Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Gencon, Part 2: Monsters and Chill (Game write-ups)

And now we come to what people have really been waiting for, what happened at my Gencon games this year.

The previous post, covering most of the stuff from outside the games, can be found here.

So this year I ran two Monster of the Week games, one on Friday and one on Saturday. Both were in the setting I've started calling 'Supernatural Studios': The characters are various non-famous Hollywood professionals, often technicians and stunt people (or criminals who associate with such), who try to protect the movie studios and their talent from the horrible shit either attracted to or causing all of the weirdness in Hollywood. The Department of Special Maintenance (as they're called) is kind of an open secret to veterans in the industry, and they operate out of an old prop warehouse semi-officially labeled Warehouse X. I'll go more into the individual game setups (including which playbooks were in use), but wanted to spell out the basic premise here first.

(By the way, if you need to reference the playbooks listed below, the basic ones can be found here and the Hard Case, seen in 'Unfilmable,' can be found here.

I also played in a Chill game on Sunday, but I'll get into more detail about that when we get to it.

Friday - Monster of the Week: "Unnatural Method"

Jimmy "The Owl" Smith (The Crooked)-- A professional burglar who can open any lock and has a catalog of favors he can call in.

Alize Anderson (The Flake)-- A costumer, well-known professionally but a little anti-social. "Bad things happen" to people that upset her (she had the 'Hex' move off the Spooky Playbook).

Michael d'Angelo (The Expert)-- "Always right, always overprepared." He's a folklore and occult consultant who is much older than he looks. He considers Koji his ward, having witnessed him using magic to force a producer to read their script, and has been training them to harness their powers.

Koji Tanaka (The Spooky)-- Androgynous and kind of alien, it's implied that Koji might be some sort of manifested spiritual entity (and somehow, despite this, is Jimmy's cousin). They work as an intern, but they're trying to sell a script -- because it's Hollywood, everyone is trying to sell a script.

The adventure:
The story begins kinda in media res, at night. The Department of Special Maintenance has been informed that someone at a fancy house in Bronson Canyon has called the police and reported "guys in zombie makeup" trying to break out. Word has gotten to the Department of Special Maintenance, who know that it's never just "guys in zombie makeup." So Michael quickly reviews some basic tactics, Jimmy grabs a baseball bat, and they round up the gang and head out to the hills.

They arrive at the house. The lights are out and the first floor windows are broken. Jimmy pulls on some gloves and goes around back to check the back door. Alize goes around looking for hidden dangers and spots a zombie missing a leg crawling across the lawn, mostly harmless now that they've seen it. Koji tries to read its thoughts to make sure it's not a guy in makeup, but determines that not only is it undead but it's animated by some powerful magic (which means it's not infectious or anything). Koji and Alize head around back to help Jimmy.

Out in the front yard, Michael steps up to de-animate the zombie with a spell... but he loses control of the magic, enhancing it instead. It grows a ghostly leg, gets to its feet, and takes a bite out of Michael! Koji senses that Michael's in pain and tells the others. They rush back out front and Jimmy uses the baseball bat to get the zombie off of Michael but draws its attention and gets bitten in the process. Alize uses her own abilities against it and manages to make its head explode, getting rotting brains all over Jimmy and Michael. They notice that the corpse is pretty old and rotten.

Meanwhile, everyone returns to the back door and Jimmy tries to open it... and just can't. Koji gives it a shot, and also can't quite get it open. Alize eventually just wraps her jacket around her arm and scratches herself up clearing glass out of a window so they can climb in.

They hear someone yelling for help upstairs. Jimmy draws a gun and as the group runs for the stairs Koji telepathically reaches out and connects with the zombies' target. They reassure whomever it is that help is on the way and urge them to remain calm. The group gets up the stairs and Michael just kicks in a door and tackles the first zombie he sees to the ground. Two more zombies are in what appears to be a guest bedroom, clawing at a closet door. Rather than risk hitting the guy in the closet, Jimmy digs his baseball bat out, only to swing and miss and get a bony claw to the face for his trouble. Koji tries killing one with a magic knife, but the magic just rebounds on him and burns him. Michael tries to pull a magic dagger and use it to de-animate the zombie he's wrestling with, but it fails to work and he gets bitten. Alize chucks a knife at a zombie's head, managing to lodge the blade in its skull and drawing its attention. It lunges at her, clawing her, but at least it's off the closet. Jimmy manages to take the head off a zombie altogether with his bat. Michael magically enhances his sword and uses it to annihilate the zombie he's struggling with. And Jimmy proceeds to distract the one remaining zombie so Alize can focus her energies and explode its head.

