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[ETU] Session 8 "Bugs!" "From David to Goliath" played 06 September 2020

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  • [ETU] Session 8 "Bugs!" "From David to Goliath" played 06 September 2020

    Placeholder for upcoming session this Sunday.

    Last session ended one or two rounds into a fight with Johnny Chafe and two swarms of fire ants, while Kristina "Grave Spoke" to Friar De La Garza.

    .. it ended up being

    Greek Tragedy
    Jack's Back
    The Show Must Go On
    And a bit 'o High Strangeness

    Homecoming game and "From David To Goliath" will be the session after.
    Last edited by Eric; 09-10-2020, 01:52 AM.

  • #2
    The five students, …

    Kristina Bradley, timid Music Major, budding Occultist
    James Edward Washington, impoverished Kinesiology Major, on an ETU Football Scholarship
    Dexter Riley, socially-awkward Astro-Physics Major and Computer expert
    Richard “Dick” Longh, handsome Asian Drama Major and escapee from a brutal regime
    Jake Dormer, outdoorsman, Business Major, ETU baseball player with psychic sensitivity

    … were engaged in battle with Johnny Chafe, aka “Bug Boy”, and two glistening masses of vicious, hungry fire ants. Hiding among the crops grown by the Agricultural Studies, just south of the Bob Reynolds Agricultural Center, Johnny had witnessed Kristina’s successful ritualistic summoning of Friar De La Garza, who had possessed a gold cross that was at one time an Aztec Spear tip.

    Johnny’s clumsiness had given him away, and Jake, Dick, and Dexter surrounded him, trying to pummel him into submission. Jake swung closed fists, Dexter clubbed him with his newly purchased Mag-Lite flashlight, but Dick punched with his ninja spikes, brutally similar to brass knuckles but meant to penetrate with two slender nails that extruded between the fingers of a closed fist.

    The carpet of angry ants swarmed over the three friends and “Bug Boy”, who did not seem to be a target of their bites and stings. Angry welts rose upon the exposed skin of the three combatants, concerned with not losing their quarry.

    Kristina and James had moved away from the second swarm, and she formulated her second question, “Tell me of the cross and its powers”. Using James as a vessel to communicate, the spirit of the Friar intoned, “It carries with it a dangerous curse”.

    Dexter pulled out his newly purchased flare gun, and fired into the mass of wriggling, crawling red ants. The flames singed and crisped hundreds of ants, yet the swarm persisted. Jake and Dick continued to assault the hapless Johnny, without much effect, especially since Kristina and her phone flashlight had moved about forty feet away. Johnny placed his hands before himself in a manner both supplicating and defensive. While the students attempted to stave off the worst of the biting ants, he made a dash through the darkness towards the road north of the crops.

    Dick found a small pile of fist-sized rocks, probably stacked by students tilling the soil, and heaved one at the fleeing Johnny, but missed. Dexter fired a second flare, this one straight up, providing a few precious seconds of illumination.

    Kristina’s third question, “Tell me of the connection between the cross and Nine Castle” was met with a simple solemn response, “I know not of the individual you speak of”. The second swarm moved menacingly towards the two, wriggling and glowing in the red glow of the flare. It seemed to be losing its cohesiveness.

    Jake caught up to Johnny and attempted to tackle him, but the abrasive Entomology student wriggled free, exclaiming “Let go of me, you a******!”. As the glowing particles descended through the air, Dexter tried to throw his flashlight at his legs, in order to trip him. Johnny nimbly danced aside the arc of the hurled item.

    “Spirit of Friar Del La Garza, I ask my final question, and you are free to return to your afterlife”, spoke Kristina, “How can I destroy the cross and the curse?” There was evidently a slight linguistic barrier between the two, as he responded, “It is not necessary to destroy the cross, for it can provide great benefit … the curse upon it could be lifted”. And with that, the ghostly figure overlaying James separated, and slowly faded away.

    As the flare’s illumination faded in intensity, Johnny, with Jake on his heels, burst from the crops as they spied an ETU Security guard in a golf-cart-like vehicle heading their way … “Hey! What are you kids doing?” came a question from the driver.

    James looked at Kristina in the dim moonlight, and told her “Look, I lose my scholarship, I’m f*****, sorry!” as the two headed toward the southern edge of the acre of crops, he ran to his left, counter-clockwise around the crops, toward the wooded area to the east of the Agricultural Center.

    Dexter called out to the others … “Let’s hook up later!”, as the students, minus Jake, snuck away and off to their dorms.

    Johnny offered his ETU Student ID Card to the security guard eagerly. “I saw this guy slinking into the crops, where he met up with friends to do some sort of séance. I saw a bag and thought they might have kidnapped a puppy or a kitten or a bunny – ‘cause I know folks in town have recently been reporting lots of stolen pets”.


    • #3
      “Then, they assaulted me!”

