Dresden Files: Virtual Insanity – And Now The Epic Conclusion…

Tea of the Session: Twinning English Breakfast. I’m not one for variety.

Recorded: There are AIM logs, but those are classified to protect the innocent. And the guilty. Mostly the guilty. The guilty being me.

Well, this took some time to write up. I did warn you all I was prone to procrastination, though in my defense there were some extenuating circumstances, namely Shuck’s player moving state and then getting work that unfortunately ruled him out of participation for the foreseeable future, though he has since been able to return. Thankfully we were able to find another player to step in, but only once my GMing stint was over. So, after a 2 week break, the story continued as a two hander with Chesmu the wereraccoon and Tyler the apprentice wizard seeking to solve the mystery of Malcolm Langford’s murder and strange conspiracy surrounding his employer’s latest game. To this end, they went with the time-honoured PC tradition of breaking and entering.

Being the resident thief for hire, Chesmu made the break in solo; first casing the building before spending a fate point to declare the company’s offices had the taggable aspect of ‘obvious fire door is obvious’ and using his high scores in stealth and burglary to easily make his way inside. Meanwhile, Tyler and Malcolm’s brother Alex watched outside in case of unexpected arrivals. Inside, Chesmu, having no problem in the dark due to the crossover of his raccoon form’s night vision (Dresdenverse shapeshifters retain a certain amount of their animal abilities when in human form), headed to the company director’s office to snoop around. What he found, aside from a porn stash (a recurring theme, for some reason), was the apparent limited results of a PI’s investigation into the representative for Dragonware’s financial backers, a young man with the odd sartorial combination of sharp suits and shoulder length dreadlocks. Said results amounted to a few blurry pictures. Paper trail investigated, our hero attached a device to the director’s computer, allowing Jackie, the team’s client and computer contact, to remotely access the office network to look for clues. Having gotten Jackie logged on, Chesmu retrieved the device and headed for the exit, only to be distracted by the sound of dripping liquid from the break room. This was a good news/bad news situation, as it did answer the question of why there had been no security guard around during this little escapade; the answer in this case being that he’d been hanging upside down from the light fitting with his throat torn out. Naturally, it was at this exact moment that Tyler and Alex spotted a car approaching the office.

Insert maniacal GM laugh here.

Not wanting to be at the scene of a murder, Chesmu made a run for it, successfully making an athletics roll to ensure he made it back to the others before the new arrivals had barely pulled up. A figure exiting the car scanned the horizon but miraculously seemed not to notice our heroes (GM’s can completely botch dice rolls too, as it turns out). Chesmu explained events inside and proffered the investigative photos to Alex, who as it turned out recognised the subject and immediately started heading towards the office to confront him. Chesmu and Tyler tried to stop him, getting the explanation that the man was the herald of a dragon, imbued with supernatural powers to assist her in her business. Such a character has never actually appeared the Dresden Files, but the DFRPG rulebook does mention such things as an example for the character template ‘Emissary of Power’ and the idea intrigued me enough to decide to create an NPC using the concept. Apparently Alex and the Herald had clashed in the past, leading Alex to believe that his brother had been murdered in revenge. Chesmu didn’t feel particularly inclined to get dragged into a super-powered grudge match but Tyler stood his ground, pointing out that the photos could have been planted as a trap to goad Alex into just this reaction. Social combat ensued, with our two wizards using their talking-based skills to try and convince one another. Thanks to yet more terrible dice rolling on my part, Alex was talked down from the proverbial ledge and agreed to go with Tyler and Chesmu to make further investigations rather than go straight in for a fight. I’d honestly been unsure as to what outcome would occur here, given the stereotypical tendencies of PCs to simply try and kill anything the first chance they get. I actually felt a tiny bit of pride that they were going for the smarter course.

Beating a hasty retreat to a payphone a couple of miles away, Chesmu first contacted Alan Colt, an ex-cop turned PI who had been the team’s client in our very first storyline. While still a bit raw at the outcome of that story (it turned out the team were unwittingly serving as a distraction while Colt and Tyler’s mentor Richter moved a powerful artifact), our heroes figured he was the most likely person to have been spying on the Herald, something Colt confirmed after it was pointed out he might soon have a pissed off supernatural being on his tail. After then calling the police in on the murder, the three made their way to Colt’s office for a sit-down chat. Colt revealed that he’d actually managed a fairly good investigation on the Herald, whose name was apparently Ezekiel Deschain (I get my naming sensibilities from pro-wrestling, deal with it). S good an investigation, in fact, that he’d realised what he was dealing with and had immediately buried it, telling the client he’d failed, with the man being too stupid to notice otherwise.