They open up the closet to let out the guy the zombies were trying to kill, revealing actor Joel Grey. He introduces himself, explaining that he's alone in the house -- the house belongs to Alice McCay (who is fictional), a director working on a remake of Cabaret. Joel is appearing in a cameo in the remake, and has been staying at Alice's house while he's in town. He has no idea of where the zombies came from, and is more than a little flustered. Alize does some thinking and recalls hearing of some incidents of bodies going missing from a local potter's field, which would match the clothing seen on the shambling corpses. Koji, just in case he feels the need to cause some trouble, casts a jinx on Joel in case they need it later. And then they steal an outfit from a closet, because reasons. Jimmy raids the fridge and helps himself to some wine and cheese since he figures these rich Hollywood types can afford it. Everyone takes a moment to get cleaned up and tend to their wounds in the house since it has multiple showers and they've got some time before the cops show up. They head out, do a bit of research, and grab some sleep.

The next day they head out to the potter's field likely to have provided the corpses for the previous evening's entertainment and sure enough, there's some empty graves. Michael does some magical preparation with the intent to ward the site and keep them in their graves. He can tell from magical traces on the place that a necromancer deliberately raised them for some purpose. Alize suggests that they could use magic to try and track the zombies back to the necromancer. She and Koji do some more digging and find some of the runes used in the spell, and figures out that the summoning spell is more than just an 'attack someone' spell, that zombies have been raised for other purposes. The group also determines that the necromancer started as an amateur but has grown far more powerful. The group suggests that whomever it is is being coached. Michael also does some looking around for a weapon that would be perfect for fighting the zombies, and because Koji's foresight suggested planting some clues earlier, Jimmy finds a human jawbone and gives it to Michael.

So with that investigation done, Michael spends a while performing the warding ritual, which is appropriately obvious and flashy because Big Magic is being done. But in the end, he manages to ward the cemetery so that not only is it protected from further necromancy but they'll receive a warning if it is.

And then they all go for tacos, because they've been busy and it's time for tacos. And then they attempt to track the magic that raised the zombies to its source. They assume that the jawbone they found is connected, possibly part of a skull that's a focus for the magic, and so they incorporate it into the tracing spell. The magic produces the glowing image of the face of the skull's owner, who warns them away and blasts Michael before vanishing. But now they have a trail to follow!

They follow it back to the studio where the Cabaret remake is being filmed. They're currently filming, and so when the magic leads them to an actor's trailer on the set, a security guy tries to stop them. Koji tries convincing him that they work on set and should be there (and Alize is a costumer on the film, we determined, so that helps) and can sense that the guard is being magically influenced. Koji informs the others of this via telepathy and Michael undoes the enchantment on the guard.

They head to the trailer, belonging to an actor named Rudy Paul, who Alize recognizes as being the actor portraying the MC in the Cabaret remake -- which is the role that Joel Grey played in the original. They knock on the door, determine that he isn't in, and Jimmy picks the lock.

Inside the trailer they find a skull missing the jawbone, etched with runes and glowing an evil glow. Koji looks at the skull and can see the ghostly form of the original owner lurking nearby, a balding man in his 50's with a beard. Koji tries and fails to jinx the skull. Michael tries to banish the spirit with Alize's help supercharging the spell, and it manifests so they can see it. The group -- Michael in particular -- recognizes the ghost as Joseph "Zed" Zediker, a fellow folklore and occult consultant who died of a heart attack on a western some years back, whose body vanished shortly afterwards.

Outside, they hear someone yelling for them to get out of his trailer. They look outside and see Rudy running across the lot at them, and as the nearby skull crumbles to dust they see him transform. He looks like a decrepit lich now, and he's pissed.

I'm not going to do a blow-by-blow of the fight, but there's a lot of slinging of magic back and forth, and Rudy pulls a spectral revolver to shoot at them, Koji reads Rudy's mind and helps them plan their moves, and both Michael and Jimmy eventually gun him down and he explodes.

