Feints & Gambits: Holy Saturday

Friday night was the latest installment of the Feints & Gambits Dresden Files RPG campaign I’m running, set in Dublin. We picked up right where we had left off the previous session, the early evening of Holy Saturday, with the gang hauling the half-bog-mummified young necromancer they had saved from his rooms in Trinity College back to The Hole in the Wall ((The alternative bookshop/tattoo parlour owned by, and sometimes even operated by, Mark and Nate O’Malley)), which is the gang’s default base of operations.

The cast for the adventure changed slightly, with two of the folks who were at the previous game unable to make it, and the player who had missed the last game attending this time. This necessitated a little fast narrative footwork, and we decided that Aleister had gone off to tap his contacts about what might be going on, and Mark needing to have a little lie-down after his valiant exertions keeping the death spell from killing the boy they had rescued. And we brought Nate in with a cast on his arm on which a rude word had been written ((This was an interesting development that I was pleased to see the game could handle in an interesting and entertaining fashion. Nate’s player pulled me aside when we were going to reintroduce him to the group. I had asked him what he had been doing that kept him out of the action last game, and he wanted to clear some stuff he was working on offstage and writing up as fiction on the forum. He explained the background of what he was doing to me, and asked if he could start with a cast on his arm. I gave him the option of having a cast on the arm that was just jazz, with no game impact, or actually taking the Broken Arm moderate consequence, for which I would give him two Fate Points. He opted for the latter, and it came back to cause him some problems in game, which was nice. I also said he had to decide what his brother would have written on the cast, because Mark would certainly have written something. He thought for a second, and told me the rude word that was written on the cast, and added that Mark, a pretty good Thaumaturgist, would also have turned the cast bright pink and made sure that nothing else could be written on it to cover up his handiwork.)).

Faced with a young man half-way to being a bog-mummy, Nate decided to see if he could try to cleanse him of the evil magical influences, using his evocation of the spiritual nature of water to wash away the watery necromancy used on the boy. I decided this was an interesting idea, and asked him how he’d do it. He put the boy ((I keep using the word “boy” to describe the victim. The guy’s about twenty – a college student – but that makes him a boy to the majority of the players in this game. With one notable exception, we’re all old.)) in the bathtub, and used his evocation to wrench the bad water out of him, replacing it with good water. The first two attempts went poorly, because he didn’t use enough power. The third attempt ((Third time is, after all, the charm.)) resulted in an explosion of peaty bog water in the bathroom ((“Well, I want to be gentle about it.” “If you wanted to be gentle, you wouldn’t be using evocation.” “Oh. Damn.”)), which left the boy’s body floating in a tub of clean, pure water.

The boy’s unbreathing body.

Some quick CPR followed, which got his heart going again, and cleared his lungs of water, and got him sorta-stabilized. The brown stain was gone from his skin and, while still pretty much emaciated, he no longer looked shriveled. They brought him into a hospital emergency room and ditched him there once the doctors got to him, thus avoiding unpleasant conversations with the authorities – both mundane and magical. It was nice to see how the idea of a First Law violation, even by accident, got the group moving to set things right. The Warden, while he gets bad-mouthed a lot by the group, has obviously made a strong point about his power.

Then it was back to Trinity to try and find the nine other wannabe necromancers, and possibly the big bad guy behind them. It being Holy Saturday, a night traditionally associated with the absence of divinity in magical symbolism, they figured that whatever necromantic ritual was being tried would happen tonight, and probably in one of the chapels. Kate remembered that the main chapel had some historically significant people interred in it ((I’ve got zero idea whether or not this is true, but it was a good way to give them a clue about where on campus things might be happening.)), so they went there.

Outside the chapel ((I’ve got to pause here to recommend the iPad and Google image search as invaluable tools for setting the mood and location in modern games. Sixty seconds of searching, and I was able to show the players a picture of the front of the chapel at night. If I’d known that’s where things would have been happening before the game, I could even have eliminated that little lag time.)), Firinne glamoured Rogan to invisibility, and Rogan shifted to her smilodon form to creep in and do recon ((They checked for a threshold first, and found that the normal barrier posed by consecrated ground was gone – all part of the Holy Saturday thing.)). The others followed along behind her. They found seven of the young cultists chanting around the altar, waving knives and wearing black robes.

