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Synopsis of our DramaSystem game about a hellbound 70s rock band, Part 2 of 3. (Here's Part 1, here's Part 3, and here's the podcast where we jawed about it.)

Southern Rock Opera : Act Two

Don’t sing with a fake British accent / don’t act like your family’s a joke

Episode 4: Hotel California

Whiskey Holler rockets to success… in a montage! The band rides the publicity from the Lynyrd Skynyrd plane crash to the top of the charts. The bar gigs become ballroom gigs, then sold-out stadium shows. The tour bus becomes a fleet of limos, then a plane. “Biscuits and Gravy” goes platinum, gets airplay round the clock.

This was our “Led Zeppelin on the Sunset Strip” rock star decadence episode. Whiskey Holler and its new army of groupies, flunkies, and hangers-on command the top floor of L.A.’s Continental Hyatt House. Everyone’s downing whiskey and doing fat lines of cocaine. Cole cavorts with a trio of naked girls wrapped in a Confederate flag. Rae’s self-medicating and eventually collapses on stage. Rankin, now Whiskey Holler’s promoter, hooks her up with a pill-pushing physician while quietly hiring the band’s next bassist. The show must go on.

California lays a weird trip on Rufus, on everyone really. She points out how the band’s gotten more popular every time somebody dies. She asks Rufus, then Rae, who should be the next to “feed the beast.” (Rae blurts out Rabbit’s name, then tries to take it back.) Rufus goes looking again for spiritual guidance, but ends up dropping acid with a groupie. He wades out into the ocean, trash-talks the ghost of Ronnie Van Zant, and decides that Cali is the devil. He threatens to throw her off his balcony; she wants him to do it. Instead he just throws her out into the hall.

Cole sees all this, and warns California away from his best friend and his sister for the last time. He says he knows what she is. She comes on to him… and in a dark hotel room, he puts a gun to her head and blows her brains out.

Episode 5: I Wanna Be Sedated

Rankin handles things with frightening efficiency, piling the band on a plane to New York, where a media blitz is planned to capitalize on smooth over the bad publicity from California’s messy “suicide.”

In New York, Rae tries to return to old haunts from her Velvet Underground / Factory days. Rufus tags along. But things have changed: the city’s colder and grittier now, punk not glam. The sparkly androgynous people Rae knew are sick or gone, many wasting away from some mysterious disease. Rae and Rufus go to CBGBs, get dissed by Joey Ramone, then show him how its done. They talk to ghosts and bond.

Backstage at SNL, Cole snorts blow with John Belushi while Dan Aykroyd, in his bee costume, delivers exposition on Appalachian sin-eating. Mr. Saturday wants to know why Shannon hasn’t spent that money he gave her. He shows her an old mason jar with something fluttering inside it—a tattered moth-like thing that might just be her Daddy’s soul. Rufus has a visit from Cali’s angry ghost, who tells him just how he's going to commit suicide in the end. And Cole tells Shannon he’s okay with the deal they’ve made—their souls for success—until Shannon tells him she’s pregnant.

Rae finds Tony, her Lou Reed-esque ex-lover and ex-bandmate, holed up in the Chelsea Hotel. He’s a skeleton, dying of the disease they share. He seems to have summoned her with some kind of record player voodoo. They drink, play who infected who, talk around old wounds. Tony’s planned a joint suicide. There are drugs, guns, a struggle. Tony dies in Rae’s arms.

Episode 6: To Beat the Devil / Angels and Fuselage

And this was our bottle episode, set entirely on a flight from New York to Chicago and the final date of the tour. There’s only room for twelve on the jet (though Shannon’s unborn baby makes lucky thirteen), so several groupies and the pill-happy Dr. Baba get left behind.

The whole entourage is surly and exhausted. The new issue of Rolling Stone has dropped, with something to piss off everyone: Cole on the cover all by himself, Rufus taking credit for Shannon’s songs, and California’s real identity (apparently she’s just a regular girl who grew up a stone’s throw from the Holler). All the fights festering come to a boil: Rufus has an offer to quit the band and make prog rock in England. Rabbit doesn’t seem to be sending Shannon’s checks home to her Mama. Rankin’s hired Rae’s replacement, though she’s not prepared to quit. But she’s dying, and nobody will look that in the eye.

Rufus tells Cole to go to hell. Except Cole doesn’t want to go there anymore. Seems he’s got a scheme to beat the devil. The others are dubious but he gets them to hear him out, and they decide they're willing to give it a try. Which is, of course, when the storm hits. And when Manny’s ghost gets Rabbit alone in the toilet at the back of the plane and convinces him to slash his wrists.

There’s a frantic scrabble with familiar ghosts. “What does it take to scare you crackers?” snarls California, as the plane goes down, hard. Wreckage and flames.

Interlude: Gimme Shelter

Saturday gloats over his root cellar of souls, or ghosts, or whatever they are, each one fluttering like a fleshy moth-thing inside a stoppered jug or an old whiskey bottle or a dusty mason jar. He offers Rae a cure-all miracle tonic if she’ll just quit the band. No dice. (“Ah well. It’s actually just peppermint syrup, wood alcohol, and cocaine.”) He tells Shannon that he's going to collect her whole family, when she joins her Daddy in the dirt. He takes a run at Rufus, sharing some of his own backstory from the minstrel show days. And he tells Cole about fast-fish and loose-fish, by way of asking why he’s got to struggle so—sure, Cole knows where he’s headed, but can’t he just sit back and enjoy the ride? But our heroes are defiant. They're going to end the old man.
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July 2014

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