In an epilogue, the group goes through the stuff in his trailer and determines that Rudy's power came from the texts he'd swiped from Zed, using his skull and magic to bolster his mediocre acting skills with talents gleaned from this souls of dead actors. As his career advanced he grew more powerful, until he got a shot at an Oscar bait role in the Cabaret remake, but the actor he was emulating was still alive... And you can see where it went from there.

And that's it for Friday's game.

(Quick shout-out and thanks to my roommate Sean, who hung out at the table with us and took notes for me to help make this post possible!)

Saturday - Monster of the Week: "Unfilmable"


Tommy (The Crooked)-- Nobody knows exactly what she does on the lot, but she's always just around. She's very well-connected as part of a gang called the Ruby Slippers.

Seth (The Flake)-- Seth works as a grip, and 'Seth' is probably not his real name.

Alec (The Spooky)-- A small-time agent with a bit of a vengeful streak and some psychic abilities. Also, like with Alize above, bad things tend to 'just happen' to people that piss him off.

Rick (The Expert)-- An editor and screenwriter who's picked up some magical tricks over his time in Hollywood. He's also been mentoring Alec in how to use and focus his abilities.
(Mechanics note: In Monster of the Week, each playbook has a list of connections that you can establish to other hunters. One of the Expert's is that another hunter is their 'student, apprentice, ward, or child.' In my experience, if you have an Expert and a Spooky in the same group, that's kind of an easy pick.)

"Bone Shards" (The Hard Case)-- A stuntman who's covered in stars, his nickname is derived from his tendency to somehow recover from some horrific incidents in which his bones were broken and/or splintered. He also has a bit of an unrequited crush on Tommy, and spends a good bit of time trying to impress her. (Just for the record, that last bit was from the Hard Case's connections to other characters, but I made sure the group was okay with it out of character and kept an eye on it to make sure it didn't get creepy. Everyone, Tommy's player included, actually really enjoyed the flavor that it gave the character interactions.)

So we begin with Tommy hearing about a strange murder through one of her cop contacts, a detective Clara Macklin. A body was found at Vista Del Mar, near the beach. (Shoutout to my friend Doug for having valuable intel on where to dump bodies in the area!) It's the second body found this week, which doesn't stand out in of itself, but it's been mutilated -- someone has carved a maze into it with a blade of some sort. Detective Macklin knows that when she hears about weird stuff, Tommy is the one to call. So Tommy calls up the rest and they all show up at the crime scene, where they've been given some private time.

The victim is a woman in her late 30's, early 40s', brown hair, and Alec immediately recognizes her because he's represented her: Kathy Horowitz, a stand-up comedian known for a particularly raunchy comedy style (think Lisa Lampanelli). Detective Macklin informs the group that she made a few calls after she talked to Tommy, and the first victim, Bryan Little, also had the maze carved on him, but the initial reports missed that it was a specific design. Alec also recognizes Bryan's name from the industry, an African-American stand-up comedian who had dreams of being the next Eddie Murphy or Richard Pryor.

But this means there's an obvious connection between the two. It's still unknown if they knew each other (though odds are they are at least acquainted in passing). But Rick, looking at the body, thinking about the maze mutilation, realizes what this is. This is something that the Department of Special Maintenance has dealt with before, on and off over the last several years.

So there's a bit of an infodump: The DSM has had run-ins with the past with serial killers who had been driven insane by a script. A slasher movie script so horrible that nobody in their right mind would ever try filming it. But the guy who wrote it (under a pen name) distributed a bunch of copies. The DSM tries to track down any that turn up, but eventually the script gets into the hands of an actor or a producer who looks at doing the project out of a way to just get their name on something. Any actor who reads the script enough finds their mind warped until they become the slasher in the movie. The script isn't cursed or anything, but just some weird quirk of the text affects the brain in a particular way.

