Friday, April 19, 2013

The Umbra Group e01 : World of Darkness

The Umbra Group
Episode One
"The Academy"

World of Darkness
Home-brewed Setting

Started a whole new chronicle with the Sunday group, and this time we get to use the World of Darkness rules again.  Admittedly, I miss this game system, even if deep down I always liked the classic World of Darkness rules more.    Excited to run the game, I actually ended up mapping out the whole story's premise and outline within 24-hours and even made a teaser for it.

I'm tempted to explain many of my plans, plot points and ideas, but given how my players do read my blog, I'm worried of spoiling them the story which I feel is best described as my attempt to do my own version of Planetary if it were to have the lovechild with Fringe.  The list of sixteen titles already suggests the many directions the game will go, and I even warned the players I currently foresee only sixteen game sessions for this chronicle.   Given the short span I have in mind, I informed the players that this game will still not require them to work as a team, or help each other out, nor be giving out any experience points.  Any developments will have to be portrayed during scenes, and then if done enough, can be simply added to the sheet ( such as a character who spends a few scenes reading up on ghosts might be allowed to get the first dot of Occult a few sessions later).    Anyway, I can discuss more on the game itself in another post.  Here's the Actual Play report for now.

Introducing the main cast for The Umbra Group:
Theodore "Ted" Olivier (28), played by Erich.
Burglary- Commercial Crime Divison : Detective  (Museums, etc)
Vice: Pride  Virtue: Faith
Merits:  Trained Observer, Good Time Management, Status Police 3,
Ally: Elena 4, Resources 1, Iron Stamina
Specialties: CSI (Investigation), Black Market (Streetwise), Long Distance (Athletics)
Elena Valenta (4) - Psychiatrist, handles cops trauma.  Ex-wife.  Messy divorce due to dept. politics.  Met in college.  Met again as precint shrink.  First Gen Check immigrant.
Francis Olivier, Dad (1) - Former beat cop.  50s.  Still working.
Jessica Weaver - Mom (no rating)

Dylan "Dil" Harris (28), played by Rachel.
Security Officer of an Art Gallery.  Former Prison Guard of a Maximum Security Prison.
Vice: Pride  Virtue: Prudence
Merits: Boxing (4) Body Blow (# more than 5, Lose action), Duck and Weave (Higher of Wits/Dex), Combination Blows(second/-1), Haymaker (# more than 5, KO. Stamina check to stay conscious)
Fleet of Foot, Resources 2, Danger Sense, Iron Stamina
Specialties:  Boxing, Sprinting, Lockpicking
Son - Tim (2) - Precocious, two years old, likes music
Wife - Samantha (1) - Boxing Trainer, works in gym. Orphan. Health buff.
Mother - Susan (1) - Accountaint, Good at cooking, nearly retired.
Brother - Jun (1) - 31, Dotcomer.  Gay.  Also good at cooking.
Father - disabled (no rating)

Patrick Beckett (35), played by Rocky
Venture Capitalist. (EDIT:  Sorry love. Heheheh!)
Vice: Greed Virtue: Prudence
Merits: Quick Draw, Retainer 5 (Assistant Bodyguard: Frances), Resources 4, Striking Looks 2, Fame 1, Barfly 1, Combat Marksmanship 4, Encyclopedic Knowledge.
Specialties:Pistols, Negotiations, Trends
Matt (3) - Brother, 17. Estranged with Patrick. Religious.
Maxine Steele (1) - Ex-girlfriend, 31.  Art buyer.  Cheated on her.
Mark (1) - Ex-boyfriend, 24.  Dotcomer.  Didn't get enough time.

Rayne Calloway (28), played by Mahar.
Artist, rose from gang family.  Popular among rich people.
Vice: Pride Virtue: Charity
Merits: Striking Looks 2, Fame 1, Barfly 1, Resources 4, Improvised Weaponry 1
Specialties: Sculpture/Installation, Blades, Gangs
Best friend (3) - Enzo, Latino.  Superfriend zoned. Grew up together. Not Liza's son.
Aunt Liza (2) - Family Friend, not real Aunt.  Gets involved in life. Passionate.  Interventionist.

Episode One
"The Academy"

Each one was enjoying their simple lives.  But the shadows of the Umbra Group were to reach out and wrap around them whether they wanted to or not.

Ted Olivier was on the subway, on a long ride home, struggling against the urge to fall asleep.  The constant rocking of the train seemed to hypnotize him.   The train stops, but he is still a few stations away.  He sees an odd sight.  A duck is standing by the train doors.  And just stares at him.    And that's when the sounds came.  An argument between a woman and her boyfriend.  Ted glanced over and saw the two were the only other people in the train car he was in.  And she wasn't too keen on his persistence that they have sex in public.  The train starts moving again, and as he hears her struggle against him, he decides to walk over and try to help out.  The lights flicker.  And when they stabilize, the glass is cracked.  The walls are stained red.  The woman is far by the rear of the train, screaming in utter terror.  And her boyfriend is beaten to a bloody pulp with his face broken in.  Ted looks down and realizes his hands are closed into tight fists and his knuckles are bruised and bloody.

