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[Actual Play] Dead Delta Blues

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  • [Actual Play] Dead Delta Blues

    Dead Delta Blues is a Geist: the Sin-Eaters Second Edition chronicle starting in Memphis, Tennessee but spanning much of the Mississippi Delta region and some places beyond. The krewe, with the mission to find forgotten or buried music from the region's storied history, often travels from their home, spending much of their time on the road. Or more often on the river itself.

    I run this chronicle over Discord every Saturday, with a mixed group of folks familiar with Chronicles of Darkness and those that are mostly new to the system. None of them played Geist before, and this was my first time running it. I wanted to make it a story that put the music and history of the region front and center, using it to mirror Geist's themes of hopeful expression, struggle against oppression, and morbid fascination. Luckily, after a few sessions of prelude and our first real session, I think it's working out quite well.

    I would cite my strongest influence was the horror comic series Harrow County, which is also why I wanted to run it as a Southern Gothic setting. The South's history also appealed to me as a parallel to Geist's themes. It was really watching the Haunting of Hill House that pushed this from an idea I had worked on for a year or so on the side to something I pushed to run and get a group together after not running anything since the pandemic began. I like to imagine the game as being a graphic novel of sorts featuring the player characters and sometimes frame it as such (making "chapters"/sessions "issues" and "stories" as "volumes.")

    I'll update every once and a while with synopses of the sessions and memorable moments drawn from it, and some custom mechanics and thoughts as they come up. Would love any feedback or questions about the chronicle as well as we go on, and will happily share the music and history I've come across putting this together.

    Without any further ado, let's meet the krewe.

    THE CACOPHONOUS REVELRY (Archetype: Mourners)

    The Mississippi Society of the Cacophonous Revelry, or the Revelry for short, formed one year ago, with Carey Quinn, Jolene "Jo" Sutton, Oleander Torres Navarro, and Dr. Victoria Wallis being the first members. Its point of origin was Carey's regular show on the college radio station 91.7FM KREV, based out of the (fictional) Winchester College (a "Little Ivy" comparable to Vanderbilt or Emory.) Originally called Sounds from the Grave, it was a project spotlighting music obscure or overlooked from deceased artists and the story of these forgotten artists. Carey explored the possibility of finding other Bound like himself by adding a call-in component where people could share their near-death experiences and make requests for specific songs. Oleander was the first other Sin-Eater to call in, and after meeting with their faculty advisor, Victoria (a mortal in the know and professor of history specializing in the Mississippi Delta valley), and their mutual acquaintance (and Sin-Eater) Jo, began to develop the thrust of their real work.

    Sounds from the Grave eventually became Live from the Grave, exploding in popularity (in part because of the new co-host, Victor "Vic" Fortune, bringing both a local devoted fanbase and a bit of an edge and puckishness to the presentation) such that it was being recorded and shared online. Jo suggested they make it a podcast, and now it's a niche media empire with over a dozen million subscribers and thousands of dedicated, hardcore fans, affectionately called "Gravediggers." While this had been the primary project of the krewe for a time, there was a push by one of its mortal members Michael Kouame (who originally got Carey to host the radio show and was mutual friend to many of the krewe) for it to become more active in its mission. Tragically, Michael has died in a still mysterious incident, likely murdered, and his ghost, despite a few glimpses during and after the funeral, is missing.

    With Michael's father (and tenured professor of music theory) Amédée Kouame's institutional support, and the financial support of their media subscribers, an unusual purchase was made: A large commercial trawler that was repurposed into a radio boat, with a large tower. Dubbed the MS Smokestack Lightning (based on the real MV Mi Amigo that for a time hosted Radio Caroline), and coming with its own old ghost and captain, the krewe has oriented towards now making a true ethnomusicological dig of the Mississippi Delta. Still rather fresh to the role, the mythos and doctrines of the krewe have only recently begun to take shape, and there's still much room for change and development.

    The player characters in the krewe are as follows:

    Carey Quinn, a stymied music producer frozen out of the recording industry who died without ever "making it" during an electrical fire in his studio that claimed him and much of his work. His career ruined, fatefully he found himself working an obscure show on a college radio station thanks to his boyfriend's recommendation that ended up becoming the genesis point of the krewe. One of the Abiding, Carey continues to play the producer role and a manager to the krewe, being the "mature one" by default, while providing much of the philosophical drive of the krewe's Mourner archetype. His Root is Curator, a custom one about preservation, and his Bloom is Surrogate. His Burden Aspiration is to produce a platinum album, and he plans to do it with the music of the dead in some fashion. He's mostly a Social focused character, and specializes in the Memoria and Tomb Haunts. He's the main presenter and host on the krewe's podcast, mostly being the straight man and is a talented interviewer. His geist is the Woman on Fire, granting him the Key of Pyre Flame, a furious but fastidious ghost that pushes him to let go of attachments and end suffering, whom is suspected to have been a woman burned as a witch.

