Friday, September 29, 2006

Demon Days: Season 1, Episode 2 - "Corpses"

So, since I just loves ya so much, I’ve decided to post recaps of Demon Days, the Hunter: The Reckoning game I’m running each Wednesday. I’m sure you’re interested in that kinda thing, yeah? Of course you are.

(Actually, while I am going to the trouble of posting this for your edification, the act of writing the recap serves another purpose entirely: to make sure I don’t forget things. Like the events of previous episodes, whole subplots, and character names. Which, as you’ll soon see, I forget easily.)

If you aren’t familiar with Hunter: The Reckoning, a good primer can be found from the usual source, but I can sum it up pretty quickly right here. There are monsters everywhere—vampires, werewolves, ghosts, zombies, wizards, and some even stranger creatures stalk the night and prey on innocent, unsuspecting humans. But random, ordinary people are exposed to the truth by some unknown higher power—they see through the lies and masquerade put up by the supernatural, and, what’s more, they find themselves “imbued” with extraordinary powers of their own. In their hands, baseball bats can turn to flaming instruments of vengeance, a deadly attack can be turned back with a single word, and victims can be brought back from the brink of death with a healing touch. Who has given them this power? Why? And why these people, who are almost all so very, very ordinary, and not at all any sort of “holy warrior”? No one is sure. But they are all that stand between humanity and evil.

(It was originally a game published by White Wolf, then turned into a video game; the game has been licensed for a film adaptation that was to be directed by Uwe Boll, who is something of an evil monster himself. Mercifully, he’s backed out. Also, the game is out of print, White Wolf having ended the line with all the rest of the Old World of Darkness two years ago. This means I’m free to disregard canon and make shit up to my heart’s content. Yay for me.)

Anyway, this game takes place in the fictional Texas city of Bazemore. You don’t need to know that much about the city to follow the story, but it would help to know that the city is separated in four “districts”: Westwood (upper-class, high culture, rich people), Staunton (commercial district, some industry by the water), Harper Park (middle-class), and Glenville (rampant shithole).

And now, the cast of Hunters. The player characters are:

  • Dean, a washed-up college baseball player from St. Louis. Whereas the others were imbued very recently (and all but one of them together), Dean was exposed about six months ago, and has spent that time chasing one vampire from Missouri. That trail has lead him to Bazemore, where it has, unfortunately, gone cold. He’s an Avenger, a Hunter who seeks to destroy all the monsters unequivocally.

  • Willem, a washed-up musician who tends bar. He drives a Lexus despite a not-so-wonderful economic situation. He’s a Judge, one who seeks to punish the creatures based on the severity of their crimes.

  • Dan, introduced in this episode. He’s a stoner beach bum who drives a City Tours van to pay the bills. He’s a Defender—his focus is protecting humanity rather than attacking the supernatural.

Rounding out the group are a pair of NPCs:

  • Lucy, a 20ish copy editor from Staunton. She’s an Avenger, as well.

  • Edgar, a 40ish disgraced businessman from Westwood. About three years ago, he was arrested for murdering his mistress. Though he was eventually acquitted, it was largely due to incompetence on the part of the police and mistakes by the prosecution, and most believe him to be guilty. He’s now a self-loathing alcoholic in the midst of a very expensive divorce. He’s a Martyr, one who looks to sacrifice himself for the cause.

There was originally one more player character, but Brandon, the player, left the game after the first episode. So I’ve artfully written him out of the game, but you’ll notice that (as I mentioned above) I can’t remember his character’s name. So I’m forced to refer to him as “Brandon.” Say sorry.

That’s about all you need to know. I’m not recapping the first episode, “The End,” because I can do that in about a sentence: Willem, Lucy, Brandon and Edgar are imbued in a subway car and destroy a vampire. Unfortunately, Dean was tracking that vampire in the hopes he would lead to Dean’s target. With nothing else to go on, Dean has to rely on them for help.

(You’ll notice it says “Season 1” up there. That’s because my plan for the game is split into five parts, like seasons of a television show. Each season will have 13 episodes.)

