Friday, June 23, 2017

Ceteri Prequel 1: Trials, START!

The Cast:

Cormac McAllister (Mavrick): The team's scout and master of crossroads. Cormac is also handy with a gun and might not be fully human.

Yanay Servantes (Annia): An Incan witch and powerful spellcaster. Yanay is really good at psychology.

Landon Winchestor (Alex): Rich. Posh. Utterly aggrandizing and pretentious. Still, an effective face.

Mike Bastian (Andre): A holy warrior who fights for the glory of heaven. Easy to guilt trip.

Agravaine Tashalan (Me): The grease that makes the entire team work smoothly. Agravaine is inhumanly and inconveniently attractive, extremely smart, and a real mastermind when it comes to planning.


All of us are hauled to Boston for the trials. Everyone in the supernatural community won't elaborate about what they are beyond canned one liners and empty platitudes.

There's almost 200 people in the room we're in, all milling around waiting. Ages range from 13 to 40. Everyone is wearing the same drab brown (with white trim- not pictured) robes. Numerous nationalities and ethnicities.

The entire chamber has a translation spell of some kind on it- everyone can understand everyone else regardless of language used.

There's a few observers and instructors present- with a small sprinkling of Custos Knights.

After an hour, a guy in a green robe stands up and makes a speech to the assembled crowd. Everyone will be split into groups, given an instructor, and if you've see an observer shit's gone sideways and you're probably fucked.

The number of tests per individual might vary- some will be one and done, some might have to do several.

We'll be tossed into the labyrinth as a group- average number of times through is 7. One or two people per trip will be subjected to an especially harrowing experience, and that person HAS to pass. It's highly suggested to be helpful towards other people in your group- they really don't like selfish asshats.

The Labryinth is a prison maze where attempting to leave the center gets progressively and progressively harder. Only 5 people have ever breached the outermost edges in its history- a history spanning back centuries. There's an intelligence to it. People report seeing dead relatives and friends inside.
I ain't afraid of no ghosts

We're "RANDOMLY" sorted into a group of 13 people- us 4 (Landon isn't present yet) and 9 NPCs.

  • Marian S. Davis
  • Kirsten J. Gleeson
  • Tina J. Ellis (Age 17)
  • Trina N. Parker
  • James S. Graff
  • Donald N. Cage
  • George A. Angulo
  • Lucien K. Goldman (Goth Kid) (Age 15)
  • Vince K. Kennison
Ms. Baril
Our instructor is Ms. Baril. She tells us to get ready for our first trip into the labyrinth. It's not an actual trial- just a jaunt to get used to it.

 Cormac seems pretty confident he can apply his knowledge of other planes to the labyrinth.

Ms. Baril opens up a portal/arch to the Labyrinth and we enter. The walls are smooth and grey. They don't look worked as if they had tools.

It takes a while for us to realize that Donald N. Cage is inexplicably gone. He had been particularly headstrong before stepping inside. Agravaine isn't particularly upset about him disappearing. Ms. Baril is upset about it happening again, and we attempt to follow his footprints to wherever he went off.

We're suddenly in a garden, with the hallway we came through behind us. It appears Ms. Baril's necklace is having an effect on the labyrinth.

There's an extremely posh looking asshole beneath a tree, covered in dirt. The second he stands up the dirt sloughs off his clothes. He picks at his fingers for a moment, trying to get the grime out. He's got some fancy jewelry and a nice walking stick.

Ms. Baril seems happy to forget about Donald- enter with 13 and leave with 13 and all that- accepting the posh fellow into the group. The Posh guy introduces himself as Landon.

The garden seems to stretch on forever, although the sky still appears normal. There's a single doorway inbetween two trees that leads back to labyrinth.

She leads us through that doorway. Landon asks the date- we tell him October of 1999.

Ms. Baril gets a bit annoyed with the continued introductions and spurs us forward to a pool that we have to look into. There's a tree with red bark nearby- Yanay knows that it's not natural in origin. It's either magical/supernatural in some regard or hasn't been present on Earth for an extremely long time. 

