Phase 4 Set-UpEditA departure from the recommended set-up for the game.
I began with creating PC-NPC-PC triangles in which NPCs pursued goals that put PCs into opp
osing or at least orthagonal relationships with each other.
Then I recorded the aspects relevant to those potential points of tension.
The count-down clocks allow me to keep track of what the NPC has done to further his or her agenda and what to do next. (Thanks Apocalypse World).
No course of action on the part of the PC is expected or required for the NPCs to start carrying out their agendas.
It is designed as the spur to a series of sessions, not as an agenda to be completed in any singe one.
NPC Aspect: ""Oathbound"
Agenda: Spirit Warrior, help me heal a wounded/possessed ogre brother
PC Aspcect: Supernatural Magnet
NPC Aspect: ""Oathbound"
Agenda: Wizard, help me get the map & save the city from what the w-wolves are planning.
PC Aspcect: "Trying to find a client that won't kill him."
NPC Aspect: "Obsessed with Archive's Integrity"
Agenda: This is your last chance. You and your pals need to get me Simcoe's map or you will all be assimilated!
PC Aspcect: "Easily Underestimated"
>Locke [not addressed, player could not make it]
NPC Aspect: "Look Out, Civilians!"
Agenda: Find an interrogate 1 survior of mind-control ritual -- who Hannah is caring for.
PC Aspcect: "Concerned Citizen"
>Ben [not addressed yet]
Mr & Mrs. Hunter
NPC Aspect: "Mortal, you promised us Arkham's head"
Agenda: Compel Sam to bring the head by May 1 at the latest.
PC Aspcect: "Gets the job done"
>Locke [not addressed yet]
Ben was doing well at his Private Investigator job (good tag rolls). He did not panic when the PCs' long-running antagonist H. Arkham -- corrupt 1/2 ogre cop -- shows up at his door following a series of supernatural signs (compelling "Supernatural Magnet"). He accompanies Arkham down into the ravine and to the Brickworks where the comatose form of Arkham's half-brother lies, shrouded in the bizzare amber energy assosciated with the weird hive-mind law firm of McCoy, McCoy, and McCoy. A spell allows him to see that the ogre is a thrall to some supernatural, Outside entity (some maneuvers)
Across town, Sam rolled out of Active Surplus and right into the werewolves Mr. and Mrs. Hunter. They remind him of his promise to deliver Arkham's head in time for May 1st, the date when the Wild Hunt is believed to get close to the mortal realm. Sam was invited to the celebrations where the severed head of the half ogre will be given as a gift to the Hunter's guest. (Sam failed an Alertness check, no time for him to do any Assess or Maneuver, free roleplay). Sam goes to his old mosque, where the imam has been engaging in his own battles with superstition and the weird. Sam figures that they must have something to help him take out Arkham. The imam -- after insisting that Sam give the evil one a chance to turn to god before any violence -- hands over an ancient crossbow of Chinese origin, which the Mongols used but lost when they sacked Baghdad (Sam compelled one of the Aspects on the city sheet).
Hannah was across town with her little brood of misfits and victims of the weird. The most recent member is Kulsoom, who was the one employee at the work place team building seminar who escaped being enslaved by the mysterious "Amber Shard." Turns out that K. has been reported as a missing person and that -- thanks to evidence provided by her employers -- Hannah is a suspect. Winning an alertness check, Hannah gives the girls a chance to escape while she questions Lt. Brazeau to make sure her intentions are good (Brazeau being known to shoot first at the weird and ask questions never). Hannah permits Brazeau to interrogate K., and convinces Brazeau to let the poor girl return to her parents. Hannah drops K. at her apartment only to find that her parents have been under the dominion of someone with Amber Shard magic. The dominator is a surprise. It was Martine Chisud, a former enemy of the new Mayor and his management team's plan for the city, but who now appears to have been fully possessed by the supernatural entity summoned by McCoy, McCoy, and McCoy. Chisud leaves Hannah with K. and her family and with a dire warning: get a hold on the Lord Simcoe's map and return it to city hall or face anihilation. Chisud does not know that Ben pilfered it from the office. (H.'s multiple engagements with the Amber Shard result in a number of Aspects like "fears Hannah's powers" and "respects Hannah," and allow it to pile up a number of Fate Points for Conceeding several contests).
Hannah's plotline unfolds with no direct interaction between her and her pals.
