Sunday, October 28, 2012

tremulus Actual Play Report

Last night, we decided to give tremulus a go in a solo game as we work through various breaks before we finally resume Necessary Evil.

My lone player selected the Detective playbook (which I rather expected) and gave him the name "Harry Copperfield Dresden" (so he wasn't looking for points for originality).

We went through the Ebon Eaves creation, generating a town that had seen its heyday come and go, after wealthy eccentric McKenzie Baker, leader of the Silver Circlet and owner of the Windsor Place, had passed away. Harry was actually in Ebon Eaves at the behest of Lorraine Raslo's second cousin, Judith Crandall. See, Raslo murdered her family, saying it was "God's Will" until her brother-in-law Jack returned to Ebon Eaves. Jack, a big-time explorer who had been thought dead, was riding this fame and controversy all the way to the Mayor's office. Judith couldn't believe her cousin was capable of this, and sent Harry to investigate.

Ebon Eaves, PA
1927

As Harry rolled into town, he took a visit to the police station where he met Clint, a young, overworked officer manning the station by himself. Harry slipped him a quick bribe to get into the Raslo case files where he stumbled across the journal of Raslo's husband Stanley. Harry tried to slip it in his pocket, but when he "accidentally" dropped the case file, the journal fell behind Clint's desk. Harry came away from that visit with two things: The journal contained rantings about "snake men" and the police chief was an alcoholic.

Harry set out for the old Windsor Place, operating on a hunch, and while snooping around outside the house he stumbled on some dirty, yet fancy, eye glasses. Trying them on, he decided that the glasses belonged to someone who was incredibly nearsighted and pocketed them. Harry tried to enter Windsor Place and found the way barred, so he scaled the side of the house to the third story balcony...where an attractive, older woman in a flattering red dress was standing at the large double doors drinking tea. Harry tried to bluff his way through his trespassing, claiming that he heard cries for help, and when she pointed out that the road was two miles downhill from the house, he claimed his car had stalled. She instructed Boris and Dmitri  a big, lumpy Russian and a handsome younger one, to eject Harry...and they nearly threw him off the balcony. She ultimately relented and had them take Harry out the front door...though on the way out, he saw a portrait of an older gentleman surrounded by a dozen people...including the blond woman and the two Russians...and the older gentleman was wearing the glasses Harry had found outside. As Harry was being thrown outside, he heard an eerie moan from somewhere inside the mansion.

Harry's next stop was the Ebon Eaves Home for the Mentally Distressed, where he was told it was past visiting hours.

Harry went to the bar, where he found the chief knocking back drinks and he told the chief that he saw Clint taking bribes. His smooth talking combined with the chief's drunkenness lead to him and the chief heading back to the police station and sending Clint home, giving Harry his chance at getting the journal back. Inside, he ran the insane rantings of Stanley Raslo, who claimed that his entire family was snake men.

Harry got himself a room in a boarding house, and wound up oversleeping the next day.

He rushed back to the Asylum where he was told that Lorraine had been having "incidents". He asked to speak to her doctor, Dr. Gould, but was told he was in a meeting. Making arrangements to speak with Dr. Gould later, he went out to his car, where he was clubbed in the head from behind. When he awoke in the car, he was missing the journal and had a note on his chest telling him to leave Raslo alone.

Deciding to head a diner for some food and hoping to rustle up a lead, he found out a bit more about the woman in Windsor Place, and spied something lurking around his car. Heading outside to investigate, he was shocked to see - momentarily - the pale form of McKenzie Baker...missing his glasses. Heading back into the diner to pump the waitress for information, she directed him to the local paper and Jackie Laurence, intrepid reporter.

Harry found Jackie working late and the two began to talk. Jackie questioned why Harry was snooping around the Windsor Place if he was sent here to investigate Raslo, and then he dropped a bombshell on Harry: Lorraine Raslo's cousin had committed suicide since the last time Harry had spoken with her. Jackie dismissed both families (Stanley's and Lorraine's) as being crazy, but was intrigued with the activity at Windsor Place. He also noted that Lorraine's doctor, Dr. Gould, was part of Baker's inner circle. The two men set off for Windsor Place.

