Feints & Gambits: Easter Morning

Friday night, we wrapped up the necromancer storyline in the Feints & Gambits game. This is, in part, what prompted my last post about being taken out; I wanted to lay the groundwork to be able to explain – both to my players and to other readers of this blog – some of the decisions I made during play ((When I was studying Education at University, this was referred to as a “teachable moment.”)). Which is not to say I feel the need to defend these decisions; quite the contrary, my players seemed to really like the way the game went. But the decisions made, and the reasons behind them, can help to reinforce tone and style of play, and I want to make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to that.

We had a full roster of players, and hence characters, this session, and I have to thank the folks who were missing last time for the easy way they brought themselves back into play. I appreciate the co-operation.

The gang was still at Kate’s place, with the necromancer cultist that they had taken from the ceremony at Trinity College Chapel. He seemed to be essentially catatonic, and Nate’s use of The Sight had shown that he was severely damaged in the soul, with his self shrinking away to nothing.  Mark and Kate decided that they were going to try and create a ritual to bring him back.  I warned them that the difficulty was going to be very high for this, citing as an example the fact that the base Complexity of a death spell is up over 20, and they were essentially trying to heal someone from one of those. They were not dissuaded, which pleased me ((Heroes are people who risk everything when it’s important enough.)), and pretty much everyone in the group got into preparing the spell ((I outline my thinking on this way back here.)), which they decided to set at Complexity 25. Which is big. Very big.

While the group was working together to come up with all the various Aspects to make up the Lore deficit, I was doing some scrambling. See, Mark and Kate wanted to cast the spell together, figuring that should give them some sort of advantage. I agreed, and then spent a frantic few minutes leafing through the rulebook to find out how co-operative casting works in the system.

I didn’t find any rules for it ((Wait for it…)).

So, rather than slow the game down, or say no to what I thought was a reasonable request, I ruled that they could each gather power to cast the spell, and it would all go into the pot to power it. But if either of them failed their control roll, all the power gathered by both of them would become uncontrolled. They thought this was reasonable, and went ahead with casting the spell.

Of course, after the game, I checked the rules when I had a little more leisure, and found the rules for co-operative thaumaturgy on page 272 of Your Story. ((Told you to wait for it.)) The upshot is that they’re pretty much what I came up with at the moment, which is good for two reasons: first, it means I don’t have to change the way I did it this time if the characters try it again, and second, it means I’ve internalized the mindset behind the rules well enough to be able to trust my instincts with them.

So, anyway, they managed the spell ((And I resisted the urge to try and compel a failure once the gathered power topped 20 shifts. It was tough to resist, but it would have been such a dick move.)), and pulled the poor little necromancer cultist’s soul back up into the light. It was at this point that I did the actual math for how many shifts they would have needed, and saw that 26 would have been a complete success. I decided that they offset all the damage done to his soul, except for the extreme Mental consequence he had taken. I thought this was a good way to reflect the impact on his mind and soul of the trauma he had gone through in this little ordeal.

The characters were able to talk to him, but he was extremely distrustful – hell, he’d just woken up in a room full of strangers, wearing nothing but a cheap rayon robe, and the people he was with looked suspiciously like the folks who he remembered shooting at his friends. Add to this the extreme Mental consequence I had decided on, which was that he had basically become a sociopath due to the damage done to his soul, and he played up the victim angle, begged to be let free, and said he didn’t remember anything. He also swore he had no involvement with paganism, satanism, new age, or magic of any sort. Eventually, they dropped him off in downtown Dublin, with Aleister urging him to go to a church and pray for his soul ((He didn’t. He went out the back way. Sorry, Aleister.)).

Meanwhile, the rest of the crew was back at Trinity, breaking into the guy’s dorm room. They cracked the ward on the door, and the door itself was child’s play. Inside, they found that their poor little cultist might not have been totally honest with them: the walls were black, and had a poster of Aleister Crowley on one, and a day-glo qabbalistic tree of life painted on another. There was even a little shrine with black candles and a fake skull on it. A search turned up a small stash of ecstasy and a journal written in Enochian script, which none of the characters could read.

When they tried the redial on his room phone, they heard the ringing in a nearby room, and went to investigate, finding another warded door. Instead of disabling this ward, Mark decided to see if the ward was designed to warn the caster when it was broken. It was, so he worked up a little ritual to let his toy compass point him back to the caster. This worked, though I mentioned that small drops of peaty water were starting to form under the plastic of the compass. Off they hurried to track down the necromancer and see what should be done.

