Game On II: The First Friday Game

Characters

Friday’s story is set in the spring. It opens with Rowan getting a visit from the Warden Regional Commander for Western North America – one Carlos Rodriguez. Her parents are out of town, so she’s the White Council representative for the city. Warden Rodriguez has received a vague warning from the Gatekeeper that something bad is going to happen in Winnipeg. As it’s another of the Gatekeeper’s cryptic warnings from the future, Warden Rodriguez has no further information, and wants Rowan to monitor the situation and act as necessary. Rowan had sensed some disturbance in the magical flows and background of the city, but that’s not unusual during the changeover from Winter to Summer. She determines to investigate more closely, and to enlist Gerhardt’s help in doing so.

Gerhardt, meanwhile, is hip-deep in strange gang deaths. A number of gang members have been found savaged to death, seemingly by wild animals, always in gang houses. Most of the gangs have been hit, though the Mad Cowz have been hit slightly more often, and were hit first. The animalistic style of the attacks seems wrong to him, so he wants to talk to Rowan about possible supernatural aspects to the crimes.

Legion is feeling some tension. The demons he contains are getting stroppy; there’s something out there that resonates with them, some sort of hungry, predatory force. He does a little research to see what might be going on, and finds out about the gang murders. Looking for answers, he seeks out Gerhardt.

Elaine normally avoids her old neighbourhood, not wanting to get spotted by her family or former friends. She heads back there when she hears that the Mad Cowz have started moving in on the normally gang-free area, looking to recruit and claim the turf. This has prompted a response from the Manitoba Warriors, as the area is predominantly native and metis. Snooping around, she finds out that the gangs are looking to recruit because of the losses they’ve recently suffered, and are pushing into new territory because of the lack of safety in their old territory. She also finds out that Gerhardt is heading the investigation, so she goes to talk to him about what’s happening.

The group gets together and decides to go to the site of the most recent murder to investigate for clues and pick up some blood and bits so that Rowan can try a locator spell to track down the culprit. Rowan scans the scene with the Sight, and sees a rolling savannah with the slaughtered corpses of antelope and something malign moving through the tall grass towards her.

She warns the others and scribes a magic circle on the floor for protection, but can’t control the energy she pumps into it finely enough, so a lot of it bleeds off as very bright light. This causes Elaine to panic and flee, breaking the circle, and leaving everyone vulnerable to the shadowy hunting spirits that appear and attack.

The fight is panicked but very quick, as Gerhardt takes out most of the minor spirits with his shotgun, and Rowan, Legion, and Elaine tear apart the larger one. They then gather up some blood and some of the shadowy spirit essence, and retreat.

Gerhardt and Rowan start investigating in different directions, Gerhardt studying the crimes while Rowan summons an intellect spirit to question for information. They discover that the crimes seem to emanate out from an area in the middle of Mad Cowz territory where the gang members’ families live, and that several more of the creatures were summoned in the neighbourhood around Rowan’s home, resulting in the deaths of a number of pets.

Our intrepid team gets back together and decides to go to the untouched neighbourhood at the centre of the crimes to see what they can figure out. They are spotted cruising aimlessly through the district, and are confronted by two carloads of Mad Cowz armed with baseball bats and pistols. After some… strenuous negotiation, they get one of the gang members to admit that there’s sorcerer preying on gang members. He won’t say anything more, though, because if he does, he’s dead. He says that the only ones who can name the sorcerer are the dead.

So, our group decides to pay a visit to the Council of Ghosts to see if they can’t talk to a dead gangbanger. We’ll find out next Friday.

Comments about this session:

  • The magic system is tremendously flexible and powerful – probably a little too much so. This is currently a hot topic of discussion on the playtester list, and Evil Hat are looking at ways to correct it. They’ve already added a fix for Evocation that keeps it from being ridiculously overpowered, now they need to do something with Thaumaturgy. The problem there is not power, but range: Thaumaturgists have the potential to steal any scene they want, relegating the other players to almost NPC status, because of the range of choices it offers.
  • Using compels to force monsterous PCs to act like monsters works well, but came as a bit of a rude awakening for some.
  • The mystery structure of adventure seems easy and natural for adventures. I’m not sure if that’s a result of the source material, the constraints of the playtest structure, the assumptions of modern fantasy play, or my own views and predilections, but thinking about adventures for the system, I naturally fall into constructing mysteries.
  • I almost made Rowan’s character do a spit take with a jalapeno popper with the following conversation:

Rowan: Are there any of these shadow things within a kilometer of me?
Spirit of Intellect: There are six.
Rowan: How close is the closest one?
Spirit of Intellect: Five hundred meters.
Rowan: Five hundred meters?
Spirit of Intellect: Less, now.

