Noir Nights Session 1

image from ArtBreeder

filed under actual play on 06 Dec 2016
tagged noir, scarlet heroes, cross, and noir nights

This one’s a little older, from right around whenever I introduced Triggers and Secrets to Pythia, actually. So maybe mid-October. I’m thinking it was supposed to be spooky for Halloween. I really should start putting a date right up front in the log. Wonder if I can find room in the GUI for a timestamp button.

As always, “session” is used loosely, because sometimes I run right through and sometimes I get distracted. And it’s pretty much played as it lies; if Pythia suggests something I try to run with it. Oh, and the oracle for this one is FU.


The adventure begins...

The only thing I know, besides that this is a thirties-style near Earth, is my hero is a vampire.

I've set my theme to Sin City and rolled up a homebrew vampire class that mimics the 'standard' literature pretty well.

I want my guy to be an investigator, someone people call on for help. Someone who is tough but fair. Someone with his own moral code.

Was he an official investigator?

[0: 1 ] No, and...

He's not exactly on good terms with law enforcement.

So he was a thief, I think. He was a rich kid, traveling Europe, got mixed up with the wrong group and used as a pawn, ended up spending a few years in a foreign prison where he learned a lot about the trade from a mentor. Back in the states, he just wanted to make his way as quietly as possible, without attracting any more attention.

At some point during his travels he ended up 'infected' with vampirism, and then he died.

I think I've got a pretty good handle on him now; let's grab a defining characteristic.

[Simple Trait] The actor is impaired at "yellow".

So he's brave, possibly foolishly so. I'll put it down as a -2 trait of "Recklessly brave" but it'll probably come up as a positive sometimes too.

I'm using my own stat-replacer system that rolls stats into traits. So whenever a roll calls for a stat, I'll just use an appropriate trait's value (or 0 if none).

Oh, interesting idea. What if he died, and didn't revive right away because of circumstances?

Is it modern day?

[0: 1 ] No, and...

Scratch that, it's just a day after he got killed. He wakes up in the grips of blood madness, with no allies, only the vaguest idea what's going on, and no idea who killed him.

If a vampire has no tokens, he must make a save vs DC 9 + 1 for every day he's gone without tokens (plus one point for every negative token point) or seek out the nearest living creature and feed on it. A newly made vampire is considered to have a deficit of three days when he first awakens.

Why am I so punitive with my house rules?

So he has -3 tokens. And that's 9, plus 3, plus 3, for a total of DC 15.

[PC 0] | Name: Ethan Owen Cross | AC: 3 | HP: 9 | 0: Blood Tokens | Fray: 1d8 (at night, melee, affects any) | 3: Skilled and sophisticated jewel thief, social engineering,stealth and trickery | 3: A vampire; quick, strong, and tough, bane sunlight, running water, garlic, wood | 3: Born wealthy and jet-setting; the black sheep of the family | 3: Very good at reading people and exploiting their weaknesses with charm and intellect | 3: Born fast | 2: Born lucky | -2: Sucker for a pretty face | -1: Phobia related to how he died | -2: Recklessly brave

I think I'll pull a point out of born wealthy and put it into 'spent time in a foreign prison'.

As you can see, no stats at all, but several traits that can be used for them. Obviously he's a bit more powerful than your average hero, since he can use his vampire trait for a lot of this (and spend blood tokens to boost it further).

Rolling 2d8 1 times.
[ 6 1 ] 7

Yeah, 7, not even close. Nothing to add to it, either.

So how did he die, anyway? Violently, for certain.

[Seed] invalidate scale

So it was an untimely death, outside of fate's design.

[Seed] include competency

While he was doing something he was good at; he was hired to steal something and got caught in the act.

[Seed] found defend

[Seed] mutter filth

Don't know what to do with those! Defensive wounds, maybe? At any rate, it's been at least one day, and it's sunset. He's where, at the morgue?

[0: 6 ] Yes, and...

He's the last autopsy of the day. Have they just gotten started?

