Ceteri Campaign S0E10 – Ghoul on Fire

What happened before

We do the right amount of recon, and discover that homeless are disappearing and being killed from their old haunts beneath the city. We spend some time in a old magically inclined pub and find out that the Conclave is very much out of resources. Nonetheless, we hit the morgue and find that in all likelihood ghouls are coming out of the tunnels to eat and kill.

We prepare for an armed incursion. We have the right background on ghouls, try and optimize our loadouts accordingly (cut, burn, holy water, not guns). It’s time. We’re goin’ on a dungeon crawl in the sewer tunnels. Let’s get it on.

Dramatis Personae

Kamali Blackshear (18): 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 as they 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 a sword carrying a faith nobody believes.”

Lorenzo DeModouco (18): A handsome and charismatic musician. The loss of his parents didn’t dampen his spirits and he soldiered on after their death. He’s the cheery one always trying to make others happy and sometimes spontaneously breaks into song. Perceptive of others and their feelings, Lorenzo is the one who knows what people are thinking by the looks on their face. He’s also a boy scout and is quite comfortable in the wild.

TAG: “He’s a Jukebox Hero. He’s got stars in his eyes. A Jukebox Hero – he’ll make sure you survive.”

Amos M. Humiston (19) – This boy is far from where he started out at the orphanage. His comfortable existence already gone and instead has gotten used to his new life. Not like his brothers, his talents lay more in mental pursuits and has already started towards getting a double Masters degree at a local college aiming for his goal of becoming a research librarian. Following in his family’s footsteps almost unknowingly, he exhibits certain talents towards more occult pursuits such as druidism and alchemy, mixing up herbal supplements and elixers for the team. And while he’s still somewhat still slipping along behind the group, he has become a lot more outgoing with the rest of the Orphans and have started making friends with folks outside his adopted brothers. Always showing concern for them and trying to make sure they know everything that they need to when it comes to the dangers they face.

Tag: “True alchemists do not change lead into gold; they change the world into words.”

Gabriel MacAlister (18) – Built like the natural athlete he is, he has grown taller, stronger, and more solidly good-looking. A 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. He is an expert martial arts teacher, and has been following in the footsteps of a carpenter for some time now. 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. He lost a leg fighting zombies; he got an artificial replacement and kept on fighting the good fight.

Tag: “To serve others is the highest calling; to protect the meek the noblest endeavor, and our works are judged by the effort that went into them”

Timothy I Mitchell (19): 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”

Thing One and Thing Two

Gabe is in a quandary. Spear, mace, axe, shield, AR15 . . . he settles on his white-hilted sword, two-handed spear, mail, breastplate, greaves, and his .45ACP. No shield, axe, or mace. He’ll go for the spear to keep folks at a distance, and the sword in two hands in close, in a defensive grip for +1 to defenses. It’s not as good as the +2 DB to all, but it’s better than naught. Amos goes wild with charms and sorcery, setting up in case we need them. Some buffs, some healing. We decide holy water would be a viable distraction, but not necessarily a fatal thing. Finally, we agree that when we get jumped, we’ll all target the legs first, then do fighting withdrawals to a good defensive grouping. Lorenzo and Gabe have spears; Timothy and Kamali are Reach 1 with guns or thrown weapons. Amos has magic and a slingshot. Karl is our berserker.

Using my rules for Cautious Advance, and stay in rough formation to ensure mutual support. Each five seconds, we can cover our move. We pause, and sense that we can cover the entryway, at least. We move through. We come up to a very old door, with recently disturbed dirt in front of us. We decide that we’ll have spear support on both sides, next to Kamali, who will be opening the door and stepping back out of the way. An appropriate degree of paranoia, we hope. (We decide Carl is going to Leeroy Jenkins the whole thing)

Naturally, that means only Timothy sees the ghoul run up along the walls and try and lunge on top of Gabe. Timothy moves to intercept, working his silver-coated fae knives for 8 damage each. Nice work, to the torso. It just dies. Perhaps it has a vulnerability to silver?

We open the door . . . and hear a crying child. We recall that Kamali has Danger Sense, and also that if the ghouls eat stuff, they can transform to look at them. The baby is barely alive; it can hardly even cry. We give the baby some holy water. If it’s a disguised ghoul, well, we’ll find out. If not, it needs hydration anyway. Gabe heads directly to the child. It smells like hobo in here. A few strewn corpses, dessicated or half-eaten. The baby is wearing a onesie that says Thing 2. Sigh. That means there’s a Thing 1 somewhere here. I pick up the kid, loaded diaper and all. Gabe starts to unload his backpack, but Carl stops him. He can carry the child and stay back with Amos.

