Last night was the second session of Fearful Symmetries. The previous session, the characters had learned that the King of Thieves in Old Town, Zuckerbastl, was keeping a monster that he used to keep his prostitutes in line. Judging from the prostitute that had attacked them, they figured that the monster was a Red Court Vampire.
So, they decided to go see Zuckerbastl, and find out if it was true.
When I was fleshing out Zuckerbastl, I had initially planned to make him the suave, dashing King of Thieves stereotype that seems so popular in stories, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt that was a cop-out. What I did instead was make him someone try to act with the same kind of panache, but not really have his heart in it, so that the brutal, vicious mind underneath kept peeking through.
When the characters showed up at his warehouse (directed by the prostitute who had attacked them), Izabela was concealed behind a veil, and Emric tried to lurk (rather unsuccessfully) in the shadows in order to see who came and went for a while before approaching. That didn’t work out exactly as planned, because of a low Stealth score and bad roll on Emric’s behalf. He got approached and half-threatened, half-invited inside after he said that he was there to see Zuckerbastl and showed them the token he had from the thief he had helped earlier.
Confession time. I hadn’t really done a lot of prep work for this session; most of my game-prep time over the past three weeks had been eaten up with getting ready for the Armitage Files game and typing up our Setting Bible. What that meant was that, while I knew they had to find a link to get them from Zuckerbastl to the Red Court Vampire who was behind the disappearances the characters were investigating, I hadn’t actually figured out what that link should be. I decided to wait and see if the characters could point me in a reasonable direction during play.
Also, I lost one of the pages of my notes, with a bunch of stats I had put together just in case*.
There followed an audience with the King of Thieves, in his warehouse court. Emric presented himself to Zuckerbastl, while Izabela remained concealed behind her veil. Emric found the thief he had aided earlier tied to a pillar, severely beaten, but when he told his story (which corroborated the thief’s own tale), the man was released and restored to his position. Izabela used her magic to check if there were any vampires present, and found a few of Zuckerbastl’s thugs showed the influence of the addictive saliva, but no Red Court Vampires or Infected.
Well, in the ensuing discussions, our heroes managed to convince Zuckerbastl that he couldn’t trust some of his men. Emric was given a purse of coin, thanked, and dismissed, after Zuckerbastl got rid of most of his other men. Emric left, but Izabela hung back invisibly to watch Zuckerbastl give tell Marko (the thief who had been tied to the pillar) to round up some hard boys and burn “her” out, because “she” must be behind it. They then sealed off the maze through the warehouse crates to Zuckerbastl’s court, with Zuckerbastl on the inside alone and Marko hitting the streets to do his job. Izabela was on top of the piles of crates, watching everything.
With the party split, and Zuckerbastl (for all intents and purposes) alone, I figured it was a good time for a vampire attack.
I sent in a single full Red Court Vampire, creeping across the ceiling, wanting to get close enough to Zuckerbastl to get him with its saliva. Izabela spotted it, though, and lit it up with a nice evocation*, which let Zuckerbastl also see it. The vamp tried to swoop down on Zuckerbastl, but got tangled in the ropes and pulleys used to move the crates around*, and Zuckerbastl ran for a blunderbuss.
Another quick Spirit evocation later*, Zuckerbastl and Marko were back in the fight, and things didn’t go well for the vampire after that.
Faced with this rescue, Zuckerbastl gave up the name of the woman who he figured must be behind the vanishing prostitutes and the vampirism – Dregana, who had poached some of Zuckerbastl’s girls and opened up her own brothel. Izabela, Marko, and Emric decided to go pay her a visit the next day, just after dawn.
In the meantime, Izabela did a divination on the blood of the dead vampire, determining that it was probably a few decades old, and was originally a young, Greek man named Demetrios.
Next day, with Izabela once again heavily veiled, they went to the brothel, and broke into the back, finding a number of Red Court Infected and a couple of full vampires. They killed most of them, but one of the infected escaped down in the cellar, and our heroes gave chase. We wrapped up the evening on a bit of a cliffhanger: our heroes chased the fleeing infected thug right into a whole gang of Red Court Vampires, with a Black Court Vampire among them.
Fade to black.
Couple of observations:
- I talked a little bit before the game about how combat works in the system, the value of maneuvers, and the different paradigm of what happens during a fight from other games like D&D. I think that really helped make the fight scenes work better for the players, but I’ve got to remember the same advice I gave them, and have the bad guys use more maneuvers and such, rather than just going for the attack.
- Spellcasting is the most complex part of the game, and we’re all still trying to get a handle on it. Looking at the rulebooks this morning, I see a couple of errors I made, and judgment calls that probably should have gone a different way. Still, play proceeded fairly quickly, and a lot of interesting things got done.
- One of the things I messed up was veils. I forgot that they make it harder to see out as well as in, unless they are specifically constructed to be one-way transparent (extra complexity).
- Another was that I messed up the way you can use skills during preparing a thaumaturgy spell to tag the spell with a temporary Aspect that you can use to boost your Lore skill for free when comparing it to the complexity of the spell.
- I need to make a big list of period names to assign to random NPCs. Especially Czech and Slavic names, but also some German, Italian, French, etc.
- Ditto Prague street names.
All of that is just the learning curve of any new system, though. We all had fun, and we’re looking forward to the next session.
Oh, and I’ve built the preliminary wiki on Obsidian Portal. So far, it’s just got the stuff from the Setting Bible and a few minor additions from the play sessions, but it’s there. Enjoy.
*Which page of notes I have just found. Timing.
*Spirit evocation maneuver, sticking it with the Aspect Lit Up Like a Christmas Tree.
*Bad, bad Athletics roll as it tried to sprint.
*Sending a mental message to Emric that Zuckerbastl was under attack by a vampire.