Game On IV: The Second Friday Game


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.

Game On III: The Second Monday Game


Second session started with me trying to rope Paul Roman into the action. His player wasn’t able to make the first session, so he was coming late to the party. I got to use another of my NPCs, sending Matthew Cross to talk to him. As the Voice of Anubis, Matthew knows a lot of the nasty things Paul has done over the years, and he came and told him that Anubis said that Paul should look into the cold and deaths as a means of balancing the scales while he can.

Paul didn’t like it, but he knows he’s in the hole as far as karma goes, so he trotted off to see Lucky Firth at the Public Safety Building. Lucky’s still having some difficulty buying into the whole mystical thing, so they spent a few minutes bashing their heads together, then Paul left his number with the detective and went off to find things out on his own.

He did this by talking to Crazy Tom, getting roughly the same information the others had got the day before. Then he went off to the Assiniboine Forest to summon the spirit of the forest for information, finding out a little more, and getting very, very cold in the process.

At this point, Christian’s character showed up, so we flashed back to the end of the fight the previous night, where Christian very carefully avoided giving any useful answers about his ghoulish nature. They also scouted around the area of the fight, looking for evidence of where the other group of fae had gone, but came up empty. Finally, they fled the cold back to their vehicles and home.

The next day, Lucky told Anne about Paul, and Christian went back to Crazy Tom to ask for an audience with the Bramble King. Tom reluctantly agreed to take the message to the Bramble King, but made no promises. Anne went to First Folio, looking for some research material, and ran into a gang of wyldfae trying to shake down Artemis Black for magic books to help them in their battles. She chased them off, and spent some time with Denizens of the Nearer Fields, by Salman al Rashid, learning about the vulnerabilities of the fae.

 The trio decided to go back to the forest in order to try and find better signs of the faeries in daylight. They met Paul leaving the forest at that point, and all retired to a Tim Horton’s for some coffee and to share information.

They went back into the forest near dusk and found the place where they’d fought the ogre the night before. Paul used the Sight to scan the area, and found the portal to the Nevernever that the fae had come through. While examining it, right at sunset, he felt a surge of power, and Anne heard the far-off call of hunting horns. Paul quickly conjured a barrier over the portal, and was rewarded with the impacts of several faeries on the far side before an ogre bashed his way through, followed by four Sidhe warriors.

The battle went in favour of our heroes again, with Lucky burning a whole stack of Fate Points on the final few gunshots, Anne laying iron filings across the portal to prevent reinforcements, Paul shutting down the portal’s magic, and Christian keeping the ogre occupied until everyone could focus on it.

And, once again, we leave our heroes in the dark and cold of the Assiniboine Forest after fighting for their lives.

Comments on this session:

  • Combats are getting easier for the players as they learn the ins and outs of the system. They’re expanding their tactics to try new things – for example, Anne drove off the wyldfae at the bookstore with a recording of church bells.
  • Someone with a lot of Fate Points during the climactic scene can really steal the show.
  • The patch rules for Evocation that were sent to the list recently work very nicely in play.
  • Players here in Winnipeg really understand what -50 C means. Just describing the cold to Paul’s player had him almost shivering when he knew he’d be out in Assiniboine Forest for hours working his ritual to summon the forest spirit.

All in all, things are working fairly well. Check back this weekend for the report on the next Friday Game.

Game On II: The First Friday Game


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.

Game On: The First Monday Session


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.

Rechan Strikes!

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.

Catching Up

It’s been a while since my last post. That doesn’t mean that things aren’t happening with the playtest, though. Here’s what we’re looking at:

I’m starting two play tracks next week, each running for three sessions, the first on successive Mondays, and the second on successive Fridays. I’ve asked my playtesters to pick either Mondays or Fridays, and to tell me what characters they’re going to play. I’ve heard back from about half so far.

I’m creating two adventures, each set to run three sessions, and customizing them to the characters to make sure we can let them strut their stuff (and, incidentally, stress test the rules that apply to them). I should have those finished up this weekend.

After each session, I’ll post an account of what went on, what neat things we found we could do with the rules, and anything else that seems to merit conversation.

In the meantime, there are some other folks out there writing about the playtest, as well. You should check out these links:

Last of the Freaks

Here we go: last of the supernatural characters we’ve created. This is Gerhardt Rothman, a policeman with a dark secret he’s trying to hide from.

I’m working on putting together actual play sessions starting next week, so I hope to have some reports on the actual games around then. I’m going to set the adventures in Magical Winnipeg, and will be brainstorming this weekend. I need to create two separate adventures, each of which may take one or two sessions to play out, because of the size of the group. I’d like to tailor each adventure to the group playing it, but I’m not sure how workable that’s going to be in the time I’ve got.

Anyway, the actual playing is coming up. Stay tuned.