The Chronicles of Ceteri (B-Team): Prelude and Ep2

We kicked off a new campaign under Christopher Rice’s GMing hand. We are doing all sorts of interesting things with rules for this game. It’s still GURPS at the core, but we’ve got all sort of modular add-ons on trial. A card deck system, foibles and flaws from Pointless Looting and Slaying and/or Pointless Monster Hunting in play instead of quantified disadvantages, and a bunch of other stuff, including a lot of home-built magic.

The basic genre of the game is modern-day monster hunting. The quirk is that we’re going to game through our character development, starting as 12-14yo kids, and then doing some flash-forward stuff and time skips. So we’ll play through a bunch of sessions as teens, then flash forward to likely college-age stuff, then maybe once or twice more.

The soft premise is that we are chosen, for good or ill, by the great powers of the world – and by “great powers” we’re basically talking God, and specifically the God of the Bible. There’s a lot more nuance to it than this, and some very, very promising campaign themes and concepts and backstory that we all had some hand in nudging. But there’s a lot of depth to the cosmology here, and it’s very exciting.

Due to technical difficulties getting the transcript done, this is the summary of the first two sessions.

Meet Gabriel MacAlister

Gabriel (Gabe) MacAlister was born in December 1980. His father was a  hard-charging Delta forces type; his mother was a practicing nurse and missionary. He bounced all over the hottest spots in the world, and both his parents took service to others as the highest calling. Gabe spent his early years in North Carolina, but then went with his family to Beirut in 1982, departing from there having picked up a good deal of Arabic in 1984.

From there his mother and he went as missionaries to Ethiopia, for the horrible famines there, and Gabe accompanied her on life-saving and comfort-giving missions as best he could. More Arabic, and also picked up French when he had to live in Djibouti for a while, as Ethiopia had just gotten too horrible.

They rotated back to the USA in 1987, then redeployed to South America on anti-drug and pro-democracy actions for his father. This strengthened his Spanish. Then back to North Carolina for a year, and then back to Saudi Arabia for the run-up to Desert Shield. By this time, Gabe was 10, strongly multilingual, and had been running around in pretty rough places in the world for most of his life, learning confidence, wrestling and some brutal fighting, and survival, medical skills, and all sorts of things along the way from two very capable and hands-on parents. His mother had kept him humble and taught him urban survival and rural living, as well as his acting as her assistant in situations no child should ever have to see. His father kept him strong and taught him independence, self-reliance, and a savagely direct fighting style that meant that any bullying by local toughs only happened once.

The father saw fighting – lots of it – in Saudi Arabia: SCUD hunting, and other action, up until he and his unit ran into something horrible in the Iraqi desert. Only three people of an entire unit came out of that mission. Their debrief noted they’d been attacked and ambushed at night in close-in fighting by a foe that the never saw.

He suffered a seemingly-minor injury during that conflict that led him to decide that while fit to be a regular soldier, he could no longer keep up as a true member of SFOD-D; he and Maria elected to stop wandering, and bring their almost-teen-age son home, and start a new life.

They moved back to North Carolina only briefly, packed their meager possessions, and decided on Boston. They had only been in their new apartment, and Gabriel in his new school, for perhaps three months when tragedy struck, and both of Gabe’s parents were killed in a horrible mass murder in 1993. This mass-murder is the tie that binds all of the PCs together – all of us lost our family that night, as sole survivors, like the Angel of Death passing over Egypt.

Dramatis Personae

Kamali Blackshear (12): Kamali is a young boy in his early teens. He is healthy and is of mixed ethnicity of Caucasian South African and native South African. He is a determined youth who believes in a justice of his own, likening himself to the knight of the round whom he has read deeply into. Just asthey stood against the darkness of their age so too does Kamali seek to do the same. For his sister, for his friends, and for the world.

Tag: “A knight without sword carrying faith nobody believes.”

Lorenzo DeModouco (13):

Amos M. Humiston (13) – A comfortable existence turned upside down, he’s still shell-shocked from what happened to his parents and has switched from a small and chatty boy to a small and quiet boy. Amos tends to quietly slip along after the group leaving a trail of books read behind him. And though he doesn’t volunteer himself quite yet, he’s always happy to help the best he can without showing off his intelligence, though that doesn’t stop him from being happy to do so when it’s possible.

