Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Morgantown Project: The Tunnels

So this past Friday, I got the chance to wrap up the Requiem story I've been running since this past summer. Now, some things got a little rushed or glossed over because this was literally the last session we knew we'd get to play this particular game for the indeterminate future and circumstances outside my control made me a little late to game to get us started (and our windows for playing tend to be kind of short, because of work schedules and the like). I'd have liked to flesh out a few details some more, get the characters to do a little more of their own footwork (which has been a problem on and off), but we had to make do with the time we had. All in all, people seemed pretty satisfied with where we left off in the grand scheme of things and folks are eager to one day get an opportunity to revisit this particular setting/continuity in the future, so I'll take that as a win.





So where we left off, some folks were left in awkward situations. We started with Humfrey, who awakes in an unfamiliar basement and manages to scavenge some clothes that weren't dirty and caked with gore. Much fun is had with the fact that he has to resort to wearing sweatpants. The blurry memories of the previous night make their way back to him: He was rummaging through Mike's place when Mike interrupted him and assaulted him with some sort of magic. Humfrey succumbed to frenzy and attacked him. Mike managed to lure Humfrey out of the building to cut down on collateral damage and possible mundane casualties, taking some wounds that seem to bleed some sort of silvery substance. Mike got on his motorcycle and managed to lure the crazed vampire up a couple of roads, which resulted in Humfrey being distracted by the presence of an easier to catch human a stone's throw from the road. From there, we had biting, tearing, shredding, and then Humfrey waking up in a pile of blood and parts.

But Humfrey takes his improvised outfit and navigates his way down to one of the parts of downtown where hobos tend to congregate, where he manages to make himself look like a perfect mugging target to lure in a potential blood source. He drags the guy into the shadows, drains him (losing Humanity in the process), and just tosses the body into a filthy dumpster with the intent of getting someone else (likely Derrick or one of his contacts) to clean it up later. He then heads to Leland's club since it's basically the designated meeting spot/Elysium.

Derrick, as he wakes up, checks the news and finds out about the dead guy in the wooded area, the fight at the radio station (chalked up to a meth head breaking into the station to rob the place), and he also finds out about some sort of attack that happened near the waterfront where two frat boys went missing and a third was found stabbed to death with 'RAPIST' carved into his chest. Now, he has no clue who was responsible for what, so he starts making calls trying to track down Humfrey. During all this, he manages to hear from Gerald -- who informs him that the Mountain Line Preservation Society's books regarding to the tunnels were removed from the Society's archives by Billy while he was being driven around by the Strix and are currently in the hands of a cult to the Mountain God that slumbers within the Appalachian range. Gerald, fortunately, has been able to track down an address for the cult's leader.* Derrick also calls Stephanie, who informs him that she must turn down his offer** but she's already called someone who was already on his way coming in from Pittsburgh and take her place if he met Derrick's approval.

Humfrey arrives at Leland's club while Leland's actually on the phone talking to Derrick about how he doesn't know where Humfrey is, and Leland hands the phone over to Humfrey while he handles other stuff. Humfrey explains in so many words about what happened with Mike, and that maybe they needed to consider Mike a threat. Especially given just how thoroughly that bridge was burned. Derrick makes a note of it (and is a little concerned that he doesn't know who it was who attacked the frat boys, which is a detail I plan to work with next time I run something in this setting). but decides Mike's probably a low priority. Also, Humfrey tells him about the hobo he left in a dumpster with the expectation that he'll clean it up. Derrick just tells Humfrey to stay there and he'll be right over (during which he makes a call to see about getting the body dealt with). While Humfrey waits, he runs into Howard (the vampire who works with Mike at the radio station), who'd apparently gotten into a huge fight with Mike over the previous night's incident. He asks Humfrey if he had Matthew's contact information, as he'd had a few thoughts about his role in God's plan and such. (Howard didn't consciously remember his conversation with Matthew the night before, but it had left a subconscious impression.) Humfrey gives it to him and then -- I'm blanking on exactly how -- informs him that he was actually the one responsible for what happened. Howard, more than a little annoyed by this, just kind of stomps off after that.

