And here’s where I start using Triggers and Secrets. I think I was writing the panel roughly concurrently. They make for a seriously exciting game, but as I mention in the Spotlight post, too many of them in one game make for a seriously pulpy experience.

In a more sedate game too many can get a little hard to justify, but in a pulpy, hard-boiled game where a man with a gun can walk in at any moment it’s just exciting.


Ok, so, next scene. Cross' apartment. 'dress apartment' as the intersection; we're still attacking his motives here.

We walked in silence up to my apartment. Tenth -- which is to say, top-- floor of one of the nicest hotels in the one of the quietest districts in the city.

Which reminds me, is Cross estranged from his family?

[0: 6 ] Yes, and...

He's not being financed by them at all. But he still has enough money to finance a playboy lifestyle, albeit a relatively subdued one.

Inheritance?

[0: 1 ] No, and...

As far as he knows, he's been disinherited completely. So that means he's making his way on his own merits, which likely means the proceeds of some heist or another.

He's a little bitter, as well; when he was thrown in prison, for a crime he was innocent of and had been made a fall guy for, his parents could have gotten him out with a trivial (to them) amount of cash, but they chose not to.

He's the youngest son, the proverbial black sheep.

Europe had been a mixed bag, to be sure, but I'd come out of it enough ahead that at least I didn't have to worry about where my next meal was coming from. Or at least I hadn't yesterday.

I unlocked the door, pushed it open. Everything seemed all right at first glance, just the way I'd left it.

Standard DC of 10; I'll make a check and then throw a trigger down.

Rolling 2d8 1 times.
[ 4 5 ] 9

So 14, plenty to beat the 10.

[apt perc] Nothing.

So nothing to find.

Going to set a few random triggers just to keep me on my toes.

I moved quickly over to my suitcase, always packed out of habit. Grabbed my emergency stash. Hesitated.

"You sure I can't stay here?"

Gray sighed. "Yes," she said. "You'll be vulnerable during the day. You need to be somewhere safe."

"And where's that?" Not the mousy little cottage she'd taken me to get cleaned up, that's for sure. Where did people -- things-- like me go during the day, anyway?

She looked down at the floor for a moment. "We're going to impose on a-- a friend," she said.

[Trigger (3Z60F3GH)] Test of Perception, difficulty, easy

Hmm, interesting. Fortunately that's a good skill for him.

Rolling 2d8 1 times.
[ 8 4 ] 12

Made it on the roll alone, since easy is a 9 in SH terms. He's good at that sort of thing, which means if the GM's calling for a check it's something outside the oridinary.

Did he spot some sort of trap?

[0: 2 ] Yes, but...

He's not sure what it is at first.

"Hold up a second," I said. There was something not quite right here. I sniffed the air, picking up... blood?

Gray's head shot up. ""What is it?" she barked, and I shook my head. Wasn't quite sure --

[Trigger (TTABS4GU)] Test of Awareness, difficulty, easy

Rolling 2d8 1 times.
[ 6 7 ] 13

My sixth sense kicked in. "Trap," I snapped, catching her arm.

[Trigger (5BAP9BY0)] Test of Awareness, difficulty, standard

[Seed] complicate movement

[Seed] find half

Something was boiling out of the heating vents, something dark and misty that seethed and roiled. Gray seemed frozen in place. She didn't look scared, just frozen, like she couldn't move.

He's a vampire, superhuman strength and speed, and he made both checks to see it coming.

I jammed the small packet of emergency funds in my jacket pocket, caught Gray around the middle, and sprinted for the window. Threw it open.

Anything out there?

[0: 4 ] Yes.

[Seed] show body

[Seed] blacken research

Took in the half-eaten corpse of my landlord, and the black winged shape hovering over it, an instant before a needle-like claw like a syringe snapped out.

So, my statement of intent here is that Cross will dodge aside, avoiding the claw entirely.

[0: 1 ] No, and...

Conflict, so he'll need to roll to avoid it. The 'and' intensifies the result, but I'll worry about that if he succeeds!

