GM’s Blog – Geist: the Sin-Eaters – 21st May 2012

So last week we ended the session with the krewe preparing to spring an ambush on the Strangers, a group of pain-obsessed Bound with whom they do not see eye to eye. For this reason I was expecting a session dominated by combat and did not spend much time planning out other activities for the evening. By now you will probably have noticed that a lack of preparation is a recurring motif of my games.

I spent the first half hour of the game prepping combat utilities and bringing my newest player up to speed with my house rules (many of which were adopted from “World of Darkness: Mirrors”) as I have quite a few combat hacks in place. I confess that this was remiss of me as I should have sent him the house rules before his first session or otherwise given them to him between sessions. As events unfolded I realised that I’d wasted the time preparing for combat; the situation was resolved peacefully and, to my mind, much more satisfyingly.

At the beginning of the session a Stranger (Diesel) used his Industrial Boneyard to shut down the building’s alarm so that their failure to evacuate would not be suspicious. He had already dealt with the fire itself and knew that the building was not under threat. Having notified his colleague Raven by text message of the situation (using his arcane powers to send txt spk messages) he, Raven and their surly young associate Knives descended into the club’s BDSM “dungeon” to brief their leader Uncle T (Garth Tanner) on the situation.

This scene was a little unusual to play out as I had to roleplay all of the Strangers interacting with each other without any player character being physically present. This was due to the intangible presence of Toby Williams, who was using his own Boneyard to spy on the Strangers. While I initially found it a bit awkward I soon found the Strangers’ voices and enjoyed the scene.

On being informed that they had been observed remotely Uncle T pointed out that there was a high likelihood that they were still being observed and suggested that circumspection was used in their conversation. He addressed the suspected voyeur directly and told them that he and his Krewe would be available to talk with them upstairs in the club for the next fifteen minutes if they had some kind of problem, but otherwise they would be leaving.

The group rallied together and decided to meet with the Strangers in the bar in order to express their concerns over their immoral actions. In the early stages of this scene Dr Clarke remained aloof, sitting at the bar to order an Orca Ballgag, a cocktail which he described came in a vessel shaped like an orca penis. This was found amusing by the group so I let it stand. More than that I located a picture of an actual orca penis and describied the glass as being like “a yard of ale, only kinkier”. Was this over the line of what could be considered appropriate? In some groups almost certainly; in my group’s case I suspect that it formed one of the more memorable incidents of the night.

So Dr Peace, who was the worst affected by the Strangers’ actions (they got him fired from his job as a police pathologist in order to stop him digging into their activities) led the conversation with Uncle T and the Strangers. T immediately put the players on the back foot by making no effort to deny their accusations. As far as he was concerned what his Krewe was doing was none of their business.

They suggested that his actions were causing undue attention to be paid to members of the Bound community but he scoffed at this on the basis that nobody had successfully tied them to the case except for Twilight Investigations – other Sin-Eaters. And when they had done so he had quickly severed the involvement of mortal authorities.

He found an unusual ally in the form of Dr Clarke who came over to join the conversation at T’s invitation. Clarke pointed out that indeed the activities carried out by the Strangers were partially in the public eye but in no way had brought attention to Sin-Eaters in particular. He spent a few minutes engaged in philosophical discussion with the Strangers, who explained that they sought purification of themselves and others through the lens of pain, in a tradition thousands of years old. There was brief discussion of the Strangers’ Krew Channel (The wisdom provided to them by their link with the Underworld, formed when they bound themselves into an arcane secret society) and a bit of banter back and forth regarding what each Krewe knew about the other.

Ultimately a peaceful resolution was negotiated by Prof Drake and Dr Clarke, who persuaded Dr Peace to live and let live with the agreement that the Strangers would wield their influence to restore his reputation and his job. This was a very enjoyable moment for me because I loved watching the player squirm as he considered the moral implications of his choice. He could either continue to work obviously against the Strangers and risk the conflict spiralling into a long-term feud or he could swallow his moral indignation and allow the Strangers to undertake their hideous rites in order to gain back his position.

Ultimately he chose to take the low road, pledging inwardly that the Strangers hadn’t heard the last of this. As a sop to the group the Strangers also agreed to stop the Galleries of Pain for now in order to maintain a lower profile.

The group left, somewhat satisfied if left with the feeling that they were more or less turning a blind eye, and Uncle T suggested cryptically that the ‘Initiates’ would need to be dealt with. While this ominous statement was overheard by Toby (who continued to spy on the Strangers), he chose not to reveal this to the rest of the group.

