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Exit 23 Dark•Matter Story Hour (NOW COMPLETE!)


Exit 23 Dark•Matter Story Hour (NOW COMPLETE!)

Yeah, I'm startin up another Story Hour. "But Mr. Joshua Dyal, why don't you just finish one of your old ones?" I'm sure you're saying. Why indeed?

This particular story hour is more like a story minute. On November 15th, there was the infamous Chicago ENWorld Gameday, and I drove over from Detroit to join the fun. I ended up running two scenarios, the "Duchess' Tea Party" and "Exit 23" which is a Dark•Matter module converted up into d20 Modern. Because of the nature of the two games, it will be much easier for me to write a story hour of the second rather than the first, so this thread will have me posting chunks of Dark•Matter while I think about a good way to write up the other game.

Because I'm not one of those kinds of "memory people", I don't recall a lot of the dialogue or even the exact sequence of events, even though this only took place a few days ago. So, this story hour is a reasonable approximation of the game, not the game as it actually played. It's close to the game that actually played, but not exact.

I gave all the PCs pregens; in fact, I used the characters from the Dark•Matter book and "converted" them into d20 Modern. Conversion is a term I use fairly loosely, what I actually did was read the character summary paragraph and use simply that. Dark•Matter split the characters fairly equally in terms of gender, but two of the players had female pregens that they subsequently changed the gender of. Here's a quick summary of the dramatis personae.
  • Jane McDermott: Jane McDermott grew up in Boise, Idano. After attending a local community college for two years, she took the Idaho State Trooper exam and plassed with flying colors. She's been out of the academy for about a year and a half now, which is long enough that her peers don't call her "rookie" anymore unless they're trying to get under her skin. In fact, her fellow officers made a point of giving her a necklace with a silver bullet on it to commemorate the time she saved a man from a rabid coyote that attacked him while he was changing his tire on the roadside.

    Officer McDermott is tall and athletic. She has always enjoyed physical challanges, and she spends a lot of her off-duty time rock climbing and working on her tae kwon do. She's very stubborn and self-reliant, and strongly inclined to handle situations by herself instead of calling in help if it's at all possible. That might get her into trouble someday...

    Player: William Ronald

    d20 Modern Conversion: 3rd level Strong Hero

  • Will Wheeler: Will Wheeler is a native of Moscow, Idaho. He joined the Army right out of high school and served for a four-year enlistment before coming back home to work on his father's ranch. When the ranch failed and tax collectors confiscated his family's land, Will decided that he didn't need to support the government with his tax dollars anymore. He's drifted through a couple of militia groups and his currnelty living in an isolated "free haven" run by a group calling itself the Liberty Church. Will's also a little bit wanted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, but they haven't posted an APB on him yet.

    Will is a short, broad-shouldered man built like a baby bull. He dresses in camo pants, Army boots, and T-shirts, and he wears his hair shoulder-length. He's paranoid and angry, and he's got a lot of guns. But he honestly believes that America could be a better place, and he's willing to do anything to make it all happen.

    Player: jalea

    d20 Modern Conversion: 3rd level Tough Hero.

  • Dr. Ned Neary (formery Nadine Neary): Dr. Neary lives in Rochester, Minnesota, where he works at the Mayo Clinic. His specialty is infectious diseses, and he often consults with the CDC -- the Centers for Disease Control. He grew up in Iowa and attended Iowa State on an athletic scholarship before he went to medical school; he's still in good shape, and he likes to exercise to get his mind off his work. Dr. Neary is currently headed for Seattle, where he is scheduled to speak at a microbiology conference.

    Ned Neary is a small, slender man with short-cropped hair and a friendly, open manner. He has a knack for putting people at ease.

    Player: shadowlight

    d20 Modern Conversion: 3rd level Dedicated Hero.

  • Don Truitt (formerly Donna Truitt): Don Truitt is a professional burglar. He specializes in coroporate espionage and similar high-security break-ins, stealing research data, account information, and similar materials on a contract basis. He was recruited and trained by the CIA out of college, but he left the Agency several years ago to pursue a freelance career. While he's very capable of defending himself if discovered, Don is very careful to avoid hurting people; he even refuses to work for people who might use the material he recovers to harm innocent people. Don currently resides in Seattle, since many of his jobs take him to various high-tech corridors around the Pacific Rim.

