It’s the second session of my Monster of the Week game! First session here.
Between sessions we realized that Galvan was totally on the wrong playbook for what his concept needed to be; we switched him over to the Summoned playbook, which offered nearly the same starting advantages/damage output/etc as Monstrous had for him but a better progression path for his concept. Good stuff, and a pretty seamless swap.
So anyway, their car was falling apart and a murderous silver orb was zipping right at their faces.
Stuart pulled the car into a hard turn, ducking, causing the orb to vector over the steering wheel and out the driver’s side window. The car’s engine was still missing of course, and they had some momentum they still needed to address. The hard turn pointed the car at a strip mall parking lot, struggling with a dying steering wheel, Stuart forced it to point at a “Do Not Enter” sign, uprooting it (but slowing the car) and smacking sideways into a parked car. Stuart hit his head as the airbags deployed, getting a nasty knock, but the others made it out of the crash pretty well.
The orb was still coming.
Galvan grabbed gear out of the back of the car, while Beatrice snagged her tome and backpack. She picked up where she left off, frantically trying to find out what could really hurt this thing. Turns out it’s… text! The printed word. Inscribed on blades or ammunition, stuffed in gun barrels, you name it. The symbolic significance of text and the binding of it in writing somehow messes with these things. Great!
The orb got on top of them. Galvan hefted the “Do Not Enter” sign and smacked the thing center-sphere with the words on the sign, knocking it for a loop and driving it under their car.
Which smelled of leaking gas.
They ran and got a safe distance before the thing went up in a big ol’ WHUMP explosion. Stuart grabbed a shotgun from Galvan and vigorously stuffed the car’s rental agreement into the barrel, and took aim as the orb rose from the flames and headed right at Beatrice. BLAM!
(The player rolled snake eyes, of course, and decided to spend a point of luck to change the roll into a 12.)
The thing shrieked, shrank, and imploded, ripping a vacuum-void-portal looking thing into the air briefly before vanishing for good. Monster killed!
A pickup truck reading “Muncie’s Gas’n’Sip” pulled up around then, with the driver, Bill Muncie, being surprisingly laconic about these guys carrying guns (and a friggin’ sword). Said his mechanic, Leon, despite being a real wizard with auto repairs probably couldn’t fix their car on account of it being exploded, but he’d be happy to tow it for them. The group felt they needed a ride more than a tow, and asked him to do both, with the ride happening right goddamn now please. Seeing as he was gonna get paid either way, Bill was happy to oblige.
Back at their hotel, the group tried to work out their next steps. Between the two orb attacks, Galvan had gotten cut up pretty badly (with unstable injuries) and needed to recuperate. Beatrice worked up a minor healing spell to help with that, which at least stabilized his wounds and afforded her the chance to collect some of Galvan’s blood as had been secretly requested by her sect.
Stuart headed to the business center to print up Ulisses or something like it to give the group a big pile of text to use if needed, and ordered up some pizzas too; Galvan recuperated; Beatrice went to get ice and drinks.
That’s when the guy with the knife showed up behind her.
He told her to get out of Grant Falls, and gave her a day. Sounded scared. Talked about how this was his “audition” and he wouldn’t take kindly to her trying to horn in on it. Then he beat a retreat — she turned then, trying to get a glimpse of him: middling height, looks like he works with his hands, face concealed with a trucker hat and dirty bandana. He ducked into a public restroom and (presumably, later confirmed) vanished.
Beatrice returned to the room, as did Stuart with 5 pizzas in tow. She filled them in, and they went to examine the bathroom. There they found signs (a crisply bisected boot-print) that the doorway had definitely been turned into a portal, short term, and something moist on the door’s lock — the man had used some of his spit to build a link to another door, somewhere, Beatrice surmised. She grabbed a sample.
Stuart headed over to the liquor store/bar across the road to grab a bottle of scotch and see if he could talk to some of the locals. Beatrice and Galvan returned to their room. There, she tried casting a divination/location spell on the spit, but it went bad — maybe she hit some sort of arcane tripwire? — that boiled all the drinks, burned the pizza, and caught the map she was using on fire, setting off the fire alarm and sprinklers.