The movie is called 'Rondel,' and it's about a serial killer who stalks and kills a bunch of 20-somethings in New York. The victims are kidnapped, dragged to a heavily-trapped murder maze the killer maintains, stalked and killed with a rondel dagger, and the bodies are dumped. It's revealed late in the film that the murder maze makes up most of an apartment building that the slasher owns. It's full of plot holes (how does this guy afford to maintain an apartment building when most of it is actually a big murder maze and most of his tenants and their friends wind up dead?), the characters are wooden tropes at best, the writer obviously sees the slasher as a villain protagonist, and in an attempt to be 'edgy,' the obvious Final Girl actually gets killed by surprise at the end. It's also revealed at the very end -- completely out of the blue, with no foreshadowing -- that the killings are all part of a ritual to summon 'The Minotaur' in what was obviously a hoped lead-in to a sequel.

Oh, and by the way, Rick wrote it and has been hiding that fact as his secret shame for years. The rest of the group doesn't know in-character. (Note: It was not my initial plan that one of the player characters would be responsible for the script. Rick's player used the Expert's Dark Past move actually hoping he'd fail the roll and be responsible for 'creating the situation you are now dealing with,' to quote the text. He succeeded, but we all agreed it was just [i]too good[/i]. It just fit too damn well so we ran with it.)

He spells out for them the basics of what he knows about the situation, that someone has read this script, become Rondel, and is kidnapping people into a murder maze. Individual details change, but when someone 'becomes' Rondel, they select a series of victims from their life that match a pattern established in the movie: A black guy ('because the black guy always dies first'), a promiscuous woman, the 'annoying comic relief,' a square-jawed 'traditional' hero type, and then there's the Final Girl. In the script, the Final Girl dies, but in the DSM's past dealings with Rondel manifestations, as long as he's had a significant encounter with her (likely playing out the scene where the character in the movie confronts him), they can take him out. But until then, he's protected by what is best described as Plot Armor. And even though the script itself isn't magical, if Rondel progresses far enough, he starts manifesting supernatural powers and the murder maze slowly becomes a magical labyrinth that is larger than the space containing it.

So they need to figure out who the rest of the intended victims are -- and the 'cast' list being stand-up comedians this time potentially muddies the waters with finding the 'annoying comic relief' -- and keep them safe while they figure out who the Final Girl is and make sure he doesn't kill her.

Back at the crime scene proper, Seth uses his abilities to read the 'past' of that morning. He sees the new Rondel show up on the nearby beach on a boat, dragging the body across the beach and across the street. He casually throws it over the nearby chain link fence. Seth can't make out Rondel's identity, but he's more than a little alarmed by the strength shown in the vision. Bone Shards suggests that Alec do some checking to find out if the victims worked the same clubs or anything, which is easy enough.

So this leads us to the Gas Station, the only comedy club that Alec knows that both Bryan and Kathy frequented. It's open for a lunch buffet and so the group heads in. Alec decides to have a chat with Stanley the manager to get an idea of who works there, who's scheduled to go on that night, that sort of thing. Tommy goes to talk to one of the bouncers and convinces him to keep an eye out for anything strange. Bone Shards finds a waiter who directs him to Renee, the bartender, a blonde from Kansas who works there most nights. Rick steps in to ask her a few questions because Bone Shards isn't great with people (I mean, seriously, dude calls himself 'Bone Shards'), and when asking her about who would be considered 'annoying' she tells them about a 'puppet comic' named Kenny Taylor. Everyone immediately hears 'puppet comic' and they're like 'yeah, that guy's next.' She also tells them, when prompted, about Arturo Rodriguez, kind of a 'bro' type who sounds like he might be their 'traditional hero' archetype.

They come away with a distinct impression that Renee might be the Final Girl. Tommy calls her people to see if Kenny and Artie have any criminal connections that might be useful to know, but all she can get is that Kenny has a major cocaine problem. Also, Alec knows that Arturo, despite being handsome and charismatic and athletic enough to put up a decent fight if confronted with a slasher, has a reputation as a joke-stealer and that no agent will touch him.

So they figure that Rondel will kidnap Kenny after that night's show, so they figure out how to plan to use Kenny as bait. There's also some semi-serious debate as to whether or not they actually [i]want[/i] to save Kenny, because he's a fucking puppet comic. Like, this is a running theme when discussing Kenny and how this is going to be the best possibility with dealing with Rondel. "Maybe we can just... observe, and step in when he comes back for Artie," someone would say, and everyone else would nod.