Gabriel MacAlister (12) – Built like the natural athlete he is, he shows signs of growing even larger and stronger. A fairly quiet and hard working lad, always ready to lend a hand with any work, which he will do without complaint or obligating the other person to respond. Emphatically not a pushover or weak personality, but also not one to purposefully show off. Has been in many horrible places and seen many horrible things; he’s a bit of a compulsive planner as a result, as well as always feeling that most folks don’t really know how lucky they are.

Tag: “To serve others is the highest calling; to protect the meek the noblest endeavor.”

Timothy I Mitchell (14): Timothy possess an honest if forgettable face. He tends towards comfortable, though inexpensive clothing and durable running shoes, rounding off his typical attire is a deep pocketed jacket and a backpack slung over one shoulder. Timothy appears to be a poster-boy for bad kids, often finding himself in trouble with any and all forms of authority. A victim of neglect, driven to never become a victim again he often acts seemingly on impulse, taking any dare or challenge in his stride. Timothy doesn’t have friends, not in any real sense. Too few of the people who enter his orbit can deal with him in anything more than bite sized pieces, a fact which only further frustrates the young teenager.

Tag: “Darkness is within all of us, it’s how you use that darkness that matters”

The Orphanage

Play starts with us all in a van, being taken to our new home – an orphanage run by a hard-looking but kind-hearted woman named Myriam Bérenger. This was not known to us, but she was a monster hunter, and a very successful one, for a long time. It’s very likely she took us in for reasons that are more than natural. She looks remarkably similar to Sigourney Weaver, with more scars on her face.

We arrive there, get welcomed, and are invited to choose rooms. They’re huge, well appointed, and we file in and pick. Gabe waits until the end and takes a room unchosen by others; he’ll naturally let others have what they want when it’s not important, and having been to some truly horrible places in his short life, he has a good sense of what “important” means.

They start chores, except for the inevitable troublemaker, Timothy Mitchell, who goes in for the “you can’t tell me what to do” approach. Given how challenging we are relative to the monsters she’s faced (which is to say, ha ha ha! not very), those that don’t wish to buckle down and work find themselves working anyway. Those that do, are given everything they can handle.

Gabe draws the task of putting some old bunk beds together, and manages to roll a natural 18 on it. We decide he put the bunks together with the mattress supports upside down. He’s embarrassed, but hey, it’s only time. He fixes it with his teeth clenched firmly together. He also seeks out the headmistress to store one of his prized possessions – a .22 rifle given to him by his dad – somewhere safe. Turns out the house has a gun safe – a big one. He goes on point like a hunting dog; hardware interests him.

After a few meals and a few more challenges – that troublesome kid Timothy looks at Gabe like a brown-nosing prep kid who needs a good thrashing – we eventually settle in for a few days, and then are given the run of the town so long as our chores are done; we’re given lists.

We head out, and find ourselves at a local comic book shop. Gabe is given $5 to hold for each kid, and we can spend it as we like. Combined with $20 given each of us by our social worker on dropoff, this means we’ve each got maybe $25 to 60 for our complete savings.

We hit the place, and Kamali Blackshear starts up a conversation in a dark area of the store with a young boy who claims to be the owner’s kid, or something like that. They chat a bit. Timothy Troublemaker really, really wants a replica knife that’s on sale, but doesn’t have enough money; Gabe wordlessly pays the rest (there’s nothing he needs that he doesn’t have, except parents, which he can’t). Timothy resents the hell out of Gabe for (a) being generous, (b) not saying a word about it, and (c) making him owe him one.

The boy invites Kamali to come to his house; Kamali accepts, and convinces us to all go.

The House

We ride up to the house on our bicycles, and Kamali says he sees the boy in the window. The rest of us are somewhere between unseeing and skeptical; this house does not look lived in. Venturing inside confirms this. A few more oddities turn up, and one of us gets a full-on view of a smoky shape that Kamali swears is his friend, but to the other person, it was ephemeral at best, horrific at worst.

