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Author Topic: [Sorcerer] Third Session: Sex, Lies, and Videotape  (Read 6519 times)
Doyce
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« on: April 25, 2004, 10:07:37 PM »

Our third session of Sorcerer, which normally runs on alternating Friday nights, was preempted by previous commitments.  Unwilling to give up the game momentum for another two weeks, I asked the players to meet up on Thursday night instead -- a shorter session due to everyone having an early morning the next day, but certainly better than a four week hiatus from session two.  All in all, I'm very glad we did it and quite impressed with how much we got done.  

Intro Bits:
The Premise as defined by the group is, roughly, "What would you give up for Knowledge? Who or what would you trade for power?"

Humanity = Empathy (Connection to and investment in the people in your life)

First session is here.  Second session is here.

To sum things up briefly, the game is set in the North-Boston/Cambridge area, centering around (mostly) Harvard, with some off-campus business as well (both from the tech industry and the darker side of the 'independent erotic film' industry).  In events leading up to this point, the PCs have become aware that various sorcerers of no small skill have died mysteriously.  Also, several coeds have disappeared from Harvard campus and at least one of them has since turned up in a snuff video after her disappearance -- Both of the missing girls are known to at least one of the PCs.  It is mid-November and the weather is bad and getting worse -- torrential rain is quickly freezing to sleet and the weather service predicts a major blizzard. For more detail, see the session links above.

Now then, on with the show:

Play began with Val (pix) and Shannon (no pix) limping up to their destination (a converted warehouse on the south side of the river) in Val's somewhat trashed Audi TT.  Yvonne is riding in the nearly-nonexistant back seat.  The rag-top is largely... rags, and the passenger-side door won't open following their encounter with a 'mothman' demon, but everyone in the car is still intact (though wet and uncomfortable).  They are at the warehouse to meet with one of Yvonne's contacts, a video editing expert named Jerry Rubinek (pix) who's worked with Yvonne on some of her films (for Yvonne, see the test run scenario in the main Sorcerer book. Also, pix.).  Yvonne suggested Jerry since they were trying to get the grainy, not-terribly useful, internet-hosted/hidden, streaming snuff video up to a level of detail where they could perhaps get something useful out of it.  Jerry isn't really a helpful mood, but they manage to convice him with a couple hundred bucks and he gets to work -- he manages to save the streaming video to a local file and does clean it up a little bit.  

BANG (suggested via PLAYERS)
The images are still dim, but they can vaguely tell that the girl on the tape (one of Val's girlfriends, the one who later showed up in his closet during session 1) was killed as part of some kind of ritual.  She's tied to a post in the center of a crudely drawn pentagram -- blood or red paint for the pentagram -- black candles, the works -- it might be (in fact probably is) completely useless faux-sorcery garbage that doesn't accomplish anything, but someone thought they were Doing Something when they killed this girl.


And that's all Jerry can do -- the image is still really dim -- they can't make out much about the background or anything, and although the file says it's six and a half minutes long, it cuts out at five minutes even, right after the girl dies.  Val wants to try to track down the internet site where the file's being hosted (or, barring that, find out where the email came from originally), but Jerry's just a video guy, not a hacker, so they'll have to go somewhere else for that kind of help.  Val dates a girl at MIT who might be able to help with that -- one Delia Beryl.  

Val drops of Shannon at the Harvard Library (she wants to check out which lame faux-tradition the pseudo-ritual might have come from) and Yvonne stays with her.  Val goes back to his apartment, summons Shade back from where he's checking out the murdered girl's apartment (he didn't find anything at the apartment but heard a couple cops talking outside about the video link that the lead detective in the case received) so he can fix up Val's trashed car using Warp, and then calls up Delia to see if she can help him track down whoever sent him the email link to the snuff film in the first place.  He really doesn't like being taunted, and he doesn't like that someone is messing with 'his things'.

-----

We jump back to Ken, who is just now opening an email from an anonymous remailer that leads to a disturbing snuff video.  

BANG
Unlike Val, the snuff video Ken sees is not of a girl he knows.  (It is, in fact, the exact same video as the one Val & Company has seen.)  This is somewhat more disturbing, since the girl is apparently the "other girl" who has went missing on the Harvard Campus at the same time as the girl did that he knows.


Ken is at a loss.  What does it mean?  Both of the girls listed as missing in the news disappeared on the same day from the same basic location.  Now he gets a video showing the murder of the girl he doesn't know, but no information at all about the girl he does know.  Is someone trying to blackmail him by holding the other girl hostage, and simply killed the other girl to show that they were serious?  Are they trying to lure him somewhere?  If so, where -- the video doesn't show any sort of details...