So everyone plans to be there in the audience, and Seth steps up to take Kathy's now-vacant spot at the beginning of the night before Kenny goes on (and he often goes on early so people can show up late to the show and not miss anything). His 'routine' is mostly just a rant about the mole people who secretly run the world and all that, and that goes over about as well as you'd expect. Then Kenny goes on next, and the group finds out that even by puppet comic standards, he's terrible; I describe him as "imagine Jeff Dunham, except all of his puppet voices are variations on Gilbert Gottfried," because all of the hate directed the character's way has led to such hilarity at the table I've decided to lean into it. So yeah, the crowd hates Kenny, and one guy even yells that they should "Bring the mole guy back out." While all this is going on, Alec is telepathically scanning the crowd, looking to see if the killer might be in the audience. All he catches is that Renee, who's still behind the bar, wants to be a comedian herself but hasn't really gotten a shot. He makes a note to have a chat with her and gives her one of his cards for perhaps future representation.

So eventually after Kenny gets off the stage he heads outside to his car, and Tommy follows him out the back. On the way, because Bone Shards is disappointed there aren't any on the menu, she bugs the cook to make him some pancakes. (I can't remember exactly where that came from, because apparently I didn't take notes on the whole bit with the pancakes) Tommy finds Kenny in a parking lot behind the club, putting his puppets in his car, and at one point he pulls the leg off of one and snorts cocaine out of a hidden reservoir in it.

The noise of a dog barking comes from some nearby trash and it makes him jump. Thinking he's being menace by a dog, Kenny backs up until he steps onto a manhole cover -- which opens up under him and he vanishes into the hole. Tommy rushes over to the manhole and looks around and sees that it's been rigged up with a bunch of traps in case anyone saw what happened and tries to follow. She rounds up the others, and Bone Shards is all too eager to jump down the hole and take the hit from the traps. Seth follows him and they start following through the sewers. Rick digs up a map of the sewers and he, Alec, and Tommy follow up top.

Rick thinks back over what they know and realizes that if they trigger the encounter with the Final Girl early in the story, that will go ahead and remove Rondel's 'plot armor' so they can fight him. This just kind of spills out with some stammering in a way that leads to more than a few Rick and Morty jokes (the fact that the guy playing Rick does a similar voice with the character doesn't help). Tommy starts to suspect that Rick is responsible for the script. Rick and Alec get into a debate as to whether to bring Renee along to confront Rondel.

In the end, Alec calls her with an 'opportunity.' He insists that it's nothing sleazy but he's got a time-sensitive thing that she can use as an audition, and manages to convince her to come with them. Meanwhile, in the sewer, Seth and Bone Shards reach the point where the sewer comes out by a marina. They see, presumably, Rondel paddling a raft with an unconscious Kenny over to a houseboat called the Barrel of Laughs. They contact the others, and Rick happens to have access to a boat on loan to the DSM from one of the studios.

They regroup at the boat and talk Renee into going with them -- she still doesn't know exactly what's going on, but so far Alec is utterly killing it with the manipulate someone rolls so she's coming along for the ride for the moment. They manage to follow the Barrel of Laughs to a nearby shipping yard -- which, they agree, is potentially sufficiently maze-like, with the containers and such. Tommy drives the boat and manages to keep up with Rondel without being noticed, but he does have a head start on them -- when they arrive at the shipping yard, he's already brought Kenny in there.

Seth calls some internet friends to hack the security cameras so they can see everything inside, and they say they can -- as soon as someone reconnects a terminal that will give them access. Rick spots the box and Bone Shards goes after it, narrowly avoiding a death trap rigged to it. But he reconnects the box and now they have camera access. Alec uses his telepathic abilities to get a better idea of where Rondel is and what he's doing. Rick uses a spell to enhance Bone Shards' knife and his own shotgun. Renee is completely freaked and Alec comes clean with her -- this is for a reality show. And she buys it.

They venture into the maze with Bone Shards in front, and he just barely dodges a trap launching a bunch of saw blades through the air. Seth is looking through the cameras and finds where Kenny's been dumped, and that one of his puppets has been hung up on the wall. As Kenny approaches it, Rick uses magic to talk to him through it. He pretends to be the puppet come to life -- and between the adrenaline and the cocaine, Kenny's about ready to buy anything. He convinces Kenny that he can get him out of there safe and sound, but under one condition: He has to burn all of his puppets afterwards. (Just for the records, I could see it coming, but at the delivery of the line I cracked up so hard I needed a couple of minutes to compose myself.) Kenny agrees, and Rick tells him that people are coming to help him and describes the group.

