Posts Tagged “Dresden Files RPG”
Friday night was the final session of my Feints & Gambits DFRPG campaign. The campaign ran 23 sessions, including the character creation and setting creation sessions, over just about two years. We started with six players, and added another one part way through. That’s a pretty large group; I’d assumed that a couple of players would be unavailable each session, keeping the group to a manageable size. That assumption was mainly correct – most sessions, we had at least one player absent, but it was still a big group, and having a full house was… challenging. I had almost a full house for the last session; one player wasn’t able to make it
As mentioned in the last post, I had the players doing some homework, preparing for the battle. They jumped on this opportunity pretty eagerly, and over the time between the sessions, I got a whole bunch of e-mail and stories about how the heroes were setting things up for the final confrontation between the Fey Courts and the prospective High King. We had Venatori Umborum strike forces hiding in the church with the arm-bone of St. Patrick, we had the power of the sun bottled in the hands of a powerful fire mage, we had a storm conjured by an international network of Wiccans, we had collected favours in the enemy camps, we had belief funneled to the King from a powerfully prophetic painting, we had an army of mummified cats hidden in the trenches. And those were just some highlights.
To run this battle, I looked to the old Decipher Lord of the Rings game. While the game had some problems, the game shone in two specific areas: the wonderfully appropriate feel of the magic system, and the simple, flavourful system for running large-scale battles. It’s this last bit that I lifted pretty much whole from LotR and dropped into this game. What makes the system great is that it resolves the battle turn by turn, showing the shifting fortunes of war, while allowing the PCs to have some cinematic hero moments in the midst of the chaos.
So, what I did was to stat up the two armies as opponents. I set the fey army at Good (+3), with eight stress boxes, and the King’s army at Fair (+2) and five stress boxes. There were aspects available from the location, and from the preparations each army had done that could be called on in battle. I also made a list of twenty events and scenes to roll out in the middle of battle for the heroes to deal with. This list had things on it like a ride of the wild hunt, challenges to single combat, favours being called in, and the arrival of Aengous Keogh with the Cauldron of the Dagda.
And then one of the players almost derailed the entire thing, as Mark O’Malley, acting as the King’s herald, negotiated the whole battle to be replaced by a sealed draft tournament of Magic: The Gathering. Now, it was a brilliant ploy, and I liked it, but I couldn’t let it work out the way he wanted – I had to shift the game back to the battle. Why? Not because I had planned this whole battle thing and it would be wasted. No. I’m willing to take a hit like that and improvise something new, maybe following the High King on his ordeal to prove his worthiness.
No, the real problem was that, if we went with theM:TG scenario, only Mark would be doing stuff. The rest of the characters would just be spectators at what was meant to be the climax of the campaign. And that just wasn’t right.
So, I pulled a fast one. I had the fey bring forward a changeling – a stolen child, who happened to be aM:TG tournament champion. When Mark figured out that he was in some jeopardy, he switched tactics and started trash-talking the kid, sending him running from the game in tears. The fey Warlords decreed that this meant the battle must go forward, and so battle was joined.
At the start, I was worried that I had built the opposition up too high. The characters certainly felt threatened, and worried, and the first little bit of the battle was tight for the good guys. But then the gang started figuring out how to put things together using their preparations, spending Fate Points freely, and got things working in their favour.
I can’t do a blow-by-blow of the battle. Too much went on. Some highlights:
- Nate reneging on the debt he owed Summer. He lost his fire magic, but used the sun power he had bottled in the preparation phase to regain it.
- Mark whipping up a fast thaumaturgic ritual to drop a field full of landmines into the Nevernever.
- Aleister taking out the Wild Huntsman with a single rifleshot.
- Kate waking the souls of the 400 Irish rebels buried on the site to defend the High King.
- Rogan leading her pride, and armed with a magic bell, breaking a fey advance and routing the attacking squad.
- Safire blowing the head off a pixie who had come to tell her that her Granny was being held hostage.
- Aengous’s arrival, in a Guinness van, with the Cauldron of the Dagda, and his desperate, ill-fated drive across the earthworks.
- The Warden showed up and wanted to know how a war had sprung up on his watch, and got sent off to talk to the White Council for advice instead of interfering.
