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Actual Play: The Five Stages of Grief and Paradox

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  • Actual Play: The Five Stages of Grief and Paradox

    So, I had a game last weekend that I want to share. It involved a trip through an Abyssal Verge to recover part of an Artifact being used to imprison a Bound within said Verge. Accidentally the Artifact was damaged and it opened the Verge, with half of it dropping through it. Up front I will say that the party only brushed with the Bound a little and didn't confront it directly (maybe in another game). The main focus was on the actual trip through the Verge.

    The player characters for this game were Kalindi (Silver Ladder, Moros, Pure Sovereigns), 23 (Free Council, Acanthus) and joined by special guests Persephone (Adamantine Arrow, Mastigos, Brotherhood of the Demon Wind) and Erebus (Apostate Moros, actually trained by a Sin-Eater). Kalindi and 23 had already entered the Verge previously, but just the outskirts (I'll go in more detail below).

    The players had received a "map" of the Verge from some Seers of the Throne that also had information about the imprisoned Bound, as well as their help in closing the Verge if they returned with the Artiafact. Ownership of the Artifact would be settled afterwards, but there was no need to discuss about it yet. The map itself was more like a puzzle than an actual map however: it was basically a simple diagram that contained the 5 stages of Grief in circles with some arrows drawn between them and a few anotations around the circles.

    The cabal made their entrance with style by DRIVING into the Verge in their BMW, although the car didn't survive the first encounter and had to be left behind (a dramatic failure may have been involved). When the party arrived, they were greeted by a scene that Kalindi and 23 had already seen before.

    STAGE 1: DENIAL AND ISOLATION

    The place is a single street surrounded by shadows and ruins from every side. Every time you enter you see the same scene replaying again. What is your greatest regret? Perhaps something you should have changed. Maybe you can change it. This time is your time. The Abyss can change anything. In the street, 23 sees his 10 year old brother who was accidentally murdered after accidentally stumbling through a gang shootout. The first time 23 and Kalindi were here, he jumped in front of his brother and took a bullet for him. The gunshot wasn't so bad as what happened later. The next day, 23 received a call from his dead brother, "pick me up at the bus station, will ya?" With tears in his eyes, 23 went looking for his brother. Except his brother wasn't there. Instead they found the grown up ghost of his 10 year brother, unaware of what was going on, unaware that it had been dead for more than a decade. They had to destroy that ghost. So the second time, 23 simply stood there and watched his brother die.

    STAGE 2: ANGER

    The party finds an exit through a bright light. They can't fit through and get frustrated. Inappropriate comments are made and punches fly. The light grows brighter and welcomes them forward. However, Kalindi denies her anger and is left behind, splitting the party. Talking frogs with Kalindi's face mock them and 23 shoots them with a shotgun. This opens the door between the spaces again, but unfortunately gravely wounds Kalindi as well, leaving them on the verge of death. He decides to rewind time bu causes a Paradox. Now there are two 23s. Kalindi doesn't believe they are both 23 and tries to do her best to "uncover" the doppelganger, but Erebus discovers they both have the same Soul. 23 himself (and the other 23 which now calls himself 72) agrees that the other is not a "fake" but rather they are both real. However, they also agree that they can't go back to the Fallen World and after some intervention from Persephone, they convince one of them to stay. They hear a door becoming unlocked.

    STAGE 3: BARGAINING

    The party walks through an endless morgue. On every mortuary box is the corpse of someone or something, but they are not always dead people. Finding no exit they realize they must look through the boxes. Persephone opens a box containing herself and her dead lover, another young Arrow recruit whom she had failed to save during a raid on a Scelesti. Flowers bloom and a seed appears on her hand. The seed tells her that she can bring him back, she just needs to plant the seed in the Fallen World. Her friends voices join the chorus in her head, "Nothing has to be impossible Persephone!" She remembers the words of her Mentors, "Existence is War" and she sets fire to the box, tossing the seed in there and punching the metal box closed until it stops moving. Meanwhile Erebus opens a box and water starts to pour out. He remembers when his Sin-Eater mentor forced him to watch a woman try and fail to save her baby from drowning during a flood. "You have to watch and feel how death flows through you, you cannot help her." In the end he didn't stay too long after that, not long enough to see the woman commit suicide a few minutes later. But now he peers into the water and everyone knows. "We all have to die someday." And he closes the box. The cold water never stops streaming out.

