesn't seem aware of his condition, despite being a horrific apparition of violent and bloody death; all Skip is concerned with is his hair turning grey. Charlie convinces Skip to disguise himself so that he won't be recognised on the street until he has dyed his hair and foists him onto James, hoping that the two ghosts will strike up a rapport, softening the eventual blow when Skip learns the truth. As James escorts skip back to his apartment, Charlie takes Steve for a walk in Central Park, hoping to learn how to become a guide to the spirit world as Olivia suggested he might be. He learns that the venom of a South American snake is the express lane to gaining the insight he needs, so he heads to the Bronx Zoo.

James and Skip have some trouble at the latter's apartment, where a detective from the NYPD is poking around and becomes very confused when the horribly mauled but apparently alive Skip turns up: she leaves hastily to investigate Skip's 'death' and James just about manages to convince Skip that it's part of a surprise party being planned for him at Channel 5 to celebrate his years in the business, though he snuffs out all the electronics in the apartment to prevent Skip from finding out anymore.

Charlie meets Manfred at the Bronx Zoo but his initial plan to get into the reptile enclosure goes awry and he turns into the very snake he wants to get bitten by; he narrowly escapes the clutches of the zookeepers and escapes into the sewers, whereupon he has the brilliant idea of biting himself! Steve doesn't agree that this is such a good idea, but the deed is done and he receives a vision of Brandi telling him that to become a spirit guide, he must make amends with Skip Jackson.

Image result for weather new yorkAfter leaving Skip while he "goes out to get hair dye", James meets up with Charlie and Manfred and all of them head back to help Skip come to terms with what's happened to him; this is complicated by the presence of more officers from the NYPD. When James terrifies them into leaving, they shoot through the ghost and run, but one of the stray bullets hits Charlie in the shoulder. Breaking the news to Skip also doesn't go well, as the weather over New York is now tied into the meteorologist's moods and as he goes into denial, a storm whips up, threatening to blow the housemates away! Eventually they talk him down and he accepts his death, but asks them to take a message to Brandi: he is sorry for being an absentee father! Oops, it seems Charlie got the wrong end of the stick the other day and killed Skip for no reason...

Act 4: Fire & Loathing in New York

As Sunday evening rolls on, Manfred goes to speak to Olivia on his housemates' behalf and they find a way to overcome her inability to notice him: she explains about Charlie & Brandi's destinies and asks Manfred to intercede by killing Brandi! This is followed by an awkward Sunday night dinner, where James reads the report of Dr. Lithgow's death and the paper bursts into flame in his hands; Charlie becomes more concerned that James will be the cause of the fire he has seen in his visions, especially as he has now seen a flaming James over the charred remains of Manfred! James shrugs it off and sets off to seek out more of the people who conspired in his murder, while Manfred and Charlie head to one of the museum's storage rooms for band practice!

Image result for burning officeJames hunts down Mr. Wyman, an ex-colleague who profited from his death and waits for him to be alone in his office: when he confronts him, however, Mr. Wyman traps James in a circle of salt! Thinking he has the upper hand, he admits to killing James and says they picked him at random from some names in a hat, for reasons as yet unrevealed; James calls upon his newly-emergent fire powers and burns his way out of the office, killing Mr. Wyman in the process. He runs into Olivia outside the burning building, who once again tries to dissuade him from his course and asks him to meet her at midnight, where she will make one last attempt and, if she fails, she promises to leave him alone after that.

Over at band practice, Jack suggests that Anyanka should join the band and Manfred agrees to give her a try-out: it goes well and the rest of the band are excited, but Jack confesses to Manfred that Mr. Gorman, the promoter, was trying to squeeze Manfred out, so he suggests that Manfred finds Mr. Gorman and persuades him to change his mind, so that they can all sign the contract together. Also, Manfred had better keep that bean paste concoction coming, as now it seems that everyone involved with the band has caught a dose of necroherpes...

Charlie explores the museum basement looking for a way to protect Manfred from James and meets Madeleine, a junior museum technician: they strike up a rapport while cataloguing a collection of artifacts that have recently arrived from England. Not only does Charlie find a relic that should protect Manfred, he gets a date with Madeleine, despite not having officially broken up with Brandi yet or even told her about her dead dad, Skip.

Image result for mortuaryBack at the boarding house later that might, James reacts badly when he realises that he can't approach Manfred anymore. thanks to the relic he's wearing, provided by Charlie, but he has an important appointment with Olivia. She takes him to the NYPD morgue and explains the reasons behind the deaths of the people there: each of them was killed by someone, in some way, so she asks James whether she should wake them all up and let each of them have their own revenge? He reluctantly accepts that that would be a bad idea, but still refuses to let go of his own quest for vengeance, so Olivia presents him with the chance to sign a contract that will absolve her of responsibility for him: if he signs it though, he will never reach the afterlife and will be condemned to walk the Earth forever. He's not prepared to do that either, so he's stuck with the reaper in his life for now...