Amos, on the other hand, suggests we ward the room, turning it into a fairly safe space. Carl will stay with the baby as its guardian, as we clear the rest. We’re worried that if we leave, so will the ghouls, since we killed one, and more innocents will die. This seems a decent way to split the difference, though our best outcome would have been to call the conclave and have them take the baby to the hospital, they were not available to us when we tried.

Amos crushes the pastille, and we can feel the border of the new threshold at the doorway.

We take a bit and study the body of the dead ghoul. It looks like the knife cut through the hide-like skin, the arms have a long reach (1 instead of C), and we look for weak points – only their eyes. Gabe leads the group in giving the ghoul Last Rites (Final Rest power; prevents undead from rising and lets the soul find home).

We push forward – we move to the next room and there’s a body, still breathing, in the middle of the room. We hit it with a holy water paintball just to be sure. No issues. I use a inverse Judo Throw to pick the guy up during a roll. But a ghoul surges after him out of the grate, and his claws scrape off the DR 10 plate-over-mail; a success by 12 means I definitely grapple the guy and get him on my back.

Amos pops the ghoul with a holy water painball pellet, and it lets out a scream like we’ve never heard before – and we’ve heard some serious stuff. Lorenzo cripples it by hitting it with his spear in the leg. Gabe goes All-Out Defense, and takes his half-move backwards out of the way. Kamali and Timothy are on station, keeping the hallway clear from surprises. “You guys might want to shut it the hell up, before its friends show up,” prophesied Timothy.

Lorenzo tries to draw his hatchet to finish the thing; Gabe dashes for the safe room. We’re going to have to do some interesting relay races if we keep finding survivors. Timothy breaks off and shadows Gabe, on overwatch. Lorenzo goes telegraphic to the neck with his hatchet, but hits the chest instead, which does it for them anyway. Black, ichorous blood coats him.

We coat the hole and dump holy water down it as a prophylactic. We cover the north entrance, and prepare to move in.

“We’re wasting far too much time. I’m going to show you how it’s done,” says Leeroy “Timothy” Jenkins. He walks towards the North, muttering “we’ve got two down of twenty. This is ballocks.” (Christopher invoked one of Richard’s character’s Foibles: Adrenaline Junkie)

He naturally gets charged by someone with an axe…and Timothy invokes his Wait (Cautious advance, remember), and crits at least once, and hits twice. To the vitals. 6 and 5 to the vitals . . . and the blood that seeps onto his hands from the person’s heart is red, not black. The madness in the guy’s eyes fades to death, and Timothy is covered in his arterial blood. (Timothy did 51 points of damage after crits and hit location). Gabe rushes in to try First Aid in desperation, but the heart has been completely shredded. He gasps . . . “my baby” as he fade into death.

Timothy cleans his blades off on his clothes. He is giddy inside at having killed an actual  human.

“Timothy. You’ve got to slow down, my man. These things happen in combat, but this guy’s death was not necessary.”

“What, you’re asking me to not fucking defend myself against the guy with an axe? Is that what you’re saying? Fuck you.”

“Yes, absolutely. With the entire team here, we could have subdued him, we might have had options.”

“You’re unbelievable.” Timothy walks off . . . and a ghoul drops from the ceiling. Timothy, still hyped up on adrenaline, sees him fall in nearly slow-motion. His bloodlust is up: he All-Out Attacks with Mighty Blow. With the exact same attack pattern to the vitals he just did on the guy with the axe, as if to say “oh, yeah. Here I go, doing it again” to Gabe and the universe. He kills it.

Note: these ghouls are rather less fragile than I expected. Yeah, we’re doing very well with tactics and rolls, but still . . . Gabe starts to wonder if we’re actually dealing with ghouls.

Another ghoul drops behind Timothy, but misses. He spins and tries to kill him, but the ghoul dodges twice. The team moves to intercept the fight, and another ghoul drops from the ceiling. “Ceilings, people! Ceilings!” (He crits a Vision roll; made it by 12). Lorenzo intercepts the falling ghoul with his spear tip (Stop Thrust), and it impales itself fatally. Gabe steps and spears the thing menacing Timothy through the chest; killing it . . .

We huddle up; these ghouls are dying too fast. We check their blood and try and figure out why they’re dying so easy, and it looks like we have faulty intel. Amos decides something has mystically sapped their strength. We have another living human body, Gabe says “let’s check her out before Timothy kills her too.”