Tonight, of course, is the Monday Night Game, episode two. We’ll catch up with our heroes in the aftermath of the faerie battle, and see how Christian explains his man-eating ghoulish nature to his companions.

I can hardly wait.

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11 Responses to Game On II: The First Friday Game

  1. Fred Hicks says:

    Could you go into the monstrous compel issue in a little more detail? Am curious.

    Otherwise it sounds pretty hot. I’d love it if you could bring some more detailed insight into the spellcraft that went on in the game over on the alpha list, at least.

  2. Rick Neal says:

    First off, the spellcraft: I’m putting together a more detailed set of comments for the alpha list. I should have that posted in the next day or so.

    As for the monstrous compels, I didn’t find it an issue; I loved it. It just surprised the players a little. Three specific incidents:

    1. Rowan makes her magic circle and can’t control the energy, getting a circle that glows as bright as the sun. I toss a Fate Point to Elaine’s character, compelling her Bite Marks Aspect, and say, “Too bright. It’s going to burn you unless you get out of there.” She was stunned for a second or two, trying to figure out how to get out of that, until I said, “Either run away, RIGHT NOW, or give me a Fate Point back to buy off the compel and tough it out.” She looked at her pile of Fate Points, made a sad little face at me, and Elaine ran out of the house. A good moment, good play, but it caught her off guard to see how the Aspects coupled with a low Refresh Rate to make you accept compels.

    2. Legion dropped his human guise to fight against the shadowy hunter spirit, letting the demons he contains give him his strength and claws and such. At the end of the fight, I tossed him a Fate Point, compelled his Demons of the Flesh Aspect, and said, “The boys want to play some more. They don’t want you to force them back inside yet.” After a bit of an internal struggle, he took the Fate Point, and vanished out into the night to give the demons a good run. Again, I don’t think he was quite ready for the way compels work with such a low Refresh Rate.

    3. On Monday night, Christian was fighting an ogre. He broke off for a second after getting tossed into a tree to look around to see how his comrades were doing, so I tossed him a Fate Point and said, “You’ve already used the Aspect You Wouldn’t Like Me When I’m Angry. You’re still angry, and all you care about is tearing the ogre apart.” He thought for a second, looked at the single Fate Point he had left, and said, “Okay. I grab him and try to tear him open along the spine.”

    It made for an interesting dynamic, making players choose to play up their characters’ disadvantages in believable, interesting ways. It’s one of the things I like most about Fate games.

  3. Rechan says:

    Good on the monstrous compels. But I think that’s more in line with “I has low fate points”. I imagine that might happen with the wizards. What I think is most interesting is the conflict is more in line with “I’m not being a SMART TEAM PLAYER by taking these compels”. Which can often conflict with “I’m playing my CHARACTER.”*

    I find it interesting that Rowan couldn’t manage the circle properly. I thought she was a finesse caster.

    *Man, I have had some bad experience with that, lately. :p

  4. Jonathan says:

    The monstrous compels are something, most systems don’t do. When your character is tempted, you can just say I shake it off. I once played a character that had to spend Willpower(WW system) not to pursue secrets. I’m upset about the ST throwing a series of secrets before my character right before giving us the opportunity to change our fate. I looked at the token and said “No one know what will happen?”,(didn’t have any willpower left) broke the token and ended up with a completely different character which I ended up not liking nearly as much. If it diminishes players fun, I’ll house rule that you can that a moderate or major consequence to get out of a compel if and only if you are out of fate points.

  5. Rick Neal says:

    Keep in mind that compels only work on character’s Aspects, which are chosen by the player. If you don’t want to play having a bad temper, don’t take the Bad Temper Aspect. You have total control over your character’s Aspects during character creation and can choose the ones you want with no one interfering. You can choose all positive Aspects if you want. The catch is that gives you no opportunity to earn Fate Points in game.

    It didn’t seem to diminish the players’ fun; it was just a new concept to a lot of them. As for Team Player/Playing the Character, that’ll vary based more on players than on system, I find. My players tend to look on the compels as opportunities to have the spotlight shine on them for a few seconds, but more as a way to introduce character-based drama and conflict into a scene, and to give themselves interesting obstacles to overcome.