Ms. Baril sits down in a well-worn spot and lights a cigarette. She advises us to reflect on if we want to continue the trials- some choose to gaze into the pool, although that can have effects.

Mike touches the tree. It feels like flesh, and is warm.
Garden. How very tranquil and lovely.

Agravaine doesn't look- he doesn't need further reinforcement about undergoing the trials. Yanay, Landon, and Cormac all decide to look into the pool. Mike and Agravaine opt not to. 

Out of the NPCs who look into the pool:
  • Three immediately tap out and request to leave (Kirsten, Trina, Vince)
  • George starts screaming and starts to tear at his eyes- he plucks out one before Mike restrains him. Agravaine manages to stop George from completely ruining his eyes via a successful Teamwork! check.

A few observers appear- two to take away George, one to escort the other three away.

Yanay seems unfazed by what she saw. Cormac and Landon, however, lose 10 and 11 Stability points. (Stability is equal to IQ, and hitting 1/3 of your total = bad things.) Cormac and Landon are both reeling, sitting down and staring off into space.

Baril pulls out a watch. She seems unimpressed. Everyone except Agravaine feels a lassitude fall on them- a comforting feeling, like being wrapped up in a warm blanket by a trusted friend or family member.

Baril gives Agravaine and earful about knowing that yes, he has no choice about continuing the Trials. She asks him to sit down and be a good boy. She warns Agravaine not to fall asleep when he decides that's the best course of action.

Time's up and Baril tells us we have up to two days to tell an observer if we're going to continue the Trials in two days. Exiting the labyrinth is much more difficult heading out- it gets darker, the routes are more confusing and twisting, and it's like the architecture is just working against progress.

The waiting area with cots seems half filled- out of maybe 200 people who went in, 100 have stayed.

Landon asks for a drink and is told that alcohol is a bad idea when entering the labyrinth.

Agravaine has a quick meeting with Olivia, his mentor/sponsor. She asks him if he killed anybody, and seems surprised that he helped save George's eye. Cormac takes the opportunity to try and scare people off from continuing the trials, hoping to weed out people with weak resolve. Mavrick rolls a success by 6- James and Marian are gone next morning. Trina and Lucian are the only two left.

We're all sequestered into a shared space. Rooms are private, the common room is shared, and 9 out of the 13 rooms are currently occupied by our group.

Landon doesn't like the accommodations- they're not posh enough for him. Yanay seems to have caught the attention of Trina who is totally obvious about it, while Lucian states that he's asexual.

Agravaine conjures up a chess board and teaches Yanay how to play. She manages to do decent against him when actually playing. Agravaine destroys Landon when they play. 

Landon does his best to get to know everyone. Agravaine polls everyone to ask what they're good at. Yanay says that she has peculiar skills, and that she's very spiritual. Mike claims that he defends the faith of god against evil- as a warrior priest and monk. Cormac knows how to get into places, is familiar with places like the Labyrinth, and can shoot things. Landon is a lawyer, very posh, and evidently he was an Olympic-level fencer.

Trina is good with metal- enchanting, molding, etc. Lucian is all about shadows and Astral Projection. 

A few of us notice that Landon's cane is either exceptional (Yanay and Agravaine) or magical (Cormac). 

Olivia visits Agravaine at least once a day, usually taking 15-20 minutes to talk with him.

Agravaine gets all the trust
We're all given bracelets in preparation for our first actual Trial. They help observers locate us and serve as "get us the fuck out of here" beacons as well. Agravaine's is cursed with extra bad mojo should he remove his in an attempt to not be tracked. The Bracelets will glow when we arrive where we need to be for the Trial.  

We're going to randomly get one of 13 trials. They're kept jealously secret so people are unprepared.

Agravaine asks for a bag of marbles to supplement his other gear. Olivia gets him a bag of ball bearings.

We enter the Labyrinth and come across a dead end where there was previously a way forward. The choice is to go left or right. Landon casts a spell (basically spell intuition), and his gut indicates that we need to go left.

Yanay, Mike, and Tina suddenly fall through the floor. There's an open shaft that they've fallen through. Midway through they slow down due to some sort of field. Lucian jumps in saying "Eh, it won't matter if I die anyways."

