Friday, March 16, 2018

Silent Legions: Room Service! (Session Report)

The Khamsa Society headed off to Centralia to hunt down Kevin Branch, wannabe cultist. Vinnie’s player was sick, so he stayed home and minded the store, literally. (As a pawn-broker, Vinnie Morg is the only PC with an actual day job.)

The PCs for this session:
  • Bernadette "Bunny" Kennedy (Tough/Bodyguard)--A former circus strong woman who turned to occult investigation "just like the old gypsy lady said." 
  • Abigail Spencer (Tough/Reporter)--Former YouTube star and ghost hunter. 
  • Lucian Stone (Scholar/Programmer)--A hacker who lives and breathes the occult sites of the Deep Web. An occult Alex Jones. 

 Centralia is a town of 16,000 about an hour south of Seattle. It’s coal industry has not recovered from the (fictional) mine collapse a year ago that killed 50 people. It has growing business in light industry and tourism, but unemployment remains high. As the PCs pull into town, Centralia is experiencing unusually heavy snowfall.

Clever hacking and research has traced Kevin to the Brown Roof Motor Lodge, a run-down motel that's cheap and doesn’t ask a lot of questions. It’s a pretty crummy place full of societal unfortunates. Bunny pretends to be Kevin’s sister and fast talks the desk manager into telling them her where Kevin’s room is. 

Lucian disables the security cameras while Abigail knocks on Kevin’s door. “Room service!” she calls. Of course, a motel like this doesn’t have room service, and Abigail clearly meant “housekeeping,” but what’s done is done. Kevin opens the door, holding a large gun mere inches from Abigail’s face. “Did Chase send you? I’m not going back!”

Thankfully, Bunny is unusually eloquent this session. “Ashley sent us! She’s worried about you. Chase is dead!” she says. This revelation softens Kevin up a bit, but he’s still cautious. He makes the PCs all show him their inner arm, to prove they don’t bear the Bleak Sigil of The House of Broken Glass. Convinced they aren’t cultists, Kevin lets the PCs into his room.

Kevin’s clearly been living rough. He has a duffel bag full of clothes and a new burner phone. He’s growing out his beard and he shaved his head, burning all the hair. “So they can’t use it to work magic on me. “

The investigators are totally open with Kevin, telling him all about the events at the Old Penderghast House—how Ashley is safe, all the others are dead, and Chase’s plans to open the Way were thwarted.

In return, Kevin tell them everything he knows about the cult:
  • Kevin met Chase and Amber about a year ago at a concert. He got Kevin and some other peopleinto the occult, telling them that it was the path to some “real truths.”
  • Chase answered to some other people—powerful, moneyed people, not shlubs like us. Chase wanted these peoples’ respect. This cult is called The Rite of The Gray Truth.
  • Chase stole a book from somewhere in Yakima. He was going to use the info found in the book to bind Penderghast’s Walker Between and gain prestige with the cult.
  • Kevin had been dating Ashley for about three months, and Chase never liked her. When Kevin found out Chase was going to sacrifice her (along with Logan and Mackenzie), it was too much for Kevin. He decided to get out of town and get away from the cult.
  • Before he left town, he went to Chase’s apartment, stole the book, and bugged out of town.

“Chase’s bosses, they were on to something big. Chase wanted to be a part of it!”

Kevin shows the investigators the book, pulling it out of a large duffel bag. The book is the size of a couch cushion, and almost 600 years old. Lucian and Abigail recognize it as The Rheinholdt Manuscript. This is an infamous book among magical circles. Supposedly it’s the memoirs of an immortal creature known only as “Rheinholdt,” alternately referred to in the text as a vampire, a sorcerer, or a wight. It is considered one of the greatest books of occult history and lore. It is also said to be dreadfully cursed. Still, any cult or occultist would gladly kill to possess it. Kevin gladly hands it over to the PCs.

It’s at that moment that the investigators hear someone shouting outside.  “Kevin! Come out Kevin!”

Outside, the PCs spot a large black SUV in the parking lot with no plates. The snow has only gotten heavier. Four figures in long black coats stare up at the hotel. Three wear balaclavas, one wears a strange mask like a blank mirror (“like Cobra Commander!”) with an electronically distorted voice. (These are Cult Gunmen assets from the Rite of Grey Truth’s cult sheet.)

“Oh shit! They found me!” Kevin panics. Lucian and Abigail immediately tip over the bed mattress and use it to black the window. There’s no back exit, so Bunny heads to the bathroom and begins to smash a hole through the wall with a crowbar, to make a path to the adjoining hotel room.

Lucian and Abigail hear a horrible noise outside--arcane chanting followed by strangled gurgling and the sound of tearing meat. A few moments later, some hideous thing of raw muscle and ropey tendons breaks through the window and claws its way through the mattress.

Some Hideous Thing of Raw Muscle and Ropey Tendons
(Stalker, Ravenous)
Ascending AC: 13
HD: 4; hp: 25
Morale:  9
Save: 12+
Skill: +3
Move: 50’
Madness: 1d10
Attacks: Claws x2 (+5 to hit, 1d8 damage)
Special: If both claw attacks hit a single target, that target must make an Evasion Save. If the save fails, the monster bites their head off.

About that time, Bunny has busted tough the wall, disrupting a naked old couple, who are not happy to see the strongwoman and have a shotgun to prove it. “ISIS! They’re here!” Bunny shouts.