Sounds come closer, in the tattered ruins of the interior of the house, and a cat screams out of the dark, scaring us. But we also notice that the cat noises did not originate from the same direction as the horrible noises.

The lights go out; Gabe (the only PC with Combat Reflexes) pulls out a flashlight, and a heretofore unmentioned fighting knife, and orders everyone out of the house. The beam of light falls on a horrific image – a combination of a rat and a human infant, to all appearances, but fuzzy and vague somehow. We get out.

We all leave in a semi-ordered manner, and immediately start discussing what the heck happened. Various degrees of skepticism are offered, up, and Gabe invites Timothy to recon the house and report back to him, if he’s so hot to look (“what the hell does recon the house mean, you poser?”) – this dare is accepted. Gabe will stay and back up Timothy, and the rest will beat feet back to the Orphanage to pore through various books and records that we all found there while we were unpacking and cleaning.

We realize that we’ll need a better plan if we’re going to figure out what’s going on with the house – and of course we’re going back in

 

The Recon, The Madness

We kick off with Timothy Mc Troublemaker having been dared by Gabe to “recon” the house. Timothy grumbles about the “military poser” talking crap about “recon,” but he goes in. He’s not going to pretend he’s the alpha male, he is the alpha male. He puts a few stones in his pockets in case of emergency; four stones of size enough to be serviceable as weapons. He heads around back.

“You’re not going in there, are you?” says Kamali. “There’s a door that’s not a door!”

Tim is standing in front of the back door, and Gabe also gets a feeling of terrible menace. He takes out his survival knife, and heads up to the door, “either none of us should go through, or we all go.”

Kamali pleads with Timothy: “Listen to Gabe! Listen to me! We should not be doing this! Please, be sensible!” He rolls Leadership, and no crap, rolls a 3 vs a skill of 13. “No one is going in this house right now.”

Timothy: “You guys are all a bunch of pussies.” He stomps down the stairs in a very insulting way, and he moves away from the door in disgusted disbelief. He’s clearly pissed off; Class A looks of disgust and hatred.

The door then opens – something cold brushes the back of Timothy’s neck, and everyone hears “STAY . . . OUT!” The voice doesn’t sound remotely human; multi-tonal and sounding like it’s three spearate vocal cords. Timothy runs as fast as his feet will carry him to the bikes, and picks up and rides away. Gabe ensures he’s the last one to the bikes, keeping himself between the house and harm.

We beat feet to the bikes, and ride away, unkilled by the demon within.

“Now do you believe me?” Kamali says.

“Kamali, f**k your friend from the comic store. Next time we just leave him.” Timothy is expressive.

Kamali claims that the kid could be suffering in there, and that we need to help him. We don’t have to go in the house, but we need to prevent anyone else from getting hurt.

Lorenzo wanders away, and comes back with a “Missing Child” poster; the flier shows the face of the kid Kamali saw, and that others of us saw. The poster is several months old. Timothy argues that whatever was keeping the kid in the house is unlikely to be helpful. Some old guy is killing kids in the house.

Kamali argues that the kid is probably dead, but we need to put his soul to rest. Timothy flips his lid. Lorenzo sees that there’s a ton of kids missing on the billboard, and each of them seems to have gone missing the night of a new moon.

They continue to argue; Kamali points out that all of our parents are dead, and maybe we owe him. “What do you think, Amos? You’re a nerd. You read books. I think Kamali has been trying a few more things than he should from the fume bin.”

We go back to the house. Myriam is out; there are cookies on the desk. Lorenzo pulled a floor plan of the house from the real estate pages. The rest of us attack whatever books are in the house, looking for anything. Gabe asks Timothy to maybe look into the potential normal explanations. “Sure, I’ll get right on that,” he said, then stalks out to his room and slams the door in the final F-U of the conversation.

We decide to snoop around, and not just check out the ghost, but the house as well.

There are a remarkable number of weapons hung on the walls; we determine that they are in no way “wall-hangers.” They look real, high quality, and very dangerous. There are locked drawers in office; there’s a basement door (in which we know there’s a gun safe; Gabe’s .22 is in it) that’s also locked.