  6. Rick Neal says:

    Oh, and as for Rowan not managing the circle properly, a sucky roll is a sucky roll. She tried for a lot of power, and rolled very poorly for control, so there was a lot of wastage burned off as light. The circle was still there, but it was pretty weak because of the power leaks.

  7. Jonathan says:

    Well let’s go with an example since it seems we’re no quite on the same wavelength.
    If I take the aspect “One year clean”, I think it’s important I want it to matter.
    If he experiences trauma, a drunken bender may well be his answer.

    But I don’t want to burn through my fate points like candy, and I definitely don’t want the character to start drinking not because I chose to accept a compel, but because I didn’t have the fate point to buy it off. I guess what I really want are guidelines for how often an aspect can be compelled, and an out so there is always a choice regardless of current fate point total.

    Part of this I guess would be handled in character creation by talking to the GM/ST/(whatever the dresden idiom is). I guess the aspects are more open ended than the flaws I’m used to as well. So you could accept a compel on “One Year Clean” to go on a rant how alcohol ruined your life.

    Seems I’ve somewhat answered my own concern, but I’d like to hear your response.

  8. Rick Neal says:

    Okay, here’s my attempt at an answer:

    1. Aspects are not disadvantages or flaws. They CAN be, but they don’t have to be. Good Aspects should do double duty (possibly triple duty), being things that can work for or against you. Christian has the Aspect “You Wouldn’t Like Me When I’m Angry.” He pulls that out in combat, and he gets a bonus by spending a Fate Point. I can also offer him a Fate Point to compel the Aspect when he’s questioning a frustrating witness to tell him that he loses his temper.

    2. Until you’re out of Fate Points, there is always a choice to refuse a compel by buying it off. Christian can grit his teeth, hold onto his temper, and give me a Fate Point to say that he stays cool.

    3. Compels limit your choices when you accept them, but they limit them in the way that you decide is interesting. In the above example, Christian may threaten the witness, which is kind of the easy way out. He may also punch through a wall, or decide that he can’t take any more and leave. All of these things are valid responses to the compel, and earn the Fate Point.

    4. The idea is not for the GM to hose the player with his Aspects. THIS IS IMPORTANT! As GM, you can hose the players any time you like, in any way you like. The idea is to use the Aspects to create interesting dramatic scenes, and to reward players for staying true to their characters. If I throw a compel at a character that I know to have no Fate Points left, the end result is that the character acts in accordance with the compel… AND GAINS A FATE POINT. They get a reward, which they can use later to help them out when they’re in a bind. If I’m the kind of GM who throws impossible compels at my players until they have no Fate Points left, and then stop, I’m just a jerk. The whole point is to give players interesting choices to make about their characters. Going back to the example I’ve been using above, let’s say the frustrating witness is a five-year-old child. If I compel Christians “Terrible Hunger…” Aspect, I’m not really giving him a choice – he’s got to buy it off or eat the kid. That’s not a real choice in most games, so I’m just trying to steal his Fate Points. That’s why I would use his anger Aspect: it presents him with a real choice of what to do in play, either give in to the anger and probably at least scare the child, or buy it off.

    5. GMs aren’t the only ones able to toss compel your character. You can, as well. Act in accordance with one of your Aspects in a way that limits your character, make a pointed comment to the GM, and collect your Fate Point. So, if Christian were to be in that interview with the child, and his player says to me, “I’m getting really frustrated with the kid, so I’m going to leave the room, because He Wouldn’t Like Me When I’m Angry,” and I nod and toss him a Fate Point.

    The point of disconnect comes from people who don’t always see how their Aspects can be used against them. That’s what causes the surprise. With your example of “One Year Clean,” I would probably compel it in situations where you’re faced with either alcohol or something from your past. It wouldn’t force you to drink, but it would force you to deal with the fact that you’re an addict in recovery. On the other hand, you might invoke it for a bonus to willpower (because you’ve been clean for a year) or getting information in the drug scene (because you’ve only been out of it for a year) or creating a rapport with another addict (because you’ve been there).

    Aspects tell you what kind of person your character is, but they also tell the GM what kind of complications you want in the game.

  9. Rel Fexive says:

    Excellent answer.

  10. Jonathan says:

    Thanks that answered my concerns. I see that it is mainly a once bitten, twice shy thing. Aspects can’t compel specific behavior, and if you are tapped out (mentally/spiritually) you like will act on your based urges.

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