Thursday, 24 December 2015

Deadlands Noir - Clowning Around

L to R: Deville, LeRalf, Prof Gordon...?
Following on from their meeting with the Black Hand, the detectives had another good night's sleep, before paying a visit to the offices of the Tombstone Epitaph. Here, they find Nate Braddock, the local editor, frantically typing and looking like he's not had much sleep recently. The Epitaph has a small, somewhat run down office in New Orleans and there was nobody else there at 9.30 in the morning.

Braddock had recently followed up a tip the detectives gave him to an old plantation in Jefferson County. Here he found no sign of the walking dead they battled in a previous episode, but he did spy on a ritual conducted on the grounds to summon the spirit of Baron Simone LeCroix. He tells the detectives that the ritual did not seem to be successful. He saw over a dozen people there, who arrived and left in expensive cars.

Braddock also confirms that Mike Braddock, author of the biography of LeCroix the detectives stole from Loyoal University, was his father. Braddock senior packed his bags and left New Orleans shortly after his book on LeCroix was published in 1911, never to be seen or heard from again. The elder Braddock was also a journalist, working for the Tombstone Epitaph in Louisiana.

Nate believes his father was threatened by the Red Sect. Nate is not able to shed a lot more light on LeCroix, apart from telling the detectives that it is still rumoured that LeCroix's daughter, Marie-Louise, was not killed, but is imprisoned somewhere in the city. He says some of the ongoing interest in the rail baron stems from fascination about his wealth, and whether his daughters got their hands on all of it when he vanished.

What are the secrets of the LeCroix family?

The detectives stop to buy some newspapers, and see in the Times Picayune that boxer Wayner 'The Battler' Barbeau has reached New York and given a press conference ahead of his upcoming fight with Lou Salica. The characters have $300 riding on the fight.

The detectives next return to the Emporium, to confront Daniel Cisek, its owner, who they last saw trying to break into the house of former Senator Cruzet the previous day. Cisek initially threatens them with a shotgun, but calms down enough to tell them he is also hunting for the masks. He wants to use one to communicate with a resident of the Hunting Grounds. He thinks the masks let users see into the Hunting Grounds and talk to lost souls there, but not actually travel within the spirit realm. Cisek believes that actual travel in the Hunting Grounds can only be achieved using a special formula of tobacco, concocted by Baron LeCroix. He says the secret of the tobacco, what it was made from and how, was lost with the Baron. He begs the detectives to let him borrow the mask they stole from Cruzet, and offers them $300. De Ville agrees to let him borrow the mask, once the detectives have finished with it.

Doc LeBoeuf is working on a theory about the use of asylums to make people vanish from public view, and remembers that the city still operates the old Isolation Hospital in Marigny Bywater, built originally to house the victims of major contagious disease outbreaks in New Orleans, including the Spanish flu in 1918-19. Now, as public health improves, it is used to detained lepers who have run away from the leper colony at Carville, 60 miles upriver from the city.

The Isolation Hospital, New Orleans

The detectives then decide to visit the hospital, a massive Victorian edifice which has seen better days. Pulling up outside, both De Ville and Prof Gordon think they see what looks like a clown's painted face staring at them from one of the fourth storey windows, but then it is gone again. Entering the hospital's vast and echoing precincts, they speak with the only nurse they can see - indeed, the only soul around. She seems deliberately obstructive and uncooperative, even when Doc LeBoeuf flashes his credentials at her. Eventually they are joined by a burly orderly who Gordon suspects is a man used to meting out violence.

A lengthy argument ensues, with the porter refusing to provide the detectives access to the handful of lepers he says are the only patients. Nor will he disclose the identities of the doctors supervising the hospital. It is only when LeBoeuf threatens to take up the matter with City Hall, that he finally agrees to let the detectives see the lepers.

