Last weekend, my gaming group was able to take the new GMC rules out for a spin. I had two players in on this playtest, Mappy and Silver Countess, who put together their characters in about 30 minutes or so.
They’re both old hands at the new World of Darkness system so most of character generation was painless, and aside from a bit of delay reading through the new Merits, everyone was ready to play without any problems.
The characters were a Marcus, a gang leader who uses a gun store as a front for his operations, and Heather, a young survivalist who works for Marcus as a store clerk in his business and runs the occasional errand.
The game starts with both of them having just recently concluded some business of selling illegal guns to a buyer outside of a Bus Station during a snowy day. Having finished the transaction, the two pile into their pickup truck and head back to the store.
Heather was about to turn in when Marcus discovers that there was a young boy who slipped into the pickup. Marcus threatens the boy at gunpoint, who says his name is Sean, and he was running away from his home. Marcus is hesitant about believing the boy’s story, but Heather argued that they ought to at least have the boy stay for the night rather than turn him out into the street in the snow.
Heather interviewed the boy, and learned that the boy was convinced that his mother wasn’t the same person. She looked and sounded the same, but she wasn’t. Heather was reluctant to believe such a thing, and had the boy turn in for the night for now.
She had a nightmare of being stuck in a snowy clearing in a forest of trees composed of countless syringe needles at night. She gingerly made her way through the needle-trees and found another clearing where a strange blue-eyed bird-thing was perched on a rock facing her.
“Give him back!” the bird-thing demanded, turning its head in the jerky, twisty way that birds do. The thing’s voice was a whisper, but it’s impossibly blue eyes held a strange alien malice. “Give him back!”
Heather screamed as she woke, unnerved by the vision. She saw Sean crouched in the far corner of the room, looking at her.
And this is where we got to apply the Spooked Condition
“You’re having the dreams too.” he spoke, “You’re not going to give me back now, are you?”
“You had the same dream?” Heather asked
Sean shook his head, “Only those who take me in. The first couple who took me in threw me in their car and drove me home on the first night. They told me that they didn’t know what it was they saw, but they didn’t want me in their house.”
Heather listened in disbelief. Something was after the boy, and it could follow him in dreams.
Marcus came in, gun in hand. It seems that he’d experienced the dream as well. Whatever it was was capable of affecting more than a single person, and the dreams were so terrifying that those who had given the boy shelter were all too eager to give him back to his parents right away.
Marcus and Heather conferred with each other. Something fishy was going on, and they had to find out how it all ties in together. Heather interviewed Sean again, asking about his family situation. Sean said that his father was alright, but his mother was different.
Looking to confirm the situation, Heather decided to impersonate someone from Child Services to talk to the Father. The following day, she forged an ID and spoke to Sean’s father asking about Sean’s home situation. Heather’s angle was that the boy had run away several times, and that kind of behavior wasn’t normal and possibly indicative of trouble at home.
The father, Richard, grew increasingly agitated at this line of questioning and demanded that they return his son. Heather left after Richard walked off on the conversation threatening to sue if they don’t return Sean to him.
Heather then went on to investigate the local situation, interviewing a local priest and looping in her Social Worker friend to talk to Richard in his home situation. Heather was hoping to get a chance to see the mother as well, which was present during the interview. Heather got a strange stepford wives vibe from the mother, and with a successful perception roll, realized that the Mother doesn’t blink when she’s looking at other people.
That and the eyes were impossibly blue.
The interview turned sour pretty quickly, and they were escorted out, Richard repeating his threat to sue if they don’t return Sean.
Marcus decided that it was time to do things his way. Gathering the rest of his gang, they cased the home until Richard left the house. They cut the power to the house to see if they could get a reaction from the mom, but after five minutes, nothing happened. Nobody lit a candle or a flashlight.
Marcus, feeling weirded out, slipped into the house, to discover that it looked nothing like how Heather had described it. It was filthy, dilapitated and run down. Rust and broken things littered the home, and nothing was right. He asked his gang lackey to re-connect the power line and saw everything turn perfect as soon as the lights were on.
Marcus was dumbfounded, but asked for the lackey to cut the power again as he made his way to the bedroom, where he saw a store mannequin, filthy and broken and missing an arm lying on the bed. He was about to turn to leave when the Mannequin got up and spoke in his mind.
“You shouldn’t have come here.”
He recognized the voice from the bird-thing in his dreams. He opened fire with his gun, realizing to his dismay that it did very little to stop the thing, and beat a hasty retreat.
Marcus met up with Heather giving her a rundown on what he’d encountered. Together they decided that it was imperative to figure out how to end it. Acknowledging that the thing was resistant to bullets, Marcus decided that ganging up on it with hand weapons to crush the mannequin would be the best thing to do.
They returned to the home while Richard was otherwise occupied and snuck into the basement in hopes that they’ll find out what was making the strange illusion of perfection. Upon opening the fusebox, they saw that it was empty, and the mannequin had come down to meet them.
There wasn’t much in terms of talk at this point, as Marcus and his boys basically outnumbered it, turning the thing into dust. They finished just as Richard returned, and started wailing in grief at the loss of his perfect life. Marcus left while Heather called the authorities, hoping that Richard’s state will mean that he is thrown into an asylum somewhere.
She knew that Sean was now orphaned, they didn’t know where his real mother was, and his father was now insane and police custody. She escorted him to the orphanage where she herself grew up and made a vow to come back and check up on him now and then.
And she gains the Guilty Condition for it
Right, so with that all over, the team ended the session and got about to talking about their experience with the game.
GM-wise, running GMC is pretty much the same level of complexity as regular nWoD. The Conditions took a little bit of getting used to, and I feel that having a cheat sheet of sorts to refer to with their effects will be pretty handy until I memorize what each one does. The funny thing is how easily it slots into situations in the game. When something disturbing happens, the Integrity system kicks in, and after the rolls were made, everyone gets a Condition. It doesn’t count as a speedbump (even if there was a little bit of rules lookup involved) and served to further the story and hammer home the situation that the players were in.
The Players felt that the new system had more teeth. The Conditions were something that made them feel that interactions of all sorts had actual weight, and wasn’t just pure fluff. Additionally, getting negative Conditions weren’t altogether unwelcome since it was an opportunity to get a Beat out of their trouble. That said, combat was particularly worrisome for Mappy (who played Marcus) since weapons now just added entire levels of damage. That said, he understood that nWoD wasn’t exactly a cinematic game and was keyed more strongly to horror so he enjoyed that.
Overall, I feel that the GMC rules update was a success on my gaming table. Players were more involved, and more willing to get their characters into the thick of things. Conditions gave the sense of risk, but consequently the higher chance of earning a reward in the form of Beats. The resulting Push-Pull dynamic is a very nice touch. Integrity works very well too, with characters reacting thanks to the Conditions to back up a certain behavior in response to seeing something that shakes their character’s sense of self.
I’m very happy with the rules and I’ll be running maybe another one-shot or two for this, before I start tackling what happens if I decide to run Mage with the new rules.