Actual Play – Carom Phase 1, Maneuver 1 (10/29/2012)

GM: Sean Nittner
Players: Shaun Hayworth, Kristin Hayworth, Eric Fattig, and Scott White
System: Burning Empires
Planet: Carom

We finally kicked off the first maneuver of this game! Woot!

The recording of our show (if it ever stops the live feed) is here:

Phase Objective

Human: Remove Darius (Vaylen FoN) from play.
Starting Disposition: 25
Ending Disposition: 25

Vaylen: Remove the Merchant League faction from play.
Starting Disposition: 33
Ending Disposition: 33

Maneuver Objective

Each side trying to figure out what the other one was up. The Human side wanted to route out Korak (leader of the Cyrean heretics) and his support network. The Vaylen side wanted to prove that the differences between the Cyreans and the Mundus Humanitus were irreconcilable.  Assess vs. assess.

Humans won!

The play is the thing

I’m going to break from my previous pattern of tracking scenes in a giant table. It reinforces something I don’t like, which is the putting the mechanical structure at the forefront. I really want everyone to keep all actions rooting in the fiction.  So, here are the beliefs that came into play and how.

Draven Nicandro, Cotar Fomas (Invasion Human FoN):

  • Darias is trying to pinch pennies from the Sodalis budget to make the bean counters off world happy. I will elicit Kristhoff’s help in persuading him to instead increase our budget in exchange for rooting out the excesses of the Dregutai.

Draven’s interaction with Darius was pretty one sided. The bean counter confronted him as he was trying to make plans and demanded an explanation for atrocious accounting the Sodalis had been keeping. Draven blew off Darius telling him that he had more important things to do.

  • I need to find Korak before the Constable can or I’ll never be able to share true justice with him. I will visit Artemus and convince him to turn over his leads so the church can handle Korak.

This was liquid metal awesome. When Artemus refused to offer up his intelligence, Draven took matters into his own hands. He stationed his soldalis around the Imperial Embassy (where Artemus and Darius were making plans) and ordered them to prevent anyone from leaving. After pinning down the imperials he rounded up Korak and despite falling into an ambush used his brazen an bluster to cow Korak into coming with him willingly. The heretic was brought before the Archcotare on his knees.

The one thing I was really disappointed in was how I handed the “ambush” when Draven failed his circles roll. It had no teeth, and it needed them. I’m still thinking on what I should have done there.

  • The Archcotare is adamant on paying Korak back with fire. I will insist the sodalis search the safehouse before we burn it, despite what Brendan wants.

This backfired pretty badly. When the Archcotare cold see Draven didn’t have the same passion for vengeance that he did, he took matters into his own hand, led his private Anvil troops to destroy the Cyrean safehouse and then to put a cherry on it declared war (which we had all agreed before the game started was about as practical as a war on terror).

Artemus Morikean, Imperial Constable (Usurpation Human FoN)

  • Korak needs to be taken into custody before the Mundus Humanitas catches him, so that he can face due process of law.

Yes? No? Maybe? I started off with a flashback scene of Korak cornering Artemus in an ally and offering to come willingly with him into custody if he could first speak with the Imperial Steward (off planet). The constable rebuked him and told him he should just turn himself in.

Later, after the Sodalis retreated from the embassy, Artemus marched into the temple where Draven was presenting Korak to the Archcotare and demanded he be turned over to him, based on imperial law.  He got right in the Archcotare’s face and (figuratively) spit in it! There arguments were good but neither man would give any ground at all. Finally Draven stood up and agreed that he would go into custody instead. Artemus arrested him on the spot (cuffs and all!) for interfering with an imperial investigation and unlawfully detaining imperial officers. Boom!

Heiser Malamus, Chief Engineer (Human)

Heiser’s beliefs didn’t come into play, mostly because Scott wasn’t able to make it into game until quite late. However, we did get some great color of him observing the planet from the space station above. Also he helped out the others in their scenes investigating the EDA-6 explosion, and we got to seem some fun uneasiness between him and the religious figures.

I also had a nice time showing how the Merchant League, as a whole, really don’t like Heiser. They think he’s too big for his britches and doesn’t understand the cost of business. They don’t like his special privileges, nor do they

Kristhoff Van Der Meer, High Inquisitor ( Infiltration Human FoN)

  • Korak was a good man, on some level I suspect he still is. I will open negotiations with him.