The orderly takes the detectives through the large and rambling hospital, much of which seems to be dusty and neglected. There does not seem to be anyone there and much of it looks like it has not been inhabited for over a decade. Eventually they come across three patients wearing hooded gowns with hands wrapped in bandages. They seem to be clustered at one end of a long and echoing hallway. LeBoeuf tries to talk with them, but they initially shy away from him. Prof Gordon's cat McCavity (which he carries around with him always, as part of his patent scientist delusion) then reacts with fear as two more lepers approach the detectives from around the corner behind them.

LeBoeuf finally persuades one of the patients to lower his hood, whereupon he sees the man's features are strangely warped in a manner that has nothing to do with leprosy. It is then that he sees the face change, to one of a colourful and demonic clown (Fear checks all round). The lepers throw back their hoods, revealing bizarre blue or green or purple hair, also like clowns. Their grinning maws sport sharp teeth and they seem to grow in heigh right in front of the detectives.

With a cry, the orderly raises his baton and attacks Gordon...

GM note - We are making use of the Savage Worlds Adventure cards in this campaign. Each session, a player can opt to keep his card from the last session or draw a new one. If he played his card in the session, he draws a new one at the start of the next session. Two cards pertinent to the plot were played in this session - namely 'Enemy' and 'Battlefield Promotion', the latter coming right at the end.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Deadlands Noir - The Masks of Baron LeCroix

The following is a summary of Friday's game of Deadlands Noir. If you are interested in following the plot from the beginning, you will need to start reading with 'Looking for Lucy' as the campaign includes many overlapping plots and characters.

The detectives began the session visiting the Emporium, a fairly non-descript shop in Marigny-Bywater that sells voodoo artefacts. They spoke with the proprietor, Daniel Cisek, who again confirmed that he had not seen one of the tribal masks they were looking for, but intimated that there were several parties in New Orleans actively interested in acquiring them. He seemed to know that Mammy Martine herself was hunting for them already. He agreed to keep an eye out for any masks fitting the description and contact the detectives if he found one.

As they had yet to break into anywhere (the players seem fond of it), they next decided to visit Loyola University, more specifically the office of the late Father Joseph McNelis, where they knew a secret panel concealed a small library of occult works, some of which had already been looted in an earlier chapter by LeRalf. This proved to be relatively easy, with manitou-infested PI Lee Deville making use of the sonic lockpick obtained from slain hit man Jazzman James. McNelis had few works on voodoo to start with, but they did managed to obtain a 1911 biography of vanished houngan and founder of the Bayou Vermilion railroad Baron Simone LeCroix.

The book, written by Michael Braddock, looked to be largely based on hearsay and idle speculation, but did shed some light on a couple of new items of intelligence. Firstly, LeCroix, who came to New Orleans from Haiti, funded his railroad with an unknown source of wealth, rumoured to be either the proceeds of blockade running during the Civil War, or pirate loot. Secondly, although he did not found the Red Sect, he helped to make it into the dominant organised crime group in New Orleans before Prohibition gave the Black Hand a foot in the door. Thirdly, he wanted his daughter, Marie-Louise, to take control of Bayou Vermilion after his death. When he disappeared, she was quickly edged out by her sister (circa 1890), and also vanished from sight. The book speculates that one or both sisters were responsible for the Baron's disappearance, and that Laurelie 'Mammy' Martine may well have murdered her sister to take control of the Red Sect.

Doing the maths, the detectives worked out that Mammy Martine must be well over 70, although she looks much younger (55-60).

While relaxing for the evening in the Absinthe House with their beverages of preference, the detectives were approached by a pair of Black Hand thugs, who told them that Mike the Stick was aware of their visit to Mammy Martine, and wanted to see them. The mafia goons were fairly threatening in their manner, and one stubbed his cigarette out in Doc LeBoeuf's drink, almost prompting a fight, before a display of Prof Gordon's telekinesis device reminded them of who they were dealing with.

The next day the detectives trawled the newspapers for a high end interior decorator they could consult about a restoration project for LeRalf. Their real purpose was seeking information on any antique African masks that might be held privately in New Orleans by wealthier residents. This pointed them in the direction of the house of former Senator for Louisiana Byron Cruzet, sitting between Washington Avenue and Felicity Street in Uptown. The detectives now knew that the Cruzets collected African art and had a mask fitting the description of those they were hunting in a glass case.