At this point, there was some lively discussion about what they were going to do with the necromancer when they finally caught up to him. Or her ((But it turned out to be him.)). After seeing what he had done to his cultists when they were in danger of being caught, the gang were rightfully wary of him. They knew he needed to be eliminated, but also knew that, if he saw them coming, they didn’t stand a chance. They settled on the idea of finding him for reconnaissance, then setting up an ambush where they would be able to put him down with minimal risk ((To that end, Aleister picked stopped by his place to pick up a sniper rifle.)).

Here’s where I got to drag the plot back around to the Easter Uprising ghost battle storyline I had originally envisioned for this scenario. The compass led them to the street in front of the GPO ((Quite near the scarred paving where Nate had made his wall of fire back around Christmas time.)), where a crowd had gathered around a taped-off crime scene. Under cover of Firinne’s glamour, Aleister and Mark made their way into the crowd, trying to home in on the necromancer.

They found him. The description I gave started with, “Y’know, the guy might as well have a sign around his neck that says ‘I’m an evil necromancer.'” From there, I went on to describe his slicked-back dark hair, his pointy beard, his silver jewelry, his walking stick, and all the other trappings ((This was because I had forgotten the description I had come up with for the man in the setting document, which was very non-necromancery. But that’s okay; nobody called me on it, so I win.)) that screamed bad guy.

They retreated back to the group by the car, and Kate decided that she wanted to look at the scene with The Sight. I pulled the player aside and gave her a rundown on seeing the necromancer in all his dark power, drawing up some sort of energy from the screaming ghostly form lying within the bloodstain inside the crime scene tape. I also told her about the intricate silver and bronze chain that lay broken around the GPO, and the massed ranks of angry ghosts within, led by Padraig Pearse. Then I kicked her in the brain with a Superb attack, because I figured that was a pretty intense scene to have viewed with her third eye. She, of course, beat that difficulty handily ((So I don’t want to hear any more about your crappy dice luck, you hear me?)).

And then Kate was off, charging into the crowd to stop the necromancer from doing whatever it was he was doing. The rest of the gang, who were still planning on doing this quietly and out of sight, tried to stop her. Nate flattened her with some gravity evocation, but she yelled at Aleister that they had to stop the necromancer right now! Aleister and Rogan took her at her word, and charged into the crowd, while Firinne distracted the cops and Mark and Nate and Kate all tried spinning magic against the necromancer.

The fight ended with Rogan savaging the necromancer in her smilodon form, but that didn’t quite kill him. He had taken a lot of consequences – offset by his magical preparations, to a degree, but not completely – and had done some damage of his own, but it was time for him to concede ((And this is where it ties into that last post on being taken out.)).

Looking at the logic of the situation, the only way I could have had him escape would have been to let him magic himself away, but I didn’t think that would work very well – breaching the Nevernever is thaumaturgy, which takes some time, and Mark specializes in transport magic, so it wouldn’t be a guarantee that he could get away. Besides, the group had worked hard to track this guy down, and were responding heroically – albeit out of desperation – so I didn’t want to take away a victory so cheaply.

That left the death curse.

The necromancer, choking on his own blood, laughed up into Rogan’s tiger face, and said, “I free them all!” Then he died. The ghosts in the GPO began solidifying, and some hasty Lore checks showed that the pulse of power from the dying necromancer had broken any and all bindings on ghosts within Dublin. With the coming of the Easter Week fey game of pitting the ghosts of the Easter Uprising against each other for their sport, the ghosts within the GPO were already pretty solid, and angry, and started setting up defensive positions. Nate didn’t like the look of that, so he used spiritual fire to burn them all out of the building ((An evocation up around 9 shifts of power, as I recall.)). Only Padraig Pearse, fortified by his midwinter bottle of True Guinness, survived, and he did not look pleased.

So, that’s where we left things. The necromancer cult at Trinity is no more. All the ghosts in Dublin are free to do as they will. And the Easter Week fey games are spoiled. I imagine that there will be some repercussions from each of these things. And I also figured the efforts were worth a Major Milestone.

Next, I think, I will throw something easier and more direct at them. I’ve got a lot of ghosts suddenly loose to haunt things and cause trouble, after all.

