Monday, October 20, 2014

Episode 4: Jocelyn Keys's Day Off/Episode 5: The Devil's Advocate

I am rolling up two sessions into one. The first one was a one on one session I had with Joss's player because she was sick for the third session. She came over my apartment and we roleplayed while drinking hot cocoa. Her husband, Ash's player, played Super Smash Brothers in the other room and paid little attention (I think!) to the goings on.

The 5th episode took place last Sunday. This time, Brock's player was sick and Anna's player had some stuff to do. I ran the game with Alan, Joss, Ash, and Iggy. And I must say, things went rather... interestingly.

Now, onto the recap:

During the events that took place in the 3rd episode, Joss got ready for school when on her way there, Mateo stops her and produces two joints, grinning a roguish grin, and asks her to skip. Joss doesn't need to be told twice. So the pair ride off to the nearby ghost town and smoke up. They get onto the deep topic of speculating what exactly happened to them; like why can Joss suddenly talk to computers and why Mateo is super fast. At first, the conversation is silly before Mateo wonders, "What if it is a conspiracy? What if the company is behind it. I mean, do you even know what your parents really do?" Joss realizes Mateo is right.

The two then decide since Mateo's mother is the head of IT, that they should go to his house and see what they can dig up in Elena Rodriguez's special "mom space" protected by security codes. After Joss hacks in, they find a high class computer room and immediately Joss links in. What they discover is an executive chat room with user names like Tide Trout and Iron Fox and Wind Mouse. In it, they discussed experiments they are choosing for the infiltration group and about the Upcoming Age. They also talk about experiment 0001 and her current location (which they practiced good OPSEC on) before Tide Trout realized they were being infiltrated. Mateo and Joss immediately disconnect and try to eliminate any signs that they were in there.

They panic and run away to the ghost town again and try to recuperate and process what they just saw. Nothing kills a buzz faster than fresh truth. Mateo speculates two of the user names belong to his parents as he does live on Galileo Street. They don't have a clue as to anyone else. But now they got the taste of the truth -- that they may be the experiment this entire company is built around -- Joss wanted more. She used her cellphone to find a back door into the security system to find that the whole town was under tight surveillance. She could spy into anyone's house but could not crack the code to get into the actual facility.

Things just got weirder and weirder.

Joss decides that maybe they could break into one of the houses on Galileo Street and decides on the Zanjani Household -- after all, he's head of Science Research. She and Mateo make fun of Shirin's bedroom before trying to hack into one of Dr. Zanjani's computers. Most of his files were in Farsi. She does find a video of a nervous Dr. Zanjani saying a confession. He did not feel right about what the company did and he worried if he was in too deep. But even if it cost his own life, he had to blow the whole lid off this whole thing.

That spooked Mateo and Joss and since it was time for school to be over, they quickly left the premise and hid at Joss's house. Mateo decides to sleep over, using the excuse that he doesn't even know his parents anymore.

Ash comes over to Joss's late at night, tying together the two episodes. After being glad to see Joss safe, Ash exclaimed, "The weirdest thing happened today! I had hot cocoa. Twice."

Joss retorts, "Do you want to make it a third time?"

End of Episode.

This game is known for destroying things and hot cocoa


The 5th Episode began with Iggy tying up the Cowboy he tased in the last episode. The Cowboy is forthright with information. He explains that Iggy's mother uncovered a lot of evidence of unethical scientific research and reached out to the FBI to help. The Cowboy was brought into the case and from there, he used her as a source to gather information to build the case so he could get a warrant and bust in. However, there were some indiscretions as the Cowboy and Iggy's mother got a little cozy and then it got weird. But she tried to follow through and she was on her way to deliver papers to the Cowboy before she was killed in a car accident.

The Cowboy tried to make his case to his leadership but "they" had already infiltrated. They destroyed his reputation by using his relationship with Iggy's mother as collateral. The Cowboy never forgave himself for what happened to Iggy's mother and wanted to bust open the company once and for all. So he hung around and tried to recruit sources while keeping an eye on Iggy. He claims he got one rather high up on the inside. But he also wanted to see if he could gather some of the experiments to fight for their freedom -- if Iggy was interested.

After punching the Cowboy -- whose name is Cortland Blair -- Iggy agrees to meet him the next day at the ghost town so they can plan from there.

The next day at school, Brock and Anna do not show up. Alan does and Iggy, Ash, and Joss meet somewhere quiet to exchange what they knew. Joss tells everyone about her little adventure with Mateo and Iggy talks about Blair. The four generally agree things are really messed up. How could they have not noticed all this all this time?

The four of them decide to go to school. At lunch time, Shirin comes up to Ash and tells her that she knows something bad will happen tonight at her house and she doesn't think she can stop it. She hands off a thumb drive to Ash and tells her to keep it safe and not tell any grown up about it.

It was totally like this except it wasn't in 8-bit and Ash didn't really go anywhere and oh yeah the sword was a thumb drive

Ash feels conflicted about this. Shirin is in trouble and going to a ghost town! Both of them sound very important. Unable to make the decision, she goes to Dr. Selnik on the advice of Alan. Ash tells Mrs. Selnik everything she heard from the morning and asks the guidance counselor if she should go to the ghost town or Shirin's. Dr. Selnik says ghost town. Ash steals some donuts and leaves. She happily tells Joss what happened.

