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[ETU] Session 1 "The Roost", played 17 May 2020

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  • [ETU] Session 1 "The Roost", played 17 May 2020

    This Session 1 played out pretty much by the book. I could have done a better job mapping the timeline out in bullet points instead of skimming the narrative of the adventure text in-game. Pacing is important and I almost got it right. To compensate, next session, the glyphs go off at eleven PM instead of midnight, but I'd say by then the party/event probably would be close to ending, anyway !! So eleven it is.

    Characters are in bold green.

    Kristina - the music major, meek and timid (he's the other DM of the group, looking forward to playing!) Her ghostly companion will make an appearance soon.
    James - the kinesiology major, black football player, NAILED EVERY NOTICE ROLL WITH A RAISE (gets a +2 for one of his edges)
    Dick - the drama major/cheerleader, think he is Korean or Vietnamese
    Jake - business major, an Eagle scout and outdoorsman. Has the edge to sense the paranormal.
    Dexter - astro-physics major, interested in paranormal (always plays a wizard, will likely be a ritualist)

    Kristina crit-failed the Notice roll for the Needler, was leaning against the wall in the gymnasium, trying to look casual, slipped, and jabbed herself in the eye (-1 Notice for the session)

    I will let the players retro any character changes up to the end of Session 3. It's a new system with a lot to get hold of, and I'm a genuinely nice guy. No one wanted to take my suggestion of a rank in boating - they'll pay for that ! Hehe.

    Dexter's player said he had a phone app that acts as an EMF reader. Instead I said he has an EMF device ($40) that connects to his phone and interfaces with it to upload images and streams, and the app "manages" the peripheral device.

    We played remotely/virtually using Fantasy Grounds (I bought the ultimate license). Used Discord for Audio. No Visual for each other. The FG aspect went smoothly, I kept having to share images, one player can't move his token but he's on a tablet I think? Different gesture I guess. One player can't bring up the right-click option "wheel" but he's on a Mac that he installed an old MacOS upon in order to use FG. Couple of players lost connection once or twice but overall it was VRRRY smooth.

    The players said they didn't feel my 1st-time Dean jitters, we went through the Savage Worlds rolls like aces and crit fails and raises and target number of 4. It started slow then I moved us along faster and faster - by the time Nina appeared we were full-bore.

    Edited synopsis: from "pizza and beer" to "pizza and sodas". Oops.
    Last edited by Eric; 05-19-2020, 03:09 PM.

  • #2
    Two weeks before start of classes. Students are permitted to move in and purchase books, supplies for their dorms, get parking permits, student IDs. Kristina met her Holloway Suites quad RA, Sara (“with no h”), and discussed ETU’s music program, underaged drinking, her approach to RA'ing, and the risk of having a railroad line pass just east of campus. Dexter met his roommate, Kyle Murphy (“Murph”), a marketing major, who was setting up a C-store in the room and seemed to have excellent organizing skills. Life is good these days before classes start, with lots of students doing a walkthrough of their class locations, and generally exploring campus and a bit of the town of Pinebox, Texas.

    Students received emails and received flyers of the upcoming “Sweat Lodge” event; their RAs impressed up them that it would be a fun event, with a DJ (Bobby Knox), live band A Jury of Robots, giveaways of school merchandise, a trivia contest, and lots of free pizza (from the Pizza Barn) and sodas. It would be held at the Roost, an ugly old grey/tan brick, disc-shaped athletics building.

    That Friday night the students donned casual outfits of mostly jeans and t-shirts (James’ from the athletic program) and tennis shoes or sandals and headed to the Roost. There seemed to be a few hundred freshman students present, and a small number of obvious (from their dress and age) professors and administrators. It wasn’t surprising to see a few custodians pushing mop buckets, some campus security, and a heavyset blonde man with “Michael Landry” on a patch on his orange work jumpsuit talking to a wiry, gaunt redheaded guy with a goatee, ostensibly about keeping the old air conditioning unit, “the behemoth”, running with jerry-rigged parts and makeshift wiring until new parts arrived.

    The students entered the basketball court, which was worn but serviceable. After the ETU Choral Team gave a rousing A cappella rendition of the school fight song, President Nelson gave a short and informative speech, welcoming them to the campus and to this event of rebirth, reflection, and starting a journey. He described campus safety and precautions and directed them to the four entrance ways, to be given a room number where a senior would give them some personal, unscripted advice, away from the college staff, to help guide them over the next four years.

