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Saturday, 1 June 2013

FTWD: Hunting serial killers, session 4 (or 6)

WARNING FOR EXTREME VIOLENCE in this session!!! The Geneva convention was broken repeatedly!
If you keep reading: You've been warned!
So, this is the 4th (or 6th) session of my Fates Worse Than Death campaign. I recommend jumping to the end of the post if you aren't familiar with some terms, because Fates Worse Than Death is an involved setting.

The Runner looked at the damn Skin Borgs. After splitting with Dorotheia, he had used mostly hits on their exposed parts, because he wasn't trying to kill them. He wasn't keen on getting the Skin Borgs to declare revenge on him.
The Hummingbirds weren't trying to do that, either, he had noticed. It seemed enough to hurt people a bit, and they ran away. Nobody prevented that. Probably didn't want to turn the gang war into a war where no quarter is given.
They were probably wise not to do that, too.
Still, the Hummingbirds invited him to a party. He turned them down, and went home, but received a message from Dorotheia.

Meanwhile, Dorotheia was looking at her decimated group. Well, actually, they weren't the only one in poor condition - the Animalist who had squeezed with her to avoid paying the metro had dealt with a Skin Borg nobody had managed to hurt before. This was the same one that had punched one of the Freaks with a knuckle-duster. Throwing him from the third floor had been enough to overcome his armour, though.
She sighed and turned to her friends.
"Isn't he coming soon?"
"Might take him a while", his Freak friend answered. "He takes some time to do some hunting after a fight."
They began chatting up about the various problems in the City. And when they mentioned Colin, she nodded and said, "Yeah, this guy was almost killed by Colin", pointing at the Runner.
This...didn't go over well. They put him to a grilling interrogation, especially the Freak with smashed face. Finally, this one asked the final question.
"Did you call, like, the Night Shift, or some Colin hunters?"
They haven't. Why not? Well, "we didn't assume it's important, he had to run" didn't go over well.
Actually, Smashed Face pulled a mobile phone and called some friends.
"Hi, it's me, Jerome... yeah. Tell me about Colin activity in our territory... multiple Colins have been spotted? Minutes ago?"
Yes. He was in a Colin Hunting society with the Math Addict that sent Park (see Episode 3: Violence and statistics).
They jumped and ran to the metro. The Runner just had to show them where he has been attacked! And it was close to the place where Colin had been spotted. They had to deal with him-or them. Now!
They got off the train in Animalist turf - with an Animalist with them, they passed with no problems - and went to the building mentioned in the previous episode.
While they were trying to decide whether breaking in was a good idea - after all, it might be a false alarm (nobody knew Park is a psychic) - the Animalist offered an idea.
"I can climb the walls, and enter from the roof. I'd be fast, so the Siders and Roofers wouldn't notice me. And of course, I'd signal you what to do, or jump back."
He went in, climbing the wall as rapidly as a cat scaling a tree.
Who's saying ORC-the Organic Rule Component system - is slow? I managed to run the whole interaction when he met a female Colin, then the battle in under a minute, just by rolling d20 after d20. FWIW, he slashed her face - surprise, bitch, pain poison here! - and while she was distracted by the pain, dived and broke her leg. The knockout strike wasn't hard to deliver after that, smashing her head in the wall.
Well, that pretty much solved the issue. She had shown uncharacteristic skill with a knife, but most importantly... she had shown no emotion at some toothy bastard with claws scaling her wall. The lack of fear is part of what betrays Colins - though by no means unique in the city, it's surprising when you see a young supposed shut-in displaying it.
Minutes later, he showed up, and gave them the go-ahead signal. And then all hell broke loose.
When they kicked the door in, the Runner spotted two kids, 6 and 8 yo. He knew these were actually avatars of the killer Colin, because they had met.
So he signalled to Dorotheya "it's them", and jumped with his knife drawn. Not even Colin stands a chance. He stabbed the kid that had hurt him, and killed him.
