Knightfall: First Nights

Originally Published at on 2012-05-22.

Gotham Nights was a Smallville campaign I ran  from February 18th, 2011 until January 13th, 2012 spanning four seasons and a Christmas special. Twenty episodes were produced over the nearly year long run. It’s even spun off into a sequel campaign called Gotham Days. Over the course of the game my writing and preparation style changed drastically and I learned so much from the experience. Now, I’m sharing some of the notes I’ve collected from Gotham Nights. I don’t take notes during or after a game, this is only my session prep work so I can’t show you how these notes survived contact with the players. Still, I’m amused by how much my prep has changed.

001“Knightfall: First Nights”February 18th, 2011
Adam Arthur, Darren Spektor, Dominique Dane, Steven Kyle & Virgil Black don’t seem to have much in common but after this unlikely group of vigilantes start looking into a series of gruesome murders they find that they’ll need to band together if they don’t want to become targets of this mysterious killer!

Opening Scene

The camera fades in on a distance shot of Gotham City. It’s an overcast day, as most are in Gotham, and there is the faint smell of rain in the air. Gotham Harbor lays in the foreground and the 1950’s art deco buildings provide a brooding backdrop to the serene waters. You can hear the sound of traffic on the streets and the constant hum of the monorail as it glides around town.

A quick fade transitions our scene from the landscape of Gotham City to the interior of a small apartment. A man in his mid-forties has his back to the camera, his only distinguishable feature is his long brown hair that falls just past his shoulders. There is a wet snapping sound and the camera slides around to the man’s side. In his hands he holds a woman, her next bent at an impossible angle and blood is oozing out of the knife buried in her chest. He smiles and says, “It’s done. She was the last. I’m finally free.”

Title Screen

Then the title card for this episode comes up, a broken, rusted, and bloody Batarang with the words Gotham Nights in the lower right corner. The opening montage features scenes of Bane cracking Batman across his knee. The Joker holding a crowbar over a beaten Robin. Batgirl laying in a pool of her own blood with a bullet hole in her back. The tombstone of Superman and a news paper with the headline “Green Lantern Still Missing!” The screen fades to black then blood drips down. The episode title fades in over the bright red blood, “First Nights”


ElectroCity on a Thrusday Night

Where: ElectroCity
When: Thursday night
Who: Adam Arthur, Virgil Black, Dominique Dane, Steven Kyle, Alexander Anderson, and Darren Spektor
Why: Establishing normalcy before beginning the investigation into Abattoir.

It’s a typical Thursday night at ElectroCity, quite. The place doesn’t really get going until the weekends and most of ElectroCity’s typical clientele take Thursday off to prepare for Friday night. An eclectic list of music plays in the background, the results of numerous selections from the jukebox. Virgil Black is behind the bar tonight while his roommate Adam Arthur chats with Darren Spektor about the last few months at the bar. Across the room Dominique Dane and Steven Kyle discuss the usual topic of their mutual friend in Blackgate Penitentiary in a side booth. Between the two groups Alexander Anderson sits at a table alone, looking at his drink and listening to both conversations.

Ask the group to deliver descriptions of their characters, civilian clothing. Then prompt the following conversations.

Eventually the conversation between Dominique and Steven turn to the idea of breaking Steven’s sister,Selina, out of prison. Steven is growing impatient while Dominique still doesn’t think the time is right yet.

Instigate a conflict between Chad and Mike, with Mike trying to get Chad to agree to help him break his sister out of prison sooner rather than later.

Across the room the conversation between Adam Arthur chats with Darren Spektor drifts to the topic of the Narrows. Adam is starting to worry that Darren might be in a bit over his head and that Man-O-War and the Singularity could easily expand their patrol to include the nearby neighborhood.

Again, see if you can instigate a conflict between any combination of Darryl, Zeiler, and Elder. Pit Elder on the side of expanding and either Zeiler or Darryl on the side of staying out of the Narrows.

With either conflict, try to provide opportunities for Bowman to Interrupt.