    Don is a physically fit man with dark hair and a disarming smile. He's very cynical and suspicious of people representing business or government interests. He usually tells people that he works as a security consultant.

    Player: Hoog

    d20 Modern Conversion: 3rd level Fast Hero

  • Dr. Phillip Akens: Dr. Akens has been studying paranormal activity for more than twenty years. He started out by investigating alleged haunted houses and psychic phenomena as a graduate student, and he's become one of hte foremost experts on ghosts, hauntings, and occult traditions in the Midwest. Most academics don't take him seriously, of course, but Dr. Akens is one of the more reputable specialists in his field. He teaches anthropology and linguistics and Marquette University in Milwaukee in order to maintain some credibility with the college administration and to fund his occult investigations.

    Dr. Akens is a tall, dignified man forty years of age, with a thoughtful manner and a deep, pleasant voice. He always takes people at their word and assumes that they're telling the truth about their experiences until hard evidence proves otherwise.

    Dr. Akens ia currently travelling to Portland to look into a reported haunted house. He's accompanied by Doug Nichols, a photojournalist.

    Player: Trevalon Moonleirion

    d20 Modern Conversion: 3rd level Smart Hero.

  • Doug Nichols: Ever since he was a kid, Doug Nichols has loved cameras and journalism. He worked on his school paper, served a tour in the Navy as a journalism specialist, and started freelancing as a photographer as soon as he got out of the service. He's been all over the world, specializing in archeology shoots and nature documentaries. Documentary work pays the bills, but Nichols has another hobby -- ghost-hunting. When he can find the time, he tries his hand a paranormal investigation, hoping to catch an image of something that's never been photographed before.

    Nichols is a rangy, big-boned man in his late twenties. He has a laid-back manner, and he enjoys outdoor sports of all kinds. He's currently travling with Dr. Phillip Akens, a paranormal investigator who intends to check out a reported haunting in Portland. But after that, Nichols hopes to get in some mountaineering, extreme skiing, and hiking around the southern Cascades before heading home.

    Player: cdsaint

    d20 Modern Conversion: 3rd level Charismatic Hero.
As the story progresses, I intend to write it up in "story format"; that is, not as a play session or play log, but rather as if it were a short story (or novella, as it will more likely turn out to be.) When I do make OOC DM comments, I'll highlight the comments like so.
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"Exit 23"

Mabel looked up and shivered. One more set of headlights was shining through the glass doors; one more car had made it through the night. That, in and of itself, was pretty amazing. In the middle of nowhere in Southern Idaho, twenty three miles north of the Utah border on I-15, weather was never pretty this time of year, but tonight's weather was just freakish. (Actually, I looked at a map of Idaho and the mileage markers count down from the Utah border, not up, so "Exit 23" should really be "Exit 184" or some such number. However, right about where exit 23 should be is not right in the middle of nowhere, it's right in the middle of Boise. I'm not actually sure where "Exit 23" is supposed to be located, so I just took a guess and ran with it.)

The headlights turned off, and Mabel could hear the thunk of a car door closing, although it was muted and dull. A dark figure walked into the door, and turned once it was apparent that everyone here was sitting in the McDonalds located to the right. The newcomer was tall, blond -- a striking woman. Mabel's eyes slipped unconsciously to the pistol at her belt. She was also a state trooper.

"Evening, honey," Mabel said. "It's nice to see you made it to the parking lot instead of ending up in a ditch." The trooper smiled at Mable and walked over to have a seat near her. There were a handful of other people in the restaurant too, people stranded there. A short burly man with long hair and tattered camos gave the trooper a surly glance, then looked away. The small, dark-haired doctor looked up and smiled briefly, then returned to his papers. Another man cursed softly and hit his laptop. "He's been doing that off and on," whispered Mabel conspiringly. "Whenever the storm blocks his satellite Internet access."