    The air conditioner kicked in with a mechanical squeal and the crowd on the court collectively sighed as a draft of cool air gave respite from the rather stuffy arena. The DJ and band were seen to be setting up, and a line of banquet tables erected, to hold the pizza boxes. Sturdy tubs full of canned and bottled soda were iced. Two galvanized metal buckets held free thumb drives with the Pizza Barn logo and phone number – talk about marketing and targeting your audience!

    The group each received a slip of paper with the number “12” and exited the basketball court to locate the room. James espied the gaunt redheaded guy carrying a fire extinguisher into a room marked “Environmental Control Room”, where he placed it in an area with several others (about 20), each with a colored tag with a number scrawled on it. The man nodded at James and shut the door. Others noted that the building did indeed sport many empty metal brackets that would hold a fire extinguisher, most with a placard instructing “Pull the pin, Aim the nozzle, Squeeze the trigger”.

    Room 12 held several chairs pushed off to the side, making room for the six-sided table occupying its center. A senior, Robbie Niles, greeted the freshmen as they entered the room, the fifth of whom shut the door. Robbie, a student of Latin and literature, gave his honest assessment that the students should try to “be a zebra!” and try to blend in, not stand out nor call attention to themselves, as the zebras that stray from the herd are the ones picked off by cheetahs and lions in the savannah. He told them that one of the fraternities had acquired a werewolf costume and was known to try to scare students in groups of two or three. He proffered he was taking part in the sweat lodge event because he fondly remembered HIS freshman orientation and was trying to pay it back – or forward. As for … ghosts? vampires? spirits? He said we live at the nexus of Mexican folklore, Cajun/Caribbean voodoo and American Indian mythologies. He didn’t doubt those who said they’ve seen a ghost, but he didn’t put much credence in it. He was more concerned about the real threats in this region, so near the “Big Thicket”, like wild boars and alligators and snakes and especially fire ants – he knew of the latter, first-hand.

    Suddenly, as the conversation seemed to draw to a close, the freshmen heard a large CRASH out in the hallway. The rather timid Kristina shrunk into a corner, but the other four, James, Dick, Dexter and Jake, leapt up, opened the door and peered out to assess the fuss. “You didn’t listen! “BE A ZEBRA”! Shut the door!” scolded Robbie, who nodded at Kristina.

    Standing implacably by a ruined device, nudging it with his toe, was the redheaded, goateed guy (Tyson August). The four students’ eyes moved along the wall, to find the battered camera with a shattered lens lying on the floor, a bit away from a bent wall mounting, high on the wall of the highway. “Must have had Wi-fi”, as the camera was not attached to any wiring. Dexter identified it as a recent model. “You kids see anything?” the man asked … and was satisfied that they had been engaged with their “mentor” when it had fallen … or was struck. The floor did not seem damaged, but then again it was a rather sturdy tile material.

    The man left, and a custodian soon arrived to sweep up the mess. A dapper professor with a younger man in tow arrived, and introduced himself as Professor Glen McClanahan, head of the Anthropology department, and his junior associate, Jackson Green. They bemoaned the loss of the camera “It was a high-end electro-magnetic pulse recorder, right out of the box … and it’s … been destroyed. How am I going to explain? …”. He told the group he dabbled in the para-normal a bit, as a hobby, and the he and Jackson had hoped all the activity in the Roost would draw out “the elusive ghost of a pretty blond girl” that was purportedly haunting the lower level of this building.

    The two made an unlikely pair, Professor McClanahan clad stylishly in a fitted tweed jacket, khakis, and leather loafers, whereas the shorter Green wore boots, jeans, a T-shirt revealing muscled arms, and a cowboy hat. The former, hair perfectly in place, the latter, sporting long blond hair and a reddish-blonde beard.

    Satisfied at the group’s response that they only heard the crash, and didn’t see anything, Glen and Jackson informally got each person’s name (even Kristina, who by now had crept out in to the hallway), and as the sound of DJ Bobby Knox’s voice drifted out of the arena and reached them, the Professor once again welcomed them to ETU, and he and Jackson Green headed off in different directions. Students, hearing the reverberating bass of the DJ’s first track, begin filing out of their own classrooms and onto the basketball court.

