Sundog Millionaires: Scum and Villainy

Last week, we got together to do the character creation for our new Fate Core Star Wars game. It had been over a month since we did the game creation session, which is a little longer than I had originally wanted, but life gets in the way sometimes.

And, because life gets in the way sometimes, we got started late and didn’t get as much done as we might have. But we made it through the high concept and trouble aspects, through the phase trio, and through the skill assignments. By the time we got to the stunts1, it was pretty late, and we were getting kind of punchy2, so I gave a brief explanation of what stunts were, and how they worked, and we decided to finish up the characters via e-mail and using our forum3.

As of this point in time, characters aren’t finished yet. Still, I wanted to get a short post about it, because I’m a bit behind on the blog.

So, we’ve got a hidden human Jedi4, a besalisk archaeologist, a human former Imperial diplomat, a wookiee mechanic/slicer, and a messed-up former assassin droid.

It looks like an interesting group. I hope to finish up the characters this coming week, and maybe even start play next weekend.

Oh, yeah. We still need to decide on what kind of ship the gang has.

  1. Arguably one of the most complex parts of character creation. []
  2. To be fair, we always start kind of punchy. []
  3. We have a forum now? []
  4. I knew at least one of the players would go for this option. And I correctly guessed which one. []

Sundog Millionaires: The World We Made

This weekend, I finished typing up the first version of our setting bible for the Sundog Millionaires campaign that I talked about back here. We’re experiencing a few delays in getting to the character creation part of the festivities, so the document is not complete – I expect to add a few more entries1 for things that get created during character creation.

But I wanted to get the setting bible out to my players to make sure we didn’t lose the momentum and the excitement that was generated during the game creation session, so I sent it out only partially complete.

I have to say, I’m pretty pumped about this setting the group has come up with. It has a bunch of cool Star Wars stuff, but also some neat tropes from other science fiction2 sources, so it’s not plain vanilla Star Wars3. Sure, we’re playing during the Imperial period, but it’s much earlier than the movies – more the time of the Dark Times comic series, which is less constrained by readily-available sources. This means that there’s plenty of space4 for the characters to carve out their own stories and decide what’s important, rather than being either tied to or overshadowed by the canon narrative.

An important note about canon, both for the audience and for my players: I know a fair amount – not a huge amount – about the Star Wars universe, expanded and otherwise, and I’m a decent online researcher5. However, I fully accept that there are others in the audience and among my players who know the stuff far, far better than I ever will. I am not going to worry about canon. I am going to use whatever seems fun that I discover, and make up the rest. If I tread on the toes of those who care deeply about some aspect of the universe, well, that’s just the way it’s going to be. I’m not going out of my way to break from canon, but nor am I going out of my way to follow it.

Govern yourselves accordingly. 😉

I am far more interested in the world my players created, and in how they got excited during its creation. I had to rein in a couple of folks from talking out an entire story that would be more interesting to play through than just have in the background. I had people throwing out ideas for the game left and right. I had people starting to get excited talking about what characters they made. And everyone cheered when, in the final minutes of the session, they picked the name of their ship and thence the name of the campaign.

Man, I love collaborative game creation.

Anyway, for those who are interested, I’m linking to both the setting bible and the Obsidian Portal wiki for the game. You can find them both below.

One last note about the bible: I’ve put in a bunch of pictures that I have collected over the years from the Internet. I didn’t keep track of the sources, and so have not credited the artists, nor obtained permission to use them – I didn’t know I’d be putting them in anything public when I collected them. I just thought they were cool.

If you see some art in the document and you know who it belongs to, please let me know. That way, I can ask for permission to use it, and credit the artist if they grant that permission, or remove it if they don’t. This isn’t the best way to gain permission, I realize. I apologize for that. I should have kept better track of the sources of the pictures when I collected them.

Anyway, here are the links I promised:

  1. Like one on Sundog, the characters’ ship, but they haven’t decided what kind of ship it is, so that’s blank right now. []
  2. And action/adventure sources. []
  3. Nothing wrong with plain vanilla, but I prefer that the characters have room in the narrative to put their stamp on things. []
  4. See what I did there? []
  5. At least for the level of information you need to run a game. []

Sundog Millionaires: In The Beginning

Last Sunday, we got the old Storm Point gang together to run the game creation session of our new Star Wars game, using the Fate Core system. We were supposed to meet a week prior, but I really wanted the entire group together for this, and life intervened.

I have to say, that extra week was taxing on me. When I’ve got a new game coming up, I often immerse myself in preparing for it – working out background, roughing in some scenarios, and generally getting ready for play. But with the game creation being a collaborative process1, I couldn’t do any of that, because I didn’t know what kind of game this was going to be.

That is, however, a pretty minor complaint.

I had prepped all the players by letting them know what the steps in game creation would be, and by sharing with them Lenny Balsera’s game creation tips article from the first issue of the Fate Codex. They all came prepared, and we had a bit of a discussion2 before jumping in.

I started with getting each player to give me an individual Want / Do Not Want list, with three items in each category. That’s significantly more than Lenny recommends in his article, but I had a couple of specific reasons for doing that. One was that, as I got these lists from them without them discussing the various items, it allowed me to see what sort of overlap there was, and thus what things most of the group agreed on. Another was that this brainstorming approach would allow us to have a productive discussion about the similar – and dissimilar – items that would lead us to find common themes.

So, once we got our big list, we talked through it, finding similar entries, and talking about what it was about them that made us want or not want them. This allowed us to sort of boil down the list by consensus, coming up with a shorter list that addressed pretty much everything3 the group cared about. That gave us the basis for coming up with the framework for the game.

What we decided on was a game where the characters were the crew of a somewhat run-down freighter in the Outer Rim, taking odd jobs and exploring strange places. In conversation, the vibe we wanted for the game settled out at about half-way between Firefly and The A-Team. With, of course, all the tropes of Star Wars thrown on top.

So, with that done, we pressed on to the Issues, Locations, and Faces of game creation. I’m not going to go through the details of setting creation; I’ve put the initial results up in the Obsidian Portal wiki. I’m working on putting together a setting bible for the gang, but that’s going to have to wait until character creation is done, so that I can incorporate the things they come up with then.

The game got it’s name from our last little discussion on that evening – after much debate4, they settled on the name Sundog for their ship. And one of the players said, “So, obviously, the name of the campaign has to be Sundog Millionaires.” And the name stuck.

Soon, we’ll have the character creation session. I’ll post about that when it happens.

  1. And I want to be clear here that I think collaborative game creation is awesome. []
  2. And some dinner. []
  3. The main thing that didn’t get settled was the inclusion/exclusion of Jedi PCs, but I’ll get to that a little later. []
  4. And some god-awful stupid suggestions. []

Fate Core Star Wars, Redux

The other day, I wrote a post about how I decided not to use Edge of the Empire as the ruleset for the Star Wars game I’m going to be running soon. While I think I cover everything about why I made that decision, upon reviewing the post, I see that I haven’t really talked about why I think Fate Core is a good fit for a Star Wars game.

