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TTRPG writeups: WoD Modern 2 - Mercenaries #1

Posted on: Friday, 19 November 2021 @ 4:13pm
Blatting about

Mild content warning: occasional swearing and mild adult themes

We had a slight derailment right at the outset as S was unable to make the session.  I only do character driven stories so players not being able to make sessions can make things fall apart, so normally we would just skip (I had previously tried to encourage the kids to make Redcaps that we could use in a casual drop-in/out filler game as a Redcap gang lends itself well to that, plus they could get any murderhobo/random dickishness/silly out, but the older boys had decided "Changeling is cringe").  However in this case seeing as it was early on, I managed to restructure stuff in my head (and later on in my notes) enough to postpone S to the next session.

Right on session start I got C and 16yo to roll a d10 each.  12yo and T wanted in on the action and also rolled, though I didn't count theirs as I didn't need them to.  C rolled higher and when I wouldn't answer the question of what they'd just rolled for or even which result I needed (I just asked them what they got and moved along), he joked about how it was to determine what kind of day their characters were going to have and he was going to have a great day while 16yo was going to have a mediocre day.

To set everything up properly, a conversation that Penny had had with Raj at the end of Modern 1 was retconned to Raj, after finally getting a response from Penny after nothing for nearly a year, excitedly telling the group chat that "PENNY ISN'T DEAD!" which causes the group chat to explode with everyone demanding where she's been, Penny explaining that she had amnesia and then being teased about "isn't that Ivan's thing?" and her querying "he still has that?"

We then moved past where we had ended Modern 1 with Irina telling Penny "I'm on my way" and Penny saying she was actually going to New Orleans to meet up with the rest of them, and getting on the plane after saying goodbye to Maxwell.

The sun is setting over New Orleans.  Markos is chilling on his dock fishing, and Benjamin is in his little kitchen preparing dinner. 

Both players pass perception checks.

Benjamin becomes aware of some oddly-behaving shadows flickering outside.  As some of them are close to but not yet on the cottage, he pauses what he's doing and looms threateningly at the window, trying to stare them down.

12yo somehow manages to fail an intimidation roll.

The shadows continue flickering until they're lost among the normal shadows that are now rapidly closing in.  Benjamin continues glaring for a bit before he grabs his battleaxe ("in case they try to steal it" not in case the shadows turn out to be something dangerous and try to break in mind) and resumes chopping carrots (not with said battleaxe).

Markos detects a faint tang of death but not quite right in the air.  He sniffs about a bit, then carefully puts down his fishing rod n a way that a fish shouldn't pull it into the river, and starts tracking the scent.  The shadows melt away from his advance and he follows them through the trees a fair way before suddenly realising that the animals in the area are unusually quiet, to the point where he feels that they've either all fled the area or are all in hiding.  He initially pulls out a survival torch and shines it around.  He's in the trees and it's getting increasingly darker and the torch isn't doing much, so he decides to cast Ursa's Light instead.

16yo occasionally mimed shaking one of those torches that need shaking to stay lit.

Ursa's Light fills the surroundings with a soft, pleasant moonglow, and for a moment Markos is surrounded by a couple of unnatural looking shadows and many glowing eyes of hiding animals, all of which quickly retreat from him.  Markos loses the scent as the unnatural looking shadows retreat.  The only way the scent could have vanished that fast was if whatever was making it either moved extremely quickly or went up so Markos quickly checks up, and sees nothing.  After failing at picking up the trail again, he decides to spend the night in the closer Umbral Glade rather than trekking back to his shack.

Mechanically 16yo decided to spend the night in the Umbral Glade to regain the point of Gnosis he spent casting Ursa's Light.

While that's happening, Penny gets off the plane in New Orleans from New Mexico and receives a text from Irina saying she's at Terminal 1 in a black sedan.  Puzzled, Penny quickly checks her terminal, realises that's where she is, sighs in mild exasperation and after working her way through airport security (which takes a while as she brought her gun with her) and goes to look for Irina.

Irina is waiting at a pickup area and honks when she sees Penny.  Penny makes her way over, slides into the passenger side and playfully accuses Irina of being a stalker.  Irina cheerfully agrees with this assessment and starts driving.  Penny notices that Irina is quiet and a bit tense while driving and asks "Do you actually know how to drive?" to which Irina retorts "AM I DRIVING?!"

