By some stroke of happenstance only three of our regular group could make it this sunday, but that didn’t stop us from playing Monster of the Week. I wasn’t too keen to run for only two players until I realized this would be a perfect opportunity to tackle that classic of all investigation classics: the private investigator duo! Randall and Hopkirk, Mulder and Scully, John Steed and Emma Peel, Pinky and the Brain!
Rich played a Spooky and Jan played a Mundane. Perfect combo! Together they ran the Third Eye Agency which was increasingly getting a name for tackling weird and unsettling cases.
Sleepwalkers are dicks
My setup (scenario is too big a word) was inspired by a few conversations I had the week before about sleepwalkers. They basically came down to people being huge assholes while they are sleepwalking but that their actions make sense in the context of their dream. I thought it’d be neat if something was up in the Dreamlands that caused sleepwalkers to face their worst nightmares in their dream and act out their homicidal death struggle in real life. The reason they were affected was because some cultist had tried to take over the dreamlands and had gone insane because of it. Now his insanity was leaking into sleepwalkers.
To stop it, the investigators would have to travel through their own dreams to reach the heart of the Dreamlands and administer a royal smack down. I also thought it would be funny if the Spooky had all sortof batshit crazy homicidal dreams that were psychological and terrifying and the Mundane would have dreams about showing up in school without pants.
We’re going to have to go deeper
Half an hour before the game Rich decided that his Spooky was spiraling out of control because he foresaw his wife’s death, but he couldn’t stop it.
Well shit, we independently cobbled together Inception. That didn’t bother me overly much because I thought Inception was boring rationalist fantasy of what dreams are all about and we could do a lot better than that, but still: unintentional, you guys!
The investigation part of the game took about three hours and centered on two cases. One was their damsel in distress who had come to the agency because her girlfriend had tried to choke her in the middle of the night with no reason at all. She came here because “I know all victims of domestic violence say the other person wasn’t themselves. But she really wasn’t herself”. The other case was a murder case: a guy woke up to find his girlfriend who was stabbed 40 times and still holding the knife. It took them a while to figure out that the first lady had nightmares of being attacked by clowns, and the second had a phobia for bugs.
The investigation has a few nice character shots and some great scenes showcasing the partners relationship. The Spooky was the veteran with all the connections, but he clearly needed the more naive Mundane to keep him grounded.
Our dear Spooky botches all of his rolls which means he’s already pretty unhinged before we even get to the good bits. He’s confusing his late wife with the client, seeing things… It was very nice to actually get to do some deep Spooky stuff. Usually the Spooky’s dark side gets swept under the rug that is the story of the week. Pretty cool to be able to put it at the forefront. Jan is playing his mundane as the straight guy to all of this weirdness and doing it extremely well.
Unfortunately my clues for getting into the Dreamlands weren’t very clear, so they needed to seek guidance from Constance, the Hedge Fund Wizard of Wall Street . She gave them a low down in exchange for some favors and a latte macchiato, and stole the Mundane’s heart along the way.
Enter the Dreamlands
That lead us into the second part where the Spooky did a wonderful ritual to transport their spirits to the Dreamlands. They realise their bodies will stay behind as sleepwalkers, but don’t manage to cuff themselves to the radiator before they fall asleep. Whoops, I’m sure that won’t come back to bite them on the ass!
Then we get to my favorite part of this story: dreams! Connie has done some minor magic that means the partners are bound together in the dream world, so they will be sharing each other’s dreams. Queue buddy cop movie experience! The Mundane gets stuck in the most ordinary run of the mill dreams where he shows up in class without his pants, is late for work, or is on a date with Connie while all his teeth fall out.
Meanwhile, the Spooky only has one nightmare that haunts him day and night. He’s on the balcony his wife fell off of, his arm outstretched, never quite able to reach her. Time frozen. It’s up to the Mundane to talk him out of it, to get him to let her go. To stop endlessly trying and failing to save her.
After a few more of the Mundane’s silly dreams, they reach the heart of the Dreamlands. Here they see the cultist, but he instantly splits into two nightmares. The Spooky has to face his wife again, but this time how she looked after the fall, her face and shoulder collapsed, broken glass piercing her eye, attacking him with a big glass shard. Meanwhile, the mundane is facing a version of himself that has totally embraced his own weirdness, a wild sorcerer that feels weird and tainted. While the Spooky takes out his gun and shoots the horrible memory of his wife, the Mundane uses his oops! move to find something useful. Oh look! It’s that mask that the cultist was wearing all that time, just lying on the ground and oozing with arcane power.
What happens when your luck points runs out
The Mundane puts it on and spents his final luck point. He realises that the mask is the very heart of the dreaming. That our cultist went insane because he physically entered the dreaming instead of leaving his body behind. The Mundane also realises that there is no way back for him.
When the Spooky finally destroys his nightmare with a final headshot, the Mundane is waiting for him. He tells him he really appreciated his partnership and friendship. Before the Spooky even realises what is happening, the Mundane sends him back to the real world. The room is a mess from all the damage they did while sleepwalking. In the middle of the ruined room the Spooky finds his partner, shot in the head, and his own gun still smoking.
It’s a long time before he manages to deal with the mess and dares to sleep again. But when he does, the Mundane is there and explains that everything is just fine.
Sweet dreams, Spooky!
Good session! Well, the story was good, the players were great, and the set up for drama was spectacular. Looking back at the video, my GM’ing was kind of confusing and ruffled, but that’s to be expected for a spontaneous mostly improv Monster of the Week.
It felt weird killing one of my two characters, but I knew Jan would like it. And besides, he did cross of his final luck point. When I do that as a player, it’s almost always because I want my character to die at the end of the session. Because I think it could be epic and awesome. For me, it’s kind of shorthand for: It’s okay to kill me, GM! This might not be the case for everyone, but since it’s clearly advertised in the game, I will try to make it happen if a cool way presents itself.
I also felt a bit bad about piling increasing amounts of pain unto the Spooky, even though his many botches (and the fact that he’s a drama lover and picked a Spooky in the first place). I especially wavered about making it clear that the Spooky had shot his partner in the head during their foray into the Dreamlands, but that’s the way it had to be. Like Rich said: “I gave you the stick and you relentlessly beat me with it”.
So all in all, good fun!