[0: 1 ] No, and...

Ugh, he got autopsied! Thanks a lot, FU, that's horrible.

So he wakes up, ravenous, missing important pieces, both physically and mentally.

The coroner is there. Does he have an orderly?

[0: 4 ] Yes.

You know, it occurs to me I didn't pick any special abilities. Not that he needs them! But he's entitled to two. I think I'll hold off and pick them when I know more about the character.

Ok, that's two potential victims, 1 HD each. Draining 1 HD gives 3 blood tokens (it's multiplied by his vampire trait, which is extremely high for a brand new vampire).

Does he kill both of them?

[0: 6 ] Yes, and...

He's still out of control after, but I'll let him make saves not to completely murder the next person he runs into.

This is an alternate universe, but I have no idea how alternate.

Still, it's after a couple of big wars, and women are filling a lot of roles that used to be male dominated. So. My hero, blood-soaked, feral, has just ripped apart two people, and...

Someone walks in.

[Age - Mature] Forties.

Is it a cop?

[0: 4 ] Yes.

So, this time period, a male.

Let's get a couple of visible quirks, and a wheel.

[Visible Quirk] broken limb

[Visible Quirk] distinctive jewelry

[Strong] miserliness
[Focus] mildy unsuitable target [secondary], wealth [primary]

Might be corrupt, might just be concerned with keeping his job. Did he start out with a broken arm?

[0: 5 ] No, but...

So my hero breaks his arm, presumably the one holding the gun shooting at him, and prepares to go in for the kill when he's checked by a cross, the distinctive jewelry.

He's not at negative tokens anymore. So does he just come out of it naturally?

[0: 4 ] Yes.

That's lucky for the cop, at least.

Light glinted off the gold crucifix around his neck. It reminded me of something. Faint memory of Europe, of her bubbled up.

I smelled blood. Overwhelming. The man I was staring at was clutching his arm -- it hung at a funny angle that said it was probably broken. Gun on the floor. Badge at his belt. Horror on his face.

Things were registering in bits and pieces, lightning fast but incomplete. I needed to be out of here, now.

Is there anyone familiar with the supernatural who is aware he mighe be waking up and coming to recruit him?

[0: 2 ] Yes, but...

Yes, but they're late.

I did the only sensible thing. I fled down the hall, away from the shell-shocked cop.

Any handy windows or doors?

[0: 6 ] Yes, and...

Skidded around a corner, found a window someone'd left propped open against the heat. It was trivial to slide through it, into the alley beyond.

The night was oddly bright. I didn't see a full moon, just a thousand bright stars I'd never seen before. My head knew we were in the middle of a heat wave, but I didn't feel it.

Suddenly, it hit me. I wasn't breathing hard, even though I'd just sprinted down the hall. I wasn't breathing at all.

Quick backstory moment. Obviously he's encountered a vampire at some point.

Did he ever know what one was?

[0: 5 ] No, but...

The one who made him never really explained what she was, but he knew she wasn't exactly human.

Now'd be a good time for someone who knows what's going on to show up. Is it?

[0: 6 ] Yes, and...

A car pulled up at the end of the alley. "Get in," the driver hissed, and I hesitated.

What the hell, I thought. I wasn't going to get far on foot.

What's the driver like?

[Age - Mature] Late twenties.

[Gender Appearance] female

[Visible Quirk] mark of exotic heritage

[Visible Quirk] unnaturally ugly

Well, that's an interesting roll.

Unnaturally ugly? Is she cursed?

[0: 1 ] No, and...

She was born that way. Some sort of supernatural creature. A medusa?

[0: 1 ] No, and...

Not a greek mythology creature at all.

So maybe it's not overt physical ugliness -- maybe it's just a completely repellant aura.

Well, exotic is pretty much anything not human, in this day and age, or anything not mid-Western USA.

Maybe she wasn't born this way. Is she another vampire?

[0: 5 ] No, but...

