Thursday, April 13, 2017

Let's Play Alien Hunger


What follows is an experiment in Solo Gaming, or at least an experiment for myself. I have run a few games in the past, but I wanted to try out a pre-published module. To see how it would be different from a normal game, how it would be the same, and what I can learn from it. 

The end result is more of a "fan fiction" take on the concept, rather than a standard recap. Unlike a typical Solo Game, in which you play the character and allow a Emulator to take the roll of the Game Master, I decided to try a "PC Emulator."  The characters and their reactions were determined by random rolls, and the result was, for me at least, a fascinating story with plenty of unexpected twists and turns. 

The module I choose was one of my all-time favorites, Alien Hunger.   The system used was Vampire: The Masquerade (1st Edition). The Emulator I choose was Mythic. All characters not defined by the module were created using the Universal NPC Emulator. Names were from Everyone, Everywhere. I hope you enjoy!

Night 1: A Fiery Awakening Stolen from their mundane lives, three average college students find themselves suddenly changed into something Other.

On their first night alone, the college students struggle to understand just what it is they've become. 

Night 2: Daron  Daron seeks out help from the one person he thinks he can trust.
Night 2: Trent Frustrated and beaten down as a mortal, Trent tries to embrace the monster he had become.
Night 2: Maya Terrified at what has happened, Maya flees from her old life

Night 2: Never Alone The characters reunite, forced to work together if they want to have any hope of survival.

NIght 3: The World Around Them The characters begin to figure out how to survive as the monsters they've become, while other forces begin to coalescence around them.  

Night 4: The Heist The characters make a desperate gamble to find blood without killing.

Night 4: Reaching Out New plans form, and they contact those they hope can aid them.

Night 5: Retaliation They begin their investigations and the other Kindred begin their hunt.

Night 6: Stealing from Thieves The coterie strike out to get the resources they need.

Night 6: Things Fall Apart Everything that can go wrong, does.

Night 7: In the Land of Dead Hunters track the coterie down.

Night 8: Plans And Alliances Fresh allies offer some hope for the coterie.

Night 9: Reprieve A quiet night reveals how far they've fallen.

Night 10: Confrontations & Answers As tensions threaten to tear the coterie apart, they find the answers they have long sought.

Night 11: To Live and Die Again With answers in hand, they must make their final decisions. 


Want to know more about Sole Gaming? Checkout out here or here. Or the Lone Wolf Google+ Community. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Concluding Thoughts on Alien Hunger

My "PC Emulator" take on Alien Hunger has come to a close, and it's been an interesting ride. It didn't go quite the way I thought it would, but I think the game and story went better for that.

First off, the core of the game was to experiment with the idea of using the Mythic Emulator to replicate PC's in a module. And I have to say it worked extremely well. Now, Alien Hunger is something of a "sandbox" module, which is a bit different. Sure, there are plots and threads and the like, but how the players approach and resolve each one is up to them, and can vary greatly troupe to troupe. In fact, in my play through, they pretty much skipped two of the three plotlines. And one really awesome sub-plot.

If you've read along, you'll notice some 'red herrings' dropped into the recaps--during their second night,  I mention the character of Tony, but he never shows up again. His role in the module is to be something of a mentor figure, to explain the basics of being a vampire and the existence of the others in Denver. And then to disappear and be killed. On night five, I spent a bit of time on the "court" of Denver. The conflict between Edward and the PC's is a major element in the module, and I was sure if was going to come up sooner or later.

But neither did come back up. I really wanted Tony to show up. I had an entire speech written out for him, where he gives the coterie shit for being damn idiots and, I thought, a pretty poetic explanation of the inherent paradox of vampiric existence--A Monster I Am, Lest A Monster I Become.  It was haunting, and beautiful, and just what the characters needed to hear at that point. But, I didn't do it. It just didn't make sense from the point of view of the story that was unfolding to just jam this random NPC in and highjack the narrative.

Similarly, the other vampires of Denver just...never showed up. I kept trying to game the system, to keep the numbers in their favor, but the results never worked out. Now, I could have forced the issue. Just had Tony show up because, you know, I'm the Storyteller and the dice work for me, not the other way around. Same thing with the various hunters and enforcers for Edward. And that's where the inherent hybrid nature of this game became clear to me. I was running a module, but filtering it through the Mythic GM Emulator, so I wasn't the only one running it--Mythic was as well. And I wasn't the only one playing it--the Emulator was on both. In a way, it felt less like playing a game and simply recapping a story someone else was telling me.

And honestly, I think it was for the best. By keeping Tony and the vampires of Denver "off screen," the story remained hyper focused on the trials and reactions of Maya, Trent, and Daron. And, to a lesser extent, Suzanne and Zoe. When I run modules and games for "real," I sometimes force the tale to go the way I had envisioned it. But sometimes it's best to lay off a bit, and let the characters and their desires drive the game.

Anyway, it was different experience, but one I think I want to keep working on. I probably won't be posting updates for future games, though if I get another bizarre bug to novelize them, who knows?

Oh, so, the reason why I "novelize" the recap--it's a bit of an odd thing. Most of the solo gamers don't bother with it. Instead they focus on the mechanics, and let the story form "between the lines" so to speak. I think that style works for the majority of Solo games, since most are based on D&D or one of it's derivatives. Pretty much everyone "gets" D&D, and so you don't need to go into detail.