In the end, the battle turned out to be pretty one-sided, thanks to the intervention of the heroes. Near the end of things, the gang really pulled out the stops, taking out the leadership of the armies and playing on the enmity between the two courts. Despite being significantly outnumbered, the good guys actually drove the fey from the field without taking any significant losses.
And so, the surviving Tuatha De Dannan arrived, the Queens of the Courts in tow, and re-enacted the treaty whereby the Milesians claimed the surface of Ireland and the Tuatha and fey sank into the earth, and into a subservient place in the country. And thus, balance was restored and the Faerie Courts had to stop their blatant, manipulative games with the people of Ireland.
I wanted to spend a little time doing epilogues for the characters, but at that point, it was almost one in the morning, and we were all tired. We decided to call it a night, and to handle the epilogues via our forum.
And so it ended.
I want to thank my players:
- Michael (Aleister Usher), who never let an opportunity to be a hard-ass pass him by.
- Sandy (Kate Owens), who tried to keep a low profile, but still got sucked into things.
- Chris (Nate O’Malley), who solved all problems with FIRE!
- Erik (Mark O’Malley), who was the calm, rational O’Malley brother.
- Fera (Rogan O’Herir), who went from a lone, grieving warrior to heir to the power of her clan.
- Vickie (Firinne O’Beara), who fought her trickster nature as hard as she could to keep her friends safe.
- Jen (Safire Byrne), who showed up late, and lot her Granny in the battle.
You guys made the game great, and I thank you for it.
I hope you had fun.
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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 wrangle. 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 arose.
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 amenable to the idea, I brought in Liam Dalton, the prospective King, to meet Aleister and explain himself.
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 me. And they decided to head off to the Giant’s Causeway 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 Causeway. 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 power 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 useless. 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 roar, 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 escaping.
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 move.
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.
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We’re rapidly closing in on the finale of the Feints & Gambits game. This was the antepenultimate session of the game, so only two more sessions left now that this one is complete. Things are coming to a head, and the pressure is on.
I had the smallest group for this session in I-don’t-know-how-long. Only three players were able to make it, and that’s the bare minimum we’ve set for quorum. It was a bit of a surprise, because the previous several sessions have been full houses, or pretty close, but that’s okay. Sometimes it’s nice to play with a smaller group. Better able to give spotlight time to everyone.
So, who showed up? Well, we had Nate and Mark O’Malley, affectionately known as the Terror Twins, and Rogan O’Herir, the heir to leadership of the ancient pride of were-smilodons who serve as mystical guardians of Ireland. That gave us the bulk of the heavy-hitting power in the group, but little in the way of… shall we say, the social graces.
The game started with a recap, and then the gang started talking about what they wanted to do. Given that the overall goal was to prepare Liam Dalton for his ascent to the High Kingship, they knew what was needed: the Sword of Nuada, the Spear of Lugh, the Cauldron of the Dagda, the Stone of Kings, and as many allies as they could scrape together. In the previous session, they had determined that the stone at the top of the Hill of Tara was, in fact, the true Stone of Kings, so that was done. They also knew that Aengous Keogh had the Cauldron of the Dagda, but he had left for parts unknown after the fight at the Guinness Brewery. Macha, at the Silver Arm, however, told them that Aengous was prone to show up when and where he was needed.
That left the Sword, the Spear, and allies. In a wonderful display of confounding expectations, they decided to try and enlist the Ciorcal Fuinseog onto the King’s side.
Now, I mentioned that none of the three were exactly diplomats. In fact, it might be fair to say that the majority of them are the reason diplomats exist. They were overmatched and outgunned in this department, and more likely than not to shoot themselves in their collective foot.
Okay, let’s look at a quick rundown of the players here:
- Nate O’Malley, incredibly powerful evoker, specializing in fire. He’s got the typical temper of a fire evoker, and a big chip on his shoulder. But he’s trying to do the responsible thing, and that counts for something.
- Mark O’Malley, not as powerful as Nate, but able to work both evocation and thaumaturgy. More polished and sneakier, but has a chip on his shoulder at least as big as Nate’s. He’s been turned down for membership in the White Council unless he undergoes a seven-year apprenticeship, so he’s trying to prove he doesn’t need them.
- Rogan O’Herir, who turns into a smilodon. She tends to solve problems with her teeth and claws, in a very permanent manner. Last session, though, she promised to return to her pride at the end of this battle and prove herself worthy of leadership, so she’s tryng to turn herself into the kind of leader she’d want to follow.