Meanwhile at the Brickworks, the ogre wakes up an attacks Ben at the command of the possessing entity. Arkham is stuck between an oath to help his brother and to refrain from ever raising a hand against him. Which means that Ben is in a chokehold and getting crushed until Sam rushes in, driving his mentor's van. Ogre is put out of commission by the duo and, after Sam sets up an anti-hexing Ward inside a hard drive, the possessing energy is driven by Ben into the ritual container (Ben's shamanistic magic is based off of Evocation and so he must get huge results with a single roll, and in this case he had to get all the free tags he build up during his treatment of the ogre and blow ALL of his Fate Points: a splendid sacrifice of resource full of fiction and colour). The ogre flees. At that point, Arkham pleads with Sam to turn against the Werewolves, and to use the missing Simcoe map to counteract whatever mayhem they are planning. Sam extracts a promise from Arkham that, when next they meet, Arkham will come alone and unarmed.
[1 player away]
Locke delivers a package to Mr. and Mrs. Hunter. She is then subject to some weird social manipulation and empathic reading and general creepiness. She departs with Hunter getting a read on her "I've had enough of this" Aspect. And he is ticked off at being disrespected (Alpha wolves are like that)
Back at the Brickworks. Sam is still caught in a standoff with the 1/2 Ogres. The Ogre cops are glad that Sam and Ben came to help, slightly puzzled as to why Sam saw fit to break in with his van used as a battering ram. Sam reminds Arkham that Arkham has vowed to meet TWICE, unarmed and unaccompanied.
Hannah and Locke comisserate with Sam about events, after the wounded Ben is taken to the hospital. Their rib dinner is ruined by the appearance of a posessed Ms. Chisud. She tries to mind assault Sam to uncover the whereabouts of the city of Toronto map everyone seeks. A handily placed crossbow and some clever moves dispatch her. Well, she Concedes and walks away with a number of Fate Points. [police investigation to follow]
Now, by this point the PCs are getting tired of demands from everyone to get this map, do that. Locke conspires with her colleagues to get even with the creeper werewolves. This takes the form of a carefully staged "spooky conspiratorial meeting" on a mist-shrouded bridge to give the wolves the message that Locke and co are not to be messed with. Sam prepares a number of safety wards to bolt into should Ms. Hunter go nuts on them.
Some tense negotiations come to this point: Locke will get the historical map of Toronto for the wolves to use in their ritual aimed at destroying the mayor's interference in Toronto's ravines. In return, they must return it to Locke to place in the safekeeping of a third party. This agreement is reached [guys -- its an occult bargain -- it has to be kept] before the appearance of Lt. Brazeau with 3 of Toronto's finest. She accuses Ms. Hunter of getting involved with the disappearance of Lilian Paolilo [White Court Vampire virgin from previous adventures]. And when she sees the 3 heroes wearing trenchcoats, holding crossbows, and making some weird compact with a lycanthrope, she wants to haul them in for questioning. Ms. Hunter takes off, and with the heroes in a protective circle, the cops are very frustrated. They agree to back off.
Upcoming trouble: How to complete their bargain with lycanthropes who are holding one of their pals hostage? How to deliver Arkham's head to the wolves? How to get the map out of Ben's house and into the more carefully warded house of Tariq, a White Council mage living under the sword of damocles? And what is up with the May 1 date for the ritual of the werewolves?
The players got proactive! I kept poking at them and they have started taking charge of their situation. I did not see the point of daft meeting plan, but I did in retrospect. The PCs want to be decision makers in this world, not just passive targets of schemes. The players were playing out their aspects without drawing explicit attention to them. And isn't that what this kind of game all about?
They set up some very nice Aspects on the bridge and really ran a good game on the Ms. Hunter.
A mixed bag of events and threads as this storyline rolls to its conclusion:
- Ben: Recovering from his wrestling match with a half ogre. Lt. Brazeau enters his hospital room and requests his help in investigating a murder on Ward's Island. The bizzare half-live/half-dead tree has a body spiked on one of it's branches. A bizzare series of glyphs suggests someone intended this as a warning to the Autumn Court Fey to stay out of whatever shenanigans are coming on Walpurgisnacht/May 1
- Sam: His mentor is a wreck. It turns out that his meddling with Outsider magic is responsible for the entrance of the Amber Shard into our dimension. Sam slaps some sense into his mentor. He also has concluded that Tariq's house is the best place to hide the magically potent Lord Simcoe map of Toronto. He procedes to weasle his way into Ben's house to get said map.
- Locke: Still plagued by bizzare messages on her answering machine. This time, it is the tortured voice of the Psychopomp asking for her aid. She resolves to get some insight into whatever problem the P-pomp has, and to figure out where two of her crew -- the dimwits Meyer and Briggs -- have gone off to. She takes their shoes and their retro video games to Ben for some divining.