... or does it?

Ken runs the North American branch of OsatoSoft, which makes everything from video games to medical records software.  He has any number of useful programming tools on his laptop and, pulling the video down, sets his Cover to work in pulling more information out of the file.  When it's all said and done, he has a lot of information.
    * The program that transferred the video into 'streaming' format was an alpha version of the program -- those are not commonly distributed -- that list of alpha testers might be a good possible lead to the killer.
    * The last minute and a half of the video was cut off of the 'main' display, but the 'preview' thumbnail information for the file still contains the data -- extracting that, he was able to view the last 90 seconds of the file, which showed that there was someone else laying on the floor just off-camera (he caught sight of a woman's (bound) leg move into the camera view just before the end of the file -- could it have been Susan's?) AND he could see that "something" was happening around the center of the pentagram during that time as well.  Ken didn't know much about whether or not the ritual was genuine (bad bad Lore rolls), but just before the video ended he was pretty damn sure that he could see the results of a successful Summoning taking place.
    * He also got the picture cleaned up quite well: he could tell the floor was clean cement -- as in a warehouse or garage -- and that the killer had erected tall black 'photography' drapes in the background to block any view of the space in which the killing had occurred.

While he worked on this, he called up his head of security at OsatoSoft North America (Adrian Black) and has him begin tracking down the true origin of a 'crank email' he received this morning.  Mr. Black asks Ken what the time-stamp on the email is so that they can pull it from the company mail server without having to search through Ken's mail one by one.  [BANG?] Ken checks the time stamp and realizes that the email was sent at almost exactly the same moment that his father collapsed on his front step this morning.

Hmmmmm.

Finally, Ken decides to call his Uncle to let him know that his father is dead.  He'd spoke with his demon Doji earlier in the morning and mentioned that the call was "very important" and Ken's "luck" stays with him during the call -- he calls at noon, and it's about 4 am in Japan.  Ken's Uncle is extremely groggy and, in fact, never seems to gain full command of his faculties during the whole conversation -- it seems he's not feeling well at all (chest pains?) and the news of his brother's death is very confusing to him.  Ken assures his Uncle not to worry -- Ken will make sure to call the Board of Directors and let them know what's going on (he sets an alarm to do just that at a later, more reasonable hour) -- "You should just rest Uncle... you need your strength.  I'll take care of everything."

Ken hangs up with smile... which fades when he notices that Doji is asking him rather incessently for his Need.

Shannon researches the 'ritual' they saw on the video but comes up with very little of use -- the thing was so hokey and/or hackneyed it could have been anything from someone badly emulating the Golden Dawn to some neo-pagan wanna-blessed-be with deep, deep misunderstandings about Satanism.  Shannon suspects she'd get farther in her research if she went down to the local Blockbuster and rented The Craft -- she's fairly certain that that's what the killer did.

This frustrating bit of research was not helped by Yvonne, who was very curious how Shannon had ended up at 'the party' (yes, the one where Yvonne tried to feed a number of sorcerer's and demons to Alonzo Shaw's house).  She is very curious about the level of Shannon's connection to her father Sean O'Neil (to whom Yvonne had originally sent the invitation, using Shaw's old address book in which Shannon's father was listed in such a way as to imply he was part of the same coven as Shaw), and wanted to know if Shannon knew of any of her father's allies or enemies.

Shannon in turn wants to know whom Yvonne pissed off to get the moth-spawn demons on her tail.  Yvonne maintains that that happened when she got wrapped up in Shaw's affairs and thinks that it's much more likely that it would be Shaw's allies who would best know who was powerful enough to have been after Shaw -- by the way, Shannon, do your father's notes mention anything about his allies or enemies?

It's hard to tell if Shannon is more pissed about Yvonne asking all the questions or the fact that, truth be told, Shannon really doesn't know any of the answers.

Yvonne offers Shannon access to Shaw's old address book to 'look it over -- see if any of the name's jump out at you' -- and heads to the ladies room. Shannon ignores the address book until Yvonne is gone, then grabs it and pores over it.  Many of the names are marked in some way with sigils that indicate their role in Shaw's life.  (In fact, Shannon realizes that she's seen those runes in various places in her father's books but never knew what they meant.)

BANG
Besides her father, the first name in the book that she recognizes is Candace Lynn Voight (Val's mentor) -- she is listed in the book with the rune that means "Apprentice".


-----

Van calls up Delia Beryl and asks if she can help him track down the location of a server hosting a pretty nasty video he's trying to find the owner of.  She's willing, especially after Val fills her in a little bit (very disturbing, you shouldn't watch it, et cetera, and possibly connected to those girls that disappeared).