Stuart meanwhile rang up Double Tee, the coroner who was under review due to the missing bodies, and invited him out for a drink. TT showed up a bit later and talked about how he knew they weren’t CDC. Stuart said enough for TT to peg them as ghost hunters, and talked about a few matters related to the case. Tho an autopsy hadn’t been performed on Orson Phelps, TT recalled thinking his head felt a little “light”. Possibly pointing at a missing brain?
Stuart decided to ask the rest of the team to come over so they could pool info. Galvan declined (recovering!), but Beatrice came over after doing what clean-up she could with the room. Naturally this is when the invisible man paid Galvan a visit, calling him the “Harbinger” and asking him if he was willing to switch sides, after sussing out that Galvan worked for Stuart, not Beatrice. Galvan declined, after sussing out that this disembodied voice belonged to someone who was likely being auditioned to.
Long story slightly less long, Galvan ended up heading over to the bar too, a few minutes behind Beatrice, to tell the team that their location had been compromised. Turns out TT recognized Beatrice from her “SpookyBeats” vlogging days and given that they were going to see if they could help him clear his name, offered them crash space at his place. Plus, medical training meant they could get a little extra off-the-books medical care.
So that’s where they moved their base of operations. On the way they saw a location they recognized as the restaurant where the speed dating event that Orson Phelps had attended the night before his death, and resolved to return in the morning.
Which they did, sans TT, who had to get to work (where they continue to bury him in paperwork).
At the (empty) restaurant, things were still set up for speed-dating events. They figured out where Orson Phelps had sat the night before his death, and Beatrice cast a spell to give them a glimpse of what happened that night. The spell honed in on the most significant event at that table; Stuart sat in Orson’s seat, while Beatrice sat in the other taking the role of a woman named Janet. For Stuart and Beatrice it was like they were suddenly actors who’d memorized a script very well, and so they played out the scene. Lots of small talk, Orson sharing information they already knew with Janet, and Janet fiddling with that spot on her finger where her wedding ring decidedly wasn’t, distracted a bit by looking around as if to see if she recognized anyone. Was she speed-cheating?
Coming out of the spell, they looked at their list of speed dating attendees: this Janet was Janet Gallow. Okay… anyone with a name of Gallow at the sports club? No idea, they haven’t gotten a membership list from there yet. But they also checked the list of employees at Suzie Belter’s company (she’s the one who died of a heart attack), and found a Gallow! Bruce Gallow. Janet’s husband, perhaps? The connection that binds all this together?
Beatrice looked Bruce Gallow up on Facebook and found a picture of him and Janet and their two kids so, hmm, definitely seems to be some sort of connection here. Janet’s clearly significant to Orson’s demise in some way, or so the spell seemed to indicate by choosing her to replay. Bruce’s page shows him talking about some business trips, a big project at work, and car trouble.
Hmmm, car trouble.
Meanwhile, while Galvan wrote words on his sword (more text!), Stuart surreptitiously connected to MI-13’s knowledge base to chase down the “empty head” thing TT had mentioned the night before. If that’s what was going on, then it was likely they were looking at a “Subtractor” of some sort — a class of summoned entities that are theoretical only, having never been encountered in the field. Apparently when they consume a part of a person, they replace it with a mostly-functioning “hologram” replica that disguises the truth of what’s been done. Once the hologram is confronted in some meaningful way — put under strain, essentially — it collapses and winks out of existence.
The team discussed next steps and circled back around to the fact that the guy with the knife was in overalls and maybe had grease on that bandana across his mouth… and the fact that Bill Muncie showed up when he did after their crash seeming a little convenient… and Bruce Gallow talking about car trouble… yeah. Heading to the Gas’n’Sip seemed like the right way to go.