With this post, I hope to correct that.

Easily Adaptable

I’ve mentioned before that Fate Core is not really a generic system – it’s more accurate to call it settingless. Because one of the main goals of the system is to be useful in a wide range of settings, it is easy to adapt the mechanics for pretty much any setting. This is especially important for a setting like Star Wars, which is so big and encompasses so much that trying to stat it all up is a fool’s errand.

The structure of the Fate Core rules – specifically aspects and the Fate fractal1 – means that I can take care of most adaptations by thinking up a couple of aspects, and maybe a skill or two. Examples? Sure!

  • There are hundreds of different alien species2 in the Star Wars galaxy. Rather than having to stat up all the various species to make them available to the players as characters, I can just tell them to include the species in their high concept, use other aspects as desired to reinforce3 the stereotypes of that species4, and build any special powers using stunts.
  • Droids are always a problem to adapt well to a game. But I can just use the same guidelines as for aliens above, and done. Easy-peasey5.
  • Spaceships can be tricky to simulate well in games, and most games have a host of special systems and rules for them. In Fate Core, I can just build a spaceship like a character, using the idea of the Fate fractal – give it a high concept aspect, a trouble aspect, maybe another one or two aspects, and a stunt or two to make it extra-special. Easy to build anything from a droid fighter to a star destroyer like this6.

The ease with which Fate Core adapts to the the various settings means that I don’t need to set anything in the Star Wars setting off-limits for the characters7.

Which leads me to…

Game Creation

Saying that you’re going to run a Star Wars game doesn’t necessarily tell you much about what kind of game you’re going to run. Between the movies, the books, the video games, the comic books, the RPGs, and the various other tie-ins to the setting, there’s a vast number of time periods, locations, themes, group structures, etc. to choose from.

Typically, it’s the GM’s job to pick a specific setting and campaign set-up within the Star Wars galaxy, which can be problematic if the GM and the players have different ideas about what kind of game they want to play8. Alternately, the GM can throw it open to player suggestion, but that can lead to decision paralysis.

The Fate Core game creation system provides a structured framework for collaborative setting creation. It guides the entire group – GM and players alike – through a process of deciding on the big parts of the game, and then fleshing out the details. I’ve run the collaborative setting creation for two different DFRPG campaigns9, and both times I was surprised and delighted at the setting that emerged.

These two points lead me to:

Player Choice

The ease of adapting anything in the Star Wars setting to Fate Core, and the collaborative setting building leads to a great deal of freedom for players to play exactly what they want to play. Most published Star Wars RPGs limit what you can play10, both in terms of characters and settings, simply because there was just too much stuff to stat up according to their systems.

Now, because it’s a collaborative effort to create the setting and the characters, some people may not get exactly 100% what they want, but they’re going to be able to come a lot closer than in other games. And seeing as they’ll be the ones imposing the restrictions, it’s pretty much guaranteed that they will be restrictions they can live with.

Cinematic Action

There are very few games geared as perfectly for cinematic action as Fate Core11. It allows – nay, encourages – crazy, over-the-top, movie-style fights. Characters can run, jump, trick their opponents, swing on chandeliers12, slide down banisters, battle atop burning buildings, hit people with chairs, leap through windows, dive for cover, bully, intimidate, taunt, and anything else they may care to try.

A large part of this is that most brilliant piece of game mechanics technology, Create Advantage13. The ability to create advantage means that sometimes14, just trying to hit your opponent is not your best action in a fight. Instead, it’s more important to set your target up so that a single hit will take him/her/it out, and that means creating advantages. So, it makes sense that, instead of standing toe-to-toe and slugging it out with your opponent, you throw sand in his eyes to distract him, kick his legs out from under him, drop a barrel on him, and then finish him off with a well-placed kick to the chin.

The other thing that makes for great cinematic battles is the idea of scene aspects. Aspects can mean that you’re fighting in a burning building, trying to escape a crashing starship, prying open the doors of a closing trash compactor, being chased through a dangerous droid factory, and anything else you care to come up with. And because it’s just aspects, it all uses the same simple mechanic, rather than a raft of various situational modifiers and special rules.

Easy to Prepare

All of the above points make game prep pretty easy, even for first-time Fate GMs15. Putting together even complex stat blocks for adversaries, planets, ships, or whatever is a matter of minutes, not hours. That means more time to spend on story, and the characters’ aspects work very well to generate plotlines that will grab them and keep them interested.

Easy to Improvise

The first Fate game I ever read was Spirit of the Century. That billed itself as a pick-up game, and it worked quite well in that respect. The Fate Core system is clarified and streamlined, leading to a system that’s even easier for improvisation, with the ideas of aspects and the Fate fractal, as mentioned above.

Add to the basic simplicity the fact that I have a fair bit of experience running and improvising in Fate, and it makes me very confident that I can wing it when necessary. Building a dangerous threat on the fly is a matter of deciding on a couple of aspects, an attack skill and defense skill, and stress track. If I want to get fancy, I can throw in a simple stunt to give it some colour.

Same thing with planets and spaceships. All very easy to throw together quickly, if necessary. And reskinning something you’ve prepared to appear different is trivially easy.

And So…

And so Fate Core is an ideal system for running Star Wars. At least, I think it’s going to be. I have every confidence, and have read a number of success stories of people using it thus.

I guess we’ll find out if I’m right soon enough.

  1. The Fate fractal basically says that anything in the game – anything – can be constructed like a character, with aspects, skills, and stunts. It’s an elegant and simple way to attach mechanics to problematic elements. []
  2. Wikipedia lists 249. There may be more I don’t know about. []
  3. Or not. []
  4. A trick I ripped right out of Bulldogs! []
  5. Lemon squeezey. []
  6. I can even steal some ideas from CAMELOT Trigger for making extra big starships that have multiple zones. []
  7. Though my personal preferences, and those of the players, will probably wind up doing so. []
  8. Mystery-solving cantina band members traveling around in a psychedelic spaceship with a wookiee called Scooby? Please. []
  9. I’ve also tried to incorporate it into a lot of the other games I run. []
  10. The old WEG d6 game was the most open in this regard. []
  11. Certain iterations of Cortex Plus match it, I think, but that’s not surprising as they are at least close cousins in design philosophy, modeling the fiction of the game world rather than the physics. []
  12. Or chandelier-equivalents. []
  13. In previous Fate iterations, this was the Maneuver. Same idea, different name. []
  14. I would argue – and I havemost of the time. []
  15. And I am not one of those. []

Fate Core Star Wars

As folks who follow this blog probably know already, a long-running, beer-and-pretzels D&D game – the Storm Point campaign – is about to wrap up. The group wants to keep playing something, but we’ve had enough D&D for a while1. As we started getting ready to wrap the campaign up, I told them to start thinking about what they wanted to play next.

When they saw my copy of Edge of the Empire, they decided they wanted to play Star Wars.

I thought this was an awesome idea. I’d run the Edge of the Empire Beginner Game for some friends, and thought it worked really nicely2. I had a lot of fun with it.