Irina does not have points in Drive.

They get back to the holiday house, Irina chills out on the chandalier in homid form complaining about how dusty it is.  Penny tells her to clean it while she's up there as she unpacks and tidies the place up a little. 

I describe the "holiday house" and surrounds to T who seems quite happy with his new base of operations.

Penny crashes in her old bedroom (one of the two master suites that have ensuites) and Irina decides to crash in the room she'd claimed when the group had been staying at the holiday house while Raj got all their visas and other nonsense sorted.

The following day, Benjamin is doing his usual minding his own business when he hears a lot of ruckus going on out front.  He goes onto the front patio to investigate, battleaxe in hand, and sees a Sidhe hunting party downing a white stag in his yard.

12yo gets up, strikes a wide-stance-with-imaginary-battle-axe-in-hand pose and screams "GET THE FFFFFFFFFFFFFFUCK OFF MY LAWN!" accompanied by head all the way back at the start of the elongated F-bomb and launching forwards at the end as though physically spitting F-bombs at his opponents.  This cracks everyone right up and encourages him to continue in this vein.

The hunting party notices he's there and are rude and condescending because nobody likes Redcaps (not even other Redcaps apparently), with the young lord commenting that it wasn't really surprising as one couldn't expect much from Redcaps.  Benjamin launches into a tirade, starting with calling them racist, going through "I've seen vampires less pasty than you!" and continuing on from there.

I am really, really struggling to stop laughing and get him on track as from here I foresee his spotlight taking way too long, but it's not being helped by 16yo and C yelling out suggestions for further insults and T also unable to stop laughing.

The young lady in the hunting party detects the freehold's balefire and informs the young lord of its presence.  The young lord proudly lays claim to the freehold.  Benjamin feels the energy of the freehold shifting in response to the young lord's claim, and yells "THE HELL YOU ARE," in challenge.  The young lord then declares a fior, Benjamin has to fight six armoured members of the Sidhe retinue (who are wearing partial Side plate mail for I don't even know why they would be wearing that on a hunting party, probably to show off because Sidhe?). 

12yo wins the initiative roll and says he Calls Upon the Wyrd, I say he doesn't need to as they're all Fae and they can all see each other.  So he goes straight into casting Quicksilver on himself and rolls enough for five actions per turn.

Benjamin doesn't back down, kicking up dust as a Quicksilver bunk and launching into action.  He chops at two of the retinue, injuring them enough to make them drop back a bit, and then mimes pulling stuff out of the ground as he Ensnares the lot of them.  He starts trying to hack limbs off and manages to chop off one foot and most of a leg but the rest of the time is stymied by the armour.  The entire time he is also hurling insults, not realising that the people he's throwing shade on can only catch a couple of words at best as he still doesn't realise that his speech is too sped up.

Meanwhile, back in the Umbral Glade, Markos is woken by Storm, who apologises for waking him up and for arriving unannounced.  Markos shakes himself awake and forgives her.  Storm asks him if he's noticed anything strange in the area, including wildlife acting and tasting weird.

16yo quickly asks out of character if his character had noticed the wildlife tasting and acting weird, I confirm.

Markos confirms the wildlife tasting and acting weird, and also reports the weird looking shadows.  Storm looks put out and comments mostly to herself that "it" spread down here too, and explains to Markos that there have been people dumping stuff that looks like water but smells and flows wrong, and she's pretty sure it's poisoning the water.  She mentions that the local Garou tribes have literally been throwing themselves at the problem but don't seem to be doing much.  Markos jokes that that's very like them.  He asks if the slinky shadows might be vampires, Storm replies that she shares his suspicions and is looking into it, and can't say for certain now.  She cautions him to continue thinking carefully about his actions before executing them and he does a very polite version of a "yeh yeh".