We search the entire house, and Kamali stumbles across a hidden firearm – a pistol – in the kitchen. A button causes a set of rollers to deploy, presenting a pistol that looks like it’s ready to go. It was actually hidden inside the countertop. It’s loaded and well-tended. Kamali avoids it. Gabe was the one who discovered the wall-hangings were real weapons. It’s a revolver, and Gabe takes time and caution to check it out, as the most familiar with weapons. Classic Model 57 in .41; it’s a pearl handled, and chambered in .41 Magnum. We look at one of the cartridges, and the bullet seems to be made of . . . not lead. There are sigils and stuff all over it. My fingernail dents the bullet; it’s probably not silver, and certainly isn’t lead. And what the hell with the scripts? Gabe palms one of the extra bullets when no one is looking.

Lorenzo and Amos are poring over books and newspapers. The disappearances and the strange stuff at the house started to happen at the same time. Amos takes extra time and nonetheless crits his Research roll. There’s a book called “der Grimelschein.” Well, even a dorkenbrain knows that’s German. Amos translates the text correctly, and he thinks he’s found what we’ve seen: a Boggle. The larval stage of a faerie called a Bodach. Bodachs are thought to be where the legend of the boogeyman came from; they kidnap children, drive them insane for three nights. If they do this on the new moon, they breed – making a Boggle. Even if the children are somehow saved, the kids are mostly insane. The key note of the Bodach is its ability to capture and torment the souls of the children they cannot consume. They like the dark places, and are intimidated by the sun and lights. They’re essentially living shadows, and use the darkness to their advantage. They’re particularly adept at glamour causing fear, and hide under beds and in closets. They have been known to scare children to death, and despise adults.

Amos asks Kamali where the boy – Anthony Stiles – was found; under the spinner racks in the dark back of the shop. “Well, this fits,” notes Amos.

Note on faeries: they don’t like iron; some don’t like silver. Some are injured by powerful lights. They’re naturally invisible to anyone but children; we’re on the edge of that. The go-to would be iron, silver, and sunlight.

Amos calls us up to Timothy’s room for a meeting; we knock. “Yeah?” “Yo, man, we gotta talk to you.” “Um. . . one sec.” He opens the door after a minute.

We know that our caretaker has hidden weapons and guns everywhere. It’s a spring-loaded mechanism for a weapon. And the bullets (Gabe shows the one he took) have all sorts of strange stuff on them. Then Lorenzo says that the kids all went missing the same time of the lunar cycle – the new moon. A different kid each month. Amos starts in. Confirms we all heard the voice. He asks Kamali to draw a picture of what he saw. He goes to get his sketchpad – there was something on it from last night. There’s a picture of Anthony and the house, and a clock with a hand about to strike midnight. He drew this before we even saw the figure or the flyer. There’s also pictures of doors; one looks like the back door – remarkably accurate. He also then draws an image of the fae beast. Kamali is drawing as we question him, as if he doesn’t notice what he’s doing.

When we all look down, Kamali has drawn a gangrenous, three-fingered green hand strangling the boy, who is looking in horror out of the page. We all watched him draw it, but he doesn’t remember drawing it.

It’s currently about 4:30pm; sunset on Sunday December 19 1993 was 4:14pm. We’re running out of time.

Timothy: “Whoa whoa whoa. We have to go fight the monster? There’s no way to do this and still get back before Myriam comes home. And if she sees us, we’re in for a ton of trouble.”

Kamali: “I think she knows this kind of thing is around; we should just leave a note, and go take care of business.”

Amos points out the new moon wasn’t that long ago; there could be kids still in there. An animated conversation occurs, discussing whether to burn the house down, what action to take. Gabe doesn’t take part; he’s snuck out to raid the garden tool bin, making spears. He also takes the .41M from the hidden spot in the kitchen and hides it in his clothing.

The clock strikes 5. Kamali says “I’m going to go gather flashlights!”