Vampire is...different. For one thing, it's not nearly as popular as it once was, so I can't assume a reader will understand what's happening if I just posted the mechanics. Also, the module I was running is obscure even among Vampire fans, and I really can't assume that anyone is even remotely familiar with it. So, yeah, hence why I "novelize" my recaps.

That, and I sort of play that way even on my non-posted games. Sure, I don't get quite as detailed as I did here. But, pieces of dialog, quick descriptions, notes about emotional states--all these things matter, whether one is playing Vampire or D&D or what have you.

Random additional thoughts:

The other plot they missed is the Investigation. There's an awesome Detective that's on their trail and uncovering all their lies and mistakes. He's just great. But, since they went on the run so fast, he never got a chance to talk with the characters. He makes a brief cameo on Night Two interviewing Daron's neighbor

That subplot I mentioned? Yeah, Prestor kept samples in a Bank, and the players get to break in and steal it. A bank job! You have no idea how excited I was to see what they would come up with and how they would, probably, fuck everything up. But, Zoe botched her roll,  so they never even knew about it.

The PC Emulator did a really good job making the PC's act like PC's. They forgot about Suzanne on Night 1. They would have a plan at the end of one night/session then just drop it and aggressively pursue another. Sometimes they were all about talking and scheming, and the next scene they just want to fight people. Which is what ends up happening in every game I've run. And, to be honest, played in.

BUT, it's not what happens in Solo games. Ultimately, because in a Solo game, the GM and PC are one. Which means if I (wearing the PC hat) think a plan is reasonable and fair then, by definition, I (wearing the GM hat) will also think the plan is reasonable and fair. By adding in a randomizer, that's not always the case. For example, the coterie would have been much better off staying at Daron's and talking with the cops earlier. Or, calling up Klondike at the end and talking it through with him. Or a number of other cases where they just screwed up because they didn't know what the hell they were doing.

Honestly, though, I think it ended up being a better story.

Night 11 -- To Live and Die Again

Night 11
To Live and Die Again
Tuesday, November 17th, 1992

They drive as far and as long as they can, heading north away from Denver, hoping to avoid all their problems and pursuers. As the stars began to fade, they seek shelter at a random roadside motel, just an anonymous dump where no one would look for them. The vampires take one room, sealing themselves away in the bathroom, while Zoe and Suzanne get their own. While the vampires were forced into their own paralyzed slumber, the mortals slept fitfully, and not for long. 

Zoe gets up first, and begins feverishly going through the notes and logs that have been recovered. The answer to the mystery is in front of her, if only she can unravel it. But neither Prestor nor Liverman had any intention of writing for publication, it seems. Their notes are a mess, most barely legible and key elements of their research left out, clearly assuming anyone who read these would know what they had done. She goes through most of her own notebook, just trying to make some sense of what they were up to.

Suzanne spends her day slower, more still. Calmer. She sleeps longer, lost in dreams and nightmares, until forced awake by the sound of Zoe's scribbling and quiet curses. She is the one to head out to get them food and drinks, and herself fresh packs of Camels. Away from the demands of the group, she finally allows herself to think, to plan. She was the one who asked about what happened with Klondike, how they had escaped, if they had killed him. None of them had wanted to tell her, but she had her ways to convince them.

And what she heard both intrigues and infuriates her. So, it was possible for someone to be turned into a vampire, even without the mad doctors experiments. And there were more out there, an entire world of unearthly gods. And she had come so close. She had brushed up against that power, but had been rejected. Could that be undone? And if so, why had none of her "friends" attempted to? Daron and she had been close once, very close. But now, he seems to want nothing to do with her. Well, she can't really blame him. She hadn't understood what they were back then. It wasn't her fault, not really. And Maya, well, no one seemed to know or care if Maya's condition was contagious. And Trent was...Trent. Nice enough, at times, she supposed. And he always had a crush on her. Most boys did, to some extent. Though she couldn't imagine spending her life with someone like him. Would she have too?

Throughout the day, while Zoe works, Suzanne keeps herself busy with her thoughts, bouncing from scheming to self-pitying rage.  The two speak little to each other. Understanding, perhaps, that whatever happened next was not entirely up to them.

When night comes the coterie finds Zoe resting on the bed, attempting to nurse a headache. The mattress she lays on remains covered in notes, ranging from detailed logbooks to loose scraps of paper. A collection of vials stored in a rack stand on the nightstand. Suzanne lounges next to the open window, chain smoking another cigarette, contemplating the night sky.  An empty pizza box and cans of soda fill the trash.

The vampires stand around Zoe, looking at her expectantly. She glances up, startled at their presence. She’s flustered, tired and exhausted and barely getting by on caffeine and Excedrin. She rubs her eyes, and looks back at them. “I hate to say this, but I’m just not sure.

“Whatever these guys were working on is way above my head.  I mean, it looks like they followed all the necessary precautions and tests, but they were doing it the most bizarre way I’ve ever read about. This is more fringe science than anything real. And I don’t know even where they would have gotten some of these chemicals, they’re all so tightly restricted that they require a Federal permit. How did these guys pull this off in their freaking garage?”

“Zoe,” Trent says, interrupting her. “Is it a cure? Can it change us back?”

She sighs, and walks away from them, pacing around the small room. “I just…I don’t know ok? They keep referring to a substance called ‘Alpha,’ but never explain what it is. But it’s what they’re testing, what it can and can’t do, how it affects living organisms. I mean, I assume that what it is, it’s what makes you guys, well, you. Why you can be clinically dead and still walk and talk and everything else. See these vials here?”

