Convergence 2010: Bloodtown Remix (archive)
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From: Viktor Eikman <viktor.eikman@…>
Date: 6/16/10

With Matthew, Ross, and the duo of Graham & Martin all posting recently about Convergence (keep it up Matthew!), I thought I'd share my experience with this scenario, which I GM'd over the last couple of months. I'm throwing in the names I used in case you want to steal any of it. (Character and actor listings from obscure movies on IMDb are your friends when players go way off track - and they did.)

The campaign had kicked off with A Victim of the Art and led through poorly understood legends of "winged ones" into A Night on Owlshead Mountain, where the modified spawn of Ubbo-Sathla inside Cooter McGee gained a limited sentience in order to carry off his dead body for reanimation, in the party's third confrontation with him. I had the body walking on its back, Exorcist-style, raw white protomatter instantly covering new bullet wounds as it picked up speed and headed for the hills. One of the PCs hurled a spare tank of gas at the spider-like monstrosity, scoring a lucky hit. White phosphorus grenades did the rest.

So the stage was set for Convergence. I shopped up a high-res satellite map of Groversville based on Waynesboro, TN (courtesy of Google), erasing all motels except one. Being in no hurry, I cut out the railroad intro from the original. Derringer was promoted to Agent Woodrow, who had a friendly (FBI Special Agent Llewellyn Lloyd, played by a "guest star" friend of mine) in the field, leading the still-ongoing hunt for Billy Ray Spivey. My other players:

  • MARTIN: Canadian-born US Army dog trainer (!) Jean-Luc Dean. Paranoid. Cell leader (predecessor died in Vermont), and the only veteran. Over the course of the scenario he developed a phobia of slime and started getting antisocial, empathizing almost as much with the Mi-Go as with their victims.
  • MATHILDA: EPA field agent Susan Bradley. Claustrophobic. The diplomat, driver and wilderness expert of the group.
  • MARK or "He whose codename nobody ever uses": 50-something German immigrant and NYC pathologist Hans Kaufmann, originally a friendly recruited by Marvin Bloom. Addicted to morphine after McGee nearly tore out his throat, he also developed violent tendencies during Convergence, to supplement his morphine with endorphins.

The FBI's Lloyd was working with a team of State Troopers with helicopter support. These were led by Bill Winterkorn and included Paul Juneau, Jack LaLanne, Sandy Helberg, Liz Torres and Noah Beery Jr. On the night of their arrival, Lloyd showed the PCs a surveillance tape where the clerk (Victor Buono) had his head removed; Winterkorn had already seen it.

Neither DG nor the police had identified Billy Ray by name at this stage, for two reasons. The young man was travelling in a car stolen at Sinclair's gas station in Groversville, registered to a clerk named James Bacon, who was being dominated by the Aldermen not to worry. The other reason is that Sheriff Dan Oakley was being blackmailed by Lepus over something terrible (I was thinking semi-conscious Aldermen-induced molestation of an adopted child, but the players virtually ignored Oakley's bizarre demeanor so we never found out). Bacon's report of a stolen car never left the town, and Bacon zoned out. The killing of Rich Spivey also went illegally unreported by Oakley. The players did start with Bacon's plate number though, and TN plates have the name of the county on them. Derringer also gave the player cell some fun stuff, including a heavy chain and a dart gun with biopsy, human tranquilizer and horse tranquilizer ammo to take out the perp and get a sample from him for analysis.

I marked all the places Billy Ray had robbed (after crossing the state line) on Google Maps and improvised a rather enjoyable manhunt where I scrolled the map in whatever direction the hunt led. To spice things up I threw in a black MJ-12 Humvee populated by Michael Wyatt and Jim Steele, two DELTA wetwork rookies in dress uniform who intercepted the party MD as he was on his way to the morgue to look at Buono's body. Wyatt claimed he and Steele were from Army CIC and offered "Albert Paradine Jr." as the identity of Billy Ray, then said they were taking over the investigation due to Paradine's military affiliation (this is an option from A Victim of the Art I did not use for that scenario). Woodrow, of course, didn't trust them and dragged out the jurisdictional conflict over some technicality, to give the player cell a chance.

