Posts Tagged “Dresden”
Now that our Bleeding Alpha Playtest phase is winding down, I want to thank my players for their dedication, willingness to try new things, good feedback, and just being great, creative players.
- Thanks to Sandy, and Anne Carriere’s iron filing packed snowballs.
- Thanks to Kieran, and Lucky Firth’s eagerness to sell his mortality to the Bramble King.
- Thanks to Chris, and Paul Roman’s surly and world-weary acceptance of all the crap he had to go through.
- Thanks to Clint, and to Christian Manger’s tug-of-war conversations with Madelein de la Neige.
- Thanks to Penny, and Rowan Aurelian’s willingness to blow up her own head to make the magic work.
- Thanks to Vickie, and Elaine de la Roche’s remorse over using the shotgun on the Mad Cowz.
- Thanks to Fera, and Gerhardt Rothman’s trick with the car antennae.
- Thanks to Tom, and Elias “Legion” Thorne’s willingness to throw himself into any physical threat he could find.
It wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun without all of you.
Thank you all.
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We rejoin our intrepid heroes outside the Legislature, having followed their now-functioning magical compass to the building after leaving Mad Cowz territory. The compass has stopped working again, and is just spinning in circles*, so they can’t get a good pinpoint on their quarry, the warlock Demissie. There follows some discussion about whether to go in immediately, or to wait until after nightfall, when the civilians will have cleared out.
In the end, they decide that it’s too dangerous to wait, and need to go in now. But how to bring all their hardware with them past the metal detectors and sheriff’s deputies guarding the entry? After significant debate, they decide that Rowan will veil herself and carry the weapons in, after the other three have already entered. This works fine, but shorts out the metal detectors and crashes the computer at the security station because of the magical interference. Not a huge deal, but enough to make the characters nervous.
They meet down in the washrooms in the basement, near the cafeteria, and gear up. Rowan tells them that the building was constructed according to mystical principles, and lays out a few of the big ones – the giant statue to Hermes on roof, the sacrificial star pit, the main stairs with three sets of thirteen risers, the statues of Hermaphroditus, the use of the golden ratio in the structure, the statue of Moses with horns…** They decide, based on what they know of Demissie and his flavour of magic, that the most likely place to find him is in the star chamber with the Hermaphroditic pillars at the bottom of the sacrifice pit.
They don’t find any sign of him down there, but Gerhardt notices that the urns by the pillars have been moved slightly, and people seem to avoid walking through the centre of the star. They do some more investigating, but don’t find anything else of note, and start attracting the attention of one of the security guards when Rowan starts moving the urns around.
Faced with this, Rowan decides to risk using the Sight. She finds a bench near the wall, sits down, and opens her third eye. She sees the place as an ancient temple to the power of Hermes Trismegistus, the Thrice-Great God of Magic, and manifesting the union of the male and female, divine and mortal, in the form of Hermaphroditus. She also sees a tortured ghost, wrapped in barbed chains, bound to each of the twelve pillars in the place, and magic gathering at a bloodstained altar in the centre of the star, presided over by a dark, malevolent shadow.
She closes her third eye and blasts at the centre of the star, deducing that the black shadow she saw was Demissie. Unfortunately, her blast isn’t powerful enough to break the veil and ward that have been set up. Demissie responds with a mental attack, sending the shrieking ghosts he has slain into her head, and rattling her a fair bit.
Taking his cue from Rowan’s attack, Legion launches himself at the middle of the star, but is blocked by the ward, formed out of tortured, bound spirits, which wrenches at his brain. Gerhardt uses his kinetomancy to smash all the urns, thinking to break the circle that way, and Elaine starts clearing the civilians and security guards from the room.
Rowan, already very taxed by the magic she’s been throwing around, pulls out all the stops and tears away the wards and barriers around Demissie, revealing him and his small table of ritual implements in the middle of the room. He responds by loosing the twelve bound ghosts and sending him at the heroes. Gerhardt tries to topple the pillars of the room to break up the magical flows, but loses control of his kinetomancy, sending a destructive pulse of force out in a broad splash rather than a focused blast. This topples a couple fo the pillars, splits the marble floor, and tosses everyone around a bit.
