Sunday, November 4, 2012

[Monster of the Week] GUGaCon One-Shot: The Jersey Mothman


I just returned from the GUGaCon, a mini-con that GUGS attempts to run at least once every year. As I've been itching to try out Mike Sands' awesome AW hack, Monster of the Week, I signed myself up as a GM for the evening portion of the event and ran it as a one-shot. Here's my report on how the game turned out:

The Hunters
Charles (the Snoop - played by Sam) - Charles is a jittery film student and webmaster of the moderately well-known Youtube channel by the name of thetruthisoutthere. He's best friends with Angus from their film class at university. Helped Constance kill a story which threatened her reputation as a university professor. He was saved by Elena when he blundered into a vampire nest she happened to be staking out. And Eliza is his creepy cousin, who's moving to New Jersey with Constance.

Angus McGuffin (the Flake - played by Paul) - Perfectly average looking in appearance and dress sense, though he's got a bit of a Scotsman in him, it seems. He only befriended Charles because he's convinced he's somehow tied into the Illuminati conspiracy. He looked up Constance's work on the internet, and all signs pointed towards them working together, so he got in touch with her. Elena is an old friend of his, they used to play wargames at the local RP soc, before she got all vengeful. As for Eliza, he knows her through cryptozoology and conspiracy theory sites they both frequent.

Constance Trivle (the Expert - played by Doc) - A stern faced university professor, dressed in finely tailored clothes. She has worked with vampires in the past, trying to help them in their efforts to find a cure, and believes not all vampires are bad. She nearly got in trouble after she was seen fighting a monster on campus, but one of the students she saved (Charles) helped her cover it up. Angus is a very distant cousin, thrice removed, her side of the family don't like to talk about his side much. Elena knows of Constance's dealings with vampires and she's not impressed with Constance's views on them. Eliza is Constance's ward, she took the girl into her care in order to help her learn to control her powers.

Elena (the Wronged - played by Heather) - A steely eyed, scar-faced woman often dressed in hunting gear, Elena lost her boyfriend just after he proposed to her when they were attacked by vampires. She got away but he was turned, and she was later forced to kill him in self-defence. She has been on a vengeful crusade against vampires ever since. Charles helped her out with finding a nest, and even though she had to pull his fat out of the fire when he blundered on in, she still feels she owes him for the help. Angus has withheld information from her on people she suspects of being vampires, because he doesn't trust her. Constance has helped Elena train to fight against the vampires and everything else out there. Eliza is the orphaned daughter of some old friends of hers, who she was unable to save from vampires who came after them.

Eliza (the Spooky - Played by Mike) - Eliza is a 9 year old girl, dressed like something out of the 1800s, with dead eyes and a creepy, dreamy voice. Her powers manifested due to the stress of losing her parents in a vampire attack. She remembers Elena as a close friend of the family, but ever since the night she saved her from the vampires she's been distant towards her, because she failed to save her parents. After her powers manifested, Elena took her to see Constance, who took Eliza into her care and helped her learn to control them. Charles is her big cousin. She once made Angus's computer explode during a tantrum.

The Session
We started the game off with the gang getting ready to head down to Lake Abbot in New Jersey, where there have been reported sightings of a winged creature in the local area. Constance is also bumming a ride off of them, because she's moving to New Brunswick to take on a visiting fellowship at Rutgers and Eliza is there because she's also moving up with her.

Before they hit the road, Angus does some research to find out what might be used to harm the Jersey Devil. He finds some lore that indicates iron may harm it. Charles starts recording the proceedings as soon as they hit the road. On the way, Constance takes a look at some of the reports on the sightings in the area and surmises that they're actually dealing with a Mothman. She also finds that the only 'official' sightings of the Mothman previously occured in Point Pleasant between 1966 and 1967, and ended with the catastrophic collapse of the Silver Bridge, which some believe the Mothman was responsible for. Constance suggests that they put an end to the creature before such a tragedy can be repeated.

Just after dusk, they're getting near to the town when they encounter a roadblock. The sheriff meets them and explains that there's been a crash in the road; a truck driver lost control of his vehicle and caused a collision. The sheriff assures them it won't take long to clear things up. Charles asks her some questions, showing her his press pass, and gets a bit more information. The driver claims he saw something huge flying towards him and swerved to avoid it, but he's pretty delirious and in critical condition. With some mental trickery from Eliza, they're able to bypass the roadblock and pass by the wreckage as the driver is being carried away in a stretcher. Eliza tries to read his thoughts, but his mind isn't coherent enough to get a good fix on it.

As it's late, they check into a hotel for the night, except for Angus, who stays in the van to look stuff up on his computer. While he's trying to get info from his net friends, there's a power fluctuation which seems to drain his battery. In the motel, Charles notices the power disruption as the lights flicker. He turns on his EMF detector and it goes crazy, then it diminishes to normal levels again. He wakes Constance to let her know, and discover that Eliza is not in the room. They head downstairs to ask the staff if they've seen her. Turns out Eliza has actually got Elena to take her down to the bar and get her some orange juice, and they head back up in the lift just as Charles and Constance are taking the stairs down. Constance is furious with the bartender when she learns he served Eliza orange juice: 'I know what you people put in orange juice.'

