Campaign of the Month: October 2017

Blood & Bourbon

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Alice I, Epilogue

Dwindling Flame

GM: Wright takes up Alice’s offer and promises her “your monthly fix” before disappearing. Alice can’t say where he’s going or what he might be doing. She supposes she has other priorities. For a vampire he didn’t seem that bad.

Alice does her best to connect the dots. If the ghost is what’s making people sick, she needs to put a stop to that. She re-checks the bathroom and finds the salt barrier by the door broken. She is not sure how that happened. Ghosts can’t do that, right? She looks around and finds no sign of the restless spirit.

She makes her way around the party, which is winding down, and asks sick people what they’ve seen. She finds Angela coordinating “relief efforts” at the center of it all. She’s called a resident doctor she knows, to come help out. She’s sent Summer back to their parents’ house. But there’s still so much to do. Girls are scared there’s something contagious going around. Is the flu contagious? Sick people need rides home. So do drunk people. One girl threw up on an upstairs floor. People are pretty sure another sick girl got her drink spiked. She woke up in a dorm room with her pants missing, and she doesn’t remember how she got there, and she’s crying.

“There are going to be rapes,” Angela says, her face tired beyond her early 20-something years. “Guys will take advantage of the sick girls. There are so many rapes on this campus.” The university president, Edward McGregor, is “completely deaf” to all student complaints. He even had the campus police crack down on a sexual assault awareness protest.

Alice does the only thing she’s ever done. The only thing she can do.

She pitches in.

She helps people comfort the crying girl. She calls Tulane PD and tells the girl not to shower yet, so police can collect evidence for the rape kit. She helps organize a carpool to get the other drunk and sick partygoers home. She waits until Angela’s doctor gets there, until the campus police get there. She helps out where she can once they do. The ghosts are still out there, but there’s so much to do. Alice reluctantly decides to help live girls before dead ones. At the end of the night, once all the partygoers are home, once the dorm residents are in bed, once she’s done everything she can think to do and Angela and the doctor and the police say they can’t think of anything else for her to do either, Alice catches a bus home. She barely has the energy to stagger into bed.

She did what she could.

Saturday arrives. Alice wakes up, still tired. She’s so tempted to hit the snooze on her alarm. But there are things to do. She gets up, weary but ready to take on the world. She goes back to Josephine Louise House and checks in on the girls there. It wasn’t a fun way to end the evening, but they say she did what she could. She conducts another séance. The ghosts do not come. She can only cajole and entreat, not compel: perhaps they are choosing to ignore her summons. Perhaps they are gone. Alice combs over the bathroom and the rest of the dorm for clues, but doesn’t find much. She feels a headache coming on. She supposes she did all she could. The girls at the dorm thank her for her help.

Saturday becomes Sunday. She wakes up and her head still hurts. Her skin is warm. It’s hard to get out of bed, but she has schoolwork due. Plus those ghosts to do something about, somehow. Maybe she should follow up on Summer; what was up with that girl? She should talk with Penny, make sure things aren’t awkward there. Look into Sandra, too. And Rich: maybe he’s no good. She should find out who that creep watching her through her webcam was. They’re definitely up to no good. She can’t forget to check up on her mom, too, see if she’s still okay. Alice is the only one who can protect her. Michelle doesn’t know what’s out there. Plus go to work, and do her art…

How do they do it? All the other people, who know what’s out there? Life is crazy enough. How do they balance its demands with even more on top? With something no one is prepared to face, or taught will ever be part of life?

Alice soldiers on. She goes to work and feels crappy. She’s hungry for the red stuff. She gets the shakes. The sweats. Damn it, how long has it been since her last fix? Withdrawal is a bitch. “Alice, are you all right?” Michelle asks. Alice tries to say she’s fine, but there is no fooling a mother’s eyes.

It’s well there isn’t when Alice throws up. Her head spins as the bile exits her stomach. Is this just withdrawal? Did she get sick, too? Maybe food poisoning? Or just… stress? She heaves again, but watery orange is all that comes out. Her stomach cramps.

She feels arms around her before she hits the floor. “I’ve got you, Alice,” says her mother. There’s the sound of a car door closing and an engine starting. Alice zones out through the drive. For a while, she thinks her mother is taking her back to her apartment, but she’s greeted by Pierre’s mew when her mom helps her out of the car. She tries to get the door, but her mom does it for her.

“You shouldn’t do everything yourself, you know,” Michelle chides.

Part of her wants to protest. She is the only one who can do what needs to be done. Her mom helps her into the house. She feels a bed underneath her as her mom pulls off her shoes.

“I’ll take us to the ER if you don’t get any better by tomorrow. Those places just get you even sicker, a lot of the time.”

She feels a glass pressed into her hands. She takes a swig of the water. Gargles the taste of puke out of her mouth. Spits into the plastic bowl her mother holds out.

“I saw the mural you painted at the store. With the rabbit in the corner.”

She feels a pillow against her head. It’s so soft. Her eyelids are heavy.

“I always meant to ask. I can guess what the rabbit means, but what does that candle in the corner represent?”

Michelle’s face is half-veiled in shadow. Outside, the sun has nearly set. The sky will only get darker. Soon, the monsters will come out to play.

Part of Alice wants to rise and stride boldly out into the night. But her limbs are so heavy and her head is so light.

She knows what the candle is. It’s more important than the rabbit ever was. She starts to answer, but it hurts to talk. The bed is so warm and soft. She feels her mother’s hand against her brow.

“Just rest a while, Alice.”

There’s the faint click of a lightswitch. Darkness descends over the room. Night has fallen over New Orleans. Alice feels her mother’s hand squeeze against hers. She hears the sound of the woman’s steady breathing.

Just rest a while.

For now, Alice’s candle is unlit. It may be some time before its wick burns again. Perhaps it never will.

But someone else is there for her in the dark.

Perhaps, for now, that is candle enough.

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And that concludes Alice’s arc. When a PC gets retired from play, I end their story where it stood. Alice improved her relationship with her mother, so that bore consequences in her epilogue. She lured Penny away from Angela, so that state of affairs persisted, and had later consequences in another PC’s story when Angela got together with another romantic partner. Alice didn’t figure out “what is going on at this party” or lay the ghosts to rest, so those threads went unresolved. Some of Alice’s plot hooks were picked up by other PCs and played into their stories, others were dropped, and still others simply came up in the background.

One player asked me if Alice was dead, since I generally prefer to kill off ex-PCs to highlight the brutality of the setting. Alice didn’t end the game in a position of imminent peril, however, or with any NPCs actively gunning for her death, so that didn’t happen in her epilogue. Retired PCs get the endings they earn in-game.

Alice I, Epilogue
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