I hope everyone had a safe and pleasant Holiday-of-their-Choice, whether Christmas or Life Day or Monday (hey, some people juggle geese) or "I Hate X-Mas" Day.
Either I've just got bad luck, or... bad luck. I ordered a replacement garage remote from a company online a while back, and when it got here it didn't work properly (it will only trigger the receiver if I'm standing directly beneath it and holding it right next to the antenna; anything further away does nothing)... I checked all of the appropriate troubleshooting stuff, and told them, and they said "Send it back, and we'll send you a replacement." I sent it back, and they said "Actually, it turns out we're out of stock at the moment. But we happen to have one that's been opened but is new. Want to wait a few weeks or want us to just send that one?" I'm beyond caring at this point, so I tell them to go ahead.
Well, I got it today. What's odd is that the package didn't seem to have been opened at all (unless they put it in a fresh package for some reason), and it has the same problem. So, either I've just got crummy luck getting one from this particular company, or it's just a quirk with that brand. I'm just giving up on that one and I'm gonna try getting one elsewhere. At the very least, I'm going to check local hardware stores so I don't have to mail stuff back and forth.
In unrelated news, I'm gonna try again for the AnthroCon conbook this year. Last year I finished in plenty of time and put off sending it out and never got my submission out... of course, it's been too long since I've worked on any of the stories in that series anyhow. But I was looking over the guidelines for this coming year's conbook and an idea just suddenly came to me.
Because of the holiday, there were only two games last week, Promethean and the Hunter LARP.
The Promethean session was a pretty solid one. Things picked up during the night's rest in the lab. Folks were taking turns watching the house for safety's sake, as the next day they were going to repair the doctor's beacon to try and summon whatever it was that escaped. A couple of them passed the time looking through stuff of his they'd picked up.
Steve looked through his journal and found an old black and white photograph... it depicted a bunch of young men, some with girlfriends and/or parents, standing out in front of a bus station. Some were in military uniforms, and one was showing off a tattoo he'd apparently just gotten... the same tattoo that appears on Steve's arm. As in the exact same tattoo. The back of the photograph read "Waco, TX 1941."
While Rudolf was on his watch, he looked through the doctor's notebook, and some scraps of paper fell out, each one with a different passage on it...
(In no particular order)
Painstakingly perfected, searching for meaning
Searching for the heat of the divine fire
His only flaw was that of his creation, the original sin of his creators
A balance will be restored before he finishes his quest
Always seeking a mission
Looking for the first person to give him direction
Not the one that birthed him, but the one from whom he was birthed
His mission will be fulfilled, but one that has been forgotten
The Bog Man...
So many mysteries
Knows not his past, has a massive hole to fill
His future will lie in the gaps that were left behind
Will he be strong enough to face the void?
Wolf in sheep's clothing, walking among the flock
What is the higher power of which he speaks?
How does he carry belief when he himself does not believe?
The Morningstar will face the Almighty soon enough
Cast from one shadow to another
Wishes to step into the light
He seeks acceptance from the same people who damned him
He watches and yearns for more
Wanting to make the heart pump to feel alive
Pain makes one feel alive
May not understand what she seeks
The fire is warm but also burns
Blindly rushes into the future
Wants to escape the past
Rushed into the Lion's den
When the lightning bolt forks, a small spark is lost
Rudolf showed this to Father John, who was staying up with him. They looked over the passages and were pretty sure that 'The Bog Man' and 'The Faithful' referred to the two of them. They pocketed their passages and showed the remaining five to Steve, Ander, and Jack when they awoke.
They all looked over the scraps, and were awed by the notion that these were prophecies of a sort, written long before the seven of them came together at the house. By going over the ones remaining, Ander had a pretty good guess that he is 'The Scion.' Everyone agreed that Steve was 'The Soldier,' and Jack wasn't sure whether he was 'The Orphan' or 'The Lost' but eventually (correctly) settled on 'Orphan.' They were pretty sure that the late Lafayette was 'The Lost' and that Jane (whom they hadn't seen since leaving for the Baron's place; I just kind of vanished her, as the player can't make the game any more either and there are so many people I can just dramatically kill off-camera in order to introduce new threats) was 'The Missing.' They didn't seem to mind too much that Rudolf had kept the notebook from them as he wasn't sure yet if he could trust the group, and Ander looked at the sketches of inventions in it... most of which were in the lab, some of which weren't, and some seemed to have just come to him in a dream (one was a device that looked not unlike the cryogenic capsule from Forever Young with "Mountain of rust" written all over the page for some reason).
Steve also showed them the photograph, and said that whatever happened at some point he'd have to go to Waco to start asking (and hopefully answering) some questions about his past. He'd stick around for the moment while they dealt with whatever broke out of the basement and probably head up there after everything was safe. They agreed that was fair enough.