I think this PC gets something like 1d20+12 vs 0 to perform a Vital strike. I might be wrong, of course, but it's likely. Colin couldn't even hope to defend, not to mention that Colin always tries Simultaneous strike instead - he's not afraid of death any more than someone stoned on Godkiller would be.
The knife stabbed, once. The kid lost it rapidly. Then he stabbed again, for good measure. The Math Addict who had just arrived was especially...unimpressed.
Meanwhile, Dorotheya was fighting the other Colin on her own. She stabbed him in the arm, while the Colin Hunters warned "take them alive" When her friend tried to stab this kid, too, he got stabbed in the body with a shiv.
Then the Animalist - who had gone down  by the stairs - grappled the kid. Well, a full-grown man can usually restrain a kid, even if the kid is Colin. Another removed the knife from the kid's hand while the man was restraining him.
Yeah, the murder wasnot what the Colin Hunters were expecting to see. They had assumed these two would try to disarm and incapacitate. The cold-blooded murder wasn't expected.
"Why did you kill him, moron?"
The Math Addict, who had arrived meanwhile, wasn't pulling any punches.
"It's a Colin!"
"If he was, you should have taken him for questioning. If he wasn't, you're now a child killer!"
"I know he was a Colin!"
"How so?"
"He almost killed me!"
"Considering your approach to kids... I suspect he might have believed to have a reason!"
Yeah, most people don't like seeing kids being stabbed. Not even kids that are Colin. The PCs were 
kinda ignoring this. No, the setting isn't about being bleak and depressing - people there are trying to make their lives better despite corruption and crime, not to build a society of sociopaths. That's a finer point, I suspect, that I'm slowly hammering into my players' minds.
Then a young man ran out, and pretended these were his kids. The runner - who might soon be known as the Blade Runner - was unimpressed.
"They were Colin!"
"What the fuck are you talking about? You've killed Jake!"
Then he turned around and tried to open the window to call for help.
Except the PC stabbed him under the ribs. He assumed that's another Colin. The Math Addict hunter tried to stop him, but by then, it was too late. He also tried to use first aid on the guy, and failed. When he realised it, he looked at the man, and said.
"Nothing I can do. Repeat after me: Our Father in Heavens, may your name be kept holy... "
The man looked at him, visibly upset.
"Nothing you can do?"
"Nothing. Sorry. Now repeat, or if you're from some other religion..."
"Fuck that. I'm going to kill God some day! Just... not today."
With that, he died in shocked silence, with an ugly smile. The Runner remembered only then having seen him... while the kids were abducting him, with chlorphorm cloth over his face.
"Told ya, it was a Colin! And speaking of which, aren't you going to help me? I've been stabbed, too!"
"No. You're still stupid for not capturing him! We could have gained much more data! And we have yet to rely on your word that those children were Colin. Go find yourself a Black Med."
"And what do you do with the captured Colins after that?"
"We might hand them to the authorities-or, more like, call you to deal with the body!"
That was when he seemed to start realising that there are good reasons not to start by killing people.
The real issue was when they found there was a mental installer in the basement.
And someone was receiving the Colin package. Progress: 55%.
The Colin Hunters were at a loss. Should they kill him? Should they send him to the psych ward? (And for those that knew more, "which would be the more merciful option, and do we want to show mercy to someone who's only half-Colin?")
Not so with Dorotheya and her Runner.  They immediately decided to maim the guy so he couldn't kill anyone even if Colin takes over. Then they were going to leave him be.
That was when the Math Addict knocked the knife out of his hand... but not before he had managed to cut the Achilles tendons on the man's feet. Then the guys stopped the machine.
Now, that was a bad idea on several levels. Even setting aside issues of morality and whether leaving a cripple in 2080 Manhattan would amount to murder - let's assume he didn't die. This is a setting where getting a new cloned body is entirely possible, and the maiming injuries would simply be covered by the guy's medical insurance (he was a Well).

