Monday, December 2, 2013

[Actual Play] Monster of the Week - The Meddling Kids in...Too Many Draculas!

This one-shot has been a long-time coming, but kept getting pushed back either because the timing wasn't right, or illness/other commitments on the part of the players after we had done a character creation session. But we finally got most of the group together on Saturday and went ahead with the session.

Mike Cugley as Reg Collins (the Snoop): Reg is a semi-famous local reporter who specializes in cases of the weird and unexplained. Armed with his digital video camera, sound recorder and remote controlled camera drone, and his trusty multitool, Reg seeks out the vampires, the demons and forces of darkness in order to get a soundbite for his show.

Heather Williams as Laura (the Meddling Kid): Laura is a wannabe detective and a big fan of reg's work, even though she doesn't really believe in the supernatural. She's helping Reg out as an intern, along with her big brother, John.

Malik Took as John Doo (the Mundane): John is Laura's elder brother and helps out on Reg's show with her. Since he has a van, this usually means he winds up ferrying Reg and Laura around during cases.

Sandy McMallister as Aron Axe (the Spooky): Aron is John and Laura's weirdo cousin. He fell under Reg's scrutiny after using his strange powers to cast a hex on a snotty shopkeeper who was mean to him. Nothing harmful, but still not very nice, so Reg decided to keep an eye on him. But when Aron later used his powers to save Laura, when her stubborn disbelief in the supernatural nearly got her eaten by a monster, Reg decided Aron wasn't so bad. He killed the story he was making about Aron, and keeps him around because his skills are handy.


It all begins when Reg hears from his police contacts about some exsanguinated corpses turning up at the nearby House of Dracula theme park over the past week. Deciding to check that out, Reg and the gang pile into John's van and head out to the theme park where, upon arrival, they find themselves surrounded by 'Draculas' and assorted other vampire cosplayers. If there is a vampire at large in the theme park, finding them is going to be a pain in the ass.

They start their search at the Carpathian Coach Ride, where the alleged first victim was discovered - but the body vanished before authorities showed up - and question the ride operator. He admits that the ride has suffered some problems lately, first with the body that was sighted by visitors inside, then with a variety of faults which could have been fatal, but nobody has yet been hurt. While John sneaks in through the maintenance entrance, the rest of the gang get on the ride to see what happens.

On the coach ride, Reg suffers a near-miss with a scythe while on the ride, and then the coach switches tracks and hurtles towards a gap in the track. Reg and Laura jump from the coach - having unlocked the safety bar - and wind up on opposite sides of the track, while Aron remains on the train which - luckily for him - screeches to a halt just inches from the edge of the drop. They are then confronted by someone dressed in the style of Bela Lugosi's Dracula. He claims to be the real Dracula, and declares that this theme park is an insult to his name and that they should leave or face their doom.

Meanwhile, in the maintenance area, John opens a closet and has an exsanguinated corpse fall on top of him. Not a real one, though. It's a rubber dummy, but very convincing. Also, it doesn't look like this is where it should be stored.

The Lugosi wannabe disappears in a puff of smoke, but that doesn't stop Laura from running after him through the maintenance tunnels. Meanwhile, Aron is incapacitated by a vision of the theme park's hotel in flames. Laura thinks she's caught up with the Lugosi guy, but comes across someone in a different vampire get-up, this time in the style of Nosferatu. He's really committed to the role, too, because he lunges forward to bite her. She screams and runs away, bumping into a grumpy janitor by the name of Higgins, who leads her back to her friends and escorts them out of the building. John comes across Nosferatu next, and also runs, finding a fire escape and exiting the building.

At the entrance to the coach ride, Reg and his fellows explain what happened inside, and the ride operator opens up his board to check it out, only for it to give him and Reg a nasty shock. Someone has definitely tampered with the controls, and a check of the CCTV footage reveals the Lugosi impersonator - Reg has, by now, checked his own footage and is fairly certain the man they encountered was just a guy wearing prosthetics and a costume - opening up the panel and messing around with it.

A short while later, having been told about Aron's vision, Reg heads to the House of Dracula hotel to try and figure out where someone could start a fire from. He comes up blank, but little does he know that his wondering aloud about incendiary devices has attracted some unwanted attention from a shadowy figure, who thinks an incendiary device sounds like a neat idea.