The Cruzet mansion
Using their contacts, the detectives disguised themselves as engineers for the telephone company, sabotaged the line, and then bluffed their way into the house, as the Cruzets were away enjoying the cooler weather in the United States. De Ville and LeBoeuf cased the house from the inside, while Gordon stayed up a nearby telephone line. De Ville spotted the museum room where the mask was kept, and it was while he was 'checking' the line with Gordon that the latter spotted a man climbing over the wall into the back garden of the house. He warned De Ville of the intruder, who in turn warned the butler looking after the house, and used this distraction to enter the room with the mask. Quick use of the sonic lockpick allowed him to take the mask (although a Fear check was needed as the mask whispered to him in an unknown language) and replace it with another mask on display in the room.

Downstairs, LeBoeuf confronted the intruder who was in the process of climbing in a back window. This proved to be Cisek, the owner of the Emporium, who promptly fled. The elderly butler was advised to call the police, and Gordon posed as the dispatch officer on the other end of the line, ensuring no police were actually summoned.

Now equipped with the mask (which only seems to whisper to De Ville, and not the others), the detectives travelled to Prof Gordon's lab, where De Ville put the mask on (after his colleagues took the precaution of tying him into his chair). Looking through the eyes of the mask, De Ville could see that he seemed to be standing in a wooden canoe in the middle of a huge swamp, under a strange, kaleidoscopic sky, similar to the one he saw in the red church painting in Mammy Martine's house (see 'Meeting Mammy Martine'). De Ville has stashed the mask in a safety deposit box at the First Bank of the Confederacy in the Central Business District.

That evening, the detectives visited Sanzone's, the Sicilian restaurant controlled by the Black Hand, where they met with Mike the Stick. Although initially unhappy with them for visiting Mammy Martine, the Stick seemed more relaxed when Gordon told him of the shooting of Martine's son, Bon Bon Lescartier, in a previous episode. He seemed to know the square root of nothing about the masks, but given the Red Sect's interest in acquiring them, told the detectives he would be keen to obtain them himself. He accepted that they could borrow them first, but scoffed at any occult powers they might have.

Mike also went on to tell them that the Black Hand needed their services to make political fixer and campaign manager Harry Marburg disappear. Marburg helped to manage mayor Andrew McKendrew's surprise electoral success in 1934. Now, it seems Marburg has itchy feet and is about to be recruited to work for a possible electoral opponent of the mayor's in the run up to the 1938 contest, a candidate backed by Louisiana senator Huey 'The Kingfish' Long. The Black Hand has already tried to pay Marburg a 'visit' at his home, but it seems the political fixer has gone to ground for the time being. The Stick offers each detective $300 to find a permanent solution, which seems like a great deal of money compared to what they have been paid for previous assignments for the Black Hand.

De Ville fuzzily recalls meeting Marburg and speaking with him shortly before De Ville was shot and killed himself. This would have been in 1934. Private investigator Gavin Phillips was also present at that meeting. The Stick says he knows of Phillips but says he has not done any work for the Black Hand.

To be continued...

Monday, 14 December 2015

Deadlands Noir - Meeting Mammy Martine

This is really just a continuation of the summary from the last session of Deadlands Noir. Having dispatched Wayne Barbeau and Art Torobelli to New York in the custody of the Black Hand crime syndicate, the detectives returned their focus to the matter of Doc LeBoeuf's missing sister in law, Tammy Portunate.

LeBoeuf decided to send a letter to Mammy Martine, the New Orleans spiritualist and, as they have discovered, a feared bokkor and senior figure in the Red Sect crime organisation.

Mammy duly responded, sending a small boy to visit the detectives in their office. He duly went into a trance and invited them to tea the following day.

The detectives arrived for their date at Mammy's townhouse in the more affluent Uptown district, which they saw was being guarded by some Red Sect goons on the street. These gentlemen allowed the detectives in to see Mammy, although the characters also noted a huge black man on guard in the hallway of the house, who seemed to have no whites to his eyes.