At that moment, Gabe walks back in, having spent time fashioning spears out of garden implements and the steel weapons around the house. We go looking for other stuff, like lights, and iron fixtures and we take down the fireplace screens. Kamali finds an entire cabinet of flashlight,s batteries, candles, flares . . . “Timothy! She’s got road flares!”

Gabe wanders downstairs and the door that was locked . . . isn’t locked anymore. There’s something calling to me, amongst many other weapons (even machineguns) . . . a sword. I pick it up, of course, and re-close the door as I leave.

We all scrounge around; we find a 6-lb floodlight. We gather up supplies, and we have an hour now before Myriam comes back. Kamali takes his camera flash as well. Amos straps a cast-iron griddle to his chest Man with No Name style. There’s lots of duct tape, so we make it happen. His call sign is now Hamlette.

We’re going to place the flood at the front door. We’ll place candles as we enter the house; both as light and as emergency lights to follow back to the flood. Gabe leans over to Kamali and says “let’s do this.” Timothy heads to his bike without a word, we all follow and hit the house. We head to the back door, turn our flashlights on, and enter the house.

Gabe opens the door, and draws his sword. Timothy is irate that he got a knife duct taped to a stick, and I got a real sword. That talks to me. But he doesn’t know that.

We pause in the door, and then place the flood. Gabe follows Kamali to the far door, as we try and clear rooms. We put down flares and duct-tape the flares in place on the ground. We hear a strange sound near the sink in the room, and Gabe goes to check it out. We hear pattering feet directly to the right in the hallway outside near the stairway. Fright check and IQ roll time, as bad things pop out and go boo! Near the sink is a blue/black cocoon looking thing. Gabe pokes at the cocoon, and a hand falls out of it; a low cry and a mass of nasty, nasty ichor comes out of it. Probably one of the kids!

Some of the other kids are frozen in fear; Kamali points the flashlight at the creature; it hisses at him but doesn’t move, rather it starts to look very aggressive. Timothy “thaws out” from fear, and gets a full view of the creature . . . and doesn’t fail his Will roll.

Gabe grabs the hand and drags a 7-8yo kid out of the cocoon. He’s in shock, muttering. I’ve got the child in my left hand, the sword in my right. Lorenzo moves to help me with the kid that got pulled from the cocoon. Kamali keeps his light on the creature, and goes to grab the axe. Timothy tries to stab (All-Out) the creature with his improvised spear – a fireplace poker (iron) secured to a shaft. The creature is trying to get away form the light dazed, and Timothy thrusts into the abdomen, luckily rolling vitals. It starts screaming; Timothy has pinned it to the ground. The weapon rolls a 4 for HT; it starts screaming unearthly. It writhes on the ground a few times, and stops moving.

The thing disintegrates into black tar.

“NOW WHO’S CRAZY!? NOW WHO’S CRAZY! YOU DA MAN! YOU DA MAN!” Kamali shrieks, and he and Timothy high five and generally celebrate.

We do First Aid on the kid, and note that it’s one of the kids from the flyers, but not Anthony . . . there are more kids here.

Kamali says “we killed the baby; there’s a big one in here. There could be more little ones, and the big one.”

We form up and head upstairs. As we head up the stairs, something drops onto us; I panic-swing, scream, and try and slice the thing with a sword. As the sword contacts the creature’s flesh, it bursts into flame! The fire is this crazy green color, not natural at all. The damage roll was low, but nonetheless I am covered in gore. Nasty, nasty gore. Still, I keep it together, and I’m never giving up this sword.

Timothy is boiling over; after his moment of cool with the poker, his rival (a) has one-upped him, and (b) doesn’t seem to even care.

We notice that a door was closed, but now it’s open. Something’s back there.

“Hey, Tim; open the door with the spear!”

“My. Name. Is. Timothy.”

The door is opened wide.  The guys downstairs are trying to get info. They manage to figure that this boy was kidnapped around Halloween. From that we deduce there are at least two more kids here.