Legion and Elaine make short work of Demissie once his defenses are down, and Rowan drives herself almost to collapse banishing the ghosts. The threat ended, our valiant heroes run for the hills before the security guards get it together enough to detain them.
And they all lived happily ever after, because it’s just a playtest.
- While there are detailed rules in the playtest package for hexing equipment, they’re pretty involved. The author suggests instead to just wing it, which I did, and it worked fine.
- After three sessions, the two spellcasters were getting pretty good at figuring out how to do off-the-cuff magic, including tapping into the power of the Hermetic Temple to power their stuff.
- The minion system from Spirit of the Century works nicely for things like the twelve ghosts attacking our heroes in a very cinematic vein, but I’m not sure it’s got the entirely right feel for the books. Then again, I sure wouldn’t want to run the final battle from Summer Knight or the zombie-stomp from Dead Beat without it.
So, those are the six playtest sessions done. I’m taking a bit of a break from Dresden Files now; just writing up a report for Evil Hat, and then taking a breather. Six sessions over three weeks is a lot, and I need to put it aside to avoid burnout. Besides, I’ve been pushing a number of other games in our group off the schedule for this one, and we need to get back to them.
Having said that, my group has expressed interest in a continuing game, so we will be back again.
And I’m probably going to start talking about the other games I run or play in on this blog, so you may find something of interest.
Don’t be strangers.
*Thanks to Demissie sensing the destruction of the decoy doll and throwing up a veil.
** All of which are real.
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We pick up back in Assiniboine Forest, just after nightfall, in the killing cold, after killing another ogre. Christian and Paul have a heart-to-heart about how Christian’s a FRIGGIN’ GHOUL! While this is going on, Anne spots shapes moving in the shadows, surrounding our heroes.
Paul conjures some light, catching all the wyldfae in their furs, feathers, and beads stalking through the dark winter forest. They freeze for a moment, then Crazy Tomcomes in and extends the invitation of the Bramble King to join him at his court for an audience, as Christian had requested. They agree, and follow the fae company to a mound of brush in the middle of the forest, and through a stone doorway into the Bramble King’s hall. Along the way, Anne warns the others about the dangers of faerie food and drink, and how fae cannot lie or break a promise.
It’s a cross between a faerie mound and a native lodge, with a huge central fire-pit and blankets and tapestries hanging on the wall. There are scores of fae inside, dancing, drinking, and eating, and they all go silent when the characters enter. Crazy Tom announces them to the Bramble King, a two-foot-tall, porcupine-like little man seated on an antler throne on a little dais carried around by a troll. He invites them to sit with him around a sumptuous feast, which none of them touch.
The war council doesn’t go very well. None of the four wish to pledge themselves to serve the Bramble King (except Lucky, but he doesn’t want to swear anything until he hears the reciprocal pledge), and the Bramble King doesn’t seem to want to offer anything unless the oaths are made. He even tempts Anne with a cure for her sister, but she doesn’t trust him enough to bite. Finally, the Bramble King sees that he’s not getting anywhere, calls them all cowards, and vanishes along with his court and hall, leaving our heroes sitting in the snow and dark.
Now they’re pissed.
They retire to Archangel Fireworks to talk about their options and to load up on supplies. They decide that they’re not going to walk away from a battle between the faeries, internal matter or no, and that they really want to show up the Bramble King. So, they go off to First Folio to see if Artemis Black has a copy of the Unseelie Accords and the Covenant of the Consecration of the Two Waters. The Unseelie Accords fill roughly a hundred volumes, too much for them to get through in one night, so they go looking through the Covenant to see if they can find a loophole.
And find it they do. The actions of the Winter Court constitute an external invasion against the Assiniboine Ramble, one of the protected powers of the Consecration of the Two Waters, and the mortal casualties show that the engagement is spilling over onto other protected parties. With the proper invocation and sacrifice, it is possible to gain the blessing of the Two Waters to act as champions and intercede in the matter.