Two other men sat together talking quietly, a tall, middle-aged black man and a younger, broader white man. A balding businessman in a suit glanced at his watch, then walked away from the restaurant towards the bathroom. He took his briefcase with him. A truckdriver in a cheap parka and a Detroit Tigers baseball cap gave him a glare as he walked away, then turned away again. Another guy, a young college kid from the looks of it, was flipping through some drawings.

"You want anything?" Mabel asked. "Danny's the McDonald's guy, but he's off playing the video games since no one's ordered. I can go fetch him if you like."

"Jane McDermott," the trooper said, shaking Mabel's hand. "I'm fine for now, thank you. What's the latest weather report?" Mabel laughed.

"It's supposed to be clear and about 45 tonight. This crazy storm; I don't know where it's coming from. How bad's it getting out there?"

Jane took off her hat and ran her fingers through her hair, sighing softly. "Bad. Patrol cruiser nearly got stuck three times in the last mile or so; snow's drifting up to three feet or more in places. It's falling so thick you can't see more than a few yards ahead of you. If I hadn't been using my spotlight, I probably wouldn't even have seen the exit sign here."

Mabel grimaced. "Then it looks like we all will be here for a while yet." Jane looked around and noticed that many of the other folks in the restaurant had been eavesdropping to this portion, and many of them openly showed their frustration and impatience at this point. The man with the laptop turned to his coffee, keeping a surly eye on Jane. She got up and approached the college kid, glancing at his papers. It appeared to be artwork, if you could call it that, but it was strange and disturbing: mechanical and biological forms merged together into a kind of alien erotica. She grimaced inwardly, but made a polite comment nonetheless.

"Thanks," mumbled the kid. He put his art away and got up, following the businessman to the bathroom. Jane sat by herself for a moment.

Suddenly the lights went completely out. Curses and sighs of disgust rose from almost all the mouths in the restaurant, but then they abruptly went silent. There was another sound -- glass shattering and a metallic shriek of pain and fear. The wind howled inside the building, blowing napkins, knocking over empty coffee cups, tugging at all the inhabitants of the room. There were screams of fear, and bangs and clatters as people fell over, dived under tables and scrambled to illusory safety.

Then a banging, ripping, rending sound. Screams of pain and fear from the other side of the truck stop. A long, drawn-out scream, like the torturing of some wild beast.

And as suddenly as it came, the wind stopped. The uncaring snow, falling thick as a blanket in the air muffled and muted all sounds. The truck stop had a pall over it like a tomb.
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"Exit 23"

Jane McDermott stood up after a second, flashing her Mag-Lite towards the doorway of the restaurant. There was a glittering flash on the ground in the light; it looked like the glass door was completely blown out. She looked behind her; Mabel was cowering under a table.

"Well, I suppose I should go investigate. Anyone with me?"

The dark-haired man with the laptop let out a slightly high-pitched, nervous chuckle. "Isn't that your job? To serve and protect and all that?"

Another man stood up from his papers. "I'm a doctor. I better go with you to see if anyone got hurt."

The tall black man and the photographer looked at each other and nodded slightly, then stood up as well. "We'll be a few steps behind you."

Jane switched her Mag-Lite to her left hand and drew her pistol. Sweeping her light in front of her to make sure she saw the entire scene before she came to it, she advanced one slow agonized step after another. After a minute or so the other three men came behind her.

The entryway to the truck stop was a disaster. Glass was strewn throughout the lobby, and far into the coffee shop beyond; more than fifty feet, in a spray pattern originating at the doorway. The metal frame of the doorway was twisted, broken and bent in hideous shapes. Snow covered the floor, even though the opening had only existed for a few minutes, and the walls were lined with frost. "What the heck could have caused this?" muttered Nichols, the photographer, to himself. His camera went crazy; he snapped at least a dozen pictures of the entryway on the 35mm roll. Akens, the tall black man, shivered and pulled his coat tighter about him, but started talking into his digital hand held recorder, describing what they saw.

Dr. Neary's face was whiter than normal, but in even, controlled tones he asked, "Shouldn't we move on, then?" McDermott nodded, pulled her gun up and started inching her way through the passageway on the other side of the lobby. The door to the men's room seemed to have been ripped to shreds like an old rag. McDermott shined her Mag-Lite into the room, then turned away, repressing a shudder. Nichols camera ran out of film. "$#!+!" he cried, swapping to his digital camera, which clicked like mad.

