Friday was the second session of our new Feints & Gambits campaign, using The Dresden Files RPG. We had a full house, which meant a total of seven of us ((Me and six players.)) crammed into the living room of my condo. We all fit, everyone had a seat, and it was cozy. Six players is, however, a pretty large group for DFRPG – at least, for me. There’s a lot to keep track of with all the characters. That said, we pulled it off and, if the focus wasn’t quite as equally spread as I might have hoped, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.
I was a little stuck for an idea for this session’s adventure. See, while we have this great, full setting document, with tons of ideas and options, we don’t have enough play time invested in it yet for the adventures to occur spontaneously and organically. It’s going to come, as it has in the
Fearful Symmetries game, but it takes a little time to play in the setting and let the characters simmer in the stewpot of the city.
So, I decided to essentially try a random adventure creation thing. I’ve got a big list of all the Aspects in the game ((GMs: This can be an invaluable tool. I strongly encourage you to make one for your game. I keep finding new things I can use it for.)), including all the theme, threat, location, face, and character Aspects. It’s in a simple numbered list, so I just rolled some dice to get a selection of Aspects to string into an adventure.
I wound up rolling about eight Aspects, and got the ones for our Lyric vs. Prosaic theme and its face, the blind bard O’Carolan, as well as Padraig Pearse’s ghost, the Guinness Brewery, the White Council Warden, South Dublin Suburbs, and an Aspect for each of two of the player characters ((Full Aspect list: The Songs We Sing, Blind Bard, Ghost Judge of the Battle, Guinness For Strength!, Big Warden in a Little Pond, Ciad Mille Failte, Spoiling for a Fight (Nate O’Malley), It Was Like That When I Got Here! (Firinne O’Beara).)). Reading over the setting entries for these things, I cam up with the idea that, every midwinter, a bottle of the True Guinness has to be delivered to the ghost of Padraig Pearse at the General Post Office at midnight. I figured that, this year, O’Carolan was delivering it, but something would go wrong, and the PCs would need to step in. I couldn’t really work in the South Dublin Suburbs without making the adventure a little over-elaborate for a single evening, so I discarded it from my planning.
I looked at the two Aspects I had rolled for the PCs, and decided to use them to link the characters into the scenario in a little different way. See, in a lot of good stories, the hero gets drawn into the conflict against his will, by having something bad happen to him that he needs to respond to. Now, having something bad happen out-of-the-blue to a PC just to jumpstart a game is a little bit heavy-handed, in my opinion, and I don’t really like taking that element of control away from the player, even if the player’s cool with it ((And there’s no guarantee that the player will be cool with it.)). But Aspects offer a wonderful way to set the hook in a way that the player accepts, and rewards him 0r her for letting you screw with the character: compels.
When the game started, I tossed a Fate Point to Nate’s player, and had the Warden come pay a visit and be rather cryptic and threatening. Nate was Spoiling For A Fight, so this was a good way to get him – and incidentally, his brother Mark – up and looking into things. One of the things the Warden said was that the brothers should help out around the place a little more, and I thought this might be enough to rope them into the plot. It really wasn’t, though, as the brothers focused on who this poncy bastard was and why he was coming into their shop and bugging them ((Also, using very impressive evocation control to burn a message on the wall of the back room from way on the other side of the store with no one noticing.)). It did, however, get them moving and active, and over to the Silver Arm, where I was able to put the second PC Aspect into play.
I handed Firinne’s player a Fate Point ((She actually cringed when I did that! It was great!)) and gave her a little scene where she bumped into someone in the crowded pub, who bumped someone else, who spilled a drink, which caused someone to slip, which knocked over a table, which fell on O’Carolan’s bag with a shattering sound and the smell of rich, heady Guinness. She stood there paralyzed for a second or two, long enough for Macha – the mistress of the house – and O’Carolan to haul her into the back room and tell her that she had to fix the situation.
