The other night, the Rapture came to Methehatchee, Tennessee. Four hundred and five souls, mostly teenagers, were seized with the power of the Holy Spirit and departed this vale of sorrows for paradise, twenty-nine minutes into the broadcast of Wild Bill Acres’ Rock ‘n Rodeo. Other listeners, sinners all, slashed their throats with broken bottles, swallowed their tongues and choked to death, slit their veins to unleash the vermin within, or set fire to themselves. Few of the Elect shall be troubled by their loss!
james, do you ever talk about stuff besides money and old comic books?
For the past couple of months I’ve been running a game of Sorcerer. We probably had the climactic session on Friday, which involved a player committing mass murder via Bible verse on the radio. Figure I’d talk a little about the game.
Trigger warning: this post involves well-meaning white people playing a supernatural suspense story in which race relations are very prominent. Also it is crazy long.
It’s set in the fictional Methehatchee County, Tennessee, circa 1955. Immediately after Brown v. Board of Ed. threw the political landscape into consternation, and right as Bill Haley, Elvis, and Jerry Lee Lewis are setting fire to youth culture. “Demons” are creatures of Southern folklore.
any time you thinking evil, you thinking ’bout the blues
In writing this post, I’m struck by how absolutely shitty all Actual Play accounts are. If you’re not playing in the game, you’re mainly interested in highlights. So I’ll give highlights. You can see a fuller version over at the Forge thread.
Super short version!
* Tommy Joe Jackson. White lunkhead, about 19, hoping to make a fortune as a rock ‘n roll musician, except that he’s not very talented. To help with that, he’s got himself a Mojo Hand from Delilah the swamp woman. The Mojo Hand, linked to the ghost of Tommy Joe’s friend Boyd Lutz, makes him one mean guitar player, but requires him to resolve all of Boyd’s bad karma while it constantly connives to create teen anarchy.
* Zachariah Cosgrove. A white, crippled faith healer who’s returned to his ancestral home after a long time away. Cosgrove learned the power to command demons from Ol’ Saul, his mentor and father figure. Out of hubris, he bound to him the imp Melchidezek, to show that he is beyond temptation. (Melchidezek is shaped like a horse, has an insect’s head, the hair of a woman, and its tail is a baby’s arm.) Melchidezek can perceive people’s deepest desires, and also grants Zachariah the power to heal others–but demands that he feed it communion wafers stolen from Catholic churches..
whole lot of shakin’ goin’ on
Among many other things, these are the scenes that stand out.
Tommy Joe and his band get run off the stage at the county fair by the outraged Baptist Ladies’ Auxiliary; he abandons his friends and their equipment. Kicked out of his aunt’s house, he ends up at his band-mates’ apartment looking to crash. They refuse. Tommy Joe physically beats his “friends” into submission, and tells them he’s moving in; they can sleep on the floor because he’s taking the couch.
Zachariah encounters the beautiful demoness Mavis Belle, and fails to recognize her for what she is. She inspires in him a vision of the apocalypse, occurring in October 1962. He sets off to prepare his mixed-race congregation for 7 years of trials and tribulations.
Eager to repair his musical career after this setback, Tommy Joe tries to placate the Mojo Hand’s need to lay Boyd’s spirit to rest. So he goes over to Boyd’s old house, and kills Boyd’s drunk, abusive father with an ax while wearing the father’s KKK robes. And then writes a song in the father’s blood. And sets fire to the house for good measure. But not before Boyd’s 8 year old brother sees Tommy Joe’s face, stabs him in the leg with a screwdriver, and runs away.
As Zachariah tries to lead a revival meeting to challenge the power of Jim Crow, his mentor Saul figures out that Mavis is a demon. The congregation discovers Saul in a pentagram, chanting Solomonic rites, with Mavis half naked and tied up, and assume the worst. Zachariah manages to barely defuse this situation. Later, Zachariah ends up losing his virginity to Mavis in binding the girl-demon to his service.
Saul, horrified by what’s happened, banishes Zachariah’s imp-demon Melchidezek. Zachariah unfairly blames Mavis for this, and ritually tortures her. Mavis’s demonic desire is for power, Glorious Godfrey style, but her need is for genuine affection–and Zach has just trampled all over all of that. She’ll get hers, but has to bide her time until then.
Delilah–the witch who gave Tommy Joe the Mojo Hand–had been Mavis’s previous master, and blames Tommy Joe for her rebellion. So she sends a demon to possess Tommy Joe’s best friend. Tommy Joe and his friend get into a fist fight inside a speeding car, and crash into a garbage truck at high speed. Tommy Joe takes his unconscious friend out to Hangman’s Point to finish him off, but at the last minute realizes the kid’s not in his right mind and spares him. Returning to town, Tommy Joe is arrested by the sheriff (and Grand Dragon of the Klan) for the murder of Boyd’s father.
Zachariah by this point has learned that Tommy Joe is a sorcerer, and sends Saul to recruit him into the apocalypse squad. (Saul eventually helps Tommy Joe break out of jail via shapeshifting magic.) Zach then takes Mavis to pay a visit to Tommy Joe’s manager and radio show host, Wild Bill Acres, who’s having a nervous breakdown on-air after Zach’s cousin Mehitibel jilted him. Zachariah comforts Wild Bill, tells him to go home and rest, and invites Mavis to fill in and preach to the town. When Mavis balks, Zachariah eats her out as she recites the Gospel into the airwaves.
Mavis is a demon; one of her demonic abilities is Hint, which in D&D terms is sort of like contact higher plane mixed with feeblemind. Any target automatically knows the truthful answer to one question–but will likely be momentarily overcome by hallucinations, and may die from seizures. And she just broadcast this power to a county of about 100,000 people.
Figuring 1% of the population, mostly kids, were listening to Wild Bill’s show at the time, say 1000 people. We did the math, and about 80% of the audience would be tripping out. And of those, roughly 30-50% would die when their nervous systems just can’t handle that much Unholy Truth.
We paged through some of the NPC’s who might be listening, diced it out, and several died in spectacularly gruesome ways.
Eventually Mavis got tired, asked Zachariah to get her some water–and then clobbered him to get even for last night. She was about to kill him when Saul and Tommy Joe conducted a banishing ritual across town to drive her out of this world. It didn’t work… but it at least distracted her long enough for Zachariah to crawl away.
So now we’ve got a city in chaos, a child-bride demon prophetess on the loose, a shapeshifting rock ‘n roller, and a silver-tongued holy roller beaten within an inch of his life. All of the backstory is now revealed. It will be interesting to see how this shapes up.