Inside the bathroom the destruction was total. Snow and frost was piled high around the walls, which were scratched and scarred and sprayed with blood. The sink was broken off the wall, and lay in pieces on the floor, and the stall walls were knocked over. Most of the ceiling tiles had collapsed as well, exposing the superstructure under the roof and littering the floor. The college kid artist lay on the floor, impaled in many places with two-foot long icicles, and slashed open at the throat and chest as well. Many of his wounds had black edges, as if the flesh had been abruptly and severely frostbitten. Dr. Neary rushed forward to check out the young man. "Stone dead," he pronounced after a relatively quick look.

Nichols camera stopped after a moment. "That was some &@#*ing storm!"

McDermott nodded. "What could have caused all these icicles to have blown in like this? That was some freak wind alright."

Akens grimaced. "Give me a break! There weren't any icicles like this on the doorway. No freak wind could have done this. No, something else is going on."

McDermott pulled up right into his face. "Clearly a tornado hit the truckstop. The icicles could have been picked up from anywhere, and carried for miles. This was a really freak occurance, but nothing else is going on than that."

"I can't believe this!" Akens said, throwing his hands in the air. "You're so blind! You only see what you want to s..."

He stopped mid-sentence, as did everyone else. They had all heard a bump and a clatter from the room next door. McDermott gave Akens a wry look and gently pushed past him, her gun raised again, and her Mag-Lite up and ready. She stepped out of the bathroom and turned to her right.

There, in a small alcove were three our four video games, silent and dark now with the power out. And crouched behind the last game was a young boy in a McDonald's uniform. McDermott let down the light and relaxed visibly. "Are you OK, son?" she asked coming up near him.

He didn't appear to be hurt, but was still in a state of panic. His eyes were wide, and darted backwards and forwards. A wet spot spread from his pants down his leg. "What happened here?" the state trooper asked him.

"Is it gone yet?" he asked, his voice cracking and pitched unnaturally high. "Sweet mother of God, please tell me it's gone!"

McDermott turned to look at the doctor, who merely shrugged. "Look, kid," she said, "what did you see? What happened here?"

"You don't understand!" the boy said, sobbing, and grabbing her by the shoulders. "You can't understand! Please just tell me that thing isn't here anymore!"

McDermott shook him off. "Listen up, kid," she said. "I don't know what you're talking about but I need to hear what you saw and what happened here."

The frightened boy pushed past her, eluding her grasping hands and ran for the door. "I can't stay here; this place is seriously %*&@ed up!" He stumbed on the broken glass, cutting his hands, but scrambled quickly to his feet and ran out into the snow.

"Hey!" McDermott shouted. "Come back here, ya punk!" But he had already clambered inside his battered Honda Civic and turned on the engine. In minutes, he pulled out of the parking spot, leaving a markedly bare spot where the snow had not covered the lot. "Darn kid probably won't even make it past the on-ramp in this weather," she mumbled to herself. She walked back inside. The doctor was standing there watching her.

"You handled that real well," he said caustically. "A real model of diplomacy."

"Cut it!" came a cry from inside the men's room. Dr. Akens voice. "There's someone else in here, buried under the rubble."
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Lots of nasty sharp claws and fire?

For you specifically, three forays into negative hit points? :D
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Librarian, Geologist, and Referee
I love "Exit 23". It's a lot of fun.

Nice write up Josh. I like the details, the black edged cuts from frost bite and the torn up men's room, Nicely done.

Reading this braught back some fun memories of my own. Thanks and post soon.


"Exit 23"

Jane and the doctor left poor Danny to his own devices and ran back inside the bathroom. Dr. Akens had moved a little bit of the rubble, after hearing a moan, he said, and now a foot was exposed under the fallen ceiling tiles, attached to a leg that extended into the pile of debris. He and the photographer had rapidly been trying to remove material from the pile to investigate. The state trooper and Dr. Neary pitched in, and the pile quickly was spread to the side. As they went through the material, it started to get red and bloodstained. The four were a bit nervous about what they would find underneath it. Another groan prompted them to redouble their efforts.