Things went badly! The players were much more interested in spying on the duo in the Humvee than in chasing Billy Ray. When it was time for the confrontation, the scrolling of the map had led to Bloodtown (!), GA, on old Highway 411. After Billy Ray killed Trooper Juneau there, two PCs and Trooper Torres shot out his wheels, sending his car slamming through the wall of a barn along the road, and stopping permanently in a heap of tractor parts inside. I gave the PCs a minute in there alone with Billy Ray, but due to good role-playing, they very unprofessionally shot him in the head and failed to gather substantial quantities of the escaping protomatter for analysis, which was their primary responsibility. Another PC shot DELTA's Jim Steele full of horse tranquilizer, and Michael Wyatt was tased to unconsciousness. This did not fully convince Winterkorn which bunch of assholes had proper jurisdiction. At one point, a hastily purchased used car had its engine block shot to hell with a McMillan Tac-50 (before the shooter passed out from the dart in his leg) and its windows destroyed in a hail of 9mm and .38 fire from Wyatt and two troopers he'd managed to convince.

An MJ-12 team arrived to mop up, snatching Billy Ray's corpse (as they had Buono's from the morgue) and destroying his car and the barn with thermite while blasting a hasty cover story from the speakers on their black helicopter. Lepus delivered his ominous line from the end of the written scenario here, to make the PCs stop making things worse with the state troopers, and it worked. The immediate threat of all-out combat was defused. Lloyd was left to do some damage control (hello OUTLOOK; the players later found out Lloyd was now an NPC with a memory gap) while the agents were ordered to Knoxville for a deeper briefing.

Lesson learned: Convergence as written starts on rails for a reason. I now had the scenario on its head, but the players (all new to DG) loved it.

Session 2! Derringer and DG veteran Col. Howard Romero (ret.) showed the player cell some MJ-12 documents (the classic precis mentioning Bronk) and the Fairfield letter, then asked them to follow up on the remaining lead in Groversville, i.e. Bacon, the owner of the car. Nashville had a pretty nice Green Box. A long session of bloodless skulking followed, where the players got familiar with the town, saw the reservoir, found out about the killing of Rich, and so on. Billy Ray's doctor's name is George Sillers, apparently. They even went to the father's funeral, and the Ascension service, both presided over by pastor Jeremiah Brown. While breaking into Spivey's home (not a farm here) they saw Jane Allen trying to break into a neighbor's house for food, while the residents were in church for the Ascension. They didn't quite earn her trust but negotiated to give her food through dead drops in the forest not far from the motel, where the PCs had recently gotten two rooms after spending a couple of nights camping in the woods.

The PCs had learned about Semper Vigilus in Vermont, and one of them had a subscription. He read an article in the latest issue, based on a tip from a "local farmer" (Franklin Coyle). In the article, the Saucerwatch writer came to the conclusion that "Coyle" had knifed his own cattle and lied about it for fame. Finding "Coyle"'s farm house, another PC discovered its last owner (Ross Brough) had died in the preceding fall; the place was for sale (by daughter Randi Brough, through real estate agent Jennifer Prueher in Jackliss). Of course the back story I had in mind here was that a DELTA goon had pretended to be a lying farmer, to fool SW.

Sessions 3 & 4! Marginally too nice to simply grab Jane as their sample and run, the PCs broke into Scott's room at the motel, acting on info from Jane. I made Scott a member of HELP, and gave him a blog instead of a printed publication. While the PCs broke into his room, they discovered Michael Wyatt and Dan Oakley, and their assorted goons, simultaneously breaking into the PCs' rooms in the other building of the motel (a lot of simultaneous B&E, in retrospect). The set piece with Scott in the bathtub ended with the motel receptionist (Amber Liveley) and a deputy (Norman Fell) gruesomely killed by noisy, sewer-borne protomatter while the PCs fled with a sample, and with Jane. MJ-12 once again arrived in their copter to sweep up.

