This past Saturday was the inaugural game session of my new Feints & Gambits DFRPG campaign. We’re running this game quorum-style, so that we play as long as three of the six players show up. For the first game, we had four players1.
I spent the first half-hour or so making sure everyone was up to speed on the game system, and answering any lingering questions about characters and mechanics. I’ve gotten pretty good at giving a condensed overview of the FATE system in about fifteen minutes; I expanded things here, because we’re looking at a long-term campaign, and I wanted to make sure that everyone had a decent grounding, so they understood their options.
First games of new campaigns are tricky things, I find. You need to take things easy as people get up to speed on the system and what their characters can do, but you also want some interesting stuff to happen so that the players get hooked and want to keep coming back. So, that means finding exciting action that is still fairly simple, mechanically speaking.
The collaborative city-building can really help get things rolling, because the players are already anxious and interested in playing in the setting they’ve built, and finding all the cool stuff they put there. And in finding all the neat little connections and secrets that have grown from the basic groundwork. There are already things they care about, and they already have some enemies and allies, thanks to the story phases of character creation, so really it’s just a matter of picking and choosing.
My objectives for this session was to give each of the four players a chance to do something interesting and special with their characters, and to wrap up the adventure in a single session2. When I build adventures like this, all I generally do is come up with the situation – who, what, where, and why – and then I expose one bit of the resulting situation to the characters3. After that, if I have a fairly solid idea of the situation, it’s pretty easy to properly adjudicate character actions and let them choose their own path to resolving the situation4.
The result, I find, is a fairly organic structure that responds properly to character actions, and leads to character-directed action, rather than set-piece encounters5.
That’s what I did this time.
Things started out with the characters showing up at The Silver Arm, the local supernatural pub, to find no music, and everyone being very quiet. Turns out that the pub’s sign6 had been stolen, and the owner, Macha MacRuad, was furious. She wouldn’t let anyone even talk about it in the pub.
That got everyone motivated to go find the sign. They managed to trace it to a house in a pretty run-down neighbourhood that was being used as a clubhouse by the Snowbirds, the Winter Court gang that hung around the Millennium Spire. Stealing the sign was apparently a new move in the ongoing games of one-upmanship between the fey courts. The Summer Court gang, the Sunshine Boys, were rumoured to be getting ready to snatch the arm themselves.
A little bit of scouting found them a way in, and Kate had a couple of good veiling potions for her and Rogan. Firinne was able to use her glamours to veil herself. That left Aleister, who wasn’t all that sneaky. He set himself up in a sniper’s nest across the street with a paintball gun, and acted as a distraction.
Things went pretty well at first, with Aleister drawing out most of the gang members and the other three sneaking in through an upstairs window, thanks to a convenient shed7. Things turned a little south when the gang used some pixies to find Aleister and he had to leg it out of there, and the folks inside the house found that there was still an ogre left on guard.
We got to some action here, though, interestingly, not a one of the characters tried to attack anyone. Aleister’s goal was not to beat anyone up, but to lure them away from the clubhouse to give the other three time to find the arm. The three inside knew they were completely outclassed by the ogre, so they just wanted to grab the arm8 and run like bunnies.
They all managed it, though Aleister was completely overwhelmed by the gang members9, and wound up conceding the fight – he had the gang members kick the crap out of him and dump him in the Liffey. Inside the house, the veiling the characters used kept the ogre from effectively targeting them, and then Kate threw a handful of iron filings into his face to keep him distracted. Rogan tripped him up with a chair, and Firinne swapped the lamp for a manikin’s arm that she had glamoured up to last for a few minutes10.
So, they got the sign back, got Aleister to the hospital, and called it a night.
Over all, I think the game went quite well, and everyone seemed to have a good time. It was fairly light, and everyone took to heart the dangers of violence11, but they’ve also made some interesting choices about the sides their on, and there’s going to be an ogre Snowbird looking for a certain witch with payback in mind.
Yeah, I call it a win.
- The holiday season always makes scheduling somewhat more challenging, what with everyone’s family commitments. [↩]
- Though the repercussions are probably going to stretch out longer than that. [↩]
- Of course, the bit I expose to them has to be something that impels them to take action. [↩]
- This approach works far better in games where it’s simple to come up with stats and challenges on the fly – like DFRPG or Trail of Cthulhu – than ones where it’s more difficult or time-consuming, like D&D. [↩]
- Though, to be fair, I usually put together a page or two of stats and notes that I can turn into interesting set-piece encounters on the fly, because those are fun and exciting sometimes. [↩]
- A silver armoured arm and hand that hung outside above the door. [↩]
- Placed by using a Burglary declaration while casing the building. [↩]
- Which had been nailed to a block of wood and turned into a lamp. [↩]
- Ganging up on someone and spending an exchange or two to use maneuvers to layer on the Aspects is a devastating tactic. [↩]
- She also left a taunting note, being a trickster-style changeling herself. THAT’s not gonna come back to bite her, at all. Good use of a compel, I thought. [↩]
- Especially at their power level. [↩]