She picks up the vial rack, ticking off its components. She points at the first set, each containing a red fluid, which all the vampires recognize as blood. “All right, so, see these. There’s a whole set. The first is labeled 'Serum #1/Georges.' I have no idea who or what ‘Georges’ is. The second is 'Serum #2/Neutral'—ok, great. Neutral what? Again, no idea. I think it’s a synthesized variation of the Georges, but without this ‘Alpha’ chemical. Then, we have these—Serum #3, which appears to be another variation on the Georges serum. But see this—three letters written by hand: 'M/S/V?' What does that mean? Well, here’s a hint, Serum #4-6 are all from some different source. I think he was trying to see which one would work, and how. Not the best lab procedure, to be honest. But, #4 is marked with another M, #5 is marked with T, and #6 is marked D. So, yeah, I think Mavis, Suzanne and Vince all got dosed with 3.”

“Why?” Suzanne asks, suddenly very interested in the conversation.

“I don’t know why this guy was doing anything. But, it looks like you were all supposed to be 'turned', not just you three. I guess her had plenty of access to Serum 1, and so he wanted to use that, but he also used 4-6 as a backup. I guess Serum 3 just…just didn’t work. I’ll need to do a lot more digging and testing to figure out why.”

“So, I was supposed to be turned, too,” Suzanne says contemplatively, as she blows smoke out the window.

“Fine,” says Trent. “So, serums 1 through 6 are what made us, what about the rest?"

"Well, more accurately, 4 through 6.” Zoe corrects.

“Fine, whatever. What about the clear ones? Or the powder?”

“Well, the clear ones are 'Anti-Body 1' and 'Anti-Body 2.' The powder is just marked residue. Oh, and check this out.“ She rustles through the scattered papers, until she finds the one she needs.

“Anti-Body #1 should, in all cases, destroy substance Alpha, on contact. Analysis of Residue #1, however, indicates that the resulting residue is extremely toxic.

"Anti-Body #2 has a similar effect, neutralizing any concentration of Alpha with which it comes in contact. It does not form a toxic residue. The residue it forms is an interesting biological substance which will cause an allergic reaction in human beings, and in fact, in most mammals. In high enough concentrations, it could well be fatal."

“So, yeah, long story short, I think the anti-bodies should destroy whatever Alpha is.”

“Well, just 2 though, right? I mean, that’s the non-toxic one. But only if you’re low on blood,” Trent trails off, thinking.

“Low on blood?” Zoe asks, confused. “I mean, wait, can you guys get ‘low’ on blood? How does that work? But, yeah, if you had ‘less’ blood, but then you would die, regardless of how allergic it is. Everyone needs blood, right?”

Maya walks forward, and takes the vial marked Anti-Body #2 from the rack, gazing at it thoughtfully.

They all watch her, waiting. She turns, questions on her lips which fade before she can speak them. She sits on the bed, slumped over, starting at the vial. “How can I know? Will it even work? Will it kill me?”

Turning to the group, she asks them “What should we do?”

“This is your call,” Trent assures her. “Whatever you choose, I’ll back you. 100%.”

“What are you going to choose?”

“Me? No, I’m not. I don't want to take the risk. Besides, I was always crap at being alive. Now? Now I think I’m starting to get the hang of this. I guess I should wrap it up in some sort of poetry, about experiencing a new world, and the Promise of Eternity and all. But that’s bullshit. I like what I’ve become, and I don’t want to go back to what I was.”

“Great,” Daron says. “Really glad we went through all that to get a bunch of poisons that will probably just kill us anyway.” He grabs the keys from the table and turns, looking at the room. He’s supposed to grab something, a suitcase or a backpack or anything. But then he remembers that he really has nothing left, and so, with a final look at his friends, he heads out into the night.

“Wait,” Trent tries to say to him. “Shit. Maya, like I said, it’s your life, it’s your call. Whatever you want to do, ok?” And he heads outside, trying to catch up with Daron. Suzanne flicks her butt out the window then follows them out.

The door closes, and Maya and Zoe are left alone in the room. Zoe sits across from Maya, and reaches out, holding her hand. Maya instinctively pulls her hand back, alarmed. It’s the first non-violent touch since she was changed. “There might be another option,” Zoe says softly. “We have these compounds, and we have you. I might...it might be possible for me to replicate their research. Perhaps even enhance it.

“I can’t promise anything. I would need, fuck, like my doctorate and a shit ton more knowledge to start. And money. It wouldn’t be cheap, and I don’t know how I would get grants to event start paying for it. But, it’s possible. If you can wait.”

“10 years?” Maya asks fearfully.

“Just to get started. I’m not the best person for this, but I want to help you. Besides, this might just revolutionize medicine, and ‘Nobel Laureate’ has a pretty good ring to it.”

Maya has been seeking this since that first night. It’s been the one thing keeping her focused and disciplined. Now that she has it, what does she do? Does Maya truly want to try the cure? Very Likely, Exceptional Yes. She was lying to herself, or deluding herself. She wants to be human again. Does she take it now? 50/50 No. She is still Maya, still focused on doing what is necessary. And if all she had wanted was to commit suicide, there were easier ways to accomplish that. She reaches out to Zoe, taking her hand, and relieved that her friend doesn’t flinch from her grasp. “Money, you said? I might have a few ideas of what we can do about that.”