Now, I can’t stress enough that I think that Edge of the Empire is a good game. It is. The dice mechanic, the production values, the way FFG is sectioning the game into three books, the sheer volume of material – all of it is top notch. The writing is good and clear, and it gives you plenty of options, even if it is a little limited in scope compared to previous SW games3.

But, as I read through the rulebook, I became more and more convinced that EotE was not the right game for what I wanted to do. Here are the things that made me concerned:

  1. The funky dice. Now, I understand why the game uses these dice, and the benefit they provide, and think that what FFG is doing with them is great. And, from the Beginner Game session I ran, I think that they are cool and worthwhile. But it’s also learning a completely new dice language, if you will. While I’m fine with doing that, I think that only about half the total group is going to read the rules, and so the learning curve on the dice for the group as a whole is going to be pretty steep.
  2. Limited choices for the characters. Now, the choices aren’t all that limited – in fact, there are eighteen career/specialization combinations, not counting adding the Force specialization or multiple specializations. But no Jedi, no brave rebel soldiers, limited alien species choices4.
  3. Limited campaign choices. As noted, EotE focuses on the people and locations on the fringe of the SW galaxy. It doesn’t provide any support for running any other types of games. My players came up with some interesting ideas about what kind of campaign they wanted to play5, but a lot of their ideas would have had me scrambling to fill in the gaps on EotE.
  4. Prep time. After eight and a half years of running D&D, I’m really ready to run something less prep-intensive. EotE doesn’t look too bad, but the learning curve in the early part of the game would require a fair bit of work for me to get ready for each session.
  5. Seating arrangements. Yeah, this is kind of a weird one, but with the funky dice, and the learning curve building and interpreting dice pools, and the destiny point mechanic, EotE would pretty much require us to play seated around my dining table. We prefer to sprawl out in the living room, using the couch and coffee table and various comfy chairs.

I went back and forth on this for a couple of weeks, then I broached the subject with my players. I proposed that, instead of EotE, we use Fate Core to power our SW game. We discussed it and, with their blessing6, I decided to go with Fate Core.

There are some of the same problems with Fate Core: notably, it’s a new system that the players7, and there isn’t a lot of support for running a SW game. But the system is one I know very well, and I’m pretty good and improvising in it. And converting stuff to Fate Core is trivially simple.

The main advantages I see, beyond the fact that it will be far easier for me to run8, is that it will offer the players much more of a chance to shape the kind of game they want to play, and to make the characters they want.

One thing I did have to do up front is figure out how the Force is going to work in the game. There are a number of takes on SW for Fate Core here, and they handle the Force in a variety of ways. I finally settled on making it an extra requiring both your high concept aspect and your trouble aspect to point towards it, and left the various Force powers to be stunts.

When I finally settled on that, I put together a bit of a primer for my players. Because the system is going to be new ground for some of them, and there’s a very different mentality behind Fate Core than D&D, I spelled out some basics about the setting creation and character creation, along with explaining how the Force is going to work. If you’re curious, you can download the primer here9.

We’ve got one more Storm Point session, scheduled for this Sunday. That should wrap the campaign. Then, we start moving on our Star Wars game.

I’m looking forward to it.

 

  1. We’ve been playing D&D, first 3E and then 4E, for eight and a half years. We’d like a change. []
  2. That’s kind of damning it with faint praise – I thought the structure and form of the Beginner Game was pure genius for teaching the basics of the system and getting people into the game. Probably the best introductory gaming package I’ve ever seen. []
  3. FFG has decided to split their SW game into three books – one dealing with the scum and villainy of the remote areas of the galaxy, one dealing with the ongoing Rebellion, and one dealing with Jedi and Sith. EotE is the scum and villainy one, with limited involvement with the Rebellion and limited details on the Force. []
  4. Although you can play a droid, which is awesome. []
  5. One idea was a cantina band that traveled around and solved mysteries. Now, I think that idea is both ridiculous and awesome. []
  6. Or at least lack of protest. Silence gives consent, am I right? []
  7. Some of them, anyway. Two of them were in my Feints & Gambits DFRPG game, and at least one or two others have played Spirit of the Century. []
  8. Which is, of course, a big consideration. []
  9. Just a word of warning, however: this was written for my friends, who are all adults, no matter how they behave. I use some language in the document that I don’t normally use on my blog. Not much, but still. []

Feints & Gambits: The Battle of Tara

Friday night was the final session of my Feints & Gambits DFRPG campaign. The campaign ran 23 sessions, including the character creation and setting creation sessions1, over just about two years. We started with six players, and added another one part way through. That’s a pretty large group; I’d assumed that a couple of players would be unavailable each session, keeping the group to a manageable size. That assumption was mainly correct – most sessions, we had at least one player absent, but it was still a big group, and having a full house was… challenging. I had almost a full house for the last session; one player wasn’t able to make it2

As mentioned in the last post, I had the players doing some homework, preparing for the battle. They jumped on this opportunity pretty eagerly, and over the time between the sessions, I got a whole bunch of e-mail and stories about how the heroes were setting things up for the final confrontation between the Fey Courts and the prospective High King. We had Venatori Umborum strike forces hiding in the church with the arm-bone of St. Patrick, we had the power of the sun bottled in the hands of a powerful fire mage, we had a storm conjured by an international network of Wiccans, we had collected favours in the enemy camps, we had belief funneled to the King from a powerfully prophetic painting3, we had an army of mummified cats hidden in the trenches. And those were just some highlights.

To run this battle, I looked to the old Decipher Lord of the Rings game. While the game had some problems4, the game shone in two specific areas: the wonderfully appropriate feel of the magic system, and the simple, flavourful system for running large-scale battles. It’s this last bit that I lifted pretty much whole from LotR and dropped into this game. What makes the system great is that it resolves the battle turn by turn, showing the shifting fortunes of war, while allowing the PCs to have some cinematic hero moments in the midst of the chaos.

So, what I did was to stat up the two armies as opponents. I set the fey army at Good (+3), with eight stress boxes, and the King’s army at Fair (+2) and five stress boxes. There were aspects available from the location, and from the preparations each army had done5 that could be called on in battle. I also made a list of twenty events and scenes to roll out in the middle of battle for the heroes to deal with. This list had things on it like a ride of the wild hunt, challenges to single combat, favours being called in, and6 the arrival of Aengous Keogh with the Cauldron of the Dagda.

And then one of the players almost derailed the entire thing, as Mark O’Malley, acting as the King’s herald, negotiated the whole battle to be replaced by a sealed draft tournament of Magic: The Gathering. Now, it was a brilliant ploy, and I liked it, but I couldn’t let it work out the way he wanted – I had to shift the game back to the battle. Why? Not because I had planned this whole battle thing and it would be wasted. No. I’m willing to take a hit like that and improvise something new, maybe following the High King on his ordeal to prove his worthiness.

No, the real problem was that, if we went with theM:TG scenario, only Mark would be doing stuff. The rest of the characters would just be spectators at what was meant to be the climax of the campaign. And that just wasn’t right.

