Last Thursday night, I ran a demo session of DFRPG for a group of players who are planning to start up a new campaign. Karla and Trachalio, whose names you will have seen in the comments of this blog from time to time, are two of the DMs running D&D Encounters with me on Wednesday nights, and Karla is planning to GM DFRPG, with Trachalio and some others from the Encounters group. After a bit of a misfire running Spirit of the Century, Karla wanted to get a little more of a handle on the FATE mechanics before starting the game, so I said I’d run a one-shot for them to give them a taste.
Now, I knew from reading some of the reports from the game launch at Origins that, when the Evil Hat folks run demos, they built in a bit of the character creation, so I sent an email to Fred Hicks asking how they did that ((And thanks to Fred for the answer!)). He said that they usually build the pregens up to the point of the guest star phases, and have the people at the table finish them up. It gives them a taste of the cool character creation, and really cements the characters into a group. So, I whipped up ((When I say “whipped up,” I mean “spent several days trying different things and fiddling with them to get a decent mix with a wide range of possibilities but limited complexity.” Character creation in the game is very fun, but not all that quick. I also found that building the characters on my own, without the group brainstorming and kibitzing, was kinda boring.))a stack of pregens to the required level of done-ness.
To help keep things simple, I decided that I would build the characters at Feet in the Water level, but it soon became clear that, if I wanted to give the group some experience with the whole range of mechanics and possibilities in the game, I needed someone with access to both Thaumaturgy and Evocation ((Or, as I finally settled on, Channeling and Ritual.)), so I upped the power level to Up to the Waist. Here’s the list of the six characters I used:
- Apprentice Wizard
- Coyote Shifter
- Herald of Night
- New Age Wiccan
- Rookie Cop
- Wendigo’s Child
I sweated some time on coming up with a solid scenario that would involve them all and show off the various types of mechanical things that go on in a game. In the end, I went with a very loose framework to allow me room to improvise as required, and just put together a fairly simple situation for them to get involved in. In play, this turned out to be a good choice, because it let me very easily weave in the relationships that had been built at the table between the characters doing the guest-star phases ((It also made it very easy to expand or collapse the chain of investigation, allowing me to pace the game to fit the time available to us. It being a weeknight, we pretty much wanted to make sure we were done by 11 or so.)).
So, we gathered together that evening, and I gave a quick rundown of the FATE mechanics. Then we handed out the player folders ((Each one contained not only the character sheet, but a cheat sheet for that character, with all the math done for combat and spellcasting, along with a write-up of all the powers and stunts the character had. This ranged from a single page for the Rookie Cop – a Pure Mortal – to five pages for the Apprentice Wizard, who needed rote spells and some examples of rituals.)) and ran through the last bit of the character creation. This intro section took about an hour, and had the added benefit of letting me talk more about Aspects. It got everyone pretty fired to create their own characters for their campaign, too, so I figure that’s a big win.
We got underway with the Rookie Cop finding the body of a dead person, eviscerated and savaged, hidden behind a dumpster in the Exchange District, outside the studio apartment ((Well, the large empty space where the Shifter keeps a bed and some clothes, and the wizard comes to practice magic his mentor would not approve of.)) where the Coyote Shifter and the Apprentice Wizard were hanging out. That got people focused pretty quick, and the characters very quickly either called in other characters with whom they had an existing relationship or came up with a reason for their characters to show up without an invite.
Poking around yielded a few clues, with the group coming to the conclusion that this was a ghoul kill. The Apprentice Wizard used the Sight to examine the body, and the New Age Wiccan invoked one of her Aspects to be able to see what he saw, so I went to town on the image ((The alleyway got darker and filthier, with the shadows moving in weird ways, and in the midst of it all, on a pristine white table cloth, illuminated as if by a spotlight, was the naked body of a young woman. Her torso had been slit open and peeled back, revealing her to be full of all manner of food, cornucopia-fashion. Then her head tipped to the side and they saw that her eyes were bottomless, empty pools of darkness.)), and got to hit them both in the brain for some good Mental Stress.
A little investigation revealed that the victim in question was probably a runaway, and with a little New Age Psychometry, they got the image of a chalice of wine, a loaf of bread, and a smiling face at the bus depot ((Which, I’ve been told, has already moved out to the airport, so I retroactively set the adventure a couple of years ago. What can I say? I knew the depot was moving, but I didn’t think it had yet. And I haven’t seen the new one (obviously), so I didn’t have any sort of mental picture to use for the game.)), so they hid the body again, using a warding ritual to make sure no one else would find it, and trundled off downtown to see what they could find out.
At the bus depot, they found someone putting up posters for the Church of the Holy Communion ((Acutally, it was supposed to be the Church of the True Communion, but I misspoke when I first said the name, so I had to stick with it)), a religious community that worked with runaways and homeless young people. Using a little coyote deception, they found out where it was located, and got the name of the fellow who was hanging the posters as a recommendation (and invitation).
They headed out to Osborne Village and the house on Gertrude that the Church used as a hostel. Three of them talked their way inside, while the other three scouted around back. Through a basement window, they saw a room full of canned goods and preserves, as well as some odd-shaped hams hanging from the ceiling. A little sniffing, and the shifter could tell them that the hams were not from pigs. The outside contingent slipped in through the basement window.
Meanwhile, inside, the Wendigo’s Child had managed to arouse some suspicion among the residents, and was herded into the dining area, where the Apprentice Wizard and the New Age Wiccan were already enjoying the soup ((Insert obligatory jokes about the hand in the soup in the Conan movie.)). The church members then pulled out knives and axe handles, and started closing in on next week’s groceries. The Wendigo’s Child used her Incite Emotion power to fill their attackers with despair, while the Apprentice Wizard used the Sight to see that they were in fact tied in some way to actual ghouls – and might be transforming into ghouls themselves. The New Age Wiccan took this knowledge and tried to unravel the bad vibes, weakening the connection between the cultists and their masters.
It worked to a degree, but then our heroes were mobbed by the crazy cultists and had to actually fight back to keep from getting shredded and eaten. The half-wendigo was a pretty rocking melee combatant, and the wizard used air magic to knock the bad guys down. Once there were a fair number down, the wiccan dumped scalding soup on them ((Insert obligatory joke about the head in the soup rolling down the stairs in the Conan movie.)).
When the ruckus upstairs started, the folks in the basement burst out of the store room to find a couple of actual ghouls – as opposed to the human cultists upstairs – heading up the stairs to get in on the fun. A quick tasing by the Rookie Cop, along with a face full of coyote fur, set the first ghoul up for getting clobbered by the Herald of Night, who then invoked his power and Night’s emissary and representative to the Covenant of Two Waters to cow the ghouls and take them into custody.
By that time, we were coming up on quarter to twelve, and I wrapped things up quickly.
All in all, I had a lot of fun with it, and it seemed that the players did, too. I tried to keep the Fate Points flowing freely, and was gratified to see the envious eyes all turning to the Pure Mortal Rookie Cop’s pile of chips and his free-wheeled spending. It reinforces my opinion that Pure Mortals have a coolness all their own in the game.
So, thanks to Karla for inviting me to run the game, and to Ally, Josh, Mike Ryan, and Shawn for playing.
I’m looking forward to hearing about your campaign when it starts running.