- The Ciorcal Fuinseog, a loose collection of minor mystical types – similar to the Paranet – who are dedicated to preserving Ireland. Well, sort of. It’s kind of a lie to say that the entire Ciorcal is dedicated to anything. They are fractious, bickering loners who co-operate only because it’s safer.
That’s three people who are not optimal for enlisting a strong ally, and an ally who’s not as strong and unified as anyone thinks. The thing I found interesting about the choice is that it wasn’t about who the characters are. It’s about who the characters want to be.
But they had the secret weapon of the FATE system on their side – time to prepare.
They used their circle of customers from the bookstore to make contact with someone from the Ciorcal and laid the plan out to her. She agreed to get some representative fraction of the group to a meeting to hear the whole thing and make a determination. They also researched the Ciorcal to find out a little bit of information about them – this gave them the idea to offer them bread and salt to make them guests, seeing as how the Ciorcal tended to like the old ways.
Nate even apologized to Macha and got readmitted to the Silver Arm, where he wanted to buy a bottle of mead to drink to seal any agreement that they reached. When he explained to her what he was trying to do, she brought him a special bottle of mead that she had made herself long ago. Rogan baked some bread and brought in some other food, as well, to lay a good table.
At this point, the group looked at me and said, “Well, I still don’t think we have a chance. What else can we do.” I blinked at them for a second or two, and then told them to write down a list of three or four aspects that they had accumulated through their preparations, which I had been treating like maneuvers. They said that they hadn’t rolled for them, but I said that roleplaying for them trumped rolling for them any day of the week. Thus, armed with their preparation aspects, and the aspects of the Hole In The Wall bookshop, they brought in their guests and proceeded to make their case.
I ran this as a Social conflict, with a couple of little tweaks. First, I treated the entire dozen of Ciorcal representatives as a single opponent, giving them six or seven stress boxes, a single skill I called Resistance, set at Good (+3), and a few aspects. The idea was that, if the group was taken out, they’d join the fight. I would use Consequences to represent how close they were to being swayed. I didn’t want them to counter-attack, though, but I still needed a way for the characters to fail persuading them, so I set up three Strike boxes. Whenever the characters failed a roll against the Ciorcal’s Resistance, or when they did something that violated the sensibilities of the Ciorcal, I would mark in a Strike. Three Strikes, and the Ciorcal walks – maybe right over to the other side, depending how things went.
Well, the conflict went about as well as I could have hoped. Everyone pitched in, incorporating the aspects in the fiction, not just for dice rolls, and fought as hard to accomplish this as they ever had to bring down a physical foe. Fate points flew hot and heavy and, in the end, they managed to convince the Ciorcal to join with them with two Strike boxes filled in. I was impressed by the play from all the players, and was very happy that the system could handle this sort of debate in a way that made it dynamic and interesting, providing mechanical structure for it without making it devolve into mechanical dice-rolling.
It was about 11:30 at that point, and we try to wrap things up around midnight. The gang wanted to push on and try and get Nuada’s Sword from Newgrange, and I thought about things. There were two ways I could go with the claim-the-Sword adventure – quick and dirty, which I could probably do in about an hour, or longer and more involved, which I would need to leave for the next session. I decided to go for the quick and dirty solution, because the players were riding high on their success.
I invoked a little GM-fiat coincidence, and had one of the Ciorcal members be an archaeologist working in the Boyne Valley, who got them up and to Newgrange in the dead of night. I was able to use my own visit to Newgrange to describe the site, and the claustrophobic tunnel inside, and the incredible arched central chamber, so that was good.
Inside, it was Nate’s turn to use The Sight, and he saw a neolithic shaman sitting in the bowl where the midwinter light would fall in the central chamber. This shaman asked Nate some riddles and, when Nate answered correctly, opened a doorway into the Nevernever that only Nate could see.
He stepped through, found himself facing a band of Winter Court warriors, and promptly burned them to a crisp. Then he opened the grave vault, had a bit of a chat with Nuada, claimed the Sword, and scampered home. Everyone cheered and they went to bed.
That leaves the Spear – and possibly more recruiting of allies – for next session. And the big finale for the final session.
Game is soon done.