Trent follows Daron outside, calling to him just as he was about to get into Maya’s car. “Yo, Daron! You’re just going to take her car, man?”

Daron stops and turns around. “Well, fuck it, right? Figure I’ve paid for it.”

“Don’t go. Please.” Trent steps forward, hoping to meet Daron’s eyes. “Look, I’m sorry about…about fucking everything up. I didn’t know what I was doing. None of us did. And, yeah, I admit, I was wrong about things, but we can still figure this out. Together.”

“Trent,” Daron sighs. “First off, it’s not about you. Yeah, you’re a self-destructive asshole, but that’s not what bothers me. You want to go off and find more vampires and get involved in more bullshit? Fine. You do that. Me? I need to rebuild my life. I mean, you didn’t have a life, no wonder you’re so happy to be dead. But I had friends, and family. I know that sounds mean and shit, and I know you were alone, and I’m sorry as hell about your parents. But mine are still alive, and right now they’re crying over their son who died in a drunken car crash and they don’t know why, and I don’t know why. And I don’t know what I’m going to do.  But I need to figure it out.”

“I get it. You may think I don’t, but I do. If you ever get in trouble, or need something…”

“Yeah. You too. I’ll, uh, send Zoe a postcard or something when I get settled.”

They say their farewells, and Daron drives off, heading east, leaving Denver forever behind him.

“You’re going to miss him, aren’t you?” Trent turns around to see Suzanne, bathed in the yellow glow of the light post she was leaning against.

“Not very manly of me, huh? But, yeah, I am. I guess...I guess I thought, after all we had been through, that we would stick together, you know? Three Musketeers and all that. That we were, you know, family. Guess I was wrong.”

She walks over to him, laying her hand on his shoulder, looking deeply in his eyes. “You’re not alone Trent,” she whispers.

“Daron’s gone. Maya, well, who knows what Maya is going to do. And I have a bunch of pissed off vamps in Denver looking for me. Yeah, I think I’m pretty alone.”

“I mean,” she whispers even softer. “You don’t have to be alone.” She leans in, pressing her lips against his cold neck. “No one should be alone.”

And in the cold dark night, Suzanne gasped her final breath. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Night 10 -- Confrontations & Answers

Night 10
Confrontations & Answers
Monday, November 16th, 1992
Day

On Monday morning, Zoe and Suzanne skip classes to focus on the tasks ahead of them. Rolling Mythic, I do get an Interrupt--NPC positive (The Coterie) Ruin Environment.  Nothing inspires me about this result, so I disregard it.

The investigation takes most of the day, as they call various banks and government agencies, pretending again to be interns with the San Jose Mercury News. They are both working on this, but I have Zoe make the rolls, as she has the highest pools of either of them. Besides, Suzanne is increasingly distracted, obsessed with the dark world she has been exposed to and being "left behind." 

First, they call around to banks and mortgage companies, trying to find out where Prestor came from, his previous addresses, and where his money originated. This is an Intelligence + Finance roll, base difficulty of 6. They “spend” three of Trent’s earlier successes, and reduce it to three. Neither has the Finance skill, so they roll Zoe’s Intelligence of 4--1,8,2,1. Botch.  Hrm, maybe they should have made friends with Business Majors.

Tracking down Prestor’s mysterious visitor is a tad easier, mainly dealing with public information sources, such as the DMV, phone numbers, and the like. They roll Intelligence + Bureaucracy with a base difficulty of 5, also reduced to 3 thanks to Trent’s roll. 5 dice 7,7,7,10,1. 4 Successes. They get his name, Roger Liverman, his phone number, and his home address.

I am curious about their botch though, and so I roll a random event on Mythic: Move Toward Thread (Kindred of Denver) Oppress Advice. While the local Kindred were content to wash their hands of Suzanne, her questions about Prestor quickly catch their attention. One of Duke’s mortal servants, a ghoul named Steven, is alerted by their contacts at the bank that someone is making odd inquiries. He looks into it, and is particularly curious when he finds a college student behind the questions. He tracks down Zoe, and when he sees her connection with Suzanne, he knows they have a problem. He leaves a message for his dominator, and keeps them in his sight.  Around midnight, one of Duke’s followers will approach her and find out what the hell she thinks she’s doing.

Night

They wake in their hotel room, Trent and Maya more relaxed and happier than they’ve been in a while, while Daron is moody and quiet. Leaving him be, Trent and Maya walk a few blocks from the hotel and call Zoe from a gas station pay phone. They’re annoyed that she couldn’t find out anything about Prestor, but mollified on the information with Liverman.  Trent is willing to wait a few more days, but Maya insists they head back. They agree to meet Zoe and Suzanne at the theater, since they kept the call to vague generalities. They know just enough about wiretaps to be leery of saying too much on the phone. When they get back to the hotel, Daron surprises them with being more than willing to return to Denver. Better the hellhole you know, he figures.

On their way back, they stop briefly to run some errands. They again hunt among the cattle, Trent with glee, Daron and Maya more perfunctorily. They also stop at a Walmart for some better clothes, and some basic camping gear. Trent figures that if they need to return to their basement haven, they’ll want some improvements—a battery lantern, tarps, clotheslines, etc. He also gets a pair of survival knives and a baseball bat. One can’t be too careful, after all. Maya and Daron just want to get this over with, though Daron does note sourly that their cash is starting to get low again. Trent and Maya shrug it off. He figures there’s always more money out there for the taking, while she is clinging to the belief that soon it won’t be an issue, anyway.