    Jolene "Jo" Sutton was a quiet, shy kid from a rough background who ended up being fostered by her aunt in a lonely big house, finding a cause in music after learning the clarinet in school and going for a music theory degree. Her relationship with her aunt was tempestuous and after a big fight, she spent some time clearing her head in a cemetery, only to be dragged by an angry spirit from the mass grave of slaughtered natives there into the Underworld (based on a real mass grave/haunted site in Memphis). She ended up dying of deprivation in the Hell of the Underworld, leaving a pretty big impression on her, and returned to the world to find her aunt had passed away to disease, thinking that her only other family in Jo had abandoned her. As one of the Bereaved, she fills the Root and Bloom of Saved and Protagonist (another custom anchor), trying to find confidence in herself and taking on a more colorful punkish persona. Her Burden Aspiration is to find the ghost of her late aunt, who is probably in the Underworld she has a complex about returning to. She's Mental focused primarily, a grad student and researcher, but has a sneaky streak, especially with her focus on the Caul and especially Shroud Haunts. She helped push the podcast to the online medium where it flourished. Her geist is the Friend of Darkness, but she knows him as 'the Dark.' A shadowperson type figure that communicates little, hates exposure and attention, but seems resentful and capricious towards the living and dead alike. It seems connected to "senseless" death and the Key of Stillness, in the deprivation sense of being alone in darkness, without sensation.

    Morris W. Hoffmeyer is, like Carey, one of the Abiding, an attempted internet musician with a tiny following online who was desperate for fame in life. He has an unhealthy relationship (and Touchstone) with one particular obsessive fan and stalker whom he barely knows but "collaborates" and actually provides much of his sampling and music. Growing up in a privileged middle class upbringing but isolated due to their strange prepper lifestyle, he found a second life on the internet and after they passed away a lot of disposable income and a house to do nothing in until his thirties, where he died in a freak accident running deliveries on an app service and fell down some stairs. As a Casual (Root) and Pollyanna (Bloom), Morris's arc is to find another avenue outside of fame and become motivated to actually make the world better, and his surprising Physical traits and use of the Caul and Dirge Haunts give him a sort of jack-of-trades role. His Burden Aspiration, appropriately, is to find an alternative legacy to fame. He produces much of the incidental music for the podcast. His geist, the Mangled Maven, whom he nicknames 'Madeline' due to her French accent and red hair, seemed to have died in a similar freak accident way, with a broken heel and legs that bend unnaturally into a twisted neck, and is tied to the Key of Chance. Her optimism makes her seem one of the gentlest of the geists in the krewe, but there's a dangerous edge of denial and push to action, and most especially a disregard for personal safety, at odds with Morris's more laid-back nature.

    Oleander Torres Navarro (featuring art by the player) found purpose in a different vein of performance: Dance. While music is integral to it, she grew up fascinated (as a third-generation immigration) by her heritage and folklorico dancing in particular. She had always had a healthy relationship with death and helping people, even though her life was a constant series of unfortunate events. Her death in particular was the culmination of such, where in an attempt to bury her beloved fish she ended up hitting a power line and dying from electrocution. Death made her realize how little of life she had any chance to experience, constantly being set back, making her one of the Hungry. She is the most Occult focused in the group, and her desire to question and know more about the world, and remind people of their mortality (a custom Root called Inquisitor and the Cowl Bloom) help give her something of a high priestess role in the group. Her Burden Aspiration is to perform a perfect dance routine in front of a tremendous audience, which parallels her study of the occult. She helps manage the interview and "audition" process, even if Carey and Vic are the faces and more Social characters in the recruiting side of things, and specializes in the Marionette and Oracle Haunts. Her geist is an only vaguely humanoid column of melting earth (thus the Key of Grave Dirt) she calls 'El Barro', but has another name yet revealed in-game: The Stranger from the Loam. A remarkably amiable creature that soothingly promises to bury away what is unwanted, it seems to represent specifically death involving the act of burial.

    Victor "Vic" Fortune kind of deserved what he got. An outlaw country musician with a regional following, he was a self-obsessed and exploitative band leader who alienated everyone he worked with and drove himself through drink and narcotics to an early grave. Specifically, he slipped and fell off the boat he and the rest of his bandmates were partying on, while debilitated by benzos and alcohol, and most of them never noticed or cared he was gone. The one who did notice he slipped just decided to let him drown. As one of the Kindly, he is trying to be better. Like many would-be reformers, he's got good intentions but often tries too much to put himself on the front, and him and Carey have a somewhat antagonistic relationship (Advocate Root and Saved Bloom). His Burden Aspiration is to ensure the success of his old band, without benefit to himself. He's the second host on the podcast and by relating his near-death experience and adding his "good charm and humor" was a big ingredient in what made it work as a phenomenon, despite the tension between the two. He's a Social character like Carey but has more brute instruments and base cunning where Carey is a smooth operator, and he's aided by the Dirge and Boneyard Haunts. His drowning death (Deep Waters) tied him to the Bootlegger, a curiously dapper and British gangster type that appears to have been betrayed by his subordinates, and pushes Vic to think of things from a similar perspective.

