Cold City: Actual Play

Last month, I gave my First Impressions of Cold City. At the EGA’s Horror Night, I had the pleasure of running it for the first time. I have to say, I really enjoyed myself and I think my players had a good time too. I’ll save my comments for the end of the review of my session. To aid in my adventure creation, I also purchased the Cold City Dossier (PDF from IPR) – I was really impressed with what I had received in this supplement, including details for distressing documents myself. A very exciting supplement indeed!

I’m going to follow Lakira’s example and put character information in first, followed by the actual events of the game. In my haste to finish everything, I did not take copies of the character sheets, so I am unable to post those for reference, but as trust did not really come into play, I don’t think seeing those details about the characters as being crucial.

Onto the:

The Dramatis Personae

Karp Savastian Belanov (Russian)

Conscripted at age 18, Karp knows little about the world around him. Prior to entering the armed forces, Karp worked on his family’s farmland in the farm country surrounding Odessa. His town was quite small, but Karp was always able to charm is way out of any trouble he got himself into with the local authorities or angry fathers. During his deployment, Karp learned to fear the unit Commissar after watching several of his comrades in arms die by his hand, rather than at the hands of the Germans. This submission to the party helped Karp achieve the rank of Sergeant. As the Third Reich crumbled and the Red Army moved in on Berlin, Karp’s unit was involved in a little known battle. A young Oberst in charge of one of the Nazi special project units broke, unleashing his legion of Spezialeinsatztruppers. Faced with the horde to his front or the Tokarev pointed at the back of his head, Karp chose to fight for his life, hoping this battle would be his ticket home. Little did he know this was only the beginning of his involvement in the Underground War.

Bastian Hinrich Holtz (German)

Bastian lived a reasonably comfortable life in the heartland of Germany. Born in 1908, Bastian’s father served as an Oberleutnant to Generalleutnant Burkhard Kerscher. Not wanting the military life for his son, Bastian was sent to Bristol University to study biological sciences. He returned to Germany prior to the rise of the Nazi party and began researching pharmaceuticals. When the war broke out, he was unwillingly drafted into the scientific corps of the Nazi party. Valuing his life over his ethics, Bastian assisted in the research that brought many of the monsters roaming the underbelly of Berlin to life. In an effort to redeem himself, Bastian volunteered his services to the RPA.

Elton Kyler Drake (British)

Elton Kyler Drake was born into a middle class family of factory workers in London. As the war loomed, Elton joined the British Armed Forces. His steady hand and ability to wait until the absolute perfect moment to strike made him a perfect candidate for the newly formed Special Air Service (SAS). Serving behind enemy lines, Elton executed several covert operations, weakening German supply lines and obtaining intelligence. His final mission with the SAS had him infiltrate a strange laboratory filled with strange creatures. Assigned by his government, Elton joins the RPA to do what he does best – hide and kill.

Jeffery Marvin Smith (American)

Jeffery Marvin Smith graduated from Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning in late 1942. Upon receiving his commission, he was transferred to the 2nd Ranger Battalion that was being formed at Camp Forrest. Jeffery became close with his men and was a very skilled officer. As member of Charlie Company, Jeffery led his men to completion of their D-Day objectives. This superior performance lead to a promotion, which allowed his tactical skills to be used in many successful attacks on German outposts. One of his raids uncovered several documents outlining the existence of the Spezialeinsatztruppers. The army placed Jeff in charge of a small task force within 2nd Battalion to deal with these monsters. Upon the defeat of the Third Reich, the Army tapped Jeffery to continue to assist in the cleanup of the mess left behind by the Nazi experiments.

Sylvestre Constantin Dupont (French)

Sylvestre was born into a wealthy family in Paris. His father was a member of the French Diplomatic Corps, which Sylvestre was fascinated with. During the war, Sylvestre served the Nazi government, feeding what information he could to his contacts in the resistance. Nearing the end of the war, Sylvestre was called upon to attend a peace meeting in Berlin. While the request was odd, Sylvestre did not wish to blow his cover and attended the meeting. The downfall was that his cover was already blown. The meeting was a cover for a test of one of the Alternatives. The attack was horrific. Sylvestre’s friend, Denis, was the first to die, the monster slicing through his body, splattering his organs and blood over the entire room of diplomats designated to die. Sylvestre was caught by the back of the monster’s hand and was swatted into the back wall. Luckily, the monster didn’t return to him. The French government assigned him to the RPA because of his encounter with the Alternative. Sylvestre’s days are continually haunted by the attack.