[In-game edit: I stepped in at this point and asked Ken and Val's players if it would be alright if I 'compressed' their NPCs just a bit -- both Val and Ken had listed a computer-savvy casual girlfriend from MIT on their list of contacts and I just couldn't see the point of it being a different person for each when it was so much more useful to the story for it to be the same person.  The players thought that would be fine, we changed the NPCs name on one of the character's sheets, and it worked out very well later.]

While Delia works on that, Val calls up his mentor, the aforementioned CLV and fills her in. Candace has heard of but not seen the moth-spawn before and advises Val that they're nasty and dangerous.  The 'queens' have a tendency to rebel and either uses its spawn to feed its Needs or is naturally Immanent once Summoned; either way, not good.

Delia calls back and informs Val that she can't make any headway on the hosted IP-numbered web server -- it could literally be anywhere.  In the discussion she hazards a guess that she might have more luck tracking down the email sender directly, if she were on Val's machine, so he invites her over.  She's a little leery at this point, because she's seen the video, knows it's connected to the disappearances, knows Val hasn't contacted the cops yet, and Val's mentioned that his 'occult contact' ("I mean, a friend I know who's got a minor in that sort of crap."), but he manages to convince her to come over anyway.

-----

This last part is pretty complicated in regards to cell phone calls, so bear with me...

BANG
Shannon is digging through her Dad's books while Yvonne is (still?) in the restroom and finds the Apprentice symbol next to a word/name she doesn't recognize.


-----

Delia shows up at Val's, a little nervous since no one but him is there, but generally calms down enough to work the email problem.  She's not making any headway and suggests that she knows someone who's "really good" at this kind of thing and asks if she can call him in on it.  Val is hesitant, but agrees, provided it's kept discreet -- he wants any clues given to the cops to be anonymous for a number of reasons (so he says), and Delia understands.  She steps outside to have a private call (with Ken) and Val has Shade follow her.

-----

BANG (player)
Shannon calls Val to inform him about the notation in Shaw's address book next to his Mistress/Master/Mentor's name... which is damn odd, considering that CLV told Val before the party in session one that she had no idea why Alonzo Shaw would even know of her, let alone invite her to a party.


-----

Delia calls Ken and basically loops him into the whole mess by asking him to track down an email sender through an anonymous remailing service.  Ken thinks that's coincidentally odd, since he's got his people on that very same thing, and agrees.  Delia cautions him that the email itself contains a link to very questionable material and Ken opines that it can't be any worse than what he's already seen that day (and, technically, he's not wrong).

Delia goes back to Val's and sends the email.

-----

Ken notes that someone went into voicemail while he was talking with Delia.  It's Adrien Black, informing the boss that they have the originator's email address, and they have forwarded it on to Ken's personal email account.

(Double) BANG
Ken checks his email and finds:
 * An email forwarded from Delia's account (originally from Val's account) containing a link to the same damn file someone sent him, with the same original time stamp.
 * An email from Mr. Black, informing Ken that the original emailer’s address as soniel (at) lib.harvard.edu


Ken calls Delia.  They have a short but very interesting conversation that Val finds unnerving as he listens in on Delia's half while Ken brings her somewhat up to speed.

-----

Shannon notices that Yvonne STILL hasn't come back from the ladies room and it's been quite some time.  She heads for the restrooms.

-----

Ken and Val get on the phone with each other directly, compare a few notes, and agree they should meet.  Val mentions that he has something of an 'occult expert' (Delia raises an eyebrow, but she's been doing that all day) working on researching elements they saw in the video -- the expert in question is doing the research at and in fact works at the Harvard Library – Val wonders if that wouldn't be the best place to meet.

Ken looks at the email address his head of security sent him and agrees that yes, that probably would be a good place to meet.

-----

Shannon gets a call from Val indicating that he is coming over and will be meeting with a 'computer guy' who's also received the "Video Email" today and who might have some info.

Shannon barely listens, because she's checking the stalls in the restroom, and Yvonne's nowhere to be seen.

Outside, the weather's getting worse.

-----

THOUGHTS

1. I both enjoy and regret my decision to incorporate the first session "test run" scenario into the continued plotline.  On the whole it's been more useful than annoying to integrate and has allowed the players a certain immediate emotional involvement in Yvonne, so I'm going to call it a positive.
2. Ken's invested a kicker that takes him somewhat away from the main action.  Particularly of note, since it's a good kicker with a fun plot around it. The part of the 'main' plot that eventually involves him somewhat with the other PCs requires he divide his attention away from that kicker-plot -- that's intentional on my part, since it plays into the premise in which he must prioritize between Power and Relationships.
3. Shannon's kicker-plot is finally moving a bit.  Praise ye gawds.