Soon they had uncovered the body of the balding man in a suit. In icicle was impaled in his leg, and another in his side, and savage cuts across his body looked like bear mauling damage. He was still groaning from time to time, though, and his breathing was shallow. Dr. Neary made an attempt to clean him up somewhat and stop the bleeding. His breathing eased a little, and he made a brief foray into semi-consciousness -- "so... cold..." he whispered, before passing out again.

Dr. Neary and Jane carefully put him on a bent, but more or less stable piece of the stall's metal wall and carried him out of the freezing bathroom and into the restaurant. Mabel looked away with a green tinge to her face as the injured man was laid out on a table. "Oh, my!" mumbled Don Truit, looking away from his laptop. Will Wheeler's eyes went wide, but he still scowled at Jane, especially when she started barking orders.

"Stay here with him; I'm going to try and call for a paramedic or something," she said. "Don't let anyone touch him or move him."

"Hello?" said Ned. "I am a doctor, remember? And how do you think anyone's going to get here through this storm?" Jane mumbled, but rushed outside to her car. Picking up the CB, she tried to call through. She heard incoherent static-filled replies; she wasn't sure if anyone copied her message or not. After a few minutes she gave up.

"You with the laptop," she said again, when she came back. "I need a message sent out to the Emergency Response group here locally." Don looked up and frowned, closing the laptop as Jane came around as if to see what was on it.

"Hold on a minute; a laptop 9-1-1 call? Surely you can do better than that!"

Jane was losing her patience. "No, I can't! You're the link I've got to the outside world."

"Listen, cop," Don said, equally impatient. "Stay away from my machine. I make $105 an hour with this, and you can't afford that. Find your own way to patch through."

Jane stood as if she'd been slapped. She tried to sputter a response about good Samaritan laws (which Idaho doesn't have anyway) but really simply didn't know how to respond.

"Look," said Don, "I'll send a message for you, but stay away, alright? I don't need anyone messing around with this." He flipped up the screen again, the bluish light from his Windows Desktop lighting up his chiseled young face.

Just then they were all blinded by flashing lights. A deafening cacaphony of horns blaring in all keys blasted in from the parking lot and the flashing of all the headlights in the lot turning off and on made their eyes water. Then as suddenly and mysteriously as the flashing and honking started, it abruptly stopped.
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Herder of monkies
Niiiiiiice. Jonrog1 did a dark*matter SH that started with the same adventure, and I really like your spin on it. Very cool, I look forward to seeing it updated.


Should be one more update before I disappear for the holiday. With any luck, I'll have the whole thing done before Christmas.


"Exit 23"

Jane, Will and Ned stepped slowly outside, their parkas zipped up around them to ward of the chill. Phillip and Doug stayed near the door, Doug with his camera ready. Don was sending e-mail via his satellite uplink.

Outside, it was still muffled and quiet, but harsh gusts of wind occasionally howled and whined. There was no sign of anything that could have made the cars flash their headlights and honk like mad. Aside from the still heavy snowfall, there was no sign of anything at all. Jane lowered her Mag-Lite and stepped further outside, her eyes on a swirl of snow bourne by the wind in her direction.

Suddenly the swirl of snow coalesced into a shape; a humanoid shape roughly nine feet tall and covered with shaggy white fur. A slavering, wolf-like head topped the creature, but it was exaggerated and demonic, with glowing eyes and elongated fangs. In one shaggy paw, the creature held what looked like a sword made from ice. With its other paw, which had bear-like claws several inches in length, it swung at Jane. She flew through the air from the force of the blow and skidded across the frozen concrete fifteen feet away, blood arcing through the air matching the trajectory of her body.

Behind her was an explosion of activity; Doug's camera was clicking like mad, and Ned made a dash for his Volvo. Will apparently had been packing heat under his parka, and now unloaded shots from a revolver into the strange creature. Ignoring the bullets, the creature turned and swatted Ned, who flipped through the air to thud heavily on the windshield of his Volvo, cracking the glass. He tumbled off the hood of the car to lie still in a snow drift. The creature turned back toward the truck stop now, his attention on Will, who was reloading the cartridge of his gun. It charged him, it's roar like the calving of glaciers, or the howling of the bitter winter storm winds. Will screamed as the creature stabbed at him with its icey blade, but he was able to dodge most of the blow, suffering only cosmetic damage to his parka.