The Adventure

Gathered in a briefing room underneath the Reserve Police Agency Headquarters at the Kammergericht, the agents waited for their mission from Directorate Committee members Magda Bremmer and Major Joseph Spiegelmann. A document addressed to a W. Holtz from one S. Rascher was presented to the group. Within the document, details of the testing of a device known as “The Grossschaffenberg Device” (hereafter known as “The Device”) on a subject referred to as D3. Magda informed the group that The Device had been broken-down and transported, and it is known that the shelling of Berlin in 1945 lead to a change of plans regarding the transportation of the device, but for the last 5 years, The Device was effectively lost. Major Spiegelmann explained that The Device had become a priority since several Alternatives had begun appearing at the last known location of The Device. The last location of the device was in the sub-basement of Charlottenburg Castle. After giving this information to the group, the RPA-DC members left, leaving the group to discuss anything prior to leaving.

Ready to leave, the party grabbed an RPA Jeep that had been left for them for transportation. On the way to Chartlottenburg Castle, Elton questioned Wilhelm on his involvement on this particular project (the letter was addressed to a W. Holtz, after-all). Truthfully, Wilhelm responded that he had not been involved. Somewhat dissatisfied, the remaining members of the group accepted this answer.

Arriving at Charlottenburg Castle, the heroes noticed that the building itself was very dark, with only a few floodlights around the entire property. As the Castle was not being used (as the Allies were still trying to determine what to do with it), it had most of its power draw redirected to areas of the city that required the power. Entering the Castle, it became clear exactly how long the Castle had been uninhabited. A significant layer of dust covered the surfaces. Finding their way to the sub-basement wasn’t too difficult. Upon entering the basement, the most obvious difference was the lights. While only partially lit, the large arched walkway with unfinished floors were clearly defined. Some areas remained in shadow, but this was the exception, rather than the norm. Following down the hall, the group came to a set of doors, one on the left, one on the right. While the group discussed which doorway to enter first, Karp, being a man of Action pushed one doorway open slightly. Seeing that the room was pitch black, Karp readied his flashlight and pushed his shoulder into the door, which gave way easily, swinging quickly inwards, crashing against something inside. Flicking his flashlight around the room, Karp saw nothing. Following Karp into the room, were Smith and Holtz. Holtz tried the light switch, which worked. The lights began to hum to life. Some popped from their age, but the majority of the lights in the room worked without incident.

The room itself was some sort of Laboratory, with large glass cylinders with hard water stains peppering the room. Some glass-doored cabinets were in the room with various other pieces of typical lab equipment. Inspection of the room found nothing regarding The Device, but it was clear that something had been through this room before they had been. Elton and Jeffery decided to enter the second room together, with Karp standing watch outside. A similar room to the one they had just entered met them. Again, the search turned up nothing regarding their mission, but something had been lurking in this room as well. Elton noticed a control board for what he assumed to be the glass tubes, so he secured the top on a tube close to the control board and pressed a button marked ‘water’. The lights down the hall dimmed slightly as the power was drawn to the pump, causing Karp to ask what was going on. Sputtering and the rough sound of an empty pump reverberated throughout the lab. After a few moments, Elton shut the pump off.

With the pump off, the group decided to continue down the hallway. As the moved, they noticed a scratching sound, like rock being scraped. It was light, but it was audible. Cautiously, they approached the next set of doors. Again, Elton and Jeffery entered the room, followed quickly by Wilhelm and Sylvestre. Karp stood watch outside.

Turning on the light, Jeffery was the first to see the individual in the corner. It was scratching at the walls. Approaching, Jeffery tried to calm it down. Upon hearing it was no longer alone, the monster took to his feet and turned. The monster was taller than the everyone else in the room. It also had a third arm hanging off its right shoulder. Wasting no time, Jeffery fired a shotgun blast at the monster, blasting the third arm clean off. The monster roared in pain. As Elton readied his weapon, the spotlight moved to Karp.