They hear the commotion of the hunt, and Storm lets out an exasperated "oh no" before they hear Benjamin hurling obscenities.  They glance at each other and then lumber over to see what's going on.  They arrive just in time to see Benjamin kicking up dust and Quicksilvering into the fray.  Surprised at seeing the battleaxe again, Markos exclaims "What, he still has that?!" They sit and watch for a bit, and then Markos starts forward, feeling like he should help out.  Noticing, Storm nudges him and with a mischevious twinkle in her eye, tells him to follow her lead and try not to laugh, which causes Markos to do the bear equivalent of a smirk.  Storm goes Bjornen, Markos doing so not long after, and the two now gigantic bears shamble out of the trees behind Benjamin, rear up on their hind legs and roar loudly before dropping back to all fours with deliberate heaviness.

Their appearance causes the retinue to fall back in fear.  The young lord immediately calls off the fior, claiming that it's invalidated and that they'll be back to resolve this.  Benjamin continues hurling insults after them as they ride away without their dead stag.  The bears go to homid form, and Storm starts telling them that the hunting party was Lord Edwyn Wintersun, his sister Lurina and their retinue.  Still hyped up from the fight, Benjamin yells that he doesn't care, coming up with yet more colourful terms for the stuck up nobles who dared invade his property and tried to steal his freehold.  Storm comments "Charming fellow, isn't he?" to Markos, and continuing to talk to Markos, explains that Benjamin would have just severely wounded young Lord Wintersun's pride and that was a slight he wasn't going to take lightly, and Benjamin would probably need to watch his step for a bit.  However if it came down to it and they ended up having to attend one of the Fae Courts to sort things out, their father Lord Hyperion Wintersun was at least reasonable if stuck up.  Benjamin eventually calms down enough to realise that this information is actually important and stops swearing long enough to pay attention.

I apologise profusely to the other boys as with 12yo's amazing roleplaying plus how long combat can take even with my streamlining hacks, his spotlight had taken an hour or so real time.  They didn't mind, and T declared that it was "worth it", and he, C and 16yo all declare that they now want to make Redcaps.

It's now about time to head to the Penny Isn't Dead party, so Storm wishes them well and takes her leave, and Markos and Benjamin scurry around getting things ready, with Markos somehow very quickly and expertly butchering the white stag to add to the pile of meat he's bringing, telling Benjamin "you're eating a log before we leave" in a vain attempt to make sure he doesn't eat all the meat before they get to the barbeque which apparently was a thing that happened before, and then Markos trips over the dismembered foot and demands "Why is there a foot here?!" Benjamin hastily grabs it saying "Oh that's mine."

12yo's play acting of the quick snatch and the very casual way he delivered that line had the boys in stitches again.

With that sorted, they pack the car and head to Raj and Eli's.

Simultaneously in the nicer suburbs closer to the inner city, Irina is staking out Oscar Nickleby, a character Raj has found suspicious enough to have Eli and Irina investigating to see if he is actually up to some stuff Raj thinks he might be involved with.  She is perched on a light post outside a coffee shop that he's currently in as she's in the "work out his movements" phase of the investigation.

After relentlessly mocking Oscar Nickleby's randomly generated name, C went through a very brief meta-play of Irina trying to convince Raj that it would be so much quicker and easier if they just killed him so that he wouldn't potentially cause problems down the line, the others playfully told C not to murderhobo.  I also finally tell the group that the dice roll at the beginning was to see who was on "Farrah duty", as the team were authorised to pick up Farrah from kindy if Raj or Eli were unable to for any reason.  The only people that would usually pick up were Irina and Markos, as Benjamin had been banned from the premises for threatening to eat a child that had pulled Farrah's hair (he also got some Glamour off the poor kid's nightmares), and Ivan's Echoes terrifies all the kids so he's the last resort.

So far Irina has been briefed that Nickleby works as a mechanic in a workshop and lives in a nice part of town, and often rotates through some cafes within range of his work, sometimes hanging out with workmates and other times meeting up with randoms.  He is currently with a bunch of randoms but they are a different bunch of randoms to the ones he was with at the last stakeout.  Irina attempts Scent of the True Form, but is too far away.

T teasingly tells C to get closer so his nose works.

Irina decides to get closer and see if she can detect if he's at least human.  She drops off the light post and flies into an alleyway, changes into homid, and then casually saunters into the coffee shop, orders a coffee and then edgily sits in a dark corner pretending she's just casually people watching while drinking her coffee.

