Monday, September 30, 2013

tremulus Actual Play: The Hatchetman and the Silver Saints

We decided to give tremulus another go, with the new group of Russ, Chrystal, Tommy (who plays in most of my Savage Worlds games) and myself. Unlike the last time we played tremulus, we had extra Playbooks to choose from and more players, so this left us with a motley crew of Russ as an Entertainer named Frank Stone (and a bodyguard named Sheffield), Chrystal as a Psychic named Eliza Dent (and her driver Chauncey) and Tommy as a Drifter named Ramblin' Tom.

I was actually pretty ill prepared going in, so we started the session with Ramblin' Tom walking into town and being passed by Eliza and Chauncey...while a distracted Frank Stone ran off the road and clipped the Drifter, who chose (after rolling a 7-9) to take a little extra damage but force Stone to blow a tire and hit a tree. This led to Frank being a little shaken up and Tom hurting a bit, but Tom gathered his wits and put Frank in a bind, essentially blackmailing Frank into taking care of him, once Tom and Sheffield took care of the car tire.

Eliza and Chauncey checked into their hotel, which was a spacious, two story affair. As Eliza and Chauncey went to their room, Eliza noticed a younger man wearing a silver star pendant watching her. She smiled at him, but he turned his head away. When she and Chauncey got to the room, she decided to relax and commune with the spirits to see what she could see.

Back at the car, while looking for the spare, Ramblin' Tom noticed that the driver of the car (Frank) had some headshots in his trunk...making Tom realize that the driver was an actor or model or something, and this gave Tom a bit more leverage. He also saw a curious silver star pendant in the trunk of the car, which he pocketed. The three men piled back into the car and headed into Ebon Eaves.

Eliza had a vision of dozens and dozens of townsfolk, including the young man that was watching her, forming an angry mob while a demonic face loomed over them.

Frank Stone, Sheffield and Ramblin' Tom headed to the hotel, where Frank discovered there was only one available he used charm and money to get people kicked out of their rooms while he and Sheffield took Tom to get some food (as part of their deal for, y'know, nearly killing him). The service in the diner was much nicer, friendlier and more competent than the hotel. The three men were just starting to maybe get along when a tall, silver-haired man entered the diner, flanked by a short, nervous man and a stern-faced man with a milky white eye. The tall man was referred to as "Reverend", which caught the attention of Stone and Tom. Frank said he didn't like that white eye, so Sheffield got up and grabbed a knife, threatening to put it out, but Frank made him sit back down.

Eliza and Chauncey entered the diner and sat down, and Chauncey never took his eyes off of the Reverend and his entourage. As dinner went on, Frank didn't like the look of Chauncey and sent Sheffield over to Eliza and her driver to make sure there was no issue. This nearly escalated into violence as Chauncey told Sheffield to take two steps away from Eliza. Frank overhead the commotion and told Sheffield to back off, (and Tom was busy eating all of Sheffield's food while this was going on). As Frank gathered up Sheffield and Tom and headed to the door, they were cut off by the Reverend, who recognized Frank. He asked for an autograph for Martin's (the nervous man with the Reverend) son and the two men soon decided that they should have dinner together. Tom mentioned being both broke and injured, and the Reverend offered him medical care at the doctor's and work at the church the next day. Frank began to press The Reverend on the real reason he had come here: Ebon Eaves' legendary Hatchetman. Many years ago, a young man named Billy had gone insane and chopped up five of his friends before a sixth stopped him...and every five years, the murders started up again. As Frank pushed the Reverend on these legends, the Reverend shrugged it off.

Ramblin' Tom headed to the Doctor when he felt an overwhelming sense of being watched...and discovered that *everyone* on the street was watching him.

Frank returned to the hotel and sent Sheffield out to find some drugs, while he began pumping the old lady now working the counter for information about the Hatchetman.

Eliza and Chauncey, paranoid about the town, scoured their room for cameras...until Eliza spotted something on the window. The outside of the window. The word "Witch". Eliza contacted the Spirit World once more, getting a flash of an eyeless, oily skinned creature in an old rock quarry...and a flash from the future of a newspaper headline proclaiming that that anniversary of the Hatchetman had passed without incident.

Ramblin' Tom got his wounds dressed by the friendly Doctor who suddenly, as Tom was leaving, told him to "keep your nose clean or we'll f---ing kill you."

Frank got upset when the old woman told him the Hatchetman wasn't a ghost...but a curse on the town, which drives people insane every five years...and that the next Hatchetman would be coming soon.

Eliza and Chauncey decided to go for a walk, having a chat with the old woman, who seemed nice enough...except she said that the town was constantly poisoned by satanic outsiders, such as witches like Eliza. Frank and Tom decided to turn in to their respective rooms.

