This is a summary of three sessions of World of Darkness which I recently played. Since describing three sessions of gaming in one go is a Herculean task to write and mythically impossible to read, I’m presenting it in the form of a post-mission chat-room debrief between the PCs. This WoD campaign is set in 2018 in America, all the PCs are normal and as far as we know there is nothing specially supernatural in the world. Europe is in a state of chaos due to some form of new virus/plague, and President McCain’s America is not the nicest of places. We are new employees of a mysterious corp called Aesir, on a three month probation, so this chat room conversation is intended to ensure our probation continues despite an adventure that, ultimately, ended in complete failure.

The PCs are:

  • John Mickson (me): a failed communist and ageing hippy, who never amounted to anything and was drifting through his 40s with nothing to show for his life until Aesir picked him up. If John can do anything (doubtful) it is talk and get people to talk; his main slogan appears to be “if you want anything done properly, don’t ask me.”
  • Nick Drake: ex-private Investigator; a mysterious figure, just some guy whose skills and background aren’t really clear, but he appears to be pretty handy with a tyre-iron
  • Meredith Archer: A forensic scientist and all around whiz-kid
  • Jade: Thug from the Brazilian favelas, the kind of chilled-out hard case who has seen enough of the gutter and its inhabitants, and dealt out enough violence, to be pretty unswayed by the usual run of human grime, treachery and decay

We also have a guy called “Andrew” shadowing us, who is charged with assessing our performance for Aesir, but who was mysteriously missing for part of this adventure. We were sent to a Native American reservation to negotiate a land deal between Strauss Industries and the local tribe (“The Tribe”). The previous negotiator, Mr. Matheson, had gone missing and we were to bring him back if possible.

—Secure Chat Log, 28 July 2018.

JM: Okay everyone, thanks for coming. I’ve asked us to do this chat because our debriefs start tomorrow and I want to be sure we all get the story straight. We agreed before we left the reservation that we want to tell the truth to Aesir, but we need to work out what we’re going to leave out. We obviously fucked this mission up completely, and if we are gonna keep our gig with Aesir they’re gonna have to judge us on our decisions and processes, not results. That means we gotta look good. Agreed?

J: Yeah sure. The less we talk about it the better I feel, though.

MA: Plan. Just gimme a moment to get some food.

ND: Yeah we better. We gonna do this consensus style with a talking stick like one of your dippy hippy groups, John?

JM: Fuck off, Nick.

JM: You don’t need a talking stick if you’re online. Fuck.

MA: Back. Gummy bears.

ND: You gonna blow your whole bonus on that crap, Meredith? You’ll get fat.

MA: It’s a statistical fact that snacking on small low sugar products can’t make you fat so long as you’re active, Nick. Don’t you read?!

J: I’m already 15 rums in. Been drinking a lot since I met the kids.

JM: Okay okay. So we know Aesir wanted the land deal to go through, and we think the Chief of the Tribe wanted it to go through, but only if he could keep the house at the centre of the land deal out of it. But Strauss Industries wouldn’t budge on dropping the house from the land. We think that’s because they knew what was in the house and their purpose was getting to it at any cost. So they weren’t honest. But now that history’s changed and the entire Tribe has been wiped from history, Aesir still seem to know all about the situation, so they must have known something about it before they sent us in. So we have to tell a story that shows we’re being honest, but we don’t want to let on some of the tougher decisions we had to take. We need to work out what to leave in and what to drop.

J: Meredith’s the smart-arse with the sparkling fucking memory. Meredith, why don’t you list the basic story from start to end so we can decide what to drop.

ND: Good idea. Get your fingers out of the gummy bears and start typing, Merry.

MA: Okay. So here’s the deal.

MA: We got into the reservation on the 24th July. It was all fine but the comms were weird and it was all a bit backward.

MA: So we had a meeting with Chief Dion, and then next day we were meant to meet Mr. Gregor from Strauss Industries.

ND: And we met that little punk Danny at Chief Dion’s. That’s important. We gotta work out what we’re gonna tell people about Danny.

J: That he was a psycho fuckwit who nearly blew up the planet?

MA: ANYWAY, Chief Dion was official about it but Danny also made it clear that they were NOT going to sell the house, no matter what. So we decided to go see what was going on in the house.

