Actual Play – The Grim Reaper’s Keeper (7/31/2011)

Players: Alec, Steve and Fattig
GM: Sean Nittner
System: Dresden Files

The hiccup

The game gave me a bit of a twist. Chris couldn’t make it and the game was pretty centered around his character. Luckily we had some really pressing matters for the PCs to address, namely there very short lived chance of proving their innocence.

The game is the thing

One of the victims at of the slaughter at All Star’s house was still alive but in intensive care. I took a page from Apoc Worlds and put the NPC in the crosshairs. He was found all cut up and it was some time before the EMTs arrive so I ruled that he was going to die unless the PCs could do something about it. The main conflict in the game ended up being a fight with Death itself. A character who ended up being a mix of DEATH from Discworld, a grim reaper ala “Dead like me” and tough Latino gangster.

The character ended up at the hospital through some circuitous means. Rose and Remington wanted to go there to prove their innocence. They needed to know where he was so Remington used his contacting skill to talk to Campbell and have him ask around. This was pretty funny because the contacting roll basically covered whether or not Campbell would talk to him knowing he was on the lamb.

Afterwards they opted to remove his “exhausted” consequence by getting some sleep in the park at union square. While he was resting Rose saw two beat cops walking by and quickly through her jacket over him to make him look like a bum sleeping on the bench and then darted into the bushes with his sword. This was a fun moment for me because the sword was not at all keen on Rose picking it up. She managed a great endurance roll to resist the attack, but had it one she would have been frozen stiff from the cold. That would have been fun times.

VC is a good cop, it didn’t take him much to figure out that is exactly where they would be. First he pulled rank and took charge of the manhunt. Something the police chief didn’t like but his LT backed him on and that was good enough. Given that he had direct access to records, he was able to beat them to the punch and arrived early enough to see the end of the first surgery… the one that was supposed to stabilize him… the one that failed. So he’s sitting there watching this guy die. This guy that he knows can either incriminate or exonerate Rose and Remington.

Then Alec (VC) asks me the million dollar question. Can my vampire blood save him? Well, who the fuck knows. I tell him that is a Lore declaration if I ever heard of one. He made the roll and we determined that sure, he could recover (picking up “inhuman recovery”) but he’d be infected in the process, and likely become a Red Court Vamp, without VC necessarily crossing the line himself. Wow. That was a heavy cross to bear. Sure, you can have what you want, but you’ve got to create a vampire to do it. As soon as that came up I compelled his High Concept to make his thirst for blood surge at the sight of this dying man. And all through the upcoming conflict, I kept hitting him with hunger stress. That was awesome.

The conflict began in earnest when everyone was committed to save this guy’s life and they got into a fight with the Grim Reaper, or rather death’s hold on the victim. The conditions I set were that if anyone was taken out in the fight, the guy was dead. I also told them that if the conceded they could make him lucid enough (ether by turning him or by pumping him with some adrenaline) long enough to get a statement from him but then he was dead (or infected). I decided that Death’s hold on him was great, so no matter what I rolled, I was rolling at +4 against them. This included intimidation attacks from the doctors and the instruments all showing bad vitals, cops from outside barging in to arrest Rose and Remington, and VCs growing hunger. All in all, death hammered them. Looking back, as close to death as I said this guy was, I probably should have given death’s hold on him a superb +5 rating, but I think this worked out fine. Death notably only had one stress track, but he had four stress boxes and was going to take ALL the consequences before giving up (the mild one was “he breathes”, the moderate was “coughing restlessly” and the severe was “his eyes open”).

The players were really inventive. Rose used her knowledge of first aid and the fact that she knew what kinds of wounds he suffered to offer legitimate medical advice to the doctors. VC and Remington tried to hold off the cops at the door but when that got more and more tense, VC used his inhuman strength to crack all the guys ribs so he could apply pressure to his heart and jump start it. Remington, seeing his blood loss was a big part of the problem used his Winter Magic (and a favor from Mab, he’s up to 3) to literally freeze him to slow the blood flow and give the doctors some more time.

This is when the real “magic” happen. Not only did his magic hex the holy hell out of all the machines in the room, but he ended up taking a severe consequence to stay in the fight. Severe. I was just too hard to pass up. A Latino janitor wheeled his mop bucket into the hospital room, ignored by all the mortals and gave Remington the fifth degree. “You puta bitch pendejo! What the fuck are you doin’ in my territory. This sorry ass brother is dying, and I’m here to take him. What are you getting up in my business?” The had some discussion and eventually Remington agreed to take on Death’s mantle and earn this man’s life back by being an executioner, killing those marked for death. He now has the severe consequence “I am Death”. Hell yeah, that should be fun to play through.

Afterwards we had a tender scene of FBI agent Alisha Hayes arresting Remington when he went back to his apartment to gear up. She agreed to give him 24 hours to clear his name but insisted on coming with him. On went the handcuffs!

What rocked

As usual, Dresden really shines for me when we do non-fight conflicts. I find it VERY easy to figure out ways to make attacks and maneuvers against all kinds of things. In this case, I was thinking about the “can I save his life” conflict you enter into in Dogs in the Vineyard when someone rolls high enough on the fallout that they will die. Dresden was great for this.

I’m glad I got the “party” together again. I felt like VC has been a little on the sidelines, so having him there was fun.

I loved, LOVED, the tension of trying to keep a guy from dying by any means possible.

The deal with DEATH was delicious

Alisha is a vanilla mortal, and at one point all the PCs start talking about voodoo, zombies, vampires, magic etc in front of her. I had to decide what she was going to do. But since it was just them talking about it (nothing actually displayed) she just decided it was all code for something or another and they were trying to psyche her out with creepy sounding jargon. It was a nice way to make it all “fit”

I was really worried about this session just feeling like I was stalling the game, but as is they really did a lot both in the fiction (clearing their name, saving a guy’s life, uniting everyone, gearing up for the big fight, trying to prove himself to Alisha).

What could have improved

The intro with Raoul walking off with Daiske (and NPC) and telling them to meet him in 24 hours at a location felt pretty forced. The players went along with it, but the game started a little weak because of it. Should have hit them with a chase through tunnels, or something else a bit more urgent.

There are lots of times when NPCs need fate chips. Like, they’ve got aspects, they need some currency to use them. I’ve been thinking about this a while and this time I arbitrarily gave DEATH three of them. DEATH may be all nature and no free will, but he’s been compelled a few times to take people he wasn’t quite ready for. He’ had some ammo stored up for this occasion. And he got three more back after the fight, for all the consequences he took! Still, my rationale was a little arbitrary and rushed. I’d like a better foundation for this.


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