Meanwhile, Alec's telepathic link to Rondel informs him that Rondel is nearby, watching, and that the puppet is a trap. Rick warns Kenny just in time to stop Kenny from removing the puppet from the container door. (Just imagine this in Rick Sanchez's voice: "O-okay, Kenny, listen. You've gotta leave me here, Kenny, you've -- you've gotta save yourself. L-leave me, and remember your promise. You gotta burn the puppets, Kenny, even me.") But this means they also have a pretty good guess as to where Rondel is holed up, on a second 'level' container, and they find a stair-cart and come up behind him. Rick then makes sure that Alec knows they have to arrange a dramatic confrontational conversation between Rondel and Renee and then he has to chase her. (His recollection of these details still has Tommy paranoid about how much Rick knows about this script.)

So Alec gives Renee a knife, tells her to go up the stairs and open the container door. And she's supposed to pretend to know the guy she sees there -- in fact, she might actually know him already -- and that she needs to be all "How could you have done this?" and roll with however the conversation is going to go. He coaches her to get into the moment and act her heart out, and try very hard not to trip and fall when she runs away.

She goes up the stairs, opens the container, and without having to act she goes "Kevin, it's you? How could you have done this!" and Rick winces at hearing the terrible, terrible dialogue he wrote years ago playing out in front of him. Then she runs, and the stair cart starts to get out from under him. She falls, but Bone Shards catches her. The stuntman calls Rondel out by telling him "You skipped the hero!" (The Hard Case's 'Come Get Some' ability) Rondel dives out of the second-level container at him and tackles him, and Bone Shards manages to roll with it.

A boss fight ensues, with Rondel and Bone Shards stabbing each other while the others take shots at him with guns and magic. Eventually, Tommy manages to drop Rondel and Bone Shards kind of goes aggro on his body, cutting him up pretty badly just to make sure he can't come back.

So that's the day saved, lives preserved, and a puppet comedian forced into early retirement. All in a day's work for the Department of Special Maintenance.

Sunday - Chill: "Cold, Dark Earth"

Alright, so Chill is another game about normal humans investigating the supernatural (or the Unknown, as they call it) to protect innocents. (And it's a little more serious than my default 'speed' for running Monster of the Week) The player characters are operatives (called 'envoys') working for SAVE (Societas Argenti Viae Eternitata), the Eternal Society of the Silver Way, an organization devoted to investigating and combatting the forces of darkness. Among their tools is the Art, a series of techniques for harnessing arcane energies, which they use to fight the Unknown.

This story in particular is one of a series of freely-available adventures available for download from Growling Door Games' website, in case anyone would like to follow along or see avenues that we didn't pursue. (Just for the record, I didn't really take notes during this one because I was playing, so I may get one or two details wrong because it's been a week and a half since I've played it, now.)

So the group of player characters consisted of (these are all pre-gens out of the Chill core book):

Dr. Thomas Simpson -- A doctor from Chicago, skilled at boxing and practiced in the Restorative Art (healing magic).

John Post, Esq. -- A lawyer, with a military background who also spent a few years in Japan where he picked up the language and martial arts skills.

Miranda "Randy" Chase -- A cop from Arizona with a family curse.

Rory Calhoun (played by me) -- A young college student whose father was a member of SAVE (still alive, but retired) and has taken up the cause to honor him, showing a talent for the Kinetic (bonding with and controlling objects) and Protective (defensive) Arts.

So the adventure starts with us arriving in Nashville, TN to investigate the death of Benjamin Crist on a camping trip outside New Deal, TN (which is about a half-hour away). An anonymous tip encouraged SAVE to have John Post use his legal access to look into it where he discovers that Benjamin Crist was strangled by an assailant strong enough to crush his throat (and Benjamin was a fit young man) and kill him almost immediately. The attacker stole some clothes and used a camp shower, but left behind his money and phone.