With that idea, everyone goes and gets some money for the sacrifice, warm clothes, and weapons, and they all meet at the Forks, where the Red and Assiniboine Rivers meet. Out on the ice at the confluence, Paul conducts the ritual sacrifice and asks for the blessing of the spirits. He gets it, and uses his Sight to confirm that the Two Waters spirits are pleased.
Then it’s back once more to Assiniboine Forest in the cold and dark, to the closed portal to the Nevernever. Paul tears it open with only minor problems for him and his companions, and they troop through into the stronghold of the Winter Court noble leading the attack. After a desperate run through the snow while being chased by rimehounds, they get to the lodge of the noble, and demand entry. When the doormen are a bit too slow to respond, Christian takes the decision out of their hands, and the door off its hinges.
Inside, after a little conversation, they are faced by a very angry Sidhe noble and his two ogre guardsmen. Things go rapidly to hell, and Lucky winds up putting a bullet through the noble’s forehead with the single shot he manages to get off before his gun stops working*. In the ensuing astonished pause, Christian pops the head off one of the ogres, and Paul demands that the Winter Court leave off its invasion in the name of the spirits of the Two Waters.
With the fae thus cowed, our heroes beat a hasty retreat back to the mortal world and warmth. The cold snap breaks, and each of them receive an amulet from the Bramble King. Three of them reject the gift, but Lucky seeks out the Bramble King and pledges himself to his service**.
And everyone lived happily ever after***.
- It is incredibly fun to GM conversations with the fae. I made it a game to see how few of their questions I could answer, shifting the topic, responding with questions, and turning to new people to speak to. Throw in a few straight answers to keep ‘em guessing, and it’s a hoot.
- Nothing moves a story forward like a pissed-off PC.
* I believe he spent five Fate Points on that little trick.
**No mechanics on that, because it happened essentially out of game.
***But only because this was the last playtest session.
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We rejoin our heroes in the aftermath of their little excursion into Mad Cowz territory, as they decide that, to speak to someone who can give them the name of the warlock conjuring the shadow spirits, they will need to speak to the Council of Ghosts. Midnight finds them at the door of the Vaughn Street Jail, trying to talk their way past the guardians to speak to the Tribunal. When that didn’t work so well, Rowan used a secret word entrusted to her family to gain an audience – a one-use phrase that was technically her father’s.*
Inside, they made their case to the Tribunal, who agreed to help them in exchange for a single favour from each of them. After some waffling, they agreed, and the Tribunal brought out the ghost of one of the warlock’s victims. They persuaded him to tell them the name of the warlock (Demissie), and the fact that it was a man, before the Tribunal declared the audience at an end.
On the way out, one of the ghosts solidified enough for Legion to see that it was one of the muggers who had murdered his girlfriend. The dead man told Legion that their story wasn’t over, yet, and that he knew where to find Legion.** Legion kept his cool and headed outside.
Out on the street, our heroes were attacked by more shadow demons – Rowan had said the warlock’s name, making sure she knew it well enough to use it for magic, and he apparently heard her. She was almost torn apart by the first demon, while another kept Legion tied up. Rowan barely managed to get a shield up around her in time to keep the thing from tearing her throat out – it still savaged her shoulder – and Gerhardt used his kinetomancy to pull the antennae off all the parked cars in the area and pin the thing to the ground long enough for Rowan and Elaine to take it out. He then unloaded with both his shotgun and pistol on the one fighting Legion and put that one down, too.
They decided to spend the night behind a threshold, and Rowan didn’t want to invite a half-vampire and a guy full of demons into her parents’ home, so they all camped out at Gerhardt’s place.
In the morning, Rowan went off to do some research and perform a Thaumaturgic ritual to find the warlock, while Gerhardt and the Operation Clean Sweep folks started canvassing Mad Cowz territory with a written copy of the name. By the time Rowan had her locater compass, Gerhardt had narrowed down the area to a single block. They picked up Elaine and Legion, and went to take care of business.
Using the compass, they were able to identify the correct house, but Rowan was very leery about using the Sight to check for wards. She knew enough about the magic from Demissie’s part of the world to know that the wards would need fetish bags buried at each of the four corners of the house to protect it.*** They dug the bundles up, and she used the Sight on one to determine the nature of the wards, which left her vomiting on the ground, and knowing that they were designed to tear the soul out of people.