J: Big FUCK OFF mistake right there.

ND: Get another rum, J.

J: Already on it, little man.

MA: ANYWAY! So we went to the house and as soon as we went inside it all went weird. We went in the late afternoon through forest but it was daytime outside the windows, and corn fields as far as we could see. Then there were the screaming ghosts and the poems on the walls. We met the Judge on the third floor, freaked out and ran outside.

J: Freaked out? Speak for yourself. I was making a tactical retreat.

ND: The trail of piss you left behind you tells me a different story, amigo.

JM: Also the screaming.

MA: ANYWAY! We got outside and we all got ambushed by something and then we went unconscious.

J: Fuckers.

ND: Mother-fuckers.

JM: I concur. Meredith?

MA: Right. So then we woke up and we were somewhere else. Like it was the same place but all rusted and decayed, and nothing worked anymore, and a couple of months had passed.

J: Do we mention that we woke up back in time, like we lost a day?

JM: I reckon not. This story’s gonna be fucked up enough without complications we don’t need. You ever see a movie that was improved by adding time travel to the plot? Let’s just ignore it.

ND: Yeah. ’cause when we drop the time travel shit, our credibility’s gonna be so high that the multi-dimensional travel and vengeful ghosts is gonna be suddenly completely believable.

MA: You gotta do what you gotta do, Nick. I agree with dropping that bit.

J: It doesn’t make sense anyway, does it? Why did we lose half a day? What’s the fucking point of that?

MA: Yeah. Exactly. Anyway, it’s not important but let’s keep the story clean. So we went out looking for people and there was fog everywhere, and then we met the Wendigo.

J: Not an experience the Wendigo enjoyed.

ND: Until we discovered it was indestructible.

JM: Yeah, indestructible zombie Native warriors. We need to stress how tough that fucker was. No offence J, but we’re gonna have to make it sound like that fight was a real struggle even before it reanimated.

J: WTF? I kicked that thing to zombie juice like a fucking PRO, man, you gonna tell them I pussied out like you did?

JM: I was superivsing, J, supervising. Someone’s gotta direct the industry.

ND: Yeah, just like fucking Lenin.

JM: I keep telling you Nick, I’m not a fucking Leninist. His vision for worker’s empowerment lacked any sense of the role of democracy and self-determination in realizing the goal of the worker’s utopia, and he established the political context for dictatorship.

ND: Yadda yadda.

J: So why the fuck do I have to have my arse-kicking pulled from the story?

JM: Because we need our bosses to think our choices were limited. We don’t want them thinking we could just bounce around that pocket dimension kicking the snot out of the Wendigos until they came back from the dead, giving us lots of time to make whatever decisions we want. Remember our biggest fuck up was letting Strauss Industries steal Danny’s body, and the reason we made that decision is because we didn’t think we could protect ourselves from the Wendigos. That reasoning ain’t gonna wash if our bosses think you can just cock your leg and smash a Wendigo into next week. They freaked us out even after you kicked that one a new arsehole. We need to make sure our bosses understand that getting into a flat-out war with them was not a functioning plan. You don’t do that by making your first encounter sound like a turkey-shoot, do you?

J: Alright. But that was my only moment of glory in this sad fucking affair, so if you’re gonna pull that I want everyone to know you were hiding behind a car sniveling.

JM: I was not!

ND: Were too

JM: You weren’t there!

MA: Boys! Let’s just say that there was a tough fight, all of us did our bit, but finally Jade managed to get it down and kick it to shit. Okay? We all make it sound hard, right?

J: Okay. But you guys owe me a rum.

JM: Take it out of my tab. When I’m allowed to drink again.

J: Didn’t you see the sign at my bar? We don’t do tabs for commies.

JM: How many times do I have to tell you I’m not a communist? More of an anarcho-syndicalist with deep green sympathies.

ND: Yadda yadda. Get on with it Merry.

MA: Alright. Oh yeah, I think we shouldn’t tell them that Nick wasn’t there with us when we left the hotel. If they’re questioning our decisions, splitting the group up in such a weird situation might make them think we can’t work together or something. So when we met the kids, we let them think Nick was there. And we let them think we were with Nick when he met that guy in the cheap suit.