They worked out how to deal with rebuilding the beacon. Rudolf explained that if someone could give him something of a starter charge, then he could probably power the device for a while with his knack for electrical powers. Father John then checked to see if there were any lingering lightning spirits from the night before, and found out that there were still one or two weak ones floating around. He got them to agree to give Rudolf a charge, which they did with a dramatic display of collecting ambient electricity and forming a burst of ball-lightning that he was able to feed off of using Electroshock Recharge.
Ander spent the next couple of hours rebuilding the beacon, with Rudolf watching closely so he could learn more about what he was and how he 'worked.' Steve spent the time preparing traps for the thing if it showed up, which Father John lamented as he wanted to talk to the creature. When Ander got it finished, Rudolf used his Electrification powers (normally the province of Jolt, but he doesn't have Jolt and Shock was more than appropriate given that the machine was designed to run off of lightning strikes) to jump-start it with an astonishingly good roll that produced the same amount of sheer electrical force as a natural lightning bolt.
They only had to wait another half-hour for some sign of a response. Steve, waiting outside on the roof, saw it first... someone who was vaguely transparent and blurry, but upon closer inspection appeared to be a woman wrapped in a poncho. Jack saw it as well through the window, and it just glared at them. It stood just outside the ring of traps (mostly some trenches to slow it down, and a spiked log that would swing down from a tree like in Predator) and looked up at Steve. Then it half-crouched and leapt into the air... and its poncho spread out into a pair of wings that allowed it to fly up and land on the roof of the house with a quiet 'thud.' Those of them with enough experience to identify the thing as such could definitely tell it was a Pandoran.
It was a short battle, and after they destroyed the thing it was explained to Rudolf and Jack exactly what it was, enlightening the two as to yet another detail of Promethean existence. They waited for the charge in the beacon to burn out; a couple more hours, give or take, coincidentally wearing out about the time the sun went down. Steve looked through Gino's journal some more and found towards the more recent entries there were increasing numbers of comments about visions, and dreams, and visitations from an angelic being who left behind "burning footprints" when he walked. The journal also made a reference to a map being left for him in his house that would be guarded by something. Now this sounded familiar... Also, they were pretty sure that Gino might be a demiurge or something.
When the beacon was worn down, they went to travel back to Gino's house in the run-down portion of town. They tried to flag down the bus, but they happened to get the same bus driver who'd encountered them twice the night before (one time Rudolf went out of his way to bother the guy because he could)... and let's just say he didn't react well to the sight of them again. The bus sped up and aimed right at them. Everyone but Rudolf, who decided he'd had enough of this, dove for cover. Rudolf, though... well, in a moment of pure spite (despite having made his roll to resist Torment) Rudolf killed the bus. He let loose with a blast from Arc aimed at it and again got an astonishingly good roll (just for the record, I'm rolling these myself) that completely knocked out the electrical system on the bus and wrecked it.
In the process, though, he did manage to stumble across two Minor Milestones... "Have a meaningful encounter with someone infected by his Disquiet" (hey, I'd say attempted murder counts as meaningful, and as Rudolf has the highest Azoth of the group it was his Disquiet that had caused the whole mess), and "Perform an act of pure anger." (I don't know if it's possible to hit two Milestones at once, but I have yet to see something in the book that says it can't be done.)
So we sort of had a moment of quiet applause for the first Milestone award of the chronicle.
However, he did realize exactly what he'd done afterwards and profusely apologized to the rest of the throng as they just decided to walk to Gino's house at this point. It took them a few hours to get there, but the house was just as they left it (minus Jane, Amanda's character, who had just apparently vanished). The group went in and Jack talked to the wreckage spirit, trying to befriend it. They broke a picture frame to get its attention, and explained to it that they were the doctor's guests that the spirit was waiting for (which was indeed true). The spirit accepted this at face value as they dug through all of the stuff in the living room looking for the map, and eventually realized it was under the rug the spirit was guarding. They pulled the rug aside and found it... a map scorched into the floorboard, as if with the Firebrand Transmutation.
They couldn't quite make out what the map pointed two, as it wasn't marked-- it merely described geographical features... some hills, a river... nothing special. However, it did remind Rudolf of something... he flipped through the notebook of Gino's schematics and found the edge of a page that had been torn out. It looked like, from the pencil marks on the edge, that the page had been used to copy down the map before being torn out. Also on the remaining part of the page was the number '126.' With Translator's Eye, Jack was able to figure out that it was indeed the number 'one-hundred and twenty six,' as opposed to 'twelve and six,' or 'one and twenty-six' or something to that effect. They realized, though, that at some point they were going to have to figure out where the map led and what the number 126 meant.
Before sitting down to work this out, they got together and finally performed the small ritual that bound them into an alchemical pact while they had the chance... and not having decided upon a symbol for the throng, one made itself known... the symbol of a footprint wreathed in what appeared to be flame.