Finally, thinking over everything that has happened over the last few days, Charlie decides it's time to end things with Brandi... so he dumps her by text message. As soon as his thumb hits 'Send' though, he hears crying in the hallway outside his room and finds a woman in traditional Native American garb weeping in the corner; as she lifts her head and faces him, he sees that she is weeping tears of blood!

To be concluded!

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

This Old House

This is a short Actual Play report summarizing the first session of the online game of Blood & Water I am running via The Gauntlet Hangouts.

Image result for ghost manDramatis Personae

Our first three residents, who are all rooming in a low-rent New York boarding house, are:

James, a Ghost: a stockbroker killed by his own colleagues 20 years ago, the murder was covered up and he is determined to avenge himself.

Manfred, a Mummy: a passionate amateur chef (and drummer in a noise-drone band), he was caught intruding on the sacred rites of a South American cult and mummified as a punishment.

Charlie, a Skinwalker: a student who inherited his powers upon the death of his natural father, but he has little to no idea about what his nature and destiny.

In Episode 1, we also met:
  • Mr. Peabody, the elderly owner of the boarding house the residents live in.
  • Olivia, a Reaper who is trying to persuade James to pass over.
  • Dr. Lithgow, a friend of Mr. Peabody and a semi-retired doctor.
  • Brandi, Charlie's girlfriend, who is over-enthusiastic about his heritage.
  • Steve, a coyote.
  • Anyanka, a Meso-American handmaiden.
  • Skip Jackson, Channel 5's meteorologist, with whom Charlie is interning.
  • Mr. Gorman, a hipster music promoter.

Act 1: Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

At Friday night dinner, Mr. Peabody reveals that he has rented out one of the other rooms in his house, so they are joined at the table by Olivia, a punk-styled reaper: this creates an awkward atmosphere, made more complex when it becomes clear that she cannot even perceive Manfred. A toast proposed by Mr. Peabody causes Charlie to have a vision of the boarding house burning down, which prompts Mr. Peabody to call a doctor.

Image result for south american mummyWhen Dr. Lithgow arrives, James recognises him as one of the investors in his old firm and avoids being seen; he persuades Charlie to help him steal the doctor's contact book, in the back of which he finds a list of names of the people he suspects conspired in his death, along with dates and amounts of money...

Brandi arrives as the doctor is leaving and insists on 'helping' Charlie with a vision quest to uncover more about what he saw at dinner, but Charlie puts more faith in his spirit guide, a coyote by the name of "The Smoke that Rises from the Water as the Sun Sets in the Valley of the Snake," but Charlie just calls him "Steve." Under the influence of psychedelics, he sees the fire emanating from Olivia's room, but an attempt to confront her is unproductive and leads to Brandi feeling jealous; as Charlie attempts to comfort her, he becomes so empathetic towards her that he accidentally shape-shifts into her form and isn't quite sure how to change back.

Meanwhile, Manfred goes to a rendezvous with Anyanka, a mummy at the American Museum of Natural History: after awkwardly waiting for a 9,000 year old bog-mummy to get out of her sarcophagus, Manfred finally gets some lovin', but also has to promise Anyanka that he will 'ask the Gods' about the state of the friends and family she had in her life.

Act 2: Band from TV

The next day, Charlie goes to Channel 5 for his internship but he is still in the shape of Brandi, so he pretends to be her and explains why he can't make it in today; Skip responds in a way that suggests he is already over familiar with Brandi, so a jealous and angry Charlie lures him into a supply closet before shape-shifting into the form of a bear and mauling him to death.

James goes to confront Dr. Lithgow over his the doctor's involvement in his death; the doctor tries to flee to a panic room in his house, but is pursued and scared to death. Something about this act of vengeance causes James to burn with unnatural flames though...

Image result for skinwalkerThat evening, Manfred's group are performing and he is met in the dressing rooms (toilets) afterwards by Mr. Gorman, a music promoter who thinks he can get the band some traction, but Manfred's refusal to shake his hand leads the promoter to think Manfred isn't a good team-player and he suggests to George, the lead guitarist, that they may want to think about a new drummer.

Meanwhile, during the after-party, Olivia approaches Charlie and angrily confronts him about some sort of 'altered destiny': he was destined to kill his girlfriend Brandi, but now the fates say that she will kill him! After he refuses to kill Brandi in order to put fate back on its course, Olivia pulls some paperwork out of her pocket and burns it, causing the mutilated ghost of Skip Jackson to appear!

To Be Continued