Feints & Gambits: This Is Who We Are

This past Saturday was the character creation session for the Feints & Gambits campaign that I’m starting up. After a little bit of schedule juggling, I managed to get all six players in the same room for the session, which is vital for the DFRPG character creation to really shine ((The game sessions themselves are going to be quorum-style, with a minimum of three players. That should make scheduling easier.)). Start time was delayed slightly by the Santa Claus Parade ((Tied up traffic in the downtown area, and several of the folks were coming across town.)), but we got underway around 8:00, so we were able to wrap things up by midnight.

I had a little surprise for the players, as well: I had burned a little of the midnight oil, and managed to get the setting bible for the game completed and printed for them. So, as they walked in, I handed them each a copy for their very own ((Those of you who might be interested in seeing the finished document, it’s up on our forum in .pdf format here.)), which they seemed to like ((And then, of course, Sandy found a typo within two minutes.)).

Everyone in the game knew the basics of character creation, either from the playtest or from Spirit of the Century, so there wasn’t a lot of set-up that I had to do. We jumped right in, following the phases in the book, and sorting the characters out. Along the way, we had some discussions about different parts of the game: Aspects, Powers, Stunts, Skills, and the like, as players had questions.

Once again, the group character creation really shone. The group brainstorming about Aspects, discussion of character motivation, clarification of background, all of it really fed the whole process. I know that at least a couple of character concepts changed and clarified for the players, and I think everyone came away with a character that was made better by the input of the group. And it was really great to see the players getting more interested in, and more excited by, their characters.

Now, if you read over the setting bible, you’ll see that the fey are a really big factor in supernatural Dublin ((Of course they are! It’s Ireland, for crying out loud!)), and they came up a lot in the character creation, as well. Pretty much every character has at least one encounter with the fey in their background. And these encounters are never good. Why am I commenting on this? Well, because it’s really showing me what the players want in the game. They don’t like faeries, so it makes sense that the fey courts are going to be frequent opposition, or at least complications, in the game.

This is such a useful tool for the GM. After all, we’ve got four different overarching threats in the setting bible, but the players all zeroed in on the fey courts. Not Baba Yaga and her crew. Not the political situation. Not the Church-sponsored strike force. The fey courts. It’s showing me what they find most interesting, what they think is the main theme of the game, and how they look at that theme. Rich, rich fodder for building scenarios.

Not that I’m going to focus everything on the fey courts. I mean, the city creation session comes up with so much stuff that I’d be an idiot to ignore everything but one aspect of it. But it does mean that the fey influence is going to be prevalent and pervasive. And most likely annoying for the characters.

I took a little extra time swapping around the novels for the guest-star phases to make sure that the net of connections spread wide enough. I wanted to make sure that everyone got two different guest stars, and guest-starred in the stories of two different characters, giving them connections to four of the six characters in play. It just makes it easier to draw everyone together if the network has more connections.

So, who are the characters?

  • Aleister Usher, Venatori Guardian
  • Kate Owens, Wiccan Seeker
  • Rogan O’Herir, Were-Cat Stalker
  • Firrin O’Beara, Changeling Social Engineer
  • Nathaniel O’Malley, Angry Irish Spellslinger
  • Mark O’Malley, Irish Mystic Hacker ((Not hacker in the computer sense, you understand. Hacker in that he tinkers with the ideas and rules of magic, mainly looking to circumvent them.))

Once the character creation phases were done, we talked a little about what the next steps were. The consensus was that everyone wanted to stop for the evening, and to assess the more mechanical bits of character creation – Powers, Skills, Stunts, etc. – on their own, with me answering questions and providing advice via e-mail. So that’s what we did.

So far, I’ve seen at least preliminary builds from three of the six players, and they all look good. I’m getting excited to run the game. In fact, I’ve scheduled the first one for two weeks from the character building. That should, I hope, get them moving on finishing up the characters. I think I’m going to be doing some playing with the Glass Bead Game, as suggested by Rob Donoghue on his blog, to put together the first session.

It’ll be fun.

Feints & Gambits: Our Dublin

After much fussing about with schedules, we managed to get everyone in the same room for several hours last Friday night and do the city-building for our new DFRPG game.

I’ve talked before about how much help doing the collaborative city-building is, and how it gives the players and characters a real emotional connection with the setting, but I don’t know if I’ve stressed enough what a great job it does just getting people excited to play. The way the possibilities start stacking up, the ideas flowing, the hints at stories, the outright conflicts – by the end of the evening, everyone is absolutely pumped to play in the city you’ve built.

At least, that’s been my experience whenever I’ve run the city-building.

So, on Friday, we trekked ((Through the first snowfall of the season, no less.)) out to the wilds of semi-rural ((I come from a much less populous section of the province, so the ruralness doesn’t quite reach the standards I am used to.)) Manitoba. We got into the actual process of city-building around 8:00, and finished up shortly after midnight, so we had a solid four hours of brainstorming and idea bashing.

In that time, we came up with ((There are a larger number of the various things we came up with than are probably necessary – or recommended. But it is a larger group, with six players, and everyone was very excited to be doing this, so I ran with it. We’ll see what things hold interest and generate story once play begins, and what things fall by the wayside, or become background colour.)):

  • Four Themes
  • Four Threats
  • Sixteen main power blocs
  • Eighteen Locations
  • Twenty-eight Faces
  • Fifty-five Aspects

We also wound up with a very cool version of Dublin, one where the Summer and Winter Courts are using the city ((And all of Ireland, really.)) as a gameboard in their eternal struggle for dominance, where the initial financial boom is starting to fade, where greedy human land developers have control of the politicians, while organized crime has infiltrated the police. Normal folks are still normal folks, trying to get by, but the echoes of the Trouble still rear their heads from time to time, and a new wave of invaders – Eastern Bloc gangs and supernatural creatures, led by Baba Yaga ((They came up with this one. They can’t blame me for how much I hurt them with it.)) – is pushing its way in.

I made sure that everyone had a chance for input, and that everyone got something they wanted in the city. I also made sure that everything that went in had approval from the whole group. As a GM running the city-building, I find that I slip more and more into the role of facilitator, guiding the process and helping to keep the group focused. Also, making sure we have consensus on the big decisions. It’s kind of a weird situation, where I feel myself almost outside of the main process, so much so that I’m apologetic when I make a suggestion or float one of my own ideas ((Which is silly; I’m as much a part of the group as anyone, and my ideas are as valid, even if I am the GM.)).

Now, I’m working on compiling the notes from the session into a setting bible, much as I did with the Fearful Symmetries campaign. One nice thing about setting the game in a modern city is that there are loads of pictures of the various locations up on the Internet that I can use to illustrate the bible ((And a nice thing about the group having picked Dublin is that I was doing research on the city anyway, preparatory to a trip there next fall. Gave me an excuse to buy a couple more travel books.)). So far, we’re looking at 23 pages with just the headings and the location pictures; figure 40-50 pages once the actual text copy goes in. That’s my project for this weekend, hoping to have it out to my group early next week.

I will also probably post it up on the campaign forum when finished.

Oh. The last thing we did that night as far as setting creation goes is pick a name for the campaign. The group decided on Feints & Gambits.

Now, we are working to schedule the character creation session. That’s the last session that I require full attendance for; after that, we move to a quorum style of play: I schedule the games, and we run as long as at least three players show for it.

Things are starting to come together for the game, and I am very pleased.