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Campaign: The 13th Step

Campaign: The 13th Step
The High Concept: Redemption is a Dark Road

Room 418, St Patroclus’ Church, NY

Even without desks, phones, filing cabinets or wanted posters, that the room had once housed a dozen cops wouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. There’s something about policemen that leaves a mark on a place, that even folding chairs, worn inspirational posters and a corkboard overfilled with community announcements and advertisements can’t cover up. The small table set up near the entrance with stale donuts and fresh coffee enhanced rather than diminished the overall sense of deja gendarme.

Father O’Mally moved with the deliberation of a man who felt not only the weight of age but of, well, weight. Slow to anger and quick to laugh, he almost constantly ran his hand through his just slightly too long gray hair. He arranged the folding chairs into a rough circle, poured himself a cup of coffee into a cheap Styrofoam cup and waited.

Once people stopped arriving or at 8:10 by the cheap clock on the wall whose ticks caulked any silences he began the meeting with the usual litany…

We admitted we were powerless over alcohol–that our lives had become unmanageable.
Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood Him.
Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Then standing “My name is Michael and I’m an alcoholic, it has been 37 years since my last drink, is there anybody here who would like to speak?”

Character Generation

The 13th Step is a game of Urban Horror set in the here and now; Characters are normal people who share a terrifying experience at an AA meeting and feel compelled to act.

Race: All characters are Human and begin with the normal Bonus Edge.
Attributes: Are Purchased as Normal
Skills: Are purchased as Normal.
Edges and Hindrances: Are Purchased as Normal. All characters are recovering alcoholics and may take appropriate hindrances if so desired. Availability of Arcane Backgrounds is subject to GM whim but is advised against, at least initially.

St Patroclus’ Church/The 75th Precinct
The 75th Precinct is located in the East New York section of Brooklyn. Included in this area are Cypress Hills, Starrett City and City Line. It is a residential and commercial community with eight major housing complexes. Shopping areas run along the east end of Fulton Street, Liberty Avenue and the south end of Pennsylvania Avenue. It is an area known for its abandoned and burnt-out buildings, vast areas low-income housing projects, legions of gangs, highest murder rate in NYC, high crime, substandard housing and institutions of lower education. The far eastern portion, once an Italian-American enclave, an mostly abandoned industrial wasteland is still known as a dumping ground for former members of the Gambino crime family that lived in nearby Howard beach and Ozone park.

St Patroclus’ Church occupies the former 75th Precinct building, a small fortress on Liberty and Miller Avenues in East New York and is adorned with several gargoyles and green men. It served a stint beginning in the 70s as the People’s First Baptist Church when it acquired the stained glass in the windows but was closed in 1981. The building was purchased by Arnold Rothstein in 1983 and lay unused until his death in 1992 when it was bequeathed to the Catholic Church with the provision that it be opened and maintained in honor of St Patroclus. The Church and the homeless shelter (Converted out of the basement cell block) have been active in the area ever since. Father O’Mally is the third priest to have herded over St Patroclus’ flock since it opened its doors in 1995.

As people’s testimonies begin to wind down to quiet comfortable discussion among disparate people who have something in common, the door flies open and a small girl darts into the room. She’s young, eight or nine, with an unkempt nest of raven black hair, she dashes behind one of the folding chairs and cowers cloaked almost entirely in the oversized and torn army jacket she wears. Looking up with wide sad eyes “Ayuda, por favor” she says is a quiet, desperate, whisper. Father O’Mally, his face draining of color, stands more quickly than anyone would have thought possible knocking over his chair and begins moving towards the girl as another figure drifts through the door.

Father O’Mally, Father Paul, Sister Margaret and Novice Anne
The staff of St Patroclus’ Church along with a few community volunteers works tirelessly to minister to their flock.