    Vladimiras "Vlad" Simonis grew up in a second generation immigrant family with deep evangelical ties, and naturally rebelled against this upbringing with drugs, crime, and Satanism. Finding himself ejected onto the streets, he had nothing to believe in, but became wrapped up in the music an aesthetic of Memphis's "horrorcore" rap scene, branding himself as "Blood da Impalah", finding something worthwhile to aspire towards. Then he was shot dead in a seemingly random street killing. The Vengeful of the krewe, he brings a bit of an edge to the krewe but is also on the cusp of trying to find his faith again and pushing the krewe towards that path (Servant Root and Antihero Bloom), even if he's more willing than most to get his hands dirty. His Burden Aspiration is to take away whatever (or whomever) was most important from whomever (or whatever) took his life. He's part Social and Physical, and the best all-around combatant (especially against ghosts) in the krewe, with the Rage and Curse as Haunts he specializes in. He also does the ad reads for the podcast. His geist is the kindly but vindictive Man in Black (Key of Blood), a skull-faced cowboy with a big iron and pushed as an instrument of justice, helping Vlad find a sort of "religion" in the krewe.

    Echo is the odd one out in the group, being the only player character that's not a Sin-Eater. Neither is she a ghost, nor is she mortal. She is a Promethean, specifically an Osiran, found on the banks of the Mississippi River which she has a deep connection to. Abandoned by her progenitor, yet filled with a deep Azothic memory and transhuman potential, she ended up being adopted by the krewe after she dragged Vic's drowned body out of the river, after connecting him to Vlad whom she knew from her time among the unhoused of Memphis. She is essentially the Lt. Data of the group, having remarkably mental faculties, freakish strength, and difficulty with understanding humanity. She mans the phones for the podcast's call-in component, which gives her little glimpses into human interaction. Her inclusion in the chronicle means that I have integrated a lot of Promethean's themes and cosmology into the setting as well that we'll see play out. Her Pilgrimage will mirror the Remembrances of the Sin-Eater characters. She has started on the Refinement of Plumbum, specifically in the role of a Pilgrim, finding meaning in the krewe as one might a throng.
    That's enough for a start, so as is proper, I'll play us out with the core playlist of inspirational music (there's actually a tonne more, but this is as good a start as any...)

    Dead Delta Blues: A Spotify Playlist

    Next time: The first "issue" of Dead Delta Blues, covering the prelude and the funeral of Michael Kouame.
    Last edited by JuvenalianSatyr; 12-07-2020, 10:53 AM.

  • #2
    Dead Delta Blues Issue #1: The Wake

    Cover: A watercolor illustration of a willowy, young black man standing over his own closed casket, eyes closed and palm upon the coffin. A luminescent halo around his head is formed out of concentric golden rings, shaped together like six wings.

    Interior Splash: Our krewe is pallbearers at a funeral, draped in gray and streaking rain across the page, at an angled perspective that shows them all. Echo is taking the burden away from Carey in this picture, who was struggling with it.

    Prelude: The Funeral

    Our first two sessions were spent on a prelude. I borrowed from Werewolf: the Forsaken's example of using a funeral as a way to establish the setting and NPCs, so mostly it was used to fill out the non-player character members of the krewe as well as a few initial hooks for people to follow. While I intended the structure of the chronicle to be mainly episodic in the sense of traveling from place to place, we sowed some scenes for the overarching plot here.

    The funeral prelude starts with the Storyteller asking leading questions of the players to establish the deceased and surroundings. It's a funeral home that's been run down, clean but kind of faded, scuff marks on the carpet. The officiant is the father of the deceased, a tenured professor of music at the college known as Amédée Kouame. Originally from the Ivory Coast, he's a severe and skinny older many with transparent framed lenses and graying, slightly wild hair, as well (inadvertently he ended up looking in my head like fellow Tulsa native Cornel West). It's a non-religious ceremony of remembrance. However, while it seemed intended for a small group of family and friends, the room is packed full, with acquaintances and those who remember the deceased, or had their lives touched by him.

    The deceased is named Michael Kouame. A grad student at Winchester College, he was a beloved figure who was a political activist and education advocate, with a wide circle of friends, and close to almost everyone in the krewe. The fact he got Carey the gig doing the radio show at the college after his accident means he's pretty much responsible for the krewe's founding as well, but he wasn't in the "inner circle", not being a Sin-Eater himself. In fact, the others tried to keep him out of things for his own protection, because he was a medium that seemed to empower and agitate ghosts around him, a "beacon."

    This seems to have backfired. The official story was that he died in an accident at a warehouse. He ran a non-profit that helped provide instruments to disadvantaged schools for their band programs, so it was presumed it was something involving that. Forebodingly, it is a closed casket funeral. The krewe knows a little more: There were whispers he was trying to get involved in things beyond his ken, to get closer to the krewe. That there was someone, or *something* that wished him harm.

    Spotlighting

    After the initial setup, each of the players are asked if their character speaks, and through that establish their relationship with the deceased through flashbacks and anecdotes.