So: here we go…


A week has passed since their imbuing, and the Hunters have achieved little to nothing. Brandon (?) has disappeared, there are no new leads as far as Dean’s vampiric quarry, and Lucy has taken to simply scanning the newspaper for possible monster-related crimes (“Hey, there’s a priest in Glenville who was beaten to death and found in four pieces behind a dumpster!” “Only four?”). Things aren’t going well. Willem is drinking fairly heavily, Edgar is drinking heavier, Dean can’t stop playing Sudoku, and the situation appears bleak.

That night, they pick up exactly where they left off the previous evening: hopping from club to club, hoping to accidentally run into the guy they’re looking for. Starting at topless bars in Glenville turns out to not be a wise choice, and soon they’re back in Staunton.

It’s outside one of those Staunton clubs that Dean spots a white van with DAN’S CITY TOURS on the side, and behind the wheel one Dan Owens, a beach bum who offers both tours of the city’s stranger points of interest and club shuttle service. While obtaining a map from Dan, Dean spots a trio of shambling zombies in the alley behind the van. He races off to get the others.

Dan, meanwhile, turns to the alley and sees the zombies—a voice thunders in his head: They feed on the innocent. Dumbstruck, he exits his van and walks toward the zombies. When they move to approach him, he unconsciously uses Ward, and they back off. He’s dumbstruck further.

At that moment, the Hunters arrive with weapons and righteous fury, and it doesn’t take long before the walking corpses are just corpses again, and soon after they’re turning to ash when Dean sets them aflame. But Willem took one out with a mighty blast from his Glock, meaning a gunshot rang out outside a club, meaning the police are sure to be on their way. Literally dragging Dan along, the five of them hop into the City Tours Van (hereafter referred to as “The Mystery Machine”) and drive away.

A few blocks later, they stop outside a Dunkin Donuts for a breather and, well, some donuts. Lucy tries her best to explain what just happened to Dan, but she only barely knows more than he does. She tells about the vampire they’re chasing, and Dan reveals that he’d actually seen him—just last week, he’d given him a ride home from a club to a house in Glenville. He agrees to take them there, but first takes several generous hits from his bong.

Dan recognizes Edgar, as everyone does. Dean floats the theory that Edgar was supernaturally set up somehow for the murder. Edgar doesn’t seem eager to accept that as a possibility.

They reach the house in Glenville, but it appears abandoned: the lights are off, no one is inside, and the only pieces of furniture are a couple of chairs and a desk. On the desk, however, Willem finds a pad of paper. Sophisticated, CSI-like investigative techniques (rubbing a pencil across the page to look for indentations) reveal a name, Shepherd, and an address of an apartment in Harper Park. Back into the Mystery Machine they go, and onward to Harper Park. It starts to rain.

When they get to the apartment building they find a few police cars outside. Undaunted, they approach the front door only to find they need an access code to get inside. They’re briefly stumped until a helpful—yet vaguely creepy—old lady in a purple raincoat approaches. She assumes they’ve forgotten their code, which she assures them she does all the time, and lets them inside with hers. Finding her assistance just a little too creepy, the Hunters turn their Sight on her and discover that she is, in fact, not human. But she’s not a vampire, either, and certainly not a zombie. Discern reveals a bright, purple-white sheen surrounding her, like an aura. When questioned, she makes a few disarming non-answers, ducks into a maintenance closet, and promptly vanishes into thin air. “Nice trick,” Dean tells the empty closet.

With the old lady gone, they return to the business that brought them here: the address from the vampire’s house. It’s apartment 3-G, so they head up to the third floor to find, unsurprisingly, that that’s where the police are. The tenants of the other apartments are standing outside, watching, and one of them tells the Hunters that the “reporter” who lives there is dead—“Prob’ly killed himself.”

They’re on the verge of deciding to head back to the elevator when they’re spotted by Detective Weathers, who approaches them and asks their business. The group, not too convincingly, tells him that they’re on the wrong floor, and that they meant to get off on the fourth, where they’re meeting a friend. Weathers, though suspicious, lets them go.