Suddenly, Kamali is grabbed and yanked off his feet and through the ceiling. Then we hear noise, and Kamali slams to the ground in the next room. He falls onto his arm and breaks it. Gabe hears the rattle of the impact, and charges after the sound, finding Kamali in the next room. Amos runs up behind after hearing his friends screaming, and launches a slingshot ball (steel!) at the creature menacing Timothy, and rolls max damage to the knee – 7 points. It actually rips the knee right off; it’s a vulnerability.

It falls to the ground, wailing. Where the steel and iron is touching it, it sizzles like burning grease. The stench is like petroleum, tar, and rancid meat.

The Bodach uses the door to steady itself and rise, leg missing and all. Timothy snaps out of his freeze, burns some cards, and tries to stuff a burning flare into the creature’s face. Gabe burns a FP to do a Heroic charge and then Telegraphic Attack with a Stunning strike (a card donated by Timothy). The thing severs the arm, and then the entire bodach bursts into green flame.

Richard (Timothy) notes that the paladin now has his Holy Avenger, and all is right in the world

Gabe tries (and fails) to hide putting away the pistol, and Timothy objects that he gets a lame-ass spear, while Gabe got a bad-ass sword and the pistol. Gabe goes to do first aid, and Lorenzo plays the “Flesh Wound” card, and it turns out that the “break” was only a dislocation.

We hear footsteps coming up the stairs. We form up on Kamali, and no one is suprised when Myriam appears. “What. The. Hell?”

“There may be more!” says Kamali, followed by “We think they’re Bodachs!”

She freezes when we say that, and she takes the pistol back. “Why do you have my gun?” “Well, ma’am, when it seemed like we were dealing with real supernatural stuff, I figured a sigil-covered firearm would be better than pointed sticks.” I note that she does not ask about the sword. Interesting.

We go from room to room, and find more cocoons. We do first aid (Gabe makes his roll handily) and do what we can to bring the kids out of it. We corral everyone outside, but we find three bodies under a bed; and five cocoons. One of the bodies is Anthony. We also come across two old, empty cocoons. Kamali says “Anthony, are you free?” He sees . . . nine spirits. And so does Gabe. I start praying, and Kamali does . . . something . . . and we see light appear and glow, and the spirits depart to the light. Gabe sees a man in a trenchcoat for a moment, and then he’s gone.

We start disassembling stuff and breaking it down for Myriam.

“Two boggles and a bodach. Not bad. Let’s call the police first, and then have a nice, long talk. And cocoa.”

We recover Amos’ ball bearing. It’s lucky. It’s got an odd black and green caste to it. Still lucky, and feels warm to the touch.

Kamali: “Gabe . . . how did you set that thing on fire?”

Gabe: “Um. +5 Holy Avenger?”

We nod.

Then we explain to the police how we were out and about, and came across the kids held in this house. Which is technically true. They swallow that fairly easily. We pile into the van. We all go upstairs and get cleaned up. She continues to ignore the sword. Gabe totally needs a shower, and takes one.

When we get back downstairs, Kamali sits down to draw the scene with the light and the spirits; he gets a good sketch in. Gabe tries to offer the sword back; “No, that’s not my responsibility anymore.” Gabe is confused, and shes says “You were the damn fool who picked it up.”

She looks at us and goes over to a drawer, opens up and gets out some cigarettes. “You know smoking is bad for you,” says Kamali.

“What you just did is bad for you; you can’t walk away now.”

Kamali says that there was no way he could ignore it; Gabe notes that our role as strong folks is to stand between the weak and harm. On our own heads be it.

We are told that we were casualties of a larger war. That there are two kinds of evil; primary evil, and secondary evil, which is the evil that men do. We blew away the chance to stay out of the game when we went after the bodachs. Kamali says that he threw away his chance when he saved his sister; he will keep his promise.

We all look at each other as if to say “OK. We’re in it now.”

She takes the gun out, checks the chamber, opens the secret drawer, and puts it back.

“Well, if you’re going to hunt monsters, you’ll need skills. Go to bed. Your training begins tomorrow.”

***

We end there.

 

4 thoughts on “The Chronicles of Ceteri (B-Team): Prelude and Ep2

  1. I like that !
    Would you mind giving the point totals & “modular add-ons” of the game ? That seems interesting ^^

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