    Setting the tone, Carey is the first one to speak. Michael was Carey's ex: they had been broken up for about a year but were an item for a few months, and there was still a lot of feelings there.

    Though the players weren't expected to have a speech ready, Carey's player improvised one that ended up feeding into the krewe's Doctrines later in a big way:
    "Every instance of death intruding on life takes more than you expect, and gives back less than you want, but what you're left with is the memories you have of the person you lost. Over time, those memories are going to grow, change, and ferment, and sink into your body, and into your blood, and into your bones, and become a part of the ongoing living being that you are. So, in a way, you are never going to fully lose anyone. But... In another way, that process will end up... devouring specificity of those you lose."


    Oleander is next. One of the youngest of the krewe, she remembers that Michael tutored her in piano in high school. Music though was never her thing, and he recognized that. He was the reason she chose to actually pursue that. She says a traditional Catholic prayer to end it, even if it sounds strange to say now, with all that she knows about the nature of death. It's a comfort regardless.

    Jo and Michael were the same age, and grew up in Memphis together. They often went to different schools and sometimes were in different parts of town. They played the same instrument: The clarinet. There was always a little hero worship there, but frustration too, of always being in his shadow. She originally dropped out of college (they went to different undergrads), but were in the same program at Winchester. She's extremely nervous with public speaking.
    "Um... well.. uh... You know... I uh, knew Michael..."
    "He was really good in so many ways..." She is distracted by the casket.
    "... I'm sorry," and panics, staring into space because she's embarrassed.
    Vic didn't speak at the funeral. He wanted to wait, until everyone was gone. After the casket was lowered, before they returned for the wake, he stood at the headstone. He tells Michael's ghost, whom he gets a fleeting glimpse of, that Michael was right, and Vic was wrong. He wasn't listening then, but he's listening now. Michael had thrown Vic a life preserver during the darkest period of his life. They had a lot of mutual friends in the Memphis band scene, and even though they weren't close, Michael tried to help, and Vic threw it back in his face.

    No one else speaks at the funeral, for various reasons.

    Echo wanted to speak, but knew it'd be a bad idea. If she did though, she'd remark on how fragile she's learned people are. It's really easy to forget. Michael, a musician, seemed always a bit precious about his hands and sometimes joked about doing heavy lifting with her. She remembers he struggled with things that she never did, and he has always stood in her mind as a model of humanity, for his heart and his fragility both.

    Morris didn't have the same emotional connection with the deceased. Michael had been the one to convince him to not drop out of college, during office hours while Michael was a TA, days before Morris died in his accident. He feels more obligation than connection to the deceased, something he wasn't comfortable with.

    Vlad, on the other hand, did not like the deceased. Overall, it was just a lot of little things. The things with the hands, he said it a lot. It was annoying. He can't deny he didn't do good things. Some of the resentment might be projection, but ultimately Vlad found him 'holier-than-thou.' He's here for the rest in the krewe, and not Michael.

    Leashed

    We also used the funeral to frame and discuss each character's geist, what they appeared like, and some hints at to their urges and personalities. Each character described how their geist appeared to the others in the context of their appearance at the funeral (and their speeches, if they spoke), and one of the other players was invited to add some details about their "voice" and their character's impression of that geist.

    Vlad is wearing black, not formal clothes (intentional on their part, but easily masked among the students), something with a collar but clearly not appropriate for a funeral. The Man in Black is wearing black (naturally), 1800's Wild West clothes, a belt with spurs, bolo tie, black cowboy hat. And blood on the front shirt. The Man in Black worries Jo. Jo is a person who feels worried a lot now. She has had to deal with a lot of gross bodily fluids in her life, so it isn't the blood that bothers her. *It's the looming.* Echo remembers when the Man in Black pointed at her shattered cheekbone and said "Someone did a number on you." It sounded oddly friendly, amused, and kindly compared to its somewhat disquieting demeanor.

    Victor is short and bald. Not naturally, shaved head, shaved face. Wearing a studded leather jacket, covered in pins, patches, and badges. Combat boots, the one decent pair of jeans he owns. A button down white shirt. His one concession to the funeral. The Bootlegger is a humanoid figure that is wavy and distorted, both in general appearance and general shape. It's like you are looking at someone from the surface of a pond. The figure is wearing a black suit, 1920's/30's tailoring and a bowler hat. The face: slit mouth, slit nostrils, and nothing where the eyes should be. Carey is actually put at ease in part to how inhuman Victor's geist looks. It somehow settles him. But... he doesn't like looking at it, to be sure. Oleander finds the Bootlegger constantly suspicious and condescending. He once told her "You could have been something. Too bad you won't." His voice is a posh Mid-Atlantic.

    Oleander is wearing a traditional Mexican mourning dress. Shoulder-length curly, dark brown hair. Very curly, she can't really do anything with, just a poof on her head. The Stranger from the Loam tends to be hidden, it bubbles up from the ground. Always looks like it is a column of mud, seeping through the cracks. No discernible features. It smells of the graveyard. Vlad always feels a sinking, sick feeling in his stomach when he sees "El Barro." Vic too gets a bad feeling from the otherwise amiable Stranger, for him an immediate, instinctive fear. He was overcome with the feeling of being grabbed by the ankles and being dragged down. The voice said, "Kid, you can't go down any further than you already are." It was a deep, rumbly voice. Barely human.