They carefully drive onto campus; aware of how dangerous it is if they are seen by anyone.  Trent scans the area, while Daron gripes that they should have met them somewhere outside of town, his miserable mood only worsening as they got closer. Trent does notice something off (Perception + Alertness (Auspex double Perception in 1st), dif 10—10, 3, 8, 3, 7, 10, 10, 9, for 3 Successes), and sees Steven’s car in a parking lot. He’s not near the entrance to the path that leads to the theater, but he has just a good enough view that it worries Trent.

What does he do? Trick Death. He directs Daron to take a roundabout way, and has Maya get out to keep an eye on their new friend.

They drive around for a few minutes, then double back. They park in front of the entrance, and walk casually towards the theater. Does Steven follow? Yes. He was worried about what Suzanne knew, but her association with these “rebels” propels him to action. He also knows better than to get too close to a vampire, of any sort. He pulls out a long rang, directional microphone, and plans to just get in range enough to record their conversation. As he moves towards the woods, he is brought short by the sound of a gun being cocked next to his head. (Maya spends a blood point on Dex, and rolls Dexterity + Stealth against a difficulty of 6 (the ghoul is good, but distracted), and gets 1,7,9,8,8,4,--3 successes).  She grabs his tape recorder and smashes it on the ground. “Walk” she says, and leads him towards the isolated theater.

Zoe and Suzanne were nervous meeting the coterie, but begin to freak out when Maya walks up with a strange man held at gunpoint.  Daron and Trent are no longer shocked by such things. They have him sit, and begin asking him questions. Who are you? Why were you following Zoe and Suzanne? Who do you work for?  But Steven is loyal, and refuses to answer. He’s been in the game just long enough to know that his situation is hopeless. He’ll talk eventually, he knows, but he’s going to make the bastards work for it.

Daron moodiness switches from sullenness to anger. He gets in the mans face, ordering him to talk, to tell them what they want. Or else. Trent pulls him away, saying he has an idea, something he wants to try out. Something he had been working on in Colorado Springs (he increased his Presence to 2, giving him an “entrancement” ability). Trent rolls Appearance + Empathy, at a difficulty of 6, with 3 dice. 5,1,1. Botch.  Steven spits in Trent’s eye, laughing at him.

Daron throws his hands up in disgust, and Maya pistol-whips the captive, the sudden violence drawing all attention to her. She levels the gun, first at Steve’s eye and tells him to start talking. When he glares back she moves the gun to his foot and stares at him with her horrific visage. “We have all night, and you know that. No one will hear your screams, and you know that. We don’t care about blood or severed limbs, you know that. You are going to talk, and you know that.

Because the more you bleed, the hungrier we get. And you know that.”

Manipulation + Intimidate, difficulty 6. and gets 6,10,4,1 for 1 Success. He grumbles, but is also aware of the inherent hopelessness of his situation. He hadn’t checked in before coming here, and the odds of his people getting to him before he is eaten are mighty slim. What does he say? Inform Wounds. Fuck it, he tells them the basics. He knows they’re vampires, and he’s not impressed. He works for creatures much scarier than them.  There’s a whole crew that run Denver, and they are on the hunt for all of them—the vampires and now the mortals, too. They're rebels and illegals, or just know too much. The coterie can either turn themselves in for whatever judgement the Prince decides, or get killed. Surrender or death are their only options.

They knew there was at least one other vampire, but hearing about an entire group? And one that wants them dead? Or, perhaps, worse? Trent is curious, he wants to meet them, find out what he can, an idea which also intrigues Suzanne. Maya has no interest in delving any deeper into this horror than she must. Zoe has no idea what any of this means for her, and demands to know how she was found. And Daron? Daron is officially sick of this shit. 

How do the players respond? Desert Randomness.

Everyone in the group begins talking at once, arguing this point or that point, asking questions and giving no one time to answer. There’s a cacophony of voices, all trying to speak over the other. And their captive smiles smugly at the chaos in front him.

All except Daron. He remains quiet at first, but as the voices grow louder, he walks up to Maya, holding his hand out for the gun, which she hesitatingly gives him. He then turns, and shoots their captive in the head. (Cold Blooded Murder—Conscience roll 4,5,3. His Humanity begins to slip away.) Everyone stops, and turns to him. Even the vampires are shocked by his callous act.

“I just wanted my life back. I just wanted to be normal again. And I don’t think that’s ever going to happen. So, I wanted to leave.” He turns and stares at Trent. “I said ‘we can just go. Get in my BMW, go anywhere in the country. I have enough in my trust fund that we can get by wherever we choose.’ But no. You said we had to stay. You said we needed to find a way to undue this. Fine. And since then I’ve lost my car, my trust fund, my fucking LIFE. My parents think I’m dead, my friends think I’m dead. And, ok, maybe we are dead. But we are not staying here, do you understand. No more of your plans and schemes, no more ‘finding out more.’ We are getting the fuck out of here. And then, we’re done. You go your way, I go mine. I don’t know what the hell you want, Trent, but I just want to get someplace where no one knows me, where I can walk in public without being terrified some asshole from 101 might notice me.Somewhere I can just be.”