While waiting for their host, De Ville and Gordon noticed an old Victorian era photo in the drawing room of a tall black man in a top hat posing with two small girls, twins, one of whom is obviously an albino. De Ville also saw a painting of a red church on an island in a swamp, under a kaleidoscopic sky. When he turned away from it, he thought he could see the reeds and the water moving, but it was all still once more when he returned his gaze.

Mammy bustled into the room. She comes across as a very refined and polite woman, with a touch of iron to her. She is very genteel, and looks about 55-60 years of age.

Mammy was very affable, asking after the welfare of the Doc's wife but professing no knowledge of the whereabouts of his sister in law Portunate. If she is trapped in the Hunting Grounds, the spirit realm of lost souls and demons, then Mammy reckons her physical form is dormant somewhere on the material plane. She needs to be awoken by locating her in the Hunting Grounds.

When questioned about how to get into the Hunting Grounds, Mammy says the only way she can think of is to use voodoo masks, which have the power to allow the wearer to see into the Hunting Grounds, and possibly even travel there (although she was not sure on the latter point). She summoned her huge bodyguard who showed the detectives an example of the masks. She claimed her family owned a number of them, although following a rift in the family, the rest have disappeared. Should the detectives be able to recover them for her, of course, she would be very grateful and would help them to see into the Hunting Grounds. She does not know where they might be found, but suggests they could still be in New Orleans, hidden from her.

Leaving Mammy's house, the detectives headed over to the Yellow Sign bookstore to consult with its new proprietor, Hetty Sanderson. Prof Gordon stopped on the way to buy her a sign for her shop saying "You don't have to be crazy to work here, but it helps." He is not sure whether this went down well or not.

Sanderson warned the detectives about working with Martine, whom she describes as devious and dangerous. She confirmed she had heard it might be possible to enter the Hunting Grounds using masks like the one they saw, but said the only person known to have achieved this for more than a couple of hours is Baron Simone LeCroix, a very powerful New Orleans bokkor who vanished back in the 1880s. He used some form of exotic tobacco in his ceremonies which she thinks could be part of his secret. She confirmed that Mammy Martine is his daughter.

Sanderson was at a loss regarding where African tribal masks could be found locally, but suggested the detectives check out the Emporium on Bienville Street, which stocks many of the supplies required by practitioners of voodoo in the city.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Deadlands Noir - Rescue of the Bayou Bantam

We last left our heroes, for now they are surely heroes, for none of them are still in the Novice rank, and indeed one has clawed his way to Heroic status, in the abandoned US Navy base in Algiers, New Orleans, where they were on the trail of missing boxer Wayne 'The Battler' Barbeau, aka the Bayou Bantam, the undefeated bantamweight. Barbeau had gone missing three days before a scheduled fight against Lou Salica in New York.

The detectives had followed the trail to the old naval base on the south bank of the Mississippi, where they had found Barbeau imprisoned in a reinforced cage in a warehouse, guarded by eight soldiers. The crew of a seaplane intended to smuggle Barbeau out of the city had already been overpowered when a huge mechanical man smashed his way through the rear wall of the warehouse, blasting away with a .30 calibre machine gun it had in place of a right arm.

All hell duly broke loose as the soldiers tried to get Barbeau out of the front of the warehouse, while being engaged by the robot and four mysterious men in black overalls who tackled the military men. The detectives decided to intervene, with Le Ralf blasting away with his tommy gun from behind a pile of crates, Lee De Ville joining in with his .45, and the crazed Professor Gordon lobbing knock out grenades, having already switched on his invisibility belt.

The turning point in the battle of the warehouse occurred when the robot, already badly damaged by gunfire from the soldiers (all wearing strange black trenchcoats), took a critical hit and blew up, taking several soldiers and some of its human allies with it. The fight continued for a little longer, but weapons malfunctions and the death of their officer left the soldiers in a tough corner.

It was at this juncture that Doc LeBoeuf intervened, calling on all the combatants to surrender, which most of them did. A couple of soldiers decided to fight on, but were quickly taken down.