    Carey is on the taller side, built solid, he has slightly wavy light brown hair that he currently has styled in an undercut. He is wearing a black suit today at the funeral that was nicely made, but it's about four years out of date. It's his one good suit, is the feeling. He has a pair of black sunglasses, and a black t-shirt with a thin gold chain underneath. Black shoes, scuffed like the floor of the funeral home. When the Woman on Fire is present, she tends to superimpose herself over him. She is burning at all times, light all around. Whenever she opens her eyes and mouth, gouts of flame spit out. The ends of her long hair dissolve into flames, while what is visible of her skin is constantly cracking and peeling, emanating off as embers. Oleander feels frustrated when seeing his geist. It's so bright. She's not disgusted, just frustrated, and unsettled. Vlad remembers once when the Woman on Fire got in close, feeling like he was going to be consumed by the flame. It felt... animalistic. Like a dog licking someone. That's how it felt to him.

    Echo, when things are working correctly, looks like a young woman, mid twenties to thirties. Skin is dark enough that she has an ambiguous ethnicity. She is wearing a black Maxi dress, goes to the floor. Hair pulled back, like she usually does. Wears transition glasses. It's bright enough in here that they have a bit of a tint to them. She feels lucky that she's pretty sure that this is all one original body. But... her creator told her that she was dredged out of a river, and that "some repair work was required." When things aren't working well, her skin is gray, lifeless. One of her cheekbones has a break in it, and it shatters sometime. Her eyes are sunken and cloudy. She looks like a mummified river corpse. She's missing three fingers on her left hand. The pinky, the middle, and ring finger. She's never been sure if all three of those were part of the ritual sacrifice, or if they were just missing. Victor has been unsettled before when seeing Echo's disfigurements, but there's also a sense of kinship. She too is one of the undead. Currently, Morris is under the effect of Disquiet, and has begun on the side obsessively writing details and planning on a side-investigation into Echo's past and nature.

    Morris is dressed up in a polo that smells like it's been in a closet. Eyes are a bit sunken, buzzed red hair, button nose and full lips. Uneven features, and off face. Khaki pants and tennis shoes. He's trying. He's clutching a tie in his pocket, not sure why he brought it. The Mangled Maven is a middle aged woman in formal attire, though quite dated, but her legs are twisted and bend backwards, and one of her high heels is broken. Her neck is loose and her head hangs off, her red hair hiding her features. She speaks with a French accent and smells of cheap perfume. Echo can only feel pity when she sees glimpses of "Madeline." Jo remembers the Maven trying to touch her dyed hair, and being very uncomfortable. The Maven said nothing, seeming confused, or surprised.

    Jo is a splash of color against her black clothing, but lacks the projected confidence of her punk aesthetic. Jo died in the dark of the Underworld. It took a long time for someone to find her. The Friend of Darkness who did is like a wispy, foggy shadow, indistinct silhouette. It's like getting the shape of someone in the dark. Every once and a while you'll get the edge of something, or a garment. Morris is filled more with a fascination than a dread from the Friend, compared to most. Carey was walking through a hallway and remembers turning a corner and the Friend of Darkness "walked through him", chilling him deeply. When he turned around to look at it, it chuckled and walked through the wall. It sounded mischievous, like this was a cruel prank.

    Connections

    We also took the opportunity to draw connections between the characters.

    Vlad <> Morris: Vlad was a soundcloud rapper in the horrorcore scene. Morris was on soundcloud producing drum and bass music. They have a weirdly productive partnership, "self-reinforcing." A feedback loop, if you will.

    Morris <> Jo: Morris found Jo's ghost in the Underworld before she accepted the Bargain, shortly after she had finally died, and convinced her to accept the Friend's bargain, something that Jo has had mixed feelings about since, as she thinks the Friend might have had something to do with her death.

    Jo <> Oleander: They both had relatives in the hospital, Jo's aunt and Oleander's grandmother. They shared a room during Jo's disappearance and the last moments of their life. Aunt told Oleander rude things about Jo, assuming she had been abandoned. Oleander's grandmother passed gently and it was fine. They were funding her way through college, there was a mixup with the will, it went to her estranged parents. Who are doing ??? with the money.

    Oleander <> Carey: When Oleander was a teenager, Carey was an intern at a local access TV station and they met backstage where she was having stage fright, and he helped build up her confidence. The special, on a local folklorico performance, ended up never airing. Later, Oleander was the first call-in to the radio station, the catalyst for the krewe's founding.

    Carey <> Victor: Carey produced a single LP for Victor's band, the Fortune Tellers. Victor was impossibly demanding, rude, and arrogant (and high), Carey tried to be professional but their styles didn't match up. It didn't work out.