“I always knew it would come to this,” says the naked old man, pulling on his MAGA hat and letting Bunny through as he prepares to defend the hotel himself.

Back in Kevin’s room, Lucian lobs on of his pre-made Molotov cocktails at the monster, setting it, the mattress, and the whole room on fire.  This buys Lucian, Abigail, and Kevin enough time to follow Bunny through her self-made escape route (which I totally failed to call a Bunny Hole.)

The entire hotel  building is well and truly on fire at this point, and the party separates on the balcony, trying to draw the cult gunmen apart. Hotel residents are running all over the place in a panic. Lucian runs towards one set of stairs, trying to make it to the parking lot and is cut off by a gunman running around the corner. Lucian, brave brave Lucian, lobs another Molotov at the cultist, putting a nice wall of fire between them, then leaps over the balcony railing, hoping for the best.

The scrawny hacker bounces off the hood of a car and rolls to the ground, hurt but alive. He tries to scrabble to cover behind the car. Unfortunately, the cult gunman sees him and opens fire. Lucian is hit and goes down bad.

On the other side of the hotel, Bunny, Abigail, and Kevin are running for their car. Another gunman rounds the corner but Abigail quickly puts him down with her own gun. (Abigail’s player: “After a year of D&D and swords, it’s kind of fun just to blast a guy with a Glock!”) It’s clearly self-defense, so no Madness this time around!

Bunny and Abigail spot the leader of the gunmen, the guy with the mirror mask. He’s carrying an AR-15 like he knows how to use it. Panicked hotel residents are still running around everywhere, and the gunman calmly rifle-butts them in the skulls as he bears down on Kevin. He doesn’t seem to notice the PCs. Suddenly the hideous thing of raw muscle and ropey tendons leaps from the top of the building and pins Kevin to the ground. It makes a noise like the cracking of a hundred knuckles in  a metal closet before tearing Kevin’s neck out.

The cult gunmen and their pet monster seem focused on Kevin, the PCs didn’t really like the boy that much, so Bunny and Abigail get in their car and burn rubber. They slow down enough to grab the unconscious Lucian and head for the hospital.

In Abigail’s car, Bunny is barely able to stabilize Lucian before they get to the hospital. Abigail opts to stay in the hospital parking lot while Bunny checks their friend into the ER. Sadly, Lucian’s wounds are too severe, and he’s not going to pull through. While Bunny waits inside through the night, Abigail spots a familiar and ominous black SUV drive by the hospital, slowing down as it passes her car before speeding away. The snow finally stops, as though the SUV is talking the weather with them.

The failed recovery rolls for Lucian indicated that he will die in three weeks. Rather than wait that long, Lucian’s player rolled up a new character right now. Lucian remains comatose, awaiting his inevitable demise.

The investigators return to Seattle to plot their next move and meet up with Glen Gerhardt (Scholar/Programmer), an associate of Lucian’s and another gray-hat hacktivist. The team decides to check out Chase’s apartment, where Kevin stole the (already stolen) Rhienholdt Manuscript. Chase lived at the Three Pines Apartment Complex with three roommates. It’s the kind of cheap, cruddy  apartments that caters to students and low-income 20-somethings (I’ve lived in several myself).

As the investigators approach Chase’s apartment around noon, they see that the door is open—busted in, actually. Bunny creeps up to take a listen. She can smell blood and death inside and hears two or three people shuffling around, as well as the sound of someone chopping meat.

“Hank,” says a voice inside, “what are you doing in there?”
“Shoot, Geeezer,” says another voice. “It’s good meat, I ain’t gonna’ let it go to waste.”

Yeah, the PCs don’t want to deal with that, so they beat it back outside and drive across the street to the laundromat.

“Why don’t we just call the police on this one?”  asks Bunny. Everyine pauses to think. “Yeah, why don’t we?”  The investigators call the police and leave an anonymous tip about a murder. Then they hunker down, turn on their police band radio, watch and wait.

After a few minutes, a cop car pulls into the apartment parking lot, and two officers enter the complex. Over the radio, the PCs hear the police discover the dead bodies of a couple of young people, the the sounds of gunfire! Moments later, two people run out of the complex carrying a third person between them. The two are a man and a woman in Mossy Oak camo and wearing ballistic vests. Both carry big knives, pistols, and the woman is limping. Between them, they carry another man, similarly dressed. He’s clearly been shot. They dump him into the back of their pick-up and peel out of the parking lot. The PCs follow them, using Abigail’s careful pursuit driving skills. (A sticker on the back of the truck reads “The only thing that can stop a bad man with a gun is an even badder man with a gun.”)

The truck quickly heads east out of town. Glen does some quick research on his smartphone and finds out the truck is registered in Yakima, exactly the direction they are travelling. Next week we pick up in Yakima.

A lot of action, a little levity, and not a lot of madness this session. Cultists are a lot easier to deal with that spatially-distorted haunted houses and occult beasts. The relatively mundane cultists were easier for me to make interesting than I thought. The move and counter-move semi-plot of different factions and NPCs harkened back to a lot of the World of Darkness games I used to run all those years ago. As for using real-life cities as settings, Wikipedia and tourist sites give me just enough bits of flavor that I can make the places feel believable while still having enough room to add some fictional weirdness. This campaign is starting to come together!

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