Jane meanwhile, struggled to shake the fog from the blow she had recieved. She felt bitterly chilled; her hands shook and ice rimned her side where the creature had struck her, which at least had slowed the bleeding to a slow seep. Through her haze, she had seen Will's bullets hit the creature to no effect, and on a hunch, she pulled the silver bullet from the chain around her neck and loaded it into her police issue revolver with trembling fingers. As the thing attempted to savage Will, she rolled onto her stomach, aimed her pistol and shot the creature with the silver bullet.

It cried out, more in surprise than true pain or fear, but she at least had the thing's attention. It turned towards her with a look of hate in it's eyes, but then seemed to explode into whirlwind of snow flakes and ice crystals and roar away into the darkness.

Dr. Akens, Doug and Will ran outside to Jane and Dr. Neary. Phillip and Doug helped Jane to her feet stiffly. "We better get you inside and patch you up," said Doug, nodding toward the dark red patch on the concrete where she had lain. She felt a bit faint, especially seeing how much blood she had spilled on the pavement. Will called over as well; he had managed to revive Dr. Neary and was half carrying him, half dragging him back inside as well. His head lolled from side to side, but he looked to be at least semi-conscious.

Inside, Will and Dr. Akens proved to be at least somewhat competent in first aid, although many times they firmly wished the real medical doctor wasn't the one in the worst shape at the moment. Both of the victims of the strange creatures attack were unnaturally chilled to the bone.

"Mabel!" Doug called out. "Mabel, where are you?" After a moment of searching, the attendent was found; a sobbing, quivering mound of flesh huddled in the back office of the truck stop. Doug plundered a space heater from her room and left her there. The heater, combined with the ministrations of the professor, gradually seemed to restore Jane and Ned. Ned had a look at their bindings and tightened them up a bit. In his briefcase, he had some other equipment; a shot he gave to himself and to Jane as well that perked them up somewhat.

Meanwhile, Will had raided the back of his pick-up. Apparently he drove around with an M-16, a shotgun and several pistols. He made sure everyone was armed. Even Jane didn't have a comment about the small arsenal he carried around with him, but she was still a little woozy from her rough treatment at the claws of the furry beast to make much of a fuss anyway.

"Look," said Don at that moment, "while you guys were out shooting your guns and acting all macho, I found a few things that are ...interesting. More like disturbing, really." He spun his laptop around. On the screen was a radar image from the NOAA website showing the precipitation in the area. There was a perfectly circular green patch with it's center ... "Right here," he said. "We're right in the middle of this storm, and if natural storms come in perfectly circular shapes, then I'm a large woman named Mabel who works the graveyard in a truckstop in the middle of nowhere. And then there's this..."

Don pulled out a briefcase and opened it up. The briefcase was battered and dusty. "This belonged to John Doe over here," he indicated the man found in the bathroom earlier in the evening. "Apparently, this Mr. Riley, according to his business card, is an employee of the Hoffmann Institute, whoever they are. And in his briefcase I found this." He pulled up a small ball of glass or crystal. It looked like one of those snow globes that you turn upside down and watch the "snow" fall, but as they looked closer at it, they all gasped. Inside was a detailed model of the truck stop they were staying in, complete with the recent bloodstains from Jane's fall to the concrete, and tiny shattered glass on the ground near the entrance. "I have to admit, I'm a little freaked out here," Don concluded.

Dr. Akens looked thoughtful. "I think I might have an idea of what's going on here," he said.

"Better make it snappy, then," said Will. "Looks like our new best friend is looking for more." Outside, the snow and wind were starting to pick up again, and a familiar swirl of snow was starting to form near the entrance to the truckstop. Will held up his shotgun and cocked it.


Librarian, Geologist, and Referee
I don't get tired of this little adventure. This is the third time I have been through it, two story hours and my own game, and it only seems to get better.

It is a treat to see how it plays out differently every time.

Nicely done Josh. This is a real treat. Keep it coming.
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