They met in an old bar they used to visit, Ditmers. Both wondered what the hell the other one was doing. Korak thought this world was pretty damn small potatoes for a mighty “High Inquisitor”. Kirsthoff wondered how Korak had run so far astray from his old teachings. Neither could see eye to eye (in fact they hardly looked at each other).

  • The EDA 6 disaster cannot be repeated.  I will find the security flaw that allowed the saboteurs to access it.

We had a great “Roswell-esk” investigation scene where Kristoff revealed he had all the salvaged scraps of the EDA-6 in a giant hanger. The poored over the details for hours and realized it had to be an inside job (it wasn’t hit by a missile, the fusion reactor overheated). And that meant it had to the the Merchant League (only they know how to operate it). The tried to hunt down a League member on planet but when they broke into the station, it had been evacuated.  Using Heiser’s access codes Kristoff was able to pin down the list of possible subjects to one man, an engineer named Rostov, currently on the EVA-7

Duke Brendan V (Invasion Vaylen FoN)

  • If your quarry goes to ground, leave no ground to go to. I’ll burn the safehouse that Kristof has found to show Korak the price of his crimes. The price his people will pay for him.

Draven was resiting a full assault. He wanted something more precise, but the Duke wanted to make a statement and a show of power. He hopes to incite Draven (see below) but when that failed took matter into his own hands. He led the troops (with Kristhoff’s intelligence) and utterly annihilated the the safe house. The turned it to rubble, killed those within, and then declared war! For me, even though this didn’t win the maneuver, it brought the fiction closer to making the divide between Cyrean and MH irreconcilable.

  • Have the fires burned out in Draven? Where is his passion. Where is the fire that burns for revenge for his wife. I’ll incite him by showing him the cost of inaction.

This came out most as color.  Brenden tried to invoke Draven’s passion, but failed. He was disappointed by his son in law

  • War. Only a war will end the heresy. Artemus served his time as a stormtrooper. I’ll find the price of his [Imperial] support.

After his Duel of Wits with Artemus, Brendan gave up on him, at least for the time being. He’s going to revisit this. And he did declare war, so he’s working his way toward this belief!

Korak (Infiltration Vaylen FoN), ex Cotar Fomas, now Cyrean Leader

  • The Mundus Humanitus is corrupt down to core. I’ll meet with the constable Artemus and convince him to give me an offworld communication with the Imperial Stewards so I can make my case to them.

They met but he didn’t get what he wanted. What did come out of it though was an connection Korak took one of his comm devices and pulled the encryption codes off it. Until the constable orders them changed, they can be in contact. This allowed Korak to show the constable what was happening when Draven arrested him.

  • Curse Brendan’s black heart. I know his plans and they are evil. There are innocent people living in those safehouses! Instead of finding helpless believers in those buildings, his Sodalis will find our fire!

This is a BAD belief. It’s between two NPC FoNs. I expected Draven to be the one leading the attack, but as that didn’t happen, I ended up playing against myself and effectively deciding (though I rolled some dice for it) that as of now the MH is winning the arms race. Bad GM.

Darias (Vaylen Usurpation FoN)

  • Draven is accountable for the MHMER (Mundus Humanitus Military Expense Report) and has year after year exceeded the budget allocated to him. I’ll make him show me where all this money is going.

I really needed to have more teeth in this. Draven just ignored Darius when he confronted him and it felt like as the highest ranking imperial on the planet, my dude was weak sauce. He backed down and took it up with the Archcotare, who I depicted as drowned in the details. I should look at how to create resource shortages and have Draven works to throttle the military that way.

  • The EDA-7 is a modern marvel and possibly the only thing that will resolve this financial nightmare. I’ll convince Heiser to give Artemus and myself a tour of great hope so my constable can take the necessary security measures to protect it.

Part of the problem with managing so many character is I get their beliefs mixed up. Darius sort of did this by getting Artemus to assign as security detail to Heiser, but he never got a tour of the place. Oh well, next maneuver.

Maneuver End

We were tired ended the game as soon as we rolled the maneuver, but should have narrated the outcome in the fiction. I believe what happened was that Korak’s connections (his support network) is under scrutiny (Human’s successful assess) but not all hope for Cyrean and MH reconciliation is lost (Vaylen assess failed).

Beliefs for next game:

Duke Brenden Belief: “Let every fire be guided by the one that burns most brightly, and gather to him… In times of war, the men of state will bow before the men of Fire.  Let no man stand against the Fire when the torch of war burns.” – Ahmilahk Ahved Ahll’s Writings, Mundus Itinerantur 13:1-7. Draven will be released into my custody so that he may lead the war effort. (Building or Conflict)

Thoughts on the game:

I chewed up too much screen time doing too little. I’m going to work on shorter, more punchy scenes next game.