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Last night was the latest session of Feints & Gambits. We were short two players, so the house was only moderately crowded.
The game picked up in a pub, with Liam Dalton explaining his plan to put the faeries back in their place in Ireland. It was pretty simple, on the surface: he would become High King of Ireland, which gave him authority over the doings of the fey in Ireland by the rules of the Unseelie Accords. It wouldn’t give him any temporal, political power, but it would make him the mystical ruler of the island. With his lineage, he said he had a blood-claim on the title, and bet that, generationally speaking, he was senior to any other claimant, having died in 1263.
Mark questioned how he could assume the title; if he had been revived by the True Guinness, he probably only had a year of life before the effects wore off, based on how often the beer needed to be delivered to Padraig Pearse’s ghost. Liam said he had taken care of that, and tapped his chest a couple of times, and the gang realized that he had implanted himself with Saint Lawrence’s heart, and that it was keeping him alive now.
To allay his last misgivings, Mark soulgazed the man, and saw his noble, regal spirit. He fell down on one knee, tears streaming down his face, and swore his service to Liam. That meant that Nate agreed to help, as well.
The other three were more problematic. Rogan’s family of were-smilodons stretched back as far as Liam’s, but had always been separate from the human kingship. He told her he understood this, and did not ask for fealty, but only for aid. Rogan agreed to this. Kate’s from Canada, and this isn’t her fight, strictly speaking, but she told Liam should would stand by her friends, and he thanked her for that. Firinne, being half-fey, had, in Liam’s mind, divided loyalties, but she assured him that she would happily do anything that inconvenienced the Courts, and jumped readily aboard.
She also mentioned that Elga, the Warlord of the Winter Court, owed her a favour. And this reminded Nate that he owed a favour to someone on the Summer Court, which he confessed to Liam. Liam told the whole group that they were free to leave him at any time, but asked that, if they intended to change sides, they tell him and accept his safe passage away from his forces, because he had no stomach for treachery.
And then there was drinking to celebrate.
The plan to become High King required five things:
- An army. This wasn’t strictly necessary to become High King, but Liam felt that things would come to battle before this was over, and he would need a force – a more-than-mundane force – to hold off the combined might of the Summer and Winter Courts while taking the kingship.
- The Stone of Kings, one of the four treasures of Ireland.
- The Sword of Nuada, one of the four treasures of Ireland.
- The Spear of Lugh, one of the four treasures of Ireland.
- The Cauldron of the Dagda, the last of the four treasures of Ireland.
After some discussion with the group, it was decided that it would be imprudent for our heroes to act as envoys to Baba Yaga’s people that they had met in Hell, as that hadn’t ended well. Rogan agreed to broach the matter of an alliance with her mother; bringing the Pride on board would be a real advantage for Liam. Other groups discussed were the Ash Circle and the Malleus Maleficarum, both of which the group thought it might be problematic to approach, so Liam said that his companions, the Thief, the Lady, and the Nun, would deal with that side of things if the others would retrieve the four treasures and assemble them at the Hill of Tara before Midsummer.
Then it got a little drunk out.
Next morning, they decided to start with an easy treasure: according to tradition, the Stone of Kings sits on top of the Hill of Tara, right there in front of God and everyone. All they had to do was go see if it was the real thing.
So, they drove out to Tara, and climbed the hill. Kate felt uneasy on the ground near the Mound of Hostages, a passage tomb on the hill, and moreso as she approached the summit, which had, in addition to the Stone, a memorial for the mass grave of men who died in the 1798 rebellion. This is due to her new aspect, Defiler of Graves, that she got for, well, defiling some graves under St. Michan’s church. The dead are a bit uneasy around her, now.
Anyway, she got to the top of the mound and opened her third eye to look at the Stone of Kings. She wound up having a fairly cultured conversation with a dapper older man who claimed to be the Voice of the Stone, and he convinced her that this was the true Stone they were looking for, and that he would proclaim the High King if the prospect was worthy. He then shifted and changed into a mountainous stone man holding her in the palm of his hand and demanded that she not fail to bring him a High King so he could fulfill his purpose. Kate collapsed in a seizure, and had to be carried down off the hill. When she recovered, she told everyone what she had seen.
