Well. I have to say that this last session of Feints & Gambits did not go in the direction I had envisioned.
A large part of the reason for that was my fault – I hadn’t prepared well enough for the game to have a really solid idea of where the session was headed, looking to follow the players’ lead and fill in detail on the fly. That approach had a couple of problems: first, it was a large group, and that led to a lot of debate and discussion of strategy, which slowed down play and made for some very passive choices. Second, I tried to link in a couple of different threads, one ((At least one.)) of which I should have dropped, which led to muddying the water and confusing the objectives.
For games like The Dresden Files RPG, I don’t design adventures, as such. What I do is create situations, where I know the movers and shakers, what their goals are, and what actions they will take if confronted with opposition. I put together a page or two of stats for the opposition ((Sometimes. Lots of time, in games like DFRPG and Trail of Cthulhu, it’s really easy to improvise the stats I need. But for the big names and the “boss fights,” I like to have put some thought in before hand.)), and draw a little map of the situation, showing the relationship between the various people, places, and agendas.
While building the situation, I look for ways for the characters to become aware of at least an edge of what’s going on – a hook to draw them in. The game usually starts with me running the hook scene ((Or scenes. I find that, with my group, if I want to make sure the gang saddles up and involves themselves with the situation, it’s a good idea to plant seeds with a couple of the characters.)), and then I sit back and take my lead from the what the characters do.
That’s my normal process, and it works pretty well – usually. This last session, though, I hadn’t done enough preparation. I had all the elements of the situation, and knew the overarching goals of the main NPCs involved, but I hadn’t given enough thought to how they were connected. I was trusting to the interplay between the characters and myself to flesh that out, the way it happens in the Armitage Files game. But that game is more focused, with a stated overall goal, and only three players. Feints & Gambits does not have, and has not manifested, an overarching plotline to focus things, and the larger number of players diffuses the focus.
Anyway, I went into the game knowing that the focus was going to be Padraig Pearse’s ghost. Two of the hook scenes pointed to him ((The third hook scene I probably should have dropped. It was tied to the Malleus Maleficarum trying to recruit Aleister, and I didn’t have a good connection between that and the plot for the session. I mean, the scene was good for developing Aleister’s character, and it introduced the Malleus into play, but it didn’t contribute to the current storyline, and may have distracted from it. Oh, well.)), suggesting that he was up to something, and that it was taking place at the GPO. The group saddled up and decided to break into the GPO after hours to scope the place out.
This is where the wheels came off.
See, my plan was that Pearse, who had almost been destroyed in his last encounter with the party, wanted them safely busy ghosthunting at the GPO while he raided the Guinness Brewery for more of the True Guinness, seeing as he wasn’t going to be given a bottle this year as tribute for acting as the judge of the Easter battle for the fey ((This is because all the ghosts in Dublin were freed by the death curse of a necromancer a few sessions ago.)). So, I planted a couple of clues at the GPO to show them that they were on a wild goose chase: no sign of any ghosts around, a carton of milk that psychometry told them had been deliberately soured by a ghost, and a couple of things the group didn’t uncover.
Well, I misjudged the clues. They weren’t enough to make the characters suspicious of the whole set-up, and they were spending a lot of time dithering around in the employees’ kitchen of the GPO, so I upped the stakes, and had the police show up, thinking this would drive them into the upper floors and out through the roof access, giving me a chance to seed a few clues along the way. I even threw Gene Hunt into the mix, to give them a little extra motivation to scarper.
I put Hunt and a squad of Gardai between the characters and their exit on the main floor, so they hid, trusting to their veil to keep them hidden from the search. It worked, but the cops were still between them and the way they came in. Aleister made a break for it past the police, leaving the veil in an attempt to draw the police off. This was a noble try, but we’re talking about one of the most historically important buildings in Dublin having been broken into. The cops are gonna be on the scene for a while.
To make things a little more interesting, I put a few squad cars out front with armed officers waiting ((I had decided, when I sent the police in, that they had been tipped off that there were dangerous CIRA terrorists breaking into the GPO. That justified the extra firepower.)), but Aleister had no real problem getting past them. Because I was feeling surly, and because of the tip about the terrorists, I had the armed officers make a Discipline check to keep from shooting at Aleister as he ran into the crowd, and they failed miserably ((-4 is -4, dudes.)). So, some gunfire into the bystanders who had gathered to see what was going on, and a couple of spectators hit.
Meanwhile, inside, Kate pulled the fire alarm and lit a garbage can on fire. The rest of the group headed upstairs, but stopped when they noticed a scattering of iron nails across the floor by the stairs. Nate cleared those out of the way with a little evoked magnetism ((Which pinned Firinne to the wall for a few seconds, too; she was carrying all of Aleister’s guns, because he didn’t want to get caught with them.)), and they headed on up with Firinne’s faerie veil intact, though Kate was still back in the kitchen and outside of the veil.
Hunt found her, and arrested her. Rogan decided to come down and try to talk to Hunt – whom she thinks is the Black Cat, a mortal who works to keep the mystical elements in Dublin from running rough-shod over the mundanes ((It was established in the setting creation that Hunt is clued in, but they have no real evidence that he’s the Black Cat. All they’ve got is rumour.)). She also wound up cuffed and stuck in the back of a patrol car.
Outside, Aleister, agonizing over the bystanders shot in his escape ((Compelled both his I Am Thy Shield and his It Should Have Been Me aspects. Yeah, I can be a bastard.)), ditched his jacket and cap and came back to administer first aid. Hunt came out and spotted him, and asked if he’d be willing to answer some questions at the station – he is under the impression that Aleister works for Rogan. Aleister declined, but put his hand on Hunt’s shoulder, and thereby gave him an excuse to arrest Aleister for assault.
So, Hunt, being used to dealing with a corrupt system and wealthy families getting away with whatever they want, is being cagey. He’s got each of the three folks he’s arrested at a different police jail, with the paperwork lost, and no sign of a solicitor.
The other three folks made it up and out of the GPO with very little trouble, and scampered away into the night.
To wrap things up, I decided an exposition dump was needed to drive home the fact that the thing had been a trap. While Nate, early the next morning, was watching the GPO ((I think he was hoping Pearse would show so he could blast him to oblivion.)), Aengus showed up, looking like he’d lost a bar brawl ((Yes, it is possible, because he’s probably not the Dagda at all!)). He filled Nate in on the fact that Pearse had shown up at the Brewery and taken not just one bottle of the True Guinness, but five of them.
So. As I say, not the way I expected things to go. Next game, I’ve got a much more solid idea of how things fit together, so it should be more focused, as we head into the beginning of the through-line of plot that will lead to the culmination of the game. Actual culmination won’t be for at least six months, yet, but it’s coming.