At this point, several of the others noticed that the streets were starting to fill up with a couple dozen Mad Cowz with baseball bats, and time started to become important.
Rowan tried to use her Thaumaturgy to deactivate the wards, but couldn’t control all the power they contained, and it splashed out****, tearing at the minds of everyone in the area. Our heroes weathered it fairly well, but nearly half the Mad Cowz collapsed. The rest started charging at the characters, who decided to charge the house.
When they burst into the house, they found a magical circle scribed on the floor in the front room with a doll in the centre. Rowan figured that this was what her compass was focusing on, and spent a few moments to examine the circle, seeing that it was created in haste, and that if the doll was acting as a decoy for the name, it would also be a good magical link to Demissie. By this time, the Mad Cowz were battering on the front door, and trying to climb in the windows while Elaine and Gerhardt held the door closed and Legion kept others from climbing in the windows.
Under the time pressure, Rowan didn’t spot the magical trap in the circle, which caused the ceiling, floor, and doll to burst into flame when she smudged the circle to break the decoy spell. Now trapped in a burning house with angry gang members at the front and back, having lost the doll, they decided to cut their losses and run for it.
Elaine fired her shotgun through the door and she, Rowan, and Legion made a break for it, while Gerhardt laid down covering fire. Legion took out the three remaining gang members at the front, and they made a clean getaway.
They followed the compass, now pointing (they hope) to the real Demissie, and it led them right to the Legislative Buildings, and the secret Temple of Hermes it contains.
Next week: Boss fight at the Leg!
- As the players gain familiarity with the system, they’re willing to try some neat things. It took a while for them to start getting used to the co-operative narrative aspects of invoking for effect and making declarations and using Fate Points to add things to a scene, but once they got it, they used it.
- Magic use gets faster with practice. This is a good thing.
- Everyone is worried when combat starts. This is also a good thing.
*Mechanically, Rowan’s player invoked her Heir to Secret Knowledge Aspect for effect, and said that her father had a special password that would – once and once only – allow the person who used it to obtain an audience with the Tribunal. Now there’s a good follow-up story hook.
**Mechanically, I compelled Legion’s Marked Man Aspect – not terribly functional in the short playtest sessions, but I wanted to see how it could be used to set up longer term stories in campaigns.
***She used her Lore skill to make a declaration to that effect, and pulled it off.
****Thanks to a compel of her Wizards’ Mistakes Are Big And Messy Aspect.
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Another Dresden Alpha Tester is going to be running a DFRPG event at PoliCon this weekend.
Rob Bohl is the name, and he’s posting his pregenerated characters over at RPG.net. You should go take a look.
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Friday’s story is set in the spring. It opens with Rowan getting a visit from the Warden Regional Commander for Western North America – one Carlos Rodriguez. Her parents are out of town, so she’s the White Council representative for the city. Warden Rodriguez has received a vague warning from the Gatekeeper that something bad is going to happen in Winnipeg. As it’s another of the Gatekeeper’s cryptic warnings from the future, Warden Rodriguez has no further information, and wants Rowan to monitor the situation and act as necessary. Rowan had sensed some disturbance in the magical flows and background of the city, but that’s not unusual during the changeover from Winter to Summer. She determines to investigate more closely, and to enlist Gerhardt’s help in doing so.
Gerhardt, meanwhile, is hip-deep in strange gang deaths. A number of gang members have been found savaged to death, seemingly by wild animals, always in gang houses. Most of the gangs have been hit, though the Mad Cowz have been hit slightly more often, and were hit first. The animalistic style of the attacks seems wrong to him, so he wants to talk to Rowan about possible supernatural aspects to the crimes.
Legion is feeling some tension. The demons he contains are getting stroppy; there’s something out there that resonates with them, some sort of hungry, predatory force. He does a little research to see what might be going on, and finds out about the gang murders. Looking for answers, he seeks out Gerhardt.