- Locke and Sam at Ben's house: they get the map, convince Ben to let it be used to frustrate Mayor Quint's plans for the city, take it from the w-wolves, and put it in the storage vaults of the Danforth Mosque. Funny interactions with Ben's mom, and some touching forethought when Ben sends his mom on a trip just as things start to get hairy.
- Just as Sam is completing the tracking spell, Tariq's house is assaulted by Mortimer McCoy and his back up crew: newly created Renfelds used as cannon-fodder, sources of energy, and containers to soak up Consequences and Backlash. The Outsider magic batters down the wards with disturbing quickness, and Locke and Ben have to hold the invaders off. Ben is zapped by some bad mojo and a Renfeld re-breaks his ribs. But Locke's quick maneuvering weakens the mage. And Sam rushes out of the garage with a chainsaw, slashes the lawyer and then beheads him. (Sam will later toss the head into the Don Valley as a message to the werewolves: I'm on the case). The 3 fast talk their way past an old lady and carry on their merry way. Tariq now has to rebuild the wards AND complete a container for the city map. He bucks up and gets on the case.
- Heading over to the mosque. A tense interview with the imam results in Sam gaining the Mongol crossbow as a permanent weapon in the fight against evil. Arrangements made to store the map in the vaults. The crew dump the surviving Renfeld outside of a grocery store and head off to the locale where Sam's thaumaturgy directed them.
- In the valley: the crew come upon Mr. and Mrs. Hunter in the middle of a huge fight. Mr. H has decided to bring a new female into the pack without asking the permission of the alpha femal, Mrs. H. She responds by refusing to help Mr. H in his ritual which will bring the Master of the Wild Hunt into the valleys and bind him to their purposes. She departs in anger. Mr. Hunter then turns on Briggs and Meyer for bringing the decidedly non-virgin Lillian Paolilo to be sacrificed to the Master. Meyer (or is it Briggs) reponds that she is a White Court Virgin: she might be sexually experienced but she has not used her vampirism to kill and is, in a metaphysical sense, still a virgin. Locke rebukes her former crewmates stealthily but they don't give her away. The crew try to get in touch with Mrs. H. who is now completely sympathetic to them. But she is devoured by members of her own pack in the middle of the phone call.
- The crew resolve to stop the Wild Hunt from touching down. They have 2 days to pull it off.
- 2 Quentin Tarantino references in one session: "What, do I have a neon sign outside my house saying 'Dead Interdimensional Cultist Storage'"? and a brain-dead discourse on what constitutes virginity. Yes, we are rolling around in the detritus of pop culture.
- Forge post: "The latest session brought up an interesting cross-session aspect of the Aspects in Fate.
In the previous session, a heavy was trying to assess a character and to manipulate aspects of her personality.
The player resisted this action. The Aspect was "Nobody sees that I am O.K." and the character resists when people do pry into her business.
I chose to put pressure on that Aspect because I simply did not know what it meant.
The player then concocted an elaborate ruse. She and her allies pulled the heavy's mate into a stereotypical "late night spooky occult noir meeting." It reminded me of the behaviour in earlier threads where players seem to take pleasure in elaborate disguises and misdirection soley for the purpose of proving how clever or manipulative they can be. But there was a fictional thrust to the ruse: they wanted the werewolves and other supernaturals to stop their constant manipulations and deceptions. This realization came as I tried to frame the contest as a social conflict that would inflict some kind of Aspect on the wolfwere woman.
It was productive to turn the players' lord-knows-what-motivated-it resistance to the way the supernaturals (and the GM) pressured them into mechanical resolution and mechanically significant consequences. The resolution produced a change in the NPCs' motivations and their whole approach to the players' characters.
And the player was still acting in response to the initial pressure on her "No One Sees I'm OK Aspect" a session later, and manipulating the Consequence Aspect placed during that earlier session.
The Aspect/Consequence mechanic provides coherence between sessions in a way that is hard to find in any 1 simple conflict or contested roll."
Too much too soon. Always try to compress too much into the closing session.
- Sam: "Gets the job done" Aspect: Way at the start of this story arc, Sam was helping Martine Chisud to protect the city's ghost. Now, her nemesis, spin doctor Oscar Tennenbaum, approaches Sam with an offer: protect the city from what the cultists are doing and get a huge financial reward. Tennenbaum is aligned with the City Aspect "Toronto, the City that Work
sed" and has come to realize the forces that he and Quint have unleashed by letting McCoy/McCoy/and McCoy work their occult mojo on behalf of the Quint Nation. Sam takes the job and the Compel's implied consequences.
