My Games

Friday, April 16, 2021

MRD Campaign Play Report Summaries (6-11)

My Maximum Recursion Depth campaign has continued, yet it's been a while since I've written a play report. You can see a summary of the last handful of sessions here, and from there it links to a bunch of other stuff if you're interested. Here I will attempt to summarize the last several sessions of the campaign.

If you're interested more in my approach to game design and GMing style, check out some of my other recent posts like my post on non-combat conflict encounters which includes some examples from the module in the (slightly delayed but still soon to come) MRD book, or my post on how rather than narrative or problem-solving or the usual things people look for in RPGs per se, my main interest is in exploring tabletop RPGs as performance art.

I tried to keep these PRs brief, might be missing or misremembering certain details, but hopefully these are mostly on point.


Alco (SlimyKeyboard): A student in a trade school for plumbing. While working the pipes for the Poltergeist Investigators (the original team), she inadvertently activated her Poltergeist Form, Ghost in the Mirror, and has since joined the team.

Jack (Eight): A "wetworker", a Recurser with the Poltergeist Form, On a Full Moon an Ichor Heart. Works for the Nature Spirit drug dealer Chester, and has joined this team of Poltergeist Investigators on Chester's behalf.

Adore "Dori" Greyfeldt (Fiona Maeve Geist): An enforcer, also working with the team on Chester's behalf. Her Poltergeist Form is Crashing Rocket Nixie.

Pauling Linus had to drop out because the Player had a baby! He may eventually come back, but is not involved in any of these play reports.

PR 6
The Team head to Forest Hills, Queens, for the Christmas Toy Drive Festival. After the Christmas in July (in August) Toy Drive Festival Fiasco, many expect the return of Pepper Pan and the Recess Rascals, and the Poltergeist the Team is investigating, Barry O’Brien-Gonzalez aka Junior, is suspected to have joined the Recess Rascals.

The Team splits up to investigate various locations. Dori investigates the Metropolitan Theater and encounters a Recess Rascal with the powers of superhero action figure Macro-Man and has to play an elaborate game of hide and seek.

Jack investigates Edie's Sweetes Shoppe and has to do an Egg Cream drinking bet with a bloated Scurvy Kid, at risk of getting a Tummy Ache (or the scurvy kid exploding...).

Alco heads to Alphonso's Chocolatier and gets into a PRO Conflict with a Recess Rascal protected by a Devil in the form of a human-sized Suzy Suburb doll.

Altogether, they get into a curry cooking competition with a group of Recess Rascals at Segura's Curry Shop and they win a Funky Pot.

Eventually, Pepper Pan makes her move, and the Arch-Devil of The Court of Those Who Break Their Toys, Joffrey the Giraffe, hack into the electronics in the area. The Team manages to disable Joffrey and banish him back to his Court, defeat Pepper Pan and the Recess Rascals, and after a troubling conversation with Junior over his short life and the unfairness of his existence, they help him to be properly reincarnated.

PR 7
Via "GM Fiat", I tell the players that the Team is at a fancy apartment in Tribeca, investigating the Poltergeist of Olivia Loeb, alongside Soft Mother and "Denny" (Do No Evil Monkey Robot). They are not aware of who sent them on this Investigation, or why, and they do not actually ask this question for at least a couple more sessions! Olivia Loeb is the granddaughter of Manny Loeb, the suspected head of the underground casino (the same that Barry O'Brien was indebted to in the last Investigation), and it is believed that Olivia died in some internal gang conflict.

They investigate "The Loop" of the apartment building, basically a micro hyperloop in place of an elevator in the building, which distorts their perceptions within the tube via a Doppler Effect (why would one experience a Doppler Effect from within a moving object...;)?).

They encounter some strangeness, and Doctor Loves-Me-Not attempts to reach them and give them warnings through landline phones throughout the apartment. Eventually, suspect that they are in some kind of unreal space, but the particulars elude them and they move on to follow up on other things.

Also, Jack is hacked and blackmailed by a mysterious individual known as The Multi-Armed Bandit, who demands that he rescue a woman, Yana Yasak, who had been framed for corporate espionage, as she has information on the underground casino. It is unknown at this time what the Multi-Armed Bandit actually wants.

