Actual Play – Holy Crap! Ninjas! (9/20/2009)

GM: Eric Fattig
Players: Sean, Chrissy, Travis, Steve, Cameron, and Alec
System: World of Darkness (mortals)

Wait… not ninjas. Just guys in black suits with swords on their back… oh that is much better.

All from Sean’s perspective, thus not necessarily accurate. Please feel free to correct.

Taking back the Train!

Actual Play – Taking Back the Train! (9/6/2009)

GM: Eric Fattig
System: World of Darkness (mortals)

We opened the scene in the baggage train, held at gunpoint by train bandits. At first all we wanted to do was avoid getting shot. In retrospect we all failed at that. A few of us though overheard the radio chatter “bzzt – yeah, they are giving us some trouble but we’ve got in under control – bzzt – okay, we’ll bring in the next two soon – bzzt – yeah, they don’t know we’re going to kill then yet – bzzt -”

After that, all of our attempts to make people comfortable and wait this out peacefully went out the window! We were all going to die if we didn’t so something, so the plan was hatched to distract the remaining two guards and overpower them. Ow, ow, ow. Overpowering guards with shotguns is dangerous business.

We noticed something was wrong with them however, their necks itched so fiercely that one of them had scratched himself bloody, another appeared to have chronic nose bleeds. With a little makeshift surgery we found a strange black substance in their spinal fluid.

Freaked out, our small resistance moved forward to the next car, intent on leaving the two unconscious terrorists in the baggage train and detaching the car. However as we moved forward and entered the sleeper car, what we found made our previous horrors seem like child’s play. There was a ritual massacre in the sleeper car! Strange words written in blood, dead bodies perversely posed as offerings to some dark force.

In the car, however, we found one person alive, the old man Lawrence. He assured us that more was going on than we could understand. The people on this train were not just thieves or terrorists but served some dark powers that we couldn’t fathom. When questioned he was vague, apologizing that he couldn’t explain more to our unenlightened minds. He was weak, however, from his encounter with the terrorists and asked us to continue forward to try and stop them. If we didn’t, everyone else on the train, including our loved ones, would surely die. Disgusted, terrified and confused we realized we had no choice but to move forward, away from the madness… or possibly further into it.

What followed were several brief pockets of extreme violence as we used the terrorist’s ordinance against them. Through trickery, a “lucky” knife, and sheer numbers, we defeated them. Our most conscientious member, however, valued all human lives and attempted to prevent those we shot from bleeding to death. He was only partially successful.

As we proceeded further, familiar faces began to appear. Mulder’s nemesis Gary announced that he was here to rescue the passengers and defeat the terrorists, single handedly. His best plan for doing so however was to hide in the dining car. Zac’s band was rescued as well. The were pretty terrified by the hold up and the gun fights but appeared ignorant of the true terrors on board.

For our efforts we earned several gunshot wounds, an ounce of wisdom, and three liberated train cars!

What rocked

Fattigs introduction of the occult was great. Horrific, bizarre and alien. It didn’t make sense, didn’t feel like something we had any context for, and most importantly was utterly irrefutable. We didn’t know what was going on, but whatever it was, wasn’t just strange happenstance, people on drugs or something else we could rationalize. Our characters were left in that very vulnerable space of “we really have no fucking idea what is going on.”

I don’t have a lot of love for the World of Darkness mechanics, but I do like how they treat guns. Brutal and deadly. Guns are not like knives or clubs or bows and arrows. The put big holes in people that kill, usually in one or two shots. Pretty much the only thing that kept our characters alive was that we had enough moving targets to keep the shooters busy. And consequently, the dropped fast as well.

I really enjoy exploring mundane characters. I find too often when I’m playing a character with “powers” that when confronted with a situation I start looking to my character sheet to see how one of my supernatural abilities could fix the problem. I think this leads to the situation where the party is paralyzed because they can’t use their telepathic communication and forget that they all own cell phones. Part of being a normal Jane is thinking like about how a normal person would react. Some examples were characters spending combat rounds laying down and saying “ow”, people running for cover, etc. Was that the most optimal and efficient move? No, it was the most human.

I definitely see certain characters gravitating towards certain Watchtowers and Orders. Vasily is a shoe in for Thyrsus, and a think Zac will make a great Mastigos. Mulder would make a great Guardian of the Veil (if his concern was protecting knowledge), Mysterium (it it was uncovering knowledge) or Free Council (if it was sharing knowledge with the world).

What could have been improved

After the first fight, the subsequent combat encounters felt tacked on. The realist in my understood there were lots of terrorists on the train and that we would have to confront them, but I think I would have been happier narrating over those combats, or flashing back to them. I do think the combats had a value of injuring our characters and putting a healthy fear of the terrorists in them. We certainly feel very “mortal.” The downside was that they didn’t feel like the advanced the story much, besides saying that we survived several encounters. This doesn’t upset me so much as it makes me eager to circumvent combat in the next session.

I’d like to see some of the character’s issues rise more to the surface. Vasily, for instance, values human life and doesn’t want anyone to die, even our enemies. Simone is terrified about her brother and doesn’t care if a terrorist (or twenty) has to die to keep him safe. Zac is filled with wrath and anger. He got shot early on and if not for Vasily’s aid probably would have bled to death. I think that between these characters with very strong views, we should have more conflicts. The few of them that came up were cool, essentially Vasily realized that Simone wasn’t intent on killing people, just saving her brother and she realized Vasily wasn’t going to get in the way, he just wasn’t going to do any shooting of people. Which is particularly ironic because Simone is terrified of guns. I liked this and I’d like to see more.