- Locke: "Network of the Unwashed" Aspect gets Locke a visit from Cart, a homeless geriatric who wanders Toronto's valleys and the Toronto Islands with his little cart. The Fey have a gift that they wish secreted in the valley. It turns out to be a Phoenix waiting to arise from its slumber. Towards the end of the session, it explodes from its hiding place and wreaks firery vengeance on Mayor Quint and his developer buddies who are celebrating a new business deal on May 1st right at the Brickworks. They are consumed in a firery blaze. Also, a few Anarcho Punk types protesting it. The long term consequences are that Locke's Network is going to be mistrusted by a the occult factions in Toronto [sorry I didn't make it clear durning the compell introduction, Ms. Snyder]. Opening scene has Locke perusing an old map of Toronto -- a speculative map of what the city could look sketched out before Fort York was built.
- Hannah: "Observant" Aspect puzzled me. How do I make this a difficulty instead of a strength. Well, the incarnate voice of the Ravine approaches Hannah with an offering to make her as observant of nature as she is of human emotions. Perhaps a vision of dandilions orgasmically releasing their seed into the air isn't the right way to do it. She is offered the chance to "observe" the King of the Wild Hunt and compose a report of his dread deads to the mortals of Toronto. Hannah turns down the compel [and as it was a real stretch I didn't extract the fate point -- really it was a metaphoric reach NOT a challenge to the Aspect]. Hannah uses the news to get the heroes on the move to prepare for May 1 hijinx.
- Ben: The ghost of Lt. Phillipots -- who composed the first Toronto map at the behest of Lord Simcoe -- stares over Ben's shoulder as Ben looks at a reproduction of the original, (a magically potent item now hidden in the Danforth Mosque). The ghosts need Locke to give back the portion of power lent to her by the leader of Toronto's ghosts. Ben sees possible tension. He also notes that Mayor Quint's new subway lines are running right along magically potent lines of old Toronto -- under the valley floor where the old road to Kingston used to run. He also observes that the new lines of the subway are the first roads to be inscribed IN the valleys in about 200 years and represent a kind of magicall grid which will bring the Don Valley into the orderly grid of downtown Toronto, when it has been outside of it for as long as there has been a Toronto map (the Don and its delta were not crisscrossed with projected streets on the Phillipots map). The cultists backing the new mayor's development scheme are creating a trap for the Goblin King/Jaegermeister/Herne the Hunter/Boss dog of the Wild Hunt. The werewolves and others have been trying to prevent it. Ben finds a way to use the the implications of the map for his own purposes.
- Sam comes up with the plan. He takes the utopic map of Toronto -- a map of "no place" and a map of a "good place" -- and has the crew place Aspects on it to help in a magical ritual: Sam's aim is to create a barrier that will prevent the Wild Hunt from sweeping down into Toronto proper, thus frustrating both the valley creatures who want him to run wild and the cultists who want to tame him and use him to police their new grid. Ben places a "New Harbour" Aspect on the mouth of the Don (I had visions of fey ships sailing over from the Islands, but we didn't specify it further); Sam adds "for wizards" to the map's title "Town and Settlement"; Locke circles the spatial location of the current Kensington Market on part of the utopic map that was to be a green "commons" around the administrative centre of the city, and labels it "for humans"; Hannah refrains from marking up the map.
- The crew pull the classic Red Harvest/Yojimbo/Fist Full of Dollars move of setting the riled-up factions against each other. First they dump the cart [which contains the Phoenix] next to the brick works. They accomplish this by getting Lt. Brazeau (my take on Dresden's monster hunting cop) to pull a distraction that draws Arkham and his half-ogre motorcycle cops away from the Brickworks (a flaming ambulance will do that). After an ambush by Arkham's ogre brother George, the crew back off.
