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.