After a few rounds of conflict draw Darryl’s attention to the TV.

While wiping down some glasses Virgil Black glances over to the TV. The vivacious Vicki Vale is interviewing Police Commissioner James Gordon and as Virgil watches the Vicki shows a few censored photos of a crime scene. Curious about what’s going on Virgil turns up the volume.

The camera zooms in on the TV set and a short interview between Viki Vale and James Gordon is played out. In the interview Viki asks James about the recent string of murders linked to the escaped convict Abattoir. Gordon assures Viki the Gotham PD are doing everything in their power to find the villain known as Abattoir. The interview goes on like this for awhile, a few casual mentions of Huntress and other masked vigilantes or an off-hand comment of the Joker or some lesser known criminal. Oddly, both seem to shy away from mentioning Bane. Then, just as the interview is wrapping up the screen flickers. For a few seconds a map of Gotham City is shown with a large red circle around a building. Across the bottom of the screen big block letters scroll: “Breaking News: Abattoir’s Latest Attack! Will the police beat the vigilantes there this time?!” Then a second flicker and a confused Viki Vale looks to Gordon who pulls at his tie before excusing himself.

Let the players RP their reaction to this news, push for everyone to go investigate. Shouldn’t be too hard, first session malleability. If anyone doesn’t go along, they aren’t in the next scene. That simple.

Everyone in the bar looks around at each other slowly, then start start excusing themselves. The camera fades out and we go to our first commercial break of the evening.

Stretch time. Smoke um if you got um.

Abattoir’s Latest Attack!

Where: An apartment in the Narrows
When: Thursday night
Who: Man-O-War, Singularity, Calliope, Nighthawk, Frostburn, and Specter
Why: Investigating the scene of Abattoir’s attack before the police arrive.

Coming back from our commercial break we see a long shot of an apartment building in the Narrows. The windows are either boarded or barred. There is a general stink to the entire area, the smell of human masses crammed into sub-par living conditions. Then a figure appears on the top of the building, the camera pans up to reveal Nighthawk leaning over the edge, looking down into an alley way. A noise behind him causes him to turn around, only to spot Frostburn landing across the roof. Then, from down in the alley an argument erupts as the Specter crosses paths with Man-O-War and the Singularity. Specter seems to think this apartment is his jurisdiction and he isn’t interested in letting two outsiders trample his plans. The camera swings around to the front of the building just in time to catch Calliope sliding in through a third story window… with no indication of how she even got up there in the first place.

Deal with Nighthawk and Frostburn first. There might not be a conflict there at all. After those two come to whatever conclusion they do, they discover the rooftop door has been blocked from the inside. They need a simple Test to make it down the side of the building without injury.

Move on to Specter’s argument with Man-O-War and Singularity. Help set the terms, Specter wants them to leave the scene. Singularity is momentarily distracted by his suits endorphin rush so Man-O-War needs to take the lead in the argument.

Lastly, Calliope needs to find the right apartment. There aren’t any great indicators so she’ll have to make an simple Test to track it down. The apartment she’s looking for is on the second floor, middle of the hallway. There aren’t any numbers on most of the apartments, but she’ll notice the door isn’t closed tightly… which is unusual for this area.

Time is exceptionally important right now. Make sure to keep the action blocked into scenes and track each scene. After THREE scenes the characters hear sirens in the distance. After FIVE scenes GCPD arrives outside the building and start tapping it of. After SIX scenes GCPD enters the building. Then at the EIGHT scene they enter the apartment.

Alleyway outside ApartmentAlleyway outside ApartmentEntering the Third FloorRooftop of the ApartmentRooftop of the ApartmentAlleyway outside ApartmentEnrouteWatching from across the street.