    Within moments they identified the delicious smell that assailed their noses … Pizza Barn employees, readily identifiable by their bright red shirts with the white barn logo, were unloading two utility dollies of boxed pizzas, perhaps 50 in number, onto the banquet tables, along with stacks of sturdy “Chinette plates. A Jury of Robots were setting up their equipment. Six students in a circle kicked a hackeysack. Everyone swayed to the zesty beats. Soda washed down the steaming slices. A portion of the attendees climbed portable stairs, off the court and into the bleachers. A security guard helped by taping the band’s power cords down to the glossy wooden floor for safety.

    A pretty blond in a black turtleneck sweater was seen high in the bleachers with two custodians, gesturing angrily at the walls high up, near the windows that surrounded the arena. One with sharp eyes might have identified smudges, smears on the wall in dull rusty red, graffiti among the painted depictions of ravens and school mottos and Texas symbolism. The custodians were shaking their heads, shrugging, and seemed to be rolling their eyes. A few of the students thought they saw a menacing shadow peering in from the high windows. One particularly sharp-eyed young person made out a vaguely lupine form, with what seemed to be spikes growing from its back and shoulders. Or it could have been a trick of the eyes.
    Last edited by Eric; 05-19-2020, 03:18 PM.


    • #3
      A member of the administration piped in between tracks, encouraging students to join the ETU trivia contest, and other free giveaways. Nine o’clock, nine-fifteen, this party was in full swing. The acoustic guitar player strummed an occasional “warm-up” chord. The students recognized Robbie Niles, his awkward slouch, pronounced Adam’s apple, and long curly hair from across the court (the basketball backboards were raised, via a pulley-system). He was with a group of what must be upper classmen. Professor McClanahan passed through the crowd, walkie-talkie in hand, and waved at the few students he recognized. A custodian mopped up the occasional spilled soda, with a wet, then dry mop, to his satisfaction. The court looked due for a re-waxing soon, anyhow. A gaggle of freshman girls swooned over the DJ; his job complete as the band, A Jury of Robots (consisting of ETU students and alumni, and pretty good covers for a garage band!) was now in full swing. Kristina wandered from the DJ (accepting his very professionally done business card) to the band, then took part in the ETU Trivia contest. Two of her new friends won small prizes, able to select from among a zipper-hoodie with the ETU raven on the back (white on black, gold on purple, or cobalt blue), a plastic water bottle, or an aluminum coffee travel-cup, each also embossed with the raven and “ETU”.

      Kristina won the trivia contest, hands-away, and scored a beautiful dark-purple canvas backpack, list price $70 at the ETU Student Union gear shop. When asked she responded that most of the answers were in the new student “in-doc” material, of which she had read every page.

      Jake realized a very pretty, blonde girl, in a modest blue dress, was staring at him from across the arena. She smiled and tilted her head demurely. As he approached, she exited the court, looking at him over her shoulder and winking. Two others saw him leave, but not the girl. Probably going to the restroom.

      Jake followed the girl into one of the classrooms. He noted she must be a smoker, as she smelled of smoke, and not like a campfire. Her name was Nina, and she asked about him and snuggled in close. She then grabbed his wrist and whispered, “You are all going to burn!”, as the walls burst into flame. Though Jake leapt back two long strides to exit the flames, he witnessed Nina immolate – in mere seconds, her hair and dress combusted, flesh peeled and melted, revealing pulp and muscle, then bone, then ash, then … the flames disappeared and nothing remained of her, not a fleck of ash nor the merest scorch on the wall. The only evidence of this strange occurrence was a nasty burn on Jake’s forearm … four fingerprints on one side, and a thumbprint on the other side – places where her skin had touched his.

      Though students tended to drift by in small groups (one young woman sporting a new ETU T-shirt, obviously just won), it was notable that Professor McClanahan came charging up to Jake, excitedly, speaking of a brief yet intense heat spike from the region around the classroom. Jake provided the information he could, interspersed with more questions, but really Jake had very little to tell. McClanahan examined Jake ’s wrist, and as the rest of the group joined them in the hallway for a retelling of the experience, McClanahan left to find something for a burn, as there were sports medicine and massage rooms in this area surrounding the arena.

      Dexter used his phone app to deduce strong pulses from the sigils on the wall, which Jake could plainly make out, whereas the rest had to sort of squint and view from various angles to see. And tracing them with a finger revealed they were getting warm. The time of night reached ten or ten-fifteen.

      Dexter followed McClanahan to a room with a tub (for icing injuries) and a row of white metal medical kits, with clasps and the red medical cross emblazed upon the cover. However, the burn ointment was discovered in a small medical kit on the wall, as the contents of the room were more for twists, sprains, and bruises – Ace Wraps and Icy-Hot and medical tape and an Oxygen Tank, neck immobilizers and the like.

