Monday, March 20, 2017

Night 4 -- Part II Reaching Out

Night 4, Part II
Reaching Out

Daron and Trent

Tossing the paper to the side, Daron asks skeptically, “Ok…how?”

Trent, thinking out loud, says, “First, we need to ditch this car. If the cops are looking for us, it’s just sheer, dumb luck that we haven’t been picked up yet.” (He’s right. I’ve given the police a 25% chance to find the car every “scene change” and the characters have gotten damn lucky.) “Hang on, I need to make a few phone calls.”

Where only the best plans are formed.
Now that the characters are turning more pro-active, they start to tap into their so-far unused Background traits. Trent has Contacts of 4, as he knows a lot of people, even if he isn’t really friends with them. Maya has Contacts of 3 and an Ally of 1. Both have a Resource of 1, which they’ve pretty much had to sacrifice due to being on the run. Daron has a Resources of 3, though that's also more or less unavailable
.
Trent calls some acquaintances (contacts 4, 3 successes dif 9), and yeah, he can get them a loaner car, for a price (Daron makes a Resource roll, 1 success. Enough) When he comes back, Maya is gone. She left quickly, claiming she needed to take care of something.

“What,” he says to Daron. “You just let her go? I thought we were going to stick together?”

“Hey, I didn’t ‘let’ her do anything. She needed some time, and it’s not like she asked for my permission. She said she’d meet us back at the place.”

“Fuck. All right, fine. We gotta go, but stay to the side roads, ok? No point drawing more attention than we need to.”

Trent and Daron head out. While driving, Trent digs through Daron’s car, looking for a pen or a pencil or anything.  They’re college students, so of course there’s a couple of pens and a notebooks somewhere in the car. Trent also fishes out a textbook to use as an impromptu writing surface. Seeing the title, he glances at Daron, “Art History?”

“What? There’s a lot of things you don’t know about me.”

“Guess that’s true of all us,” Trent says, flipping through papers and scribbling notes, stopping only occasionally to give Daron directions.

“What are you doing?” Daron asks, eventually.

“Trying to figure out exactly who knows what. Who has spoken to the papers, who spoke to the cops. What they said, and what that might mean.”

“Ok, sure. But why. I mean, we all read the articles, what’s the big deal?”

“What’s the big deal? Dude, did you read the same shit I did? It’s all…thin. There’s no background here, nothing in-depth. Just fire, murder, kidnapping, the big headlines.”

“Yeah, so” Daron said, keeping an eye on his rear-view mirror, looking for anyone taking an interest in them.

“Look, these articles wouldn’t surprise me on, like, Sunday, when there wasn’t time yet to figure something out. But by today? By today, Prestor’s entire life story should be out there. But it’s not. It just the same basic information, re-written over and over again. So, that means either A) there really isn’t anything else. And that’s bullshit, so we can ignore that. B) No one knows anything else, which is also bullshit, since we all know neighbors love talking shit about everyone else. C) The reporters are all hacks. Now, that’s possible, granted. Or D) there’s something else going on. Since we know we’re vampires, and we’re pretty sure this Prestor asshole made us, and we know there’s at least one other vampire out there, I think assuming D is the case is a pretty safe bet moving forward. Given that, I think we need to talk to some of these people and find out what they actual know.”

“Brilliant plan, really. Let’s have two murder suspects start interrogating the neighbors,” says Daron, dismissively.

Trent, frustrated, says “Look, I haven’t worked everything out yet. Right now, I’m just trying to figure out what’s ‘out there’ already. We’ll worry about Phase II once we know what everyone else knows, and we get rid of this damn car. By the way, you do still keep a backup stash in your spare, right?” (this is the result of Daron's resource roll from earlier)

They drive out to Sean’s place. He and Trent worked together briefly last year, before Sean got fired for showing up to work blatantly high. Trent never really liked Sean, but he remembered the kid talking about how his dad would buy these wrecked cars and fix them up, get them running again. A couple hundred bucks for the car and some parts, and he could sell them for a few grand.  Sean doesn’t think his dad will notice one missing for a few days, at least not for the right price. They don’t have any cash, but they do have Daron’s backup stash, a mixture of pills and grass, which Sean is more than willing to take off their hands. And of course, they need to leave the BMW as “collateral.”