C's perception check isn't great but at least doesn't fail.

All Irina can gather is that Nickleby doesn't seem quite human.  A few moments later, a beautiful lady in a red dress and matching sun hat walks into the coffee shop, orders a coffee and goes to sit down.  She has enough presence and resonance about her that she catches Irina's attention, and Irina attempts to scent her true form.

C once more doesn't do very well but doesn't fail.

She gets a much stronger impression that the lady is human but not quite, but can't get past that.  The lady pauses very briefly, looks around the coffee shop, and her eyes light on Irina.  They look at each other for a moment, then the lady smiles.  Irina casually smiles back.  The lady goes and sits in a booth that isn't as edgily in a corner as Irina is but does make it hard for Irina to see her clearly.

C asks what game time it is and decides that now is a good time to "go and pick up the child".  After a bit of back and forth where he's trying to decide if Irina would drive to pick her up, I say the kindy is easy walking distance for the adults but a bit far for Farrah, but she enjoys the walk, so C decides Irina is going to park at Raj's place and walk, which I suggest might be what they normally do anyway as it makes sense.

Irina rocks up at Farrah's kindy announcing "FARRAH! I'M HERE!" Farrah runs up to the fence terribly excited to see "Aunty Reena".  Irina signs her out and once they get outside, picks up Farrah, puts her on her shoulders, and jauntily heads down the street back towards Raj's.  Farrah starts chattering about 5yo stuff, Irina pays just enough attention to make appropriately timed comments and interjections.  After a while, Farrah's babble starts faltering, and then she starts clinging tigher to Irina's head.  Irina checks the surroundings, looking for anything that might be off, and after picking up that Farrah is scared of something, she pulls her off her shoulders and carries her close on the chest.  Farrah deathgrips onto her.

C says he wants to go crinos, I would not have stopped him if that's what he really wanted to do but all of us strongly advise him not to do so as while the street is quiet, there are still people on it.  C says that the child is a Spirit Egg as far as Irina is concerned and she's feeling extremely protective.  I was happy enough to have that expectation about the character come true and fortunately C decides not to go Crinos.

Irina keeps looking around trying to find what's causing Farrah so much consternation and sees the lady in red from the coffee shop walking down the opposite side of the street.  Irina turns slightly so her body is mostly between the lady and Farrah, who has buried her face in Irina's shoulder and is not looking.  The lady in red turns and looks at Farrah, then makes eye contact with Irina.  She smiles and without breaking stride, continues walking down the street.  Irina takes the next corner and takes a circuitous route back to Raj's house.

Due to S being unable to make the session and C choosing to take a winding route home, Penny ends up arriving first instead of after Irina.  We decide to explain it as she left with plenty of extra time to allow for getting lost as she hasn't been to Raj's place before, and that she does actually get lost but manages to find her way.

Penny is greeted at Raj's door by Niven, a very large "wolfdog".  Niven sizes up Penny, then starts snarling like he will tear her limb from limb if she even thinks about trying to open the door.  Acting unperturbed, Penny asks him where Raj is.  Niven pauses slightly, then resumes snarling.  Penny is thinking about reaching for the doorbell when Raj appears at the end of the corridor and sees her.  He comes to the door, tells Niven to knock it off and lets Penny in.  Niven allows Penny a microscopic wag of the utmost tip of his tail.  Raj meanwhile greets Penny heartily, wanting confirmation of the amnesia thing which Penny gives, and then saying she must have a hell of a story to tell for when the rest of the team arrives.  Penny agrees and they head out to the backyard, where Raj asks if she remembers Eli.  She does and greets him, and then notices the bottom of the garden.

T does okay on a Perception test.

The first thing she notices is that it has an interesting feel to it, pleasant but interesting enough to notice that it's not normal.  She also notices there is a tree with a tyre swing hanging off it, a cubby house under it and a trampoline nearby.  She turns to Raj and asks "...since when did you have kids?" and he replies "Short story, we kind of adopted Eli's niece." 

After acting an acknowledgement, T says that Penny will never ask for further information than that.