When queried afterwards, Val and Ken's players liked that I 'compressed' their NPCs into a single "Delia", both because it was a bit cleaner and also afforded them a really kind of fun 'synchronicity' connection that felt like a tie-in from a 'real story'.  I was pleased that it occured to me, because it moved the plot along.  (Yes, it also got the one 'cut off' PC in touch with someone else, but that's a minor bonus since I have no illusions or expectations that the PCs will go into 'party-mode' and stick together for the rest of the story -- it doesn't generally suit the characters and frankly all the players are quite used to many games in which full-time player cooperation is not generally required or expected.)

All in all, a pretty good session, despite being somewhat shortened.
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Doyce Testerman ~ http://random.average-bear.com
Someone gets into trouble, then get get out of it again; people love that story -- they never get tired of it.
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: April 26, 2004, 12:10:22 PM »

Hi Doyce,

My first impression is that your Bangs are actually mere "clues" or at most "information." I'm not sure they really qualify for driving - more like Weavings, to use the Sex & Sorcery terminology. That's not a bad thing; although this session does carry a certain feel of "roll and learn something, weird/moody atmosphere detail, roll and learn something" that is reminiscent of a Call of Cthulhu library hunt, sometimes that's what's called for. And after all that mothman mayhem last time, and given the time constraint, maybe that's what the group needed and wanted.

Best,
Ron
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Doyce
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« Reply #2 on: April 26, 2004, 01:08:07 PM »

Ron,

That's a fair assessment of the Bangs, though I think I unconsciously tended to think of them as Bangs if they were the sorts of things that might cause the PCs to do something, rather than "just look something else up" -- more accurately, if the information would lead to a scene and not just more research.

Looking over what I had:

Quote
The girl on the tape (one of Val's girlfriends, the one who later showed up in his closet during session 1) was killed as part of some kind of ritual.


Probably not a Bang, as it didn't require choices be made by the PCs, and will generally just lead to more questions.

That said, I like it for what it is -- a plot point introduced by the players in psuedo-trollbabe style -- they decided they wanted to go over the movie in more detail to pick out any possible occult rituals within, so that's what they found when they looked... wasn't originally part of the plan on my part.

Quote
Unlike Val, the snuff video Ken sees is not of a girl he knows. (It is, in fact, the exact same video as the one Val & Company has seen.) This is somewhat more disturbing, since the girl is apparently the "other girl" who has went missing on the Harvard Campus at the same time as the girl did that he knows.


I think this one was much more 'actionable' by the PC.  Up to that point, the fact that Ken's girlfriend was missing wasn't something he could really do anything about -- leave it to the professionals and all that -- but with this email, someone (in his opinion) is clearly sending him a message.  At some level he needs to respond to (make a decision about) that message (especially when considering the definition of Humanity).

Now I'm curious, though: would a strict Bang definition be an event that requires a decision/action from the PC right now?

Quote
Besides Shannon's father the first name in Shaw's address book that she recognizes is Val's mentor -- listed in the book with the rune that means "Apprentice".


I think this is a Bang simply because the PC's (both Val and Shannon) have to decide whether to let this fact slide or go to a confrontation (or, I suppose, investigate more.  Perhaps a 'weak' Bang.

Quote
Shannon is digging through her Dad's books and finds the Apprentice symbol next to a word/name she doesn't recognize.


Since Shannon's kicker is directly tied to her finding out more about her father and who/what he was, I think this is a pretty important event.  Again, however, I'd have to agree and say it's not really a Bang, since it probably just leads to (a) more research and (b) a limited list of possible reactions.

Quote
Ken learns that someone else (Val) also got that snuff film email.


Hmm.  Probably not a Bang, since it doesn't result in a bevy of choices being presented.

Quote
Ken learns that the email originally game from a harvard.edu account at the library, and that Val knows someone who works there who knows the occult.


I think this is a Bang simply because it presents any number of possible choices for Ken -- I literally have no idea how he's going to proceed with that information -- it could be anything from "hello, we need to talk" to one of those Marvel-classics "fight resulting from a misunderstanding", or anything in between.

Further, once this information is out it's going to require some choices made on the part of both Val and Shannon as well.

If I had one wish, it would have been to have done up a relationship map before the first 'test run' scenario and not after (then again, I didn't know there was going to be an 'after') -- getting things to come together coherently between those sessions has been like oil-painting in the back of moving truck.
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Doyce Testerman ~ http://random.average-bear.com
Someone gets into trouble, then get get out of it again; people love that story -- they never get tired of it.
Judd
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« Reply #3 on: April 26, 2004, 01:14:19 PM »

Quote from: Doyce
If I had one wish, it would have been to have done up a relationship map before the first 'test run' scenario and not after (then again, I didn't know there was going to be an 'after') -- getting things to come together coherently between those sessions has been like oil-painting in the back of moving truck.


