[Broken Spokes] Walpurgisnacht

Note: because we meet to play Broken Spokes on Thursday nights and what has come to be Actual Play Friday on Held Action immediately follows, these session reports are going to lag about a week behind. Whatever you’re reading about on Friday, we’ve already moved on to some other huge calamity requiring resolution.

This week was the first session of really real, actual factual role-playing for this campaign, after wrapping up character creation the week before. I was nervous, because I’d been scrabbling to expand my initial story seed for some time, mostly unsuccessfully. For whatever reason, I was having difficulty spinning out twists and complications to make things more interesting. As it turned out, what I had was enough.

The theme of the night was adaptation and modification. Right off the bat, Laban reminded me that last time we briefly discussed the prospects of turning the campaign calendar back to the pulp adventure era of the 1920s and 30s. The idea appealed to me because not only is it a fine era for high adventure and it rules out technological wrinkles like cell phones and the information wellspring of the internet, but the time period’s perfectly in sync with riffing on modernization versus traditional rural life and other Lovecraftian elements.

This required some rearranging of the character sheets, mostly shifting points in electronics-based skills into their in-period counterparts and removing some of Wayne’s thief’s more prized belongings, like a palm top computer and electronic lock pick. I feel good about the change, though, because I really want to play up the old New England aspect of Martinsbury. Resetting the game to 1925 makes that feeling much less artificial.

So, fresh initiates to the Cabal Fargo the half-demon and Victor Trager, cat burglar with an astral parasite stuck to the side of his head, arrived in Martinsbury on the last night in April, Walpurgisnacht, in the spring of 1925. They got themselves situated at Mrs. Haversham’s boarding house just in time to be summoned to the Cabal’s annual Walpurgisnacht rite on the roof of the Pearson Memorial Library on the Martense campus.

Being mostly a reaffirmation of the Cabal’s pacts with various entities and marking one of the corners of the year, the rite was dead boring. Much more interesting was the shockwave of mana that radiated out from the ground floor of the library just afterward. Fargo and Trager, having been getting up to speed with local supernatural happenings and some of the history of the college from their lodgemaster, Samuel West, were immediately dispatched to check things out. Talk about hitting the ground running.

In Pearson Memorial Library, a converted church from the college’s days as a monastery, the Wheelmen found a horde of rat-like things swarming over the reference stacks. As they proceed forward cautiously, a shadowy figure makes a break for the exit, leaving a glittering point of golden light hovering in the aisle.

As the Wheelmen moved to act, we left it on a cliffhanger, as I had to make my bus back to town.

All in all, it was a good first session. We lapsed into chatting quite a few times, but I enjoy it as much as they do, so that was fun, which is the overall goal of getting together in the first place. We also got into some conversations about the relative costs of goods and services in 1925 versus 2010. During play, I took the expedient course of “Well, whatever the price for a boarding house room might be, it’s perfectly in keeping with prices of the day and your budget, if a little inflated for being a boarding house in rural Vermont.

What I liked best about the night was getting multiple opportunities to engage in improvisatory world-building. Bill Porter the depot manager and Mrs Haversham just came out of the air on Thursday night. Now that I have them, they’re not going away any time soon. Mrs Haversham stumbled across Victor trying to making a discreet exit from the boarding house after hours. She’ll have her eye on him for a while, at least as long as he stays on there. And Bill, well, I haven’t figured out Bill’s story yet, but I have some existing plot threads to which he can easily connect.

The key to this campaign is going to be consistency in playing. I’m a weekly play kind of guy. More than that, and I lose interest and engagement with the activity — I haven’t been to Pathfinder Society in almost two months now, partly because it’s so irregular I have difficulty staying connected with the experience. Fortunately, my schedule gives me the time to make a weekly game possible, so I plan to keep driving this campaign forward as long as I can.

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