To maintain the illusion, just in case, the five head up to the fourth floor to plan their next move. A fire escape on the outside of the building can take them directly to the window of 3-G, so they decide to wait for the cops to leave, sneak up the fire escape into the apartment, and see what they can find.

So they wait in the alley for a few hours. Willem and Dean kill time by playing Othello on a cell phone. A chubby hick on the second floor sees them and strikes up a brief conversation. They discuss what happened in 3-G, and the hick confides that it certainly wasn’t a suicide: “He didn’t have no blood left in ‘im.”

Once they spot the cops leaving the scene, corpse in tow, the Hunters run up the fire escape and enter apartment 3-G. The place is littered with papers, books and magazines—but the only sign of a possible struggle is a single tipped-over chair, and there is not a single drop of blood to be found. Lucy finds a copy of an independent magazine called The Ledge, with the cover story (“How the Government Plotted, Conceived & Executed the 9/11 Massacre”) credited to Kevin Shepherd.

Willem, Dean and Edgar search the living room, and amongst the papers and junk on the desk find a piece of paper onto which is photocopied a bizarre image—it looks like a logo or crest of some sort, but it isn’t one they recognize:

And there’s more, handwritten on the back, but it proves just as inscrutable:

(If you have trouble reading the words on the side, they are, from top to bottom, "Westwood," "Glenville," "Harper," and "Stuanton" [sic].)

Meanwhile, in the bedroom, Lucy and Dan find a small wall safe hidden behind a photograph of (of all people) Richard Nixon—the safe is unlocked, but it’s empty.

Dean hypothesizes that this reporter, Shepherd, either learned something or guessed something about either the government or vampires, and turned himself into a target for assassination. It isn’t much, but it’s all they have, and the apartment gives up no more clues. They head back to the fire escape and down into the alley…

…where they run into Det. Weathers. Now truly suspicious, Weathers stops them for questioning, but drops his pen a few times, and when he bends down to pick it up (would ya believe this) a potted plant from a windowsill above falls, of its own accord, and smashes into his head. With the detective momentarily incapacitated, the Hunters run for the Mystery Machine. But on their way through the parking lot, Dean spots the vampire they’ve been looking for standing in a crowd. He tries to play it cool, but the vampire spots him, too, and jumps in a car and flees. The Hunters have no choice but to pile into the van and follow.

The chase leads them to Staunton. It’s impossible to know where the vampire was going, but he’s stopped when Willem manages to shoot out one of his tires. The vampire swerves through traffic to create a makeshift roadblock, ditches the car, and sprints into a subway station. The Hunters follow as fast as they can, even after the vampire leaps onto the subway track and runs into an unfinished tunnel.

Why does he choose this tunnel? The Hunters will probably never know, because when it becomes a dead end, the vampire is trapped, and quickly overcome by the five hunters, especially the two wielding flaming weapons of death. Within minutes, the vampire is turning to ash and the five are sitting around the remains eating sandwiches.

In the aftermath, they plan the next step. Dan is still a little shell-shocked, so they decide to give him a week to things through. Edgar walks back to his hotel, Dan gives Willem a ride back to his car, and Lucy offers the homeless Dean the spare room at her apartment until her roommate returns.

Alone on the subway home, Dean and Lucy strike up a friendly conversation (“Is your roommate more or less attractive than you?” “…What?”), and she confides that her roommate is off sleeping with Lucy’s own boyfriend—hence, the empty room. Dean asks why she hasn’t broken up with him, and she says she planned to, but the whole monster-hunting thing kind of took up her time.

Dean offers Lucy a bottle of water, which she accepts, but drops. When she bends to pick it up, Dean spots another of the subway system’s unfinished tunnels in the window behind her…and in that tunnel, a pair of glowing red eyes hanging in the darkness.

Comments, corrections, and suggestions can be posted in the comments box below.

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