    Victor <> Echo: Echo was the person who fished Victor out of the river. Echo has to sleep in water. She doesn't sleep very often, and tries not to do it places that are visible, but she was spending a lot of time by the river. Suddenly, there was this corpse that was face down, clearly dead.

    Echo <> Vlad: Echo and Vlad knew each other from their time on the streets. They had helped protect each other, though Echo cut the relationship off before the Disquiet took hold. Still, she recognized him at an open mic night, and reached out for help connecting with Vic. Then through Morris they met Jo, and the rest is history.

    Spiraling Out

    As one last step before we did some more direct interaction and roleplay, we collectively helped make some of the NPC members of the krewe, both living and dead, framed as conversations during the wake (though we go into more detail playing that out later.)

    Vlad finds Dr. Victoria Wallis, who is the faculty advisor for krewe's study and a woman in the know about the dead. He wants to leave behind the melodrama of the funeral and return to the Work. The krewe has not had many chances to really do the field investigation role they have envisioned yet, and it was Michael that was pushing them more to leave Memphis for the study. Victoria plays the role of bureaucratic interference and the legitimate figurehead for their project, helping them get academic support where she can in addition to what they can marshal from their podcast's reach and fame. Not much really is established yet about her motives or background yet.

    Victor spends time with one of the only ghostly members of the krewe, who is tied in an anchor to an old mariner's hat. They don't know his name, but he calls himself the Officer of the Deck. He's a mariner but not a riverboater. Stiff upper lip British naval officer from the early 20th century. An old ghost that should not be here. Him being in Memphis is a freak accident. He was the captain of a small Royal Navy ship during the First World War. Was making sure everything was in ship top safe. Died in a harbor collision in Portsmouth (England). The craft that he collided with was where his remains were. It was sold many times and refitted many times. It's now the boat that the krewe uses for their broadcast studio, the MS Smokestack Lightning. He owes and is owed a battle, before he can resolve his anchors and pass on.

    Carey goes to talk to Cyan Mackenzie (they/them). They are one of the session musicians that helps them record songs (rhythm guitar, generally). With them is the teenage old ghost of their dead twin, Chelsea. Carey stewards Cyan's mental state as they were broken up in particular by Michael's death, as the two were best friends. Due to county rules it's a "dry funeral" so no drinks. He stealthily offers a pull from his flask of bourbon. Cyan is in her mid-twenties, but Chelsea is a teenager forever, having died pushing Cyan out of the way of an oncoming car. Chelsea now spends most of her time judging Cyan's lifestyle choices, such as their opioid habit they have picked up from Vlad, whom they have a complicated relationship with. Cyan didn't know they were haunted for years until after they joined the krewe, and their loyalty is deep due to being "reunited" with their twin, even though they have no natural medium talent.

    Jo shares some time with Nadine Gallagher, a woman in her seventies that works at the local county clerk's office and knew Jo's aunt. Nadine is a woman in her seventies. When Jo lived in this town as a kid, she had a part time job at the same office. Big glasses, heart of gold, can't see ghosts but 100% believes in them. There's a ghost in the county records office that often interacts with her all the time, a teenage kid called Tommy. Nadine is a savvy operator who helps the krewe get vital records and has contacts at various levels of local government, plus she's on the board of the Mississippi Delta Historical Society.

    Echo tries very hard to blend into the wall but is approached by this kid, his name is Ryan Bedford. He's a college sophomore, about 19. He's super into radio. He loves the radio station and the krewe's project. He helps with the broadcasting, the technical side of things. He picks up the bagels. Sometimes. He remembers Michael from middle school. He was at one of the schools where Michael had helped fundraise for the band, so there's a deep personal connection to it, He's broken up about it. Echo has tutored him, he doesn't like her (due to Disquiet) but feels it would be rude to ignore her. They have an awkward conversation, it is blissfully short.

    Oleander receives a personal call from Shirley Nyx. Based out of nearby Nashville, Shirley is an ascended "superfan" of the podcast who has her own online brand and video series but has insinuated herself into the krewe as being the self-appointed representative of the "Gravediggers", and she seems savvy enough with the Twilight Network to be "in the know", though she's no necromancer herself. Shirley gives her condolences but also asks if there is something she can do. She usually connects the krewe with local Gravediggers when they travel outside of Memphis, and she knew they were planning to travel soon.

    Synopsis: The Wake

    The first session was mainly establishing facts and connections, and some light roleplay and flashbacks, but the second session I decided to set in the wake after the funeral proper, to give folks a chance to find the voice of their characters, and myself the NPCs, while also introducing a few plot hooks and outside NPCs. Note that Vlad's player couldn't make it for this second session, so he was presumed to have left after the

    The funeral home in Atoka, north of Memphis proper and near Winchester College, has lost much of its initial crowd during the ceremony, but there's still a lot of students in various groups that knew (or knew of) the deceased that listlessly shift around, not sure what to do. The krewe does not linger much with each other, spreading out and speaking to the various guests. There were two arguments that got some attention: Victoria seemed to be dealing with a barrage of questions from Dean Forrest, the right-arm of the "modernizing" president of the college with an eye for cutting the krewe's academic support. Professor Kouame was also in a quiet argument, seemingly over the funeral, with the only relative from his extended family present, his brother Konan (who still lives back in the Ivory Coast).

