Feints & Gambits: Heart and Hell

In the last Feints & Gambits session, I was gifted with a wonderful news story to incorporate into the ongoing saga of Dredenified Dublin – the theft of the heart of St. Laurence O’Toole, the patron saint of Dublin, from Christchurch Cathedral. Now, this story came out of left field, but it’s such a brilliantly gameable idea that I had to use it. It required a bit of backfilling behind the scenes to tie it into the things that were going on in the campaign, but that all happened out of the players’ line of sight, so as far as they’re concerned1, nothing has changed.

What I needed to do to fit this into the storyline that had developed was to decide who had stolen the heart, and why. I started by trying to figure out what made the most sense, but then decided to abandon that tack. See, I wanted this to be a bit of a mystery for the players, and by choosing the person and motive that made the most sense, I would make it too easy for the players to figure out. Instead, I started looking at the faces already in play, and trying to decide what would make the most interesting story2.

Once I had picked the who, I figured out the why, and then the how3. I was pleased with how it fit nicely into the campaign as it stood, and what it suggested for the endgame of the story. I think it will develop in interesting and satisfying ways. It’s given me some interesting ideas about the final stages of the game, and reshaped some of the behind-the-scenes stuff in cool ways.

The actual session got off to a bit of a rocky start, which is entirely my fault. I had printed out a copy of the article about the theft from the Internet, and handed it to the players as we were about to start. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it clear that this article was something that they had found in-game; they just assumed I was showing them a cool article I had found. So, they passed it around, went, “Cool!” and proceeded to ignore it. When it finally occurred to me to tell them this was something their characters had found in-game4, they glommed onto it pretty quickly, and the game got rolling.

Things started with Kate trying to find the missing mummies, thinking that the fact that they had gone missing might be tied to the missing heart, but the only real link she had to them was the remains of a bottle that had held the True Guinness that Padraig Pearse had given to the mummies5. The bottle and cork had a stronger link to the brewery than to the mummies, though, so that didn’t work out very well.

While Kate was doing that, Aleister and a couple of others met with a contact of Aleister’s from Christchurch. He wasn’t able to offer much more information than was in the papers, except that a nun had come asking many questions about the occurrence. The only description they got of this nun was that she was attractive6. Aleister figured that this was just the Malleus Maleficarum showing an interest in the missing holy relic, and he didn’t want to go talk to them about it – the last meeting he had with their representative did not encourage him to renew the acquaintance.

Next, the gang decided to go to the Moore Street market – what the gang calls the Goblin Market – to see if anyone there knew anything. They found members of the both the Snowbirds and the Sunshine Boys there7, and almost got them to come to blows by getting each group to accuse the other of the theft. Only the presence of Constable Fergus8 kept things from escalating.

In the midst of all this, Nate spotted a figure in colourful clothing in one of the third-floor windows overlooking the street. He remembered seeing a similar figure in a tree at St. Michan’s church during their first abortive attempt to get into the crypts, and decided he wanted to have a chat with the fellow.

Now, Nate’s an evoker. He’s got tonnes of power, enough control to keep his head from exploding9, and that’s it for him. So, to pursue the figure, he decided to use his earth evocation to launch himself up at the window the man was watching from. I explained to him that this was not a safe thing to do, and would result in him being launched like a cannonball in the general direction he wished to go, but that he’d need to make an Athletics roll to go where he wanted to, and even then, he’d probably wind up bruised and bloodied.

Five shifts of power later, he misses his Athletics check by one point, and I tell him he’s going to slam into the wall beside the window and then fall. He tosses in a Fate Point, invoking his Tricks Up My Sleeve aspect, and asks to go through the window, instead. I told him he’d still take some stress from the glass, and he said he was fine with that. And thus Nate went barreling through the closed window and sprawled on the floor in front of his target10.

Nate got up, brushed himself off, and was about to make his introductions to the fellow11 when the man in question whistled and Nate blacked out12. When the rest of the gang made it up to the room through more conventional means, the colourful guy was gone.