Knowing that the explosion and shooting would bring the police down on them in short order, the detectives tied up their captives. Prof Gordon tried to gather up some of the ghost rock that had been littered around the warehouse in the wake of the explosion. The detectives also collected some of the reinforced trenchcoats, some more Hellstromme Hellfire pistols, and some of the goggles the black clad intruders had been wearing. These turned out to be Night Owl goggles (see page 16, Deadlands Noir).

The group decided to escape on foot with their captives and a shell shocked Barbeau, but saw a police car had already arrived at the main entrance. Gordon and LeBoeuf decided to brazen it out, leaving the other two detectives to meet them by the west gate to the base. Using an adventure card, Doc Leboeuf recognised one of the two patrolmen peering into the darkened base as a former patient of his. He and Gordon were hence able to bluff their way past the cops before reinforcements arrived and more difficult questions were asked.

Not yet ready to discuss medical problems in public!

Jumping into their cars, the detectives picked up the rest of the party and their three captives, and headed into the swamp to the west of the city, where they set up an interrogation centre in an abandoned farmstead. Here LeBoeuf got to work with his Intimidation score on the captives, using his black doctor's bag and medical instruments to make the men talk before any force needed to be applied. Just the suggestion of what he might do with an empty syringe seems to have been enough to get one young Irishman yapping.

This was Fergus, who, looking no more than 20, told LeBoeuf has was a member of a small Irish street gang called the Lazy Boys. Their leader, Mike MacGuire, had been approached by a private investigator (description meeting that of Gavin Phillips, the private dick who the detectives had seen watching the entrance to the Algiers naval station in the previous episode). Phillips - IF it was he - had hired them to attack the warehouse alongside the robot, which he'd kept in the back of a truck. Their remit was to  grab the Bayou Bantam and hand him over to Phillips while the robot kept the army busy. Phillips had also offered them the Hellfires and Night Owl goggles as part of their payment.

On the other side of the coin, the soldier who was interrogated rolled a 1 on his Spirit, and also sang like a canary. He was part of a special unit of troops from Area 51, a top secret Confederate military base in the New Mexico desert. Their mission had been to kidnap Barbeau, whom they had been told had deserted from an even more secret military unit composed of 'enhanced soldiers' that was training at Area 51. He also revealed a second team was standing by at Area 51 if his unit failed.
Doctor LeBoeuf will see you now...

The detectives decided to let their captives go - the Irish gangsters were left to make their own way home, while the soldier was tossed out of the car on the way back to the city. De Ville was reminded that he had worked with Phillips on a case not long before he was murdered. He is surprised at this recollection, because usually he would not consider working with Phillips, a competitor, someone whom he dislikes as a person, and is somewhat unethical in his methods. Death has made it difficult for him to recall the details of the case, however.

The detectives met up with Barbeau's trainer, Art Torobelli, who advised that they talk with Mike 'The Stick' Whelan, their mafia patron. At this meeting, at Sanzone's, the notorious mob hang out on Chartres Street, The Stick agreed that Barbeau needed to leave town, if he was to stay out of the hands of the government. He has arranged for some of his goons to smuggle Barbeau and Torobelli out of the Confederacy, to fight Salica in New York. After that, he proposes sending Barbeau to fight in Europe.

The detectives were duly paid their fee by Whelan, whereupon they have placed $100 of their money on the Bayou Bantam to beat Lou Salica.

Next: the detectives meet the notorious Mammy Martine, spiritualist to the rich and famous of the Big Easy

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

"Get to da chopper!" Again!

So I decided to run a game of Night's Black Agents at Dragonmeet this year: I chose to re-run my original Operation Blue Tempest one shot. I managed to garner four players, including James Semple, who is the composer of the official soundtracks for the various Gumshoe games published by Pelgrane Press. James was the only player who had any experience of Gumshoe before.

The premise of the adventure was exactly the same as before. Readers will want to refresh their memories about what happened last time I ran this, and what the mission objectives were.