For once, they were lucky that the Colin Hunters NPCs with them took him off their hands and are now looking for options. Normally, I avoid that, but I just couldn't imagine said NPCs making the same mistake, and NPCs get to have agendas as well.
Of course, in the meantime, they weren't helping the PCs' reputations!

"What the hell are you doing?"
"He couldn't kill anyone like this."
"This isn't even Colin yet!"
"What if the part that is takes over?"
There was mass face palming.
"What if he died? Is his other half guilty he was captured?"
"Do we care about guilty?"
The mass face palming continued.
"Yes. We do.", the Animalist interrupted him.
"Maybe you don't, in which case... you're probably lucky we do. Or we might wonder whether Colin was the only target worthy of our attention!", the Freak added.
"Hey, I've been stabbed by them! I'm fucking scared!", he claimed, showing them the not-yet-closed wound.
"Then don't stay on the front lines when we confront Colins?"
"That's what I do when I'm scared!"
"Hope a child never scares you. Or the Orphans would come for you en masse", the Math Addict concluded.
They didn't tell him that this was why he was alive. They didn't need to. But he needed to leave anyway, because his wound hasn't closed as he hoped to.
Good thing he was still on antibiotics, or another infection might have killed him.
In the meantime, Dorotheya went to see Habey Cox's lieutenant.
"What are your impressions?"
"It's a wonder the Hummingbirds are holding. There are just too many Skin Borgs in high-tech Skins. They're almost invulnerable, it seems. And the number of skins they've got is just incredible. Who's shipping it to them?"
Oops, she's smart. That was a good question. Alas, she wasn't asking the person who had answers.
"I'd hope that you could find out."
She blinked, then smiled.
"No worries. I'm going to find out!"
"Just like that?"
"Well, yeah, we need to know in order to cut their supplies, right?"
She went to the Black Trader she had met earlier, and asked him to find out who's making such shipments.
"I could, but what's in it for me?"
"I dunno, Habey wants to know?"
"OK. Give me his phone, and I'll name my price once I know more."
She gave him the lieutenant's contact details. He promised to call back.
The Saints of the Corner that were keeping him asked Dorotheya whether she doesn't feel dirty dressing like that. She patted the guy's hand.
"Why, aren't you feeling lonely, sweetie?"
"No! God is always with me?"
"Ah, so you're a jerk-off. Do you think of your God while you masturbate?"
He was going to slap her in the face, if she wasn't the Black Trader's client.
After that, she used the Runner's pager, and they met. Together, they went to see the Colin Hunter residence. She met Park there, but the girl was in something of a shock after brushing with Colin. Well, most people don't pay for the experience so cheap.
She looked at them interrogating Colin with forced psychic activity. A Freak and a Math Addict psychics were using Soma in order to boost their abilities enough to slam through his defences. Of course, both the child and the woman were interrogated separately. Bank accounts, leads to other Colins, possible new victims...
The PCs got bored with the details and went to a fast food place to have some Chinese takeaway with halal meat. They ate it under a tree, grown through a crack in the asphalt.
Some guy approached them and asked to share the place. "I always eat here", he explained. "If it wouldn't be a problem, name is Ahmad!"
"Salam aleikum", the Runner answered.
"Aleikum salam... but you can just greet me in English."
He has been an IT specialist who arrived at NY from Pakistan as an 18-years-old... right before the Freedom Wars. He hasn't been able to keep in touch with the developing technologies, so his skills were completely outdated by the end of the wars.
"So what are you doing now?"
"I'm a DJ, man! The Hummingbirds love my stuff, it seems. It's a good life."
At this point they decided they had an urgent job to attend to, and said a hasty good-bye. The fact that they had finished the takeaway might have helped, too.
What was the urgent job? This shall be known next session!

Glossary of Terms in the Fates Worse Than Death setting
Also: as stated at the beginning of this post, here are some terms.
It's the latest session of my campaign in the Fates Worse Than Death setting. Colin is a self-replicating serial killer that "downloads" his mind in the mind of victims via technology, and "overwrites" their identity, replacing them. Math Addicts, Freaks, Humankalories, Hummingbirds and Orphans are gangs in 2080 Manhattan, and number in the hundreds, some in the thousands. Pusher gangs are the footsoldiers of the Drug lords, which have a monopoly on the drug market that they have wrested away from the gangs. Gangs are more like mutual protection societies, since they can't sell drugs, the city is monitored against importing guns, and the gang of Sexologists forbids pimps from working. These are, as we know, the three greatest sources of income for organised crime. For example, while the Day Shift is the corrupt part of the NYPD, the non-corrupt cops are practically acting like a gang in the setting, and are known as the Night Shift.
Also, many gang members are part of societies that fight the spread of Colin...while people elsewhere consider him an urban myth. But in the ghetto, there are people worshipping him/them as a god/gods (they're morons and suck, yes, if you ask me, but then nobody threatens them, because Colin might take offence). This makes Colin Hunters that much more useful.
Hope that helps.

Also, I need to remind you that there is a video tutorial for the setting if you're interested to learn more.
As I said, FWTD is an involved setting.

Which makes it similar to all the other settings I like, namely Modern and Historical games, Eclipse Phase, Blue planet, Equinox, Glorantha, Exalted,  Legend (the one from Dragon Warriors and Bloodsword), Orb (from the gamebooks, yes, the game is still in development), Westeros (from ASoIaF), Dune, and I suspect I might soon add Aethos to that list.
None of these is reading-light, as you might have noticed. Not even my homebrews are reading-light. That's probably my greatest strength as a GM, and my greatest weakness. I'm not planning to change either way.