Elaine normally avoids her old neighbourhood, not wanting to get spotted by her family or former friends. She heads back there when she hears that the Mad Cowz have started moving in on the normally gang-free area, looking to recruit and claim the turf. This has prompted a response from the Manitoba Warriors, as the area is predominantly native and metis. Snooping around, she finds out that the gangs are looking to recruit because of the losses they’ve recently suffered, and are pushing into new territory because of the lack of safety in their old territory. She also finds out that Gerhardt is heading the investigation, so she goes to talk to him about what’s happening.
The group gets together and decides to go to the site of the most recent murder to investigate for clues and pick up some blood and bits so that Rowan can try a locator spell to track down the culprit. Rowan scans the scene with the Sight, and sees a rolling savannah with the slaughtered corpses of antelope and something malign moving through the tall grass towards her.
She warns the others and scribes a magic circle on the floor for protection, but can’t control the energy she pumps into it finely enough, so a lot of it bleeds off as very bright light. This causes Elaine to panic and flee, breaking the circle, and leaving everyone vulnerable to the shadowy hunting spirits that appear and attack.
The fight is panicked but very quick, as Gerhardt takes out most of the minor spirits with his shotgun, and Rowan, Legion, and Elaine tear apart the larger one. They then gather up some blood and some of the shadowy spirit essence, and retreat.
Gerhardt and Rowan start investigating in different directions, Gerhardt studying the crimes while Rowan summons an intellect spirit to question for information. They discover that the crimes seem to emanate out from an area in the middle of Mad Cowz territory where the gang members’ families live, and that several more of the creatures were summoned in the neighbourhood around Rowan’s home, resulting in the deaths of a number of pets.
Our intrepid team gets back together and decides to go to the untouched neighbourhood at the centre of the crimes to see what they can figure out. They are spotted cruising aimlessly through the district, and are confronted by two carloads of Mad Cowz armed with baseball bats and pistols. After some… strenuous negotiation, they get one of the gang members to admit that there’s sorcerer preying on gang members. He won’t say anything more, though, because if he does, he’s dead. He says that the only ones who can name the sorcerer are the dead.
So, our group decides to pay a visit to the Council of Ghosts to see if they can’t talk to a dead gangbanger. We’ll find out next Friday.
Comments about this session:
- The magic system is tremendously flexible and powerful – probably a little too much so. This is currently a hot topic of discussion on the playtester list, and Evil Hat are looking at ways to correct it. They’ve already added a fix for Evocation that keeps it from being ridiculously overpowered, now they need to do something with Thaumaturgy. The problem there is not power, but range: Thaumaturgists have the potential to steal any scene they want, relegating the other players to almost NPC status, because of the range of choices it offers.
- Using compels to force monsterous PCs to act like monsters works well, but came as a bit of a rude awakening for some.
- The mystery structure of adventure seems easy and natural for adventures. I’m not sure if that’s a result of the source material, the constraints of the playtest structure, the assumptions of modern fantasy play, or my own views and predilections, but thinking about adventures for the system, I naturally fall into constructing mysteries.
- I almost made Rowan’s character do a spit take with a jalapeno popper with the following conversation:
Rowan: Are there any of these shadow things within a kilometer of me?
Spirit of Intellect: There are six.
Rowan: How close is the closest one?
Spirit of Intellect: Five hundred meters.
Rowan: Five hundred meters?
Spirit of Intellect: Less, now.
Tonight, of course, is the Monday Night Game, episode two. We’ll catch up with our heroes in the aftermath of the faerie battle, and see how Christian explains his man-eating ghoulish nature to his companions.
I can hardly wait.
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We’ve got another reverse-engineered character out there. Take a look at James Strand, over at JimButcherOnline.
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Our story opens in February in Winnipeg, in the middle of a stretch of weather that’s abnormally cold, even for here, with night time temperatures dropping to -50 C with the wind chill, and day time temperatures never getting above -30 C. A couple of dead bodies have turned up at the Forks, a historical site/park/shopping centre where the Red and Assiniboine Rivers meet. Both bodies show signs of suffering from massive strokes and collapsing, freezing to death in the horrid cold.