I had generated two more PCs in case I ended up with a six man team for the mission, but ultimately they were:

  • Major Mike Wohlraab, a mercenary from Zimbabwe
  • Steven Saluccio, an American intrusion and demolitions expert
  • Jezz Valovich, a Serbian hacker, now a US national
  • Darius Templeton, an American fixer employer by the Parasol Corporation

The team flew in by helicopter as before, into the teeth of the storm. Valovich decided to use the helicopter's comms and his own equipment to listen for radio signals from the island, as they could see no lights on. They immediately picked up an encrypted transmission from the ground to a satellite, although it was being interrupted by the storm. Valovich identified the encryption as one generated by Chinese military software. The team decided to home in on the signal, roping into the jungle about 300 yards from the source. The helicopter was told to circle the island and stay in the air for the duration.

Major Mike Wohlraab
Progressing through the jungle, they came upon the source of the signal, a camouflaged satellite dish, of Chinese manufacture. A buried cable led them to the edge of the Parasol research compound. Here the group noted the large hole in the fence, but instead chose to approach the gate, where Saluccio picked the lock. Entering the compound, they investigated the guard hut next to the gate first, discovering the half-eaten body of a guard. This freaked them out, and they decided to put Wohlraab in the nearby watchtower to keep an eye on things with his binoculars, while the rest approach the garages.

NB - At this point Wohlraab commenced with a remarkable series of '1' results on his Sense Trouble, failing to notice vampire activity both inside and outside the perimeter fence. The weather conditions must have been horrendous!

Saluccio broke into the garage building, and investigated the two SUVs there, finding one unlocked with the keys in the ignition. At this point one of the vampires dropped onto him from the roof. Saluccio made his Stability roll, and managed to wound it with his knife before Templeton finished it off with his pistol. Templeton failed his Stability check at sight of the dead vampire in a guard's uniform.

Leaving the guard's walkie talkie, the group decided to make for the generator hut. Wohlraab rejoined them, though not before spotting activity in another tower. They decided not to approach the tower, but broke into the generator room, where they discovered a half crazed guard who almost shot Saluccio before Valovich rolled high on his Shrink and calmed him down. The guard explained the circumstances of the outbreak in the labs and that personnel were turning into vampires. He was able to give them details on the number of personnel on the base, allowing them to keep a running total of who was not accounted for. Valovich decided to medicate the guard (called 'Zach') to keep him calm.

At this point Templeton, who was on guard outside the generator, noticed two figures near the boat house. He started to approach them, which was when Wohlraab managed to get the generator up and running, thereby illuminating Templeton with the perimeter security lights. The two figures turned out to be more vampires, who had been chowing down on another guard. They immediately attacked. As with the previous game, charging at spec ops folk armed with assault rifles turned out to be suicidal for the vampires, although one of them managed to pull out a gun and shoot at the PCs, which freaked them out some more!
Steven Saluccio

Another vampire popped up on the roof of the lab, intending to jump onto Wohlraab while he was focused on the first targets, but it was seen and hit by Valovich (heavy use of Shooting pools in this scene). It used the skylight on the roof to escape back into the main building. Having secured the boat house and noted the presence of a speed boat (there was a discussion about whether they could potentially escape the hurricane in it, but Outdoor Survival told them otherwise), the team entered the main complex through a skylight and began conducting a room to room search of the ground floor.

At this point they heard someone calling for help, but decided to ignore it entirely, focusing on securing other parts of the complex, and hunting for the wounded vampire creature. This proved costly, as the cries were cut off abruptly. Eventually, they discovered the vampire devouring the luckless Professor Melluish, who had come out from hiding when the lights went back on. The last vampire was duly dispatched.

Note - for this game I moved the servers with the research data into the basement. The previous group had accessed the data on the ground floor, avoiding the lab level, and then destroyed the complex with C4.