But they he hears a baby cry, and takes off running.

Kamali shouts out “Will you people stop running off! This is just like how The Commander felt when Zephyr kept running off in that comic book!” as he chases after Gabe.

Something surges up from underneath Lorenzo, and grapples him. Timothy steps up and cuisinarts him. A ghoul attacks Gabe, who Stop Hits with his spear, then Fast-Draws his sword and hacks at it for 12 cutting damage, it screams horribly. The GM burns a card and has the ghoul take the sword away from me, no rolls.

I object to this; this should have been a contest, or a grapple and disarm, or something other than plot fiat. Having registered my objection, we move on.

It’s clarified that the ghoul uses the fact that the sword is embedded in his chest to pull it from my two-handed grip. Kamali steps up with a broadsword to the neck, and the head goes flying.

We’re out of combat time . . . I retrieve and recover my sword and the baby predictably wearing a Thing 1 onesie, and then my spear. When I pull my sword out of the ghoul, the blade and hilt turns red; I see odd-looking scratch-marks along the ricasso. They look like lines to me.

“Guys, there are more dead bodies here . . . ” says Amos.

So we take the baby back to the safe zone.

We try and work out the next sortie. As we do, ghouls start popping out of the floor and dropping from the ceiling. Kamali starts to call the plan . . . Timothy goes adrenaline junkie and bursts into the center of them. He goes full ginsu again, and burns a metagame card to halve rapid strike penalties, burns another (his last, I think) to make a hit a miss, and then rolls for Disappear (a Free Action when bought to the level he does) to vanish among the rocks and shadows. Three damage rolls later, two are just dead, impaled in the head, and one is bleeding out from another gaping head wound.

Lorenzo throws his spear at the remaining ghoul, impaling it and severely injuring it. Gabe runs up and decapitates it: the last of the four. The black, ichorous blood from the body is absorbed readily by the blade. I get the impression that it’s a thirsty, thirsty blade.

Amos gets jumped, but manages to defend himself. Kamali finishes that one off. Gabriel hears a woman’s scream – it sounds like Desiree Cartee. He runs after the voice, and then mroe screams, and a demonic-sounding voice that shivers our bones. I hear a language similar to Arabic, but it’s not Arabic (Gabe speaks Arabic). Farther and farther he goes, into a giant cave complex. We come face to face with a djinn – a spirit of ghostly fire. Ghouls or some sort of creature start to pop up all over the place. Kamali takes the precaution of smashing a holy water balloon over himself. Hell, it might help.

Nightmares of Djinni

Timothy decides to tackle a ghoul. Amos also kills a ghoul . . . which bursts into flame, and the flame rushes back into the Efrit, which burns even more brightly. Gabe runs up to the Ifrit, swings with the White-hilted sword (now red) with Ghost Weapon as a Divine power; hit, 17 cut to the torso…and it screams. And I take 1d6 burning damage, but vs DR 5 large area injury. Not sure how much damage I did in reality, but it did scream, so we shall see.

A ghoul rips out its own heart, and the fire rushes to the djinn. Wounds start healing. OK, here we go. This happens periodically as the Ifrit needs more dakka.

Kamali gets clawed in his abdomen; it skitches off his tactical armor, but he drops his sword.

Amos drops an alchemical ward on a pointy rock. It goes off, warding the area around him for 10 yds. Every ghoul within the circle explodes . . . the fire circles around the ward like it can’t get to the Ifrit. The border of this warding is . . . odd. Almost tangible. Very ghoul-unfriendly. A bit sparky for humans.

The Ifrit moves back, shrieking.

Gabe runs around, putting himself between Desiree and the Ifrit, and invokes “Power Reveal,” a metagame card which lets me use Fireproof (Divine Favor) temporarily – he’s praying and invoking Jesus and God as warding against the fell being. Where the aura meets the fire, it’s a harsh clash of power . . . and fireproof is winning. The Ifrit backs up, but feels trapped

“Dear Lord, Hear us in our need. We stand between the helpless and harm. Bless our bodies, so that we may resist the creature. Bless our weapons, so that we may defeat it in your name. Let us bring glory to your name, and stand as light in the darkness, so that the weak may be inspired, and the wicked cast down. Make us your instruments; in your hands we will be mighty.”

A pillar of fire descends from the heavens, and I hear The Voice from the Whirlwind. THAT voice (The Book of Job) – which of course sounds like Alan Rickman – speaks. And the Ifrit takes 20d6 damage, and is screaming.

