Spirit of the Century Gangsters of Chicago.

Tea of the Session: Spice Imperial very tasty and well needed as I was running on three hours of sleep.

Recording: We used the new setup to record it, but it was a bit of a random game so won’t be cast!

We only had three players for the usual Saturday game, so instead of my more usual Rogue Trader game, I decided to run a pure pick-up game of Spirit of the Century game. I’ve never run it before because I’ve never really gotten to the bottom of how it is supposed to work. However recently I’ve been listening to a number of Actual Play Podcasts of Fate games and it made me want to give it a go.

Please Note. If You are intending to potentially play in my SOTC game at the RPG Society I would suggest not reading this next post as it could well be Spoilerrific.

The first scene started with the crew being called into a meeting with Luciano “Icepick” Cacciatore, the Big Boss of the Eastern Mob of Chicago. Known as Icepick for his tendency for giving witnesses Icepick lobotomies, he was not best pleased with them as their take was 10,000 dollars low.

I’d asked the players to choose their top most skills before we started, they also all received the aspect “Made Man”, but everything else was up for grabs. Including their names, so as the Boss was berating “Jimmy” I kept close watch on who would speak first. The moment someone did they got slapped with the name “Jimmy” and also the aspect “Capo” and “Boss of Youse Guys”. The Boss gave him one last chance… Get the money within a week or get rubbed out.

Having had their meeting they left but not before being accosted by Vincent the Violin so named because he carried his Tommy gun in a violin case (so passé). Vincent (or Vinnie to anyone who wanted to make him cringe) suggested that the old boss was possibly on his way out for giving so much leeway to one of his favourites. Not that Jimmy would be there to see it, as there was no way that he’d be getting the money in time. The bandied words back and forth for a while (earning Jimmy “Quick with a quip”) before finally Vincent left. Vinnie’s words echoing in their ears they retreated to their snug in the pasta restaurant that the boss made his lair in to discuss.

Jimmy made it very clear that he wasn’t at home to the plan of getting Lobotomised, but he thought that they might be looking to pull off some form of heist… that made Unknown mook 2 happy as he was the driver netting him the aspect “Is… Is that a Car?!” for his special vehicle. He’d already taken Driving as his peak skill so he was well set. Unnamed mook 1 also pointed out that he was fine with the heist plan as “I’ve got guns, Lots of Guns” and suggested kicking in a bank door and looting the place (which got him “Headstrong”) but Jimmy had other ideas. He was fairly certain that he knew a guy who could help them, and one Fantastic Contacting skill roll later he sure did! He’d taken Contacting as his peak skill so was almost always going to be able to find someone who could help him. Flipping through his little black book, they settled on Horowitz, a bookie in the territory they had recently claimed during a turf war with the South Side mob.

The South side mob had been wiped out by an alliance of their own East side and the west side mobs. The problem was that the West side mob had grabbed the most lucrative locations. This combined with the Death of Prohibition was causing the alliance between east and west to break down faster than expected. Worst still, the North side gangsters who swanned around in the upper class areas of the town hadn’t been involved in the turf war, and were quite secretive. Were they cautious or plotting something?

The gang loaded up into the newly named “Donny’s” car, and drove over to the South side to see Horowitz. The last thing a bookie wants to see coming into his place of business is three members of the mob, so after pointing out that he was fully paid up, quickly ushered them into the back office to talk business. He became a lot calmer when he found out that they were there looking for people whose gambling debts could be used to lean on them to gain information on potential heists.

Sitting in the back room of the bookies, the gang laid out what they wanted. Someone who had information that wasn’t widely available, information that could lead them to something lucrative. Horowitz smiled, he had exactly the man. Henry O’Brien, an Irish man who owed Horowitz a considerable amount of money… and a Soul. The mob raised an eyebrow at that, but Horowitz just explained that he’d taken that as part of a high stakes game. In fact he explained there was going to be a high stakes game that very night if Jimmy was interested, but the Capo explained that he was “Not a Gambler”. Horowitz sighed and passed over O’Brien’s work address: the customs warehouse in the East side Docks. Jimmy and the mob loaded back into Donny’s car, ready to go off and lean on Henry.

They found him in the night watchman’s hut just outside the main gate to Customs House. The mob fingered their collars nervously as they got out of the car, the Customs house was quite close to the border with the Northern Mob, and the last thing they wanted was interference from them. Seeing the gangsters approaching, O’Brien thought momentarily about running but instead hoped he could face it out. He was very very wrong.