    Kalindi sees a box with light pouring out. She knows this light. She knows the voice on the other side. Her grandma, whom she loved very much, she made a promise to see her before her death (and bring her non-existent fiancee along) and she never had the heart to use her spells to summon her ghost (the ghost was not her grandma, just an echo after all). But now she wants to give in to the guilt and confront her. Too bad the Abyss is not about learning a lesson. When the box is opened a crab-like monstrosity spawns out, Erebus shots it, but his bullet take the form of dead babies. Persephone and 23 join the fight and they manage to murder the thing and hear the laments of an elderly woman inside. They tear the creature open and find Kalindis grandma. Unfortunately, she doesn't remember her and is also blind. Kalindi breaks down but Persephone risks a Paradox to take the appearance of Kalindi's crush (a young Guardian of the Veil) and convinces them both that this is a goodbye. Also, Tom was in this scene and imparted some words of Wisdom, but also warned them not to learn too much Wisdom from the Abyss, it might make you feel better with yourself, but it is not Truth.

    STAGE 4: DEPRESSION

    A bloody gash appears on the wall and the mage's crawl through it to exit the morgue. They find themselves of the back of Persephone's arm, stepping out of a slash across her wrist. The normal-sized Persephone in the group actually does look at her own arm, and yes, they are there. Even herself. Looking up they see Persephone's face as big as a skyscrapper and beyond her, a night sky full of stars. But the starts aren't right. Their angles are a little bit off. Risking another spell, Erebus feels the substance of the Artifact they are looking for is actually near, but apparently it is up in the sky. Then, Persephone notices a huge spider climbing down her shoulder and towards the party. She tries to stop it, but she just can't, the spider is too strong for her to brush off. Instead, she grabs the party (including herself) and transfers them to the other side of her body, keeping them away from the spider. The cast catches a glimpse of the monster: a creature with twelve legs and twelve eyes, with extremely long woman torsos growing out of each eye and ending in literally nothing. Erebus prompts Persephone to move them even closer to the stars, and although the feeling of getting closer to them is incredibly nauseating, they endure.

    STAGE 5: ACCEPTANCE

    The Storyteller is not sure what happened here. The Abyss was just too close. The Seers had warned them about the Iris at the end of the road. Take the Artifact and turn back, go any deeper than this and you will never return. Or maybe you will always return, eternally, it doesn't really matter. The stars were roads of light and spider webs. The huge Persephone turned to stone and crumbled down when the smaller one got off her own hand. Some NPCs appeared. I am not sure which ones. Maybe some flashbacks happened. Or they happened for the first time and the previous time they were a premonition. I lost track of what game we were playing. Or if this was a game. Or if I was player or Storyteller. I think they found the Artifact and headed back home. When they got out summer was no longer freezing cold and no meteorites had destroyed their Sanctum, and strangely those things seemed so real back then. Yes, this was home again. Or maybe it doesn't matter. Erebus said it best.

    THE END

  • #2
    I don't know why, but the webpage doesn't let me like the hell of this post. My mind was utterly blown. Thank you for sharing this.

    Also, consider it stolen. I *need* to run this story with my group. Or else paradox...

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    • #3
      I like how the story amps up to about 5 Cuils in the end.

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      • #4
        Excellent Abyssal Verge arthexis,

        The best part is that this could potentially work for any other gameline too. Imagine what would happen if some Kindred stumble into this Paradoxical nightmare. ^_^

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        • #5
          Oh by the way, just in case it was not clear in the story: they left one of the 23s inside the Verge, but both were perfectly real and normal.

          Just for the record, about 2 sessions back, 23 saw the future and saw an alternate 23 breaking into his Sanctum in the future. That 23 used his same Dedicated Magical Tool (a stolen smartphone) but holding it upside down and with letters written in reverse to the screen.

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