Hearing the shotgun blast, Karp turned to move into the third laboratory. As he took a step towards the open door, the closed door behind him exploded outward. Hands reached out to grab Karp by the backpack. The hands then yanked Karp down to the ground. Striking the ground with extreme force, Karp was dazed for a moment, then looked upwards at a monster, jaws open and dripping blood onto his face.

In the other room, the remaining members of the group finished off the monster before they could be harmed. As the first alternative hit the floor, Jeffery ran to assist Karp. Intending to give the monster a boot to the head, Jeffery ran through the doorway. An eye on the top of the monster’s head alerted it to the oncoming physical assault, so as a defense, it lifted Karp back up. Jeffery’s kick landed square in Karp’s knee, giving him a limp. The remaining members of the party moved to the doorway, trying to see what was going on, but were unable to help with the doorway being blocked by Jeffery. Karp wrestled his way out of his backpack, and turned to face his attacker. The Alternative drew back one of his massive hands, looking to backhand Karp into his comrades behind him. Karp dodged the attack by falling to the ground, spraying the Alternative with bullets from his PPsH. The Alternative howled. Jeffery fired a blast from his shotgun, causing massive damage. The Frenchman slipped into the hallway and fired a few pistol rounds into the monster. Holtz fired his pistol from behind Jeffery (who took up most of the doorway) and finally silenced the Alternative.

Elton investigated the first Alternative, finding a tattoo of a number on its forearm, then he turned his investigation to the second. The other three individuals investigated the room where the second alternative had come from. Meanwhile, Holtz found documents similar to the ones they had been given and began to burn them, which lead to Elton questioning his actions. After a brief discussion, the group continued down the hallway to a large open room.

The room was empty, save a Nazi banner covering a secret passage. A small generator room jutted off to the side. Inside this room there were switches to control the lights down the secret hallway and a small safe. Inside the safe were some more concrete travel plans for The Device. It was scheduled to be delivered to Antwerp then to be transported elsewhere. Elton took special interest in the generators that should not have been running, but a strange heart-like device appeared to be generating a constant supply of fuel. After noting this information, the group moved down the secret passageway, which lead to a U-Bahn tunnel, which was crawling with STs and Alternatives. The actual opening of the passageway was about 7 feet above the floor of the U-Bahn tunnel, so Jeffery attempted to jump down silently. His foot splashed down into some water, alerting the nearby monsters. Karp and Elton opened fire while Wilhelm and Slyvestre attempted to pull Jeffery back up into the passageway. As they began to pull him up, a hand grabbed onto his ankle…

Next thing they heard was a loud *CLICK* followed by the *WHOOOOOSH* and the intense heat of a flamethrower. Saved by a cleaning crew, the group was able to return with the information they had gathered about The Device’s whereabouts.

Thoughts and Impressions

As the earlier gaming sessions ran late, the rest of the day got pushed back, forcing the later sessions to have much shorter sessions than planned.  I think its pretty clear that I had to cut the adventure short, based on the ending.  In hindsight, leaving the cliffhanger would have been better, but live and learn, right?  As my first expedition into the horror genre of game, I think it went pretty well.  I was pleased with how it turned out and I definately learned a few things.  I’m looking forward to running another game of Cold City in the nearish future.

I had read the book several times before the game and it was my goal to play the game with minimizing my ‘going to the book’, while running the game as close to what was presented in the book.  I only went to the book a few times (3 or 4) and for the most part, it was to review pages I had pre-marked, which cut down on the ‘page-flipping’ that can occur in some games.  I was happy with that.  After the game, I gave the rules another read through, which made me realize some things I missed.

There were a few trouble spots in the game play that I noticed, probably due to the relative ‘newness’ of the joint-narrative style of game to the people playing.  I had said at the beginning of the game that I’d try to help with determining what was acceptable for narrative and what wasn’t, but I found that I was narrating more than I should have been.  I think that was probably my failing in that I wasn’t forcibly requiring the
players to narrate their success.

Also, combat was a bit confusing.  As there wasn’t any set rules on order (or initiative, if you prefer), we sort of stumbled in this area too.  Re-reading the book made me consider that perhaps I should have been using the assisted combat rules instead of each player gets a turn.  There’s a question on the CGS Forums on this issue which another GM had, so hopefully Malcom can help to iron out the issues there.

Aside from these minor issues, I had fun.  I also think the players had fun, which is most important.  I stand by my original assessment, and will continue to affirm that Cold City rocks my socks.

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