With session 2, the finale was fast approaching. Alas, we had one player less, so the enforcer Spencer Shull had to be played by me, the GM. Which wasn't good, because the gróup was in dire straits already, and he was the guy with the fists and the pistol...
So we started off with jumping a little back in time, with the investogators drinving a Church van towards the Celebrity retreat. They soon noticed they were followed by church security guards and pulled in at a Starbucks. Here, they talked over their plan but were unable to get rid of the followers. The atmosphere was getting dark and foreboding, with Daria Nowland suggesting not to go and get emptied. But Blake Tevis, the church PR guy, insisted on follwing through with the Church head's orders.
Once in the retreat, they met Verity Harrow, all hidden by a gigantic star-sprinkled shawl and huge mirrored sunglasses that I had ordered specifically from China. I put those on as props, and when Verity spoke with a hollow, monotonous voice, the effect was instant: Severeal playes stood up from the table and wanted to somehow touch Verity, especially remove her enormous sunglasses. She didnt let that happen, but Daria noticed that the actresses body was malleable like an inflated balloon...
CONFLICT WITH THE GUARDS
There was some scuffle with several guards then, with the enforcer Shull threatening one guard, and Blake Tevis influencing another. It all led up to the female characters trying to flee, until they encountered the locked glass doors. They then hid in the Lady's room and talked quickly to Verity Harrow. She made some dark announcements, but remained cryptical. When the guard knocked harder on the door, they had to let Verity go, and she although she pleaded to be taken away from here, she was taken "to a safe and quiet place" by the guards.
Now, the guards insisted on bringing the investogators to their arrainged Emptying session - their coach must be waiting. Nobody really wanted to go right now, so they found the excuse to send only one man there for the first session (the now-NPC Spencer Shull), while PR guy Tevis insisted they needed to see the Screening Room first to see if all was good for tomorrow. Once there, they searched around but found no clues to anything anormal. They met a technician, who couldnt help much, then a female Emptying coach appeared, to take them to their session.
SPLIT UP - AND RUN!
After some time, the coach coulndt be ignored anymore. So, Daria the producer and Julia Cortese, the personal assistant, agreed to go for their session. After all, Spencer had textedt them "all okay here" just now. Little did they know he had been emptied already, and Steele was writing the message. Blake Tevis, meanwhile, insisted that he first had to meet Steele before the session, and stayed near his office, now with only one guard. Since I figured Steele had come in while they were inside the screening room, I decided he had passed shortly through his office to fetch something, and after a Luck roll it was decided that he had not locked his door this time. Using the right moment, Tevis sneaked into Steele's office, when the guard called him from the hallway. Here, he missed the chance to just play as if Steele was there ("Oh, hello Craig, long time...") and shut the door. This would have allowed him to search the whole office. Instead, it came to a fight with the guard. Blake would have been chanceless, if it were not for his luck - and the little X-Acto-knife he had taken from Woodward's editing suite. He managed to cut the guard and flee. But where? He ran for the new wing where the Emptying suites are and snuck into the Meditation room. Here, he hid in one of the floating tanks.
Meanwhile, Daria Nowland got ready for her session, while PA Julia saved some time going to the bathroom (again). Here, she sent some text and audio messages to police chief Neumann, to warn him about the Retreat, the upcoming screening and alert him that Verity had been found (along with her voice on the audio as proof). Just when she wanted to leave the Ladies' room again, she spotted the ground floor window here, and managed to open it to flee into the garden. This was well done, since her colleague Daria just now met Craig Steele and the surgeon in the operating theatre, where she was soon skinned alive to the music theme "Machine gun" by Portishead.
The only one free to move now was Julia. She snuck around the hose to the car park, where she saw Spencer Shull leaning against their car, sunglasses on. She wisely decided not to contact him
and instead called for a luck roll, which brought her a parked laundry van in front of the retreat. She hid in the back, between towels and sheets, waiting. Of course, this was spotted by the omnipresent cameras. But just when some guards came up, she had enough luck (again!) to have the laundry driver appear and start the engine. They were stopped at the gate to be searched, but now Julia took off one of her high-heels and put into the neck of the driver: "Drive on, fast, or I shoot and we all die!" Aghast, the guy speeded out of the retreat - and drove Julia to the police station, where she alerted Neumann on all she knew. They wouldnt have believed her ramblings, if it weren't for some audio evidence she had on her cellphone.
This left only Blake Tevis still on the run. After a while, he decided to leave the tank. He felt strangely drawn to the Emptying Suites... where he met Daria, sunglasses and shawl on, and Craig Steele. When he wanted to run, it was already too late, guards had closed the heavy doors. He didn't give up, though, and did a surprise attack on Steele with his X-Acto-knife, hurting him just enough to have the Hungry Void come out! Since there was no space to run to, Tevis was soon sucked into The Space between, where he started floating through space to the music of "The Sound of Silence"....
Of the four investigators, only Julia remained. But she was able to stop the screening, have the Retreat searched by Neumann, and stop the whole madness.
It was a victory, after all, albeit a bitter one.
I think this is a scenario that's great on many levels: charakters, NPCs, setting, atmosphere, a very unusual enemy etc.
One thing that makes it difficult, though, is that the Celebrity Retreat is a real death trap. I also noticed that in an actual podcast I listened to. While this may be realistic, I think it is overly harsh on characters who are not combat machines. So, next time I run this, I will introduce two possibilities for the investiagtors to flee: some minor repair work on the walls in the gardens behind the house, with a small scaffolding from the inside - and a heli-port on the roof top! (I will also give 1 or 2 investogators the ability to fly such a thing, or maybe have a pilot up there who could be forced to fly them out). That could make for a nice cinematic escape.