If anyone looks around the outside of the building they have a chance to spot Arnold hanging around. The whole time he has been watching them from across the street. He has just finished tracking down and murdering the remaining members of his family. Normally (and canonically) Batman would have stopped him but with the current state of Gotham City, no one managed to rise to the challenge. Abattoir had found himself growing distressed, uncertain of how to proceed with his life. With this woman he had absorbed his family’s essence but still felt so weak and worthless. It was when the vigilantes showed up to investigate that Abattoir decided he could try to absorb essence that wasn’t family. He’s since started targeting the newer, presumably weaker, vigilantes in a hopes of stealing their powers. He looks fairly unassuming and the Test would be resisted by his stats and the Trouble Pool.

Abattoir (Extra)Murder, Stealth2d10

Someone will need to spend a scene finding the apartment. Calliope may have a head start on this and if she doesn’t close the door or cover her tracks it saves everyone else from spending a scene on it. Read this when the characters finally find the apartment:

Another unnumbered door on the second floor. The only indication that something happened here is how the door wasn’t shut tightly. It’s not quite ajar, but the deadbolt isn’t in place. A small push and the door swings open, the pungent smell of urine and feces assault your face. There are only three rooms, the kitchen\livingroom opens to a bedroom with a small side bathroom. Right in the middle of the living room a woman lies, knife buried in her chest and neck bent at an impossible angle. Her body is still warm but fading fast.

There are only a handful of clues for the characters to gather, the real conflict is over who gets what and if they share with the others. Improve most of this but here’s the important information to get across

– The woman’s driver’s silence lists her name as Sarah Went
– Her checkbook has the name Sarah Etchison on it along with an old address.
– In one of her desk drawers are divorce papers filed against Sarah from a Douglas Went, absolving a marriage that only lasted four months.
– Tucked under the bed are a series of handwritten letters from Douglas to Sarah, the older ones are love letters but the most recent one is a break-up letter. Douglas is upset with Sarah for keeping some secret that he never explains.
– Further examination of the apartment reveals there was no forced entry, the lock wasn’t picked, the windows are intact (and barred) all of which indicate that the killer had to have been let in.
– The knife is Sarah’s chest is a common household kitchen knife but it doesn’t match any set she owns.
– There are kneel marks in the pool of blood around Sarah’s body, indicating that someone was holding her when she was stabbed in the chest.
– There are contortion marks on her neck, indicating that it wasn’t a smooth jerk that snapped her neck but a slow and constant pressure.

Cut the scene where appropriate, narrate the camera cuts. Deal with the Gotham PD. Setup a chase scene if the characters are spotted by the PD. Use these stats below the police along with the trouble pool. Resolve the rest of the evening then read this next part at the end of the last scene.

GCPD (Extra)Law, Chases2d8

[Action Description] Then the camera pans up to the Gotham skyline. A timelapse of the sun rising on another day in Gotham. Traffic is moving across the streets, the occasional car horn sounds, and then the screen fades out for our second commercial break of the episode.

The next scenes unfold in any order and all take place the Friday Night after the investigation. Make sure to use Bowman’s last since it deals DIRECTLY with Ra’s. These all set the characters on the path to the Old Bank in the Narrows. Duh! Duh! Duh!

A Humble Request

Where: Gotham Circus
When: Friday Night
Who: Dominique Dane & Roman Vinchinzi
Why: Roman needs Dominique to slip into an old League of Shadow’s HQ.

[GM Improve Scene]

Ra’s al Ghul has drawn Roman Vinchinzi back into the fold for one last time. Ra’s has offered the services of David Cain to Roman for one week in exchange for delivering Dominique Dane to an old bank vault Sunday night. He’s promised that Dominique won’t be hurt, that he simple wishes to speak with her in private.

Roman has crafted a story, during his time with the League they based out of this old bank. It’s since been abandoned and re-inhabited by a local Narrows gang. Roman wants anything that the League might have left behind in some secret compartment or hidden room. He tells Dominique its far to dangerous to go on the weekends, the gang tends to be in full force then. He asks her to swing over Sunday night, take a quick and quiet look around, and don’t ignore the old vault room. That was their main hall.