Irina and Farrah arrive at the house and Niven is once more at the door.  Irina says "Don't bark, Niven."  Niven complies, greeting them with an entire full body wag.  Irina yells out to Raj that they've arrived and then lets herself in.  Raj and Penny overhear in the background, and Penny comments that Irina is a stalker, explaining the airport incident.  Raj laughs and says that doesn't surprise him in the slightest and excuses himself, going inside to do dad things like taking out Farrah's lunchbox and hanging up her school bag and making sure she gets changed into clothing more appropriate for play.  Irina leaves them to it and heads out the back.  There is more banter between Irina and Penny and then Irina attempts to clap Penny over the head.

T rolls much better than C.

Penny judges the clap perfectly and smugly moves her head exactly enough to be missed.  The movement takes her out from behind Irina enough to be visible from the house.  Farrah spots Penny, excitedly yells "Benny!" and charges outside and into Penny, glomping her and startling Penny, who has never met the child before.  Raj, Irina and Penny are too startled to respond to this.  Farrah looks up at Penny, has a moment of confusion herself, and then exclaims that Penny isn't Benny, but that's okay, they can still be friends, and tugs her towards the cubbyhouse saying to come and see Viktor anyway.

The players are extremely confused as Benny is the name of T's character in Medieval (a game that was running concurrent with Modern 1 but not nearly as tight as I'm trying to do this one, and I stopped it very prematurely because there ended up being unhealthy levels of interparty conflict that spilled out of the game) which he had decided was the ancestor of Penny when we started playing it, and Viktor was the name of a NPC friend of Benny's that the player characters had simultaneously constantly worried about and enjoyed teasing.

Thoroughly confused, Penny allows herself to be dragged to the cubby, which she has to stoop to enter but realises on entering that it seems slightly bigger inside than the outside would suggest.  There is a full fairy theme going on inside including a little mushroom table with little mushroom chairs, with three spots set out at the table.  Penny awkwardly perches in one of the tiny chairs in one of the spots.  Farrah is happily chattering to both Penny and "Viktor" who as far as Penny can tell is an empty spot at the table.  Penny's concern mounts when Farrah brings out "tea" (leaves floating in water in little teacups) and mudcakes (literal mud cakes).  Penny frantically texts the group chat for help on the super secret app, Irina responds "suck it up princess, she drags me in there all the time, you'll be fine".  Eli is preoccupied with the grill and Raj helpfully laughs at his phone.

After shooting the response back to Penny, Irina starts helping Eli with the grill and casually drops the question of "which one of you is the pillow biter, I need to know!"

I botch a Wits roll.

Eli turns crimson and is unable to answer.  Irina gleefully thanks Eli for the confirmation, which causes him to blush deeper.

Markos and Benjamin arrive at this point.  Niven greets them somewhat cautiously as while he gets on with Markos, he and Benjamin have a mostly playful rivalry going on.  Benjamin crouches down to challenge Niven while Markos is getting the very full and very heavy esky out of the car.  Markos "accidentally" clips Benjamin's head with the corner of the esky while entering the house, nearly knocking him over, and the two head on in.  Markos announces that he's brought a kilo of trout and a lot of venison.  He and Irina start cooking up a storm.  Markos asks Irina if she's found out who the pillow biter is, Irina replies that it's Eli, Markos triumphantly exclaims that he knew it and the two high five.

Or at least I assume they high five as the players did.  I am simultaneously amused and exasperated by two teenagers acting like late teens-to early 20s.  I tell 12yo that his character probably wants to go see Farrah as Farrah is able to recharge his Glamour.

After quickly saying hi to everyone there, Benjamin goes to see Farrah.  He politely knocks on the doorframe.  Farrah is delighted to see "Uncle Benji" (she is the only person that can get away with calling him that regularly, the others will sometimes teasingly call him that but only around Farrah and not often enough to actually annoy him) and invites him in.  Benjamin acts the polar opposite of how he was acting with the Sidhe, being very cordial and polite with Farrah.  He accepts her invitation to come in and perches on a stool next to Penny, also greeting Viktor whom he can see and hear.  Poor Penny in the meantime has noticed that the cubby now looks big enough for her and Benjamin to stand in even though she knows for a fact that when she entered she had to stoop, and when Benjamin greets Viktor she demands "YOU CAN SEE HIM?!"