After that, they headed out to Rogan’s mother’s house, and Rogan tried to convince her to bring the Pride to stand with the High King in the battle. There was some pretty good emotional twisting in the scene, and some great roleplaying from Fera, but a misunderstanding meant we had to backtrack and redo part of the scene with clarified views of what was going on. In the end, Rogan’s mother has agreed to lend the Pride’s strength to Liam’s claim, but in return, Rogan must return to the pride and give up her outside allegiances when the battle is done.
Somewhere amidst the conversations, the players remembered that the Dagda’s Cauldron had been in Aengous’s care at the Guinness brewery, and that it had been the source of the True Guinness. And now it was missing, along with Aengous. So, they decided to go see if Macha could be convinced to tell them anything about Aengous’s whereabouts.
All Mark could get out of her on that score was that Aengous generally turned up when he was needed. Nate jumped in to help the discussion, and wound up fulfilling one of his long-term goals: getting Macha to toss him bodily out of the Silver Arm.
Not getting anymore about Aengous, Mark decided to take a chance and see if Macha knew anything about the Sword or the Spear. She just stared at him and said, “Ye been coming into my pub, called The Silver Arm, and it only now occurs to ye to ask about the Sword of Nuada of the Silver Arm? Well, I buried it with him, didn’t I?”
There was some stunned silence at that point, and then the players started kicking themselves. She explained that she had buried the Sword with her husband at Newgrange.
That’s about when we called it quits for the evening. Next time, we’ll see if they go chasing the Sword at Newgrange, or head up to the Giant’s Causeway, where rumours say the Spear was lost in a battle against the Formorians.
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The most recent session of Feints & Gambits picked up almost immediately after the previous session. Our heroes had retreated, bloodied but unbowed, from their… conversation, let’s call it… with Nightingale the Robber and his army of monsters beneath the catacombs of Christchurch Cathedral. They had some ideas about who stole the heart of St. Laurence O’Toole, and an idea about which direction it had been taken.
After some discussion about the relative merits of finding another gate into Hell – like, say, the bricked-up entry by the Cook Street Gate – and trying to beat some more information out of the Russian contingent, they decided to just focus on finding the heart. They wanted to start with some divination, but one of the problems with that is the fact that Dublin has the Liffey running right through the heart of it, and that means that they often need to cast the spell twice – once on each side of the river.
But they really just wanted to find where the thieves went when they came out of the underground portion of the Poddle. So, they went to the point where the Poddle enters the Liffey, and Mark whipped up a divination ritual.
Well, I say “whipped up,” but it was a pretty impressive undertaking. In a matter of fifteen minutes or so, he managed to gather enough extra elements for the spell to pull off a complexity 15 ritual. He decided to cast it slowly, drawing two shifts of power each turn, which meant he’d have to roll -4 on his dice to lose control any turn.
Now, I didn’t want to make things too easy, so once he made it up to 10 shifts of power, I had a couple of cops come along to ask what was going on. Aleister intercepted them and spun some story about street theatre, which let Mark finish his spell and unleash it.
The idea behind the spell was to look back through time to the moment the thieves left the Poddle and entered the Liffey, with Mark knowing that he’d probably lose them once they moved out on to the water. But I figured that, for 15 shifts of power sucked in for character reasons, I should go one better. So, I gave Mark a vision of the little boat coming out into the Liffey, then across the Liffey and downstream to one of the quayside docks, where the passengers disembarked and headed north-east into the city. He also overheard a few snippets – “She can use this” and “Raise the clans” foremost among them.
The gang immediately tried to figure out where their targets were heading, asking me what was in that direction. I blinked at them and said, “Well, the docks, sort of, and besides that, about HALF THE CITY.” The pushed a bit for historically or mythologically significant sites in that direction, and I got a bit short, finally telling them “You’re barking up the wrong tree. You won’t find them just by guessing where they went. You need more information.”
So, off they went, looking for more information. They didn’t have enough of a symbolic link to either the thieves or the heart to use divination to find them, and Rogan wasn’t able to follow their scent trail. Eventually, they went back to The Hole in the Wall to rest and regroup. It was there that someone mentioned going to the statue of the Fates in St. Stephen’s Green to see if they could get any information from them.
They waited for nightfall, and then headed off through Temple Bar to get to the Green and the statue. Along the way, they spotted someone keeping pace with them on the rooftops, and so ducked through an open square to lose them. At the park, Nathan tossed a coin in the fountain, and opened his third eye.