ND: Mister Opportunity?

MA: Yeah.

J: Who was that greasy rat-fucker?

ND: Who knows, but he gave me a handy music box.

JM: Too true. But we aren’t mentioning the music box, or it’ll be taken from us fast as we can blink.

MA: Good point. Okay, so we stuck together and we never found a music box or any teddy bears.

MA: Then we ran through the fog until we got to the chieftain’s meeting hall, and he was there.

J: With Danny, that little mother-fucker. Should have smacked his arse when he was bad-mouthing our commie.

JM: I am NOT a commie.

ND: Yadda yadda.

MA: So the chief told us what was happening. The basics. We tell the company the basics too, right?

JM: Right.

ND: Which are?

J: Which are that we fell neck deep in weird fucked-up shit and we barely made it out alive.

MA: There is a spirit in the house, that we call the Judge, and Danny was in touch with it through the voices in his head, and he gave Matheson to the spirit, and that enabled the spirit to enter the world.

MA: Then the spirit dragged the reservation into some spirit world, and brought in its Wendigos, and started killing all the members of the Tribe.

MA: And that this was all because of some ancient treachery 200 years ago. When Chief Dion’s ancestors went up to the house and killed the family that lived there.

JM: So do we mention the kids?

JM: I think we should. The kids are the key to the whole thing. It looks to me like the Judge used them to get into the world, then used his tenuous place in the world to get to Danny.

MA: Like he kind of boot-strapped his way into our world.

J: Boot-strapped?

MA: Yes, it’s a term from statistics, when you resample data from a sample with replacement, and use it to calculate non-parametric confidence intervals. It’s named after Baron Munchausen who fell in a lake and pulled himself out by his bootstraps.

ND: Sounds like bullshit to me.

J: What’s statistics?

JM: That’s maybe a good way to say it. First he used the ghosts of the kids, who were psychos, to get a foot-hold in the world, just enough to be able to communicate with people in the real world. But for some reason he can only communicate with people like Danny, who is a psycho just like the kids. So he waited for someone like Danny to enter the house, and then talked to him, and set up the deal with Danny to supply Mr. Matheson as a vessel.

MA: That’s bootstrapping, for sure.

JM: Our bosses are surely going to ask why the Judge was killing everyone.

J: So that he could put their souls into Danny and turn Danny into a big powerful magic monster.

JM: We agree we’re gonna tell them that?

MA: I thought we did. After all, we gotta warn them that Strauss Industries kidnapped Danny.

J: We should have killed Danny as soon as we had the chance.

JM: Yeah, but we didn’t. We have to justify that. Why?

ND: Because we had a deal with the Judge that gave us 12 hours of safe conduct, and we thought if we killed Danny the deal would be broken, so we wanted to keep him sedated until we had worked out how to deal with the Judge.

MA: We didn’t know Strauss Industries were after him.

JM: Which means we also don’t tell anyone that when we first woke up in the hotel, we found Gregor’s cigar in the lobby.

J: Yeah, ’cause then they’d realize we should have known that Gregor was in the pocket universe with us.

MA: And then they might think we should have been thinking more clearly.

ND: Which we should have.

JM: But if we had, we’d have ended up in a gunfight with Gregor and a very nasty trained assassin.

J: Without any guns.

JM: That’s another thing we have to talk up when we explain the situation. We had Danny sedated in the meeting halls, ’cause we knew he was being prepared by the Judge as a genocide machine. Then while we were trying to sort out a way to deal with the Judge, Gregor came into the infirmary through the window, killed a doctor and two nurses in cold blood, and stole Danny’s comatose body.

JM: We need to make sure our bosses know just how nasty that assassin was.

ND: Agreed.

MA: Do we tell them about meeting the Judge?

JM: Yeah.

MA: Alright. So we tell them that after the Chief told us about the Judge, we went back to the house and confronted him. That’s where we discovered that the ghosts of the children who used to live in the house were there with the Judge, and had probably been his point of contact with our world.

ND: And we also tell them that the Native Americans who killed the kids and their family had been captured by the Judge and turned into Wendigos.