Cormac and Agravaine decide to jump down as well.

The shaft ends in a large room. We land on an outcropping. Down below appears to be a large swimming pool. The place is dark (-2 penalty). The pool has some floodlights and a high dive. The shaft bricks itself up above us.

Cormac spots an exit sign and heads off for it. As soon as he touches the door, lights come on, and suddenly it appears like the entire place is full. People are swimming, doing dives, and enjoying themselves.

Cormac tries the door again. There's a scream from the pool, followed by shouts that someone hit their head.

Seriously, don't go in.

Mike rushes to the pool. He's grabbed suddenly and hauled into the pool. He appears like he's just having trouble swimming. He quickly draws on his divine power to increase his strength, a process that will take 5 seconds.

Mike fights to swim up to the surface, his high HT allowing him a decent time underwater, even without prepping first. He breaks free for a moment and breaks the surface, struggling, before getting dragged back down again.


Yanay, attempting to save Mike
Yanay attempts to walk on the water over to Mike. Mike crit-fails his next check to try and escape and is hopelessly entangled by water is holding him in the water. 

Agravaine realizes that the entire situation is based on a memory from someone present- it's at that point that Landon notices that Tina is super still and not moving. He slaps her. She can only mumble that it was her fault. He succeeds by 10 on Fast-Talk to convince her that it wasn't her fault.

Tina jumps into the pool to grab Mike. He immediately finds it easier to to swim, breaking to the surface and flopping onto ground. Tina treads water and the second she leaves the pool the entire place goes dark again.

We leave through the door. Tina is the last through. We suddenly find ourselves in a Library.
We're shushed by a very severe looking lady with her hair in a bun. She asks us if we have a library card. Cormac sees if he can steal a library card while she's occupied.

Landon and the Librarian go back and forth about the intricacies of library law.

Yanay starts look at random books, finding one in Sanskrit. It's obviously filled with magical theory.

The librarian notices Cormac's attempt at going behind the desk. His arm goes numb. 

Some of us start filling out the forms to get cards.

Agravaine realizes that the group is in the Akashic Library- a place that stores the full contents of human knowledge. 

Landon and Agravaine work out the details of membership. The lifetime tier is expensive- $80k worth of very expensive. The middle tier is only $1000 up front, $5000 total. The free tier is 2 books a month, 24 total a year. 

Landon and Agravaine both spring for the Lifetime membership.
Everyone else fills out the paperwork too. Agravaine burns Foresight to have the cash on hand.

Cormac tries to work out a deal- retrieving books for a card. This involves more forms. He manages to become a library repo man. 

We learn that we're at a satellite branch- one that doesn't have personnel records. 

Yanay reads up on books about the Labyrinth. Lucian looks up astral projection and extrasensory capabilities. Landon brushes up on biblical studies. 

Agravaine asks Cormac to check to see if some specific people have used the library. Cormac agrees but wants to wait until everyone is out of the Labyrinth to discuss it.

We all leave. We find ourselves somewhere else. We find ourselves in an empty bar.
I don't care what Christopher named the bartender,
his name is Macnnally.
There's peanut shells on the floor and the entire place smells of booze, blood, and nuts. Our bracelets start glowing green right as Landon goes to leave.

The bartender points at Agravaine and tells him to sit down. He puts down 13 bottles of liquor on the counter and tells Agravaine to drink all 13 of them. 

Agravaine starts with the one labeled #1. Cormac joins him. It's decent alcohol- and just appears to be regular alcohol. Landon has convinced both Lucian and Tina to drink. Lucian claims that he's going to be dead by 21 and it doesn't matter if he trashes his liver so he joins inn. 

The four of us clear a bottle with Cormac getting drunk and Agravaine getting tipsy. 

Now tipsy, Agravaine attempts to guilt trip and cajole everyone into shouldering part of the load. Mike gives in to the rhetoric and starts drinking too.

Trying to get through the second bottle, Agravaine becomes drunk and begins trying to convince the Bartender to help clear out the bottle as well. The Bartender calls Agravaine a pretty boy and begins helping.

