I ran the first of a two-part Dresden Files Accelerated casefile – The Motor City Files – on the 15th. It was another great session of roleplaying and narrative powah, thanks to my great players. It was also a great shakedown of Dresden Files Accelerated’s mechanics, as this was only my third overall session using the newer system (and only my second running it.
There’s a lot to recap. Let’s start by introducing the players and their characters:
- Dennis Kellogg Jr. as Michael Lee: a kung fu master and Focused Practitioner. Also the vigilante known as Shadowfist, and a member of RIP Investigations.
- John Alan Large as Annika Kjellberg: a Valkyrie on vacation in Detroit. Member of RIP Investigations.
- Mathew Bryan as Michael Dumont: a clued-in photographer and
- Thomas Elmebolm Robert Pritchard: a medic and changeling with ties to Winter. Member of RIP Investigations.
The player characters all belong to an organization called Rest in Peace Investigations. A local group, they investigate paranormal activity through the greater Detroit metro area. The firm began life as something of a modern day Ghostbusters, but as the city’s problems have worsened in the last decade and their clientele diversified RIP Investigations has taken more than once tangled with what goes bump in the night.
The session opened with our intrepid investigators arriving at Brightmoor, a neighorhood on the west-side of Detroit that has been hit so hard by the urban decay spreading through the city that it goes by another name: Blightmoor. It should come to know surprise then that RIP Investigations was called to this battered, lonely place with tales of a haunting in the neighborhood from a man named Mr. Davis (owner of the local convenience store and one of a few functioning businesses left in Brightmoor).
As I began to describe the battered landscape, overgrown properties, and desolation of Brightmoor, I felt a real sense of apprehension. The only other time I’ve felt this as a GM was during the Bad Deal case-file, which found Alex Blackheart and Kaden Nuru smack in the middle of war-torn Damascus. These are real places I am drawing on, real problems that effect real people in a very real and horrible way. I can only hope that, through our exploration, myself and my players gain an appreciation for that horror, and that I portray without glorifying or demeaning it.
The RIP team pulled in to the convenience store parking lot, some by car, some by motorcyle, and some following behind in a taxi (amateur journalism only paying so well). Quickly disposing of greetings and banter, they make their way into the shop. Annike took point, her warriors instincts taking charge. Most of the party followed behind, but Michael Lee spared a moment for a homeless man asleep outside of the shop and placed in the man’s pocket all the money he had on him before catching up with the others.
Inside, they found the cramped store sparsely populated. A single counter was manned by a lone employee, who Annike introduced herself, and the party, to before advising the clerk of their purpose. The cashier turned out to be Mr. Davis, their client. The elderly black man quickly cleared out the shop, locking the door behind the last stragglers before offering the RIP crew coffee. After polite refusals, they got down to the business at hand: Mr. Davis, in the wandering fashion of a man both tired and aged, explained the rumors of hauntings centered on Beaverland Road. Paying them half their fee upfront (despite Annike’s attempts to decline it), Mr. Davis directed them to seek out the disturbances and put them to an end if possible.
Thus enriched, the team made their way to leave and begin their canvas. But an unexpected and unwelcome sight greeted them in the parking lot: local hoods. The exit from the lot was blocked by two late model sedans and four gangbangers were crawling all over Michael Lee’s motorcycle.
This was another moment of tension for me: the portrayal of these young black gang members. Here it was very easy to fall into stereotypes, hearsay, and defaulting based on years of absorbing media portrays of such characters. I attempted to tread careful here, reigning in any effort to perform a voice or change my dialect. This is a fiction, and I wouldn’t want the scene to become about how I misrepresented a real (and dangerous) sub-culture back home, instead of the developing situation being driven by my players. Definitely an odd moment for me as GM!
Emerging from the store, Annike and Doctor Pritchard attempt to distract and intimidate. Between Annike’s feminine wiles and the doc’s menacing use of a first aid kit, the four hoods around Lee’s bike where distracted enough for him to take them all by surprise with the might of the Shadowfist. As they bodies fly through the air, smacking concrete with a sinking thud, more gangbangers emerge from the cars and begin opening fire.
The first combat of the session opened with a solid fisting from Dennis, with a little help from the advantages created by John and Thomas. This conflict shows the power of the system: taking out a mob isn’t overly challenging, but they can hit hard now as the Mob rules allow a mob to strike every player character (assuming it makes sense in the scene). I had two mobs in the scene, and the one left standing managed to do a bit of damage to the party. As we’ll see later, I’ll definitely need to get used to the deceptive strength of these new rules.
The fight is finished in short order, the remaining hoods fleeing in their cars. The RIP investigators, not wanting to wait around for the police – their sirens already filling the air – to arrive to arrest them get into their car or on their motorcycle and tear off into the night. Navigating the dreary streets of Brightmoor, the team arrives on Beaverland Road. To cut their search of the nearly abandoned street down, Doc Pritchard calls upon his fae heritage to conjure a ghost catcher to aid in a ritual that will lead them to the lone home laden in ecotmantic energy.
Our first ritual, the main take away for me was that I was Evil Hat had changed the way Master Crafter worked between the preview version and retail version of the game. After the session, I picked up a copy of the retail version to make sure I was using the most up-to-date version of the rules.
The ritual, and the creative use of a modern digital-camera, led the group to an abandoned home with a car in the driveway. Breaking down the door, they find a ritual circle in the center of the room. Just as they began to investigate, a young girl enters the home from the back entrance, and Pritchard immediately recognizes her: Ava Gardner, budding ectomancer, Paranetter, and pain-in-the-ass. It was at this time that Shadowfist, who had vanished to patrol the neighborhood, emerged with two young men: the monster-hunting Weston Brothers.
After a brief argument between Ava and the doc, the RIP discover that the ghostly activity was Ava. The young ectomancer explains that she and the Weston’s where attempting to find the location of lab responsible for the arcane drug Delirium, which was the source of much of the neighborhood’s degradation. The two parties decide to work together, Annike calling Monoc for data on Delirium’s designer – the White Court sorcerer Rodrigo Skavis – and Gardner and Pritchard using a ritual (and the ghost of Delirium victim Nancy O’Hara, who haunted the changeling medic) to gain the location of the lab.
The ritual did not go unnoticed. More men with guns arrived, doing battle with Annike, Lee, and the Weston’s. Michael Dumont takes a hit, pulling the doc away from the ritual to tend to the wound. As the tide turns against the gun men, a living mist arrives, bringing death along with it and bringing session 1 to a close!
Interested in the follow-up? Check out session 2 here!