Could you explain what you did for a relationship map and how it would have helped from the beginning?

I'm doing a character generation session tonight and I've got a R-map printed out and I'm curious how it helped your game and why you think it would have been beneficial earlier.
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Doyce
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« Reply #4 on: April 26, 2004, 01:36:31 PM »

Quote from: Paka
I'm doing a character generation session tonight and I've got a R-map printed out and I'm curious how it helped your game and why you think it would have been beneficial earlier.


One of the things that I didn't do before the first session was come up with any sort of R-Map for the setting at all -- this was mostly because I was just using the 'test run' from the main book and simply wanted a useful setting for the session -- academia seemed to work, so I went with that as a vague backdrop.

Well, we stuck with that setting and those characters and I was set the task of coming up with an R-Map to plug into the pre-existing kickers.

Note that: plug the R-Map into the Kickers, not the other way around as it should be.  In the process of 'hooking up' the two, it is much to your benefit to let the big clunky R-Map be mostly stationary and move those quick, bright-eyed kickers around it.  Doing it the other way around (cementing down the kickers so that you have to lug and twist around the R-Map to work everything into play) is much more effort.

The way we did it (kickers first) is sort of like setting down a widescreen TV, couch, and fridge in the middle of an open lot (in locations that seem interesting to me at the time and with nothing to go on), then building a house around that placement without disturbing them :)

Actually, I'm overstating this a bit in making it an R-Map-specific issue -- I'd have the same problem in any game in which I decided to just have everyone make up characters with little or no setting info but with lots of personal baggage and then built the setting around them afterwards.
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Doyce Testerman ~ http://random.average-bear.com
Someone gets into trouble, then get get out of it again; people love that story -- they never get tired of it.
redwalker
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« Reply #5 on: April 26, 2004, 05:06:43 PM »

Quote from: Doyce


 Also, several coeds have disappeared from Harvard campus and at least one of them has since turned up in a snuff video after her disappearance ...
 They are at the warehouse to meet with one of Yvonne's contacts, a video editing expert named Jerry Rubinek (pix) who's worked with Yvonne on some of her films (for Yvonne, see the test run scenario in the main Sorcerer book. Also, pix.).  


This totally reminds me of the Cronenberg film "Videodrome."  Snuff films, scruffy-looking video expert, general insanity... were you thinking of Cronenberg when you wrote the adventure?
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Doyce
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« Reply #6 on: April 26, 2004, 08:27:08 PM »

Quote from: redwalker
This totally reminds me of the Cronenberg film "Videodrome."  Snuff films, scruffy-looking video expert, general insanity... were you thinking of Cronenberg when you wrote the adventure?


Hmm.  Nope.  I haven't seen it -- I keep seeing references to his movies but I don't know that I've seen any of his stuff [checks IMDB] -- nope, I can now honestly say I've never seen one of his movies.

The snuff film idea came from one single scene in the anime Hellsing in which the leader of Hellsing is shown a psuedo snuff film circulating of one of her soldiers being gunned down during their last raid.  Plotwise, the two events are not similar, but it seemed like a good way to bring the 'dead girl' thread back into the main story after she'd been dumped off in the first episode, making the whole thing more personal. Also, using snuff films in a storyline was something I'd never introduced in a game and I thought it would shake the players up a bit.

I'd like to say that this whole thing is some sort of grand R-Map conversion of a terribly familiar story that every knows but which is so carefully concealed that it's become brilliantly unrecognizable, but that's simply not the case -- the fact is (as I alluded above) that the kickers made using a converted R-Map more difficult than the payoff warranted, so I'm constructing the whole thing from scratch.

Amusingly, it's coming off not unlike Ron's example R-Map conversion in Sorcerer & Soul, in that it started off simple and as things are revealed I re-draw it to reflect the newly revealed relationships and things get more complicated.

Hopefully, when the story's over I'll have a proper R-map all drawn out and I'll finally be ready to run the game :)
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Doyce Testerman ~ http://random.average-bear.com
Someone gets into trouble, then get get out of it again; people love that story -- they never get tired of it.
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: April 27, 2004, 07:40:32 AM »

Hi Doyce,

My jaw drops. Run, don't walk, to your video store and see:

The Brood
Shivers
Videodrome
Scanners
Spider

... now.

Best,
Ron
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