Dylan Harris is at a gallery called The Window and the owner, Imelda, is complaining about him and the two other security guards not being properly dressed for the gallery.  The owner demands the guys wear suits that shift from black to gray to white, then ushers them to step out while he talks with his client, a certain miss Calloway.  The three step out and Dylan quickly learns that of his two buddies, Dick and Tom, Dick is quite a close-minded homophobe.  While they take the chance to sneak in a smoke break, Dylan notices something odd which triggers his gut feel of something bad happening; across the street, a group of guys seemingly in some kind of American Indian feathery costume are heading up the fire escape and making their way to the roof.  Dylan tries to get a closer view at what he thinks are just cosplayers, and catches one of them pulling out some kind of a spy-glass like what pirates use in movies.  Knowing the place is beyond his jurisdiction, he calls in 9-11 to have them check.  But when the cops arrive, they consider his worries as unimportant.  It is only when one of the cops, who opted to climb up the fire escape,  is shot by an arrow into the throat, does Dylan realize the danger he is really in.  The archer trains the bow at Dylan and before Dylan could do more, lights seemingly flicker, then he faints.

Patrick Beckett's night does not start as quietly.  He receives a call from his ex-boyfriend, Mark, who is bawling over something.  When Patrick presses for Mark to explain, Mark finally admits he misses Patrick and wishes he didn't break up with him.  Patrick reminds Mark that they're at least still friends and begs him not to go through this every single year.  That's when his other ex, Maxine, calls.  She asks if Mark is on the phone, and seems to relish the emotional turmoil he is going through.  Patrick soon learns Maxine had a) called the radio stations Mark usually listens to and requested they play their old song, b) requested it as a Mark Beckett, and to twist the dagger a bit deeper, c) had a messenger bring a pint of ice cream, with a CD of Adele.  Patrick scowls at Maxine's mischief, but she reminds him she's just balancing the scales given he cheated on her.  The two plan out a lunch for the next day.  Mark starts to bawl about finding a Blue Power ring in the ice cream, which Patrick realizes was Maxine's final stroke! When he scolds her about crossing the geek line, and puts the phone down on her, he hears from Mark's side of the line that Maxine is actually THERE with him.  "We were always friends," Maxine hisses, "So don't worry.  I'm helping him get through breaking up with you.  I did it.  See you tomorrow."  But as Patrick tries to get some sleep, a second call arrives in the evening.  A woman's voice thanks him for availing of the Service, and asks for his consent.  Thinking this was some kind of thing his assistant, Rayne, he gives in.  But suddenly he has a strange sexual dream where both Maxine and Mark seem to hold him down while a third person attempts to mount him.  He wakes up, and hears a call again, and the woman apologizes for the dream.  Patrick tries to call again Frances and tells her to call off whatever service that was.  She profusely apologizes.  He tries to head back to sleep.

Rayne Calloway is working on a new set of statues to be featured in The Window.  Inspiration feels fleeting, so she hops onto a cab and asks to be brought to Central Park.  Enroute, however, she sees some weird ads in the cab about existential services.  Changing her mind, she has the cab bring her back home and finds the cab driver a possible inspiration for the art.  Her work is interrupted when Imelda calls, however, and Rayne finds herself horrified by the supposed merchandising pack that was to be part of her exhibit.   Stressed out by the kit (which included life-sized standees of her, ipod audio narratives that would accompany each piece, and even a giveaway that suggested it included some strands of her own hair), she pours her frustration into her work and starts transforming the last statue into that of a woman.  Her Aunt Liza visits, who insists Rayne needs to eat better, and as the two enjoy a meal, Rayne learns to her dismay that her childhood friend Enzo has started to see a white girl named Rianne.  When her Aunt opts to leave early, Rayne learns (after snagging Aunt Liza's phone) that Enzo had invited her to dinner to meet the girl.  Rayne feels immense feelings of jealousy, and lights begin to flicker in the area.  Liza leaves and Rayne finishes the artwork with all her anger channeled into its look.  A frenetic knocking.  Rayne looks outside to see a blonde young woman begging for help.  When Rayne opens the door, she sees the reason for the young woman's panic:  a masked figure stands across the street, staring at them.  Rayne pulls the blonde girl inside, notices she is bleeding from some cuts, and quickly slams the door closed.  "My sisters," the blonde girl gasps, "He killed my sisters.. the Academy..."  As the lights begin to flicker, she decides to call Enzo and ask him to come quickly and help.