We left off about there, with the group figuring out how to deal with this next puzzle.
The Hunter game was a slow-paced one, but I think it was still a pretty solid session nonetheless.
A series of fliers were found on-campus advertising a new art club, that was covered in symbols that the player characters oddly found they could read (they're convinced it's some sort of weird zombie language they're being infected with). The fliers said that they'd find the sign of the first group meeting when they were ready, which happened to turn out to be an index card taped to a bench outside the rec center with a symbol that meant "Meeting place." A couple of folks were led there by a vision from the Messengers (ah, oh so handy for getting stray player-characters together) while they were out investigating a recent bar brawl that had left a couple of people dead in what sounded like a covered-up monster attack. They got there and everyone was contacted on the radio by the fellow to whom they'd been speaking last week.
They talked about what had happened and that he felt he was like them but not quite like them. He asked if they found out more about the zombies, and they said that they'd identified one and determind that he'd disappeared. While they were discussing the overall events, the radio guy explained that he thought the people there were all being punished for some act that they'd have to make up for. They mostly disagreed with this theory (especially Carolyn, the Redeemer, who hasn't really done anything wrong in her life). They agreed that if they were to trust him from here on out, someone would have to meet him in person.
He reluctantly agreed, although he insisted on meeting just one of them (he's not good with crowds, he says). They insisted that it be two of them and no less. He agreed to that, eventually, and it was more or less decided that they'd all wind up meeting him, just in small groups.
The guy (who introduced himself as Josh) met with Ricky and Matt (both Martyrs) first, and explained that he'd seen a thing put two men in the hospital in an incident which was reported in the papers as a ceiling collapse. After a short chat about what he'd seen (he'd obviously watched them fighting the zombies before but hadn't gotten involved, presumably because of his 'problem with crowds), they were able to determine that he was obviously unstable. He was fidgety, popping Tylenol for headaches and constantly rubbing the sides of his head as he explained that he was constantly assaulted with the voices and visions that the rest of them received only rarely. He explained that he'd killed someone in a horrible accident some years prior and was being punished.
They left to send in the next two... it was Matt returning with Carolyn, and she insisted on speaking with him alone. Matt left her with a weapon just in case and Josh grew visibly more comfortable when alone with Carolyn. He told her more or less the same thing he'd explained to them about his 'punishment.' She mentioned, though, that they found out that one of the zombies had been killed by a guy named Andrew Tolino. This got Josh's attention... he'd been trying to trace a mobster by that name who disappeared about 7 or 8 years ago when he'd had his encounter with the monster. This was a weird connection, and he wanted to discuss it in more depth with them. It was obvious he wasn't going to get out of this without more head-splitting migraines, so when Carolyn left he told her to just go ahead and bring everyone in and get it over with.
He told them all about his experience... with the monster in the records room, with the security guards... he was very edgy, though, and very uncomfortable. It was pretty obvious to all of them that he needed professional help. They realized, though, that the connection between what happened to him and the zombie attacks was too good not to look into, so they let him be and half the group split up... half went to go search through old records, and the other half went to talk to the security guards (well, guard, singular... one was still in a coma).
The chat with the security guard was interesting. He said he'd been called down there to check out someone in the records room, and the ceiling collapsed... he said he knew there was someone else down there, but at the same time something was telling him to say that nobody else was down there but the other guard. He couldn't quite explain it, and just chalked it up to the meds he was on. They were pretty sure there was something else going on here, but knew they shouldn't push him too much more.
Jack, one of the Avengers, used his university contacts to get access to an old archive room in the library for old copies of newspapers and stuff like that. They dug through and found articles and the like about Andrew Tolino... suspected mobster, ran a hardware store, a furniture store, and a construction business... and they found a lot of incidents of associates of his disappearing (some with photos that they were barely able to match up to the faces they'd seen on the zombies). Matt, with some computer hacking, was able to determine that some years back Tolino had passed his businesses off to someone believed to be his second-in-command, a guy named Michael Lake. However, he was unable to find any computerized records of anyone owning the business before Lake. A few years later, Lake passed the business off to someone named Michael Stevens, and Tolino (now an old man) is seen in the background of the photo of a small ceremony in honor of the transfer. But no mention is ever made of Tolino in any record after that point, and very little about Michael Lake (who is said to have retired to live with his father someplace locally).
Oh, and guess whose construction company was doing the work on campus when the zombies started crawling out of the newly-churned earth?
It was pretty obvious that Tolino was in some way responsible for the zombies, whether intentional or not. So the Imbued split into three teams... one would check out the business one would look to see if any other construction sites were plagued by zombies, and the third would keep an eye on the homeless populations in town to look for where more cognisant zombies would try to blend in.
Pretty slow-paced, but a solid session nonetheless, we all felt.
Oh, and for fans of XKCD, check this out!