Actual Play from MarCon: The Elder’s Secret

I ran a second session of curse the darkness at MarCon. It went well, and was pretty darned different from the first session.

Only four players this time, not six, and two of them were people who’d played in the Friday session and wanted to check it out again. While I’m sorry I didn’t have hordes of new faces clamoring to try the game out, I’m definitely happy that people enjoyed the game enough to give it another go, knowing it’s different every time (because the players create the scenario).

So here’s what they came up with:

  • Where are you? We’re in the Greater Columbus Convention Center (which was kind of meta, since that’s literally where we were). A small community of people had holed up there, and over time their philosophy of following the rules – taking care of each other, being kind – had gradually formed into a kind of quiet ideology. There was a man who was a kind of figurehead there, almost in a pastor role, but of course folks were very careful with their terminology so as to avoid monsters eating them. They called him “Elder.”
  • What just happened? The Elder was snatched up by Them, dragged into a shadow while giving a “sermon.”
  • How are you following the rules? These folks take following the rules very seriously – they share, they take care of each other.
  • How are you breaking the rules? Ironically, they follow the rules a little too devoutly. The Elder has his own room, he’s given special status, and the community is on the cusp of developing a religion.
  • What is the goal? The characters find an address in the Elder’s things. The address is in Sacramento. They’re going to go there and see what the address is, out of respect (and curiosity).

Our characters are four members of the community: Trevor, Ben, Tom (an Opener) and Jason. Jason is the heir apparent to the Elder, by the way.

The characters and the rest of the community are listening to the Elder give a talk (can’t call it a “sermon”) when the shadows Open and hands grab him and pull him in. Everyone is stunned, and then someone screams and it gets all pandemonium-y. A young man named Mitch charges Tom and grabs him, yelling at him to Open the shadows so we can go get the Elder. Tom tries to talk him down, but fails. Trevor, meanwhile, tries to calm the room down, but they’re pretty freaked out. Jason finally manages to get everyone listening to him, and Trevor and Ben support him (the characters are making Humanity and Stability Challenges, and so their Banks fill quickly). The shadows Open again, and one of Them steps through.

(What actually happened here: I drew a 2 for my Between Card, meaning once I had two Between Points, the group drew His notice. I got one from one of the players drawing a black joker, and then another from the speech that Jason gave – he made a big deal of referencing the group’s identity as a collective, and it sounds ideological to me, which goes back to how they were breaking the rules.)

Mitch, the angry young man, threw a chair at the creature, and it attacked, starting our first Removal Challenge. Tom wasn’t involved because the player only had one card in the Bank. Jason tried to keep everyone focused, unafraid and steadfast. Trevor tried to support that endeavor, while Ben stood up to block the two of them from the creature. Everyone stayed in play, and Jason and Trevor both succeeded and light a candle. Ben, having failed (though his action light a candle), was thrown against the wall and injured slightly (card-cap in Stamina). Mitch, however, was yanked into the Between

The characters helped people calm down, and the went to the Elder’s room. In his stuff, they found a photo of the Elder with a woman and a couple of kids, and an address in Sacramento. They didn’t know much about the Elder’s past, but they decided that maybe his family was still there in California, so they’d check it out. Jason had been to Sacramento on a trip once, so he figured he could navigate.

They got some supplies together, told the others where they were going, and Tom Opened the shadows. They walked through the Between pretty much uneventfully, and emerged at the crumbling restaurant where Jason had once enjoyed a meal. As they did, they hit the number of Between Points they needed to draw His attention again (they used a lot of Between Points to refresh Attributes).

One of Them followed them out of the Between, jumped to the roof, and crawled over. The characters ran around the restaurant and found a man and a woman cooking some kind of small mammal over a fire. The man reached for a pistol, but Tom sheathed his machete and said they were here as friends. They talked a bit, and the man, when asked about the address, gave them directions. When they told him about Elder, he looked uneasy, as though he knew something. He was about to tell them when the creature sprang – our second Removal Challenge. Ben was only at 2 cards in his Bank, so he was out.

Jason pointed and gibbered (cursing the darkness). Trevor tried to pull the woman out of the way, while Tom tried to Open a shadow and force the creature back in. I had something like 12 Between Points at this point, so I stacked the deck pretty heavily in the direction of killing people (but these guys were smart, they had defined helpful Scopes so they got to draw two cards).

Jason failed at pointing and gibbering, so he cowered and cried instead, but he still stayed in play. Tom succeeded and stayed, so he got his section of Wick and lit a candle. Trevor, however, succeeded but left play. The creature tackled him, driving them both into the gateway that Tom had Opened. The woman was safe – but Trevor was gone.

Trevor’s player wrote the woman (Crystal) into memory, and the group had a brief Memory Conversation about Trevor. This gave Ben enough Memory Points to buy a section of Wick and light a candle, so everyone had made the essential choice. The characters followed the directions to what turned out to be a church. The man (Crystal’s husband, who was never given a name) told them that the church had seen a resurgence, briefly, about three years ago. Which, Jason recollected, was right before the Elder arrived in Columbus. One night, the church had just gone quiet.

They opened the door, and found bodies, probably about 100 of them. The characters picked their way through and, at the front of the building, found a woman cradling two children – their clothes matched the ones in the photo they’d found. The Elder’s family. These people weren’t killed by Them, they had all been poisoned.

The characters left, sobered by what they’d learned about the Elder. Crystal and her husband, who worked as couriers and message-carriers in California, elected to stay, and the other three went home to their community. They burned the church so that the people inside could have rest, and Tom Opened one of the shadows from the firelight.

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