He turns to Maya, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry you got fucked so hard by all this. And I do care about you, so we’re going to talk to this Liverman guy, we’ll see what he knows. What he can do for us. If he can fix this, great. We’ll, I don’t know, claim amnesia or some shit and try to rebuild our lives. If not, well, I am sorry. But I’m out.”

He looks to the group. “Does anyone have a problem with that? No? Ok, let’s go talk to Liverman. Maya, Zoe, Suzanne, you ride with me. Trent, you drive the other car.” And then he sullenly stomps off.

“What about him?” Suzanne asks, fascinated by the corpse left in front of them. And more fascinated at the calmness the vampires express. Her heart is racing, and just being near such death is enough to make her sick. But they don't seem fazed. To Suzanne, the vampires don't appear scared of death, or dying, of anyone ever hurting them. They seem invulnerable. Her question draws Maya and Trent's attention, and they casually look at each other and shrug. They grab the body, put some rocks in his pockets, and toss him into the not yet frozen lake.

The casual violence is almost too much for Zoe, and she's ready to quit, to get out. She wants no part of murder, no matter who the victim might be. Only Suzanne seems to notice, or care, and she convinces her to stay with it. They need to find out how all this was done, and what they can do about it, and only Zoe can provide them answers, Suzanne assures her.

She does not clarify who she means by "they," however.

As they walk up the path, Trent whispers to Maya “Daron’s losing it.”

“Maybe. But he’s not wrong—all the shit we’ve done. That you know we’re going to have to do. How can you even want to meet people…things, like us?”

“Fine,” he says peevishly. “But we’re still doing it wrong. How many things have gone to shit because we didn’t think them through?”

As they get to the cars, Trent turns to Daron. “Look, I know your pissed at me, but think! If we’re going to talk to this guy, we shouldn’t just pull up ready for a fight. We should call him first, feel him out. Make sure he wants to talk to us.”

“And what makes you think he would ever want to talk to us,” Daron demands, as the others get into Suzanne’s car, avoiding the argument between the two.

“Cause this guy’s a scientist, man. And we’re…we shouldn’t exist. He was doing some fucked up weird science, and we’re the result. And the guy he was working with got killed. We call him, say, I don’t know, that we’re fellow researchers—other people Prestor was working with.”

“Whatever,” Daron says, grudgingly. “But I’ll call. When we’re on the way. You take Maya’s car; we can’t leave any more crap laying around.” He gets in the car, and leaves Trent to follow.

Along the way, Daron stops at a pay phone and calls Liverman. The man is initially wary on the phone, but when Daron mentions Prestor’s name, he becomes extremely friendly, and is very receptive to Daron’s offer to meet that night. It is too easy, and that makes Daron nervous. He makes sure to have one of the knives the purchased on his hip when they show up.

Trent is waiting for them when the pull up in front of Liverman’s house.

With the scene change, I roll against Mythic. Chaos Factor is now at a 9, and I get an Altered Scene, Remote Event, Judge Disruption. Duke and his crew are aware that Steve hasn’t checked in, and begin looking for him. It’s only a matter of time before the find his abandoned car, and the blood stains aren’t too far away.

Daron orders Suzanne and Zoe to stay with the car, not wanting to put their lives at any more risk than he needs to. Suzanne protests, arguing that they need her and Zoe with them, to help figure things out. But, Daron is hearing none of it. The coterie walks up to the house, Trent ready for a fight, Maya ready for answers, and Daron ready for this to be over with.

An older man opens the door as they approach, eager to speak with them. His friendliness disarms them a bit, and they enter his house. They walk into the living room, and the place is a mess, looking like a tornado had struck it. They spin as they hear the front door slam shut, and Liverman stares at them. “So, which one of you broke into my house? Or was it all of you, eh?”

Daron sighs. “Seriously? Dude, we JUST found out about you like this night. We didn’t even know you existed before now. Trust me, we’ve never been here before. If we had, why would have come back? Sorry, buddy, but we’re not your crooks.”  (Charisma + Leadership, 1,7,6,8,7 -- 3 Successes)

Liverman laughs. “Of course,” he says, bidding them to sit. “One can’t be too careful, you know.”

They speak about Prestor, though Liverman begins with more questions than they have.  He asks them about test results and “Alpha compounds” and other terms that make no sense to them. Maybe we should have brought Zoe, Daron thinks. Instead, he tries to steer the conversation. He doesn’t want to tell this stranger more than they need to, but he needs information. What was he doing with Prestor, and what happened with the break in? This is tricky, since Liverman believes they know more than he does (well, he’s right, but not the way he thinks he is.) Daron rolls Manipulation + Leadership against a difficulty of 8: 9,8,8,10,10. 5 Successes, which is a complete success. Liverman doesn’t even notice how the conversation has changed, with none of his questions being answered. Instead, he tells them about the cutting edge research he and Prestor were working. Some odd drug compound, that could change everything about how they treat blood borne pathogens. He goes on for a while about this, the coterie lost in the details of cellular analyses, but one thing does strike them. He mentions a “dirty little guy” who had wanted to purchase their research, and was willing to pay a lot for it, too. Well, of course, Liverman claims he doesn’t care about the money (he does, he just assumes that patent money would be far greater than anything this man could ever have paid), and refused. Trent presses him on this, and Liverman reveals that, yes, he does have his number and a name, Robert Klondike.

The coterie puts two and two together while Liverman rambles on. Who else would have broken in and stolen his research notes? As soon as they see an opening, they make their excuses, and promise to get in touch with him again, and to bring their “notes” next time. They need to find Klondike, a fact even Daron is forced to admit.