Farrah gets some tea and mudcakes for Benjamin and he actually eats the mudcakes (which gives him a point of Glamour for each mudcake) and drinks the "tea", asking what the leaves were from.  Farrah says from the tree above the cubby and Benjamin describes it as "delightful".  Farrah gives Benjamin a drawing that she made for him in kindy.  Benjamin thanks her and after quickly glancing at it, jams it thoughtlessly into his pocket. 

I let 12yo know that most of Farrah's drawings contain 1-2 Glamour.  12yo says that Benjamin acts like he doesn't particularly care for the drawings and does that every time she gives him one, but the second he gets home, he quickly irons out the drawing as much as he can and keeps it on the fridge, so we joke about how he now has a fridge full of dross that he refuses to use (as that would require destroying the drawing to release the Glamour).

Penny also suddenly realises she can see faint outlines of the pretend food and drink that they've been pretending to eat, and it looks eaten, and demands what kind of "vain fae magic" this is.

Outside in the normal world, Irina has gone crinos (as it's safe to do so in Raj's house) to make hauling the large quantities of meat around easier, and realises that hse's left some sauces that she'd brought for the barbeque in the car.  She asks Raj to go and get it because "Markos is covered in fish blood and I'm kind of in crinos".  Raj's response is a laughing "fucking seriously guys" before doing what she asked.  While he's doing that, Irina pokes her head in to check on Farrah and asks if they're having fun.  Penny's terror amuses her greatly, perhaps because Farrah seems oblivious to it.  Farrah asks Irina if she wants a mudcake, Irina replies no thank you she had some for breakfast, and ambles back over to the grill as Raj returns with the condiments.

Shortly after, Raj pokes his head in and tells Farrah he wants to steal Penny now because he hasn't seen her for a very long time.  Penny is only too happy to bolt out of the cubbyhouse, calling Raj "my saviour" as she steps back  into the real world.  As she's leaving, Penny cheerfully calls out "Bye Aunty Penny!" and then a little boy's voice calls out "Bye Benny!" but on looking back into the cubbyhouse, she just sees Benjamin and Farrah in animated conversation.  Penny states that Farrah is insane and haunted and asks what she is, Raj says she's a Fae and he hadn't thought to warn her.  Penny asks about Viktor, Raj says that according to Eli, Viktor is Farrah's "imaginary friend" who is obviously not that imaginary.  Penny complains about being called "Benny, with a B!" Irina suggests that perhaps it's an accent that's mangling it as Viktor sounds like a Russian name.

T, C and 16yo have a very short ooc discussion trying to work Viktor out.

Raj rhetorically asks Penny if she'd like her gear back, Penny immediately heads towards the nearest shed.  Raj playfully asks her if she knows where he put it, she pauses and then decides to follow him instead.  On the way, Markos hands them fish burgers.  Penny is dubious but Raj assures her that Markos makes great fish burgers, and after a bite, Penny agrees.  Markos also feeds a patty to Niven who is delighted.  They go to the big shed which has some pretty beefy security, Raj does a keypad entry and lets them in.  There is a smaller shed inside the big shed that they enter through, Raj takes her through into the bigger section where her rifle and ammo are.  Penny checks the gear and is happy that it's in good condition and everything is there.  While they're in a quieter area, Raj explains to Penny that he's pulled their team together into basically a mercenary team, describing it as they do stuff that needs doing but that nobody wants to be associated with having done, and asking if she wants in, as "I really need someone on the ground to help manage those idiots," (with "those idiots" being said with a lot of affection).  Penny agrees to joining the mercenary team, and the two head back outside to find Irina and Markos competitively making meatballs, Irina points out one of Markos' meatballs is larger than the others and screams "CONSISTENCY!" to which Markos responds "...FUCK" and remakes it, while Benjamin and Niven are on the ground semi-seriously fighitng for meatball scraps.

At some point after either this session or the next one, the boys made Redcaps for the casual game and sheepishly admitted to liking Changeling XD and then the thing that I learned from how they've been playing is that protective Redcaps are terrifying.

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