As they check out the car, Trent’s attention is drawn to a pile of old, ruined parts. In the pile, he sees a big, scary looking camera.  “How much for that?” he asks Sean.

“That? Nothing, I guess,” Sean says, confused and wanting this to be over. “It’s just junk my dad got. Sometimes when he buys parts and shit, he has to buy the whole lot. It doesn’t work, like, at all. I think He’s planning on tearing it apart for spares, if he ever has to. But it’s useless.”

An idea comes to Trent. “Great. We’ll take it.”

They drive off in a 1978 Ford Fairlane, Daron griping about the performance of the vehicle, but Trent feeling significantly safer. He spends the first part of the drive gazing out the window, thinking. Daron is focused on driving, and after his few attempts at conversation are met with non-committal responses, he too lapses into silence, turning to the radio to fill the void.

Eventually, Trent looks at Daron and asks “Do you have a suit? Like, a real, proper suit. Not something you’d wear to a club.”

“What?” Daron asks, surprised by the sudden question.  “I mean, yeah, of course. Got a black one, had to wear it to my uncle’s funeral. I didn’t bring it with me, though. Why would I?”

"Hrm, a tad too formal, just a bit inappropriate," Trent says, more to himself than to Daron. “Sounds perfect.”

Trent explains his plan to Daron. They’ll pretend to be reporters following up on the story. Like, interns or something, sent for a brief checkup. Daron will be the actual "reporter," Trent will carry the camera and be the “tech.” Trent doesn’t have a suit, but he does have a solid blue denim work shirt that should fit for a technician. Daron points out that they’re still wanted, which Trent corrects. They’re not actually wanted, but it is possible the cops might have asked the neighbors about them. They’ll need to do something about that.

They stop at a convenience store; the only place open this time of night that might have what they need. They’re short of cash, so they’ll have to steal what they want. Normally, this is fairly challenging (requiring a Dexterity + Streetwise roll at a difficulty of 8), but they decide to work together.  Daron will distract the clerk and buy some minor things, a hot dog and a pack of cigarettes and the like, while Trent will do the actual shoplifting. Neither would normally even consider this, but extreme situations and the horrors they’ve already committed has inured them to such sins. 

Daron talks to the clerk, doing his best to make it seem like he’s not trying to distract him, just another late-night customer heading home from the bars or a party with too much energy. He rolls (Manipulation + Subterfuge, diff 8) and gets 2 successes. Each success he attains reduces Trent’s difficulty by one. Trent casually walks around, looking like he’s trying to pick the right thing, while grabbing what he needs.  Dexterity + Streetwise diff 6, 3 successes. They easily swipe what they came for – hair dye, razors, and a pair of reading glasses.

Next, they head to Daron’s place for his suit, and to clean up.  Fortunately, (Mythic Rolls) no one is awake and no one notices them coming or going. The cops don’t have a watch on the place, just word with the super and neighbors that they’ll call if they see Daron. They shower and clean up, grab Daron’s suit, and dye Trent’s hair. They don’t bother shaving. Monday night was a rude shock to Trent, when he awoke and saw his beard had grown back, and they figure it’s better to wait until tomorrow for that. But the dye, in theory, should last. And hopefully the shave, suit, and reading glasses will change Daron’s face just enough to confuse anyone who sees them. With that, their night is done. Dawn is soon approaching, and they have just enough time to stash the car and sneak into their basement haven, hoping Maya will be there.

Maya

Maya wasn’t sure what Trent was planning, exactly. But, if it involved talking to people, she wanted no part of it. Besides, she feels that there’s still too much uncertainty in their life, too many questions they haven’t been able to answer about what they need and how they can survive. She ditches the boys and heads off on her own, reaching a payphone a few blocks away. She calls up her “uncle” Diego. She knows they’re only distantly related, through her grandmother, but it doesn’t matter. He is the closest family she has in the area, and she knows he would help her. He had been a thief and gang member in his youth, and claimed to be straight these days, but Maya has suspicions otherwise. (Maya is using her Ally of 1, and I roll “Conservative Outlaw” for him.)