She is a supernatural. So some sort of fae.

A hag?

[0: 6 ] Yes, and...

One of the fate-spewing kind. Interesting.

I slid into the front seat, glanced at my rescuer, and did a double-take. She was the ugliest person I'd ever seen, just unnaturally wrong. And then I blinked, and she wasn't. Must have been a trick of the light. She wasn't pretty, but she wasn't terrifying.

Speaking of terrifying. A glance down showed my clothes were gone, and I was drenched in blood. How much of it was my own, I didn't know, but my teeth started to chatter.

"Be calm," she advised, driving like a bat out of hell. I tried. My mouth tasted like blood and I wasn't breathing and I was pretty sure I'd just broken that cop's arm.

[New Actor] Unnamed cop, Cross broke his arm after first waking up in the morgue.

[New Actor] Gray, a hag, of the 'fates' variety, extremely ugly and marked by her heritage.

[Seed] dress apartment

[Seed] publish statement

[Seed] condone vision

[Seed] everything coroner

[Seed] vanish foolishness

[Seed] swallow reasons

Does she know what happened in the morgue?

[0: 3 ] No.

Can she guess?

[0: 1 ] No, and...

She shot me a quick glance, then back to the road. Traffic was light this time of night. What time of night was it, anyway? I felt a dull ache to the west, like a sore tooth.

"You should have been blood-mad," she said. "How'd you avoid it?"

An image of a terrified face I didn't recognize shot past my vision. For an instant I wanted to throw up, and then I went numb. "I don't think I did," I said. Didn't remember any more of the trip after that.

I woke up sitting in a bathtub under a full, hot shower spray. The woman dumped a bucket of water over my head and I yelped.

"Thanks, ma'am, but I am fine from here," I said, yanking the curtain shut on her amused expression. The water was reviving my spirits a bit. That and very very carefully not thinking about what was happening.

Does he have any unusual new scars or marks, besides the one from the autopsy?

[0: 4 ] Yes.

Hmm. I guess I could try a seed.

[Seed] wing fruit

Wing, so arm, maybe? Fruit, my first thought is bruise. So he has a bruise on his shoulder, one that was probably a gunshot a few hours ago.

My arm was sore, up high on the shoulder. The bathroom didn't have a mirror, weirdly enough, so I settled for using my fingers to feel around. It was tender and I bet it'd hurt when I got it, but I couldn't remember. Didn't really hurt now.

More worryingly, there was a Y-shaped scar running from collarbone to collarbone and down the middle of my chest to my bellybutton and south. It was healed up like it had happened weeks ago, but I knew I hadn't had it the day before yesterday.

Everything else seemed to be okay. I wrapped a towel around my middle and headed out, looking for clothes, or at the very least, the person who'd rescued me.

Did she have clothes ready?

[0: 4 ] Yes.

The next room over turned out to be a bedroom, clean and neat as a pin. A gray suit was laid out on the bed. Not couture but it'd do. I'd just pulled on the pants when she walked back in.

Another flash of disturbing followed by perfectly normal. Whatever she was, it wasn't human.

[Demanding] alarm
[Focus] job [secondary], the physical [primary]

That's interesting; she's feeling a demanding amount of alarm over her job and over the physical.

Is Cross her 'job'?

[likely: 1 6 6 ] Yes, and... ...and 1 extra 'ands'!

Hah. Yes, he's her job, and she's alarmed by how physical he is and she's alarmed by what he likely did while she was late to retrieve him.

"So," I said, ignoring her questioning glance at the scar on my chest and starting to button up the shirt. Didn't want to use the word 'autopsy'. They only did those to dead people. "You want to tell me what's going on?"

"You're dead," she said, as if reading my mind. I paused, giving her a skeptical look.

"No, really," she said, earnestly. "You're absolutely dead. Someone killed you sometime yesterday. I just found out about or I would have been there when you woke up."

I laughed, but she didn't. "Seriously?" She nodded.

