This is the write-up for the third playtesting session for the Dresden Files Accelerated Edition. All the players were present for this one and I think much fun was had by all.
The scenario is designed to be deliberately open-ended — it can be played as a stand-alone adventure or can be hooked into a larger campaign if the group decides to carry on beyond the playtesting requirements; either way, one more session should resolve the primary Euphorium plotline (who’s making and selling it, how, why, for what benefit/group/purpose, etc.).
As it stands, I’m fairly sure we’re going to need to split the UK and US contingents because scheduling is a pure bitch with a total time-zone difference of 7 hours and players with weird and wonderful work schedules. That’s life beyond the time-rich college-age, I guess. We’ll figure it out.
I kicked around the idea of starting a whole nother blog for tabletop stuff, but was convinced by various people (and my own instincts) to just keep things all together here. Those who prefer one type of post over another can simply pick and choose, and I don’t need to muck about with a whole new identity thing in a whole new corner of the intertubes. I like this particular corner.
Anyway, here’s session three. Yes, there was finally some combat!
The character pictures have been cribbed off the internet and all credit where credit might be due — my players found them, sue them if you must.
DFAE Playtest – Session 3
Cieran Muldoon, Wyldfae Undertaker to the supes of Seattle
Korbin Stevens, Chaotic Good wizard and research professional
Jeremiah Tooms, Small-Time Mortal Street Criminal
Sasha Travis, Streetwise EMT (and were-Crow)
Euphorium for the masses
Session 3 begins where Session 2 left off.
Korbin and Linda and the Loony in the Library
We cut back to Korbin Stevens, whose absence from the previous scenes is explained in a short flashback.
While at the Lois Lanes he receives a call from Linda Phyllis, the ever-helpful librarian from the Restricted Occult collection in the social sciences/anthropology wing of the U-Dub library. She claims to have found a volume she thinks Korbin would find very useful in his research – and to anyone but Korbin, it’s obvious Linda has a thing for Korbin and is (mostly) trying to find an excuse to see him again. Korbin, however, is blissfully oblivious – but he does head up to the library.
Linda has just offered Korbin a cup of coffee in the librarians’ break-room when one of the handful of students working in that part of the library begins to act out violently, ripping up the book he was reading before hurling it away from him and starting on another. The librarians and other students are shocked, of course, but Korbin has a feeling this might be another Euphorium event. The other librarian (not Linda) tries to call the security desk downstairs, but the phone makes an ominous crackling FZZZZT noise and produces a puff of smoke before going dead. Looking innocent, Korbin moves away a few feet, but the [wizard’s hex] damage is done.
The student carries on hurling books in random directions. A couple of the students flee. One decides to capture the meltdown on his phone for immediate upload to YouTube. One crouches down under a desk. And the last student, a blond-haired girl, merely sits where she was, gazing at the ape-shit student as though she’s watching a particularly pleasant romantic comedy. When the ape-shit student hurls a book at her, yelling unprintable imprecations, she merely shifts aside to avoid it but doesn’t otherwise react.
As this is going on, Korbin [clearly begging the GM to have something horrible happen to him one of these days] decides to use the Sight on the violent student. [DFAE has mechanics for this. Korbin fails the roll, but decides to apply some stress to it and manages to nudge it up into a success.] [The GM now knows to ask for additional stress bonuses to be applied BEFORE the roll, so that she doesn’t have to describe the same Sight event twice in two different ways.]
What he sees is confusing, but that’s the Sight for ya. Where the angry student’s head should be, Korbin instead sees a hole, like a tear in the fabric of reality, and through that hole he sees a field of tall, purple, poppy-like flowers under a dark violet starless sky. Instead of the flower-head, however, these plants have a large eye which weeps a deep purple-black sap. The plants appear to be being scythed down (literally) in sheaves, and as they fall, they scream. Korbin is fairly sure he’s seeing into a section of the Nevernever.
He closes his Sight and ponders his options for a moment, then decides that the safest course of action for everyone would be to knock the violent student out.
One excellent roll and a sleep spell later, the student collapses in a heap mid-swear word and begins to snore. Korbin knows he only has a few minutes until sunset, at which point the spell will likely unravel. He tells the other students the kid has clearly been working too hard and must have had some kind of breakdown, then hauls said kid into a surprisingly well-practiced fireman’s carry and dumps him on the couch in the librarians’ break-room.
He barely has time to wake the kid up and offer him some strong coffee before security shows up, in the form of a huffing middle-aged officer who thought the last place anything strenuous would ever happen would be a University library.
When questioned, the kid reveals he has no memory of becoming violent. He does hope he didn’t hurt anyone, and then admits he’s been taking ‘smart drugs’ to do better and stay awake. Maybe those are having unfortunate side-effects? Korbin is relatively sure the young man is telling the truth as he knows it.
Long story short, Linda dresses the kid down as only a librarian can but tells the security officer that the matter need go no further provided the student pays for any damaged books.
Korbin decides he’d better try to join up with his friends and let them know what just happened. His research date appointment with Linda will have to wait. [The research is relevant to Korbin’s backstory and trouble, not to the current scenario.] On his way out of the library, he notes the young blond woman is no longer there.