      Professor McClanahan spoke to Dexter a bit about the paranormal, eager to find a kindred spirit as they returned, also McClanahan speaking to Jackson over his walkie-talkie about the sighting of Nina. He washed his hands and applied ointment to Jake, then sterile gauze, and wrapped it moderately snugly in place. The relief was nearly instantaneous, and probably better than immersing his arm in the icy soda tubs in the arena. He handed his business card to Jake and Dexter, offering Jake a cash incentive to stop by his office “in a day or two” to provide recorded testimony of the experience with Nina “while it was still fresh”. He asked each of the five, again, for their name, evidently committing each to memory, then turned about and climbed the steps up to the entry, or “bleacher”, level.

      After experimenting a bit more with the sigils, which seemed to be getting warmer, outside the illusory conflagration classroom, Dexter noted his EM device/app was spiking coincidentally with what Jake identified as a momentary “flare” in their power. Dexter decided to go back to his dorm for some research of these strange occurrences and bade the group “goodnight”. He climbed the stairs, approaching the double (exterior) doors only to find them blocked in some manner. Not really locked, as he pressed the horizontal release handle down, he could push the doors open, just the tiniest bit.

      Passing the Environmental Control Room, in the brief lull between the band’s numbers, the remaining four freshmen heard muffled banging and pleas for help from the room, within.
      Last edited by Eric; 05-19-2020, 03:30 PM.


      • #4
        Excellent session recap!


        • Eric
          Eric commented
          Editing a comment
          My players asked some pretty cool questions, I had to think fast …

          "Isn't it dangerous, having train tracks right next to the dorms ?"

          "The train goes by once in the afternoon, and again in the evening, usually laden with timber and coal. It slows to about 15-20 MPH as it approaches Pinebox and ETU, and the whistle warns of it's approach from a good distance. Sara doesn't know of any student injuries, but occasionally a body will be found near the tracks, likely just hobos that hurt themselves jumping from the cars and dying of a broken back or neck".

        • JamesG
          JamesG commented
          Editing a comment
          That's some quick thinking, and observant players. Neither myself or my players have given a second thought to the train tracks running right through the campus. I'll have to remember to steal.... I mean borrow... your response if it ever comes up.

        • Eric
          Eric commented
          Editing a comment
          It can't be stealing if I give it willingly !

      • #5
        One funny thing as I read the encounter with Nina was my immediate thought of "Wait, Nina is a redhead". But when I went and checked the book I saw that no hair color was specified. I'm not exactly sure why I didn't remember that I made the decision to make her a redhead, nor do i remember why I picked that hair color. Maybe subconsciously the phrase "fiery redhead" was a pun I could not pass up! lol


        • Eric
          Eric commented
          Editing a comment
          I used an old photo of Carol Lindley (the teen-aged girl from movie, The Poseidon Adventure) for Nina Castle.

          I used an old photo of Kathy Lee Crosby for Helen (of Troy/LaCroix/Lane), even though she is described as having island heritage and raven black hair (I believe). I figure being immortal, she changes her hair style and color from time to time.

          The Sweetheart Foundation has a few "front" business, the (upscale) dating service, a laundromat, beauty salon, and gym. They have a couple of non-descript white panel vans the businesses share, so if the group sees the van pull away (driven by black turtleneck woman, with Tyson August in the back, possibly paralyzed) they will be able to trace it to the company but find a row of vans with the keys in their ignitions in a gated lot. The Needler may not jump in van, but stay behind and ultimately skulk and creep back to his greenhouse nest.

          One will surely have a layer of dirt and pine tar/needles, and tires that look like they drove through mud/ruts (from driving to the lab). The others are quite clean.

        • JamesG
          JamesG commented
          Editing a comment
          I used an old photo of Carol Lindley (the teen-aged girl from movie, The Poseidon Adventure) for Nina Castle.
          And she was also Kolchak's love interest in the original Night Stalker movie!

        • Eric
          Eric commented
          Editing a comment
          Exactly. In fact that's the pic I am using of her, from that Kolchak tv-movie, one of my players piped up "Isn't she from Peyton Place" haha

          And for President Nelson I grabbed a pic of the county commissioner or some such from the movie too, one of the three that sent Carl packing after he slayed the vampire. Gray hair, parted on the side, looks like a politician or DA.

      • #6