"I don't know how you picked it up," she said. "Maybe you had a girlfriend who was a little, uh, on the wild side? Doesn't really matter. She made you like her."

I sat down on the edge of the bed. Reached for the shoes, carefully unlaced them. "What does that mean?"

She explained it to me, as best she could. How sunlight was now my enemy. How I'd have trouble with running water and garlic. How I couldn't use mirrors. Might figure out more powers the longer I stayed like this. Then, finally, reluctantly, she explained that there was just one thing I could consume now.

"And if I don't, I turn into something out of a horror movie?" She nodded.

It was all too much.

I scrubbed a hand over my face. Didn't feel dead. She was quiet, and in the silence, what I didn't hear was the final nail in the coffin. No heart beat. No blood in my ears, no rush of air in and out of my lungs. How long had I been not breathing?

I deliberately sucked in a breath and let it out. Felt no need at all to take another one.

"So," I said finally. "Who killed me?"

She shook her head. "I don't know," she said. "If I did, I wouldn't have let them."

Her face got real ugly and real dark for a second, and then relaxed back into just plain. I believed her.

Under the circumstances, I figured it'd be all right to ask without waiting for a polite introduction. "Who are you?"

"Call me Gray," she said.

"So, Miss Gray," I started, and she laughed. It was a surprisingly nice sound. And I had to admit, it felt good to know someone was looking out for me.

"No, just Gray," she said, then gestured for me to follow her. "We have some errands to run." I took a moment to admire her shape as she walked away, then followed. What kind of errands do the dead run?

[New Thread] Who killed Ethan Cross?

I'l use factions in this game. Each faction will be specific and have a rating, with 0 being neutral and negatives being more friendly, positives left. When a situation comes up where I need to deal with that faction, the value is applied to the target DC.

[New Actor] Lucia Bennett, a woman Cross knew in Europe who turned out to be a vampire.

I'm going to use my modified Perilous Intersections for this. Cross wants to figure out who killed him and why, and has vague thoughts of getting revenge.

Was Gray telling the truth that she didn't know who?

[likely: 5 3 3 ] No, but...

She does know who, but she didn't expect them to kill him. That was her mistake, she misjudged how ruthless the person or group was.

Were they an enemy of hers?

[0: 4 ] Yes.

Did they want something specifically from him?

[0: 3 ] No.

So it was just to mess with her and her plans.


[0: 5 ] No, but...

Ha, so there's a deeper motive, but messing with Gray and her plans was a perk for whoever it was.

So, what makes Cross so special? Special enough that Gray is still watching out for him?

Well, I'm thinking of the Graiae, which are fates and sea hags. So he's a pawn of some sort. Something makes him special enough that he was to be protected.

Was she protecting him under someone else's orders?

[0: 6 ] Yes, and...
... and something unexpected happens!

[Random Event] Context: Weird! Wild coincidence aids the hero -- at a cost. This is good.

Well, that about sums up events up til now, hahaha. So a patron -- Gray's patron -- required her to watch over Cross. He got himself into trouble, and one of the patron's enemies manipulated events so he got killed, just to spite the patron.

What's the situation that got him into this mess?

[Seed] matter grace

Matter of grace, hmm, his natural dexterity? He's officially retired from thieving, still hurting from the time he spent in a foreign prison. Still, something could have lured him back in.

Does he remember anything about the last twenty four hours or so?

[0: 2 ] Yes, but...

It's all in disjointed pieces and it'll come back slowly.

[Seed] substitute inaccuracy

Was he lured back in for one last job?

[0: 6 ] Yes, and...

Ok, so, that's our starting point.

Obviously, I'm using the pulp seeds!

So, back to the morgue. Was he identified as a corpse?

[somewhat unlikely: 3 1 5 ] No, and...

No, he wasn't identified, and he's still not identified. So he's at 0 faction with the police in general.

Maybe the cop can identify him, but it was dark, stressful, and he was covered in blood. At best, the poor guy's going to be raving about a corpse come to life.