Oh, and for those who are interested in what was actually going on with the necromancer and his plots, check the spoiler tag below. My players are free to do so, as well, but keep in mind that your characters will not know the stuff you read there. But the plot is done, and the plotter is dead, so it’s not going to have a lot of effect on the rest of the game. I’ll leave that to the consequences of your actions.


Dr. Aidan Blackwood was the head necromancer. He had a cult of followers, drawn mainly from the students at the university, devoted to unlocking the ancient dark magics neglected by the modern new age practitioners. He wanted, specifically, to chain the angry ghosts of Dublin to his will, granting him enough power and influence in the mystical world to expand his influence over the rest of the island, and maybe even beyond. Ghosts bound to your will, aside from being power sources, are just useful.

To join his little cult, each member had to undergo a lengthy initiation ritual, which was also a thaumaturgic ritual that tagged them with a death spell that could be triggered quickly. This was how Blackwood managed to transform his cultists from living students into bog mummies so quickly – the preliminary work had been done, and he needed only to trigger it.

Anyway, he didn’t want to risk himself being front-and-centre in this little plot, because if things went badly, the ghosts would tear him apart. So he got the senior member of his cult, grad student Grania Maguire, to take the lead in the whole thing. She would be at the GPO, enacting the main ritual, while the little coven of thirteen (down to ten, after the interference of the PCs) did a supporting ritual in the Trinity College Chapel to gather energy and funnel it to her.

Oh. And part of the ritual was having a prime number of cultists in the power-generation, so once they lost three members, three more had to sit out, leaving seven to conduct the ritual, and three to stand guard. That’s why there were seven at the altar in robes and three hiding in the pews with guns.

And, of course, when our heroes disrupted the (very powerful) ritual at the chapel, the main ritual at the GPO collapsed, but not before Grania had managed to shatter the fey chains binding the GPO ghosts. The power slapped her down, and the ghosts tore her apart. Hence, the crime scene. Blackwood was doing his best to suck up the death-residue of the ritual – along with what was left of Grania’s power – when he met with a toothy end.

And that’s the background story. Not a lot of it came out explicitly during play, but I thought some folks might be interested in how things fit together.

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5 Responses to Feints & Gambits: Easter Morning

  1. Chris says:

    It really was a fun session. I found it a little frustrating trying to investigate all the details on such a tight timeline, but it kept the tension up throughout the game, and played well with our character’s entry level power setting 🙂

    As for point 11, I figured he just didn’t have time to change from the rituals so he was out and about in his fancy necromancer garb.

  2. Mr Sleep says:

    Okay, as I’ve stated before, I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the system and wanted to clarify something about Thaumaturgy preparation. When the rest of the players are out gathering Aspects for the spell (components and what not) are those tapped when the spell-slingers do the mojo, or do they have to pay a Fate Point for each one?

  3. Rick Neal says:

    “I found it a little frustrating trying to investigate all the details on such a tight timeline”

    Yup. I felt that, too. While I don’t mind having the occasional longer, more complicated plot, my intention is to keep things more focused and direct than the last couple of storylines have proved to be. Still trying to find the right balance, though. Expect the next scenario to be very simple, just as a change of pace.

    @Mr. Sleep: The Aspects gathered for thaumaturgical preparation don’t need to be invoked by a Fate Point. They are essentially maneuvers placed on the spell, so the first tag is free. What this means is that, generally, I ask the character to make a skill roll with a Good (+3) difficulty to be able to accomplish whatever it is they’re trying. Unless, of course, the idea is cool enough that I just give it to them. Or if it’s not really conceivable that they would be able to fail whatever it is they’re attempting.

    If they want to tap a given Aspect more than once, however, they need to spend a Fate Point.

    In this specific situation, they came up with more Aspects than necessary for them to make up the Lore deficit – everyone was getting into the act, and seemed to be having fun with the preparation, so I didn’t want to stop them – and I let the extra Aspects sit around on the spell as something the casters could tap for free (once, of course) during the gathering power phase. And it’s lucky for them I did.

  4. Chris says:

    And yes indeed, a 9 shift evocation. I only had my 4th mental stress free, so I figured if I was going to take it no matter what I did, I may as well go for broke!

  5. Mr Sleep says:

    I figured that it was a free tap, but I wanted to be sure. Thanks for the clarity.

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