    Jo and Vic interject themselves into the conversation between Victoria and Forrest, allaying his suspicions for a time or at least feeding him a line about their intentions (he has many pointed questions about the boat they've purchased, but they assure him it was with their own funds and nothing from the academic grants). Oleander and Carey speak with the Kouame family, offering personal condolences but also trying to mediate it. Konan seems to think that his brother has rushed the funeral and that it isn't according to their family traditions. Amédée just doesn't want to talk about it, though is appreciative of Carey, remarking that they have his full support. It was what his son would have wanted. Oleander and Konan talk about their respective cultural takes on death and funerals, but when she asks a little more after the apparent estrangement between Amédée and the rest of his family back in Africa, he politely and pleasantly declines. Oleander takes this hard, thinking she probably overstepped.

    Echo parries a conversation with Ryan, while the Officer's hat gets basically passed around between all the krewe mates while he sips a spectral cognac and comments blithely on the events. It's commented on that it probably seems like a weird in-joke to onlookers to see a bunch of people at a funeral pass around a mariner's hat. Most importantly however, the Officer relates that he has seen Michael's shade only once since his death, and that it had an "unearthly" quality to it, something he would compare to St. Elmo's Fire. A suspicion is planted that blossoms over the coming time in Echo's mind at this mention: Could this be the work of the Principle?

    Morris tries his best to navigate through and see if there's anyone particularly out of place at the funeral. He finds a pair in dark sunglasses and colorful suits (and leather gloves) towards the back that stick out. He casually approaches them and tries to figure out their deal. While the man of the pair tries to intimidate him, the woman takes a more diplomatic tact, simply saying they were hoping to "reach out to talent like Michael's." She plays to Morris's desire for recognition and says that if he comes down to the studio, they can set him up, and help him and his krewe. They offer a business card with a phone number on one side and the name "PHARAOH" on the other side, before leaving. Later it is explained when Morris relates this encounter with the group that Pharaoh is the name of a powerful merchant king of the Underworld, though their exact nature and origin is not known. What is known is they have both great power over the ghosts of the Underworld across the Mississippi, some kind of occult power over landmarks like the Memphis Pyramid, runs a mafia-like organization of ghosts and human proxies that has a lot of influence in the business and music worlds on both sides of the river (living and dead), and feeds off the emotional resonance of places such as Graceland. (Almost all at once, the players theorize: "It's Elvis.")

    Oleander, feeling a bit distraught, is approached by someone to comfort her. A woman with severe features but a kindly disposition, she offers some words of solace and even offers an embrace as Oleander finally lets her emotions flow out. After this shared vulnerability, and the sharing of a little black silk handkerchief, the woman introduces herself as Delilah Howland. Delilah is a Bound, though not a Sin-Eater. Known to the living as a famous horror author, the occult world knows her as the scion of the famous Howland family of exorcists and necromancers, and she's the current leader of the other krewe in Memphis, the Sub Rosa. A powerful cabal of Elysians, the Sub Rosa is actually formed from a couple smaller krewes with mythology drawn from the Spiritualist and Freemason traditions that have a strong history in Memphis, and while fractious is unified under Delilah's leadership. With an iron grip on Memphis's Underworld, they have stymied the Revelry several times already from a distance and pushed them to consider travel for their project. Yet to Oleander in this moment, Delilah is the only one offering real comfort, even if the shadow of Delilah's goat-headed geist lurks at the edge of vision.

    Carey notices Delilah's presence and diplomatically approaches the question of Michael's death with his father. It is clear that Amédée knows more than he feels comfortable sharing, saying that he "knows not what he can say" and motioning towards Delilah. It seems the Sub Rosa is covering up the circumstances of Michael's death for reasons unknown. Echo interjects between Oleander and Delilah to try and draw her away. Carey draws some of the krewe outside to talk, including Vic, Jo and Morris, where they share some of the information they have. They also receive some information from their geists, in particular the Woman on Fire states that Michael "got only what was deserved." Carey angrily asks if any of the others have anything to say, and the Mangled Maven softly offers her condolences, and that it must be painful. This sudden moment of empathy from one of the geists renders the group speechless for a time. Echo and Oleander find Cyan, and Echo tries to comfort them as best she can, as a Promethean. The two have a conversation, and Echo realizes that Cyan has "self-medicated" a bit, sitting in the pews near the casket while everyone else is in the receiving room. They discuss what might have happened, and Cyan explains that they feel some guilt because they helped Michael get a hold of some occult materials. Cyan was under the impression it was for his work with the krewe, but suspects he called upon something he wasn't ready to deal with. Echo's suspicions deepened, because some of them sound like they were alchemical, as much as necromantic in nature. When the rest of the krewe arrive, Chelsea reveals a little more that she knows as well about the specifics, and asks if any have seen the body. Without much prodding at their answer, Chelsea goes to look, being a ghost that can push through the surface of the casket.