It's a stalking hunter, average. So +6 to hit, 3 HD, one bite, two claw attacks.

Rolling 1d20 1 times.
[ 1 ] 1

Whew.

So it missed, which is a success for him and normally he'd avoid being hit. I'm going to use the bargaining rules to accept a hit in order to create an opening for them to escape past it.

Only a second to react. I twisted so Gray was out of harm's way but the claw went right through my shoulder. It hurt a little, but nothing like it should have.

[Trigger (2DA8X2SF)] Random Event, Action

An interesting time for that trigger to fire! A quick check says that's the last of them. I won't set more just now since this scene's still in full swing.

[Random Event] Context: Action! Badly wounded person appears or is discovered, being chased or stalked. This is spectacularly good.

Well, it's not the landlord. Hm. I'm thinking 'new NPC', and I'll spend my world change after I establish him or her.

Actually, I think my world change is that instead of 'chased or stalked" the person is hunting, or at least on the offensive.

[Age - Mature] Forties.

[Gender Appearance] female

[Modifier] Something is mysterious.

[Visible Quirk] plump or well-nourished

[Non-Visible Quirk] prefers to wing it

[Visible Quirk] sweating heavily

[Wheel]
[Driving] gratitude, [quite a bit] triumph
[Focus] secrets

[Goals]
[Powerful] to protect offspring [my hero]
[Mere whim] to trap interlopers to meet basic needs [nearby race]

Well, it's surely not Cross' mom. One of Gray's relatives, maybe?

[0: 1 ] No, and...

Not related to Gray at all. Doesn't seem likely it'd be Cross' old vampire girlfriend. Hm, maybe she wasn't? Maybe whoever infected him happened much more recently, while he was being killed.

Sound good?

[likely: 5 2 1 ] Yes, but...

The 'but' is that his old girlfriend was a vampire too.

[Visible Quirk] many tattoos or marks

Behind us, the mist was rising, and I swear I could hear gibbering and hungry howls. The claw had me pinned but good. Gray still wasn't moving. Like she was a statue.

The hulking black shape seemed to suck the light around it, and I had a feeling I didn't want to see it better or any closer. I grabbed the claw and wrenched it, trying to free myself.

Rolling 1d20 1 times.
[ 7 ] 7

7+6AC+3+3=19, not enough.

Still have Fray though.

Rolling 1d8 1 times.
[ 2 ] 2

1 point of damage; 2 HD left.

Rolling 1d6 1 times.
[ 6 ] 6

It did 2 to him earlier.

Rolling 2d8 1 times.
[ 4 5 ] 9

Rolling 1d6 1 times.
[ 4 ] 4

That was morale (vs 8) and Slaughter, which is a Silent Legions triple damage thing. Makes guns and such more frightening, for sure.

[New Actor] Olivia Hunter, relatively new vampire (~40 or so), shadowing Cross and looking out for him.

I heard something crack in the claw and the creature let out an ear-piercing shriek, then jerked away and leapt off the balcony. I didn't waste any time, throwing myself and Gray out onto the balcony, just ahead of the mist.

Does it follow them out onto the fire escape?

[0: 6 ] Yes, and...

Yes, and it's moving really fast!

It seemed to lash out, reach for us with hungry tendrils. At least I could fight the black winged thing -- how do you fight fog? I scooped Gray up in my arms and half-slid, half-fell down the fire escape.

He's a vampire, it's the tenth floor, it's night, and there's blood and a viscous hungry mist and time is of the essence.

He intends to get to the bottom of the stairs without falling.

[0: 2 ] Yes, but...

So he does get to the bottom without falling, but there's a wrinkle, complication, sudden change, previously hidden thing, random event, drawback, or advantage in play.

The same creature?

[0: 3 ] No.

More creatures like the first?

[0: 5 ] No, but...
... and something unexpected happens!

Something else is waiting at the bottom of the stairs, something worse.

Skidded to a stop at the base as something big moved in the shadows. It looked like a cross between a preying mantis and a bulldog, and it looked hungry and mean.