As Eliza and Elena arrive back in Elena's room, Charles' EMF detector starts going nuts again and they follow the signal upstairs. In Elena's room, the lights go out and the Mothman's blazing red eyes are seen peering inside the window as it hovers outside. Elena raises her weapon, but Eliza is in the way, as she's stepped forward and starts communicating with it telepathically. It seems the Mothman felt her psychic presence earlier, and was curious. She asks it what it wants, and it tells her it's searching for 'the nexus'. She asks what the nexus is, but before the Mothman can answer, Charles comes bursting in and fires his .32 through the window at the creature. It plinks off of the Mothman's hide and the creature flees, while Elena butts Charles in the face with her shotgun out of reflex, not expecting his sudden dramatic entrance. Angus rushes into the hotel on hearing the gunshot and tries to talk the manager out of calling the authorities. Unfortunately, he only makes the manager more desperate to get the sheriff, who arrives a short while later to question them. Charles tries to explain the matter, saying that there was an intruder on the fire escape outside the window. He is asked to go down to the sheriff's office and give a statement. He's also fined for damage to hotel property.

The next morning, the group head out to the Ostler farm, where one of the earlier sightings took place. From questioning Mr Ostler and Eliza casting some magic to see the events of a few nights ago, they're able to ascertain that the Mothman tried to open some kind of portal, but the portal collapsed and the excess energy released killed the farmer's dog and two cows.

From this, and the information Eliza gleaned from her conversation with the Mothman, Constance theorises that the Mothman is attempting to find a connection between this plane of existence and another in order to either cross over or bring something through. Either way, the effects on local reality are clearly destructive. Eliza doesn't understand this, and thinks they should help the Mothman find the nexus. For this reason, Constance doesn't reveal that she has already identified the likely nexus point as the Abbotsview Bridge.

In order to track the Mothman to its hiding place, Eliza uses her mental powers to reach out and make contact with its mind, and is able to tell the group where it is right now. It's in the pine barrens, across the nearby river. They set off up the hiking trail into the barrens, and come across an area of flattened trees a little past the river, with the shape of a winged humanoid figure scorched into the earth at its centre. This looks to be the spot where the Mothman arrived in this world. They continue onwards, spotting a pair of deer hunters nearby just as the EMF detector indicates the Mothman is approaching their location.

While Constance distracts the hunters by pretending to be an animal protection officer and demanding to see their hunting licences, Eliza attempts to make contact with the Mothman's mind again. It was moving away from them, but when it senses Eliza it comes back around and lands in front of the girl. The hunters see this, and raise their weapons, though they're too shocked by the creature's appearance to fire straight away. Meanwhile, Eliza converses with the Mothman and discovers that it only wants to go home. She asks if she can help, and the Mothman says that it could use her to boost its mystic senses to widen its search. Of course, Eliza realises this would burn her out and leave her brain dead. She decides she doesn't like the Mothman anymore and says: 'But I don't want to die.'

Hearing this, Constance orders the hunters to open fire. They do, and the creature lets out a terrifying scream. Eliza uses telekinetic force to enhance her punch and lamps the Mothman square in the chest, sending it flying into a tree. Constance charges it and stabs it in the eye with her magical dagger, twists the dagger and makes a run for it. Enraged, the Mothman flies after her, but Elena gets in the way, and it grabs her and slams her into a tree instead. At this point though, it rears back and holds its head in pain as Eliza attacks it with her mind. This gives the others the opportunity to blast it to pieces with their various guns.

The Mothman collapses and starts shimmering, Eliza notices that it's bleeding off a lot of energy and Constance recommends they all run. They do so, but the energy wave still catches them. Only Charles is really badly hurt by it though, getting a nasty case of sunburn but manages to survive. Shame the same can't be said of the camera though. The footage on the tape seems okay too, there's enough to put something together for the Youtube channel...after Charles has had some time to recover from his injuries.

Thoughts On The Game
Overall, the players enjoyed the game and I enjoyed running it. Character creation was fun in itself, as the players enjoyed working out how their characters were connected to each other. There was some slight resistance to the way the system limits you to specific options, as in the Investigate A Mystery move, but people got into it a bit more as they played. The only thing I think I could work on, as Keeper, is remembering to use the Keeper moves and Threat moves a bit more. As it was, I probably was actually doing moves, but it was more a case of 'this seems like the kind of thing that should happen now, so I'll say that's what happens', rather than my consciously choosing from a list of available moves.

From this first game, I really like the way the system works. My only issues are that the 'Use Magic' move seems a bit powerful and has definite potential for abuse in games. I'm also not sure about the experience system, as it seems with players getting experience every time they roll highlighted ratings, they level up maybe once or twice per session. That's cool for a one-shot, but it seems like it might be a bit too fast a progression for campaign play. That said, I'm definitely looking forward to running this as a campaign, and already have a group ready to put characters together for one over IRC this Monday evening.

P.S. The actual play reports for 'Marvel Heroic Roleplaying - X-Men: Last Class' will resume shortly. There was a brief hiatus due to clashing schedules, and Doc ran a side-adventure as a one-shot, but we've started again as of last Saturday and I'll be resuming the APs after I get Doc to look over my write-up of the most recent session and give it his stamp of GM approval.

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