Corollary, the game was over four hours and ran later that is sane for me. I need to cut, cut, cut!

I was really trying to channel Lenny on the whole “clue” finding, that it should lead to an immediate course of action, which it did, but I found that action was still in the garden variety “hunt down the next clue” kind of action, rather than deal with the problem that action produces. I’m going to have to rectify that next game.

I should be harsher in my scenes. When Draven failed to intimidate Darius I colored the rest of the scene. It should have led directly to Obstacle penalties for Circles (for soldiers) or Resources (for vehicles, weapons, and ammo). Also, when the circles roll failed, the ambush should have had more teeth. Draven has lot of Sodalis, I should have capped one in the head, or done something more drastic.

I’m not sure if my beliefs (for the Vaylen FoNs) were targeted enough at the PCs. I didn’t have any scenes (except color) without a player present, but I don’t know that I actually challenged their beliefs. Player, your thoughts would be welcome on this.

I need to remember to keep my NPCs in my cross hairs. If Korak dies on the wheel, he’ll be a martyr and others will wise to replace him. Mechanically speaking, unless a phase objective removes a FoN from play, if he dies, I can bring in another FoN to take his place.

When Korak was imprisoned I didn’t know how to play out his belief about Heiser (The merchant league is laughable. They have sent another toadstool to finish the EVA7. I’ll scare that little bug so silly, he won’t know what hit him.) I should have had him work through his subordinates. He has a whole faction under his command, and has maintained communication with them. The could have put a little hurt on Heiser. Next time Gadget. Next time!

A question for the players. When my NPCs are fighting amongst each other, any reason to do that as anything but a color scene? I mean, I thought the whole Archcotare rolling to assault Korak’s safehouse thing was pretty dumb on my part. Unless you guys have objectives, I’m going to handle conflicts between my NPCs as color.

We need a dedicated roll-keeper, preferably a player not in the scene to keep keep track of every one’s die pool and Obs for advancement.

Could Rostov be a worm? I kind of like that idea. Let’s play and find out.

Shaun relayed some great advice from Luke. At the end of the night, no matter what, roll the infection mechanics and end the maneuver. It doesn’t matter if everyone got all their scenes in, the maneuver is over. I really like this.

As a corollary to that, I was a lot less worried about scene economy this game. We followed it, but I didn’t plan all my scenes for their type, more for their content. I had several that I could see going in a couple directs and just let it fly. I think planning scenes too much (especially building scenes) can lead to a kind of min/max – rules only, no role-playing mode of play, and I want to get away from that.

Vaylen scene ideas for next game:

Duke Brendan visits Draven in jail, Cason is with him. The Duke is there to reassure Draven of his support. He will not be abandoned, nor asked to be the sacrificial lamb.

Darius can finally get his scene with Draven (who now has a lot of time on his hands). He wants the deescalation of violence. If there are no soldiers, no power packs, no guns, there is no war. (Interstitial, Conflict?)

We need a Vaylen color scene. An actual Valen becoming aware of the planet and it’s internal strife. (Color)

Darius is getting his scene with Kirstoff – Gotta that belief off. Kristoff is still the threat here! (Interstitial, Conflict?)

One of Heiser’s family members that follow Korak will reach out to him. I want to see where this goes (Interstitial, belonging to Korak).

Darius still wants a tour of the EVA-7. The one hope for the planet’s prosperity. (Interstitial, Building)

Korak’s troop will capture a hostage to use as leverage to have him freed (Color)

Artimus’ bright mark has been seen. He’s an off world psychologist and they are not loved on non Circle of 10,000 planets. Career or safety in jeopardy (unsure which FoN or scene type, may have to mull on this one).

Officials don’t like to admit it, but Carom is broke. I need a scene showing people really dealing with poverty in an ugly way. (Color, probably Korak).

Rostov needs to take some action involving the EDA-7. He can’t just sit there and let them come for him. He’s needs to create a situation that Kristoff can’t ignore on planet. (Building, for what FoN though, Darius?)

Duke Brenden is infuriated with Kristhoff for not standing behind him during the declaration of war. He’s going to look to change the situation (either by replacing Kristoff or by changing his mind).

Korak is figure of note for this phase, so we needs to feature his resistance prominently. He’s going to try and win over  Kristoff (who already is a little disillusioned with the MH) but he first must fight to protect his people. Korak still have communication with the troops, so they can do a Firefight with him leading them.

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