They searched around the house and found a shed...and Harry removed floorboards to find a tunnel underneath. The two men ventured in and followed the tunnel back to the house...where they found a large metal, unlocked door. As they started in, Harry heard the Russians coming and tried to threaten them with his gun, but only wound up trading bullets with Boris instead. Dmitri moved in to kill Harry, but he ripped Dmitri's hand around and shot Dmitri in the throat with his own gun.

Harry and Jackie, both armed now, entered the underground chamber, which was disturbingly cold, and began looking around. Harry came face to face with Baker once more...who was staring at him with glassy eyes. Harry offered Baker his eyeglasses and felt the chill of the grave as Baker touched him. Tabitha McFlaherty, the woman Harry had met earlier, walked into the chamber and explained that Baker had died but that she was trying desperately to restore him...she just hadn't gotten it right and he came back "wrong". Harry countered that the dead shouldn't come back at all, and she dismissed that as "rules for the little people". She explained that Ebon Eaves NEEDED Baker now, more than ever, due to Jack Raslo's moves to take over the town. Harry asked her why she didn't just run a candidate against him, and she pointed out that Raslo's serpentine tentacles were everywhere...including the newspaper.

Harry turned to see Jackie Laurence with his gun in Harry's face. Harry and Jackie both fired and Harry went down. As he recovered, he saw a blood trail heading out the tunnel and Tabitha and Baker closing the door to the house. Harry tried to break down the door and ultimately shot his way in...and managed to make it through the house and in front of an escaping hearse. He ordered the driver to stop, but he swerved around and Harry shot the tire out, causing it to crash into the large, wrought-iron gate. Harry moved in on the hearse, only to have Baker bust out of the back, attacking him. Harry was bitten by Baker multiple times, but managed to blow Baker's face off.

Tabitha, wounded from the crash, climbed out of the hearse and cursed Harry for his actions and all the damage he had caused, causing Harry to retort "that's what little people do". Dying, from his injuries and the arcane infection running in his veins, Harry asked Tabitha to save him like she did Baker, but she said she didn't know how...that's why they were trying to get the Raslo family secrets from Lorraine. She said she would put Harry out of his misery, though, and use the mystical artifacts collected by the Silver Circlet to fight Jack Raslo that way. As she moved in to finish Harry off, he snapped off a shot between her eyes.

Harry, in desperation, crawled back up the hill and into Windsor Place, where he searched desperately for something. Bleeding all over the place, his blood began to seep into runes in the fireplace, causing it to spring to life. The flames parted and hands reached for him as he passed out from the blood loss.

THOUGHTS: This definitely could have gone smoother, but we had constant interruptions from my kid, I was having Adobe issues with the PDF (on my end, not Reality Blurs' end) and I was distracted by a couple of additional outside factors at points in the game, aaaaaand I hadn't made enough time to really read the book as thoroughly as I wanted to before play. I was also scrambling to pull the plot threads together, though a LOT of things that came up were entirely improv based off of the PC's die rolls (like finding the glasses, being unable to see Lorraine). Raslo partisans were all over the town and I was noting how much Harry said to whom, and if the story had gone in a different direction the implication was going to be that Raslo's reach had gotten to the cousin.

We were fine with the player facing rolls, though the lack of "initiative" and "combat rounds" was a bit of a struggle, and trying to fit everything into the Basic Moves was difficult (though I recovered and began making up relevant moves on the fly). Lore is kind of a big thing in the game and all of Harry's Lore came from rolling 12s while making Moves.

There was also a bit more comedy, intentional and unintentional, than tremulus probably expects by default. I wasn't setting out to kill the PC, but a) we knew this was probably a one shot and b) the tremulus rules are fairly unflinching when it comes to combat. It can get really ugly, very quickly...which, I mean, is fine for a horror game.

In the end, we both had fun (especially as we entered the final act, I think) and we'll bust this out again, or at least another Apocalypse World-hack (like Dungeonworld or Monster of the Week). I also think that the bonus playbooks that'll be coming would really have helped my player out, as Detective was one of the very few within his comfort zone.

Ideally, I'd love to try this with multiple people next time, so we can see the Trust mechanic in play, as well as the Help/Hinder move.

Great set-up, great ending, some Keeper (GM) failure in the middle...but really no worse than most first time experiences with a game.