Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Compact: The Convoy

This is the third and final compact I came up with for the Hunter LARP I ran some years back. I never could find a good way to work it into the game, but I always had it somewhere in my own personal canon in case I wanted to play with it literally or metaphorically.

As a reminder, this is entirely unofficial and should be considered entirely fan-material unless someone with the authority to do so says otherwise (though I'm 99% sure that by posting it all I'm probably ruling it out as strictly canon, but eh). That said, feel free to swipe, fold, spindle, mutilate, and put to use in your own games.

Also, a note: While this is updated to the Mortal Remains supplement, it also incorporates systems from Compacts and Conspiracies. Neither book is strictly necessary as long as you're at least covered with the Hunter core and the GMC rules update. That said, Mortal Remains is an amazing read. Compacts and Conspiracies has its weak spots, but all in all it also has a lot of interesting and inspiring material.



And here we go:







The Convoy
The Citizens' Band
Breaker-breaker, this is Lucky Seven. We've got reports of a black truck by the side of the road just north of Mount Morris. Repeat, there's a black truck out near Mount Morris. Lookin' for a Cowboy to back me up while I take a look, over.

Drivers of the Convoy sometimes like to tell that their expression of the Vigil goes back to the Old West, with stagecoach drivers and Pony Express riders keeping an eye on the helpless folk of the frontier. In reality, the frontier had its own hunters more than able to defend isolated towns and the Convoy isn't much younger than the Union. It began back in the early 70's when a group of truckers, all virtual strangers to each other, allied to defend a truck stop against a pack of rapacious vampires. The exact location of the truck stop changes with the telling, as tends to happen with modern oral history, but the basics of what happened remains the same.


After the truckers, many of them already well-armed, fended off the vampires they inevitably got to talking about what they'd just encountered. They didn't know whether they could tell anyone about what they'd encountered without being written off as crazy. But as they talked, they all realized that each of them had a story of something weird. 


One once gave a lift to a hitchhiker who, while 'paying for the ride,' bit the driver's thigh and drank his blood but left no marks. Another had seen someone at a rest stop open a door to reveal a wooded area on the other side -- but when the trucker himself opened the door it was just the bathroom. A third had a hitcher who was already creepy enough until he asked to be let out of the truck during a thunderstorm, whereupon he ran into the middle of the field and was struck by four bolts of lightning before the driver floored it. A waitress at the truck stop had served coffee to a regular who kept coming in for a few months after his obituary ran in the paper. And so forth.


They all realized that it was a weird world out there and that it got even weirder outside the bright lights of the cities. And the only way to protect their own was by sharing the stories with those who could be trusted and learning from them. This network of storytelling, at first called the Citizens' Band, spread slowly but surely over a few months. One day someone received word of a nest of vampires operating out of a rest area, got ahold of a few other guys in the Band and asked what could be done about it. A week later truckers came in from five different directions at once and descended upon the vampires with guns, crowbars, and wooden stakes and made that stretch of road safe for travelers again.


After that, word got out that the Convoy could gather at any time to do it again if need be.


As focused as the Union are in protecting their neighborhoods, the Convoy are just as focused in keeping America's highways safe. Some of them simply want to fill the gaps in what little protection there is outside metropolitan areas and others take it as a near-holy mission to keep things safe for the people who are only comfortable out in the fringes. They do their best to put ghostly hitchhikers to rest, hunt vampires and slashers that prey on travelers, and assist people who've had their vehicles undone by unseen forces.


They accomplish this through an information network connected to the highways. It's not just truckers relaying messages with CB radios but it's also truck stop employees, highway courtesy patrols, tow truck drivers, and cops and bikers who are in the know and don't stray far from the highway. The compact also includes a number of office workers at the major trucking companies who can arrange for individual drivers to have jobs that take them to particular places (or at least cover up any unusual routes being taken) and even a few nomadic tourists and travelers. All keep an ear out for stories of 'The Weird' (their name for the hidden supernatural 'world' just out of reach of most people) and pass the message along until someone who knows how to deal with it can show up.


