Feints & Gambits: Uptown, Downtown

Slowly catching up. Hopefully be up-to-date by the end of this coming weekend. Thanks for hanging in there.

The last Feints & Gambits game was a small one – we were in the grip of a minor blizzard, as well as illness and (I think) a choir performance, so I counted myself lucky to get quorum to run this game. And I really wanted to run it, just to finish off the storyline that I had intended to take one session, but which dragged out to three.

I had encouraged the players to discuss their plans for this session on the game forum, which they did ((And I only had to bribe and threaten them a little bit.)), so that I had an idea of what they were planning and so that we didn’t spend the first two hours of the game with the players rehashing everything to come up with a plan. Then, of course, with only half the players showing for the game, some of the plans fell by the wayside.

Still, they had two main objectives: first, to see if they could snatch Doyle, the head of Doyle Developments, the company behind the attempts to purchase the neighbourhood; and second, to see if they could calm down the hot-headed residents of the neighbourhood to prevent an escalation of violence. They stuck pretty close together this time out, maybe because they felt they had less of a safety net with the other characters offstage.

So, first up was an attempt to kidnap Doyle. Now, this plan struck me as a terrible idea – a group of street-level toughs trying to snatch one of the wealthiest men in Dublin – but I didn’t just want to tell them they couldn’t do it. Nor did I want to spank them with either his bodyguards or with the consequences of a successful kidnapping ((Or a failed one. That would be bad, too.)).

This is something I want to talk about a little bit here. I was concerned about the players’ expectations and assumptions about the world, and their place in it. I was getting a little bit of a D&D-esque “We can do anything because we’re the PCs” vibe from some of the discussions, and that caused me to do some thinking about how I’m presenting things in the game. I think that I’m not communicating things all that clearly. See, I want to stick by the decisions that the characters made regarding power level; I was pretty clear at that point, that they were going to be only a little bit up the ladder from normal mortals. What I failed to explain was the source material conceit that the supernatural factors view getting mundane authorities investigating things to be the equivalent of trotting out the nuclear weapons.

What am I saying? I’m saying that there seemed to be a difference in understanding about consequences between myself and my players. That’s a dangerous thing to have in a game. It can quickly lead to a perception that the GM is being unfair and needlessly punitive. Or that the GM is being needlessly lax and straining credulity by the kinds of things he lets the players get away with.

I didn’t want Doyle to be safe to mess with just because he was mundane. In fact, I wanted just the opposite.

I decided to handle this by flagging the difficulty of grabbing him during their recon stage, trying to highlight the fact that taking him would be difficult, and would have real repercussions in the game. To that end, when they went looking for where Doyle lived, they found that he had a big house in the country, but also a penthouse in a city hotel. They called the house and found that he was in the city, so they staked out the hotel for a while. When they had had no sight of him for several hours, they realized that he was probably coming and going in a secure car through the underground car park, and that they’d have to flush him out if they wanted  to get a look at him and his security ((Beyond the fact that he was obviously security-savvy enough to keep observers from seeing him come and go, of course.)).

Nate decided to hex the hotel’s security, and pumped enough power in it to take out the entire electrical system. That let the gang see Doyle and his escort leave the hotel and go to another. When Aleister tried to get in close to Doyle and see which room he was taking, he was backed off by several large, professional-looking bodyguards. They decided to head back to the first hotel and break into his penthouse to see if there was anything incriminating there.

Kate managed summon up the fading echo of a burglar to help them break in, and they searched the place, spending a fair bit of time going through the contents of the suite. They found nothing indicating Doyle’s involvement with the attempted land-grab, nor that he had supernatural connections, or indeed anything incriminating. They did find copies of deeds, papers of incorporation, and passport in his safe (along with some watches and cash), which they helped themselves to.

That’s when I told them the lights came back on, and they hung around a little longer. Then I had the elevator start up, and they decided to high-tail it out of there. Nate used a little earth evocation to drop the elevator a few feet ((Thank god for elevator brakes – he pumped the spell up pretty high.)), and they scrambled down the fire stairs to the alley and escaped.

Back at The Hole in the Wall, Kate tried a divinatory ritual to help her piece together a full picture of Doyle’s company and its holdings. This took some time, but ended with a detailed chart of who did what all through the hierarchy of the various corporate entities, which they turned over to the reporter they’d been dealing with ((I’m gonna have to stat her up, I think. At least give her a name. She’s turning into a regular contact.)). Facing Doyle’s inaccessibility, the group then decided to move on to their second objective.

This went a little more smoothly: they got the name of Shaina Sadiki from the reporter as someone respected in the Pakistani community in Dublin who might be able to help them calm things down. After talking their way into meeting her, they had to convince her that they were sincere in their desire for a non-violent solution, whereupon she invited them for family dinner to talk to her grandson, one of the main agitators among the young men in the neighbourhood.

They managed to convince him that violence was a bad idea, and told him that things should be resolved in a couple of weeks when the article the reporter was writing was published. The article came out sooner than expected, and wasn’t what they thought it would be. Instead of an attack on Doyle, it turned out to be the story of how, when he found out that there was violence being committed by employees – remote employees, to be sure, but employees nonetheless – he turned over all the information he had on things to the police and co-operated with the investigation. Instead of him being an evil land developer, he came across as an ethical, concerned businessman. Who also made some restitution to the area, and paid the hospital bills of the injured.

The group isn’t sure whether that’s just cover for getting caught, or if he was genuinely unaware and, frankly, neither am I right now. It’ll depend on what I need Doyle for in later games.

And that’s how we wrapped the storyline. I think everyone was glad to see it end. The dragging was my fault; in a group as large as this one, with a system that many of them are learning, I didn’t provide a clear enough forward direction, which left the group floundering around to try and latch on to anything that would move the story forward. I will keep that in mind for putting together the scenarios in future.

But there were no deaths, no tantrums, no meltdowns, so I’ll take is as a lesson learned and move on.

Now I have to schedule some more sessions.

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2 Responses to Feints & Gambits: Uptown, Downtown

  1. Micahel says:

    It was a good game. However, I think that it wasn’t so much a “We can do anything because we’re the PCs” thing, rather it was, at least in my case, a player issue not a character issue.

    When he was described to us as a land developer, it put a certain image in my head. However that image was based on well-to-do developer in our home town. It never occurred to me that a land developer would have a house and a penthouse, that he wouldn’t drive his own vehicle, and would have bodyguards.

    Winnipeg just doesn’t have the size and economy to support that and I didn’t make the correct jump to the size and history of Dublin. To be honest I was much more frightened of the law firm than the developer. So really, it was my world view that imposed too much on my character.

    Mea culpa. 🙂

    In the end though, my character and I had a great sense of achievement.

  2. Mr Sleep says:

    It’s always fun to read a little F&G action.

    Maybe you should have a contest to name the reporter. Just give your loyal followers a little background and description and let us fight it out to name her!

    You know you want to…


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