Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Dirkterwalde: First Session (a welcome and bad dreams of a dark future)

Alright, I got to do those session reports. They'll be as detailed as I dare them to be (and remember it ...), spoiler free (as the players will most definitely read them) and with some musings about the game at the end. Most part of the first session was spend for character generation ...


Setting: Dirkterwalde, a mysterious backwater-town in East Germany at the end of the 90's (see here for the campaign set-up and here for an introduction to Dirkterwalde).

Characters (see here for a full description of the cast): Vale Viem (witch and owner of a small cabaret), Jan Jester (mundane sausage-salesman and a thief) and Gabriel Zöller (powerful psychic and a nerd).

Session 1 - Welcome to Dirkterwalde

The year is 1999 and it's Tuesday, the 7th of July. A mild summer day, if you believe the records. Nothing really interesting was happening in the news, many people were on vacation. All in all it was a really unspectacular summer in East Germany in general and in Dirkterwalde especially. I would hazard that on a day like this people actually thought more about either seeing Notting Hill again or checking out The Matrix instead (because everybody was talking about it) than about the upcoming Millennium and the end of the world (or other dark topics).

It's a nice evening. Jan and Gabriel decide after training (both frequent the same dojo) to go for a beer and see, as they often do, the evening performance at Madame Viem's Varieté Obscure. Lots of beautiful young women, reasonable prices and it was just a stone's throw from the dojo (it didn't take them long to become regulars).

This is where the 3 characters meet each other. The only event this evening worth mentioning was a poor old Sorbian woman that had managed to get into the Obscure to sell her trinkets to the customers. All three bought a small trinket before the woman was ushered out politely.

They stay until the end of the evening's entertainment and part ways after that, doing whatever business they got left for the day and went to bed after that. As they fell asleep and entered their dreams, a Willpower-check was in order. Gabriel was the only one succeeding and thus the only one being aware that he's dreaming. Jan and Vale accepted the dream as reality (what one might call "dream-logic" worked for Jan and Vale, but not for Gabriel).

A strange and frightening dream followed.

In their dream they were all back at the Varieté Obscure. Gabriel in front of it, Jan and Vale inside. The Obscure and the street going past it looked ruinous and deserted. There was no electricity, just a diffuse flickering light brightening the clouded night in the west of town.

When Gabriel saw a strange group of people with torches coming down the street towards him (they'd looked like Neanderthals in medieval armor) he decided to enter the theater. He heard someone talking, went for the noise and discovered Jan and Vale discussing their situation. Since he believes them to be part of his dream, he chats them up as if they were old friends, uses his abilities to ignite candles and makes them fly around, stuff like that. Jan and Vale on the other hand accept this to be as it should be anyway, since they are not aware of their dream-state.

Now, them talking to each other startled something on the floor above them and they decide to follow that noise. A door leading to a hallway with some stairs to the first floor is by the bar. Jan takes the front. He thinks a gun would be helpful in this endeavor and discovers he's already carrying one. Vale got a sword the same way: it has been there all the time.

They open the door to the hallway leading to the stairs to hear more noise, but this time from the kitchen to their left and confront some small and ugly humanoids with sharp teeth and pointy ears that were on their way out through an exit to a back alley. They snarled and hissed at the group and vanished with the words:

"This ain't your realm no more, humans. It is Zardok's realm now and you are not welcome!"

Closer examination of the kitchen revealed a ghastly surprise in the defunct cold store: eight dead humans, hung up on their ankles like cattle. The stench was revolting and just as Jan was about to close the door again, the corpse closest to him turned his head and lifted an arm to grab him. He closed the door so much faster after that and took care that it stayed shut ...

Examining the first floor they found the first rooms empty and demolished. One showed traces of old blood, another one looked like an improvised camp site. In the fourth room they discover a suicide and a note with the sad tale of a girl that hoped to get a chance and the world disagreeing. Vale checked if she knew the girl, but didn't recognize her.

Meanwhile they hear someone calling for attention down on the street. An old man in his pajamas who seems lost. They identify him as one of the guests of the Obscure just a few hours ago and think that he, too, might have bought a trinket from that old lady.

Things escalate pretty fast from that point on. The man gets attacked by those small creatures from the kitchen (or very similar ones). The group tires to help. After some shots are fired, a dragon makes an appearance and tries to burn the old man, Gabriel and Vale. Both characters wake up before dying in the flames. Jan fights some of the zombies that managed to break free from the cold store until they manage to overbear him and he, too, wakes up before it gets worse.

The next morning begins for Vale with the arrival of a new girl seeking shelter in the Obscure. The session ends with Vale recognizing the young as the suicide from her dream ...

Thoughts

I was quite happy with this first session. It seems like not much is happening, but it was more important to give the players a feeling for the setting and give them a chance to meet and establish some connection between them. What I wrote about WitchCraft the other day still holds true: very fast, very flexible.

In this first session I only got a glimpse of how powerful those characters really are. Most tasks didn't pose a problem and it became quite difficult to produce some tension because of that. At least within surroundings the players believed to be controllable (that is: reality). That changed quite a bit in the dream sequence as soon as those corpses in the fridge started to move ...

Most fun was the fact that Jan and Vale where immersed in the dream and Gabriel wasn't. Gabriel started to treat the others as figments of his imagination and found lots of opportunities to tell them about his psychic powers, demonstrated them even (which got quite important in the next session and helped getting the group together), while the others tried to find ways to use the dream world to their advantage. A fun first session ...

This got rather long. I'll try to keep the following reports somewhat shorter :)

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