Meanwhile, Laura is checking out the VampFashion Clothing Shop to see who has purchased costumes like the one the Dracula impersonator was wearing in the Carpathian Coach Ride. She finds a list of names, which includes janitor Higgins. She finds that interesting, given that Higgins claimed to despise the theme park's current horror theme. As she's leaving, she is awkwardly hit on by a guy with a passing resemblence to Robert Pattinson wearing glitter and doing the whole Twilight schtick. The Pattinson lookalike is then roughly shoved aside by a more punkish vamp cosplayer, who says he'll 'show him how it's done'. Laura is much more impressed by this guy, who introduces himself as Jerry, and he invites her to join him for a drink. She agrees, but activates a bug so that Reg can listen in on them.

When they arrive at the 'We Do Not Drink...Wine' Bar, located within the House of Dracula Hotel, the barman asks them both for ID, but Jerry leans towards him and says, 'Forget the sodding ID, just get us our drinks'. Strangely, the barman does just that. Laura starts casually questioning Jerry, but she's a little too blunt and eventually Jerry decides to just cut to the chase, sprouting fangs. Realising Laura is in trouble, Reg runs to the rescue, only to find her viciously kicking Jerry repeatedly in the nads. Jerry doesn't appreciate this, and sprouts fur and claws, becoming a wolfman. In the fight which ensues, the bar gets set on fire, but luckily Aron is able to put out the flames before they get out of hand. Jerry is staked and eventually burns away into ash.

Meanwhile, Laura has run away by this point, and runs into the Nosferatu guy again. She screams, bringing the others running after they've dispatched Jerry, and they notice that Nosferatu is completely monochrome and also flickering a little bit. Aron reckons this is a psychic construct of some kind, but Laura declares that it is not real, but a hologram projected by the real culprit, janitor Higgins, who has been posing as Dracula and using various other cheap tricks to scare away visitors and put the park out of business. Higgins, who happens to be nearby, admits that she's right, except for one thing: that projection ain't one of his. Higgins makes a break for it, and Laura splits from the group to chase after him.

As Nosferatu tries to attack the rest of the gang, Aron sets up a ward to hold it in place and then casts a spell to locate the source of the psychic projection. This shows them a cord which leads to one of the hotel rooms, which Reg unlocks with his multitool and sneaks in. They find a family - husband and wife, and two kids - sleeping soundly, except for the father who seems to be having a nightmare. Reg pours a glass of water from the sink and splashes it on the man, waking him up. After calming him down and assuring them that they mean no harm, they discover that the man - William McAllister - had been watching Murnau's Nosferatu a few nights ago and it had given him nightmares. They figure this triggered some latent psychic ability which created the psychic projection of Nosferatu, which hasn't been dissipated by McAllister's rude awakening and is still coming. Thinking quickly, Reg turns on the TV and switches to the cartoon channel - on which Count Duckula is currently airing - and gets McAllister to focus on that. As a result, Nosferatu transforms into Count Duckula, who promptly asks if they have any tomato juice.

Meanwhile, Laura chases Higgins to the maintenance entrance to the Carpathian Coach Ride. Despite her misgivings, she heads inside after him, only to find him lying on the floor with bite marks in his neck. Some blood drips on her from the ceiling and she looks up in time to see another Bela Lugosi-style Dracula in much more convincing make-up clinging to the ceiling with blood dripping from his lips. He drops down on her, but she pulls out a stake and drives it into his heart as he falls. She gets up and runs from him, back out of the building.

Reg and the others catch up with her in time to find this new Dracula staggering after her, clutching at the stake in his chest. She drives the stake home with a kick and the vampire disappears with a scream in a cloud of mist. With this last battle over, they hope that this is the end of the troubles for the park and head back to their van to recouperate. They don't see the cloud of mist return and start to reform, with Dracula's cackling in the air...


Post-game reflection
I really hate dealing with parties that split up. I always feel like I end up devoting too much time to one player or group of players and not enough on the other. I also wish I'd had more organised notes for this. Usually when I make up a scenario for MotW I use the preparation sheets, so the important NPCs and locations are all together on one or two sheets of paper. In this case I was using a pre-written scenario, so I kept having to leaf through a stack of papers to find the right names for NPCs/locations, and stats, which slowed things down at times. That's actually a problem with my games in general, organising my notes so that I can easily reference the relevant NPC sheets or whatever. I also neglected the actual Dracula NPC's side of things, so he showed up at the end as a sort of after-thought. On the whole though, my players seemed to enjoy the scenario, and we managed to reach a coclusion of sorts even though I had a sinking feeling about halfway through that the scenario title ('Too Many Draculas') was perhaps a bit too true.
I'll be getting in touch with Mike Sands shortly to give him some feedback on the scenario, and hopefully I won't have to wait as long before I can run his second playtest scenario. Although, with GUGS wrapping up soon for Christmas, I'm running out of opportunities to run it before New Year's. I guess we'll see how things work out.

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