- They then sit perched up on the Dairy Queen in East York, the one overlooking the Don Valley Parkway, and watch the unfolding chaos which has been weeks in the making. Sam calls on Harley Arkham to meet him at a place -- the place where the werewolves are preparing a ritual welcome for the Wild Hunt. Arkham owes Sam a fey promise and cannot refuse. The half-ogres and the werewolves go nuts on each other, with Mr. Hunter going for Arkham's head (which Sam had long ago promised to deliver), the cops unloading their weapons and slaying the werewolves. Then the "heroes" call in Brazeau with a tip about Arkham's involvement in the gunfire taking place. She rushes in and both she and Arkham are killed in the ensuing gunfire. Given a bloody slaughter involving civilians and cops vs. cops, the key ritual spot in the Valley is unavailable to our heroes due to the RCMP, Toronto Police, EMTs, and media rushing in. [All this was mediated using Fate Point currency: I just rotated through each NPC and paid an FP every time I declared a fact in their benefit. Arkham was able to beat Hunter (who never would concede), but Lt. Brazeau did the best of all due to the fact she was always conceding to the heroes in the social challenges she and Hannah engaged in. I figured Brazeau would spend her advantages helping her mates and ensuring the demise of the bads ahead of her own safety. And I wanted the "heroes" to see the consequences of their scheming.]
- The team does an adapted ritual: under the CN Rail bridge futher up the valley, Sam invoked a Ward massive enough to stop the Huntsman's advance. To do this he needs the help of 2 local wizards -- a Wagner-hating Rabbi from Kensington Market's Minsker Shul and a Sanskrit-spouting mythology buff from the U of T (the Germano-Celtic Wild Hunt being a knock off of an Indo-European myth associated with the figure of Lord Shiva in Hinduism, dontcha know). Tariq the mentor gets the call but does not respond. Ritual works, with the Rabbi exhausted and the Sanskrit nerd convulsing on the ground, babbling.
- The Wilde Hunt stops at the bridge. It's master can't continue on his path but is ravenous with hunger. "Where is my promised sacrifice?" On cue, McCoy/McCoy/Martine straggle through the storm towards the barrier with Lilian Paolilo in their grip. They are going to try to use her as bait to manipulate the Huntsman in some way, possibly to distract him while they feed on his energy or direct them against their enemies (I didn't know and didn't have time to figure out -- I was Crossing one set of NPCs with an NPC from another part of the City and providing an opening for the characters to put down their DQ Blizzards and DO something).
- Heroes act heroically and rush down to save the day. M/M/M have a number of banked up FP from earlier concessions. And their rote spells frustrate Ben's attempts to zap them. But while they are occupied by the wizards, Locke manages to call on the Psychopomp. She uses the portion of power he has lent her to free him from his prison, which happens to be the very crystal that M/M/M have at the centre of their cult. P-pomp rushes across the barrier to take on the beast who has sworn to flood the river and destroy what he can. P-pomp is no match for the Huntsman, but the Huntsman shows "mercy": he gives the ghost a 13-count lead because such a magical foe would make fine sport. As the Hunt runs back North up the Don Valley, M/M/M turn their attention on the heroes. Who are mostly out of Fate Points, hurt, and exhausted. At this point, Tariq shows up.
- Yeah, the wizard mentor saved the day. Well, not really. The heroes' manipulations set the stage for Walpurgisnacht's mayhem. And I brought out a conflict from earlier in the campaign: Tariq did not want to get involved because he was under the Sword of Damocles for messing with magic from beyond the Outer Gates. And M/M/M were manipulating an interdimensional being which Tariq himself might have losed into our dimension. But Sam's persuading was effective. Sam opened The Sight to an overwhelming vision of Tariq's terrifying implementation of Outer Gates magic, a vision so strong as to render him speechless and immobile. He could do or say nothing while Tariq threw down his ceremonial Warden sword and departed with the words "I have just signed my own death warrant." Consequences, Sam, consequences.
- Moments of GM fiat were there, but my excuse was that we were ending the session.
- When Locke and the guys were ambushed as they placed the cart I came up with some fast talking BS about how she couldn't transform into miniature form in time, blah blah blah. Next time I will follow the wisdom of the ages and "Say 'Yes' or Roll the Dice."
- Even when doing lose narration (like the multiple NPC group stand-offs) I tried to relate everything to currency (FP) or mechanics [Sam, the rating of the vision you are facing was WAY beyond your capacity to resist it -- I was starting it at Legendary and you had no FP. Still, "Say 'Yes' or ...". At least I let you know why Tariq was doing what he was doing and he DID leave Saladin's Scimitar in your hands. If an non-Muslim like Locke tries to pick it up, she or her will learn a valuable lesson about infringing on waqaf.]
- A good Dresden-y Goetterdaemerung. But, really, the Phoenix was a bit much. Still, it was part of the City Sheet and we hadn't seen it so far. No chance to use the Unicorn. The cart was a McGuffin designed to see your response to the "Network of the Unwashed" compel. I did have to figure out how the Autum Court out on the Island were going to wreck the Mayor's party.