      The guard asked who set off the flare, and Jake stammered that he was with a group of guys and a girl named “Chrissy” or “Krista”, and one of them must have done it. The guard let Johnny Chafe go, as he jotted Jake’s information down.

      Jake explained he didn’t attack Johnny, he had stumbled into a nest of fire ants (and the raised welts led credence to this), and while flailing about, must have inadvertently struck him. The flare had permitted them to safely escape the dangerous insects, though the others must have fled in other directions.

      The guard offered Jake a ride back to his dorm, and offered a bit of advice, “You and that Johnny seem to have some bad blood. Listen, you should just avoid each other. He goes left, you go right. Stay out of each other’s way, you’ll get along with almost everyone here at ETU”. Jake thanked him for the ride and entered his dorm.

      Kristina wasn’t pleased about having to walk alone across campus to her dorm, but James was nowhere to be seen. The other students’ dorms were close by, a little to the north, whereas Halloway Suites were on the far edge of campus to the west. Happy at the excellent illumination provided by the street lamps, she ambled past a thick oak that caught her eye. Its bark seemed to flake off, revealing a fleshy lump about the size of a human face. It glistened, appearing as pink as the flesh of a newborn. Two eyes blinked open, startling her, and a gaping mouth opened, moaning softly.

      Just as suddenly, the bark grew back over the fleshy protuberance, covering the frightening visage.

      Kristina ran the rest of the way back to her dorm.

      As Dexter prepared to retire for the evening, his friend and fellow Astro-Physics Major, Mason Thompson, stopped by. It struck Dexter how different the student appeared, from just a week and a few days ago. Mason’s shoulders slumped, and he had lost weight. His face was wan, and dark circles ringed his sunken eyes. “Hey Dex. I know you’re busy but I was wondering how you did on the quiz? I bombed it pretty bad”. Dexter had, in fact, scored a 100%. They had swapped phone numbers on the first day of class, so Dexter promised to track Mason down over the next two days and go over the quiz questions. Mason left Dexter’s room, unsuccessfully suppressing a coughing spasm. He had remarked that others on his floor had also been suffering similar ailments – exhaustion, inability to focus, headaches, and joint pain. The college was sending out an environmental team to take samples and readings and try to discover what was ailing the students.

      At 1:47 AM, Jake rolled over in bed and saw the Ghost of Dave Dalton sitting on his desk chair, legs crossed, one arm casually draped over its back. His expression was one of insistence, or perhaps grim determination. Jake rolled over and clenched his eyes shut, and waited a few minutes, willing him to disappear, but Dave remained implacably seated, staring at him.

      “Okay, Dave, I see you. What do you want?” Jake queried.

      Dave made the same rotating gesture with his hand as he had done in the past. “Okay, you’re … fishing? Using an old-style egg beater?” he asked, to which the specter slowly shook his head to the negative. Then Dave made a sort of “A Ok” sign with his thumb and forefinger, and held it up to his remaining eye as if peeking through a lens, perhaps a telescope.

      Realization struck Jake like a truckload of Chupacabra. “Dave, you said you recorded your … um … activities up in your room, on a hidden camera. Was your death recorded? Is that why you keep bothering me?”

      The ghost, half of his face blown away, dripping ectoplasmic bone, blood and tissue, reacted visibly to Jake’s revelation. Half of his face twisted into a smile, but it appeared as a twisted, leering, and ghastly richtus grin, shattered teeth and a shredded tongue visible. He pointed at Jake and made a “finger-gun” motion, pulling an imaginary trigger, his hand lurching from imaginary recoil, and vanished.

      “Finally, I can get some sleep”, Jake grumbled, and turned back over.

      The next day was Monday, and in addition to the workload of the students’ classes, Jake acquired and divvied a stack of leaflets with Kristina to hand out about campus, “Predators of Africa and Asia”. This evened up their part of the deal with Professor Martinson, head of the Zoology Department. The leaflets, printed on blue paper, sported an illustration of a Gorilla and a Tiger, and some large bird, and stated in italics at the bottom, “Some professors give extra credit for attending school-sponsored learning events!”

      Kristina, carrying the gold Cross of De La Garza, wrapped in its velvet shroud and contained within the clamshell case, stopped at the “Special Reserves” room in the basement of the library. She knocked upon the frosted glass pane, which Sonia Alvarez opened – slightly. “Yes? What do you want?” Kristina replied that she had translated the Grave Speak Ritual, had collected the components, and successfully summoned and conversed with the spirit of a long-deceased Friar. Snapping open the case, exposing the cross, she explained the Friar had told her of the cross’ history, and the fact it was dangerous to possess because it held a powerful curse!


