I kicked off my Monster of the Week game last night. Here’s a quick and haphazard recap.
- Stuart is a Professional who works for MI-13. MI-13 is layered deep with bureaucracy and hidden agendas, but they’re great at providing him with caches of supplies and cover identities, which is good, because he’s “disavowably” carrying out operations on American soil regularly.
- Galvan is a Monstrous character, possibly the product of an experiment or other initiative within MI-13. Stuart has been assigned as his handler. Galvan is, in essence, a modern-day Frankenstein’s Monster, only with more question marks and mysteries surrounding his origin. He looks like a burn victim.
- Beatrice, aka “SpookyBeat” as she was once known online, is an Initiate, but has elements of (i.e., a move each from) the Snoop and Spooky playbooks. In essence I let her take her two “pick a move from another playbook” improvements right at character creation time, replacing those improvements with “pick another Initiate move”. Easy peasy. Anyway! Beatrice used to be an amateur paranormal investigator/vlogger who stumbled onto a haunted house situation that ended up having her confront this room that didn’t exist that was nothing but a flat black void that pushed something invisible inside her and (gasps for breath) made her pass out and then she woke up with a psychic attack power (The Big Whammy) that this super-secretive monster-hunting cult somehow knew she’d acquired and they came to her and brought her into the cult so she could get trained. She’s adorkable and her life is super much more complicated than it used to be.
Nobody other than Stuart really knows that Stuart works for MI-13, and Beatrice especially doesn’t know because keeping an eye on her is Stuart’s long-term assignment. She thinks he just happens to be this fellow investigator who happened to take the same martial arts class she did only he was good at it and she wasn’t. Also she has a fragment of a prophecy that indicates that Galvan is a big deal of some kind and so she’s sticking close to him just in case whatever it is starts to happen.
The session started with Beatrice whiffing on her “start of the mystery” move with her sect, which meant they had to ask her for something bad, and of course they asked her to get about a quarter-cup of Galvan’s blood (or “blood” as the case may be) and put it in this magical chalice thingy they gave her and no, they’re not going to tell her why or what for. (Beatrice went on to fail her other three rolls of the night, rolling snake-eyes twice. Impressive! And good for her too since we’re using the Dungeon World method where you mark XP on a miss, rather than messing with the stats-highlighting. Regardless she got 80% of the night’s 6 or less results.)
So after the characters were all established I started them off with the hook for the mystery, seen to the right. Yes, I goofed and gave one of the victims two last names. I decided to let that stand as a printing error by the newspaper, which I figure supports the whole “make the world seem real” principle as a GM.
As the characters discussed their options, I pushed at them a few thoughts about splitting up to cover more ground (“separate them!” says my list of moves) and they went for it, with a plan for Stuart to talk to the Sheriff, Galvan to investigate the morgue, and Beatrice to talk to the folks who ran the speed dating event. Their cover story was that they were Center for Disease Control investigators, and Stuart (i.e., MI-13) had happily provided the cover identities necessary to do so.
Beatrice hit cellular wi-fi to get a few specific pieces of information, which expanded some of their information base, and also triggered the move she’d grabbed from the Snoop playbook, so bonus there. They dropped her off at the speed dating offices and continued on to the police station.
Stuart and Galvan went to talk to the Sheriff, with Stuart providing their cover story and Galvan looking stoic (“he’s our specialist”). The Sheriff was naturally a little suspicious (as a bystander, that’s her threat-motive, in fact), moreso because Stuart rolled a 7-9 result on his Manipulate Someone move, and so she asked to talk to Stuart’s superior. Stuart tried to get her to take his cell to make the call, but nope, she had the CDC’s number right here, just give her the name. Stuart crossed his fingers and gave a name, and I used that as an excuse to have him roll his “request something from the agency” move. THAT did not go so well, so I decided that as his “get in trouble”, the superior was in fact a MI-13 operative but didn’t appreciate getting called, and took it out by telling the Sheriff to keep an eye on Stuart. That’s gonna have fallout in the next session, I suspect, given how this one went. But they got access to the files and permission to visit the morgue.
Stuart stood by while one of the deputies copied the files on the missing bodies. Galvan went downstairs to the morgue to investigate the scene and talk to Double-Tee (Tyrone Tyrone, which he doesn’t like being called because fuck you Mom and Dad), the guy who was on duty when the bodies disappeared. Double-Tee is getting buried under paperwork to do while the matter is up for investigation by a board of inquiry. He has no good explanation for why the bodies disappeared from the refrigeration units where they were kept, and besides he’s busy. Galvan went to “gather samples” but made such a hash of it that Double-Tee noticed and helped him out, especially after Galvan cited “first day on the job” jitters. Double-Tee is ALL about making sure folks just trying to do their jobs don’t get in trouble right now. Galvan quickly concluded that perhaps he wasn’t the right guy for this job after all.