"This night just keeps getting better and better," I muttered, backing away slowly, towards the mouth of the alley where the car was parked.

What's the random event?

[Random Event] Context: Action! Someone is being mugged or murdered or something else noisy nearby. This is good with some bad.
Combined with...
[Random Event] Context: Plot! New thread. This is good with some bad.

And then everything just kind of froze. The creature stopped mid-slaver, the mist wasn't moving, even I felt sluggish, like the air was made out of gelatin.

A man I hadn't noticed before strolled out of the shadows. He was dressed in an expensive suit, his hair slicked back, a supercilious smirk on his face. I took an instant dislike to him; he reminded me of one of my cousins.

"Gray, my dear, you really must choose your heroes better," he said chidingly. His eyes flicked over me and dismissed me just as quickly. I should have been insulted but I mostly just felt scared.

And more than a little mad. Was this yahoo the source of all this? I wasn't by nature a violent man, but I was sorely tempted.

Grey stirred a little, put her hand on my chest, and I looked down at her. Her eyes were a very pretty shade of gold-flecked green that reminded me of sunlight through leaves. "It wouldn't work," she said.

Great, I thought, That's all I need, a dame who can read minds.

"No," she said a bit absently, as I set her down gently. "It's just plain on your face." I shot her a look but she was looking at the new guy, who was still gloating. She looked a little wobbly.

"You've been very bad, Nicolas," she said, her tone scolding. "Summoning abominations? Murdering innocents? The Anakes will not be pleased."

His face rippled, like hers had earlier, into something twisted and hideous, then back again. He laughed. "You, lecturing me about rules?"

He clapped his hands together, and the mist started to roil again and the insect-dog stalked forward, hunger in all eight of its eyes. "Let's see how many rules you break to get out of this one." And he was gone.

It's a large predator, AC7, HD4, 3 attacks, +4 to hit, and does 1d8, 1d6x2 damage, morale 8.

She threw her arms out like she was holding back closing walls, and the mist recoiled, like it hit those walls. The strain on her face said it wouldn't hold forever.

"Do we run?" I asked, backing up a little but keeping myself between her and the insect-dog, which was stalking closer, licking its mandibles.

Does she think running's a good idea?

[0: 4 ] Yes.

"Yes," she said. I didn't need to be told twice, she was already in my arms as I sprinted as fast as I could. Which was fast. I'd always been fleet-footed, but something about the change had upped that to terrifying -- and exhilarating -- levels. If I wasn't worried about my skin and hers I'd have enjoyed it.

Cross wants to get to the car before the creature catches up to them.

[0: 6 ] Yes, and...

I skidded to a stop at the car, yanked the door open, hoisted her in, and then around to the driver's side before she'd even shut the door. Slid in, looked for the keys. She fished them out of her pocket. The creature wasn't in sight yet but I knew it was right behind us.

Cross wants the car to start and to drive out of here.

[0: 3 ] No.

The engine flipped but didn't turn over. I eased back on the gas a little, tried again. Nothing. "Come on," I muttered in frustration. The engine purred to life on the third try. The mist was roiling out of the alley on either side of the building.

Driving check to gun it and steer past without going through the mist.

It's a straight "no" so nothing odd, it's just a DC10 check.

Rolling 2d8 1 times.
[ 4 3 ] 7

Going to use 'quick wits' and 'born agile', I think, though 'born wealthy' means he's probably spent a lot of time behind the wheel too.

I gunned the engine and threw it into gear, hurtling the car through the narrow gap where the mist hadn't quite blocked the road yet. We went up on the sidewalk and I heard metal screech but the mist never touched us.

Driving at speed took all my concentration. There was no way I was going to let that thing -- or that mist -- catch up to us. I don't know how long it was before I realized Gray was pulling on my sleeve, telling me to slow down.

I did, a little sheepishly. "Sorry."

She shook her head. "No, I'm the one who is sorry," she said. "I didn't think he'd go that far."

She still works for the Anakes, the kings?

[0: 3 ] No.