What do they do? Kill Peace.

Trent thinks they should just call this guy, since that worked out pretty well.  Maya points out the obvious—if they’re right, he’s already a criminal, and probably won’t be too happy about strangers asking questions.. She recommends they break in and steal the stolen notes and samples back from him. There’s a bit of back and forth, but Trent is down with some action, and Daron doesn't care, so long as they get the answers.

They try the obvious first, and call information, getting an address for Robert Klondike. As Daron exits the phone booth, Trent is waiting for him. “Hey man, before you start, let me just say I get it. I’m frustrated as hell to. But, maybe we can let them go, you know? They don’t need to be a part of this.”

Daron stops, refuses to look at him. “In case you haven’t noticed, they are part of this.”

“Yeah, ok, but maybe they don’t need to be part of this, you know? Why don’t we just drop them off at like Denny’s or someplace? They can eat some Moons over My Hammy, drink coffee, complain about euro-centrism in contemporary American films. You know, what we used to do before Armed Robbery became are go to way to spend our nights.”

Daron doesn’t laugh, but agrees. They drop the girls off with Suzanne’s car, and drive to the address, a small house in a decaying blue-collar suburb of Denver.  It’s a rambling ranch style home, and the yard is an uncared-for mess, full of weeds and broken glass. The house looks like a fortress, with iron bars on every window, and multiple locks clearly visible of the front door. They watch the house for a while, checking to see if there is any movement, any sign of anyone being awake or even alive in there. Seeing nothing, they decide to move forward.

“How the hell are we going to break into that?” Trent asks.

Daron says “I thought you were the expert at this stuff.”

“Yeah, I'm good, but not that good. Ah, fuck it! Ok, let me check it out, see what I can find.”

Daron and Maya keep a lookout while Trent approaches the house, trying to find any vulnerable point. Perception + Security at a difficulty of 6, 7,3,1,5,6,10,8,9,2 – 4 Success. The bars on a window in the garage aren't as tight as they should be, and Trent thinks that Maya should be able to tear them off. We waves the other two over, and she quickly puts the crowbar to work, prying the bars loose.

They crawl through the garage, and then easily enter the house itself. It's a depressing shambles. The kitchen is bare and spartan, containing only a handful of utensils or plates. The living room is even worse, with only a beaten old tv and a Lazy Boy in one corner. The other contains a writing desk and a wooden chair. A drab, filthy carpet in front of the fireplace complete the look of barren desperation.

The do a quick once over through the house, avoiding what they figure are the bedrooms. They find little in the house, though what they do find alarms them. Under the desk and the lazy boy, they find wooden stakes. A flare gun. A machete. Whoever this Klondike is, he knows about them. And he's ready.

Without a word passing between them, the start to slowly make their way down the hall, towards what they assume would be the Master Bedroom. Whatever Klondike knows, or thinks he knows, it's too dangerous to wait. They ready themselves, Daron taking out the gun, Trent drawing his knife, with Maya wielding the machete they had found. Once ready, the open the door, as quietly as possible.

A shot rings out, deafeningly loud.  Daron and Trent leap back, as Maya crumbles to the floor, her intestines spilling out of her. They curse, and Daron fires blindly into the room. A small metallic object is thrown at their feet, and they look upon it with alarm. "Grenade? What the shit?!?"

The grenade explodes, filling the hallway with a think, blinding smoke, foiling even their enhanced senses. More shots ring out, wounding the vampires and forcing them to cower behind the thin drywalls. Trent shouts at Daron to cover him, and rushes into the bedroom, knife ready to strike, only to be slammed in the head with a stock of a shotgun. Seeing his chance, Daron fires, but the weak pistol hardly seems to faze the man. Or whatever he is. Klondike fires a round into Trent, exploding his chest, then turns with alarming speed and hits Daron.

Daron falls, struggling to sit up, to reload the gun. As the smoke clears, he sees the man walking up to Trent, with a stake in one hand and a mallet in another. Daron cries out, and empties the clip at the man, who continues with his cruel task, driving another one into Maya. "Fuck you," Daron weakly gasps, drawing his knife, daring the man to approach him.

"Now, now," the man says, crouching down a few feet from him, resting the shotgun casually over this knees. "There's no need for that. You must understand, childe, I have no desire to harm you. Nor do I wish to harm your friends over there. The truth is you have something I need. And I have something you need, yes? So tell me, are you willing to make a deal?"

"A deal? What the hell are you talking about? What kind of deal," Daron asks, looking around wildly, hoping to make sense of things, or find someway out.

"You want what I stole from Prestor and his lackey, Liverman, yes? Oh, I have it. I have everything you might want. Though are you really sure you want it? Is it so valuable to you? I imagine it must be, or you wouldn't risk coming here. Particularly not so late. As for what I want, well, it should be obvious. I want to be you. I want you to turn me into a vampire."

"What the hell are you talking about? Why would you want to be a vampire?"

"Why would I want eternal life? Eternal freedom? Ha! For too long I have served your kind. Hmm, but I suppose it's really more their kind, isn't it? No more, though. I will no longer be a slave, instead I will be a master. You have nothing to fear from me, of course. No, as soon as I complete my transformation, I will leave this town and never look back. I doubt we will ever cross paths again, and I'm pretty sure I'm far better equipped to survive this than you, my friend.