Jimmy and the other two mobsters wasted no time starting to lean on him. Mostly it was Jimmy and Unnamed Mook number 1 were doing the talking, Jimmy swapping back and forth between Rapport and Intimidation, while UMN1 used solely intimidation but also quickly picked up the aspects “Love the Gun” and “Glare of Death”. Donny meanwhile was almost used as a prop, flexing his muscles when required. They also suggested that he was the guy they turned to when they needed someone beaten to a pulp, giving Donny “Fun in the Back Room” and “Double fisted”, he also picked up “Keep it secret (keep it safe)” for his tight lipped manner.

Suitable cowed (and with the aspect “Jittery” placed on him) the Irish watchman offered to tell them about a bank shipment, but that wasn’t enough for Jimmy, paying a fate point he announced that it was only 4 days until the end of the month, and therefore until O’Brien would be expected to make good on his gambling debts, not just the money either. They pressed on, despite him offering the concession. Continuing to tag his jittery and their various aspects allowed them to whittle him down very quickly and soon he offered another concession. Details of a juicy if slightly unusual item coming into town shortly. Again however the merciless Mafia men pressed on, seemingly determined to reduce the guy to a blubbing shmuck before letting him go. Over the next ten minutes he offered them everything, the routes of a currency transfer, details of the poker game at Horowitz’s bookie shop, information on the High stakes player who had seized the writ to his soul, but Jimmy continued until finally he forced O’Brien to spill the details of EVERYTHING.

Amid the stories of Egyptian Mummies, huge gems, bank transfers, and other tasty targets, it was the High Stakes Gambler that drew their attention. He turned up once a month from New York and always with a considerable amount of hard cash in a suitcase. The guy however was scary, O’Brien said it felt like the guy could look into your soul. When the high stakes game started rolling he would play the game, sometimes he won, sometimes he lost. Guys had made their fortunes gambling against him and winning, but when a soul writ hit the table he was ruthless. Money was literally no object when a soul writ was on the table, he would play and play to try and get the writ. Seriously huge amounts of money hit the table and it made some of the guys rich if they won. O’Brien had not been that lucky however, which his how he ended up owing his soul to the guy.

He sounded competent, and a little dangerous. However there were only a few days until Icepicks deadline, so they decided that the Gambler would be their target, he was coming in on a boat from New York that very evening, and would probably be carrying at the very minimum $20,000. In one fell swoop they could cover their debt to Icepick and make a tidy little profit. After all as Jimmy put it “He ain’t no goddamn Angel of Death or something”.

Donny (who by now it had been decided was “Some Kind Of Limey” and carried “The Tools of the Trade” for burglary) drove them to a pool hall in their turf to continue their plotting. As various people hustled each other and the owner asked a guy if he wanted to double up, they formulated their plan. The High stakes roller would be coming in on a boat but he would almost have to have somewhere he was staying. O’Brien hadn’t been able to tell them where he was staying, just when he would be coming in and a vague description (Tall, Scary looking, Opera cloak). So they decided to trail him from the Boat to see where he was going to hole up. With this in mind Jimmy called in a favour with a tailor of his acquaintance to get them some disguises (Aspect “Disguised”). Donny meanwhile was intending to trail him in the car as it turned out it had “Chameleon plates” allowing it to pretend to be different styles of car.

They got into position and waited for the Pride of Benton Harbour to arrive. When it did it was not exactly difficult to spot the High Roller. He was almost Seven feet tall wearing an opera cloak and carrying a red briefcase a little like a budget red case, which much to the players displeasure they saw was handcuffed to his wrist. Jimmy took the first shadowing stint but had not gone more than 400 yards before he turned a corner and found the high stakes player waiting for him. In a “Disturbing voice” the Gambler demanded to know why Jimmy was following him, to which Jimmy tried to bluff that he’d never seen someone wearing an Opera Cloak before.

The Gambler didn’t believe it and informed him in no uncertain terms that if he saw him again there would be trouble. Jimmy sloped off passing the shadowing duties to Unnamed mook number 1.

UMN1 was about as successful as Jimmy, the “All Seeing All Knowing” Gambler spotting him within just under a minute of him starting his shadowing. He demanded again to know why he was being followed once more, and UMN1 tried to also claim that he was interested in his clothing. The Gambler told him that there would be… trouble. Realising he’d overstayed his welcome UMN1 passed off duties to Donny.