He managed to get three questions from the Fates, in return for three favours to be specified in the future, swearing on his name and power to pay the debt. In return, he found out that the heart was soon going to be beating in someone’s chest, and the True Name of that person, and the True Name of the person giving the heart to him.
He also spent some Fate Points to be able to close his third eye after looking at the Fates with the Sight.
And then they made their way back. They were deliberately keeping an eye out for people on the rooftops, and when they got to the square they had crossed earlier, they spotted figures on the on one side. Things kinda went to hell, here, as Nate opened up with a flashbang spell on the figure, and was immediately shot by high-powered rifles from a couple of different sides. He went down – hard – conceding to stay alive and earn some Fate points.
There followed some manic scrambling that resulted in a big panic in the middle of Temple Bar. In the end, two of their opponents were down, including one dead and one dying. Our heroes beat a hasty retreat to The Hole in the Wall and barricaded themselves in for the night, after getting a doctor in for Nate.
In the morning, just after dawn, a small, pretty woman approached the shop, very carefully keeping her hands visible. In the tense, distrustful parley that followed, she explained that she represented the Malleus Maleficarum, and that it had been the Malleus on the rooftops, hoping that the gang would lead them to the stolen heart. Being trained to react instantly to magical attack, Nate’s spell caused them all to open fire on the obvious wizard, and thus the event deteriorated into FUBAR territory.
Recognizing that the group and the Malleus had irreconcilable agendas, the visitor proposed a hands-off approach, whereby each side would do its best to avoid interfering in the actions of the other. After some discussion, the group agreed to this, and Sister Mary Simon went on her way without having to resort to threats or force.
Once everyone was more-or-less recovered from the previous evening’s exertions, they cast a divination spell to lead them to the person who was supposed to be receiving the heart. With the True Name, it was pretty easy, and they wound up at a residential hotel. They saw some graffiti on the wall that read “Tá an rí-ard ag teacht!” which means “The High King is coming!”
Up in the hotel, they met Liam Dalton and Moira Trevelyan, and Liam invited them to join his crusade to break the hold the faeries have on Ireland.
Fade to black for the end of the session.
So, now we’ve got to the beginning of the endgame. Next session, the gang will find out what joining Liam means, and will get to decide if they want to do that. Either way, I’ve got the big events of the last part of the game sketched out in my notes, and they’ll work no matter which side the PCs take.
It should be fun.
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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 concerned, 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 story.
Once I had picked the who, I figured out the why, and then the how. 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-game, 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 mummies. 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 attractive. 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 there, and almost got them to come to blows by getting each group to accuse the other of the theft. Only the presence of Constable Fergus 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 exploding, 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 target.
Nate got up, brushed himself off, and was about to make his introductions to the fellow when the man in question whistled and Nate blacked out. 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 city might be responsible for the theft. Rather than rush off to confront them right away, 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 Hell, 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 Christchurch, 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 evidence 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.
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So, I’m a bit late to the party with this post. I was planning to finish it last night and get it posted, but stuff came up. Anyway, I’ve got to get it posted this morning, because this evening is the next Feints & Gambits session.
Last session was a small group and I’d been having a rough couple of weeks with work deadlines. I managed almost ten whole minutes worth of prep for the game, and warned the players about that. In fact, I gave them the option of playing Marvel Heroic Roleplaying instead. They decided to push ahead with F&G, though, so that’s what we did.
I filled in a little more background on what things were like now that Aengous was gone and the True Guinness was no longer being made and added to the regular Guinness. They did some poking around about that, but he’s gone, and I tried to make that very clear. After all, he warned them there would be a price.
Their main goal this session was trying to figure out who the guy in the track suit, ski mask, and sunglasses was that tried to cut their heads off in the Guinness Brewery. They had his sword, which turned out to be a reproduction. Kate cast a tracking spell and, once they crossed the Liffey, they were able to trace the sword to a pawn shop. The shop had it’s windows boarded up, obviously covering broken glass. Rogan decided to go in and ask the pawnbroker about any missing swords, but her lack of a cover story, her upper-class attitude, and her direct questions made him suspicious, and he didn’t want to tell her anything. Kate came in and rescued her, with a line about medication, and off they went, but not before Rogan managed to spot a whole shelf of replica weapons, including some swords very similar to the one the group had.