Interesting, she's retired then, gone freelance.

Works for a higher cause now?

[0: 2 ] Yes, but...

It's not a cause all of her people agree with, so she can't really go to them for help.

Is Nicolas on the outs with them?

[0: 5 ] No, but...

So he's still nominally a loyal servant of the Kings of Fate, but he's been scheming often and hard enough to start attracting unwanted attention.

I shot her a sideways glance and she sighed again. "Look, I'll explain, but first, we need to get to the safe house." I pulled over and we switched seats.

[New Thread] Why is Nicolas working against Gray?

Was Nicolas part of the group that killed Ethan?

[0: 4 ] Yes.

I knew there was a reason I didn't like that guy.

Time check!

Sunset, drive to cottage, shower, dressed, drive to Cross' apartment, get attacked, get chased, drive. Maybe four hours, top.

So it's pushing midnight. Does Gray look tired?

[0: 4 ] Yes.

She looked tired and drawn. It occurred to me that I'd been stabbed. My jacket shoulder had a hole in it, as did the shirt underneath, but the skin under that was whole and unmarked. Not even a bruise. My fingers said there was no wound on the back, either.

Any effects from the creature's stab?

[0: 6 ] Yes, and...

Yes, there are, and they're starting to take effect.

First, though, I'm going to spend whatever tokens to restore him to health. It's 1d8+1 HP per token spent; I may elide this and just go one for one basis. Let's see what rolls do.

Rolling 1d8 1 times.
[ 5 ] 5

With 1d8+1 it'll be one point around 50% of the time, two the rest (really, really rough math there). Seems fine, since those tokens aren't easy to get back and decrease pretty quickly on their own.

In fact, re-reading my homebrew vampire (which is a little over-complicated), he can only have tokens saved up equal to max vampire trait * class level, which is 3.

Two points puts his HP back at full. Those blood tokens aren't going to last long, though. Looks like one day per trait point, so as long as he doesn't spend them down to 0 he'll need to feed in three days.

And, assuming he makes it that long, he loses 3 tokens on the third sunset since his last feeding. That's ALL the tokens he can store. No buffer or reserve.

Ok, stab wound. Injected with something.

[Seed] hold crater

[Seed] sterilize illness

Not sure about 'hold crater' but 'sterilize illness' seems workable.

[Seed] begin code

She noticed I was checking my arm and said something I couldn't make out. It didn't make sense. Gibberish. "What?" I asked. Felt kind of hot and funny, just in general.

Like I had a fever, but that didn't seem likely, given that I wasn't alive. Then why were my teeth rattling and why was the car spinning around me?

Ethan wants to shake off this poison, whatever it is.

[0: 2 ] Yes, but...

So he does, but there's a complication or wrinkle. I know, it takes all his blood tokens to do it.

I set my jaw and pulled it together. I felt nauseated and weak, but the heat seemed to be fading. "Don't feel well," I said as crisply as I could manage, and Gray shot me a worried look.

The rest of the trip was quiet, as I concentrated on not throwing up, not that I'd eaten anything I was aware of recently enough to make it that much of an issue if I did.

How long is the trip? Half an hour?

[More or Less] More than expected.

An hour, then. So it's around 1:30 am.

So it's likely that this isn't in the city. Just outside?

[0: 1 ] No, and...

It's a good distance away.

The city lights had long since faded behind us and the unbroken countryside stretched for miles when I felt well enough to start taking notice of our surroundings. I'd be the first to admit it, I was a city boy, but something about being in those miles of forest and farmland made me feel better.

The sky overhead was filled with millions of stars, and they cast light enough that I could see as well as any early morning. If a full moon were out it'd be like broad daylight, I thought.

I felt enervated, and a little hungry. Our destination came into view, at the end of a winding track, and Gray pulled the car in and turned it off.

[Seed] cheerfully burst

[Seed] first unconnected

The house was a mess. A farmhouse, maybe, once. Someone had tacked additions on here and there, willy-nilly, no regard for aesthetics or usability, in a cheerful burst of unconnected styles and shapes. It made my head hurt just to look at it.