Father O’Mally is the Parish Priest; he asked to be transferred here after Father Bishop disappeared three years ago. He grew up just a few blocks from the Church and still remembers the area from his youth. He is slow to anger but quick to laugh, carries a bit more weight than he should, lets his graying hair grow a bit longer that he should, and is perhaps a bit more trusting than is wise considering the neighborhood around his church. He has seen a fair share of the strange and bizarre that exists in the world and will not hesitate to offer the characters assistance in the form of workspace, phones, and advice.

Father Paul is the stereotypical young priest sent here to keep an eye on Father O’Mally and the Church in general. The parish is a bit of a sore spot with higher ups, existing solely to conform to the specifics of Rothstein’s estate. They would like the opportunity to break the trust, close down the church and sell the property and Father Paul’s here to help collect information to make that possible. The Bishop has miscalculated a bit with that as Father Paul has grown to admire Father O’Mally, seen the real good the church does here, and is reluctant to do anything that might cause it to be closed down.

Sister Margaret has been at St Patroclus’ since it opened in ’95, she has spent her life as a Bride of Christ moving from doomed church to doomed church, doing what she could to ease parishioners transition to other churches. She was sent to St Patroclus’ on the assumption that the Church would be able to be closed down in short order, when it became clear that that wasn’t to be the case she began pushing for and eventually was able to set up the Homeless Shelter in the old basement cell block (The cell doors have been removed and replaced with curtains for privacy)

Novice Anne is the newest addition to the family at St Patroclus’. Having arrived just over a year ago, principally to learn from Sister Margaret and to take over for her here so that the far more experienced Sister can be put to what is considered better use. Anne is a bit of an ingénue but she is beginning to believe that there are some very odd occurrences taking place in and around the parish.

Through the open door drifts a small woman clad from head to toe in mourning black. The hem of her long dress drags across the floor as she moves towards the group. She stops just shy of the circle of chairs and extends her glove-covered hand pointing towards the small girl. In a voice distorted by the thick veil she rasps, “Give me my daughter.”
The girl looks up, terrified, shaking her head slowly and mouthing a silent “No” Father O’Mally steps between the strange intruder and the small girl holding out his hand “Just stay there ma’am and we’ll get this sorted out”
The woman’s hand moved to the side of her veil, “Out of my way priest!” she hisses removing the veil and revealing her face, sunken skin almost to the point of it being just bone clings tightly to her skull, her eyes are empty sockets with thick black tears leaking from them. The smell of dead fish and decaying seaweed floods the room and Father O’Mally recoils in horror.

The 13th Step
This is, I’ll admit, less of a setting than a set-up: Here’s where the game starts, where do you want it to go?
In mine – the figure with black tears is La Malinche, Cortez’ Aztec lover, who when left, drowns their young children and is cursed for it (Think proto La Llorona) the young girl, Maria, was one of her recent victims who escaped – only to be killed in a drive by shooting. La Malinche has been pursuing her spirit ever since: so a ghost story. One where I hope the players would decide to save the Maria’s spirit and try to free La Malinche’s for that matter.
It could just as easily be a zombie yarn where the woman is the girl’s mother who has been cursed (or infected) and the players race to find a cure, or vampires, or demons or a hoax (would’ve gotten away with it too if it weren’t for those meddling kids.).
The idea behind it really is just to get the ball rolling and maybe to hear back about where it landed.

Notes:
I’ve tried to run this twice and blew it both times…it happens – The first time I failed to get the group on board and the second, the second’s a bit more complicated. I ran it for a long time as a play by post game and it went fairly well – As time passed though I ended up posting less and less frequently, it became the thing I would put off til tomorrow – really the first thing that I began to put off because I was just too tired or distracted or just couldn’t find the motivation to pursue. Then one day I discovered it had been so long that there just wasn’t any point in bothering. The 13th step really was one of the first signs that there was something wrong with me. I ignored it because, well, I’m me but eventually I had to talk to a doctor about it and the rest is what got me here doing the Savage Summer. So it seemed only appropriate that I wrap with The 13th step (Plus there’s the whole 13 week, name synchronicity thing – how cool is that?)

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