It is Christmas Day, 2015, and the investigators are in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico with Evarita Pedraza, the intrepid journalist they rescued in Nuevo Ideal. With her directing, the team is able to identify the Los Zetas primary headquarters – unfortunately, the location is swarming with armed thus, even on Christmas, and they decide to attempt alternate means. Once again, Matias quickly volunteers to go off by himself and he spends several hours, discreetly asking around about DeWitt. He quickly deduces that this locale is being monitored by law enforcement and shakes a tail before rejoining the others at a convenient McDonald’s where Howard Lee is trying to consume his weight in hamburgers.
Deciding to try a different tack, Lee and Jack seek out the inevitable surveillance van, then work their way up the chain of command until they meet with Carlos Mendoza, a harried section chief for Mexico’s Centro de Investigación y Seguridad Nacional (aka the Center for Research and National Security or CISEN). Identifying themselves as Agents Page and Plant of the FBI (undercover, of course), the two smooze with Mendoza and successfully gain intel: yes, DeWitt and that black-eyed bitch were here within the last few days and are considered persons of interest as they met with Zetas, obtained some help, and then disappeared into a local building along with an awkward-looking crate of some sort. None have come out yet and Lee .. er … Agent Page hints at the possibility of bioweapons which causes Mendoza to stress slightly since the Zetas have been tied to a ring of recent troubles, first in Veracruz then in Oaxaca. Lee mentions briefly Nuevo Ideal, pretending to be a friendly lending “unofficial” intelligence.
The team reunite again and briefly scout out the building, but decide to not hit it until that evening out of concern for a trap. Thanks to Eva, they locate a decent safehouse and crash. During this down-time, Sofia goes ahead and prepares a couple of conditional rituals … just in case.
That evening, they raid the building with Mendoza’s okay and immediately discover carnage: all six of the Zetas are within, their throats brutally torn out. Mat has a brief flash and is able to tell that these men were killed by that vampire, Manning. He also identifies a concealed set of stairs going down. There, they discover a seventh body, this one with a broken neck, and Lee searches the corpse, finding a voice-activated tape recorder. Jack, not wanting the Mexican authorities to blame the team, ventures out and drags a rookie to the scene and sends him to retrieve Mendoza. After listening to it, Sofia deduces that DeWitt has reached a fail point in her experiments where the ‘subjects’ are feral monsters if released from the stasis boxes; they hear Manning state that “you moved against DeWitt too early” in a sarcastic tone that results in a spell of some sort that ends the recording.
Into the Nevernever they go once more with Sofia passing out of the regular world last. She holds a finger up to her lips in a Shhh! gesture to the rookie cop who descended into the basement and stares at the portal (and the bizarre terrain beyond) with awe. And then, she closes the portal, just because.
They exit in Moscow, Russia, which greatly disconcerts the other members of the group, but Sofia is confident and marches them around a specific fountain before descending down a set of stairs that she opens up into the Nevernever, this time overlooking a vast plain of white and purple snow. Even though Lee’s sense of smell says they should go left, she leads them right, and they descend onto a narrow ice floe that Sofia opens up … in a frigid men’s bathroom in a hospital. It turns out to be familiar.
They are back in Oklahoma City and are looking directly at the OBI building! Sofia can sense powerful magics swirling and they discuss briefly before deciding to go ahead and charge in. Fortunately, Lee has broken into this building a couple of times … although he insists that there is no proof he did any such thing. They enter through a back door, then climb some stairs, all the while growing closer to a steady hum that only Sofia can hear. After dealing with a recalcitrant door, they enter their destination and find a large glass-enclosed laboratory. Here, they find DeWitt, Manning, and three Red Court vampires shed of their flesh masks.