Discussion, Theory, Analysis
He joins the other PCs at Muldoon & Sons, and as they are discussing the evening’s rather packed events, Jeremiah (having woken up) attracts their attention to a news story he just caught on his phone, which states that a young blond woman was found dead at the U-Dub library a few hours ago. Her picture matches that of the woman Korbin saw in the library (the one who was presumably on Euphorium).
Impelled by Sasha, who is extremely unhappy at the rising body count, the PCs decide that the Euphorium needs to be examined in more detail and reach out to their contacts:
- Sasha hands a vial over to a (mortal, not in-the-know) lab tech acquaintance of hers (“Bob”), not expecting much but figuring it can’t hurt. The tech reports back that the vial contains water, a little alcohol, something unknown, and something else unknown that is a lot like blood but not really – perhaps something synthetic? Maybe it’s True Blood, heh heh. And can he have another vial to examine because this stuff is super interesting and he’s never seen anything like it before? Wisely, Sasha refuses.
- Cieran hands a vial over to the person he routinely uses to inspect… unorthodox… substances. [A forensic scientist working in ____ who also happens to be a changeling (based on the ‘Bones’ tropes). The GM makes recurring-NPC notes for both squints.] Said squint’s report is not much more helpful: water, alcohol, something unknown but probably from the Nevernever, and something else unknown that is but isn’t quite blood. Cieran immediately deduces [correctly] that this last element is likely White Court vampire blood – though this is not scientifically confirmed as yet.
- Korbin, meanwhile, does his own examination of the Euphorium. Rather than trying to analyse its composition, however, he decides to try to trace the vial’s origin. [For playtesting purposes, this is run as a particular kind of ritual whose main purpose is to move the action forward to a new scene or location.] Korbin succeeds with style [we got a lot of those during the session, though sadly none were from the GM], and with a few hours of concentration and a series of increasingly large-scale maps manages to track the vial down to an abandoned industrial complex on the outskirts of town.
- Jeremiah, not blessed with ‘squint’ friends, takes the day to catch up on some sleep.
A few other things happen during that day. When she comes off duty from her fire station Sasha is very unsubtly told by a couple of cops to back off the Euphorium business; she recognizes one as one of the off-duty policemen at the Hot Lips, and clearly he recognized her too. She gives them as much attitude as she dares, but is left angry and a little shaken. Cieran spots – and easily shakes, thanks to his Pathfinder stunt – some goons watching his place of business, presumably sent by Rhonda McLaine to make sure he, too, keeps his nose out of White Court affairs.
Jeremiah, meanwhile, receives an aggrieved and whiny phonecall from Devlin, demanding his phone back. Amused, Jeremiah agrees.
That evening the PCs meet up at the Lanes to compare notes before piling into Korbin’s ageing (but difficult to hex) Saab and heading for the nastier part of town. Having grown up ‘on the streets’, Sasha has heard of the area and can tell the others that it has a bad reputation. Even most desperate among the homeless tend to avoid it, for no reason anyone can directly point to. It’s just got a bad aura.
From Lanes to Planes
They park near the complex, which turns out to be some aerospace-related facility that is now closed down and unused. Jeremiah goes on ahead to scout the area and try to narrow down what building they might be looking for, based on Korbin’s pointed “sort of that way” instructions. His Sneak roll is so good that he entirely avoids the two armed guards, locates a likely-looking building, and leads the other PCs to it without tripping any alarms.
The building in question seems to be an administrative and warehouse building, with offices at the end where the PCs came in. Following Korbin’s magical tracking sense, they venture carefully into the back of the building, passing some recent signs of use as they go (new candy bar wrappers, discarded fast food bags and soda cans, etc.). The PCs all have a vaguely uneasy feeling, except for Cieran who apparently is not fazed in the slightest [and appears to be sliding closer and closer to Winter, as subsequent events will show].
After a few tense but uneventful moments of exploration, Jeremiah (in the lead) spots a key-pad locked and alarmed door with a camera mounted above it. He stops the group and examines the setup, which seems to be one of those cheap systems the user can link to their smartphone. The PCs ask Korbin whether he can hex stuff on purpose, or does it only happen when he doesn’t want it to, and after a successful roll Korbin proves that it’s the former; the light on top of the camera winks out and the keypad turns off.
The PCs stop to sense the air around them. Korbin, occupied by his tracking spell, senses nothing in particular. Jeremiah hears several people on the other side of the door, as does Sasha, and Cieran gets a feeling of thin-ness from somewhere up ahead that usually signals a weak spot between the real world and the Nevernever.
[Around this point the GM asks the players to confirm what weapons they brought with them. Sasha has her First Aid kit and nothing else. Korbin has his magic. Cieran has brought his silver Fae-made sword, a slim blade which looks perfectly capable of murder. And Jeremiah (who does have access to a gun but chose not to bring one) proudly brandishes his favourite weapon: a pool ball in a long white tube sock.