So we arrived in Nashville and make a beeline to go check out the body. A major detail that stands out would be the filthy black handprints on the body that won't come off. The dirt on them doesn't match anything on the campsite, and there's no way they should still be visible. Rory calls his dad to ask his expertise, and his father comments that that suggests someone who might have died "unclean" and can't rest (in other words, he likely rose as some sort of undead). We also manage to find out that the fingerprints on the body belong to a John Dreyfus Millar ("Three names, never a good sign," I observe). Fugitive at large, having escaped prison while serving a life sentence for a double-murder. He shot two people, one of them an off-duty cop, while robbing the convenience store. There's no immediate connection between the people he killed and Benjamin Crist.

From what we can find out, Millar escaped from prison in Nashville. There were reports of sightings in Kentucky, and then nothing. But Benjamin Crist was killed in a half-hour away from Nashville. So he went to Kentucky... and then came back just to kill a guy? Something's not adding up.

The US Marshals looking for him, Matthias "Mattie" Tomlin and Tonya Brinks, have -- as far as we know -- been notified that his prints turned up at the Crist murder. We make a note to approach them at one point, once we have a decent story as to exactly what we're doing. Between the lawyer (John) and the cop (Miranda), we should be able to come up with a plausible reason to get involved, but it's still a little shakier than we'd like.

But first, we head out to the crime scene. The black handprints are all over the disturbed campsite, and it looks like the cops haven't been that thorough -- though more out of inexperience than neglect. We do some digging, and find two possible sets of tracks -- one that's likely to lead where he's going now, and one that's likely to trace back to where he just came from. We follow up on where he's headed, and with some absurdly good rolls we actually manage to catch up to him.

John Dreyfus Millar's skin is pale and sallow, and he's clearly unnatural now. We engage him, though it almost goes very badly. Between some really good rolls on his part, and some really bad rolls on Miranda's player's part, Miranda almost gets killed right away. Recognizing that Millar went out of his way to target her -- likely because she's a cop -- I quickly have Rory use the Protective Art to put up a barrier between two trees. (Rory's not exactly a combative type anyways -- it's not in his nature and he just doesn't have the skill for it.) And at that point the dice luck is on our side, because with Millar thrown off his rhythm by the barrier and some good rolls, the group manages to take him out without anyone else getting too severely hurt.

Of course, the question is, what happened in the first place? We head back to the campsite and follow the handprints back a few miles, finding a shallow grave. The dirt of the grave matches the handprints (which, we notice, now start to come off now that Millar is properly dead). There's a set of destroyed shackles (which, according to Rory's Kinetic talents, radiate hatred and rage), and in the nearby dirt there's a ruined letter; the only legible part says "Mel, they're taking me back." We have no idea who Mel is. If I recall correctly we also find a bullet in the dirt, and the caliber matches the sort of thing US Marshals carry. We're starting to piece together what happened, though.

Our theory is that the Marshals found Millar, likely in Kentucky, and brought him back to Nashville. But rather than return him to prison, they killed him and buried him in the woods. We decide to tip off the authorities on where to find Millar's body, with the story that we stumbled upon him and defended ourselves -- odds are the local cops are at worst going to notice the condition of his body and explain away the worst of it. We confront the Marshals, and eventually get out of Tonya Brinks what happened. (We were in sort of 'wrap up at the end of the session' mode, so we didn't have to fight too hard to get the rest of this.)

It turns out the off-duty cop that Millar killed? He was her partner's brother-in-law. So when they found him in Kentucky, where they think he was hiding out with the help of a local, Melissa Byrne, Mattie Tomlin talked Tonya into taking justice into their own hands rather than let him serve out the rest of his life sentence. Tonya, who is aware of SAVE's existence, called them when she got word that despite his execution Millar was up and about and killing people. We're not too happy about that, but there's not a whole lot we can do about it at that point. We do some checking on a map, and determine that if left unmolested, Millar would have traveled a straight line to Melissa Byrne's place, probably cutting a bloody swath along the way. So we take the win that is preventing anyone else from getting hurt (aside from a random 'wrong place, wrong time' victim we'd missed while we were tracking him), and getting the closure as to what happened.
(Assuming I'm not misremembering a bunch of details. It's late as I write this, and it's been a week and a half.)

Anyhow, I think this officially wraps up the vast majority of my Gencon experience. If anyone has any questions, feel free to ask.

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