"I can call you friend, can't I? I don't want this to be anymore unpleasant that it needs to be. No need for me to threaten you, or your other friends. None of that nonsense, just two reasonable men making a bargain that leaves both in a better position than before. Isn't that the way the world is supposed to work?"

"I don't...I don't know how."

“What?!" Klondike says with alarm. "Ah, of course, you're the results of Prestor's little experiments, aren't you?” He explains to Daron how it would be done. That he must drain Klondike of his blood to the point of his death, and then feed him some of his own blood. He won’t need much, he assures, just enough to make the change happen.

"What about my friends?"

"Hmm? Oh, they'll be fine. A little sore perhaps, shotguns hurt like the dickens. But no worse for wear."

"They're not dead?"

"Hmm? No, of course not. You really don't know how any of this works, do you? Well, if we had more time, perhaps...but we don't. No, as soon as the stakes are removed, they'll be fine again. Sore, perhaps, but fine."

"Ok, let them go, give me the material from Prestor and Liverman, and I'll do it."

"See, I wish I could believe you. But you do understand what a delicate position I'm putting myself into.  No, your friends remain where they are, as does the material. In addition, I am not a young man, as you can see. I have a heart condition. A little machine, a pace maker, keeps everything ticking as it should. And that pace maker is tied to a bomb in the basement of the house. Once it stops, I have five minutes to disarm it, or the whole place explodes. You, I'm certain, will be able to escape just fine. But your friends? The material? Poof."

"Ok, fine. Keep the material hidden. But let my friends go. I want to know for a fact that they'll be ok."

Klondike thinks this over. "Very well," he sighs, and drags Maya and Trent into the living room. Daron limps in after them, and sees his friends being chained to the walls, with gags pressed into their mouths.

"Is that really necessary?"

"One can't be too careful, young one. A truth you would be wise to learn." Once secure, he removes the stakes from Maya and Trent, and two begin to thrash and twist, straining at their bonds. Daron rushes over to them, and hearing him calms them. He explains the situation, and their predicament. Trent shrugs his shoulders at the idea of turning Klondike, while Maya furiously shakes her head "no." Daron tells her he's sorry, but he doesn't see any other way.

Klondike stands in the middle of the room, and repeats his instructions as Daron approaches him, fangs extending. It has been a long time since he tasted human blood, and its heady and intoxicating rush overwhelms him. He soon loses himself in what had started as an unpleasant chore, clinging to the man and sharing his warmth and his heart. A heart that beat strong, and true, until it turned desperate and rushed and then quiet, and faint, as all life was taken from the man.

Daron lets the corpse slide to the ground. Trent and Maya lean forward as far as they can, eager to see what would happen next. None of them had any memory of their own creation, and they watched with an alarming intensity. 

Daron then takes out the knife, and slashes his own wrist. The intoxicating scent of vampiric vitae comes over the room, and he brings the wrist to the mans mouth. At first, nothing happens. The blood spills out into the empty shell. Then, he begins to convulse, shaking and throwing himself with an unearthly vigor, until he lies still again, seeming devoid of life. Daron looks to the others, wondering if there had been a mistake, but he is then pulled down as Klondike grabs his arm in a deathless vice, drinking more and more from Daron, taking his life to replace that which had been taken from him.

Maya tears the chains from the wall, and rushes forward, pulling the two apart. Daron is weak, and collapses to the ground,  pressing hard on his arm, trying to stop the bleeding. Klondike stands, laughing and cackling, raving on and on about his long years of waiting, of denial, and finally, finally, his own victory. Trent, spitting the gag from his mouth, yells at him, trying to get through his madness. But the new vampire is in a daze of spinning and laughing and ranting. Maya finally clocks him, hard. “The bomb! Turn off the bomb.”

Klondike looks at her, seemingly confused at her presence, if not her very existence. It takes him a few moments to blink back his giddiness. “Oh,” he says, laughing. “Right, the bomb.” Giggling to himself, he wanders to the back of the house. Maya tears Trent's chains free, and the two of them rush to check on Daron, who assures them that while he’s weak and hungry,  he will be fine. After a few moments, Klondike returns to the room, caring a duffel bag and the shotgun. Seeing the weapon, the coterie begin seeking cover, but Klondike waves away their concerns.

“Oh, no need for that. We’re friends! Hell, more than friends, we’re family! Speaking of which, which Clan am I? Ventrue, Toreador? Wait…not Tremere, am I. That would be…unfortunate.”  Seeing their blank faces, Klondike sighs to himself. “And of course he choose you lot. Well, no matter, I’ll figure it out on my own. And, yes, in case you were wondering, I am leaving. I’ve dreamed of this moment for, well, longer than any of you have been alive, that’s for sure. And I have no desire to live out eternity in Denver, of all places. Nor do I want anyone to know where I am, until I’m ready to reveal my presence.”

He walks to the kitchen, heading to the garage. “What you want, it’s in the fireplace, just a little bit up. As for everything else, “ he looks around at the remains of his pathetic excuse for a life. “Burn it, for all I care.” 

Trent runs over to the fireplace, reaching and searching for, well, anything. Maya calls out “Wait a goddamn second! You’re not going anywhere until…”

“Maya,” Trent says. “We have it.” 

Sabbat Pack Creation: Traits and Options

In the previous post I talked about the basic rules for the creation of the Sabbat Pack. In this post, I want to look at the individual c...