Beatrice talked to the lady who ran the speed dating thing, Helen Smith, who also works a real estate agent job, and started up this speed dating thing as a way to make use of (and showcase) some properties that haven’t been finding buyers. Economic downturn and broken hearts! It’s sad times out there. Beatrice of course adorkably botched trying to get the list of speed-daters from Helen, which sent Helen off on a tear about privacy and needing to see a warrant. Beatrice got Stuart on the phone and he sorted things out with Helen, thank goodness, so she made it out of there with a little more information about Orson Phelps and a list of speed-daters that they might be able to use to find some sort of connection or common factor with the other victim. She headed off to Starbucks to consider her next move and wait for the guys to wrap up at the Sheriff’s office.
During all of this very little in the way of the Investigate the Mystery move was used. Taking a cue from some discussion on line, the rulebook, and the GUMSHOE system, I was pretty clear that unless they were asking questions that were from the move’s list of questions, the move shouldn’t trigger, and instead I should treat it all as “core clues” that they should just get if they asked the right question or looked at the right piece of evidence. This is a key thing for running a relatively hitchless Monster of the Week session, for sure!
Back at the morgue, Galvan headed back to the stairwell when a silver golfball came tink-tink-tink down the stairs towards him. It reflected light all wrong, looking like a flat disc that he was looking at straight-on, but moved and rolled around like a sphere would. He reached towards it, and it levitated and attacked, trying to burrow into his experimentally toughened flesh, cutting right down to tendon and bone in an instant (turns out this thing is made of 100% cutting edges). He bashed at it with a gurney (Galvan is supernaturally strong) and knocked it to the other end of the hallway. They squared off against each other, and the silver orb grew in size to silver basketball form.
It charged at him. Galvan brought the gurney up as a protective shield, and the thing sheared it in half. He bashed the orb with one of the pieces, overhand punching the thing too, driving it down into the floor but earning a deep cut into his shoulder for his trouble. Double-Tee called out to ask if everything was all right out there. Stuart had gotten his photocopies and was on his way down when he heard the commotion, and came quickly. He arrived and had just enough time to … well, spill his coffee on the thing, before it yanked itself free. The thing had been weakened by its tussle with Galvan, and Stuart was able to get his gun out and hit the thing point blank; it evaporated in a twisting swirl of smoke.
… yeah. It was probably going to come back soon enough. Of course, more pressing, Double Tee was at the end of the hallway saying, “Y’all aren’t CDC, are ya?” and the cops were on their way down. TT gave Stuart a piece of paper with his phone number on it and went back to his paperwork, all nonchalant. Galvan and Stuart headed up the stairs, narrowly missing the deputies coming down in the elevator but running straight into Deputy Felicia Harlan, who — still buying their CDC cover story — saw Galvan’s wounds and said she’d radio for paramedics before heading down to join the others.
Galvan and Stuart naturally didn’t hang around for the ambulance, and booked on out of there, made contact with Beatrice, and headed her way.
Speaking of Beatrice…
While she was at the Starbucks she decided to use some table sugar to sketch out a quick ritual circle to see if she could gather some premonitions and divinations to help with the mystery. This was the first snake-eyes roll of the night for her, if I recall correctly. Instead, the table shook, the space inside the circle crumbled away to reveal a whispering flat black void that looked pretty familiar to her, and a strong foreboding sense that she should flee town. And with that she was knocked back on her ass — and nobody else in the Starbucks had seen what had happened, so this looked like a lady sitting down at a table, freaking out, and bothering the customers. She was asked to leave.
The guys picked her up and headed on to another location, discussing their next moves. Beatrice got out a book of lore and tried to see if it had anything on the silver orb thing they’d fought at the station. And thus came her second snake-eyes roll of the night. It was getting late, and a miss lets me make a move, so I decided to use this as my trigger for a cliff-hanger.
The car sputtered and started to veer, slowing down a bit, when suddenly a basket-ball-sized silver orb popped out of the hood, coming up through the engine block, killing the car (but not its momentum) and rolling straight towards the three of them trapped in their seats.
To Be Continued.
When I got home, I sent them a quick “continuity list” for making sure we know where we left off when we have the second session in two weeks:
- You’ve got a list of employees from Suzie Belter’s place of work
- You don’t have a list of folks who work out at “Harry’s Hamhocks” or whatever it’s actually called, but you intend to get it and cross reference.
- You’ve looked at the list of speed-daters, no overlap with Suzie
- You’ve encountered one or two of the orb things, but haven’t yet managed to gather up the lore on what exactly they are or what their weaknesses are. You know they’re made entirely of cutting edges, reflect light oddly, and can change size.
- You’ve got Double-Tee’s contact information.
- Galvan has gotten hurt pretty bad. No medical attention yet.
- Beatrice has a tome of arcane facts that she’s used for research, but no dice (literally, snake eyes!) yet.
- Beatrice tried a divination but it went sideways and opened up on this whispering flat black void for a moment.
- Stuart may have some trouble with the home office when he reports in; they intercepted the call to the CDC and may have told Sheriff Bellwether that she should “keep an eye on him”.
- One of the orbs has just fucked up your (rental) car pretty bad.
- Your car is still in motion. (Stuart is driving. Act under pressure time!)
- The orb is coming right for you.
I’m not too worried about the act under pressure roll that Stuart’s going to be making — he’s a BEAST with the Cool stat, starting right out the gate with a +3. But he could always roll snake-eyes…