This week we returned to the foundational story game Fiasco by Jason Morningstar using the Supernatural Files playset by Bug McBride. We didn’t complete our story, only completing one sequence of scenes, so consider this a pilot episode for a miniseries. Our story is set in New York City and environs, centered around Finders Keepers, a curiosity shop on the Lower East Side run by an elderly seeker and collector of the old, the odd, and the unexplained named Alphonse and his protégé Jebediah. Jebediah was raised in an upstate community that forsakes modern technology and remains out of step with the rest of the city. He doesn’t realize it, but Gemma Stone, a shy patron of the store, carries a brightly burning torch for him. Her fascination with the supernatural brings Gemma not only to FK but also to an occult group that seeks to learn the truth about a legendary curse. The group’s leader is Vincent Everett, a charismatic megalomaniac who dresses only in white suits with black silk shirts, a red tie, and matching round sunglasses. Vincent has squandered his family’s fortune on building his network of followers and in his search for a horn-tailed snarl, the key to unlocking the mystery of the curse. Crystal Everett is the estranged sister of Vincent and an artist whose paintings of cryptids and other impossibilities have found an audience in NYC’s underground art scene. Unbeknownst to most, Crystal shares something with Alphonse: an obsession with uncovering the truth about the death of their mutual cousin Samantha in the woods far upstate by an unknown assailant. The death was attributed to an animal attack, but no wolf or bear or cougar leaves injuries like what Samantha suffered, and they believe something more insidious may be to blame.
We begin with Alphonse returning to the store from a curio-finding expedition upstate with a unique object, a hand-made book purportedly written by the nineteenth-century psychical researcher Erastos. Alphonse shows Jebediah a page in the book describing a creature called the horn-tailed snarl and drawings of the creature’s mouth, pointing to the unusual teeth with their strange shape and serrated edges. He believes these teeth match one associated with Samantha’s death and sends Jebediah crawling through old stacks for other Erastosean items in the store. Across town, Vincent has gathered his followers at his art-themed nightclub and announces that Alphonse has found a book with information on the horn-tailed snarl they seek. After exhorting and exciting them, he tasks Gemma with infiltrating the store and securing the book. Realizing that this is the store where Jebediah works, she goes to the park to spy upon him when he appears to feed the carriage horses, as she often does. Today, she speaks to him and gives him a gift, a book on Dragonology that she says she thought he would enjoy. They walk together back to the shop, and inside she convinces him to let her take the Erastos book. She clutches the book and leans against the door, sighing loudly, over-the-moon with their interaction.(Alphonse’s eventual reaction: “Wait, so you just gave her the book?!”)
In her studio, Crystal paints in the afternoon sun streaming through the loft windows when Alphonse rings her buzzer and comes upstairs. He shows her the page about the horn-tailed snarl taken from the Erastos book and tells her of his suspicions regarding Samantha’s death. As he reads her Erastos’s verbal descriptions, Crystal draws multiple versions of the snarl from all angles, each one depicting a slightly different beast by emphasizing competing details. Is one of these a true likeness of the creature? When Alphonse leaves, someone follows him back to his shop and reports back to Vincent by phone once they arrive. Vincent pays a visit to Crystal, who is not happy to see him, and he asks her to give or sell the snarl drawings to him. Suspicious of his sudden interest, she deflects his inquiry but claims to have reference photos she took when the creature appeared in the alley behind the loft. When Vincent tosses money at her and tries to leave with the drawings, Crystal convinces him they need time to cure properly or they’ll be smudged, so he leaves saying he’ll return tomorrow. Later, Vincent plants himself in the alley wearing night-vision goggles, waiting to see what she photographed.