There ensued a nice little brawl, with Rogan disrupting the ritual, Nate disarming the cultists with a little magnetic evocation, Firinne shooting down the two guarding cultists crouched down in the pews ((She didn’t want to kill them, so I let her incapacitate them without killing. Part of me thinks that this might reduce the threat factor of guns in the game – I want guns to be scary – but the rules do say that, when someone is taken out, the victor gets to decide what exactly that means. Also, she bought the Guns skill up to Great, so it feels kinda prickish to not let her use it.)), and Kate summoning a spiritual aspect of the Great Mother to protect the altar. This last little bit of magic revealed a mystical whirlpool in the air, leading up and away to somewhere else, but the spirit broke the connection, which caused all the cultists who were still up and around to collapse like puppets with their strings cut.

The gang grabbed one of the cultists and scarpered before the police arrived to investigate the gunshots, and took him back to Kate’s flat near the College. Her home has the strongest wards they know of – at least, of the places they have access to – and they were worried that the black cloud they had encountered twice before might try to follow the cultist to tie up that loose end. Just before they reached her place, midnight arrived, and Holy Saturday turned into Easter Sunday. At that moment, Kate felt a massive snapping of mystical tension, as if a huge magical rubber band had been stretched tight and then cut. She didn’t know what it meant, but it added one more layer of worry ((This is, to me, an important part of the game world. I throw out a number of threads for the characters to follow and, wherever they go, they find adventure. But the other threads and plotlines don’t go away, and they don’t wait for PC involvement. If you ignore something, it still progresses. What she sensed was another plotline happening elsewhere.)).

Back at Kate’s place, Nate used The Sight to try and assess what was up with their new prisoner. He saw him as a deep, dark emptiness in the shape of a man, with a tiny figure, far away in the depths, desperately waving its arms as it drifted deeper into the void. He also took a peek at the other characters there, and I gave him a quick image of each of them: Firinne as an elfin figure, Rogan as a human straining to hold back a snarling sabertooth ((Very reminiscent of the Strength card of the Major Arcana, now I think of it. Note to self: look at Tarot decks for visions using The Sight.)), Kate as being surrounded by the spirits of her female ancestors. There was some discussion about him looking out the window at the city, but after I cautioned him about the dangers of looking at a city with over a thousand years of history, violence, death, and fey games, he decided that he’d prefer it if his brain remained inside his head.

It was around midnight in the real world by then, and we’d reached a reasonable stopping point, so we called the game. All in all, it went pretty well, especially considering I had no idea what direction the players were going to go, so I had done no extra prep after the last session.

We’ll see what happens next game.


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2 Responses to Feints & Gambits: Holy Saturday

  1. Mr Sleep says:

    I’m always impressed with the depth that happens in the F&G Thread. I especially like the idea of multiple plot lines thrown out for the players to pursue. I’ve committed to running a DFRPG this fall and am trying to familiarize myself with the rules (it’ll be the first game that I’ve run without actually playing first). That said, I seem to find pearls of wisdom whenever I peak in on these posts.

    Today’s lesson: map out multiple event threads. I think that I’ll come up with a very brief timeline for each thread with half a dozen “events” mapped spaced out to indicate how advanced they each are when/if the players intercede.

    And I’m currently trying to find some kind of online Game so that I can actually play the freaking game before running it. Such is life.

    As always, great post. Thanks, Rick.

  2. Rick Neal says:

    I’m glad you’re enjoying the posts.

    Some advice about the multiple plotline thread idea, that I’ve garnered from bitter experience: it only works well if there is no wrong choice of plot for the characters to follow. Whatever they choose should be the main story for the game, and should become the most important thing they could have followed up. After all, the game is about the characters, not what the characters miss. Otherwise, the group will become paralyzed with indecision, trying to figure out which is the correct thread to follow, and the game degenerates into them spending their time trying to make the decision, instead of acting on it.

    And that’s no fun for anyone.

    Sure, let other stuff happen in the background and off-camera, and let the city grow and evolve and be a dynamic place, and even make the group make hard choices about whether to track the necromancers or deal with the big fey showdown, and let there be consequences to those choices, but never make them think they chose the wrong thread. Give them a win, even if they take a loss elsewhere. That’ll keep them motivated to act.

    As I said, bitter experience speaking. Your mileage may, of course, vary.

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