Not that much the wiser, our heroes departed. Alex was dropped off at the local accorded neutral territory (where supernatural powers clashing is a big no-no), which handily for him was a bar, as he had some serious drinking to do. Tyler and Chesmu then hit Taco Bell before heading to Tyler’s place to get word from Jackie. The word turned out to be ‘bollocks’, as the tags in the files created a loop that would achieve absolutely nothing. The files, it seemed, were a red herring, designed purely to attract attention. The question, of course, was whose and why? Answers were at hand, as Jackie had the name of the programmer who had edited the files and his address. Waiting until morning light, the duo made their way there. With a combination of raccoon eye level investigation and magical scrying, Tyler and Chesmu deduced there was indeed someone how, calling in a slightly inebriated Alex in case Deschain had beaten them there.

Deciding to make their entrance, the group were hit by the issue of the building’s threshold, a spiritual barrier that builds up around a residence that can stifle supernatural power if the owner isn’t specifically invited across it. Not wanting to get into a fight without magic available, it was decided to take the risk of knocking and asking to come in. As it turned out, this plan actually worked as the owner was the only person home, albeit wielding a shotgun and very twitchy. Once inside, and having convinced the programmer that they weren’t here to hurt him, our heroes were informed that he’d been hired to implant gibberish code as an act of supposed industrial espionage and inform back if anyone found them. Having done so, only for said person to show up dead, the programmer had realised he was next and had bunkered down. Sure enough, in a wonderful bit of coincidental timing, just then a car pulled up, from which emerged an unfamiliar armed man. Panicking, the programmer hid, the team took up positions and I prepared for a fight in the streets…

…Which was when Chesmu calmly stepped outside, arms raised, and told the man that he also worked for Deschain and that their ‘target’ had already skipped town.

Huh, these guys really are keen on sidestepping fights.

The man was pretty confused too, due to a combination of exceptionally good deceit rolls from Chesmu and the fact he appeared to be not the sharpest knife in the drawer. The man stated that Deschain was not his master and was in fact the enemy, his master being someone named Thorne. As Alex surveyed the scene with his mystical sight, the wereraccoon’s stream of bullshit successfully convinced the man to depart. As he did, Alex revealed the man was a thrall, his mind and will having been hammered flat with magic, making him essentially a fleshy automaton useful for simple tasks like fighting but not so hot at outwitting smartarse criminals. Realising they could follow the thrall back to this Thorne, and thus catch the man responsible for Malcolm’s death, the trio gave chase by car, managing to handle morning rush traffic and heading out into the desert. Under the cover of a spell veiling them from sight, the team followed the thrall into a cave, just in time to hear it having its neck snapped for annoying its master with failure. Rounding the corner, the team found themselves face to face with a black court vampire.

Quick explanation for the non-Dresden-fluent among you: there are 3 kinds of vampire in the dresdenverse. The red court consists of hulking bat monsters with alluring human forms and narcotic saliva; the white court have demons inside who feed of certain negative emotions (usually lust); and the black court are your traditional Bram Stoker vampires. The last group is the least in number, precisely because they fit the stereotype and so have their weaknesses most widely known. Indeed, it’s rumoured the White Council of wizards arranged for the writing and publication of Dracula for that exact reason. The problem is, the ones left tend to be exceptionally powerful. As such, I slightly nerfed the stats from the rulebook, not wanting to overwhelm the party and get them all killed. Sadly, this turned out to be a bad plan, as I hadn’t counted on the whole 3 on 1 nature of the fight already evening the odds. The end result being that our heroes were barely scratched as they hammered the vampire, giving him no chance, especially as Chesmu, knowing he wouldn’t be able to really do much physical damage instead focused on performing maneuvers to place aspects on Thorne which the wizards could then tag for bonuses. Teamwork is, it seems, deadly in Fate games.

The vampire paralysed with shards from his own coffin, Tyler and Chesmu withdrew as Alex set the place ablaze, avenging his brother. As they emerged, it turned out Deschain had arrived just in time to catch the fireworks. He thanked Tyler and Chesmu for their unwitting completion of his own job, dealing with the person trying to frame his mistress, and offered Alex his condolences before heading off, awaiting the day I run an adventure in which he actually gets to do something.

And there was where we ended. In truth I was a little disappointed with the ending, feeling I had rushed it somewhat and disappointed I didn’t find a way to help the players find out why this had happened (Alex had killed Thorne’s progenitor some time back. There was a journal in his cave that Alex extracted which mentioned this, but no-one thought to ask him about it ). Still, the players all expressed enjoyment, which was the important thing, and there will be other campaigns. Indeed, right now I am on my second stint GMing DFRPG, kickstarting the war between the White Council and the Red Court; not to mention Mawdrigen’s managed to finally convince me to run A Song of Ice and Fire sometime in the near future. Virtual Insanity, it seems, was only the beginning…

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