“Kill them all!” DeWitt screams in that guttural Russian-accented voice of hers and the four vampires flow forward, three of them hissing and snarling at Matias. One of the vampires goes down in a hail of bullets from Jack and Matias, its blood reservoir blown apart, while Lee thrusts his Fae bastard sword (which he seemingly pulled out of nowhere) through the skull of another. The third closes in on Sofia and Matias, then abruptly shifts to Jack who hurls himself to the floor to avoid disembowelment from a sudden spear of magical ice hurled at him by DeWitt. Manning, who has waited for this moment, springs forward but narrowly misses him, then tries to kick him away but finds he is tougher than expected and is caught unprepared for Lee’s swing that slices her face open from chin to forehead. She reels back and collapses, unconscious.
Seeing the tide has rapidly turned against her, DeWitt feverishly seeks to tear open a gateway to the Nevernever and Sofia hurls a ball of compressed air at her in an attempt to disrupt her spell but misses wide. Seeing his mother’s intent, Matias hurls his only weapon, a knife; it is a glancing blow at best but is steel passing through DeWitt’s hastily erected circle which thoroughly ruins her spell. She has just enough time to realize the enormity of her mistake when the portal she was erecting blows up in her face, throwing her through the windows and out of the building. This explosion also disrupts whatever magical artifact was in this room causing the overflow of mana as well as throwing the entire team back into the stairwell where they impact with varying degrees of pain.
Brilliant blue-green witchfire swells within the chamber, roaring and springing about with demonic intensity. Fueled by the raw mana in the room, it spreads very, very fast, and the investigators release that they need to flee. Down the stairs they rush, only steps ahead of the flames, and as they emerge into the night, the OBI building is ablaze. DeWitt they find in the street, very clearly dead; if the explosion did not kill her and she survived the fall, Cosima’s coffin landing atop her definitely finished the job. Sofia pauses long enough to verify that DeWitt is dead (as well as stripping off two potentially useful if currently ‘broken’ magic rings) before calling her own witchfire to ensure the warlock is dead.
And then, grabbing the coffin, the team vanishes into the night.
the end of Volume IV
- “Blood Drive” is loosely based on The Zalozhniy Sanction scenario from the excellent four-part adventure “The Zalozhniy Quartet” for the Night’s Black Agents RPG, a system I’ve never played before but one that looks awesome. I mean, Jason Bourne Meets Dracula? How cool is that? The adventures were written by Gareth Hanrahan with a story design by Kenneth Hite. Obviously, I’m making some serious tweaks, but still, need to give credit where it is due.
- Awarded CPs: 2. Bonus point awarded to entire group for conclusion of “Blood Drive.”
- Experimented with “Conditional Rituals” for the first time as Sofia cast three in their down time. We’re going to hopefully keep playing with that so it becomes easier and easier.
- I originally intended a Chase sequence through the Nevernever, with Red Court vamps hot on their trail, but we spent too much time on the conditional rituals so I decided to try again later. It seems like a really cool idea that I will have to do someday, perhaps pushing the PCs to describe the strangeness.
- Gigermann (Lee’s player) had a great Weirdness Magnet idea regarding the tape recorder found on the dead guy’s body: emulate those “data ghosts” from that Doctor Who episode, “Silence in the Library.” Unfortunately, he did not mention that during the game because I totally would have used it.
- The building image used is actually from Tulsa (and not OBI at all) but man, it’s a cool-looking building so I declared that the boring-looking OBI building was inexplicably different … so we could blow it up.
- I would have liked the final fight to be a bit more dynamic – as it was, the PCs barely moved from where they began the fight. The bad stuff that happened to DeWitt was caused by her Unluckiness; in retrospect, I should have advised the PCs that she had that disad and then allowed them to decide when it failed. With this, WxMAN did a measly 1 pt of damage to DeWitt with that knife throw but someone (don’t recall who) suggested it hit one of the woman’s arm glyphs which were powering her spells at the cost of a reduced lifespan (an idea I stole from the Hellequin Chronicles by Steven McHugh.) That triggered the Unluckiness which I decided resulted in a crit fail on the Path of Crossroads check. So the portal went boom.
- Next session will begin Volume V: Death Curse, which I’ve been looking forward to running since the inception of this campaign. Death Curse will take place in February, so just before Valentine’s Day and that 5.1 magnitude earthquake we had on the 13th. And that totally won’t have anything to do with the game. At all. Honest!