They outlined the situation in broad terms, hinting that the breakage was no accident but was, in fact, a mystical attack launched through Firinne by those who opposed the delivery. Firinne immediately flashed back to the memory of the taunting note she left in the Snow Bird gang house when she recovered the Silver Arm, and figured that they must have used that as a sympathetic link to her ((I hadn’t actually thought of that, but it sounded good, so it has become canon.)). She was told that she had to go see Aengus at the Guinness Brewery, pick something up from him, and deliver it to the General Post Office at midnight before midwinter. That gave her three days.
Leaving the pub, she ran into the O’Malley brothers coming to see what they could find out about their visitor, and recruited their help with the promise of beer. Before they headed off, though, they went into the pub and, talking to Macha, figured out that the fellow who had come to their shop had indeed been the White Council Warden for Ireland. They proceeded to drink more, long enough for Firinne to get impatient and call Kate ((Who had been at the Long Library at Trinity College, where she sensed some necromantic magic. THAT’s not gonna be important later on, is it?)), Aleister, and Rogan to come help her, as well.
Eventually, they all got over to the Guinness Brewery, and found that they couldn’t get in, so they took the tour through the storehouse next door ((They also found that the Guinness buildings had a threshold, which disconcerted a couple of them.)). There, they managed to send a message to Aengus, who came and met them at a fish and chips stand across the street. They were watched by some members of the Snow Birds so, once they got the package – a clay bottle of beer – from Aengus and pledged to deliver it, they engineered an escape by blending in with a tourist crowd ((Summoned by the expenditure of a Fate Point.)) and using some of Firinne’s glamours.
What followed next was a chase through the streets of Dublin to the General Post Office. Our heroes stole bikes from a public rack to keep ahead of their pursuers, but Nate blew an Athletics check and wiped out. Mark fell back to help him ((Thanks to his Me Fookin’ Brother Aspect.)), and the two of them drove off the pursuing fey gang members, letting the rest of the group make it to a church near the GPO, where they went to ground.
So, we had the O’Malleys on the outside, kept away from the church by a mob of Snow Birds ((I had originally had a more complicated plot, involving some twists and misdirection and a different main bad guy, but I let it go when I saw how this plotline was working, and how everyone was involved and interested. I can reuse the other idea in a later adventure, and even tie it back to this one.)), and the rest of the group inside the church, besieged by the fey gangsters. Plotting then took place.
At 11:54, Aleister rang the churchbells to disorient the Snow Birds, the O’Malleys showed up in a “borrowed” van to scatter the mob, Rogan shifter to her feline form and carried Firinne out into the back doors of the van, and everyone else piled in afterward for a high-speed jaunt, complete with bootlegger turn, over to the GPO. As most of the folks bailed out to escort Firinne inside to make the delivery, Nate threw up a very powerful wall of flame to keep the fey back, and Kate stayed with him as back-up.
Inside, the ghost of Padraig Pearse showed up, spoke briefly with them ((He seeded in a few hints about other things and situations in Dublin, but though the gang caught one or two of them, they don’t really know what they mean.)), and drank the Guinness, which he said was part of the rules of the binding that held him here. After he had his yearly drink, he turned and walked away, and the group left to find the ranks of Snow Birds outside lined up and saluting them.
And that was the evening.
I’m pretty happy with the way things went. We got through the scenario in one evening, and everyone had fun. Firinne and the O’Malleys were definitely the spotlight characters this adventure, which is not necessarily a bad thing. I’ll just have to make sure that the spotlight shines on a couple of the others next session.
I liked the compel mechanic to hook in the characters at the start of the evening, and had some good comments from the players about it, too, so that’s something I’m probably going to keep using.
One of my players asked me to post a recap of the game sessions on the Feints & Gambits forum, but I decided against it. Why? Because I would rather leave that open for the players to post their own recaps, stories about the fallout of the adventure, and stuff like that in order to earn the Bribe(TM) that I’ve offered.
Anyway, all in all, a good game, and a promising session for the first one with all the players present. Looking forward to the next one.