    Without a word, she disappears. The rest of the krewe realize Delilah was watching, and have the doors shut. They have a conversation and decide to break and meet up at Earnestine and Hazel's instead, a favorite dive bar of theirs. They make a few plans: Cyan, Carey, and Echo are going to help clean out the apartment, Morris and Vic are going to talk with the Pharaoh's people, while the rest will investigate the warehouse and elsewhere for details. They also have a discussion of alcohol, and listen to the possessed jukebox's chosen song (their favorite haunted bar of course has a haunted jukebox, which has a geist fettered to it named Mr. Scratch). Mostly it's just open RP before we close down.

    However, there is a sense of urgency. While they cancel this week's episode for their show, they know they can't do that too long, and have at most a week to wrap up things in Memphis before they start their trip south. Their first destination for the project: Natchez, Mississippi.


    The Cacophonous Revelry: Another Spotify Playlist

    Next time:The second issue, where we go back a month to the krewe's first investigation together, at the Hotel Pontotoc in Memphis.
    Last edited by JuvenalianSatyr; 12-09-2020, 10:33 AM.

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    • #3
      Aiming to have the summary of session 2 up on Friday, but in the meantime, here's some of the custom mechanics drafted up before play for the krewe and PCs.

      Mystery Cult Initiation: Cacophonous Revelry
      • What separates a Gravedigger from a Reveler is a thin line, but eventually someone calls in to the show and gets picked for an audition. At that point, they are marked as a celebrant. The krewe works through the Mississippi Delta but has little points of light all over the map, and through social media and web forums a community that provides both moral support and occult knowledge. A pledge gets a free dot of Contacts (Twilight Network).
      •• Gravediggers obsessively listen every week, looking for hidden clues and "hunts" with ARG style Easter eggs. Celebrants who have passed audition get special backer updates and pieces of information, and are tasked with filtering through EVP, old recordings, and new music, listening for clues to the dead history of music. A backer gets a free dot in Trained Observer.
      ••• It's at this point you are considered a real krewe mate. You've seen past the veil beyond life. Your focus shifts to helping other people, manning the phones and seeking out leads to pass up the chain. You also try to keep the station (and the boat it's broadcasted from) afloat. But you get something no one else gets access to: An invitation to the weekly jam sessions, the true Revelry. A sponsor gets a free dot in the Expression Skill.
      •••• You're one of the key members of the team. You're trying to put things together behind the scenes, truly dig into the Doctrines of the krewe and the idea of creating life from memory. You know a lot of techniques for recording the dead with your equipment. A producer gets the Camera Obscura merit for free (from Hurt Locker, though modified to include sound equipment).
      ••••• There's no real strict leadership in the krewe, but you have a certain genius that has put you at the center. A certain quality that makes you one of the stars, front and center. Everyone wants to hear what you have to say, no matter the barriers. A talent can make themselves understood to any being, living or dead, no matter the language or cognitive barrier, so long as they can make music. In turn, they can understand the intent of any music they hear.

      New Anchors (Root/Bloom)

      CURATOR
      Losing your life drives home just how fleeting everything is. Yet memory and the connections we forge can be far longer lasting -- why else would it be a currency in the Underworld? A curator seeks to preserve what is still extant -- or bring back what was lost.
      Single Willpower:Prioritize the safekeeping of something precious at personal cost to yourself, or those who are precious to you.
      All Willpower: Refuse a sacrifice that's more than just convenient, but seemingly necessary, and seek another way at great risk.

      INQUISITOR
      Dying tends to shatter a lot of preconceptions and perspectives. Learning there's no real afterlife (but also that something happens after you die) raises a lot of questions, and the inquisitor focuses on trying to find a truth for those living or dead seeking it, as much as themselves.
      Single Willpower: Cause someone to question something they held to be deeply true.
      All Willpower: Refuse to accept a convenient explanation at great risk to yourself or others to try and find out the truth beneath.

      PROTAGONIST
      Death can give one a lot of perspective on how much -- or usually how little -- your life amounted to. With a second go at things, a protagonist wants to make a bigger difference, and perhaps just as importantly, be acknowledged for it. Whether it is recognition among the living or validation from the dead, they are driven to put themselves in the forefront.
      Single Willpower:Volunteer to be at the forefront or riskiest part of a plan or venture.
      All Willpower: Intercede on someone else's behalf, taking on the consequences of their actions for yourself.

      . . .

      Mr. Scratch's Jukebox:Smokestack Lightnin' - Howlin' Wolf

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      • #4
        Hey, just letting you know that the previous session summaries you posted were posted to the site but weren't eaten and instead caught in the spam filter pending moderator approval, I just hope you didn't type it out multiple times.

        To avoid the filter in future avoid multiple links off-site as the software looks for that to protect our users from scams, alternatively if you need to use a lot of links maybe drop a member of the mod team a PM and get approval much faster.






        Onyx Path Forum Moderator
        Please spare a thought for updating the Exalted wiki.

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