Now that I could FINALLY give the PCs their protomatter indicator fluid, I let them design new identities (their third set for the mission) and stock up on anything they needed. One thing they'd held onto since Owlshead was a set of light-amplifying binoculars, which the paranoid Agent Martin used to guard their camps around Groversville. Since they were always sitting under the trees with that damn thing, I let the players' illusion of high-tech safety be their curse: they never saw any mysterious lights against the all-too-bright skies of those binoculars. This time Martin constructed a UFO geek cover story, but even with Scott's notes and that cover, he NEVER asked anybody in town about the lights, or tried to see them. Grabbing a ton of gear from the big Knoxville Green Box I set up for them, they had other plans:

DG contacts in the EPA spoofed a study of the long-term effects of glyphosates and other pesticide compounds in farming communities; there had recently been an article on "ADHD and Urinary Metabolites of Organophosphate Pesticides" in the journal Pediatrics. Agent Mathilda and Kaufmann went back to Groversville with full enviro-hazard gear (and a machine gun, and 2 Handflammpatronen, and 10 gallons of Green Box methanol) in an EPA jeep, only now (a week and a half into the scenario) getting proof of the extent of the problem. This led to the humble Groversville sewage processing plant, manned by Gordon Polk (hazy at first, then actively commandeered by the Aldermen) and one "Martin" (absent) whom Gordon seemed afraid of and did not want to "wake up"; I pictured Martin as having been pulled into a sewage tank a week earlier and being filled with worm mother levels of protomatter, but the PCs never opened the boiler room where the Aldermen had confined him.

Raw sewage tainted with protomatter was emptied into a processing pool, samples were taken (by climbing down…), and Gordon was tased, bound and gagged after the PCs noticed that the the contents of their test tubes from the tank had gotten more translucent after just half an hour. Then the sheriff came calling; he seemed immensely relieved to find what appeared to be a legitimate EPA investigation, as opposed to something Lepus would order him to kill, or worse. Oakley advised Mathilda to check in with the mayor, or rather, as it was the weekend, with the Aldermen. She did; after shaking hands with the affable Merle Barn she sprayed her hand and found it was a bright magenta.

A DELTA goon pretending to be the town's head of sewage and sanitation (Robert Conrad) called Mathilda to get some details on where she might be found so he could "help" with their study. She was fooled but didn't stay put; Gordon Polk was hauled up into the wooded hills for interrogation by an unseen "fellow prisoner". Polk, however, could still smell the sewage plant. The information was relayed by the Aldermen to MJ-12 (I never really worked out the details of what DELTA knew about the Aldermen. I just imagine Lepus smiling inwardly at the strange clues DG was turning up for him), and once again the PCs fled as DELTA combat monsters rappelled into the woods and mined the sewage plant with Claymores.

Logical next step? That night the PCs attacked the Board of Aldermen, thoroughly burning down the building by missing with both of their Handflammpatronen. They lost track of the escaping spawn because it headed (across a brook) for Grover Medical Center, which is not was they expected. On an eerily quiet forest road in the dead of night, with a plume of smoke from the burning building in the south, they heard a mad shout: "Iä! Ubbo-Sathla! Unbegotten Source!"

Session 5! I'd improvised the existence of a very small cult of Ubbo-Sathla in the local hospital, consisting of cell biologist Bertram T. Cates and the less avid pathologist Horace McLagh, who were both very interested in the "mutilated god-child", as they referred to the spawn under Mi-Go "control"; they saw it as a primordial missing link and possible source of a godlike new science. In constantly improvising around the actions of the players, I made the spawn and its cult a fourth faction in the rapidly-accelerating conflict Lepus was successfully provoking. The spawn was breaking free of Mi-Go control, asserting its divinity because its existence was threatened.

So session 5 made for an interesting climax. The PCs tracked the spawn to the hospital, where McLagh had let it into the morgue. Cates was megalomaniacal after laying eyes (and hands, and lips - as the PCs discovered by spraying him) on the spawn, and was easily fooled into opening the door for the PCs when they claimed to be incipient cultists following a vision. Kaufmann promptly head-butted the cell biologist, who rolled well enough to slam the door. So the PCs did some window-smashing, using their indicator fluid to follow the spawn through the hospital's underground tunnel system, to the ambulance garage. Cates, bleeding from his broken nose, intercepted them to try to say that the enemy of his enemy was his friend, but the PCs weren't listening. They kicked him in the shin and gaffered him to a morgue stretcher for ease of transportation.