Anne is drawn to this case because of her sister, who suffered a similar incident (minus the freezing to death) near the Forks. She wants to see if there’s a connection. Lucky is assigned to investigate the bodies, though it seems obvious to everyone that they are both accidental deaths. And Christian is asked by Madelein de la Neige to check into the possibility that the cold is a new assault on the Red Court by the White Council.
We ran into a bit of rough road getting the characters together, and had to use some hand-waving to justify some of it. This is because each of the three characters came from a different character creation session, and none of them shared a novel with any of the others. Also, there were some last minute changes of player and character, so I had to revamp some of the intro material on the fly. Still, once people got together and smoothed over the initial bumps, things went smoothly enough.
Christian’s examination of the bodies, Anne’s personal experience, and Lucky’s sighting of a tiny man with a bow and arrow in the trees led the three to conclude that the dead people had been elf-shot, inflicting stroke-like symptoms on them, and then had collapsed and died of exposure. They found tracks, some huge and some tiny, near the scene, and concluded that something was up with the faeries of the area.
So, they sought out Crazy Tom, Herald of the Assiniboine Ramble, finding him at the Lighthouse Mission on Main Street. He was fairly evasive, and somewhat crazy, but told them that the Bramble King had declared the incidents an internal matter under the Unseelie Accords and the Consecration of the Two Waters. He specifically warned Christian that interference by his mistress would be viewed as a violation of the Accords. The core pieces of data that they got were that the faeries of the Assiniboine Ramble were involved, and that the Bramble King had disallowed the use of elf-shot except under his direct orders.
Still not satisfied they had enough information to act on, they sought out one of the few independent faeries in the city: Amadan. Dealing with Amadan was a little more tricky, because he wanted something for his information, but the tacit promise of favours owed finally got him to cough up some information on where to find faeries who might be involved in this: Assiniboine Forest after dark. He also intimated that the Winter Court might be involved (the Assiniboine Ramble is a wyldfae freehold under the Bramble King), and that he’d be more than happy to discuss things further with Anne over dinner. She declined.
So, out into the cold, dark, windy night. Lucky brought his pistol, Anne brought a bag of fireworks fixings, along with some iron filings and holy water, and Christian brought three pair of stainless steel filleting gloves. Good thing, too.
After about an hour and a half (and several Endurance checks to avoid physical stress from cold), they wound up in the middle of a faerie battle. On one side were a bunch of fur-clad, beadwork-bedecked elves, brownies, and gnomes, and on the other were a flock of tiny ice sprites, ice hounds, and an ogre, all in the livery of the Winter Court. After a pitched battle, the characters managed to dispatch the Winter Forces; the other faeries took advantage of the interference to vanish.
And that’s where we left it.
Some overall comments:
- The system is strong and flexible. I was never at a loss for more than a second or two to come up with a way to let the players try whatever they wanted, or to simulate what I needed, like the terrible cold.
- Christian is strong. He went toe to toe with the ogre, and held his own. When the others got around to help him, the ogre didn’t stand much of a chance.
- It was fun to be able to use the characters I had created in the sessions as NPCs. In fact, I would recommend to all GMs running this style of game to create characters along with the players, to give you a stock of NPCs that have specific ties to the PCs.
- No magic use this session. Paul Roman is joining in the fun next Monday, so we’ll see what wrinkles a sorcerer adds to the mix.
Friday night is the other playtest group, with Rowan Aurelian, Legion, Gerhardt Rothman, and either Elaine de la Roche or Lyn McBride. That’s a much more mystically-potent group, so it’s going to be interesting to see how they handle things.
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If you’ve been reading the comments on this blog, you know the name Rechan. He’s been an avid follower of the DFRPG development, despite not being involved in the playtest at this stage.
He’s obviously really been paying attention, because he’s put up his own DFRPG character based on his reverse-engineering the characters that have been posted here and on other playtest sites.
And he’s pretty darned close to perfect with it.
You should go have a look.
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There was a Dresden Files RPG alpha game at OmegaCon!
You can check out some of the info about the game here. There’s characters and a discussion of Birmingham, Alabama. Fun reading.
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