Yana's Devil Dog

PR 8
Via "GM Fiat" again, the Team is at the Apartment, waiting to speak with Doctor Loves-Me-Not, where they first encounter two odd fellows, Hopscotch and Honeybee.
“It’s me. I’ve routed The Loop to my hideout, it’s safe. Come.”
When they arrive, Hopscotch and Honeybee are there.
“Ooh! We made this appointment for-eeeever ago, and he’s gonna see youse guys first?” 
The team asks who they are:
“Eeh, don’t w-ooorry about it. We’re not imp-ooortant yet. The guy in charge just likes us to make an appearance now and then.”
Honeybee says: “It’s not like we’re short on time, hehe.”
Hopscotch: “Ooh! Don’t say that around them. They don’t know what’s going on, they have no i-dea what they’re in for. You’re just gonna conf-uuuuse them. Anyway folks, nothing to it, go on to your appointment.”
Doctor Loves-Me-Not goes on to give them three oracle-like hints: 
"Don't Trust Her"
"Now is the time to Explore, not to Exploit"
"Remember Where You are in Relation to the Siren"

The Team is using The Court of Those Who Bet on the Wrong Horse as their base of operations, so after coming out of this shared cognitive distortion and back to reality, they head there to discuss with Barsabbas and amongst themselves their plan.

They come up with an elaborate heist to rescue Yana Yasak from the Brooklyn Detention Center, made more complicated by her Karmically Attached Devil Dog. They also have to circumvent the hostile and extremely unethical Orange Goblin paramilitary private security hired to watch Yana. Using Alco's plumbing knowledge, they manage to break in in disguise as plumbers, rescue Yana and send her through a portal to the Court. Afterward, she reveals some more information about the casino and gang conflict and provides the Team with a Torch of Primordial Fire, a Poltergeist-busting flashlight that also provides WIS insights.

They return to the Apartment to finally rescue Olivia, at which point they encounter Dick "Fuck Ya" Smashburn and a SWAT military-police team roll up on the scene, along with the experimentally-powered Redlight / Greenlight soldiers (cliffhanger for next session).

PR 9
The Team holds them off for a while before Wire Mother shows up and all hell breaks loose. They do manage to escape, but only after Dori makes a suicide run to hold off the opposition and then uses her Reincarnation Ritual.

With Olivia now in their Court, the Team wants to assault the underground casino, both to resolve this Investigation, and also because of The Multi-Armed Bandit.

Several events unfold in the planning:

Yohannes, the grandson of Shining Ostrich and a higher-ranking member of the underground casino, wants to talk with the Team and initiate them. This would involve a Karmic Attachment / blood pact where they accept that eventually, one of them will be forced to kill one of the companions. Olivia makes a counter-offer, and Dori decides to make a Karmic Attachment with Olivia, a blood pact to be her protector for the rest of her life, without first consulting Yohannes. In return, Olivia will keep Dori's counsel and interests.

Jack is forced by The Multi-Armed Bandit to make a Karmic Attachment with Alco, to develop a genuine empathetic connection with her (not romantic or anything like that, just to open up as a person and accept someone else in his life).

The Team reveals to Barsabbas the truth that the Court of Those Who Bet on the Wrong Horse had been decommissioned unbeknownst to him, due to Bureaucratic Error. They make a business deal* with him that if they take over the underground casino, they'll work with Barsabbas to get the Court recommissioned.

* I made a point of saying several times to the Team that this would be just a "business deal", in contrast to the Karmic Attachment "Blood Pacts" with Yohannes and/or Olivia. This is because, unbeknownst to the Team, Barsabbas had already been made aware of the decommissioning inadvertently in conversation with Sweet Romeo, who the Team had left behind in the Court, and Barsabbas had already cut a deal on his own with the casino while the Team had disappeared at The Apartment (details soon!). He intended to fold the Team into these plans and honoring his deal, but he was not aware of Dori's Karmic Attachment with Olivia, which will complicate things down the line...

Through means which I no longer remember off-hand, the Team manages to summon Doctor Loves-Me-Not back to reality and learn a whole bunch of other information. They learned that the formation of the United States Government led to the epiphenomenal birth of an emergent distributed intelligence known as The Doppler Potential, which seeks to attain godhood. It has created an artificial Court of Hell, The Court at the Center of the Universe (And Yet it Moves), and that in fact, The Apartment that they rescued Olivia from is actually part of this artificial Court.

They also learned that whoever killed Olivia had sold her to The Doppler Potential so that she would not wind up in a regular Court of Hell, where inevitably Manny would find out what had happened.

I think this is also the session where they finally questioned how they even got started on this Investigation and were disconcerted to learn that there was no actual answer, or none that they can find, in any case.

