GURPS: Red Sky

Clean Slate, Chapter 5

From the City Below, Colin Jenks steps onto the Gray Road and begins walking. As he hikes, once again, he notes that he does not seem to be experiencing the level of fatigue that he would expect for such physical exertion. Around him, the terrain gradually begins to change and climb higher until he finally reaches the Stone Bridge. It crosses an unrealistically deep chasm and a small but old-looking … man with a sword that is larger than he is. This old man greets him calmly with a simple, ‘Hey.’

OldTroll.jpgAn interesting discussion plays out, where Colin learns that crossing the bridge requires a toll paid. This makes sense if this old man is a troll as Jenks suspects, but since he gave the Coin to the Regent, he doesn’t have much in his pockets beyond the toe-bone taken from one of those hanged men he saw earlier. Discreetly dropping an illusion of the Coin over the bone, Jenks passes this to the bridge guardian and is then startled when the illusion itself seems to be … consumed by the troll’s simple touch. Fortunately for him, the troll seems quite pleased with the toe-bone and accepts it as the toll. They continue chatting as Jenks explains the strangeness of his day as well as his mission from the ‘Coyote-Man’ and the troll makes a comment that Colin thinks nothing of at the moment: ‘you’re going to have to Choose soon.’

After receiving a warning about the West Gate’s guardian, Colin assures the troll that he will get past it using ‘wit and charm’ before venturing off. He finally reaches the gate and is startled when a massive dragon clambers into view above it. Jenks immediately pulls his ‘rock’ trick wherein he drops the illusion of a stone over himself with the intent of creeping forward incrementally. Unfortunately for him, the dragon lands before him and loudly reveals that it can smell him. A tense exchange ensues, with Colin forced to at least reveal that he’s there lest the dragon simply ‘burn him out,’ which Jenks definitely would like to avoid. Since Colin does not initially drop the illusion, the dragon henceforth addresses him simply as ‘Rock.’

They converse, with Jenks learning that the dragon does not play riddles – evidently, that’s why he let the last person go through the Gate, after losing a game of them – but is surprisingly friendly for a dragon. Colin inquires about the number of other dragons to which the Guardian (for lack of a better term) declares that there are no others like him! This leads Jenks to break out his phone and show images of other fictional dragons – Drogon, Smaug, Vermithrax Pejorative. Seeing them, the Guardian demands to know how to get access to these dragons; he makes Jenks swear an Oath to return and show him the way before allowing passage.

Colin uses the Key to open the Gate and …

Having just burned a trio of vampires to ash, Sofía Torres is about to head toward this estate that Auric has shown her when suddenly, a being cloaked in shadow and rage drops out of the dark sky and starts striding toward her, bellowing her title: ‘Wizard!’ The few people who had emerged to observe the wizard-vampire duel retreat quickly as Auric whimpers in sudden fear and even Sofía recoils from the hideous face of this thing she vaguely recognizes. Upon seeing the Enochian glyph upon the entity’s torso, she realizes that this is the Denarian she exchanged a Soul Gaze with some years back. Grimly, she girds herself for battle, expecting to be promptly turned into a grease stain.

Penemuel.jpg‘Wizard!’ the Denarian bellows, its voice shaking the ground and even causing some car alarms to start sounding. ‘I know you! And I require … your aid!’ The Fallen Angel whips out a bizarrely complicated-looking map that sincerely looks to have been crafted upon the skin of something (which Sofía doesn’t really want to think too much about, actually.) This Denarian, which Sofía has finally realized is Penemuel, the Fallen Angel who ostensibly taught humanity writing (and Fell because of this) is … lost. The irony is somewhat amusing, actually.

From Penemuel, Sofía learns that the Fallen is seeking out a ‘ city of bricks’ but cannot match any of the landmarks it knows (probably from before the Flood to be honest) with modern, mortal architecture. It has a meeting that it cannot be late for and so, if Sofía does not wish it to burn this quaint village to the ground and piss on the ashes, she will aid in finding where it must go. Being a naturally curious sort, Sofía offers to show Penemuel the way; to her mild surprise, the Fallen briefly turns to Lei standing in the doorway of Neutral Grounds and asks her if Sofía can be trusted with this. At Lei’s nod, Penemuel orders Sofía to lead on; it will follow in the air.

Taking her bike – Auric follows in his old, beat up WWII-era Jeep – Sofía rides to Bricktown and is quickly joined by Penemuel. A man that Sofía knows as Father Cristián approaches, though Penemuel, who has by now transformed into a young woman, addresses him as Anael; the father … if that’s what he actually is thanks Sofía and escorts Penemuel to one of the outside cafés where they have dinner together. Sofía tries to keep an eye on them as she struggles to comprehend what is going on since, frankly, it kind of looks like a date (although the two are clearly debating about something.) Auric rejoins her, revealing that he could not even understand Penemuel’s words when it talked to her.

After a few minutes of observation, the two wizards head to Nichols Hills and the mansion that Auric showed her via magic earlier. Immediately upon arrival, Sofía can identify which house it is simply due to the sheer strength of the magical wards present. Crossing those wards will definitely alert the inhabitants and might just fry the trespasser. She and Auric enter an empty neighboring house that Craft reveals had an ‘accident’ with its high-tech alarm system that he absolutely had nothing to do wit. The owners are evidently in Aruba. Here, the two wizards can eavesdrop.

LadyHu.jpgAnd soon after, once full night has set in, several cars pull into the estate. Once the various security types signal the all clear, the passengers emerge. Out of the gleaming silver Rolls-Royce climbs Diana Raith, looking cool and professional and way sexy in her white suit. A second woman of distinct Asian heritage, who Sofía does not recognize, gets out of her car as well; this woman moves strangely – she is stiff and awkward, but somehow still comes across as frighteningly dangerous. This second woman’s entire entourage seem to suffer the same rigid awkwardness that she does. The third person, though, is someone Sofía is intimately familiar with.