Frank was awoken by someone beating on his door and peered through the peep hole to see Sheffield...who drove a hatchet into the door! He smashed his way in and the terrified Frank Stone darted away from him and bolted through into Ramblin' Tom's room, waking him up as the crazed Sheffield burst in! Frank fired his handgun at Sheffield and wounded him, but the enraged bodyguard charged Tom and Frank, only to be taken by surprise by the Drifter, who managed to rip the axe from his hands and knock him into a door, accidentally breaking his neck! Frank immediately proclaimed victory for stopping the Hatchetman. A nervous back and forth ensued about who to call, with Tom pointing out that the Reverend runs this town, and Frank became optimistic that his friendship with the Reverend would help out.

Eliza and Chauncey tried to return to the hotel...only to find it bustling with activity, including four of the Reverend's Silver Saints blocking her entrance, calling her a "Witch". Chauncey threatened violence on the four men, but Eliza opted for a less violent approach and took Chauncey back to Meg's Diner, where she once more contacted the Spirit World.

The Reverend and his sidekicks, Martin and Robert, were relieved to see that Tom and Frank had stopped the Hatchetman without further bloodshed.

Eliza got a flash of an eyeless, oily being biting Sheffield and driving him into a rage...and Sheffield biting someone else and throwing them aside as he grabbed a hatchet from the man's truck and stomped to the hotel...leaving the wounded, enraged man to attack another bystander and so on...and that the creature is now dormant.

Outside the hotel, the Silver Saints guarding it were attacked.

Ramblin' Tom decided to cut out, only to look down the stares at the old woman from the counter, now quite crazed and charging up the stairs. He barely got away from her, but didn't get the door barred in time. Frank tried to block her entry himself...but failed as she nearly bit him, causing him to lunge away from the door.

Eliza began asking the gentleman in the diner about rock quarries, leading to her and Chauncey deciding to head to the quarry to put an end to this monster.

Frank scurried away...leading to woman attacking Martin and ripping a chunk out of him! She tossed him aside and lunged at Tom, who got away from her and never saw Martin lunging up and biting Robert! While Tom and the old woman fought, Frank opened fire...shooting Tom in the shoulder and making him drop his axe! The Reverend began fighting with Robert, and Frank opened fire on on Robert, giving the Reverend an opening to draw a knife from somewhere and drive it into Robert's skull! Frank was pleased...until Martin pounced on him and dragged him to the ground! Tom and the old woman fought, but he flipped her end over end and out the window! Frank shot Martin, stunning him so that the Reverend could move in and slice Martin's head off!

Eliza and Chauncey began to enter the quarry to execute the dormant monster, when bizarre, vaguely crablike fungal creatures ordered her and Chauncey to stop! They were surprised as these beings descended from the skies and said that they created the hunter to quell the Nightgaunts...and that killing it would doom the town. Eliza tried to debate them, pointing out that it was killing people, but the beings said that those were acceptable losses to keep the Nightgaunts under control. She and the creatures argued, until she finally ordered Chauncey to execute the sleeping hunter, which he did with a high powered rifle. The creatures recoiled, stating their belief that she had doomed the area to the swell of the Nightgaunts.

In the aftermath, the Silver Saints did a splendid job of quelling the uprising caused by the madness of the hunter's bite, and when Eliza confronted to the Reverend about his town's zealotry, to her surprise he agreed: He's been well aware of the rising darkness in the town and has been deathly afraid of his inability to quell it.

Notes: I totally did a horrible job of conveying the humor we had going on here, as Russ hammed it up as Frank Stone and I had a blast slipping back and forth between Chauncey and Sheffield. The tremulus system is a bit exhausting, as I'm not used to improvising *that much*. All the improv is why some things were set up and not paid off (like Tom finding a Silver Star in the trunk of Frank's car). That said, I have to give the group credit: This was the first time roleplaying with this configuration, the first time Chrystal had played a non-D&D game and the first time Russ had played a non-fantasy RPG and everyone slipped right in. They played like characters in a horror game, and took my bait as I laid it out there, running with little tidbits here and there to advance the plot, conveniently choosing the same hotel to stay at and diner to eat at, and so on. Ironic, then, that Eliza *never* directly interacted with the other two PCs.

This was also the first time using non-core Playbooks, as all the Playbooks used came from the tremulus Kickstarter stretch goals. The special moves came into play a LOT (especially Frank's ability to gain +2 while trying to Act Under Pressure in defensive situations, Tom's ability to roll Luck to lessen harm and Eliza contacting the Spirit World, which bordered on being awesome and gamebreaking).

A good time was had by all, the new group got off to a promising start, and next week we hit familiar territory for me and Tommy: Deadlands Reloaded!