So here I am in Buffalo! (Well, strictly speaking I’m in Williamsville, because my awesome friends Autumn and Eric put me up for the night.) Last night I ran a session of curse the darkness at UBCon. We wound up with three players, two of whom I knew (Eric and my friend Andrea), and the third was a fellow who read the description and felt compelled to try it out (I always love when that happens).
Oh, before start, I have a present for you: The Symbol!
Art by Nigel Sade
Here’s what they came up with:
Where are you? In Buffalo, in the Central Terminal. Since the end of the world, it’s been used as a hub for a growing community, and the land around it has been used to grow food. The hydroelectric dam at Niagra Falls still works, and provides power to the community and the surrounding area.
What just happened? The power went out. Something’s wrong at the dam.
How are you following the rules? The community takes care of its own, and it has power, which means it’s a popular destination for people. The community has a working system of farming and other services.
How are you breaking the rules? As groups function, though, a hierarchy is inevitable, and one has started to form here. Vicki, Andrea’s character, is becoming recognized as the leader of the community.
What is the goal? Get to the dam and, if possible, fix the problem.
We have three characters: Vicki, the unofficial leader (she takes Mechanic as her Scope); Simon, an Opener (who refers to himself in third person); and Gerold, an engineer. The power goes out, and Vicki makes sure people have their flashlights and everyone gets to their emergency checkpoints and gets accounted for. Gerold goes outside and looks toward the dam – no soft glow in the distance, so nothing exploded or caught fire. The three of them talk, and figure that Vicki and Gerold should go try and figure out what’s up. They grab some supplies and Simon Opens a gateway to take them to the dam.
The problem, though, is that I drew a deuce for the Between Card, meaning I only needed two Between Points for the characters to draw His notice. Someone drew a black joker early on, and Simon only had 1s in two Attributes (meaning that one Character Challenge and he’s Exhausted), so he Refreshed. So when the characters stepped into the Between, they’re faced with a whole horde of Them…just watching.
Vicki and Gerold and freak out and run. Vicki is now Exhausted in Stability, but has a high card in Stamina and so keeps running. The characters finally managed to hunt each other down and navigate to the dam, but they’re freaked out – why are Them paying such close attention? The creatures don’t attack (maybe because they’ve drawn the Symbol on their toolboxes – see above!). Simon Opens, they step out…and Vicki sees a red dot on Simon’s forehead. Someone is on top of the gatehouse with a rifle. This begins our first Removal Challenge.
They all choose actions that curse the darkness – Vicki and Simon raise their hands, while Gerold raises his toolbox (showing the Symbol) and says he’s here to help. The guy on the gatehouse is all of 14, and he gets down, holding his sniper rifle, and approaches the characters. He says (after a Humanity Challenge and Gerold’s player defining a “Good with Kids” Scope) that he and his mother hooked up with this group of unpleasant, crazy people in Detroit who feel that He was trying to bring about Armageddon, but was interrupted by folks doing things like getting the dam working. So they’re here to complete the job. The kid is worried about his mom, who is part of the cult now, but seems swept up in it. The characters agree that this cult needs to get shut down, but they are justifiably worried about killing people (which tends to draw Their attention).
Gerold takes the rifle, since he’s unconvinced that the kid could really use it in a pinch. The characters decide to rappel down to a back door and go in that way, hopefully taking the cult by surprise. As they do, I start another Removal Challenge – the players don’t have a lot of cards in their Banks, but I have two black jokers on the table, meaning I can start a Removal Challenge whenever I want (new rule, getting tested! Seems to work just fine). They’re trying to rappel down and take on the cult, so all of their actions light a candle. They draw…Vicki and Simon get Succeed/Stay, so they get into the room past the back door and get a section of Wick, making the essential choice and lighting a candle. Gerold, however, draws Succeed/Leave. He helps the kid get into the room…and then the rope slips. All the other characters hear is a whoosh, and then the rope falling into the dark falls.
The player writes the kid (whom he names James, and gives him the Scope: Out of His Depth – I can always tell the players who have played FATE because their Scopes are like Aspects!) into memory. The rifle is gone (Gerold was wearing it) but James has a knife and is now well and truly freaked out. No Memory Conversation, largely because the situation is still dangerous. The characters listen at the door, and determine the other cultists are in a break room nearby. They sneak out the door and go upstairs, trying to get to the control room.
But Vicki slips on the stairs (she fails her Stamina Challenge, even using two cards from a newly-acquired Tactician Scope), an alerts the cultists. One comes out the door, and James stabs him without looking to see who it is (if I were feeling malicious, I’d have said it was his mom, but we were nearing the end). That gave him a third card in his Bank, so what the heck? One more Removal Challenge!
James pushes the stabbed guy into the room and looks for his mom. Vicki and Simon both shove their way in, too. Everyone’s lighting a candle, here. Vicki and Simon both draw Succeed/Stay. James draws Succeed/Leave, but Simon offers to switch with him, since it makes sense to him that Simon would protect the boy. The characters shove into the room, there’s a gunshot, and Vicki immobilizes the dude that shot…but Simon is dead, shot in the back. James finds his mother (whom Simon’s player now writes into Memory, calling her Anya).
The characters go upstairs, and find the people from the community who were working the dam dead. Vicki grabs a couple of Memory Points talking about those people (and guilting Anya a bit for her role in killing them), and they barricade the door, turn on the power, and wait. The cultists come back, try to kick in the door…but then the noise stops. Vicki looks out the dented door and sees half a shoe. Apparently They noticed the cultists.
Anya, an Opener, makes a gateway and the characters head back to the community to find someone to send back to run the dam, this time with better security. James and Anya now have a place to stay that isn’t run by crazy people, and the community carries on.