MA: Yeah. So we met the Judge and the kids, and talked to them, and the kids were completely freaky.

ND: We should definitely stress how crazy the kids were.

JM: Yeah. Make clear that they were capricious and stubborn and they couldn’t be reasoned with at all, and they enjoyed pain and suffering. That’ll help our bosses understand that there was nothing we could do to get out with all the mission goals intact.

MA: Also we should tell them our suspicions that the kids were actually being used by the Judge, that it was manipulating their suffering and psychopathy to get its own ends.

JM: And that it was not a friend of the tribe, that it was using them as soul-fuel for Danny, and all that shit about the tribe being cursed by Chief Dion’s ancestors actions was just convenient bullshit for the Judge. Or is that too much supposition?

ND: Too much supposition. I mean, who gives a fuck? The Judge was a fucker and he fucked us.

J: Amen to that. All else is secondary.

JM: Alright. So we learnt those basic facts from the kids, we made a deal with the Judge to get us 12 hours to act, and Meredith stole his name.

J: Yeah, we definitely need to tell them that. That was a stroke of fucking genius.

MA: Thanks. I’m lucky I’ve got a good memory!

JM: Yeah, but thinking to memorize what was written on the top of his robes, and having the balls to get close enough to him to do it, that’s arse-kicking genius that is.

ND: Not that it mattered in the end, since Chief Dion was just a big lying sack of shit.

MA: Yeah, we should tell them that. So we got the Judge’s true name, went back to the meeting hall and got Chief Dion to translate it and work out a way to get rid of the Judge.

MA: Then a few hours later he arranged a magic circle and a ritual to send the Judge back, but didn’t tell us that it would destroy the entire pocket universe and us with it.

MA: But he wanted to use us as sacrifices for the ritual.

JM: Which was when Nick pulled out the music box and turned it on.

MA: But we don’t mention the music box.

J: So the Wendigos just came along luckily and ate all the tribal elders?

JM: Couldn’t have happened to a nicer bunch of people.

J: I could have done them in.

MA: Undoubtedly. But the Wendigos got that job done. And then while we were fighting with the Chief Dion and his stupid toughs, Gregor snuck in and stole Danny’s comatose body.

JM: And we had nothing else we could do. So we pushed the Chief outside the boundaries of the meeting hall, and the Judge took him.

MA: So we should tell our bosses that was the deal? That if we gave the Chief to the Judge inside 12 hours he would let us out of the pocket universe?

JM: Yes. And I think we should make it clear that we don’t know if Strauss Industries had a deal with the Judge or not, but maybe they did.

ND: Yeah.

J: And when I find Danny, I’m gonna make him glad he doesn’t have a soul.

JM: Amen to that.

J: Thought you commies weren’t religious?

JM: How many times do I have to tell, you, I’m not a communist?

ND: Yadda yadda.

MA: So we’re agreed? We tell them just those facts. We should tell them why we didn’t chase Strauss operatives back to the hotel before we gave the Chief to the Judge?

JM: Yeah. Two reasons right? One, we couldn’t leave the Chief alone but if we took him outside the boundaries of the meeting hall the Judge would eat him. And two, we were unarmed and the Strauss guy was a serious professional who would have whacked us as we approached the hotel.

ND: Done.

J: Done.

JM: So that’s the deal right? We all have the same story. We went to the house; got hauled off to a pocket universe; helped the Chief find a way to get rid of the Judge; discovered Danny was being prepared as a genocide machine by the spirit he had conjured; discovered the Chief was going to try and trick us into being sacrifices in a ritual that would have destroyed the pocket universe; fought our way out of it; but Strauss industries stole Danny; so we handed the Chief over to the Judge and the Judge let us go.

MA: Agreed.

J: Agreed.

ND: Agreed. Let’s hope they DO know something was up from the start, or we’re gonna be in a hell-crazy secure loony-bin by the end of tomorrow.

JM: Yeah. We fucked this up but I think we did the best we could. We should be proud of our efforts, and I hope we can work together again. Good luck in the debriefs team, hope to see you on the other side.

MA: Good luck everyone. See you soon!

ND: Here’s hoping. See you!

J: Fuck yeah. Good luck everyone! Out!