The gang regrouped at the Silver Arm, and seemed pretty blocked. Nate broke down and went to Macha and tried to get information out of her by buying her drinks. She wasn’t all that forthcoming, but did ask why the gang weren’t doing anything about what had gone on at St. Michan’s. The group grabbed hold of that and scampered off.
I gave them a bit of a run-down on St. Michan’s and the mummies, and then told them that the crypt tours were not currently running. They investigated to find out why, and were told that they were closed for renovation – some masonry had dropped on a visitor, and they wanted to get the vaults properly shored up before resuming the tours.
Sort of kitty-corner to the church is Bridewell Garda Station and Jail. Kate wanted to look for ghosts and, the churchyard being consecrated, I decided that there were ghosts of hanged prisoners around Bridewell. She found a chatty one that spoke of the ghost of Padraig Pearse going into the church with bottles of beer, and coming out with four solid figures.
At that point, it became obvious that the gang was going to burgle the church crypts to find out if the mummies were still there. When they did, I shot some arrows at them from outside the churchyard, and we had a bit of a fight with fey archers. They also spotted some sort of colourful figure up in a tree near the church, but couldn’t get a good look at it. With the gardai from Bridewell now heading over to see what the noise was, our heroes embraced the better part of valour and scarpered. Next night, they went back and broke into the crypts and determined that the mummies were, indeed, missing.
And that’s about where we left things. Tonight, an adventure pulled from the headlines and twisted into shape to fit the ongoing story of Feints & Gambits.
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When last we saw our intrepid heroes, half of them were in jail after breaking into the GPO and setting a fire. There was some discussion in the time between sessions about what to do about that, and the gang came up with two possible plans.
The first plan to surface was to stage a magical jailbreak, with Mark O’Malley trekking through the Nevernever to the three jails and snatching out their friends. The idea was to find a place on the Nevernever side of things that resonated with “jailness”, so that the three openings would be close together on that side. I pointed out that this would not be in a nice neighbourhood of the Nevernever, and the gang was okay with that.
What they were less sanguine about was that this would turn three of them into hunted fugitives – no matter how trumped up the charges they were originally held on, breaking out of jail pisses the police off, and they will chase you and make your life hell. Because of that, Safire proposed that she instead go see Rogan’s mother, who is a wealthy and powerful woman, and see if this could be resolved without breaking any (more) laws. The group decided that this was the plan to try first, followed by the original plan if things didn’t go well.
So, that’s where things stood at the start of the session. It was another full house, so I had seven characters to track in play, which made things fairly busy.
I started by framing a scene for each of the incarcerated characters. Rogan had decided that she – as a were-smilodon – was in heat. I think she had some idea of whiling away a pleasant day or two with the all-female population, but that doesn’t make for exciting play. Instead, her advances touched off a riot in the holding cell, she wound up almost killing another prisoner, and was stuck in restraints.
Meanwhile, Firinne passed me a note saying that she wanted to send a cake to Kate, who was in jail. This cake would contain a rubber file. As none of the players knew what the note said, this led to an interesting and surreal scene, where Kate was hauled into the DI’s office, presented with her “birthday cake,” and told to cut it, revealing the file. The gardai didn’t know what to make of it, and Kate had no idea what was going on, so she was just dropped back in the holding cell to wonder about the incident.
Aleister drew the short straw, having been hauled in by Gene Hunt himself. That meant that Aleister’s scene was an interrogation. There was some banter, some questions, some threats against Aleister, and some threats against Aleister, and some threats against Liam, Aleister’s bar-keeping friend. In retrospect, it might have been better to run this as social conflict than just as a conversation. On the one hand, it would have made the kind of pressure being brought to bear more obvious, but on the other hand, it wouldn’t have shown off Aleister’s cold reserve as well. I guess when the choice is between showing off how bad-ass a PC is versus how bad-ass an NPC is, going with the PC bad-ass is the better choice. Still, I felt this scene didn’t have much interest or life in it. Something to ponder for next time.
We jumped over to Safire then, for her conversation with Rogan’s mother. It went fairly well, and Safire got her to agree to help. Now, I had to decide how effective that help would be. I was torn, here, for a couple of reasons: first, the escape plan was pretty cool and, second, it felt like cheating to just let some NPC swoop in and fix the problem.