Joss tells Ash what she did was stupid and Ash ends up leaving very sad. Joss tells Iggy to tell the Cowboy the location was compromised and they agree to meet at a different location, a truck stop just outside town. But before that, Iggy asks Joss to hack into the personnel files again to find information about his mother. Joss finds out about a program called Purple Coat which seeks to "eliminate" leakers. Iggy is now a man with a mission. The Company killed his mother because she had a conscience.

Purple Coats Are Deadly -- or I am just crap at making up names

Ash is crestfallen about what Joss said to her and Alan immediately steps in and invites her over for dinner when he finds out all she has is frozen fish sticks. His parents are home for once and are cordial as long as Ash is there. What happens behind closed doors in the Powers Household is anyone's guess.

Ash decides to forgo the ghost town which is now a truck stop anyway and goes to see if she could help Shirin. After no answer at the door and no answer to ask if it is okay for her to break the window in, Ash enters Shirin's room to find it in a disarray. In the rest of the house, particularly the master bed room, thing was tossed about and there were broken pictures and also a blood stained bathroom floor that looked like someone was in the process of cleaning up but were interrupted.

Meanwhile, at the truck stop, Blair tells Iggy, Alan, and Joss that what he can put together so far is that the company is a front for people who want to organize a coup. They need to break the place wide open. And his inside source -- who is Dr. Zanjani -- happened to be getting him that information as they speak.

Joss remembers what Ash said about Shirin and immediately searched the network for call records to and from the Zanjani household only to find out 911 was being in use right then and there.

Cut back to Ash who called the number to only be told the situation there was taken care of. Joss called the phone a few times before Ash picked up and she told her to wait for and meet Joss at the end of the road.

As Ash is waiting, Dr. Selnik rolls up and tries to offer Ash a ride. Ash said she's waiting for Joss. Dr. Selnik points out the sun is setting and it will get cold. Why doesn't she wait in the car.

Ash considers this, then hops in. The door closes.

Fade to Black


I feel proud of both these sessions. I didn't think Joss and Mateo would last so long but Joss kept on rolling well and like all teenagers, she tried to see just how far she could go. Mateo is also good at egging her on.

The second session, I actually decided to switch systems. After confiding in a friend, he pointed out that I may have more freedom in Marvel Heroic. I felt constrained by Cortex Dramatic -- even though I really like the idea of the system. But because I had a hard time abandoning what I knew about other systems, I just couldn't get the flow going.

My friend and I rewrote the character sheets (although giving options for distinctions and keeping milestones blank). I felt this whole change was probably why episode 5 went extremely well. The more I think about it, the more I realize how it really was a good session. Everyone was engaged and eager to figure out what was going on. They felt their characters were engaged and each character had something to do. Additionally, I put one of the veteran gamers in the group in two very difficult situations that he had to think out of while thinking in character. In fact, everyone had to make some tough decisions.  And it also worked back against me. My players made decisions in which I had to think on my toes to continue to make the story engaging. It was a give and take session and I really liked it.

I hate praising myself like that. I already deleted those last few sentences twice and rewrote them but no. I think it is one of my top 5 sessions if not top 10. And it is weird because when I ended with Ash getting into Dr. Selnik's car, I felt like nothing happened and this was because we did not roll a lot of dice. My friend had to remind me that this is ROLEplaying not ROLLplaying. The characters still did actions and received consequences but I just did not find dice were needed. My players roleplayed extremely well with each other. There were also misunderstandings and personal conflict. You didn't need the dice for that.

When I said I didn't feel like much happened, my players gave me the look. "Are you kidding? So much happened!" one even said.

I guess I am my own worst critic.


NPC of the Session

The part of Dr. Selnik will be played by Tina Fey
 Name: Dr. Anita Alice Selnik nee Abrams

Place of Birth: Chicago, Illinois

Family: Nathan Selnik, husband, Head of Finance, a mousy looking sort of fellow but is quite active in neighborhood activities. Really good with names
Rhea Selnik, eldest daughter, college student, an incredible type-A personality
Tatiana Selnik, middle daughter, senior in high school, a huge gossip and active in student government
Cody Selnik, youngest son, freshmen in high school, into video games and computers, kind of a smart ass

Public Information: The Selniks have been in Apache Springs for decades. Rumors are that Anita herself was one of the CEO's proteges but no one knows for certain. She has many degrees and holds two doctorates in Psychology and Neuroscience which she got at a young age. She worked for the company before she was the guidance counselor at the school but no one ever knew what she did. Some people speculate that she developed some face cream to make her look younger than she is.

Quotes of the Session

"I hacked into the system to find out they're watching us. It's insidious." "That's unbelievable! ... You know the word insidious!" -- Joss, Alan

"Brock always mentions how hard it is to 'tap that'." - Ash

"*smack* That's for sleeping with my mom!" "I deserved that!" - Iggy, Cortland

"Tomorrow, I'll just go to my last period. Twice!" -Ash

"I think Shirin is dead!" "Okay, good." - Ash, Joss 

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