Feints & Gambits: The Spear of Lugh

Last Saturday was the penultimate session of Feints & Gambits. I had pretty much a full house, missing only two players, so that was five players to wrangle1. On the other hand, given what I had decided they were up against, a larger group was not a bad thing.

Only two of the players had been at the previous session, where the gang secured the support of the Ciorcal Fuinseog and retrieved the Sword of Nuada. And one player hadn’t even been present at the session before, when the whole idea of the Ard Ri was laid out for folks. Seeing as this one was a member of the Venatori Umborum, he wasn’t disposed to trust someone who had, until recently, been dead.

I was a little worried about this last, to tell the truth, because the player, who had been kept up to speed on the games by other players, was saying things like, “I don’t think I’m on the same side as everyone else with this idea.” Now, I had some ideas about how to run the endgame no matter which side the group chose, but I hadn’t thought too hard about what I’d do if some of the group chose to support the King and some chose to oppose him. I had vague ideas, but quite frankly, it would have been a big pain in the ass. However, I should have just trusted the player, because he met me half-way very easily and naturally once things got rolling, and no problem arose2.

Anyway, I started the session with a more detailed recap than usual, because of the fact that only two of the players had been at the previous session. That’s the point I was trying to make.

So, after the recap, I let the characters who had met the King and agreed to help him explain things to Aleister. After Aleister seemed amenable3 to the idea, I brought in Liam Dalton, the prospective King, to meet Aleister and explain himself4.

Once that was out of the way, and the group was starting to plan what they were going to do for this session, I called a bit of a time out to explain how the final session was going to work. I followed that up with an e-mail message, spelling it out in more precise detail, so I’m just gonna paste that below so you can all see it.

Next session is going to be the battle at Tara, with Liam Dalton trying to become High King of Ireland. The Fey are going to oppose him – with force. The battle scene is going to be the main focus of the session, with you folks deeply involved, though not necessarily all together. You will be making individual actions, but you will also be making actions for the battle – trying to hold a flank, or press an attack, or fend off the air support of the Fey, whatever.

In addition to the normal stuff on your character sheet, you will also have some aspects that represent resources you have brought to the battle. These can be used in the battle rolls, along with your normal aspects. You already have a few of these: The Sword of Nuada, The Spear of Lugh, Rogan’s Pride, Power of the Ciorcal Fuinseog, stuff like that. I’ve got a list, but I’m saving it for when the session starts. The Fey also have a list of resources they can use – things like Nate O’Malley Owes a Favour, for example. I’m not going to tell you what they all are.

You can add to the resources your side has. How? Simple. Think up something that your side could use to aid them – special knowledge, another ally, preparation of the battlefield, a helpful artifact, whatever. Then write me a story about how you bring it over to your side. It doesn’t have to be long; a paragraph or two is fine. Post the story on the forum and then – pay attention, because this is an important bit – let me know that you have done so BEFORE JULY 27. Midnight July 26 is the cut-off point. Why? Because I need time to read the story and add the resource to my list.

If, instead of posting a story, you want to work out the details with me in e-mail, that’s fine too, but the deadline applies.

There it is. Have at it. And let me know if you have any questions.

I wanted to spell it out during this session, in case they had any ideas they wanted to implement during the session to add to their battle preparations. They spent some time looking at maps of the Hill of Tara and thinking of ideas, but decided to save things for the forum or e-mail, which is fine with me5. And they decided to head off to the Giant’s Causeway6 to get the Spear of Lugh.

The spellslingers in the group did a fair bit of preparation for the spell they were going to use to locate the spear once they got to the Causeway7. By their choice, they went to scout the Causeway in daylight, so the big problem they ran into was the hoard of tourists. Not very convenient for spellcasting, but Firinne, the changeling trickster, got the guides to give them some space to work with a story about spreading the ashes of her little brother here, with a ritual by his friends from a recreationist society, and they got away with it.

