Sunday, 14 May 2017

Playing With Real Toys: Halles Saint-Géry, Brussels (Night's Black Agents, GUMSHOE)

Let's try something new.

I've handled Chilling Locations in the past. I want to expand the concept. Every so often I'm going to post a Real Toys segment, in which I'll take a real world location and write it up as an RPG scene, including a description, thrilling elements, and a potential short plot. Not unlike the bit I wrote for To Treno in Athens, in fact.

So let's start with Halles Saint-Géry in Brussels.

Halles Saint-Géry is a covered market in the heart of Brussels. Saint-Géry was formerly an island on the river Senne, but over time the river was subsumed into the city proper and by 1870 Saint-Géry was an island no longer.

Saint-Géry is named for Saint Gaugericus, who built a chapel on the island in 560 AD. This chapel was replaced by a Gothic church, which in turn was razed during Brussels' flirtation with French Revolutionary ideals and replaced by an open air market. The covered market, completed in 1882, stands in that same spot once occupied by Saint Gaugericus' chapel.

The market hasn't been a market for some time. These days Saint-Géry is better known as a hive of nightclubs and bars, and Halles Saint-Géry is a coffee shop during the day and a bar at night. However on the first Sunday of each month it transforms into a vintage market, where you can get everything from rare vinyl to pianos and furniture.

As Saint-Géry chapel was built by a saint and is known to have housed some of the relics of another Saint, Gudula - her body was, for a time, kept in veneration at Saint Gaugericus' chapel - in a Damned or Supernatural game the Director may rule that sufficient sanctity remains to prevent vampires from freely wandering Saint-Géry, or perhaps from entering Halles Saint-Géry. Though Saint Gudula's relics were moved, the Director may also rule that something was secretly kept back by the clergy at Saint Gaugericus, and which is now interred somewhere at Halles Saint-Géry; possibly underneath the fountain which marked the center of the old open market, and which still exists at the heart of Halles Saint-Géry. Again, this is likely to have significant implications for Damned vampires.

To begin with, a thrilling element list:
  • A group of drunken tourists travel unsteadily from the bar to their table, laden with beer.
  • A server moves through the crowd dexterously balancing a tray filled with hot coffee.
  • Architecturally significant metal balustrade mezzanine balcony over the main floor of the market.
  • A beautiful fountain and obelisk, dating back to 1767, at the center of the market, marking where the old chapel used to stand.
  • Art installations along the mezzanine, or tucked away in one of the side rooms.     
  • (Nighttime) An enthusiastic DJ pumps out electronica to the delight of a happy, buzzed crowd.
  • (Vintage Market) Bargains of all kinds on every side, from clothes to statuary.
  • Sunlight slips through the clouded panes of the glass ceiling, as evening falls.
  • A group of young locals passionately argue the politics of the day, over an ever-growing pile of empty beer glasses.
  • Renfields or Damned vampires sweat blood just being here, on the spot where saints once walked, making them much easier to pick out in a crowd.  
  • For a brief moment - perhaps just a trick of the light - a shadow assumes the form of a man in a bishop's mitre, right hand raised in benediction; the traditional depiction of Saint Gaugericus.        
Then the Scene:

An Underworld or Government contact - possibly a Network contact - asks or pays the agents to provide security for a meeting at Halles Saint-Géry. The Contact can't afford to use the usual people, or his own staff, because the Contact thinks they have been compromised; the agents, the Contact hopes, are free of vampiric influence.

The Contact intends to meet clandestinely with someone on the other side who says they have vital information about the Conspiracy. This is true, though whether it's because the Conspiracy agent wants to betray the vampires or because this is yet another example of Node fratricide is something the agents may never know.

The meeting is to take place at a time when Halles Saint-Géry is very busy, so this might happen at night when the DJ is pumping out tunes, or during one of the Sunday vintage market days. The meeting point is at the mezzanine, just opposite the obelisk.

Unfortunately for the Conspiracy agent his defection is known to his vampire masters, and assassins are on standby.

The exact nature of the assassination depends on the style of the campaign. In Dust games the assassins have replaced one of the servers - either a barman or one of the coffee shop baristas - with one of their own. This person has been instructed to dose the Conspiracy agent with Polonium, and if successful the Conspiracy agent will die after a few agonizing days.

The agents and their Contact may also be poisoned just through their proximity to the target, though much less severely. The Contact is very ill for a day or two, and the agents must make a Difficulty 6 Health check. Minor effect is +0 damage, Major is +2 damage, always bearing in mind this assumes close proximity to the Polonium, not ingesting it. Somehow swallowing the poison - did someone volunteer to act as taster? Silly ass - means Minor effect of +2 damage and Major +6.

There's a Sense Trouble test Difficulty 6, reduced to Difficulty 3 if the agent making the test spends a point of Chemistry, to detect the Polonium poison before the Conspiracy agent drinks it.

Any Chase scenes involving the assassin start at 2 Lead, as the assassin is right next to the target.

In more action-heavy games the assassin uses a pistol crossbow, firing from the other side of the Hall while standing on the opposite mezzanine. The bolt is tipped with Cyanide, which will be fatal to the intended target and will force agents to make Difficulty 5 Health checks, Minor effect being -1 damage, Major being +3 damage. The Cyanide tip damage is separate from the bolt, which does +0 damage.

The assassin can be spotted before she makes her move, if the agents make a Difficulty 6 Sense Trouble. If the agent spends a point of Tradecraft or Streetwise this can be reduced to Difficulty 3; in-game, the agent recognizes the assassin from a previous encounter, or some half-remembered intel dossier.

Any Chase scene involving the assassin starts at Lead 5, as the assassin starts the chase on the mezzanine opposite.

That's it for now. Enjoy!

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