Derrick arrives at the club to find Leland informing him that a vampire from Pittsburgh has arrived to speak to him and is back in the private room. On his way back there, Derrick finds Humfrey and informs him he's acquired a fresh suit for Humfrey to wear and hands him the keys to go get it out of his car. So Derrick gets into the private room to find a Mekhet named Duncan Rush waiting for him. Some of you may recall that Duncan used to live in Morgantown until he was outed as a vampire to the local hunter community and fled to Pittsburgh (where he joined the Ordo Dracul). But when Stephanie explained to him the situation, he decided to come back and try to protect the city. He and Derrick work out an arrangement of apprenticeship and agrees to join the Khaibit bloodline. Also, as he has some experience with Morgantown, Derrick asks Duncan about Mike. Duncan explains that whatever happened to Mike happened after he left town, but he did know that an incident involving Barbara McCoy (the government agent who's been cleaning up a lot of the vampires' messes) caused Mike to have a near-death experience and he came back different. That's basically all he knows. Derrick leaves him to sort out his 'living' arrangements, as he insists he can sort out his own accommodations without needing to crash at Derrick's place.

Matthew arrives in the club while this is going on, having spent much of his evening up to this point back at his haven preparing a couple of Vitae Reliquaries.*** He regroups with Derrick and Humfrey, and hands out the reliquaries as Derrick explains to them that they have to track down some cultists and get the books they need to put an end to all this.

So they follow the directions acquired by Gerald and find the house, where a couple of people -- a woman in her mid-50's and one in her 20's -- are going through the books, making some translations and notes and such. Derrick and Matthew get the younger one to come to the door where Matthew uses Dominate to put the whammy on her while Humfrey sneaks around inside and makes sure everything's on the up and up regarding their tip. Derrick uses Nightmare to conjure up an illusion of the fire alarm going off and the woman left with the books begins putting everything into a duffel bag to haul out of the house (rather than leave any of their sacred texts to burn). On her way out, she runs into Derrick, Matthew, and her fellow cultist. There is a short altercation where the cultists get tied up and interrogated with Dominate.

They explain that the 'emissary of the Mountain God' brought them the books, because it needed them to figure out how to work an artifact that was down in those tunnels. The Appalachian range, as it turns out, contains something of a 'fault line' in reality, and an ancient relic of some sort helps stabilize it -- or can destabilize it. Or as they put it, 'the needle stitches the tear in the fabric of reality, and can release it.' And only certain individuals can activate it -- either during this scene or a little later, the phrase 'Blood of the Age of the Dread Ones' comes up. But now they have enough material that they can go down into the tunnels and do something about this before it becomes a huge problem. They proceed to call Barbara and tell her what they've got already tied up for her, figuring she would appreciate some subdued cultists to bring in to her superiors.

On the way there, they contact Frank (the demon) and stop by the Mountain Line Preservation Society's office in the hopes that once he can study the spirit grid, maybe he can make a portable version they can use to trap the strix, as a possible long-term solution.

But once that's done, they get down into the university's steam tunnels and head for an access into the old closed mining tunnels in the area.**** But down in the steam tunnels, they get the odd feeling they're being watched, accompanied by a strange ticking sound... and then a strange vampire they don't know with a hood pulled over part of his face steps out of the steam, wanting to know what they want. When Derrick explains they're there for the tunnels, he simply leads them to the access and down into the tunnels themselves. They spend a couple of hours walking, eventually starting to find evidence of old ruins with glyphs and symbols and things.

But they find what they want when they get to a broken arch standing over a six foot tall cone-shaped structure. The structure has segments that rotate around the middle, with glyphs and symbols carved into the sides of it, sort of like a prayer wheel. And from what they knew, configuring them a certain way can solidify the local reality or tear it asunder.  The mysterious vampire leading them leans in and takes a deep sniff of Derrick, commenting that he has the Blood of the Age of the Dread Ones -- whether they know it or not, each of them has a bloodline that can be traced back to the Camarilla of ancient Rome. And that both of his companions do, too. Though they're more than a little freaked out by the fact that the vampire leaning in an sniffing them like that has given them -- particularly Derrick -- a glimpse at the fact that he has no eyes. His sockets are smooth, like there were never eyes in them.