Their preparations pumped a lot of power8 into the divination, so I gave them a big result: a vision of the Organ at the Giant’s Causeway, transformed into an iron gate, behind which they saw flickering, hellish light. That, they knew, was where the spear was.

So, they came back after dark, using all their various stealth abilities, potions, and glamours to make sure they got across to the Organ undetected. Once there, Kate used the Sight to take a look at the place, and saw that it was a Way into a great hall full of formorians. Mark opened the Way, and they sauntered into Baelor’s Hall.

The place was huge, with open pools of molten iron, large trestle table, benches, hanging iron chains, and a massive throne upon which sat Baelor of the Evil Eye, with the Spear of Lugh mounted on the wall behind him. Also, about a dozen formorians sitting at table, feasting.

There was a little conversation, as our heroes tried to persuade Baelor to turn over the spear, but he just laughed at them – formorians are firmly on the Fey side of things in my world, so arguments that the spear would be used to end the reign were pretty much useless9. And then he ordered his warriors to attack.

Things went badly for the gang at this point. I had based the formorian stats on ogres, with a few little enhancements, like weapons. Baelor was toughened up from that, with a special eye blast attack. They hit like a ton of bricks, and were very resilient. Rogan scared one off with her roar10, and Mark stopped Baelor’s attendants from opening his evil eye by slicing their lifting sticks to bits with a blast of force. But by the end of the first exchange, pretty much every one of the characters had taken at least a minor consequence, and they feared for their lives.

Now, I had built the formorians to be horribly tough opponents on the physical battlefield, but weak in the other ones. I had filled the hall with interesting things that could be tapped as scene aspects. When they realized that they were outclassed in a fight, the characters decided to focus on their primary objective – the spear – and then see about escaping11.

Rogan shifted back to human form and dashed through the formorians to snatch the spear from the wall with a truly stunning Athletics roll. Everyone was preparing to give her cover to make her escape when Aleister dumped all his Fate Points on a single roll and shot Baelor through the eye, doing just enough damage to penetrate his armour and roll up off the end of his stress track.Now, I could have let Baelor take a consequence and continue the fight, but a couple of things argued against doing that.

First, Baelor wasn’t designed to be an ongoing foe; he was built to be an obstacle. With his warriors, he was a very tough obstacle, but I didn’t want to elevate him to the level of some other faces in the campaign, because I had introduced him for a single purpose. So, I had no vested interest in keeping him around.

Second, as I mentioned, Aleister had spent every single Fate Point he had on the shot. He’d rolled in the neighbourhood of 16 shifts of damage, and that kind of roll – and Fate Point expenditure – deserves a memorable success. Having Baelor shrug the shot off, though possible with his stats, felt like a dick move12.

Thus, Aleister shot Baelor right through his evil eye, causing his head to explode. His warriors, stunned and panicked by this development, fled. And our heroes took the spear and got out while the getting was good.

It was pretty late by that point, so we called it a night. Next session, everything ends, one way or another.

  1. When I launch my New Style Gaming in September, one of the things I’m focusing on, aside from running shorter campaigns, is running with smaller groups. Easier to schedule, and everyone gets more spotlight time each session. []
  2. Thanks, Michael! []
  3. All alliterative! []
  4. I found, listening to the characters’ explanation, that I hadn’t made clear exactly what the whole idea with becoming High King was all about, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to spell things out. []
  5. Of course, if they forget, well, that’s just too bad, now, isn’t it? []
  6. “Mark, do you have access to a va-” “NO!” []
  7. They came up with such good stuff, like making a little replica spear out of the remains of a bronze-age spear, and reading passages about the spear from the Lebor Gebala Erenn. It made me very happy. []
  8. More alliteration! Yay! []
  9. Or worse. []
  10. Mental and Social stress tracks were where they were vulnerable. []
  11. The Way had, of course, slammed shut when the formorians attacked. []
  12. This is an important thing I’ve learned over the years: rules go by the wayside when the player commits to an epic, cinematic moment. Let the heroes win, especially when they show you how important it is to them. []
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