[And here, in a nutshell, we have the difference between Cieran – ages-old scion of Faerie nobility and (so it is rumoured) possessed of dragonsblood, however reduced his current circumstances may be – and Jeremiah, a barely out of his teens scion of the streets and unknown (but probably unsavoury) parents. This is probably also where the PCs suddenly gelled as a group of PCs, staring at each other in a darkened corridor and trying to laugh quietly enough to avoid alerting the guards. Great moment.]
[Also at this point, Sasha’s player had to leave but agreed to allow the remaining players to semi-play her, provided nobody threw her into gaping pits of lava or otherwise got the character killed.]
Jeremiah, in fine Stealthy fettle this evening, does another amazing roll and manages to crack open the door and peer inside without attracting anyone’s attention. He sees what the GM describes as an industrial kitchen and the players immediately describe as a meth lab (not far off the mark, as it turns out). The large room also contains a TV, currently showing a football game that’s being watched by two armed guards and a better-dressed, sharper-looking guard who is probably their boss. Beyond them, working at prep tables covered in distillation and cooking equipment, Jeremiah spots three odd-looking figures: two look like short, wizened children, and one looks like a shrunken, angry Danny de Vito. “Oh,” says Jeremiah’s player [completely accurately, as it happens], “He looks just like a goblin!” He also sees some commercial-sized fridges, some cabinets and lockers, a stack of plastic tubs and wicker trugs, and a second door.
Here’s a screenshot of the Roll20 map I sketched out with my amazing freehand drawing talents (as it stands at the end of the session). Names were added for a modicum of clarity. It’s not van Gogh but it was certainly more than enough for the game. Click for larger version.
Finally! A Fight!
Some planning ensues. A diversion is needed. The guards must be separated, ideally drawn out, and then disabled so that the PCs can examine this meth lab more closely. (Sasha’s previously-stated plan was to try to disrupt the production of Euphorium by eliminating or adulterating one of the unknown ingredients, if they could be found. Presumably this kitchen is where said ingredients must be.)
Jeremiah and Korbin make their way down the corridor, into a warehouse and loading area, and to the far side of the second door leading to the kitchen. Cieran and Sasha (veiled by Cieran) wait near the kitchen door. Then, subtle as ever, Jeremiah bangs loudly on the door and prepares to kosh whoever comes through it.
For such a simple, one might say not overly intelligent plan (considering the guards are armed with Uzis and the PCs have one sword and a pool-ball-in-a-sock [and Korbin’s magic, of course]), it succeeds brilliantly. The PCs continue to roll like the heroes they are while the GM remains apparently unable to roll higher than zero. One guard pokes his upper body through the door and in a swift one-two, Jeremiah koshes him (aiming for the head but hitting the shoulder) while Korbin reprises his earlier sleep spell and knocks him out cold. Jeremiah and Korbin then hit the deck in order to avoid a handful of shots fired by the guard boss. Jeremiah grabs the first guard’s Uzi, deciding that a gun might not be such a bad thing to have after all.
Meanwhile, the second guard comes out the other door into the hallway where Cieran and Sasha are waiting. Cieran lunges at him and does so well he is able to skewer the guard through the forearm and make him drop his weapon. Sasha nips in and kicks the Uzi down the corridor, then changes her mind and runs to pick it up.
Jeremiah decides it’s time to get in the kitchen. He ducks, dives and rolls his way into the prep and cooking area. The two wizened child-like creatures are moving away in alarm, heading towards the back wall of the room, but the Danny de Vito-like goblin is ignoring the commotion and carrying on with his distillation. He seems quite intent.
Korbin, for his part, reckons it’s time to take out the guard boss. He crafts a masterful illusion of a grenade which he lobs over the half-wall that separates the kitchen area from the guard area, aiming at the place where the guard boss seems to have taken cover. He succeeds so well (against a terrible roll from the target) that the guard boss believes he’s hit and passes out.
At the same time, Cieran rips his blade out of the second guard’s arm and plunges it back in, this time directly through the heart. It’s a quick death. Barely pausing, Cieran enters the room and notes that the ‘grenade’ apparently didn’t do any damage whatsoever, although the guard boss is out cold on the floor next to the TV. He’s about to tie up that loose end for good when Sasha grabs his arm and stops him. Cieran shrugs and moves on.
Jeremiah, now in the middle of the prep area, stands up, brandishes the first guard’s Uzi, and yells “Freeze, suckas!”
The wizened child-like creatures ignore him. They are staring intently at the back wall of the room, which begins to shimmer as though through heat haze. The de Vito-like goblin has finally backed away from his cooking, but instead of joining his underlings by the slowly coalescing portal, he heads towards the commercial fridges.
Cieran notes with satisfaction that his hunch was right: the two sous-chefs are undoubtedly opening a portal to the Nevernever. He strides across the room to examine the stack of tubs and trugs. In the latter he sees the remains of plant stalks. In the former, he sees piles of what look like eyeballs sitting in a dark purple, sap-like liquid.
The session had to end there, because it was getting rather late for the poor UK players. Thus endeth the third of the minimum number of play sessions we needed to get done for the playtest.
–End of Session 3–