Even with the cars “Chameleon Plates” and his own disguise Donny was nearly spotted. But despite reconfiguring the car every corner the Gambler seemed to stop and stare at him. He didn’t realise however that the Mobster was following and finally went into the Hotel Moderne, a hotel that seemed to have been decorated by Andy Warhol on a bad acid trip. There he took possession of the Penthouse room key, and went upstairs.

Donny made sure he wasn’t intending to leave before the game and called in the other two mobsters. They carefully discussed their options and sent Donny the Burglar to case the joint. He did a quick once over of the hotel, and made a very good casing roll and decided there might well be a “Well Placed Drainpipe” which would help them get up to the penthouse. For one fateful moment Jimmy nearly sent Donny on his own, at the last moment both he and UNM1 decided to go to. It was a good job as it turned out.

They spent the next few minutes climbing the drainpipe and looking in through the huge windows of the Penthouse, there was the sound of water running from the bathroom, but they didn’t care about that as there on the desk were two cases, one very long very thin case, and another which was very familiar and was even more helpfully no longer chained to the Gamblers wrist. Donny crept into the room and grabbed the case, but on the way back to the window… the water stopped and the door to the bathroom opened.

There standing in the doorway was… Some Kind of Angel of Death or something. The gambler was revealed as a 7 foot tall perfectly muscled humanoid with huge white feathered wings. He looked at Donny, Donny looked at him, Donny looked at Jimmy, Jimmy looked at the Angel… and then they all moved as one. Donny ran for the window but not before the Angel crossed to the longer case and drew from it a huge two handed sword that filled everyone with a sense of danger and woe. With a pronouncement of “I See your Soul and it is Black” he swung the weapon and gave Donny “Major Lacerations”.

The other two mobsters realising that the plan had gone utterly to pot. Which meant they had reached the Plan B stage of the plan. They dragged out their guns, a Thompson for UMN1 and Jimmy had a 45 automatic. They began to blaze away aided by the fact that he was a “Big Effing Dude”. They began racking up the damage on him, giving him light bruising and also a broken rib. The Angel responded wielding his sword skilfully and using its aura of woe to reduce the effectiveness of the Mobsters. soon all three of them were carrying wounds thanks to the terrible weapon. However the damage on the enemy began to ramp up as he became “mauled”. The Gangsters smiled to themselves, but the click from the Thompson as it ran out of ammunition. The Angel smiled to himself and advanced on UMN1.

But UMN1 “Had Guns Lots of Guns” and as the Angel raised it’s sword to cleave him in half he made a strange gesture with his wrists and two pepper-box derringers jumped forwards into his hands. As he fell over backwards the two gun fired into the Angels face, destroying it’s eyes and seemingly killing it. Realising they had to get away as someone had no doubt heard the vast amount of gunfire, the dragged UMN1 out from underneath the Angel and went to the window.

With horror they saw the Angel drag itself upright and then kneel down in the middle of the room with its wings spread. Something was about to happen, they correctly assumed it would be bad, so they left via the window and started climbing down the drainpipe as fast as they could. Suddenly above them all of the windows blew out and a rain of black feathers poured out, which they took great pains not to touch.

Reaching the bottom of the drain pipe they dived into the car and drove back to their safe house. There they took a chisel to the lock and opened the case.

There inside were 20000 dollars in used notes, and six contracts for souls. Contracts that seemed to imply that the Angel was recruiting an “army of god” but the person who had given the authority to do so had signed the contract… “Lucifer” which surely couldn’t be right…

Creating the characters from scratch actually seemed to work quite well although I will admit it was a little intimidating at first. People quickly got the hang of taging their aspects with fate points to re-roll or adding 2 to the result. However I think we did aspects wrong for the Angel as he seemed to go down really easily as they were able to tag “Big Effing Dude” too easily to ensure their shots hit. I think the fate points used should have gone to the Angel, which would have allowed him to tag is Blade of Woe and Big Effing Dude himself to increase the impact of his close combat. For the first time running a fate system, and given I was running the game on three hours of sleep and with zero preparation I think it went very well!

I’m definitely considering running the Spirit of Chicago again for the Game Club crowd, if I can find enough interested bodies.

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