Monday, May 12, 2008

LWaSH session 4: Things are definitely getting pulpy, now.

Lost Worlds and Secret Histories

Abraham Hale Marko Kraljevic Myrna Robin Stormchaser Herr Wolf

Well, it's taken me forever to write this up, but I didn't have any trouble remember what happened last Tuesday, since Jim was good enough to provide me with a remarkably high-quality recording of the session. And wow does my voice sound terrible. My own wife couldn't even recognize it. But it's all extremely clear, and totally got the job done. It also did a great job of showing me exactly how much time we spend chatting on various tangents, so that's something we clearly still need to work on.

However, everybody gets the system, now, so things are going a lot quicker than the previous session. Also, we finally got some properly pulpy elements into the mix, including our first fight scene!

Lost Worlds and Secret Histories
Summer, 1937 - London, England

It's the day after the events of the previous session, and PCs are at the London headquarters of the Van Helsing Society, discussing the burglary at Sir Felix Swillby-Hinderlap-Swillby's apartment and the leads they currently have on the case. Arthur Chamberlain isn't present, as he was called away on Vatican business in the early morning.

mysterious photo Magnetophon tape

Marko Kraljevic--who has lately been hitting the books in an attempt to catch up with a world six hundred years ahead of his own time--manages to recognize the landscape in the photograph recovered from the crime scene as possibly being somewhere in north-eastern Africa (although not quite as far north as Egypt).

The metal canister discovered along with the photo is finally opened, and is revealed to contain a Magnetophon tape. Only Robin--the most technically-minded of the bunch--is able to recognize the cutting-edge audio recording technology.

LovecraftIt's about then that they are approached, somewhat abruptly, by a fellow Society member who they've seen around the clubhouse but never really spoken with. He introduces himself as Howard Lovecraft, one of the Society's experts on pre-Holocene civilizations. (He is, in fact, H.P. Lovecraft. Sadly, his work and name aren't famous enough in 1937 for any of the PCs to know that was publicly believed to have died a few months before this meeting.) He expresses great concern over the possibility that any artifacts in the possession of Sir Felix Swillby-Hinderlap-Swillby might have been stolen, as the man is known to be in correspondence with a number of rogue academics who have been prying into dangerous secrets of forgotten epochs. Chief among these is Professor Horace Bagsnip, an archaeologist who is searching for evidence of Lemurian influence on the early peoples of India and eastern Africa. As Bagsnip has resisted all proposals of cooperation from the Society, and the Lemurians are believed to have created terrible living weapons, Bagsnip--and, by extension, Sir Felix--could be dealing in some very dangerous things.

While Marko discusses what little is known--or suspected, anyway--about the Lemurian people with Howard, Myrna begins looking into contacting Sir Felix. Robin, knowing a Magnetophon player would be difficult to find and expensive to purchase in England, gets to work building one herself.

Myrna manages to get ahold of John Hastings, the same police constable she charmed at the scene of the burglary the day before. Very eager to help the glamorous girl reporter, he provides her not only with the name of the hotel Sir Felix is now staying at--the Hotel McGuffin--but his specific room number. Myrna Heads out with Marko to speak to Sir Felix Swillby-Hinderlap-Swillby about the break-in.

Sir FelixSir Felix turns out to be quite cooperative, and explains that he was robbed by, of all people, a gang of blackshirts! They battered down his front door with a fasces, and demanded to know where "the package" was. The only package he could think of was the most recent shipment of notes and such sent to him for safe-keeping by his good friend Professor Horace Bagsnip. Sir Felix had only just had a chance to unpack the contents of the box and lock it in his roll-top desk, and never got to see exactly what the professor sent him before the fascist thugs knocked him out (or, more accurately, pushed him into a wall, jarring loose an authentic Zulu spear mounted there, which fell on Sir Felix's skull, rendering him unconscious).

Sure enough, Sir Felix later heard from the police that the roll-top desk (along with his cash box) had been broken into and looted. He's not very confident that the police will retrieve Professor Bagsnip's stolen materials, however, as he suspects their own far-right tendencies prevent them from leaning very hard on the blackshirts.

Meanwhile, back at Society headquarters, Robin has completed her jury-rigged Magnetophon player. Wolf and Abraham enter the workshop just as she starts the mysterious recording. At first, only static is distinguishable, but the sound of chanting soon becomes apparent. In fact, it's a style of chanting that Abraham recognizes: It's the Nubian Snake People, an eerie and possibly inhuman race he has encountered in the past (although only briefly).

The next sound, however, is something wholly new to all present: A monstrous, piercing wail rises over the chanting, sounding something like an air raid siren, but perhaps a living one. The sound is literally mind-numbing, and both Robin and Abraham are stunned and stupefied by it. Herr Wolf, however, manages to maintain his focus and observe how his comrades simply blank out and stand mute throughout the remainder of the sound. Then they tape ends, and the two regain their faculties.

At that moment, Myrna and Marko return, and the five all share what they have learned. Myrna is called away by a phone call, but Robin, Abraham, Wolf, and Marko begin to make plans to follow up the blackshirt lead. Robin, having spent more time exploring the streets of London than the others, knows the part of town where blackshirts are likely to be found, and immediately resolves to head out looking for them. The rest, naturally, realize they must follow for the sake of her safety.

blackshirtsAbraham borrows a car from the Society motor pool, and takes the other three out into the foggy London evening. Guided by Robin's directions, they eventually find a group of five blackshirts loitering on a street corner. Robin immediately approaches their leader--a man named Nigel--who promptly tells her to go back to America. Abraham pulls a gun and threatens to start shooting kneecaps if he isn't given information about the burglary of Sir Felix's flat. Nigel and company are duly frightened, but claim to know nothing of the crime. It's obvious to all present that they're lying.

Alerted by the commotion, another 12 blackshirts begin to approach quietly, hidden by the fog. Abraham hears them, however, and fires into the mist at leg height, managing to kneecap one man without even seeing him. This makes his point to Nigel very clear, and the terrorized blackshirt wails that the break-in was done by "Bad Bob and his blokes!"

The remaining 11 ambushers immediately rush out of the fog at Abraham, but he neatly fires off five rounds in quick succession, shooting a kneecap with each one. Wolf shouts something to the effect of "This is what happens to those who oppose the Führer!", trying to give the impression that this incident is the work of German agents (and Adolf Hitler himself!). Marko then picks up two of the attackers, and propels them into the remaining four, knocking all six unconscious. Robin kicks one of the prone blackshirts.

Abraham rifles the pockets of the downed men, checks the ID cards for names and addresses, and warns them "We were never here." Now completely terrified of Abraham and Marko, they agree wholeheartedly.

With no remaining opposition, the group gets the details of Bad Bob from the now-eagerly-helpful Nigel. They're told that he's the head of a different, more dangerous blackshirt splinter group, less political party and more organized criminal gang. Also, they've got ties to the fascist governments of other nations. Nigel supplies information on where they can be found.

So, lessons learned: Fights in Spirit of the Century are fun as all hell, and we need more of them. However, the PCs are seriously badass, so they need much better opposition than a bunch of lame Nazi-wannabes. Furthermore, conflicts can be really, really quick, so I should be less hesitant about resolving social interactions as full-fledged social conflicts.

Finally, while we've gotten much better at just getting down to play instead of chatting for a half hour first, I do need to keep a tighter rein on our focus throughout the session. I need to herd these fucking cats. Should be easier tomorrow night, actually, since most of this bunch just saw each other on Saturday at our monthly Amber game.

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