Then I remembered that one of the themes in the game is corruption in the system. And the idea of people owing Rogan’s family a favour – and potentially getting drawn in to whatever games they’re playing behind the scenes – was attractive. And then there was how much Gene Hunt would hate that his suspects were snatched away from him by someone with money and the right political connections. Given all that, and the fact that the group actually had an idea for what they wanted to do next, it became apparent that the right choice was to let the prisoners out.
And so I let them out.
The next stage of their plan was to get back at the ghost of Padraig Pearse for having set them up in the first place. Mark came up with the idea that he could latch onto the power given Pearse by the True Guinness he had stolen, summon him, check to see if he was a real ghost, and then lay a royal beat-down on his spectral butt.
The idea was to use the Guinness Brewery for the site of the ritual, so Mark went and asked Aengous Keogh, the big man who oversaw the brewery if they could do that. Aengous said that, if Mark asked him, he would allow it, but that it would come at a cost. Mark asked, and Aengous agreed.
Nate, on the other hand, went to the Warden to make sure that they wouldn’t get in trouble for this. He was told that, as long as none of the Laws of Magic were broken, he would turn a blind eye. The truth of the matter is that Pearse’s ghost was getting to be a big enough threat to the mortals that the Warden knew that someone had to do something, and better to let these (expendable, non-wizard, pain-in-the-ass) guys have first crack at it.
So, the group as a whole worked to whip up the necessary things to offset the Lore deficit in the summoning spell, and Kate and Mark cast it together. They got Pearse to the brewery, and Mark soulgazed him – or tried to. There was no contact, making Mark certain that Pearse was just a ghost, and could therefor be kicked with impunity.
Which they proceeded to do.
It wasn’t as easy as they thought it was going to be. Pearse was able to use the eye contact with Mark to mentally shut down his optic nerves, and the ghost stood up to a full-bore blast of fire from Nate. On top of that, a strange figure crashed the party – a tall man in a track suit, ski mask, and sunglasses, swinging around a replica sword. He didn’t stay long, taking off after Pearse was put down for good, but when Rogan tried to follow him, she was shot by an arrow that slowed her down enough for him to get away.
Now the ghost of Padraig Pearse is no more. And Aengous seems to have left the brewery, which is no longer producing True Guinness. And there’s someone else out there who may have been allied with Pearse and has bad fashion sense.
We’re moving into end-game territory, now. Not deep into it, but enough that the threads that will lead to the end are all in my head, and I’ve got an idea of where we’re going.
It should be a fun ride.
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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 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, 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, 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, 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. 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, 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. 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, 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. She also wound up cuffed and stuck in the back of a patrol car.
Outside, Aleister, agonizing over the bystanders shot in his escape, 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, Aengus showed up, looking like he’d lost a bar brawl. 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.
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This weekend is Central Canada Comic Con, and once again, I will be there with the good folks from Imagine Games and Hobbies running demos of board and card games on Saturday and Sunday. I’ve made my selection and packed my bags, so it’s just a matter of hauling them down to the convention centre Saturday morning and setting up.
Last year, I tried the sign-up thing for running the games, and it was a complete bust. The few people who did sign up for a game didn’t show, and I deferred demoing games for interested folks because it was almost time for a game that never happened. So, this year, it’s catch-as-catch-can; come find me in the gaming area, and if I’m not running a game for someone else, I’ll set you up.
Here’s what I’m bringing with me:
- Legend of Driz’zt
- Conquest of Nerath
- Escape From the Aliens in Outer Space
- Deluxe Illuminati
- Elder Sign
- Mansions ofMadness
- Berzerker Halflings From the Dungeon of Dragons
- Cthulhu Dice
- Zombie Dice
- Fury of Dracula
- Battlestar Galactica
In addition, I’m going to bring along the Leverage RPG and The Dresden Files RPG, and am ready to demo either one. These take a little more time, though, so I recommend you get to me by early afternoon if you want to try either of those. And if you can supply a full roster of players (3-5 for Leverage, 3-7 for DFRPG), that’ll make it far more certain that you get to play. Figure three hours for either of those.
So, if you’re at C4, and you’re interested in gaming, come see me, whether to play or just talk about games.
I’ll be there.
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