So they went there, but the convenience store portion was closed up with a “Back in 20 minutes!” sign, and the garage was closed and locked up too; it looked like someone might be doing something in the backroom storage area inside, but they decided not to try to get their attention just yet. They circled around back to see if they could get in the back door, and before he went to kick in the door, Galvan took a moment to assess the situation. The windows at the top of the door were blacked out, and not by paint: this darkness seemed to have some motion to it. As he kicked in the door, it whooshed and vanished into undulating darkness which seemed to be emitting regular “roiling stomach” noises, but otherwise remained covering the doorway, possibly barring passage. Looking around quickly as they collectively backed away slowly, Galvan developed a hunch that this thing wasn’t going to be too upset by him punching it with text-covered fists, and that the better way into the garage was going to be by going in through the convenience store.
That’s when Bill Muncie came around the corner. “Hey there, can I help ya?” — He looked at them blankly, like he didn’t recognize them at all. They explained they were here to see the burnt-out husk of their former vehicle, and that he’d towed them here. Galvan began proclaiming, “I challenge you!” just as Bill looked over his shoulder at the burnt-out husk, puzzlement creeping into his voice.
“What the hell?” asked Bill, before winking out of existence, entirely.
A howling hunting cry erupted from the shadow in the doorway — the Subtractor! — and it attacked.
To be continued.
Continuity list given to the players after the session:
- Y’all have moved base of operations to Double Tee’s place; you’ll help him clear his name, he’ll get you free medical care.
- Orson (brain victim) speed-dated with Janet Gallow. She appears to be “speed cheating” on her husband, Bruce Gallow.
- Bruce works at Sallie’s company (heart victim), and has frequented the Gas’n’Sip with car trouble, or so he claims on facebook.
- Text-inscribed or infused ammunition or weaponry kills the orbs for real.
- You’ve been visited/threatened by someone who’s doing an “audition”, and an invisible guy who called Galvan “the Harbinger” and tried to get him to switch teams. Unclear if they’re the same person but it doesn’t seem quite right that they are.
- Subtractors are a class of monster that remove parts (or, apparently, all) of their victims, replacing them with mostly functional, real-seeming “holograms” that collapse if forced to challenge their existence. So a victim can continue to be alive after its brain or heart has been consumed, but certain mental efforts or heart monitoring can cause the victim to drop dead suddenly as the challenged body part ceases to be.
- Subtractors haven’t been encountered in the field before, but MI-13’s knowledge base has some information on them under the theoretical creature category.
- Something’s up at the Gas’n’Sip, maybe having to do with Leon, the mechanic.
- Bill Muncie ran the Gas’n’Sip; he was alive when he picked up the group from their car wreck that started the session, but had been completely “subtracted” by the time y’all encountered him at the Gas’n’Sip. He was forced to confront this and winked out of existence, entirely.
- There’s a Subtractor at the Gas’n’Sip, and it’s attacking you.
- Galvan “read a bad situation” at the Gas’n’Sip: he spotted the Subtractor before it “woke up” (danger you hadn’t noticed yet), he knows that the Subtractor isn’t the thing most vulnerable to him but the guy who summoned it likely is, and that the best way into the garage area is probably through a door in the (closed, locked) convenience store around front. Acting on this information gives him +1 ongoing.
All told between the two sessions we’ve clocked between 4 and 5 hours of actual play-time. Things seem to be going along at a solid pace, and the mechanics are doing a fine job of making sure the mystery never stalls out. Good stuff.
I’ve also interviewed my players to see where I could improve. Some love the pace and feel it’s going nice and fast, others could stand to see it be even faster! And I’d do faster if I didn’t have a reasonable certainty I’d accidentally kill the party in the process. When I kill the party, I want to mean to do it.
This was also a chance for us to realize we haven’t been using the Read a Bad Situation move as much as we probably should, so that’s something to keep an eye on. I also personally need to work on making sure the player-side magic is just as weird (by way of its requirements) as the monster-magic they’re facing. This is one place where my Twenty Palaces sensibilities for the NPC magic and creatures isn’t lining up with the more Supernatural/Buffy style spellcraft the PCs have access to. I need to think a bit about how to address that. Next session is in two weeks, so I’ve got time.