I was concerned that the remainder of the session might be a little stilted or awkward as we were back to self-led group activities. In fact the game kept zinging along with the players talking amongst themselves and organising very effectively. They returned to Castleton’s to find a note from the architect informing them that he was taking a holiday of unknown duration with his emotionally disturbed son, care of his three-story town house passing to Toby in his absence.

They spent a while reviewing their whiteboard of current cases (still ticking along nicely at nine items) and decided to reconvene in a few days on the Saturday. While they were talking I took the time to compose a few one-sentence job descriptions for e-mails arriving in their Twilight Investigations inbox, giving a few plot hooks on which they could bite if they wanted.

During this down-time Prof Drake was to obtain fourth year medical examination papers to help the stranded ghost of a cheating medical student who can’t pass on until he knows whether he could have passed the year without chating.

These included:

  1. A report of a missing black cat; the fifth to go missing in the petitioner’s neighbourhood in the last few month
  2. A request from a businessman to investigate his wife, who he thought was having an affair… with her deceased ex-husband
  3. A request from an elderly lady to speak with her deceased husband to find out where their life savings were hidden
  4. A request from a young woman whose labrador was acting strangely; she’s sure that her house is haunted as a result

The biggest response was to the second item, which was very pleasing. I think I timed the revelation of the deceased ex-husband quite well and it got an immediate laugh and surge of interest.

Clarke investigated the third item during the downtime and was able to resolve it by using mundane research with Toby Williams’s help. It turned out that the old man had three children by other women to whom he had been sending money regularly for the last twenty, ten and five years respectively. Some third of their life savings remained but the group handed the whole affair off to the lawyers once the truth had been established.

On the Saturday the group met at their local greasy spoon. During this meeting they discussed which cases to take on and allocated them among themselves. Drake had obtained the medical examinations and they briefly considered how and when to administer these to the ghostly student. Their meeting was interrupted by the arrival of Philip Bedgebury, who swished in and ignored the group to flirt obviously with Prof Drake, a young man with extremely striking looks. Barry, Bedgebury’s previous romantic interest in the group, was quite jealous and put out by the attention paid to the professor.

Drake of course largely rebuffed the attentions of Bedgebury, who turned his attention back to Barry as a result. Specifically he invited the young man to the opening of a new night club that evening. Barry, of course, accepted.

I enjoyed the roleplaying in this scene. It’s always fun to play a slightly outrageous character and watch people responding to his advances. The look of wounded pride on Barry’s player’s face was also highly entertaining.

Bedgebury did pause his flirting long enough to give the group some useful information. Having cleared it with his fellow Highgate Irregulars he gave them the name of their current primary nemesis, the woman planning to open all the Avernian Gates and make London one with the Underworld. She is named Verity Runcorn.

Right at the end of the session Barry and Toby went to investigate the fourth case on the basis that Barry is an animal expert and has Manifestations that let him deal with animals more effectively. Meanwhile Joe and Clarke (mortal enemies in some ways) went to investigate the second case and Dr Peace went with Prof Drake to see if they could find a mirror at the Trafalgar tube station that had once held a reflection of Verity Runcorn.

I had ten minutes left so I briefly explored Barry & Toby’s investigation. I was pleased that Toby made it clear that it’s for Barry (whose player is very new to roleplaying still) to lead the case, with him only providing support and mentorship. After the game Barry’s player told me that he thought this would be very good for him to help him cement his character’s personality and to make him more comfortable with the way things work in the game.

Another cool scene happened when they got to investigate the dog and its odd behaviour. Apparently it primarily acted strangely around the airing cupboard. On opening the door Barry was confronted by a silent, hanging ghost in his underwear who was strangled with a belt, his head hanging at a strange angle with an angry frown on his face. He was completley silent but I sat in the relevant pose and glared angrily at the player whenever his character could see the ghost; this had a very satisfactory effect of making him flustered and a little disturbed just as his character was, helping him with the roleplaying of the moment.

This scene caused me to reflect that sometimes a ghost (or villain in general) who talks is far, far less disturbing than a silent and unmoving figure, no matter how growly and threatening the talk or actions might be. Less is indeed more where horror is concerned; sometimes in any case.

So, that was the end of the session! Instant feedback from my players was generally positive, with everyone saying that they had enjoyed the game. Barry’s player in particular was very hyped up and positive about the game; he said that he couldn’t stop thinking about Geist and was eager for next week’s session to arrive.

And that’s the most pleasing review a GM could hope for.

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