      • #4
        “Can you remove the curse?” Kristina inquired, simply, to which Sonia responded “Yes. I believe so. Give it to me.” After she was passed the cross, she opened the door to re-enter the Special Reserves room, but before letting it shut behind her, in response to the question “What is the next step?”, she turned and told Kristina that she would contact her. And, to Kristina’s surprise, she added “Nice work”.

        Though Sonia had only opened the door wide enough to allow her willowy frame to pass, Kristina noted her friend – well, acquaintance – Margaret Winters in the cool, sterile chamber beyond, referring to a book she held, as she studied an ancient, crumbling text in a glass enclosure.

        Dexter stopped by to help Mason Thompson with his academic issues, helpfully holding the doors for two men dressed in dark blue coveralls, wearing plastic badges, carrying clipboards and cases and devices of their trade. Following them up to the third floor, Dexter caught their conversation, a planning and strategy for their effort. Dexter engaged the two men as they set up to sense the moisture levels behind the cinderblock walls, fearing mold and spore growth. They also produced a kit for sampling various facets of the environment – drinking water, dust, and the like. He found them friendly and professional, and when they entered the public restroom, he ducked into the common area and set up his barometric pressure and magnetic pulse detectors and took a reading.

        There did not seem to be any paranormal activity in this area.

        Peeking into the bathroom, he saw the crewmen had removed a register cover and were dangling some type of sensor connected to a wire into the duct. Snippets of conversation led Dexter to believe that they saw nothing amiss. “Dry as a bone, behind the walls”, “These ducts are pretty clean”.

        Taking another EMP reading, Dexter looked up and was greeted by a man that looked to be in his forties, looking a bit like an aging hippie in camo shorts, crocs, and a loud Hawaiian shirt. “Hey there, I’m Jack!” he exclaimed, with a demeanor quite at ease. Dexter learned he was a returning student, had flunked out twenty years ago, and was doing pretty well, this first number of days in class. “Studying Petroleum Engineering”, he offered, “My ex-wife might take me back if I waved a sheepskin at her and pulled up in some new wheels”. Their friendly discourse was punctuated by students shuffling by, coughing and sneezing.

        Jack opened the refrigerator while talking about California and his two kids, and pulled out a bottle of beer with a scantily clad blond on the label. “Brazen Hussy”, he remarked, “A local brew, right here in Pinebox!”. He produced a bottle opener from a cargo shorts pocket and popped off the cap, then took a long swig. “I’d offer you one, Dexter, but I don’t think you’re of legal drinking age!” he said with a wink.

        While they chatted amiably, the two environmental engineers came into the kitchenette area, took a sample from the water faucet, and shifted the refrigerator away from the wall for more readings. They also opened it and found it to be remarkably clean, for a common-use dorm utility. The area behind the cabinets under the sink were water-stained, but unremarkable.

        The symptoms seemed to match a few poisons, including cyanide and strychnine. Jack told the engineers he didn’t think the various students had all been in one place outside of their living quarters, as they all had different majors and interests. The men also had records of pest control done over the summer, but records showed the company had used safe chemicals. Also, the ceilings had been cleared of asbestos years ago.

        “Well, I’d better get to class, Dexter, nice talking to ya!” said Jack, who left to grab his backpack and headed off to class, whistling.

        “Well, we’re just the sample collectors, all this data has to go to the scientists, they’re the smart ones”, they commented, notified the RA they were finished, and left, handing Dexter a blank invoice sheet with the company’s name, owner, street address, phone and fax number, and email address.

        Dexter knocked on Mason’s door, and the student greeted him with the usual “Hey, Dex”. He didn’t look any better than the day before. Dexter asked him to spin around, arms outstretched, slowly, and he complied. He also took Dexter’s suggestion to go into the bathroom and look in the mirror for and bites, leeches, or parasites. He returned, shaking his head. “My roommate is asleep, let’s go to the common area”, Mason suggested, pointing at a mound under bed covers – Ellis Andrews. “He’s not well”. Left unsaid was, “I’m not, either.”


        • #5
          Dexter made a mental reminder to research “Detecting People’s Auras” on the internet later.

          After going over the questions on the quiz, Mason seemed to grasp his issue. “I swear, I studied these physical laws that morning!”. Then the two made a list of students that were sick, it was difficult because some of them didn’t leave their rooms, save for restroom breaks.

          “Me and Ellis – sick. Room 311.”
          “Jack in 314, not sick. Not at all, but his roommate, Justin, is.”
          Valentin – don’t know his last name – 313 – sick.”
          “Reed Weeks – 312 – sick.”

          A student named Marcio passed the common area, to his room at the far end of the hall, seemingly hale and hearty. Exhausted from the mental effort, Mason returned to his room to sleep, but not before making Dexter promise to call or text him in the morning to get him up for class.