Roman Vinchinzi asks Dominique Dane

Nigma’s Failures

Where: The Downtown Loft
When: Friday Night
Who: Adam Arthur
Why: Deliver “Case LS” to Adam

[GM Improve Scene]

For months you have been helping Detective Nigma with some personal files. While you never understood the magnitude of “Case LS” you know that Nigma has invested a lot of time and money into it. One day he comes into the office and drops a folder the size of Ulysses on your desk and instructs you to shred it. It only takes a few pages to realize that it’s the files for “Case LS”. Why would Nigma be giving up now? You seemed so close…

The truth is that Nigma has been looking into the current operations of the League of Shadows. When Ra’s al Ghulnoticed he thought it a perfect time to lure the Riddler over to his cause, or failing that his assistant Adam Arthur. Case LS lead Nigma to an old abandoned bank vault but Nigma worked through the information faster than Ra’s expected, arriving three days too early. After investigation the vault Nigma concluded that the League planted the information to give up an old base that was no longer in use. Because some information was compromised he determined the only course of action was to start the whole investigation from scratch.

Gangland Rumblings

Where: The streets of the Narrows
When: Friday Night
Who: Darren Spektor
Why: Indicate that a new gang, dedicate to the memory of the Joker, is forming in the Narrows.

[GM Improve Scene]

Ra’s al Ghul has paid off numerous Gotham based gangs (non-Bane) to carry envelops indicating a gathering of forces on Sunday night. This ploy was designed to lure any would be heroes to his meeting Sunday night. Darren Spektor fell right into this trap and after a patrol and collar he discovers the notes about the meeting. The gangers tell him what they know, some guy is paying them to meet there on Sunday night. They don’t know why.

Strange Reactions

Where: Rooftops in the Narrows
When: Friday Night
Who: Virgil Black
Why: The suit has a negative emotional reaction to a building in the Narrows.

[GM Improve Scene]

You’re on patrol one night, leaping from roof to roof, in an older part of Gotham City. It’s a neighborhood you’ve never patrolled before but since your home turf seems under control you’ve decided to expand your influence a bit. Suddenly, your suit gets super nervous. You slow your pace a bit and try to feel out the emotion but you’re not sure whats wrong. You note the feels and hope to the next roof. Panic hits you and the suit feels like its trying to crawl off your skin. You stumble and botch your jump, sending you tumbling to the alley below. The suit reels back at the building in front of you. When you take a step towards it your suit wracks with pain. There is something in there that is dangerous to your symbiont but you’re not going to be able to find out with the suit on…

With the weekend approaching there isn’t a good time to ditch the suit to investigate… then Virgil Black works the opening shift at ElectroCity but he’ll get off in time to go check the place out Sunday night. The truth is that Ra’s al Ghul has acquired a small flying scorpion-like creature that nearly wiped out the suit’s race. The scorpion was planted it in a safety deposit box on Thursday night, knowing that it would lure Virgil to the vault on Sunday night.

A Change of Targets

Where: Steven Kyle’s Factory
When: Friday Night
Who: Steven Kyle
Why: Slip information on a cache of Joker Gas to Nighthawk.

[GM Improve Scene]

While cleaning out the factory one day Steven Kyle came across an old notebook tucked under a shelf. It’s dusty and dirty, the pages are mostly falling apart the the ink has spread from water damage. After flipping through it there is a couple things that are clear: it had a bunch of information on the Joker in it at one time, most likely not FROM The Joker and second it has a few notes on caches of Joker Gas around Gotham. After reading over the locations most of them have easily been discovered by now, but one that’s hidden in the private safe of a defunct bank in the Narrows is unlikely touched by now. bank. With Joker turning himself into Arkham Asylum the market for Joker Gas has never been higher. The heist on the Loft can wait, you need this Gas before anyone else hears about it. The soonest Steven can get there to investigate would be Sunday night.

Alexander Anderson

Where: Alex’s Home
When: Friday Night
Who: Alexander Anderson
Why: He receives a letter from Ra’s al Ghul, summoning to the Old Bank.