It is her dead husband, Eduardo. Apparently, the Red and White Courts, who have been at war in Oklahoma City for nearly a year now, are gathering to have a discussion.

Suddenly, this meeting became a great deal more interesting to Sofía.

Howard Lee is rushing to the Sweet Tooth candy manufacturing plant in his car. Following the fight with the strange bear-men, he discovered from Lilith Morgan that Lady Aoibheal had already departed, so there was nothing keeping him in the Wolfram and Hart office. Armed with that strange vision from the hooded lady of Jack in danger, Lee left and is now arriving.

He arrives, discovering an uniformed OKC police officer standing guard outside the parking lot; this cop stops him, then reveals that he is here investigating reports of a disturbance. Lee identifies himself, complete with a flash of his badge, then abruptly gets a bad vibe about this guy; there’s something just … wrong about the way this cop holds himself or wears his uniform or something, so Lee throws out a line of bullshit regarding who he suspects to be this officer’s superior, intentionally using the name of a cop who is no longer on the force. The fraud buys this fake-out, only confirming Lee’s suspicions, then suggests that the OSBI agent park ‘over there’ if he wants to wait for his partner. Lee does so, keeping an eye on the fake cop while calling this in to confirm that the man’s badge number is not valid.

Abruptly, a trio of men armed with M4s step into view and unload on Lee’s Cadillac CTS; he immediately dives for cover, simultaneously tossing aside his phone – still on the line with the local police – while drawing his sidearm. None of the bullets penetrate the car to injure him, but the damage to his beloved new car is still rather significant, which infuriates Lee. Popping up into view once the shooting has stopped, he takes a few wild shots, luckily dropping the fake cop who was retrieving his own M4, then slides out of the car.

A fierce gun battle ensues but it is short-lived as these shooters are simply unprepared for the onslaught of the Autumn Knight who is out to avenge the death of his new car. Two more of the hostiles are dropped as they try to flank him, and the sole survivor darts for one of the nearby parked vans, clearly intending on escaping. Lee retrieves the M4 from one of the men he’s shot and fires a sharp burst into the passenger window of the van, killing the driver instantly. Once satisfied that all hostiles are down – clearly, his soldier training meshes well with the Autumn Knight’s mantle – he retrieves his phone, discovering that the dispatcher was listening to the gun fight with bated breath and has already sent reinforcements.

Lee heads for the main facility – during his gunfight, he heard the sounds of other shooting inside – where he discovers that Jack Carter and Wufei Qing have had an interesting time of it. Evidently, only one of their hostiles turned into a fire zombie – the other two screamed in agony and burned away to ash – but the refrigerated state of the building slowed it to a crawl, making their encounter less a fight and more of a shooting range. Bare minutes later, police cars arrive with great sound and fury, followed soon after by ambulances. When the injured woman, who they have by now identified as one Aubrey Petersen, is being wheeled into an EMS vehicle, Jack orders the city police to make sure that she has a uniform on her at all times since she is a person of interest.

The agents spend some time looking over the scene and generally doing their job. Lee discovers that there are two vans outside (including the one that now has brains smeared all over the front of the windshield) and both are chock full of illegally modified M4s, ammunition, and various other goodies; even more interesting to him are the floorplans and photographs of the very mansion that he was surveilling until earlier this evening. From the local cops, Jack learns that the Sweet Tooth plant is owned by some large conglomerate but the point-of-contact is one David Howell; this man’s wife is sister to Ms. Petersen’s husband who Jack suspects to be one of the bodies he saw earlier in that penthouse. When Woo returns with surveillance tape of a large group of shooters actively planning to make a strike on the mansion that Lee has found photos of, it seems clear that this is a clear and present danger. When Carter inquires about the availability of SWAT, he learns that they are deployed on a training exercise that was arranged weeks ago by Jack’s very boss, Special Agent Hawkins. Both Carter and Lee find this very suspicious and, realizing that the local police are likely stretched to capacity by two major events, discuss their next steps.

So the three OSBI agents take the other van filled with guns and go to the Howell mansion themselves.

GM Notes:

Down a player tonight due to sickness (Woo’s) and another player (Sofia’s) was fighting illness, so I’m very hopeful that everyone will be okay next week since it going to be the climax of volume 6.

Quite satisfied with this session. I’ve been watching a bunch of Matt Colville’s “Run the Game” videos on YouTube and, while he’s focusing on 5E D&D, a lot of his general recommendations are quite valid, so as a result, this session was something of an experiment on my part. I intentionally did not go into my usual amount of detail for game prep. Now I’m not saying that I’m going to be ‘wing it’ all the time, but I did make an intentional effort to force the players into ‘taking’ more agency.

I was extremely happy with how the Colin and Sofia scenes went; both players were definitely ‘in-character’ and did some very nice roleplaying. Both scenes have then resulted in some pretty interesting (at least to me) opportunities for future stuffs, particularly with Colin & his Oath to the Dragon (voiced by Mark Strong, of course). Sofia’s player also declared her intent to dig deeper into the Anael-Penemuel thing once this latest crisis has abated, so that worked out nicely.

That said, not everything went as well as I would have liked: the final bit of data-dump that put the three OSBI agents on the road to the Howell Estate was kind of crap, but we had an friend and former player drop in unexpectedly, so that was distracting. I should have also done a better job of prepping for that pre-game (specifically, having a clearer outline plan about how to get from Sweet Tooth to the Howell Mansion.) This was definitely a case of ‘didn’t prepare enough.



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