Well, well. I was hoping to extend fireproof to my friends and give their mostly-mundane weapons more staying or striking power against the Ifrit, under a “God helps those who help themselves” principle. I suspect that some angelic forces were watching the battle and just waiting to be asked for help, thus the more direct intervention.

Kamali, armed with a Holy Water balloon, steps up. “Turtles fight with honor!” as he casts Holy Water at it. Um. The water flashes to steam before it gets to him. Gabe steps up and slices it in half with the white-hilted sword. Kamali claims “he loosened it.”

Timothy checks on Amos; Kamali starts to move to Desiree, but Gabe moves to intercept. “I kinda literally walked through fire for this young lady, I think I get to do the comforting here.”

Kamali says “Yo, your girlfriend’s still alive! But she might be a demon, so let’s hit her with a water balloon!”

We hit her with a healing charm, but she’s got a few burns on her. We need to get her and the two infants to the hospital. We also need to hit Final Rest on the ghouls. The only thing left is a single golden ring, dropped by the Ifrit, which Timothy snatches up. Amos gathers up the Ifrit’s ashes, which provide him 10 legendary ingredients for spells involving fire or summoning demons.

Note: The GM tells us out of character that we just destroyed a Lord of the Brass City. This was a major victory.

We ask how she got down here. She had cast a spell to weaken them; it clearly worked, which I tell her gratefully. We then notice there’s a kneeling guy there too – Kamali does what he does and hits him with a water balloon. He collapses, but is still breathing.

Really? Water balloon. On the prisoner. (“The Rock”)

So:

  • We conscrate or burn corpses
  • Get folks to the hospital
  • Get a better story to explain the bodies and survivors (“We were going urban explorers, and found the kids abandoned down there.”
  • Tell Myriam everything that happened, so she can intercede on the two new orphans Tim made when *he killed their dad* (In fairness, he attacked Timothy first, though Mr Hot-head didn’t have to go full stabbity)

Aftermath

We had a good time. There were a few rough spots, and Desiree casting her spell was a real break with respect to the ghouls, who were pretty much mooks. We did fairly well with tactics and sticking together, and RP’d the hell out of our foibles with or without GM help.

Timothy got way too close – probably over the edge – with his love of murder, but since he did legitimately get attacked by a crazy guy with an axe, Gabriel is not going all righteous on him; this is the kind of thing that happens in War, and his father told him stories of such things. Technically I think any jury or board of inquiry would have called it a righteous shoot – he was attacked with an axe.

It was a good conclusion to a good prior session. The pattern of investigate/action works well for our group.

Christopher Commentary

I really didn’t want to end this arc *this* fast because I originally did want to draw out the ghoul investigation more. But after I missed a game in late July I had to rejuggle stuff. Overall, I’m happy with how everything turned out and if you’ve been following a long there is a LOT to unpack here:

  1. The sword Gabe has been carrying around since the first game session did some weird stuff. I’m not saying that it’s nature was activated or anything…but it’s nature was activated. Unfortunately for Gabe he wielded the sword and now that means he owns it. Remember the sidhe who warned him that it was cursed and he’d regret having it? Yeah, turns out he spoke the truth. Gabe wants to get other weapons to use, but we’ll see how that turns out… I will say that it is one of the nine fairy swords created by Wayland the Smith for the High King and his courts. (This is something Amos discovered in game – but more research will be required). (Note: This is some mythology I’m twisted around for the game rather than something straight from folklore.)
  2. Timothy is in deep crap. More on this later.
  3. What’s the deal with Amos’s amulet you ask? The one he got from crate when the PCs went up to Canada? Stay tuned.
  4. Kamali and Lorenzo didn’t have anything super huge or revealing happen to them – but they did move right along and acted in character. So all was good there.
  5. Who summoned a freaking lord of the City of Brass? Who has that kind of POWER? Stay tuned because it’s connected to what’s coming up.

I’m very pleased with how B-Team’s Season 0 went and I REALLY wish I’d just done something similar with C-Team. Oh well. This marks the end of the Season for B-Team and a 3-4 week hiatus while I go to GenCon, recover from GenCon, and then work up the bits needed for Season 1 for A-, B-, and C-Teams. Then I need to put my nose down and get busy on a project.

B-Team will return in September for more monster-hunting awesomeness and badassery.

Session Soundtrack

“Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne (opening song)
In The Air Tonight” by Phil Collins (Timothy kills an innocent man and Gabe
sees it)
I’m on Fire” by Johnny Cash (Ifrit combat scene)
Calling All Angels” by Train
Three Hits” by Indigo Girls (closing song)

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