So, I pulled a fast one. I had the fey bring forward a changeling – a stolen child, who happened to be aM:TG tournament champion. When Mark figured out that he was in some jeopardy, he switched tactics and started trash-talking the kid, sending him running from the game in tears. The fey Warlords decreed that this meant the battle must go forward7, and so battle was joined.

At the start, I was worried that I had built the opposition up too high. The characters certainly felt threatened, and worried, and the first little bit of the battle was tight for the good guys. But then the gang started figuring out how to put things together using their preparations, spending Fate Points freely, and got things working in their favour.

I can’t do a blow-by-blow of the battle. Too much went on. Some highlights:

  • Nate reneging on the debt he owed Summer. He lost his fire magic, but used the sun power he had bottled in the preparation phase to regain it.
  • Mark whipping up a fast thaumaturgic ritual to drop a field full of landmines8 into the Nevernever.
  • Aleister taking out the Wild Huntsman with a single rifleshot.
  • Kate waking the souls of the 400 Irish rebels buried on the site to defend the High King.
  • Rogan leading her pride, and armed with a magic bell, breaking a fey advance and routing the attacking squad.
  • Safire blowing the head off a pixie who had come to tell her that her Granny was being held hostage9.
  • Aengous’s arrival, in a Guinness van, with the Cauldron of the Dagda, and his desperate, ill-fated drive across the earthworks10.
  • The Warden showed up and wanted to know how a war had sprung up on his watch, and got sent off to talk to the White Council for advice instead of interfering.

In the end, the battle turned out to be pretty one-sided, thanks to the intervention of the heroes. Near the end of things, the gang really pulled out the stops, taking out the leadership of the armies and playing on the enmity between the two courts. Despite being significantly outnumbered, the good guys actually drove the fey from the field without taking any significant losses.

And so, the surviving Tuatha De Dannan arrived, the Queens of the Courts in tow, and re-enacted the treaty whereby the Milesians claimed the surface of Ireland and the Tuatha and fey sank into the earth, and into a subservient place in the country. And thus, balance was restored and the Faerie Courts had to stop their blatant, manipulative games with the people of Ireland.

I wanted to spend a little time doing epilogues for the characters, but at that point, it was almost one in the morning, and we were all tired. We decided to call it a night, and to handle the epilogues via our forum.

And so it ended.

I want to thank my players:

  • Michael (Aleister Usher), who never let an opportunity to be a hard-ass pass him by.
  • Sandy (Kate Owens), who tried to keep a low profile, but still got sucked into things.
  • Chris (Nate O’Malley), who solved all problems with FIRE!
  • Erik (Mark O’Malley), who was the calm, rational O’Malley brother11.
  • Fera (Rogan O’Herir), who went from a lone, grieving warrior to heir to the power of her clan.
  • Vickie (Firinne O’Beara), who fought her trickster nature as hard as she could to keep her friends safe.
  • Jen (Safire Byrne), who showed up late, and lot her Granny in the battle.

You guys made the game great, and I thank you for it.

I hope you had fun.

  1. I count those because, as the rulebook rightly says, these are part of play. If you don’t believe that , you haven’t tried it. []
  2. We missed you , Vickie! []
  3. Yay! Alliteration! []
  4. Notably, the long prep time for GMs – it took me about three to four hours of prep time for each hour of play. Building NPCs and monsters was not fast, and setting up traps and obstacles took a lot of time, too. []
  5. Yeah, I let the fey armies prepare, too – mainly taking assets overlooked by the players. []
  6. Because it was necessary for the whole becoming-high-king thing to work. []
  7. Despite some grousing from the player about how leaving a game counts as a forfeit; see my note about having everyone involved in the game. []
  8. Secreted on the site by the Malleus Maleficarum, who didn’t kill which side they killed. []
  9. Downside was that they killed Granny. []
  10. Aengous needed to arrive with the Cauldron for the King to conduct his bid for Kingship. It was a single entry on my random chart, but every time I rolled something else, I crossed off that entry. If I rolled a crossed-off entry, it would be Aengous. So, the odds for his arrival increased as the battle went on, but I could never be certain when he would show up. As it happened, he showed up on the stroke of midnight, which was awesome. []
  11. Rational and calm only by comparison to Nate. []

Feints & Gambits: The Spear of Lugh

Last Saturday was the penultimate session of Feints & Gambits. I had pretty much a full house, missing only two players, so that was five players to wrangle1. On the other hand, given what I had decided they were up against, a larger group was not a bad thing.

Only two of the players had been at the previous session, where the gang secured the support of the Ciorcal Fuinseog and retrieved the Sword of Nuada. And one player hadn’t even been present at the session before, when the whole idea of the Ard Ri was laid out for folks. Seeing as this one was a member of the Venatori Umborum, he wasn’t disposed to trust someone who had, until recently, been dead.

I was a little worried about this last, to tell the truth, because the player, who had been kept up to speed on the games by other players, was saying things like, “I don’t think I’m on the same side as everyone else with this idea.” Now, I had some ideas about how to run the endgame no matter which side the group chose, but I hadn’t thought too hard about what I’d do if some of the group chose to support the King and some chose to oppose him. I had vague ideas, but quite frankly, it would have been a big pain in the ass. However, I should have just trusted the player, because he met me half-way very easily and naturally once things got rolling, and no problem arose2.

Anyway, I started the session with a more detailed recap than usual, because of the fact that only two of the players had been at the previous session. That’s the point I was trying to make.

So, after the recap, I let the characters who had met the King and agreed to help him explain things to Aleister. After Aleister seemed amenable3 to the idea, I brought in Liam Dalton, the prospective King, to meet Aleister and explain himself4.

Once that was out of the way, and the group was starting to plan what they were going to do for this session, I called a bit of a time out to explain how the final session was going to work. I followed that up with an e-mail message, spelling it out in more precise detail, so I’m just gonna paste that below so you can all see it.

Next session is going to be the battle at Tara, with Liam Dalton trying to become High King of Ireland. The Fey are going to oppose him – with force. The battle scene is going to be the main focus of the session, with you folks deeply involved, though not necessarily all together. You will be making individual actions, but you will also be making actions for the battle – trying to hold a flank, or press an attack, or fend off the air support of the Fey, whatever.

In addition to the normal stuff on your character sheet, you will also have some aspects that represent resources you have brought to the battle. These can be used in the battle rolls, along with your normal aspects. You already have a few of these: The Sword of Nuada, The Spear of Lugh, Rogan’s Pride, Power of the Ciorcal Fuinseog, stuff like that. I’ve got a list, but I’m saving it for when the session starts. The Fey also have a list of resources they can use – things like Nate O’Malley Owes a Favour, for example. I’m not going to tell you what they all are.

You can add to the resources your side has. How? Simple. Think up something that your side could use to aid them – special knowledge, another ally, preparation of the battlefield, a helpful artifact, whatever. Then write me a story about how you bring it over to your side. It doesn’t have to be long; a paragraph or two is fine. Post the story on the forum and then – pay attention, because this is an important bit – let me know that you have done so BEFORE JULY 27. Midnight July 26 is the cut-off point. Why? Because I need time to read the story and add the resource to my list.