The Convoy doesn't operate in a traditional cell structure when they investigate the Weird. News of incidents will spread along the Citizens' Band and as many as are needed will get themselves assigned to routes that will take them where they need to be. Most of them will only know each other by call signs and reputation and they generally agree it's safer that way. Sometimes a driver of the Convoy will approach or be approached by stationary hunters for assistance with a case located in a city. Their alliances are short but solid and rarely has a cell of normally-stationary hunters regretted calling in help from these guardians of the highways.


The Convoy also marks places that are considered safe havens for each other or even other hunters savvy enough to grasp its meaning. It's often lost among the stickers on the doors advertising 24-hour ATMs and accepted credit cards but many a truck stop, 24-hour restaurant or rest area bears a symbol depicting five tractor trailers arranged in a pentagonal shape surrounding a flame (often interpreted to be a candle flame as often as a campfire). The image calls to mind old stories of 'circling the wagons' in the face of danger. Some trucking companies post the sticker up on an office door as a means of informing drivers in the know that this is a place where their stories will be believed. In some areas, the image appears on a tow truck driver's business card or is drawn next to their name in the pay phone's attached phone book.

The Enemy
Convoy drivers often find themselves learning ghost lore before anything else. Even aside from tales of vanishing hitchhikers, the sheer number of violent wrecks on the US Interstate Highway system guarantees that at least a few of those crash sites are going to be populated with ghosts. Some of them are just stranded and bleeding ectoplasm as they try desperately to wave down a good Samaritan who will never come. Others will lash out at vehicles like the ones that once drove them off the road or ran over them. On the rarest of rare occasions, it's not the hitchhiker that vanishes but the ride; one or two roads have stories of a seemingly-solid car with a driver who will pick up hitchhikers and then replay the drive that led to their fatal accident some years earlier.


The nature of the Convoy's work means that close to half of the time they don't have the opportunity or the means to research these specters and thus they regretfully pass the story off to a hunter who lives in the area to sort out. In some areas this has given them an unfortunate and undeserved reputation as hunters who just dump problems in the laps of the locals and then move on. But when they can do so, either between jobs or using some vacation time, they collect the local tales and do their best to put a ghost to rest or at least move that last part of hidden wreckage that binds a ghost to the world of the living.


After ghosts, most of the Citizens' Band's collection of stories about the Weird involves vampires and slashers. Vampires generally have issues with planes and most will travel the back roads to get from point A to point B. Some vampires are just habitual nomads, traveling from place to place and feeding where and when they can. When vampires on the long stretches of road between cities get hungry, they usually can't just hit the bars in search of someone too drunk to remember their fangs. Often times, clumsy attempts at improvisation combined with the assumption their problems can't follow them will result in a mess being left behind. 


Plenty of slashers turn to the highways seeking victims in search of out of the way locales and quick getaways. Police stations' almost stereotypical difficulties in sharing information with their counterparts in other towns and states make it an attractive option for a serial killer to remain on the move as much as possible. Sure, eventually that gets the Feds involved but the Vanguard Serial Crimes Unit only has so many agents assigned to it. Truckers, however, are commonplace and good at moving subtly; regardless of the size and volume of their vehicles, people tune them out more than notice them. 


Many vampires and slashers fail to realize that there are hunters just as mobile as they, and some of them are very good at following a trail of bodies across distances.

Hunters


Your first brush with the Weird came on your way back to the truck after getting cleaned up in a rest area bathroom. You saw a young woman dressed in denim, cowboy boots and a hat, and with feathers in her hair walking from truck to truck either looking for a ride or earn a few bucks or both. You didn't think much of it until you saw her knock on a door and the unnatural bend of her elbows gave you the first clue why everyone was pretending not to hear her. The elbows led to glimpses of the birdlike talons she had instead of hands and then you noticed she was watching you stare. Those utterly inhuman eyes, set in a face like a porcelain doll, made you piss yourself and run.