Ted calls for security to help round the people up.  Uncertain what just happened, he asks the security to look for the woman (after sharing her appearance) and the train is pulled out of the main track and moved to the side.  There, the cops find the woman and call for Ted to speak to her.  But she panics upon seeing her, and before he could do anything else, he once again blanks out.  He recovers, only to find many of the security personnel on the ground, bleeding profusely from multiple stab wounds.  And he finds the woman screaming for him to stay back.  And that's when he wakes up.  Still on the train.  And the two lovers are still arguing.  Ted decides to duck out of the train, even if he's not yet at his station, and sees the duck once again standing in the hallway.  He decides to follow it and is lead to the service tunnel where trains are usually transferred to for maintenance reasons, and from there, to a small service office.  Stepping inside, the duck seems to motion for him to close the door, and when he does - plunging himself into complete darkness - he hears a voice address him.  Following the woman's voice, he realizes he is in a dark brick-walled chamber with a marble floor.  On a pedestal, a glass bust of a woman sits.  Shattered from the breasts down, the woman's face is frighteningly detailed and crafted.   And impossibly speaks.

She welcomes Ted to what she calls The Sliding Room, and tells him it was about time one of "the Four" finally showed up.  When Ted asks what she means, she explains she rather explain everything only once all four are present. "I rather not repeat myself unnecessarily."  Ted explores The Sliding Room and explores two other rooms - one that contained four metal gurneys surrounded by what look like devices and equipment one would find in a mad scientists' laboratory, and a second that showed a huge mural of a world map, marked with pins and markers the way a conspiracy theorist would mark one.  There were four metal filing cabinets, with files arranged alphabetically.  Inside were manila envelopes with labels such as The Academy, MorphArmy, and the like.  Ted considers opening one, but decides to try helping find the others instead to hasten their "reunion."  The Glass Woman tells Ted about the secret of The Sliding Room:  Stand in complete darkness, think of the one you wish you find, and the Darkness will take you there.    Ted finds The Shadow Cabinet, as the Glass Woman calls it, a huge wooden cabinet laid on its side like a coffin. He steps in, closes the door over himself, and mutters, "Dylan Harris."

Dylan opens his eyes to see the police in the area.  Imelda mutters something about never having trusted him (and points to Dylan) and a man identifying himself as Detective Grey asks Dylan to step into his car to return to the station.  Opting to be cooperative, Dylan steps inside and quietly waits to be brought to the station.  But being familiar with the area, he starts to realize the car isn't headed for the precinct.  And before he could question the Detective about this, a truck suddenly swerves in front of the police car and the two vehicles collide!  As Dylan recovers from the impact, he sees a young man step out of the truck.  The man wears a hoodie but peeking from underneath one can see a bird's beak   Eagle-like talons are where his hands should be.  The bird man leaps onto the hood of the police car and tears into Detective Grey!  Dylan kicks the window open and rushes away from the car, stumbling as he runs.  Being in the warehouse district, Dylan rushes to the nearest one and sneaks in just before the Bird Man gets to him.  It squaks, "Darkness!  Bring you to the Darkness!" but is unable to slip into the warehouse before Dylan slams the doors closed.  He does not find safety, however, as the strange "feathered-pirates" once again emerge, scouting from the warehouse's rafters.  One mutters, "This Instance is our opportunity.  Take the target down before we are recalled."  Outnumbered and trapped, Dylan sees the lights flicker once more.  And then black out.

Maxine and Patrick are at a restaurant and the two talk about relationships, as well as possible business options.  Maxine admits she is being a bit cruel but promises Patrick she's only doing what she believes is for the best for Mark.  Patrick's phone rings again, and his cellular phone shows it is an unlisted number.  Answering, it turns out to be the woman who called him the previous night.  She begs him to reconsider the cancellation, but Patrick hangs up.  As Maxine and Patrick walk down the street, more strangeness happens around Patrick.  A wall of display television screens shifts to show an Asian Woman staring at Patrick.   Total strangers walking nearby have their phones ring, and the people start complaining about the caller having dialed a wrong number.  One even mutters aloud as Patrick and Maxine passes, "No, I will not hand my phone to a Patrick.  Who the hell are you and why do you have my number?"  Patrick contacts Frances and she admits she cancelled the service already.  But Patrick admits he is intrigued how this service is tracking him and doing this, and considers a business option with them.   As he gets home, he hears the sounds of someone or something already in his home.  He hears the sounds coming from the closet, and very slowly approaches it and slides it open.  Of all the things he fears seeing, what he finds is a duck.

Exhausted.  Confused.  Tired.  Patrick sits beside the duck and wonders if this was something Maxine was up to - but given only he and Frances has a copy of the house key, considers if it was sent by his assistant.  The duck seems to motion for him to close the door and Patrick decides to just do it.  The door closes and plunges him into darkness.