By the fourth bottle, Cormac has blacked out. Agravaine seems to be doing okay. Tina and Lucian are drinking like fishes. 

Landon eventually gives in and starts helping through the fourth bottle. Agravaine somehow sobers up, while Landon gets tipsy. Mike's tolerance seems to be quite high. Yanay tends to Cormac.

Bottle five, Mike is feeling tipsy. Lucian eventually hurls. Agravaine is back to being drunk. 

The group slogs through the rest of the bottles. Agravaine and Mike are totally shitfaced. Tina just seems immune to alcohol. Lucian is on the floor in pain, and Landon seems to have a very high tolerance.

Cormac wakes back up and tries to help out again. 

Once done, the bartender points behind Agravaine. Standing there seems to be Agravaine's brother.

Agravaine instantly casts a spell at his brother. It slams into the simulacra, killing it immediately. Yanay and Landon seem to pick up on it being a really nasty spell.
Seriously nasty.

The observers come in and escort us back through the labyrinth. Our first trial is complete. 

They sober us up with magic. Yanay is very unimpressed with being surrounded by drunkards. Our nurse correctly guesses that we landed in the bar. 

We have some time to relax. Mike spends it training. He finds a sparring partner who kicks his ass, but she does nicely by actually teaching him what he's doing wrong. Andre Crits, picking up some Blade! skill for the trouble. This draws attention- Mike is getting eyed for becoming a Custos Knight (think the Grey Wardens from Dresden) after the trials. People who aren't affiliated with houses tend to get headhunted by getting handed cards.

We expect Mike to get plenty.

Agravaine is hauled off by Olivia for training and doesn't get to relax quite like he wanted. 

Landon of course is schmoozing as much as possible. He leaves a very good impression on everyone.

Yanay meditates and sees to her spiritual needs.

Lucian has been largely keeping to himself, meanwhile Tina is struggling with the pool incident. Seeing that she's having a rough time, both Yanay and Agravaine take some time to talk with her to try and keep her in the game.

We're lead back into the Labyrinth again for our Second trial. There's three possible directions to go. Landon casts his version of Intuition again, and it seems each branch is more or less equivalent.
Too much fertilizer

There's the same gray stone walls, followed by the sounds of someone calling for help. There's a group of fellow trial initiates up ahead, getting attacked by a giant plant.
 It's clear the group is getting wrecked when Agravaine uses Mastermind! to assess the situation. 

Mike starts to put on armor, Yanay casts a spell that sears it with moonlight, Landon casts a spell that gets resisted, and Agravaine takes a moment to assess things. The plant is affected by Path of Spirit and Path of Body, but the Labyrinth has strange rules regarding banishing creatures inside- deadly important when summoning demons.

We decide to stop there.


Very strong first session. C-Team is back, and things ran smooth, pretty much like we hadn't left off. Honestly, scheduling difficulties were the biggest hurdle of the day.

We culled through our Trial group way faster than Christopher was expecting, due to a strange number of crits regarding resistances to the pool, as well as crits during Cormac's little game to scare off the weak willed. It really upped the stakes for the Bar Trial.

The pool scene was a little chaotic, although that can easily be chalked up to fast-paced voice communication with shaky connection quality. The bar trial thankfully stopped dragging on once Christopher started batch rolling for the later bottles to clear them faster.

I think unfamiliarity with the casting system has made some of the others leery to use it to its full extent, although some of that is certainly discovering that spells aren't useful in the current situations we're facing- a lightning bolt can't harm a memory shade, for example. (Much like Banish is completely worthless in the Labyrinth.)

This campaign's had more cast interplay than AEGIS did. I chalk it up to a few factors:
  • Andre, Annia, and Alex have known one another for a long time and have good rapport
  • Andre and Annia are slightly less results-oriented than PK and Kevin were. Combine Me, Mavrick, PK, and Kevin, and you have a group that will relentlessly chase down things to do without quibbling over roleplaying out smaller interactions, often slipping into third person.
  • Agravaine offers me more opportunities for interplay than Veracity, who is all work and no play.
And no, we're not sure if it was actually Tina or Trina who made it to the end of the Labyrinth. Maybe they were the same person. Maybe not.