I must have made some sound, because Gray shot me another look. "It's safe," she said.

I pushed open the door and crawled out, feeling slow and dizzy and hungrier by the moment. "It's something," I said, squinting up at it. The tower was a nice touch. I guess.

Is there anyone in residence?

[probable: 2 1 1 6 ] Yes, and...

And you earn a reward.

Well, let's roll up the actor to see what kind of 'reward' we get.

[Age - Mature] Mid-twenties.

[Gender Appearance] female

[Modifier] Something is amiss.

[Visible Quirk] bite or claw mark scar

[Visible Quirk] openly displays a totem

[Non-Visible Quirk] tends to negativity

[Wheel]
[Mild] concerned, [twinge] joy, [driving] disgust
[Focus] alcohol [primary], lies [secondary]

She sounds like a ray of tolerant sunshine who will just looove Ethan Cross, playboy jewel thief vampire.

We were met at the door by a slip of a girl with a pursed mouth and narrowed eyes that spoke volumes, all of them sour. She took in my lack of luggage with a disapproving scowl and disappeared into the kitchen to make tea.

"Is your arm okay?" Gray asked, and I shrugged. We'd moved into a well-appointed library to wait.

"Seems to be, now. What was that?"

"Poison," she said. "I'm surprised you shook it off so easily, even as tough as you are now."

Moving with purpose, she went over to the bookshelf and started looking for something in the books. I shrugged again. "I don't feel like it was that easy," I said.

In fact, I was feeling hungrier by the moment. Hungry enough I was finding it hard to concentrate. I found myself staring intently at her wrists as she thumbed through the books, one after another. I could hear the blood moving under her skin, with little thumps that reminded me of more interesting pursuits. I remembered her hand on my chest earlier. Those fascinating green eyes.

Let's make that save. DC12. I don't think I have anything to add to it, +1 for HD.

Rolling 2d8 1 times.
[ 2 3 ] 5

Not even close. Going to need to keep those blood tokens up or things are going to get messy.

I was standing next to her, didn't even really think about it, just moved. Reached out and took her hand, running my fingers over her wrist, feeling and hearing the blood in her veins and wanting -- what?

So there's a few ways this could go; Cross could just bite her, he could seduce her, she could put him in his place, she could provide an alternate source of blood.

But not the girl, she's been traumatized by something else biting her and wouldn't voluntarily participate and it would be horrible and Cross would never forgive himself.

Does fae blood work for vampires?

[0: 6 ] Yes, and...

It's like everclear and cocaine rolled up in one. Powerful, empowering, potentially deadly.

Cross is very new at this; he identifies what he's feeling as best he can and gets it all mixed up. Plus they just had a very traumatic shared experience and he's keyed up.

I'm assuming she wasn't expecting him to need to feed so quickly. Plus this is all by the seat of her pants.

Does she know she could kill him with her blood?

[0: 3 ] No.

Is she interested in sleeping with him?

[0: 5 ] No, but...

She will if she thinks it's necessary. Ouch.

"You need blood," she said coolly, her hand unmoving in mine. Not the reaction I was used to. I kissed the inside of her wrist, and she sighed. Not an interested sigh. A half-exasperated, half-tolerant sigh.

"Look," she said, "You're a nice kid, but--" A real gasp as I nibbled the inside of her arm.

"No," I said, "I'm neither." And pulled her into my arms for a long kiss.

I'm not too happy with how this is playing out; as GM (and story flow intuiter) I don't really want them to sleep together this early in the game (if at all). Or narrate the fallout!

As a player, if the GM says an NPC isn't interested, I'm not going to have my character pursue them. I'm a little hampered by failing that token check, but if I had a GM, I'd ask them to come up with a graceful exit. But what?

Oh, I just thought of another option.

The girl returns and hits him upside the head with the wooden serving tray.

That sounds pretty plausible; she's been traumatized by something attacking her in the past, he's being insistent and Gray's not really amused.

[possibly: 4 1 ] Yes.