If, instead of posting a story, you want to work out the details with me in e-mail, that’s fine too, but the deadline applies.

There it is. Have at it. And let me know if you have any questions.

I wanted to spell it out during this session, in case they had any ideas they wanted to implement during the session to add to their battle preparations. They spent some time looking at maps of the Hill of Tara and thinking of ideas, but decided to save things for the forum or e-mail, which is fine with me5. And they decided to head off to the Giant’s Causeway6 to get the Spear of Lugh.

The spellslingers in the group did a fair bit of preparation for the spell they were going to use to locate the spear once they got to the Causeway7. By their choice, they went to scout the Causeway in daylight, so the big problem they ran into was the hoard of tourists. Not very convenient for spellcasting, but Firinne, the changeling trickster, got the guides to give them some space to work with a story about spreading the ashes of her little brother here, with a ritual by his friends from a recreationist society, and they got away with it.

Their preparations pumped a lot of power8 into the divination, so I gave them a big result: a vision of the Organ at the Giant’s Causeway, transformed into an iron gate, behind which they saw flickering, hellish light. That, they knew, was where the spear was.

So, they came back after dark, using all their various stealth abilities, potions, and glamours to make sure they got across to the Organ undetected. Once there, Kate used the Sight to take a look at the place, and saw that it was a Way into a great hall full of formorians. Mark opened the Way, and they sauntered into Baelor’s Hall.

The place was huge, with open pools of molten iron, large trestle table, benches, hanging iron chains, and a massive throne upon which sat Baelor of the Evil Eye, with the Spear of Lugh mounted on the wall behind him. Also, about a dozen formorians sitting at table, feasting.

There was a little conversation, as our heroes tried to persuade Baelor to turn over the spear, but he just laughed at them – formorians are firmly on the Fey side of things in my world, so arguments that the spear would be used to end the reign were pretty much useless9. And then he ordered his warriors to attack.

Things went badly for the gang at this point. I had based the formorian stats on ogres, with a few little enhancements, like weapons. Baelor was toughened up from that, with a special eye blast attack. They hit like a ton of bricks, and were very resilient. Rogan scared one off with her roar10, and Mark stopped Baelor’s attendants from opening his evil eye by slicing their lifting sticks to bits with a blast of force. But by the end of the first exchange, pretty much every one of the characters had taken at least a minor consequence, and they feared for their lives.

Now, I had built the formorians to be horribly tough opponents on the physical battlefield, but weak in the other ones. I had filled the hall with interesting things that could be tapped as scene aspects. When they realized that they were outclassed in a fight, the characters decided to focus on their primary objective – the spear – and then see about escaping11.

Rogan shifted back to human form and dashed through the formorians to snatch the spear from the wall with a truly stunning Athletics roll. Everyone was preparing to give her cover to make her escape when Aleister dumped all his Fate Points on a single roll and shot Baelor through the eye, doing just enough damage to penetrate his armour and roll up off the end of his stress track.Now, I could have let Baelor take a consequence and continue the fight, but a couple of things argued against doing that.

First, Baelor wasn’t designed to be an ongoing foe; he was built to be an obstacle. With his warriors, he was a very tough obstacle, but I didn’t want to elevate him to the level of some other faces in the campaign, because I had introduced him for a single purpose. So, I had no vested interest in keeping him around.

Second, as I mentioned, Aleister had spent every single Fate Point he had on the shot. He’d rolled in the neighbourhood of 16 shifts of damage, and that kind of roll – and Fate Point expenditure – deserves a memorable success. Having Baelor shrug the shot off, though possible with his stats, felt like a dick move12.

Thus, Aleister shot Baelor right through his evil eye, causing his head to explode. His warriors, stunned and panicked by this development, fled. And our heroes took the spear and got out while the getting was good.

It was pretty late by that point, so we called it a night. Next session, everything ends, one way or another.

  1. When I launch my New Style Gaming in September, one of the things I’m focusing on, aside from running shorter campaigns, is running with smaller groups. Easier to schedule, and everyone gets more spotlight time each session. []
  2. Thanks, Michael! []
  3. All alliterative! []
  4. I found, listening to the characters’ explanation, that I hadn’t made clear exactly what the whole idea with becoming High King was all about, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to spell things out. []
  5. Of course, if they forget, well, that’s just too bad, now, isn’t it? []
  6. “Mark, do you have access to a va-” “NO!” []
  7. They came up with such good stuff, like making a little replica spear out of the remains of a bronze-age spear, and reading passages about the spear from the Lebor Gebala Erenn. It made me very happy. []
  8. More alliteration! Yay! []
  9. Or worse. []
  10. Mental and Social stress tracks were where they were vulnerable. []
  11. The Way had, of course, slammed shut when the formorians attacked. []
  12. This is an important thing I’ve learned over the years: rules go by the wayside when the player commits to an epic, cinematic moment. Let the heroes win, especially when they show you how important it is to them. []

Feints & Gambits: Circle and Sword

We’re rapidly closing in on the finale of the Feints & Gambits game. This was the antepenultimate1 session of the game, so only two more sessions left now that this one is complete. Things are coming to a head, and the pressure is on.

I had the smallest group for this session in I-don’t-know-how-long. Only three players were able to make it, and that’s the bare minimum we’ve set for quorum2. It was a bit of a surprise, because the previous several sessions have been full houses, or pretty close, but that’s okay. Sometimes it’s nice to play with a smaller group. Better able to give spotlight time to everyone.

So, who showed up? Well, we had Nate and Mark O’Malley, affectionately known as the Terror Twins3, and Rogan O’Herir, the heir to leadership of the ancient pride of were-smilodons who serve as mystical guardians of Ireland4. That gave us the bulk of the heavy-hitting power in the group, but little in the way of… shall we say, the social graces.

The game started with a recap, and then the gang started talking about what they wanted to do. Given that the overall goal was to prepare Liam Dalton for his ascent to the High Kingship, they knew what was needed: the Sword of Nuada, the Spear of Lugh, the Cauldron of the Dagda, the Stone of Kings, and as many allies as they could scrape together. In the previous session, they had determined that the stone at the top of the Hill of Tara was, in fact, the true Stone of Kings, so that was done. They also knew that Aengous Keogh had the Cauldron of the Dagda, but he had left for parts unknown after the fight at the Guinness Brewery. Macha, at the Silver Arm, however, told them that Aengous was prone to show up when and where he was needed.

That left the Sword, the Spear, and allies. In a wonderful display of confounding expectations5, they decided to try and enlist the Ciorcal Fuinseog6 onto the King’s side.

Now, I mentioned that none of the three were exactly diplomats. In fact, it might be fair to say that the majority of them7 are the reason diplomats exist. They were overmatched and outgunned in this department, and more likely than not to shoot themselves in their collective foot.