          Kristina and Dexter hadn’t seen Dick since the fight with “Bug Boy”, so they stopped in at the Martha Patterson Language Arts Center, to see how rehearsals for The Glass Menagerie were coming along. They entered the Theater, to see Professor Conner Mayes pacing back and forth along the stage, where Dick and his co-star, Kieley Westbrook, were performing. They saw Larry Sykes, the developmentally challenged but kind-hearted Pinebox resident, carefully sweeping sawdust up in the corner of the stage. There were a few other students arrayed upon the theater seats, studying scripts and waiting to perform.

          Kieley got a few lines into her role, but asked, mid-way, “Dick, do you feel that? So cold!” They both felt a chilling wave of air. Larry looked around, “Must be the air conditioning working hard”. Professor Mayes yelled, “Cut!”, and told Kieley to take a break while he stalked outside, a cigarette between his lips before he even reached the theater seating.

          Dexter took a surreptitious reading and noted a barometric drop both on stage, fading, as well as directly above them, up in the catwalks. He and Kristina dashed up the stairs (avoiding the risk of climbing the ladder), and in the dim light, noted many footprints in the dust, leading from the cement walkway out to the pair of catwalks that spanned the width of the theater.

          The also noted the name, “G E N E”, scribed in the dust. “Gene? Who is Gene?” they wondered aloud, as a voice trickled up the steel spiral stairs. “You two up there should come down”, Larry insisted, “Professor Mayes will be real mad if you are up there!”

          Then, out in the open air in front of the catwalks, they spied a hideous sight. Dexter’s reader spiked as they witnessed a male figure, hanging from a noose around his neck. It spun slowly to face them, its face of purple flesh, eyes bulging, mouth agape, swollen, distended tongue hanging, moist and slick.

          “Did you see Darla?” it asked, pointing to the stage, below, and dissolved into mist.

          The two students, shaken, descended the spiral stairs just before Connor Mayes returned from his smoke break. “Professor, do you know a ‘Gene’?”, they asked, to which Mayes impatiently replied to the negative. While Dick and Kieley started again to perform their lines under Mayes’ tutelage, Dexter and Kristina’s fingers danced nimbly over their cell phones. They quickly located articles, with photographs, of the apparent suicide of one Jeff Tanner, followed by an unfortunate accident where a light fell, injuring the understudy, Gene Smith, and the female lead, Darla Phillips. The play, twenty-some years ago, was The Glass Menagerie.

          There were photos of Jeff Tanner, who hung himself from the catwalk, and of Darla Phillips, and a small inset of Gene Smith, who was injured, and bore a striking resemblance to Professor Connor Mayes, current head of the ETU Theater Department and charismatic director of The Glass Menagerie.

          Their discussion distracted Professor Mayes, who pointedly asked them to keep it down, so they quietly exited the theater. Mayes had been in a few sitcoms and commercials, and did indeed have an IMDB page, which listed his agent, Carlie Leach, in California, with a phone number. They called her.

          She was a friendly sort, forthcoming with information, and hadn’t seen Connor since “he went back to his old school to try to find himself”. She thought it was “Texas College, or something”. The told her he was at ETU, which she replied sounded right. She had met him early in their respective careers, when he was 25 or 26, waiting tables and hoping to make it big. “He has had a better career than most starry-eyed youngsters hoping to make it big in Hollywood”, she offered.

          Asked if he had ever changed his name, she said that he filed taxes and paid Actors Guild dues as Connor Mayes, and to her knowledge had never changed his name legally. “But, sweetie, actors often take a stage name, and I first met him three or four years out of college”. She was an open, endearing woman, and made them promise to ask Mayes to give her a call, as it had been six months since they last spoke.


          • #6
            Post Mortem:
            The game moved at a rapid pace, as players logged on and off due to real-life circumstances (Dick's player didn't show, but it was Labor Day Weekend).
            Dexter's player is using the flare gun as a firearm, as a way to "get around" the law. Anyone have an opinion on the damage? I arbitrarily ruled 2d4 fire damage but I don't know if that's too much.
            Last edited by Eric; 09-14-2020, 01:43 AM.


            • #7
              Originally posted by Eric View Post

              Anyone have an opinion on the damage? I arbitrarily ruled 2d4 fire damage but I don't know if that's too much.
              They are not "official" from PEG, but I found these:
              A Savage Suzerain setting that gave it 2d4+2 fire damage, but with a -1 Shooting penalty since it is not designed for accuracy.
     gives it 2d6+1

              The Tour of Darkness errata at mentions flares but does not have the full stats. I don't have that product so I don't know it it mentions the damage when flares are used as a weapon.

              Lastly I found this page on Hell on Earth:
              It specifies 2d6 per round and it burns for 4+1d4 rounds. But since I don't have HoE I don't know if that page copies info from the book, or if it is fan-made extensions to what it is the book.


              • Eric
                Eric commented
                Editing a comment
                Thanks for the references !! I think those stats are right-on. 2d4 looks to be in the ballpark.