[GM Improve Scene]

A simple letter arrives from Ra’s al Ghul, requesting a meeting with Alexander Anderson on Sunday night. Ra’s then implies that while this is a request that it would be incredibly foolish to turn it down.

The camera fades out and delivers us to our final commercial break of the episode.

Saturday Night Attack

Where: Outside ElectroCity
When: Saturday Night
Who: VARIES, and Abattoir.
Why: Distract the players from the Bank and resolve the Abattoir story.

[GM Improve Scene]

D6 to determine Abattoir’s first target:

  1. Man-O-War
  2. Singularity
  3. Calliope
  4. Nighthawk
  5. Alexander Anderson
  6. Darren Spektor

After the commercial break we come back with RANDOM PC enroute to ElectroCity. As they cut through an alleyway, the usual shortcut, a noise causes them to turn around. They turn just in time to catch a blackjack across the face instead of the back of the head!

Enroute to ElectroCity for their usual Saturday night activities, someone is jumped and attacked by Abattoir. Using Abattoir’s stats and the Trouble pool, Abattoir attempts to knock out the character before dragging them back to his lair. IMPORTANT NOTE: Abattoir might be down a die or two from earlier!

Abattoir (Extra)Murder, Stealth2d10

If Abattoir succeeds at Stressing Out someone’s Injury stress he then drags them back to a refinery. If Abattoir fails then he attempts to flee back to the refinery. No matter what happens the next scene needs to go down at that refinery, the final showdown between the heroes and Abattoir should go down there.

Regardless of the means, anyone who knows the character attacked will realize he’s late getting to ElectroCity. Prompt them to go looking for the victim, leading them back to the refinery. As long as two people show up then we’re kosher.

The Final Showdown

Where: A Refinery
When: Saturday Night
Who: VARIES, and Abattoir.
Why: Capture or Eliminate Abattoir

[GM Improve Scene]

Canon: Valley chased him into a refinery and nearly knocked him into a vat of molten metal. Abattoir was hanging from a chain above, barely able to hold on, but Valley allowed him to fall to his death, to Robin’s horror. Since Abattoir was holding a relative, Graham Etchinson, inside a secret, hidden torture chamber at an unknown location, Valley indirectly condemned that prisoner to death, though he was unaware of it until Police Commissioner James Gordon informed him.

The important things for this scene is to get Abattoir hanging from a chain. If Abattoir captured another player they are in the secret chamber. If not, it’s a character currently missing from the session. If the player(s) lets Abattoir die then when Gordon arrives he informs them of the missing hostage. This could spin into a follow up scene where the players need to find the missing player. If Abattoir lives than Gordon arrests him and Abattoir tells them where their missing friend is.

Tag Scenes

With Abattoir defeated we cut to a montage of our heroes patching each other up.

The Bank Vault

Where: An Abandoned Bank
When: Sunday Night
Who: Man-O-War, Singularity, Calliope, Nighthawk, Alexander Anderson, Darren Spektor, and Ra’s al Ghul
Why: Deliver the cliffhanger ending.

The camera cuts from the montage to the outside of an old abandoned bank. The building has seen better days, crumbling rock walls where graffiti doesn’t cover. Down an alleyway across the street is a hobo fire with a couple men standing around it. It’s just another Sunday night in the Narrows.

It can’t just be coincidence that everyone arrived at the bank around the same time. At first there is uneasy arguments, maybe this is a setup, who’s behind this, etc. But an uneasy truce is reached and the group decides its better to explore in mass than as individuals. Something about the scene just feels wrong. The group makes its way into the bank and after scouting the rooms they step into the bank vault.

There is the sound of a piston firing and the vault door swings closed behind everyone. A second of darkness stretches out then a single bare bulb flickers to life. In front of the group stands a man who wasn’t there a second ago. 
“Gentlemen. Lady. My name is Ra’s al Ghul and I apologize for the farce but it was the only way I could get all of you here tonight.”
The camera cuts to black then the episode credits start to roll.

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