 

Okay, let’s look at a quick rundown of the players here:

  • Nate O’Malley, incredibly powerful evoker, specializing in fire. He’s got the typical temper of a fire evoker, and a big chip on his shoulder. But he’s trying to do the responsible thing, and that counts for something.
  • Mark O’Malley, not as powerful as Nate, but able to work both evocation and thaumaturgy. More polished and sneakier, but has a chip on his shoulder at least as big as Nate’s. He’s been turned down for membership in the White Council unless he undergoes a seven-year apprenticeship, so he’s trying to prove he doesn’t need them.
  • Rogan O’Herir, who turns into a smilodon. She tends to solve problems with her teeth and claws, in a very permanent manner. Last session, though, she promised to return to her pride at the end of this battle and prove herself worthy of leadership, so she’s tryng to turn herself into the kind of leader she’d want to follow.
  • The Ciorcal Fuinseog, a loose collection of minor mystical types – similar to the Paranet – who are dedicated to preserving Ireland. Well, sort of. It’s kind of a lie to say that the entire Ciorcal is dedicated to anything. They are fractious, bickering loners who co-operate only because it’s safer.

That’s three people who are not optimal for enlisting a strong ally, and an ally who’s not as strong and unified8 as anyone thinks. The thing I found interesting about the choice is that it wasn’t about who the characters are. It’s about who the characters want to be.9

But10 they had the secret weapon of the FATE system on their side – time to prepare.

They used their circle of customers from the bookstore to make contact with someone from the Ciorcal and laid the plan out to her. She agreed to get some representative fraction of the group to a meeting to hear the whole thing and make a determination. They also researched the Ciorcal to find out a little bit of information about them – this gave them the idea to offer them bread and salt to make them guests, seeing as how the Ciorcal tended to like the old ways.

Nate even apologized to Macha and got readmitted to the Silver Arm11, where he wanted to buy a bottle of mead to drink to seal any agreement that they reached. When he explained to her what he was trying to do, she brought him a special bottle of mead12 that she had made herself long ago. Rogan baked some bread13 and brought in some other food, as well, to lay a good table.

At this point, the group looked at me and said, “Well, I still don’t think we have a chance. What else can we do.” I blinked at them for a second or two, and then told them to write down a list of three or four aspects that they had accumulated through their preparations, which I had been treating like maneuvers14. They said that they hadn’t rolled for them, but I said that roleplaying for them trumped rolling for them any day of the week. Thus, armed with their preparation aspects, and the aspects of the Hole In The Wall bookshop, they brought in their guests and proceeded to make their case.

I ran this as a Social conflict, with a couple of little tweaks. First, I treated the entire dozen of Ciorcal representatives as a single opponent, giving them six or seven stress boxes, a single skill I called Resistance, set at Good (+3), and a few aspects. The idea was that, if the group was taken out, they’d join the fight. I would use Consequences to represent how close they were to being swayed. I didn’t want them to counter-attack, though, but I still needed a way for the characters to fail persuading them, so I set up three Strike boxes. Whenever the characters failed a roll against the Ciorcal’s Resistance, or when they did something that violated the sensibilities of the Ciorcal15, I would mark in a Strike. Three Strikes, and the Ciorcal walks – maybe right over to the other side, depending how things went.

Well, the conflict went about as well as I could have hoped. Everyone pitched in, incorporating the aspects in the fiction, not just for dice rolls, and fought as hard to accomplish this as they ever had to bring down a physical16 foe. Fate points flew hot and heavy and, in the end, they managed to convince the Ciorcal to join with them with two Strike boxes filled in. I was impressed by the play from all the players, and was very happy that the system could handle this sort of debate in a way that made it dynamic and interesting, providing mechanical structure for it without making it devolve into mechanical dice-rolling17.

It was about 11:30 at that point, and we try to wrap things up around midnight. The gang wanted to push on and try and get Nuada’s Sword from Newgrange18, and I thought about things. There were two ways I could go with the claim-the-Sword adventure – quick and dirty, which I could probably do in about an hour, or longer and more involved, which I would need to leave for the next session. I decided to go for the quick and dirty solution, because the players were riding high on their success.

I invoked a little GM-fiat coincidence, and had one of the Ciorcal members be an archaeologist working in the Boyne Valley, who got them up and to Newgrange in the dead of night. I was able to use my own visit to Newgrange to describe the site, and the claustrophobic tunnel inside, and the incredible arched central chamber, so that was good.

Inside, it was Nate’s turn to use The Sight19, and he saw a neolithic shaman sitting in the bowl where the midwinter light would fall in the central chamber. This shaman asked Nate some riddles20 and, when Nate answered correctly, opened a doorway into the Nevernever that only Nate could see.

He stepped through, found himself facing a band of Winter Court warriors, and promptly burned them to a crisp21. Then he opened the grave vault, had a bit of a chat with Nuada, claimed the Sword, and scampered home. Everyone cheered and they went to bed22.

That leaves the Spear – and possibly more recruiting of allies – for next session. And the big finale for23 the final session.

Game is soon done.

  1. For my discussion of ultimate terminology, you’ll have to look at this post. I’m not repeating it here. []
  2. See, I’ve run the campaign in a very episodic manner, because it’s tough scheduling with a large group. We play as long as three players can make it. Thus, three is quorum. []
  3. They’re not twins. Just brothers. And are considered to be weapons of mass destruction in our magical Dublin. []
  4. God bless collaborative character and setting creation. I’d never have come up with something like that. []
  5. Both mine and their own expectations of their characters’ strengths. []
  6. That’s my barbarous Gaelic rendering of Ash Circle. []
  7. At least. []
  8. Well, not as unified, anyway. Band together the resources of the group and focus it on one goal, and you’ve got a pretty potent weapon. Keeping them from arguing about what the goal should be or what his Joan said about our mum last Solstice, though, that’s a bit of a challenge. []
  9. This is one of the things that I love about DFRPG, and FATE in general. It promotes character growth and story arcs where the nature of the characters change. Characters can strive to become better people, not just faster or stronger or more powerful. Nicer. Happier. More heroic. And the system has a way to model that sort of aspiration, and to both quantify and reward it. []
  10. And this is a glorious but that exists because of the way the game works. []
  11. He’d pissed her off last session, and she threw him bodily out of the pub. []
  12. Metheglin, actually. []
  13. Not her first choice of job. []
  14. I just hadn’t thought to tell them that. Figured I’d get to it. []
  15. As represented by the Ciorcal’s aspects. []
  16. Or metaphysical. []
  17. I’m looking at you, D&D 4E. []
  18. Macha told them it was there last session. []
  19. Those with the ability tend to take turns, spreading the potential hurt around. []
  20. Three, of course. The player used his Lore skill to answer two of them, but got the third one on his own. Considering I was creating the riddles on the fly, and drawing on more reading of Celtic legend than the player has done, one out of three ain’t bad. []
  21. I think they managed to land one shot, and it wasn’t a good one. I think I mentioned that Nate is a weapon of mass destruction, right? []
  22. Except Nate, who took the Sword by the Silver Arm to give Macha the message from her husband, Nuada. []
  23. Fittingly. []

Feints & Gambits: Tá an rí-ard ag teacht!