You were already a novice hunter with a few kills under your belt when you had to take a job washing dishes and bussing tables at the diner just off the highway to make ends meet. One night when you had to help cover for one of the waitresses you heard a couple of regulars talking. Even though they were talking in code and slang, you recognized fellow hunters. You also realized that they were talking about a case you were familiar with but never had the manpower to look into yourself. It wasn't 'your' table, but you went over to refill their drinks so you could ask them if they needed a hand.


You've been driving with the Convoy for a few years and these days you only take jobs that give you time to make plenty of stops along the way and share stories of the highway with other truckers, bikers, and assorted travelers. Mostly you spin a yarn to help people explain away their close encounter or otherwise put them at ease but when someone can handle it you find it comforts them even more to know they're not crazy. You've got a reputation as a recruiter for the Band but really all you're doing is looking for someone else who's had a run-in with the creature that brought you into all this when he magically forced you to keep driving him long after you wanted to kick him out. Because these days you know what he is and when you find him he's going to burn no matter how many people they stitched together to make him.

Cliques
Different members of the Citizens' Band travel in different circles and different methods. The vast majority are part of the 'industry of the road': professional truck drivers, employees of various Departments of Highways, rest area attendants and truck stop staff, and the like. Some just travel for the sake of traveling or have another job that keeps them moving. What defines and unifies them is a need to see what's lurking outside the protective umbrella of the city lights and keep people safe from it all.
(For Storytellers using the optional 'subgroup specialty' rules in Compacts and Conspiracies, I've included the specialty that comes with each faction.)
  • Hunters whose Vigil revolves around the road tend to romanticize it and call themselves Cowboys. These are the constant movers: truckers, mostly, but bikers have been known to ride with the Convoy as well. More than a few are people who just don't fit in more traditional communities and prefer radios and greasy spoon diners for human contact. They make up the majority of the Convoy.
    Free Specialty: Crafts (Vehicle Repair)
  • The hunters who remain more or less in one place are referred to as Parked. Most of these are rest area, truck stop, and trucking company employees, but also occasionally highway cops and courtesy patrol who spend time around the road but stick to one city or county. These are hunters whose Vigil has to take into account the fact that they are likely to be around to deal with the aftermath of their activities. They serve as an important part of the Citizens' Band's information network and a point of contact between more stationary hunters and the rest of the compact.
    Free Specialty: Streetwise (Hunter Codes)
  • Then there are the Tourists. Generally derided by the rest of the compact, these are people who simply have lifestyles that involve a lot of travel -- sports agents, some reporters or salesmen, and drifters of all sorts. Many of them can hold their own if need be but the informal brotherhood of professional truck drivers is a tough one to crack (bikers get a pass because they have their own cliques ready to back them up).
    Free Specialty: Survival (Navigation)


Status


While some compacts value information-gathering above combat prowess and vice-versa, the Convoy seeks members who are capable of both in equal measure. The realities of a travel-heavy lifestyle require the ability to contribute regardless of the hunter's proximity to a good action spot. Members of the Convoy are expected to collect and share stories they pick up on the road (after doing what they can to verify them, of course). They can't assume they will have regular access to the message boards of Network Zero or the Union so their information is 'stored' via an oral tradition. Contributing to the Convoy's collection of tales, whether through action or learning, is what earns you Status.


• You've probably just learned a little bit about the Weird and are still building a contact list of call signs and diner addresses. You've gotten into the habit of making sure any warnings you hear of traveling monsters get passed around when you stop for coffee. Any time you've spent ingratiating yourself with other people on the highway is starting to pay off. Gain a free dot of Allies in a group or organization connected to the road (highway cops, courtesy patrol or similar).


••• With experience and tips you've collected, you've put together ways to carry your gear or make it available to other hunters. Whether in an office, a diner, or your vehicle, you've prepared hidden compartments to store gear and supplies. You gain two dots to distribute between the Safe Place and Safehouse Cache Merits to represent this stash and any defenses you've placed on it (although Security isn't out of the question depending on whose name is on the truck).