In the ambulance garage, the PCs ignored a terrified witness to try and stop McLagh from driving a spawn-filled ambulance through a closed gate and into the night. Their last two 9mm tracer rounds and two poorly tossed Molotovs later, McLagh was dead but the ambulance was out of the broken gate, with Merle Barn at the wheel. Under their paranoid leader, the PCs inexplicably duct taped the graveyard-shift paramedics to each other before commandeering another ambulance. A 911 call made by one of the paramedics was rudely interrupted by Agent Mathilda, who rolled too poorly to hear that the voice of Emergency Services was identical to that of "Robert Conrad", before she hung up. Mathilda did tune the ambulance radio to the police frequency however, or at least she felt pretty sure she did. Nothing but static there, of course.

By this time, Lepus was cleared to deploy a lot more resources. Trying to follow the burning ambulance, the PCs saw a DHS mobile command center, followed by a massive freight truck, pulling into town. They still went after the ambulance, which went over the wooded eastern hills, watched over by the black helicopter. If the PCs had followed further, they would have been ambushed by Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Rappels, but they turned around and took another path because the helicopter was now heading for them. Only one PC had his eyes on the ambulance at that point, and spotted the strange lights AT LAST, swarming around the ambulance in the extreme distance.

The PCs now went the long way around the hills and realized that a particular solitary barn was closest to where they'd last seen the ambulance, which was gone. They found the strange resin inside its doors, and hid in a nearby corn field as the Humvee they'd seen before arrived for a chat. The PCs couldn't recognize Lepus (or "the man with the gold teeth", as they knew him), but witnessed a single Grey emerging from the barn to make curiously child-like plaintive or apologetic gestures at the man. After he'd gone, they knocked on the doors and shouted to be heard by the Greys. The only response was a listless feeling and slight headache, so they used their methanol to try to light the barn on fire, ordered a full CDC quarantine of Groversville, and made a swift escape to a hotel in Benton, northwest of town.

When they woke up the next morning, they had the symptoms of a full-blown influenza. Self-medicating with extreme prejudice, they liaised with T-Cell, which was being called in with additional gear, in a supporting role. Groversville was all over the news. Dragging themselves out of bed, the PCs picked up forest camo and an XM1060 40mm fuel-air grenade launcher from a dead drop by T-Cell at the Benton train station. It was war. They drove into Groversville one last time, meeting an alarmed CDC friendly (John Stebbins) on the way. The little town they'd gotten to know was now a little piece of hell. NRO Section DELTA patrolled the streets in a sealed Stryker LAV-H (with roof-mounted napalm cannon), and had a sniper in the main church's bell tower, with the mobile command center set up outside. Their black helicopter circled overhead, while regular people did all they could to get the drugs they needed for their families. Agent Martin's phobia of slime was acting up, with everybody sneezing around him.

Briefly admiring their handiwork at the charred ruins of the Aldermen's building, the player cell proceeded to the hospital, which was a scene out of Dawn of the Dead, sadly minus zombies. There they discovered Cates, giving a little lecture to a room full of angry and frightened sick people. Among these was Del Russel, one of Billy Ray's friends the PCs had talked to earlier (other friends: Bruce McGuire, Andy Miller, Jimmy Leamer, Bunny Summers, Karen Christenfeld). Agent Martin had noticed he had some kind of rash on his neck at the time, so now I let Cates prove what he was saying by laying a hand on Russel's neck and whispering a spell, ending in the same words he'd shouted the night before. A third eye opened in the back of Russel's head. Cates's audience exploded in a panic and the PCs immediately apprehended the doctor. His running nose bleeding through its bandages, Cates agreed to come along, and suggested they go to his office.

On Cates's bookshelves were the usual modern books of medicine right beside Margaret A. Murray's "The Witch-Cult in Western Europe" (1921) and "The God of the Witches" (1931). Cates also had a 20th-century reprint of William Falconer's "Cryptomenysis Patefacta, or the Art of Secret Information Disclosed without a Key" (1685) and "John" Falconer's "A Mundo Condito", an undated manuscript I'd thought up as a source of Cates's info on Ubbo-Sathla. (W. Falconer was a doctor at the General Hospital of Bath; I believe John was a first name Lovecraft simply imagined for this real person, after reading his last name in an encyclopedia.) I gave the players a moderately well-meaning cultish spiel on the endolithic theory of the origin of life on Earth and the "winged ones" who had mutilated the god-child. Cates enjoyed not getting head-butted for ten minutes, but was not so happy about being thrown in the PCs' jeep (roughly the group's eighth vehicle in this scenario) for the long-awaited ultimate showdown.