Jezz Valovich

The team approached the elevator to the basement level cautiously. Saluccio went inside first, using the security card they had taken off Melluish. He decided to check the hatch on the top of the elevator and revealed a pack of 10 virus-infected monkeys clinging to the elevator cables at the top of the lift shaft (Stability check!) An opposed Athletics test allowed him to get a flash bang through the hatch before the monkeys could get to it. This bright light blinded them, allowing Saluccio and Wohlraab to wipe the primates out with burst fire (more Shooting points were burned).

The lab level was a cakewalk after that. The group accessed the servers, discovering the treachery of Doctor Grainger and his relationship with Tara Melluish. They also found that Melluish himself was being held on the island against his will by Parasol. Templeton denied all knowledge.

Note - At this point in the game the Templeton player went to answer a call of nature. The other players decided to see if they could drop a radio-armed bomb into Templeton's rucksack while he was busy helping with wiring up the basement with explosives. Valovich made a hard Filch check to do so. He and the rest of the team agreed on 'African cocktail' as the code phrase to detonate the explosive.

Darius Templeton
Leaving the bunker, they noted the storm was getting worse. The Parasol helicopter pilots contacted Valovich, asking permission to land, but were told to stay in the air at all costs. The group took both SUVs (hot wiring the other one) and drove out of the compound, detonating their charges in epic fashion as they left. 

They travelled with lights off, using their low light goggles. This was enough to spot the palm tree that had fallen across the trail on the way to the villa. Wohlraab jumped out and wired up the tree trunk with thermite. While he was working on it, he finally made a Sense Trouble check to see two glowing blue eyes peering at him from the jungle. These turned into a huge, super vampire, the size of a small car, which spat acid at the major, but failed to hit him. The major jumped over the bonnet of the SUV and detonated the explosives as the creature rushed him. This knocked it flying, but also wrote off the lead SUV.

Note - when I built this monster, which was a more mature version of the other vampires, being the first person infected, I made it a lot tougher, but also more vulnerable to fire than the more immature specimens. Hence the thermite took out about 75% of its health, and negated its other defences against bullets.

The vampire was still fighting, however, and got back to its feet, charged again, and jumped onto the roof of the disabled SUV. It spat again at Wohlraab, hitting him but not getting through his body armour. He also passed his Health check to see if he was infected by virus. It was at this point that Saluccio noted that the only person left in the damaged SUV was Templeton, who was trying to re-start the damaged engine. He yelled 'African cocktail into his mike, in the hopes that Valovich would detonate the bomb in Templeton's rucksack and kill the monster. Valovich bottled it, instead opting for a called shot to the monster's head, which, combined with a 6 on his damage roll, was enough to end it.

On the roof of the lab...

The team jumped into the undamaged SUV and proceeded at break neck speed to the Melluish villa. They contacted the helicopter, asking it to pick them up from the villa. Arriving at the villa, they burst in to find Tara and Doctor Grainger. The doctor yelled "Don't shoot!" whereupon Wohlraab hit him with a taser. Saluccio then jumped forward and clubbed Tara into unconsciousness!

Both survivors were fitted with restraints and had hoods pulled over their heads, before being escorted to the waiting chopper. The helicopter lifted off just in time, racing away ahead of the hurricane with about 30 minutes to spare. As the mercenaries began to relax, however, they heard the noise of Grainger breaking out of his restraints (Stability tests again!) By this stage the operatives' pools were getting low - Stability and Shooting were gone or virtually gone in some cases. Some shooting occurred inside the helicopter as the Grainger vampire got loose, but it ended with Wohlraab stabbing it through the eye with his combat knife, saying in an appropriately Austrian accent "An eye for an eye, motherf--ker." The vampire plunged out of the helicopter, whereupon Saluccio unilaterally tossed Tara out too (passing his Stability test to do so). The operatives then settled back to smoke cigars or file their fingernails with knives as the helicopter set course for Florida...

I really enjoyed running this game again, with a new set of players. It has been a great exercise in getting to know the NBA rules. There are still some areas I was a bit unsure of, but I'm becoming increasingly familiar with Gumshoe. This was my third game. I will definitely use Gumshoe again for future investigative games, and it still holds up for one shot horror scenarios like this. 