••••• You know a little bit about everywhere. You've probably got a stack of road atlases with copious notes taken involving sightings, jobs done, cases closed, and so forth. You've been out there enough to figure out where the popular stories get things wrong (oral tradition, after all) and where the truth lies. You gain two dots in the Library Merit and Encyclopedic Knowledge Merit. This represents being able to draw upon a wealth of obscure knowledge about a city's Weirder aspects.


Stereotypes
  • Null Mysteriis-- You gotta hear this: I had this nerdy girl catch up with me at a truck stop. She's seen the sticker, he knows who I am, and she wants to ride along for a bit. She wants to test this gizmo that'll help her map out phantom hitchhikers because she thinks there's a pattern to their locations. She's all frustrated, though, because she's finding too many hot spots for her pattern and I'm like "Darlin', don't you know how many people die on the highway?"
  • The Union-- We get a lot of city cousin/country cousin jokes with regards to these guys, as if people in suits never travel and guys in denim and flannel don't live in houses. They're good at what they do and you should respect them for it, but don't let them act like it's your fault that the road takes us past their town and not through it.
  • The Cheiron Group-- I know a guy who does a lot of shipments for a couple of medical companies. Lots of refrigerated trailers, lots of forms and locks to make sure he doesn't know what he's hauling and couldn't talk about it if he did. But what worries me is that I think they ask for him because they know he's a hunter, like they need the extra security.
  • Task Force: VALKYRIE-- Every now and again some highway cops find out about the Weird and they can handle it. And then one day they join a special 'joint task force' and they start pretending they haven't seen or heard anything and the Feds start showing up at all of their crime scenes. They think we don't notice, and if they ask you not to talk about it just nod and smile and keep your real friends in the loop after you drive away.




Convoy Compact Endowment: Mileage
Effect: The primary weapon of the Citizens' Band is information. They equip themselves with it and wield it as a weapon. They collect and retain stories about the monsters they fight, the towns and out of the way places that become battlefields, and the names of hunters who can be called for help or avoided as need be. They gather up this info and pass it around so everyone's prepared. They even pass favors around to call in; a stationary hunter in Ohio might find a Convoy member he's never met calling him up to cash in a favor he owes another member of the Band who's currently in Tennessee. The name for all of this data is Mileage, representing the experiences a member has had on the road.
At the start of a game session, a Convoy hunter may choose a single benefit from the list below that will last the session. She can carry it from session to session where appropriate.
  • Her dots in Mileage can translate to a bonus to a single Research attempt (all of the individual rolls in a single extended roll) to uncover information about a region or its local history (whether mundane or supernatural) as long as it's relevant in some way to the case he's working. This might represent people she can call for context or prior reconnaissance that has been passed on to her in the form of journals and maps and folders of data.
  • Her Mileage rating becomes Merit dots divided up between Safe Place, Safehouse Cache, and Safehouse Secrecy. This might be a stash-hole she set up on her own time on a prior visit, one set up by another member of the Band, or even one loaned to her by a hunter who owes someone a favor.
  • She can have her rating in this Endowment translate into an equivalent rating of Allies for the session as she calls upon other hunters she knows in the area and cashes in favors stockpiled by other members of the Convoy to gain someone's services or access to a restricted area or some such.
  • She's learned about the different tricks that hunters can pull off. Since members of the Band generally don't join traditional cells, they have to make do when it comes to Tactics. By choosing this benefit, the Hunter can consider herself trained in a Tactic used by a cell of hunters she's temporarily working with as long as she's serving solely as a secondary actor (or one of multiple primary actors, such as in the 'Disappear' Tactic). A hunter using this benefit is likely to be a quick learner or has picked up enough of the trick elsewhere to keep up. But she likely still hasn't worked with these folks enough to count as a full participant. As a result, her dice pool to participate in the Tactic is capped by her Mileage rating.
  • If your Storyteller is using the Midnight Roads supplement, dots of Mileage can convert to dots of the Driver's Charm merit to represent a temporary 'good luck' charm the character has acquired. Using Mileage to 'acquire' this charm takes the place of spending Willpower dots to re-attune to a new vehicle.

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