Last night was the latest session of Feints & Gambits. We were short two players, so the house was only moderately crowded.

The game picked up in a pub1, with Liam Dalton explaining his plan to put the faeries back in their place in Ireland. It was pretty simple, on the surface: he would become High King of Ireland, which gave him authority over the doings of the fey in Ireland by the rules of the Unseelie Accords. It wouldn’t give him any temporal, political power, but it would make him the mystical ruler of the island. With his lineage, he said he had a blood-claim on the title, and bet that, generationally speaking, he was senior to any other claimant, having died in 1263.

Mark questioned how he could assume the title; if he had been revived by the True Guinness, he probably only had a year of life before the effects wore off, based on how often the beer needed to be delivered to Padraig Pearse’s ghost. Liam said he had taken care of that, and tapped his chest a couple of times, and the gang realized that he had implanted himself with Saint Lawrence’s heart, and that it was keeping him alive now.

To allay his last misgivings, Mark soulgazed the man, and saw his noble, regal spirit. He fell down on one knee, tears streaming down his face, and swore his service to Liam. That meant that Nate agreed to help, as well.

The other three were more problematic. Rogan’s family of were-smilodons stretched back as far as Liam’s, but had always been separate from the human kingship. He told her he understood this, and did not ask for fealty, but only for aid. Rogan agreed to this. Kate’s from Canada, and this isn’t her fight, strictly speaking, but she told Liam should would stand by her friends, and he thanked her for that. Firinne, being half-fey, had, in Liam’s mind, divided loyalties, but she assured him that she would happily do anything that inconvenienced the Courts, and jumped readily aboard.

She also mentioned that Elga, the Warlord of the Winter Court, owed her a favour2. And this reminded Nate that he owed a favour to someone on the Summer Court3, which he confessed to Liam4. Liam told the whole group that they were free to leave him at any time, but asked that, if they intended to change sides, they tell him and accept his safe passage away from his forces, because he had no stomach for treachery.

And then there was drinking to celebrate.

The plan to become High King required five things:

  1. An army. This wasn’t strictly necessary to become High King, but Liam felt that things would come to battle before this was over, and he would need a force – a more-than-mundane force – to hold off the combined might of the Summer and Winter Courts while taking the kingship.
  2. The Stone of Kings, one of the four treasures of Ireland.
  3. The Sword of Nuada, one of the four treasures of Ireland.
  4. The Spear of Lugh, one of the four treasures of Ireland.
  5. The Cauldron of the Dagda, the last of the four treasures of Ireland.

After some discussion with the group, it was decided that it would be imprudent for our heroes to act as envoys to Baba Yaga’s people that they had met in Hell, as that hadn’t ended well. Rogan agreed to broach the matter of an alliance with her mother; bringing the Pride on board would be a real advantage for Liam. Other groups discussed were the Ash Circle and the Malleus Maleficarum, both of which the group thought it might be problematic to approach5, so Liam said that his companions, the Thief, the Lady, and the Nun, would deal with that side of things if the others would retrieve the four treasures and assemble them at the Hill of Tara before Midsummer.

Then it got a little drunk out.

Next morning, they decided to start with an easy treasure: according to tradition, the Stone of Kings sits on top of the Hill of Tara6, right there in front of God and everyone. All they had to do was go see if it was the real thing.

So, they drove out to Tara, and climbed the hill. Kate felt uneasy on the ground near the Mound of Hostages, a passage tomb on the hill, and moreso as she approached the summit, which had, in addition to the Stone, a memorial for the mass grave of men who died in the 1798 rebellion. This is due to her new aspect, Defiler of Graves, that she got for, well, defiling some graves under St. Michan’s church. The dead are a bit uneasy around her, now.

Anyway, she got to the top of the mound and opened her third eye to look at the Stone of Kings. She wound up having a fairly cultured conversation with a dapper older man who claimed to be the Voice of the Stone, and he convinced her that this was the true Stone they were looking for, and that he would proclaim the High King if the prospect was worthy. He then shifted and changed into a mountainous stone man holding her in the palm of his hand and demanded that she not fail to bring him a High King so he could fulfill his purpose. Kate collapsed in a seizure, and had to be carried down off the hill7. When she recovered, she told everyone what she had seen.

After that, they headed out to Rogan’s mother’s house, and Rogan tried to convince her to bring the Pride to stand with the High King in the battle. There was some pretty good emotional twisting in the scene, and some great roleplaying from Fera, but a misunderstanding meant we had to backtrack and redo part of the scene with clarified views of what was going on. In the end, Rogan’s mother has agreed to lend the Pride’s strength to Liam’s claim, but in return, Rogan must return to the pride and give up her outside allegiances when the battle is done.

Somewhere amidst the conversations, the players remembered that the Dagda’s Cauldron had been in Aengous’s care at the Guinness brewery, and that it had been the source of the True Guinness. And now it was missing, along with Aengous. So, they decided to go see if Macha could be convinced to tell them anything about Aengous’s whereabouts.

All Mark could get out of her on that score was that Aengous generally turned up when he was needed. Nate jumped in to help the discussion, and wound up fulfilling one of his long-term goals: getting Macha to toss him bodily out of the Silver Arm.

Not getting anymore about Aengous, Mark decided to take a chance and see if Macha knew anything about the Sword or the Spear. She just stared at him and said, “Ye been coming into my pub, called The Silver Arm, and it only now occurs to ye to ask about the Sword of Nuada of the Silver Arm? Well, I buried it with him, didn’t I?”

There was some stunned silence at that point, and then the players started kicking themselves8. She explained that she had buried the Sword with her husband at Newgrange.

That’s about when we called it quits for the evening. Next time, we’ll see if they go chasing the Sword at Newgrange, or head up to the Giant’s Causeway, where rumours say the Spear was lost in a battle against the Formorians.

  1. Pretty much the default location for this group. []
  2. For finding and destroying the Ghoststone. []
  3. For letting him use the fire of the sun to blast the Chain Hound of Pussy’s Leap. []
  4. Strange that he didn’t mention the three favours he owes the Fates, isn’t it? []
  5. Kate: We’re not really diplomats. Nate: That’s fer damned sure. []
  6. One of the nice things about this section of the game is that I have pictures of a lot of the locations from my trip to Ireland last year. More about that here, if you’re interested. []
  7. She failed the roll to close her third eye a couple of times, took some hits to the brain, and conceded to avoid being taken out. []
  8. I thought I had been pretty blatant with the hints – after all, the first adventure was them recovering the actual silver arm hanging outside the bar, and I had just told them the story of Nuada Airgetlam. And there are other clues, but they’re far more obscure. But it’s easy to see the connections when you’re the GM and you know what they mean, and it can be damnably hard when you have the limited view of the story that the players have. []

Feints & Gambits: Fate

The most recent session of Feints & Gambits picked up almost immediately after the previous session. Our heroes had retreated, bloodied1 but unbowed2, from their… conversation, let’s call it… with Nightingale the Robber and his army of monsters beneath the catacombs of Christchurch Cathedral. They had some ideas about who stole the heart of St. Laurence O’Toole, and an idea about which direction it had been taken.