A little bit of research turned up that someone dressed in colourful clothes with a magic ability to whistle might, in fact, be Nightingale the Robber, which hinted that the non-Irish monsters and spirits living below the city13 might be responsible for the theft. Rather than rush off to confront them right away14, they decided to check out Christchurch Cathderal.

Some initial investigation of the scene led the magicky types in the group to determine that the heart had been a key component in some kind of mystic construct in the church. Rogan’s keen nose led them down into the catacombs from the main floor. The catacombs of Christchurch Cathedral are all nicely finished for tourists to see. Our heroes poked around for a bit and discovered a magically concealed door.

Behind the door, a passageway led down into the tunnels below the city, which were historically called Hell15, and ran from a gate – now bricked up – near the city gate at Cook Street to the catacombs of Christchurch. As they followed the tunnel, they were attacked by a Ruselka hiding in a stream flowing along the ceiling of the tunnel, but Rogan’s nasty roar managed to frighten it off before it had a chance to do much more that soak a couple of the stragglers.

When they reached the underground River Poddle, they found that Nightingale was on the far side, along with thirty or forty other Slavic, Asian, African, and South American fey creatures. Nate opened up with a flashbang spell before anyone had a chance to say anything, but the flowing water of the Poddle grounded the spell, preventing it from doing anything more than fizzle.

There followed an intense confrontation across the width of the river, our heroes demanding information and access to the tunnels on the far side, and Nightingale refusing to allow them into what he said was his home. After the spell, tempers were running high, and the foreign creatures were not in the mood to trust these demanding, presumptuous folks who came down to their territory and treated them like invaders.

Eventually, the characters retreated back up to Christchurch16, and whipped up a divination spell that showed two other figures coming to the door, one going in to steal the heart, and then the two figures retreating back down the tunnel to a boat on the Poddle which they took downstream towards the Liffey. Some evidence17 made the group conclude that these two were two of the mummies they had been seeking.

That’s about where we left things for that session. Next time, we find out what our heroes intend to do about all this.

  1. Or at least, as far as they were concerned up until I spilled the beans just now. []
  2. This is something I’m trying to learn to do more regularly, more automatically, and more creatively. I have a tendency to fall back on basic logic for building my storylines, planning forward from what already exists, when more satisfying stories can be built by deciding the most interesting thing that can happen, and constructing the logic backwards to fit into the current state of the campaign. This allows for more surprising twists that still make sense. []
  3. No, I’m not going to give it all away in the blog, you whiny players. []
  4. After a few WTF moments of complete bewilderment on my part. []
  5. Or so the group thinks. I’m not saying one way or the other, except that it fits the evidence they have. []
  6. This led to a strange conversation about where one could go to pick up hot nuns in Dublin. []
  7. These are the young changeling and fey gangs allied with the Winter and Summer Courts respectively. []
  8. An ancient, powerful troll tasked with keeping the peace in the market. []
  9. Mostly. []
  10. This led to the following conversation between myself and Nate’s player – Me: And that’s why wizards don’t use evocation to fly. Chris: *I* understand that, but as far as Nate’s concerned, that worked PERFECTLY. []
  11. I believe said introductions would have been along the lines of, “Right, ye fecker. Ye got some questions to answer.” []
  12. I fudged the effect of this a little bit. It was a mental maneuver, inflicting the aspect Sound Asleep on the target, which might be a bit over-the-top for a maneuver. Probably better as a consequence from a mental attack. But I didn’t want to draw this bit out, and I thought it would be more interesting if the guy got away. So. Yeah. I cheated a bit here. []
  13. And led by Baba Yaga. []
  14. And what’s up with that? []
  15. Or so I am informed by the Ghost Tour I took in Dublin. []
  16. With some discussion of whether they should collapse the tunnel. They decided against it. []
  17. I forget exactly what. Maybe the fact they were speaking old Church Latin. []
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