This should also raise possibilities for some investigators to get to the final screening, which I missed out on here. Which was a real pity, because I prepared a video for the rough cut from some youtube material. Hopefully, I will use it nex time I run this.
I think, with the adventure as written, it is difficult to get to the screening finale. I am thinking on changing the time frame and have the screening scheduled on the same night the scenario starts off. That will raise tension and time pressure. Also, investigators will be able to find people preparing the screening if they get to the Retreat the first day.
I am also thinking as how to handle things when the group splits up, which is very likely. This time, I sent players outside for longer periods than I like, so as not to spoil the dangerous mystery. But maybe next time I will just have everybody watch and see if they can play things well, distinguishing player/character knowledge.
So that's that, thanks again Scott, a really cool adventure! Wanna run it at a con in summer, but I am not sure yet about the time length. It can be anything from 2 to 6 hours from what I have seen.
So I am running this excellent scenario for the first time, as a preparation for using it at a convention next year.
I have 4 players, 2 female, 2 male. Their PCs are:
- The PR guy - Blake Tevis
- The fixer - Spencer Shull
- The personal assistant (PA) - Julia Cortese
- The co-producer - Daria Nowland.
Enter the players into a darkened room, dimly lit by the glowing cinema style advert for "The Space between" (see picture), to the horrible song "Space between" from the movie "Descendants 2"....
The starting scene worked really well, with Teekrop Singh putting pressure on the PCs, and then the police coming in - the characters discussed a lot about what to do, all in-rôle. The PR guy and the fixer managed to keep the cops away from the set, with quite a lot of bad vibes and aggression flowing around. To give them at least something, the PA showed the police the trailer of the missing actress. Here, the police took DNA from some hair in a hairbrush.
Then, they called the missing director, Jared Woodward. (I am using actual mobile phone calls for telephone scenes, where I leave the room and talk to the players via phone - this proved to work out really well for the "Cthulhu Now" atmosphere)
Woodward went mad when he heard of the police and told them to "burn the set! Burn the basalt cliffs!"
Now, the PCs were disturbed. They started investigating a lot, and actually found some blood stains and a piece of cloth at the cliffs. Having the costume designer in, the deternmined the cloth was part of the costume of the missing actress, Verity Harrow. They even soon suspected ritual murder... Then they connected with security to check camera footage, which only exists for the parking lot and the entry. This would take several hours to go through, though. They decided to actually burn the set, in order to protect their Church. Calling up the company that built it, they managed to get that going, although they did not know that (through a botched luck roll) the company would take quite a while for that, for lack of sufficient staff (it's a bit set piece!).
Woodward's apartment was the next scene: Eventually, they got on the road, all together, to go and see Woodward at his apartment. (I used actual google maps material here for the feel and the distances). An earlier thought of searching for the missing actress was abandoned, for the time being. At the director's apartment, they quickly got afraid of the cold darkness behind the door of the editing suite. After a while, though, the desperate co-producer Daria stepped in, followed by PR-man and co-producer Blake Tevis. As soon as the frightened Woodward had come to them, and they saw the horror of Yvette Sommers drifting towards them, Daria had the idea that this might all be a dream, and that of course: prayer would help! So the 3 of them locked hands in a circle and began to chant desperately. A great scene! Of course, it worked, and the illusion was over before Yvette could touch them. They somehow knew insantly that this must be the mysterious figure of Yvette Sommers mentioned in the movie script.
Here, I had some doubts on how to play the rescued director, so as not to give away too many clues on what had happened. I decided to play Woodward very incoherent. His sanity was severly damaged, and he was still drunk and drugged. Babbling, he said and shouted things like "the horror, the horror..." or "Craig Steele, he wanted it...", especially when pressed on the whereabouts of Verity Harrow. He then rushed back into the editing suite, obsessed with the idea of finishing his work, apparently frightened of what might happen if he doesn't. Somehow, he passed out and the investigators started checking out the suite. They found the copper bowl with blood stains and strange signs, the fine paintbrush and of course took a look at the film - and were shocked when they saw Yvette coming towards them. They also found the stills showing lots of blood, confirming their suspicions about a ritual murder. Meanwhile, Whatsapp-massages were coming in from Steele, and Musgrove called with an icy voice, requiring details.
Lastly, just before leaving, Woodwards PA Julia remembered taking his laptop with the script and all. Only that, alas!, nobody thought of hacking into it during the stressed-out drive back to Church Central. After all, the characters had taken the fatal decision to go and tell it all to the head of their organization - Brian Musgrove...
Brian Musgrove greeted the investigators sitting at his enormous, empty desk. (I put some mirrored aviator sunglasses on). He was very interested in their theories on how Craigs Steele had been using the Church for his nefarious purposes, and how Woodward might be involved. Turning down the characters' idea of stopping Woodward from finishing "The Space between", he happily looked at all the evidence, including the still unused laptop, and then... held on to it! After all, he's the Boss. This left the investigators as humble and diligent Church sheep, who even got lauded for keeping the cops out and being wise enough to have the blood-stained basalt cliffs burned!
Having gone through so much mental stress and emotional upheaval, Musgrove now recommended free emptying sessions for all of them at the nearby Celebrity Retreat. At first, the crew refused, but Musgrove was adamant about it: They should first go and empty themselves of their woes, and then report back to him to see what their next move should be....
To be continued in session 2, due Dec. 20