Nov. 14th, 2012

innocent_man: (buttons)
Monday night I ran a World of Darkness game using the rules revisions from the upcoming God-Machine Chronicle. So here's what we've got.

The characters are all law enforcement...but from different cities:

  • Ashton King, behavior psychology and profiler from Detroit.
  • Khandi Cochrane, medical examiner and forensic expert from Tulsa.
  • Ryan Mallory, fresh recruit and crack shot from Columbus.
  • Walt Lundy, FBI agent and the team's handler from Washington DC.

Here's what happened: Three nights ago, three murders took place (Tulsa, Columbus, Detroit). Each murder happened at the same time, in exactly the same locked or closed rooms, with no witnesses. The prevailing belief is that this has to be a group pulling some kind of trick, but the powers that be, after a lot of media exposure and talk about the "Phantom Killer" or the "Tri-State Ghost", put together a task force, one officer from each city, and put a plane at their disposal. This is mostly show for the media, and the departments have their own investigations ongoing as well.

So the characters meet up, introduce themselves (in Tulsa, which is where Cochrane's lab is, of course) and start going over data. The three victims were Rosa Kerby (Tulsa; female, 43 years old, husband was home at the time); Craig Lowder (Detroit, male, 26 years old, lives alone, multiple locks on door which weren't disturbed); and Gloria Ault (Columbus, female, 35 years old, husband was out of town, house alarm wasn't tripped but was armed).

The victims had nothing in common. They hadn't moved recently, they'd had no common cable or repair companies, and they never met each other. They were different races (Kerby was mixed Hispanic/white, Lowder was black, Ault was white), different ages, and different socio-economic status (Kerby was lower-middle, Lowder was blue collar, Ault was upper-middle). Each had been killed by a single puncture wound to the throat, piercing the carotid artery; they bled to death in seconds.

In all three crime scenes, a strange doodle was found on the wall in black marker. The actual marker was found in Columbus. Put together, the doodles resembled a key. CS teams also found a set of fingerprints at each scene, one that didn't match any of the inhabitants and (thus far) hadn't turned up in any databases).

Cochrane and Lundy went to the lab to go over data and assist with the autopsy of Kerby, while King and Mallory went to the local hospital's psych ward to interview her widower (he was still in severe PTSD and shock).

Cochrane discovered that the wound on Kerby's neck was thin and narrow; her best guess was an ice pick. There was one wound, forceful and decisive, but very precise, probably delivered while she was standing or sitting up by an assailant in front of her using his left hand or behind her using his right. There was some kind of residue in the wound, probably from the blade; analysis revealed it was rust. Blood toxicology came back negative, and her stomach contents revealed she'd eaten dinner and nothing after that.

Cochrane made some calls and found that Detroit was dragging their feet on the Lowder autopsy, so she called the airport and had them make the plane ready; she'd just go do it herself.

Meanwhile, King and Mallory were at the psych ward. They questioned Bill Kerby, Rosa's husband, and learned that he'd had trouble sleeping so he'd left the bedroom and gone to the living room to read. About midnight he heard a thud from the bedroom, rushed in (thinking she'd fallen) and discovered her on the floor, bleeding to death. He hadn't seen or heard anyone, and the door the bedroom was still closed. He had, obviously, been the first suspect, but King felt his grief was genuine. The forensics didn't match anyway.

The characters regrouped at the crime scene and studied the initial photos and the room. The doodle (the top of the key) was scribbled on the mirror next to where Rosa had fallen. Based on the blood splatter, the group concluded that she had been sitting up in bed, had thrown the covers off (maybe to get up), and had been stabbed from behind by a right-handed assailant who was slightly taller than she was. The arterial spray hit the wall, she fell right out of the bed and onto the floor...but that's where it got weird.

There was no way someone could have gotten out from behind her and out of the room without leaving footprints, and there were none, not on the bed or through the blood. The killer had, apparently, simply vanished.

At this point, the characters decided they'd head to Detroit and look into Lowder's murder. So that's where we pick up next time.

System notes: Honestly nothing to report. We used the new system for extended actions, but since the new stuff only comes into play when you fail or exceptionally succeed (neither of which happened), that didn't really change much. The group wasn't crazy about Aspirations, but that was mostly because it was the first session and they're hard to set until you've played the character once or twice (which I've amended the text to reflect).
innocent_man: (labrodors)
Face/Off is a John Woo action flick starring John Travolta and Nicolas Cage. It's pretty absurd, especially where little things like physics are concerned, but that's kinda par for the course for Woo.

Sean Archer (Travolta) is a high-ranking FBI agent. Castor Troy (Cage) is a terrorist-for-hire. When Troy tries to kill Archer, he accidentally kills Archer's five-year-old son instead (something I never noticed before: Before he takes the shot, Troy looks down at his drink and misses that the boy is snuggled up to his dad; he waits until he thinks the kid is clear before shooting. That's subtle, and I like that it's never called out). Archer, naturally, spends the next X years obsessively tracking Troy and his brother, Pollux (Alessandro Nivola), until he finally catches up with them. Both brothers are caught, but Castor is supposedly killed.

But no, he's just in a coma. And a good thing, too, because there's this bomb that's going to blow up in LA, and only Pollux knows where it is. So, obviously, the only option is an experimental surgical procedure that switches the faces of Archer and Troy (like, literally, they take their faces off and graft Troy's to Archer's head, along with a half-dozen other little procedures to cover the face that Cage is much leaner than Travolta). And then Archer (now in Troy's face and body) goes into Erehwon prison (a secret, illegal prison somewhere in the ocean), talks Pollux into revealing where the bomb is, and all is well...

Oh, except Troy wakes up, has his goons go get the doctor responsible and the two agents who know about the plan (this is all highly illegal so it's off the books), and has the doctor make Troy into Archer. DUN-DUN-DUN. (Oh, then he kills everybody, which personally I think might have been a bit of an oversight. Why not kidnap the doctor and keep him alive, so that he could switch them back eventually? Then again Troy isn't presented as the most lucid of individuals.)

So now Archer has to escape, find Troy, foil his evil plans, convince his wife that he is who he says, blah blah.

The movie actually has some interesting nuance, and it's easy to miss under all the stupid physics. Troy, no matter who's playing him, is gleeful, chaotic and violent, almost Joker-like, but then his brother dies and it's just not fun anymore. He gets it back a little in the final confrontation, but there's an anger and a personal hurt that wasn't there before. The actors really put effort into creating these characters and then playing them differently, and it reads (as does Archer's anguish at having to be Troy). There's almost a moment where Troy starts to understand what he really did to Archer, but it doesn't quite read (at the graveyard; I'd like to know what Travolta was going for there). And then there's the bit in the one gunfight where they wind up pointing guns at mirrors, therefore at the people they'd really like to shoot.

Body count is high, but yeah, it's a Woo film. Lots of slo-mo, some doves at the end. It's a good action flick, and it twigged me a bit when I first saw it, but I was 23 and in a weird place. Now it just is what it is.

My grade: B+
Rewatch value: Medium-low. Little heavy for fun action, little stupid for serious action.

Next up: Fallen


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