The players were very complementary of the system and got into character with their various personas, which were unashamedly based on action heroes from the movies. I found this provided an additional level of role playing fun which the players were more than happy to rise to. It was also worth moving the data servers into the basement, setting up the encounter with the monkeys. I deliberately kept the interiors vague, as I didn't want that stage of the adventure to turn into a room by room exploration game, which would have slowed the scenario down considerably. All in all, a great second outing for this scenario.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Dragonmeet 2015

I managed to make it along to Dragonmeet this year. It sits prominently in the calendar at the end of the year, and is recognised as one of the biggest gaming conventions on the UK schedule, although dwarfed somewhat these days by the likes of Salute, UK Games Expo and Games Workshop's Games Day. Dragonmeet currently takes place at the Ibis hotel in West Brompton, which is somewhat of a step down from the more salubrious environs of Kensington Town Hall.

I had been expecting a bigger venue, perhaps more geared towards the needs of conference goers, to have justified the move, but really, the Ibis disappoints. The quality of the con itself cannot be questioned, but I'm sure a superior venue could be sourced in London for the same or marginally higher cost. Perhaps I should volunteer for the organising committee?

The content of the event was excellent. I was there from shortly after the doors opened at Dragonmeet, to about 6.45, when the trading hall started to pack up. I say started - there was still plenty of activity, because many punters stayed on to play evening games.

I spent most of the afternoon running a game of Night's Black Agents, of which more in a future post, but the rest of the time was able to get a good idea of what is going on in the UK gaming scene. It was good to catch up with Rob Heinsoo on the progress of the 13th Age in Glorantha project, and James Raggi, who was there with his full range of products for Lamentations of the Flame Princess.

I managed to score a copy of Red & Pleasant Land which is indeed truly a gorgeous product and sets the bar for gaming books as literature, IMHO. I may post in the future on my first impressions of this game, but if you can get your hands on a print copy, do so before they go out of print and start trading on eBay for silly money. Not since Vornheim has something impressed me so much.

I also ran into the team spear-heading the re-launch of SLA Industries, a game I used to play a LOT in the 1990s. Apparently a 25th anniversary edition is in the pipeline which will include a re-write of the rules and re-imagining of the setting. It is being funded by the launch of the official SLA Industries miniatures and some T-shirts. Eventually, the plan is to re-publish the old supplements, plus start to add new material.

I also managed to get my hands on a copy of The Heart of the Wild for The One Ring. I love this range of books, particularly the atmospheric art. Heart details the Mirkwood campaign sandbox, providing more detail for the open campaign I am coming increasingly to prefer these days. As a group we have dabbled a bit in this setting, but I for one would like to return to it at some point, even if it means running it myself.

I purposely attended Dragonmeet with a small bag with limited room, as I didn't want to come away laden with games. I was particularly tempted by Mutant Zero from Mophidius which looks like an awesome post-apocalyptic RPG sandbox, including community mechanics for running your own base area. This means the PCs are less the wandering murder hobos of other settings and have a community they have to support and stand up for. It does look most intriguing.

Urban Shadows (Magpie Games) also grabbed me - this is a hack from Apocalypse World in which the PCs are mortals and monsters striving to acquire power and influence in an modern urban setting. It may sound like the World of Darkness meets Apocalypse world, but the game's creator Andy Madeiros insists the inspiration comes from Angel and The Dresden Files. Players are not restricted to vampires and werewolves however; there are three mortal archetypes, ghosts, fae, demon-possessed and others. The AW engine, with its focus on archetypes, helps to make each character more distinct. I'd be very interested to see how the game manages social politics rather than combat - characters trying to achieve their goals through their supernatural influence rather than brawling in the streets. Sadly Urban Shadows had sold out by the time I did my last fly past through the traders hall.

And so the end of another Dragonmeet. Will I go next year? Yes, if I can. Even if they keep the event at the Ibis, much as I detest it. On the way back to Sussex I found myself musing about the possibilities of a gaming con in Brighton, but I know full well that the organisers of these events rarely get time to actually enjoy them - they involve a titanic amount of blood and sweat to create and manage.