The party returned to the barn, finding the fire they'd started had quickly been put out. Agent Martin climbed a ladder and saw the lab inside, which was similar in design to the thing that he knew had replaced his own digestive system (because a DG-friendly MRI operator (Mel Coffey) in New York had shown him this in the last intermission, while he was "getting some of his own gear from home"). Two Mi-Go from inside attacked the party, but in the advanced state of their disease they would have been wiped out pretty quickly if the firefight had continued, so I wussed out and let a bad roll with the only shot of the XM1060 "accidentally" land a grenade inside the barn. Boom. The two fungi on the outside escaped to the sky while Agent Martin's digestive system died on him. What I should have done was to have the Mi-Go long gone (through a Gate) by this time, leaving only the machine that was causing the "flu", hidden and/or guarded by something worse than a Mi-Go. I could also have had MJ-12 guarding the barn, but didn't do that either, not wanting to risk dragging the adventure out into another session on the far side of this summer's vacation season.

I gave Agent Martin better than a 50-50 compound shot at survival after blowing up the lab. Too nice I guess, but without thinking I had told the player that his stomach was still there, surgery has improved since 1994, and the friendly in New York had some time to prepare with the MRI shots. Martin was taken first to a hospital in the area (where Cates escaped in the parking lot), then flown by emergency helicopter to the friendly. A long transplant operation, and infection, followed. A month after Convergence he checked out of the hospital as a survivor of "malignant stomach cancer with complications due to initial malpractice". Significantly weakened, he'll spend the rest of his life with an ostomy pouch. This and much else has been determined in some forum-based gaming to tie up loose ends and investigate various items the PCs lifted from TN's Green Boxes.

So every player character survived, despite the excellent scenario. Damn.

From: Joe Crazyperson <joe.crazyperson@…>
Date: 6/16/10

Another good write up, interesting to see how heavily the NRO team is used in this run. Especially interfering with the characters. I know when I used them, they were in positions of observation only, they were ordered not to 'interfere' except to destroy evidence. From my game, it seemed creepier when they found the NRO observation post at the top of the City Hall building, with cameras and laser microphones pointed at every square of town (especially at their own hotel rooms) - feeding somewhere else wirelessly. I do like the striker with the flamethrower cannon and the teams of NRO Delta deploying claymores, though.

The manhunt idea used to begin the scenario is actually pretty neat and a good one, although I can see the problem if the players kill Billy Ray instead of capture him, especially since they weren't given an accurate name - makes it harder to trace him to Groversville and thus the entirety of the scenario. I think you could work it out easier if the fugitive made it clear that he was running away from the town and name-dropped it, as he was trying to hide or flee from the PCs: "I ain't never going back to Groversville, not after what they done to me…you're gonna' have to kill me first."

Also like the EPA cover story a bit - good reason for the Investigators to crawl around testing the water and doing other things…

Sounds like the Investigators did a lot of scorched earth approaches, especially to the Mi-Go laboratories and City Hall. Not that I can say my players response was much different…(Their plan after they found out about the Aldermen, was to put a thermite grenade on the gas main line in the basement boiler room with a rubberband over the safety spoon tainted with acid so it would snap after time. One of the Investigators timed it wrong and didn't make it out…)

I really liked the idea about the Aldermen blob becoming its own entitty - wanting to rebel against the Mi-Go, just in a purely Lovecraftian literary vein - this mirrors the Shoggoth and the Elder Things. And it having a cult at the local hospital is also very cool.

What did they do about the agent growing the Third Eye in the back of his head?

I like the idea of the Mi-Go leaving a "plague" machine behind (maybe powered by the same crystals you see later in New Age) that is making everyone sick. Destroying the machine up in the hills ending the outbreak…could turn out really smooth and creepy.