And then his voice changes into a familiar cadence, the strix explaining that it needs them to work the Needle and open things up to let more of its brethren out from a place between dimensions, and it would be willing to reward them handsomely if they help it. Humfrey, rather convincingly, decides to take it up on its offer. He's directed to pierce his hand on the tip of the needle, the wound gushing blood that runs over the metal like it has a life of its own, lubing up the mechanisms and letting someone turn the segments. Humfrey proceeds to get a good look at it, figuring out just how to do the reverse of what the strix wants between seeing what it was after and glimpses in the books. And even if the strix suspected that Humfrey was about to betray it, he didn't get the chance, as Humfrey was more than willing to channel some blood into Celerity to work it too fast for the strix to stop it. Once it was locked in to better seal the rift in the universe, Derrick moved in and did something he saw in one of the cult's tomes -- he pierces his own hand on the needle with his Obtenebration powers active, his blood coming out as pure liquid shadow and 'gluing' the Needle in that configuration. There's a flash of light, and the strix tries to flee, bouncing off walls and such.

It was solid now.

(This was something I'd planned into the scene from the start, to give the characters the opportunity to actually pound on the strix in its native form a bit. Not necessarily for a 'boss fight,' but to give them that outlet of being frustrated at it.)

At this point in the evening we were running short on time for the session so we glossed over some of the hard details and rolls -- especially since Derrick uses Obtenebration to coat a chain in shadow and manages to tie up the strix with it. So just as I was deciding whether to give the strix an 'out' to return as an antagonist down the road, Derrick explains that he wants to take something he learned from the werewolves and apply it to the strix. Y'see, during a 'talking shop' conversation with the werewolves, Derrick had learned that killing a spirit forever means draining it of its Essence before striking it down. He's interpreted this to mean that he should try to diablerize the strix.

Normally, this sort of thing's impossible. But given the circumstances, and the possibilities for consequences down the road, I decide to go with it. I have him go through the process and rolls normally, and Derrick manages to completely consume the thing's essence -- getting a bit of a power boost in the process (Blood Potency and a Discipline dot, doncha know), but with an effect on his soul and being that will certainly have consequences down the road.

But, at that point, we literally had to call it a night and leave off there. The vampires from Charleston, as near as they can tell, have managed to pretty much stabilize the city and deal with the strix that's been threatening it.

Now, that said, what's going to become of the fact that Derrick has consumed an ancient terror that threatens all of vampirekind?

I've got some ideas, should we revisit this. Moo hoo ha ha.

Anyhow, that's the end of this particular story. I wish I could have gotten to draw it out a little more, but the players are pretty eager to get back to it should circumstances allow. In the meantime, I'm going to see if I can get my remaining Friday player interested in Requiem. Also, I'll be writing up some epilogue fiction in the near future, I'm sure.

In other news, this coming Friday I should be sitting down with my entire Friday group (plus Bryan, who played Matthew, who'll be joining my regular Friday game) and hammering things out for Werewolf: The Apocalypse. And at the risk of jinxing that, I do plan on blogging that one from the start.

See you then!




*-- If we'd had another session to spend on it, this is one of those things I'd have fleshed out some more, made the characters track down the cult themselves, etc. Ah well.
**-- Technically, she'd have had to turn it down anyways. We'd actually all forgotten that to be inducted into a bloodline by another member of your clan, you had to be Blood Potency 4 and she wasn't, mostly because Derrick himself was only Blood Potency 1 but he'd been embraced into the line. Of course, the character who took her place should have been too low as well, but for the sake of not stopping the fun train I handwaved that he'd increased in potency off-screen over the last several years.
***-- For those of you not familiar with Requiem, Vitae Reliquaries are mundane objects who've been transformed by blood sorcery into receptacles for storing blood. In Matthew's case, he used playing cards.
****-- By the way, in case it matters, as far as I know the mining tunnels underneath the university are fictional. But they are based on something that exists out at UC Berkeley, a mine built for the sole purpose of giving prospective mining engineers hands-on experience.

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