Rayne awakens to find her house in a state of ruin.  Blood trails in various directions, and as Rayne studies the scene more she learns Enzo is also present but bleeding from a massive wound through his stomach! Unaware how long she was out, she calls 911 and emergency services quickly comes to respond.  The scene shifts to the hospital where Rayne sits in a room where Enzo is currently resting.  Somewhere else in the hospital, the blonde girl is resting as well.  Both have been stabilized.  Rayne looks up to see her Aunt Liza arrive, accompanied by Rianne.  When Aunt Liza confronts Rayne about what happens, the artist instead projects her frustrations out at her - leading to a massive argument.  As Liza accuses Rayne of disrespecting her, Rayne strikes Liza and tells her she has no right to tell her what to do.  Liza declares their relationship over and when Rayne considers leaving, the lights flicker once again.

She realizes she is standing in front of Enzo's room.  With a tire iron in her hand.  And the hospital security standing beside her.  They ask her to come with them and there, question her on what he had planned to do. Rayne watches footage that show her walking out of the hospital, straight to the closest ambulance, where she then took the tire iron and stomped back to the room.  Thankfully, she seemed to recover before she reached the door.  One of the security guys takes pity on Rayne and suggests they let her go since she didn't officially do anything.  The others reluctantly agree.

Ted emerges from the shadows to find himself in some warehouse.  As he steps out of the massive storage container trucks, he finds Dylan on the ground with numerous arrows embedded into his stomach, shoulder and arm.  Dylan is conscious now too, and realizes everyone else is dead, including the Bird man.  He calls 911 for help, but realizes his wounds don't feel as bad as they should be.  Ted hears the paramedics coming and sees the bodies of all the others quickly vanish, as if they never were there.  Only the Bird man's body remains.  When the paramedics arrive, Dylan asks if they saw the Detective outside, but all they saw were the car and the van that struck each other.  Confused, Ted suggests to Dylan that he comes with him.  Dylan senses he will find answers if he goes, and so the two step back into the Container vehicle and shut the door behind them.

Rayne is given a ride home by the security guy, whose name happens to be Jerry.  He offers to give her a ride home on his motorcycle and while he seems to try to offer some kindness given all the madness  that has been transpiring.  As they stop at a red light, however, Rayne sees the blonde girl she helped running down the street.  Consfused how she'd be out of the hospital, Rayne steps down and calls out to her, but she ducks into an alleyway.  Rayne takes chase, and Jerry isn't certain what is going on.

In the alley, as Rayne tries to get answers from the blonde girl, she suddenly demands that Rayne stop approaching and Rayne feels the voice "inside her head."  She finds herself suddenly unable to move closer! Jerry asks what is going on, and Rayne mutters some excuse about the blonde having stolen her purse.  Jerry backs away, not sure if they should just chase after the woman, but Rayne will not be denied.  Thinking quick, Rayne leaps up for the fire escape, and flings herself forward, allowing gravity to go against the mental compulsion not to come close.  As she lands, the blonde woman turns to run away but stops as out of the shadows a muscular man wearing a rubber mask steps out of the darkness.  Rayne realizes it is the same one from outside her home! As the blonde screams in panic, Rayne dodges in the last second as the masked man grabs the blonde by the throat, then uses her to try and bludgeon Rayne to the ground.  The lights flicker around the area as Rayne seemingly feels her body empowered by some unknown force.  She shatters the helmet's glass visor on the ground, then uses the jagged edge to tear into the masked man's throat.  Though she does draw blood, the Masked Man merely walks away back into the shadows without any signs of pain.  Rayne looks at the blonde girl and learns to her dismay she is dead, her neck was snapped when she was swung at Rayne as a weapon.  Rayne looks up, sees a duck standing at the edge of the shadow, and steps into the shadow hoping for answers.

The Sliding Room.

As the four find each other in the room, the initial accusations quickly fly as some question how the others are connected or part of what is going on.  The Glass Woman does commend Ted on finding the three others quickly, although Ted admits he had only found Dylan.  Patrick is struggling to grasp how the Glass Woman can speak while Rayne is on a warpath demanding for answers.

But when Rayne mentions about the blonde girl still being alive and out there, the Glass Woman seems to panick and try to get everyone's attention.  No one hears her, however, as the four begin throwing expletives and questions at each other.  Realizing time is of the essence, and not wanting to lose someone she cares about, the Glass Woman transforms in an eye blink into a severed human being, and in the split second before death claims her heartless form, she telepathically reaches out to the gathered and mentally imposes a compulsion on them all:  I am Emma Frost.  You Will Listen To Me and Obey.  You Will Save Sophie.

As the four feel the compulsion lock into place, they see the now flesh and blood bust of a woman slip into death, unable to remain alive in her current state of being.    In the silence of The Sliding Room, the group feel the tug of the mental command, and the other room, an enveloped labelled, The Academy, now begins to make sense.

End of Episode One

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