They end the session determined to infiltrate and overthrow the underground casino.

PR 10
The Team makes an elaborate plan to infiltrate the casino via multiple avenues. Dori uses Olivia's knowledge to enter. Alco reaches out to Shining Ostrich who gets her invited. Jack returns Sweet Romeo to the Suzano Crime Family and asks them to hire him. Also, I don't remember when exactly this happened now, but Olivia went into a cocoon-like state and can still communicate with Dori but more so empathetically than through words or thoughts. Dori keeps Olivia in her pocket.

Before that, they go to Jack's "Dry Cleaners" where they receive multiple special items, including a Power Suit, Detail Devil, and Mantra of ABC.

During her brief time in the casino, Alco starts gambling and quickly finds herself deep in debt.

As they each infiltrate, they learn that the underground casino is actually just one small part of a much larger organization known as Anti-Sphinx. This organization was founded by Myer Lansky of the National Crime Syndicate, Alan Turing, Hedy Lamarr, the Lakota Code Talkers, and numerous other individuals in organized crime and cryptoanalysis after World War 2. It is an international crime syndicate with numerous legal and illegal ventures, it creates and maintains the QlippothNet "Dark Web" as well as the Qlippoth Hell-Money cryptocurrency, and is also aggressively Antifa.

Full-scale war breaks out as Olivia Loyalists, Barsabbas' Devils, and the Team (including The Bear) face off against Anti-Sphinx and associated crime families. Along the way, Jack questions via evisceration several gangsters, and eventually learns that The Multi-Armed Bandit is actually the Poltergeist Alexei Strauss, the very same who initiated the internet alt-right hate group the Deseret Avengers, and they have infiltrated Anti-Sphinx.

Eventually, they reach Manny Loeb and Yohannes... and Barsabbas!

Barsabbas reveals that he had already worked out a deal with Manny. Additionally, the Team learns that actually Olivia had been gaslighting the aging Manny and committing elder abuse and that a group of Manny Loyalists killed her behind Manny's back in order to protect him and the organization, despite himself. Also, Jack suspects that Alexei had blackmailed them to help Olivia, and that possibly they were working together. Nonetheless, Dori made her Pact with Olivia.

PR 11

Jack attacks Barsabbas, and all hell breaks loose again. Barsabbas, an arch-devil, is mostly unthreatened, however, he expresses hurt that the Team can't see his perspective on why he felt the need to work his own angle, and still wants to come to terms with them, but they aren't having it.

Alco uses her Two Truths and One Lie to glean the following:
"Barsabbas will always work his own angle"
"You were lost in The Court at the Center of the Universe (And Yet it Moves) for much longer than you've been told"
"Barsabbas is rooting against himself"

Jack gets shot real bad and is on death's door. Then, Manny stands up and reveals himself to be an incarnation of the Boddhisatva Manjushri. He tells the Team the Parable of The Chef and The Server, relinquishes control of Anti-Sphinx to Olivia (and by extension the Team), and then asks Dori to shoot him.

The Parable of The Chef and The Server
There was a fine chef who every morning would prepare a meat pie for his king. The server would collect the ingredients; the richest butter, the ripest vegetables, perfectly marbled lamb, the most fragrant herbs and spices; he would give these fine ingredients to the fine chef, and wait on the king until the meat pie was prepared, and he would serve it to the king.
The king loved this meat pie and would lavish praise every day upon the chef, whereas the server would receive only the king’s impatience and contempt as he waited for his meat pie. The server grew jealous, and so one day he slew the chef and made the meat pie for the king himself.
When the server brought his meat pie, the crust was greasy and wet from too much butter. The meat was tough and gamey, as it had not been well tenderized. The vegetables were bitter, they had been chopped coarsely and were undercooked. The pie was under-salted, but also overbearing with too many herbs and spices.
The king was furious and demanded to know why his meat pie was so foul. The server, bewildered and confused, explained that he had made the pie himself, with the same ingredients as the chef had always used, but the king would hear none of it and banished the server from the kingdom.
Yohannes acquiesces to the Team. Using the Detail Devil, the Team retroactively changes the terms of their agreement with Barsabbas to contractually obligate him to work for them, which he seems to accept unbegrudgingly and then leaves. Many within the organization leave immediately in protest.

The Team uses their Funky Pot to merge the dying Jack with Manjushri's flaming sicarii in order to revive him without the need for his Reincarnation Ritual, which would have required him to go on a rampage and destroy much of their new base of operations.

This is where we leave off...

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