Also, for the CDC aftermath and the agent with his new digestive tract…I had a nice moral conundrum when that happened to one investigator and the CDC friendlies found out. The other agents were given orders from A-Cell that he had to be neutralized as he had become a threat and a vector for infection. In the scenario, one PC was resolved to kill the other, but that PC escaped and fled for his life. Its interesting how you justify him surviving though, I'll keep it in mind, plus it'd be funny to have a veteran character with a colostomy bag…

From: David March <peoter.karantov@…>
Date: 6/16/10

I don’t remember much from my running of Convergence but their were two scenes that I do remember.

Whenever anyone of the players asked anybody in the town about the town of Groversville, they got the same response. The person would stop dead in his tracks get a slight glazed look and say, “Groversville is a nice, friendly, pleasant place to live, where nothing ever happens.” They must have got this response about 20 times. When they were leaving town after the ruckus, they found a sign that said, “Welcome to Groversville, a nice pleasant place to live.”

The second was with the indicator fluid. The players had stayed in the local hotel for two days so they were thoroughly infected, but hadn’t realized it yet. They were spraying a sample they had recovered of the protomatter to see if the solution worked, and I had the player act out how he was going about do it. He literally jumped and grabbed his hand, when I described how the solution fell back on his arm, revealing how he was contaminated.


From: Viktor Eikman <viktor.eikman@…>
Date: 6/18/10

On Wed, Jun 16, 2010 at 5:50 PM, Joe Crazyperson <joe.crazyperson@…> wrote:

interesting to see how heavily the NRO team is used in this run.

Yeah, funny how that turned out. In Bloodtown, MJ-12 had a cover story about a joint DoE-CIC operation against "Paradine" (Billy Ray), who supposedly had "highly volatile" prototype batteries in his car, stolen from a special forces testing team of which he was a member. Lepus wore a DoE badge. This was supposed to explain why the men in black ordered everybody to step away from the car, and why it burned, but it was such a crappy story that I figured MJ-12 correctly considered their cover blown. That's why I thought they should keep interfering pretty actively, leveraging their greater man- and firepower. Lepus was still restraining his men to see what DG was capable of, and what sort of war could be justified for his personal gain. Also, since Michael Wyatt was a rookie, him being left almost alone to scour Groversville made sense as a kind of MJ-12 newbie hazing ritual, or at least Lepus was using that excuse. Hence the lack of straight search and destroy. Worked out well enough, but of course the frequent confrontations weren't very eery.

From my game, it seemed creepier when they found the NRO observation post at the top of the City Hall building, with cameras and laser microphones pointed at every square of town (especially at their own hotel rooms) - feeding somewhere else wirelessly.

Ooh, excellent! I'll have to steal that for something…

that he was running away from the town and name-dropped it, as he was trying to hide or flee from the PCs:

I would've if I could: Crashing into the barn knocks out Billy Ray. Two PCs enter. Do they pick him up and throw him in their car? No. One of them tases the unconscious youth. He wakes up. They freak out. They fire five bullets, nailing him about 1 second after he's out of the car. One of them (deliberately!) steps in the pool of blood from his corpse, feeling a protomatter leech slithering up the leg of his pants. He freaks out again, tases himself through the leech to stun it, and so on. At one point he was stabbing a bulge on the other PC's leg with a scalpel. No, Billy Ray did not get to say anything :)

a rubberband over the safety spoon tainted with acid

Aah, player bomb design. Never ceases to amaze me.

What did they do about the agent growing the Third Eye in the back of his head?

That wasn't an agent, just a friend of Billy Ray's, nearing graduation from Grover High. The kid panicked and started running for home. Two PCs caught up with him after about 200 yards (he watched them every step of the way!), then realized they (A) had no plan and no supplies, (B) were in a public place and (C) had just run 200 yards with a bad flu. Kind of a nice moment actually; the players seemed to grasp that individual instances of weird shit had lost priority. The kid got away, eventually getting killed by DELTA posing as DHS helping the CDC.

The total body count was about 59 people and 4 fungi. Most of them were either victims of the disease, or passed off as such and hastily cremated. The "virus" then evaporated. I tied the aftermath into (real) news reports of flu-like symptoms among workers currently cleaning up after the oil spill. Pundits spoke of a deep collective shock in Groversville, from the worst environmental disaster in US history.

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