After some discussion about the relative merits of finding another gate into Hell3 – like, say, the bricked-up entry by the Cook Street Gate – and trying to beat some more information out of the Russian contingent, they decided to just focus on finding the heart. They wanted to start with some divination, but one of the problems with that is the fact that Dublin has the Liffey running right through the heart of it, and that means that they often need to cast the spell twice – once on each side of the river.

But they really just wanted to find where the thieves4 went when they came out of the underground portion of the Poddle. So, they went to the point where the Poddle enters the Liffey, and Mark whipped up a divination ritual.

Well, I say “whipped up,” but it was a pretty impressive undertaking. In a matter of fifteen minutes or so, he managed to gather enough extra elements for the spell5 to pull off a complexity 15 ritual6. He decided to cast it slowly, drawing two shifts of power each turn, which meant he’d have to roll -4 on his dice to lose control any turn.

Now, I didn’t want to make things too easy7, so once he made it up to 10 shifts of power, I had a couple of cops come along to ask what was going on. Aleister intercepted them and spun some story about street theatre, which let Mark finish his spell and unleash it.

The idea behind the spell was to look back through time to the moment the thieves left the Poddle and entered the Liffey, with Mark knowing that he’d probably lose them once they moved out on to the water. But I figured that, for 15 shifts of power sucked in for character reasons, I should go one better. So, I gave Mark a vision of the little boat coming out into the Liffey, then across the Liffey and downstream to one of the quayside docks, where the passengers disembarked and headed north-east into the city. He also overheard a few snippets – “She can use this” and “Raise the clans” foremost among them.

The gang immediately tried to figure out where their targets were heading, asking me what was in that direction. I blinked at them and said, “Well, the docks, sort of, and besides that, about HALF THE CITY.” The pushed a bit for historically or mythologically significant sites in that direction, and I got a bit short, finally telling them “You’re barking up the wrong tree. You won’t find them just by guessing where they went. You need more information.”8

So, off they went, looking for more information9. They didn’t have enough of a symbolic link to either the thieves or the heart to use divination to find them, and Rogan wasn’t able to follow their scent trail. Eventually, they went back to The Hole in the Wall10 to rest and regroup. It was there that someone mentioned going to the statue of the Fates in St. Stephen’s Green to see if they could get any information from them.

They waited for nightfall, and then headed off through Temple Bar to get to the Green and the statue. Along the way, they spotted someone keeping pace with them on the rooftops, and so ducked through an open square to lose them. At the park, Nathan tossed a coin in the fountain, and opened his third eye.

He managed to get three questions from the Fates, in return for three favours to be specified in the future, swearing on his name11 and power to pay the debt. In return, he found out that the heart was soon going to be beating in someone’s chest, and the True Name of that person, and the True Name of the person giving the heart to him12.

He also spent some Fate Points to be able to close his third eye after looking at the Fates with the Sight.

And then they made their way back. They were deliberately keeping an eye out for people on the rooftops, and when they got to the square they had crossed earlier, they spotted figures on the on one side. Things kinda went to hell, here, as Nate opened up with a flashbang spell on the figure, and was immediately shot by high-powered rifles from a couple of different sides. He went down – hard – conceding to stay alive and earn some Fate points.

There followed some manic scrambling that resulted in a big panic in the middle of Temple Bar. In the end, two of their opponents were down, including one dead and one dying. Our heroes beat a hasty retreat to The Hole in the Wall and barricaded themselves in for the night, after getting a doctor in for Nate.

In the morning, just after dawn, a small, pretty woman approached the shop, very carefully keeping her hands visible. In the tense, distrustful parley that followed, she explained that she represented the Malleus Maleficarum, and that it had been the Malleus on the rooftops, hoping that the gang would lead them to the stolen heart. Being trained to react instantly to magical attack, Nate’s spell caused them all to open fire on the obvious wizard13, and thus the event deteriorated into FUBAR territory.

Recognizing that the group and the Malleus had irreconcilable agendas, the visitor14 proposed a hands-off approach, whereby each side would do its best to avoid interfering in the actions of the other. After some discussion, the group agreed to this, and Sister Mary Simon went on her way without having to resort to threats or force.

Once everyone was more-or-less recovered from the previous evening’s exertions, they cast a divination spell to lead them to the person who was supposed to be receiving the heart. With the True Name, it was pretty easy, and they wound up at a residential hotel. They saw some graffiti on the wall that read “Tá an rí-ard ag teacht!” which15 means “The High King is coming!”

Up in the hotel, they met Liam Dalton and Moira Trevelyan, and Liam invited them to join his crusade to break the hold the faeries have on Ireland.

Fade to black for the end of the session.

So, now we’ve got to the beginning of the endgame. Next session, the gang will find out what joining Liam means, and will get to decide if they want to do that. Either way, I’ve got the big events of the last part of the game sketched out in my notes, and they’ll work no matter which side the PCs take.

It should be fun.

 

 

  1. Mostly metaphorically. []
  2. Both metaphorically and literally. []
  3. As the underground tunnels of Dublin are known. []
  4. Whom they presumed to be the mummies missing from St. Michan’s Church crypts. []
  5. Including an elaborate magical circle on the pavement and the hunting instincts of Rogan, the Were-Smilodon. []
  6. He’d been planning on doing complexity 10, but Nate goaded him on, thanks to the player-on-player compels we’re using. []
  7. Also, I didn’t want to let casting a big spell right out in public be something that the players could do without consequence; if it was that easy, why weren’t they doing it all the time, after all? []
  8. I was, I admit, a bit flustered and snappish for a couple of reasons. First, I hadn’t decided precisely where they were headed at that point. Second, I couldn’t list a whole bunch of appropriate sites in the area off the top of my head. And third – most tellingly, I think – I was dealing with some significant joint pain. There were a couple of occasions during the session when I was harsher than I should have been because of that last point. I apologized to everyone afterward, but it bears repeating. Sorry, guys. []
  9. And yes, I understand that their questions that I shut down were an attempt to get more information. I already said I was sorry. []
  10. The bookstore/tattoo parlour owned by the O’Malley brothers. []
  11. And saying that name out loud, so now the Fates have his True Name. If they didn’t already, that is. []
  12. Liam Dalton and Moira Trevelyan. Yeah, the names probably aren’t correct for the period and place, but I hadn’t thought ahead far enough to come up with names, so these were the best I could do on short notice. []
  13. After all, in a conflict between mundanes and wizards, these guys know that mundanes have to act fast and with overwhelming force to have a hope of surviving. []
  14. Who happened to be the hot nun mentioned by Aleister’s friend last game. []
  15. According to Google Translate, anyway. It’s not like I can actually speak Irish Gaelic. If anyone out there reading this spots an error, I’d appreciate hearing about it. []