He’s of course happy to hear from her, and wants her to come to him and talk things over. While her name isn’t in the paper, her parents called him after not being able to get in touch with her, especially with the news of the missing college kids and the fire. Everyone is the family is worried sick about her. He is relieved to hear her voice, and is willing to help.  And, with his own…colorful…past, he’s willing to help her however she needs.

But, Maya can’t come to him. She needs a car, and no questions. He presses, but when she refuses, he relents. He always loved her, and understands that somethings have to be done in a certain way, no matter how odd it sounds to someone else. He agrees to help, so long as she promises that she'll come to him before things get bad.

A half-hour later, a car pulls up at a nearby gas station, and a man she doesn’t recognize gets out. He stands by the car, smoking cigarettes for a few minutes before another car pulls up nearby, and he gets in. Once they’re gone, Maya waits a few minutes, scanning, making sure no else is around. She then gets in the car, and finds the keys in the ignition and the gas tank almost full. Thanking god for finally one thing going right, she drives away from the city, deeper in the county.

Who's hungry?
It’s late at night in November, and it takes her a while before she sees a field with some cows in it. She drives past, parks well off the main road, and then walks back. She had been a vegetarian in life, but even still she feels that killing an animal is a different order of crime than killing a person. And she has to know if it’s an option. She knows they must feed, and it’s something she accepts, but she can’t keep murdering people, and robbing blood banks will only get them so far.

The animals seem aware of her presence, sensing her unnatural existence. But, she does have preternatural stealth, which allows her to slowly creep up on them. (Manipulation + Stealth to approach them, 1 success.) She succeeds, and feeds. The blood is bland, and gross, tasting like week old cold soup and flat soda compared to the heady rush of the blood of humans, but she is able to keep it down. And her hunger abates, at least somewhat. She was sure that a cow would have much more blood than a man, but she was still hungry. She continues to prowl the ranches, taking a few cows, until she is completely satiated.

I actually have no idea about proper cattle ranching practices in Colorado, let alone how they would operate in the fall. But, the module includes “cow tipping” as an option, and so I include it in this game. Normal hunting is 1d10 per hour, with a difficult varying based on the neighborhood where one is looking for prey. For cattle, it’s 2d10 per hour, with a set difficulty of 4. It’s clearly the safest, if least satisfying option. 
Also, I introduce a new rule. Vampires in Vampire don’t need to kill their prey, being able to only consume a few blood points from any given victim at a time, a skill the PC’s haven’t learned yet. Now that Maya has found a less stressful way to feed, she can begin working on her self-control. I decide that each character needs to practice to figure out the sweet spot. Since they’ll probably be working on cows (which are just different enough from humans), they need to make an Intelligence + Medicine roll at a difficulty of 8. Once they accumulate 10 successes, they can figure out when to stop. Though, they’ll still need to make a Self-Control roll to pull this off (with a variable difficulty based on how hungry they are, based on 10-Current Blood Pool, with a minimum of 4). 
Maya is able to spend two hours hunting and gets two successes, for a total of 10 blood points, more than enough to satiate her. In addition, she accumulates 7 (3 rolls over the course of the night) to figure out how not to kill. She’s well on her way to not being a mass murderer.

After drinking her fill, and feeling better about herself than she has in a long time, she heads back to their basement haven, being careful to take side roads and making odd turns on the rare times she sees another car on the road. Satisfied that she not being followed, she leaves the car in the parking lot of a nearby grocery store and meets Trend and Daron shortly before dawn.

They lock themselves in, and Trent and Daron are eager to hear where she was. Maya claims she was just clearing her head, but she did get a hold of her Uncles car, lying that he is out of town for the month and won’t even notice it missing. Daron comments that he really wishes he had known that was an option, but Maya points out that having two unknown cars is a lot better than one hot one. Also, she might have an idea or two, but she wants to check something out first before she discusses it with them. Neither Daron nor Trent are happy with her secretiveness, but leave it alone for now. They describe their plan, and invite her along, at least to see and hear what they do. Maya waves them off, pointing out how useless she’ll be in interviewing people. But, she has something to share with them, and they agree to meet up tomorrow night at around 2 at a gas station at a particular intersection a way out of town. 

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