Actual Play – Introducing Warden Thomas Caine (8/15/2011)

GM: Sean Nittner
Players: Joe Harney, Steven Dunn, and Rose Itsuaki
System: Dresden Files

Our voodoo story wrapped up revealing two brothers, one hougan (David), one bokor(Jean Emmanuel), that have rivaled through the ages. As practitioners they have been around for a while, and played out their personal rivalries through their children.

When David’s daughter overdosed on heroin, provide to her by Jean Emmanuel’s grandson, he could not let her go. Instead he call a Loa, Marinette Bwa Chech (a spirit of vengeance) to “ride” his daughter and give her strength to find vengeance on the men who poisoned her with drugs.

If this game sounds familiar, especially if your Kevan Forbes (), it’s because I stole it, nearly in its entirety, from Kevan’s ConQuest 2005 World of Darkness game.

The players naturally got mixed up in these affairs both as cops (Marinette killed quite a few drug dealers…who were then raised as zombies to kill her host) and a Warden (some serious necromancy going on here).

The end was perhaps unsatisfying to a warden tasked with killing necromancers. The real Magical Law violator disappeared into the NeverNever (not my action by the way, he was summoning something out of it and got thrown in by Remington) and the one who skated by the edge just didn’t quite do anything definitive enough to remove his head. Two voodoo practitioners (three if you count Raoul), and no heads rolling. Sad Panda Waden.

Some fun bits.

Before the action started I asked everyone to do some back story question about Caine. Showing their familiarity with him as a cop, and he in turn was asked some questions about the precinct. We determined that he was transferred out of CPD after a terrorist attack using biological warfare in a park, and that the rumor was he panics in the line of Fire. What Caine had heard about the 42nd precinct is that they are a bunch of screw offs. Hmmm… some thoughts on that below.

We also found out that the Dwarf Durin, a member of the Winter Court had a begrudging respect for Caine, and that Caine owes Durin free passage once.

On their way I took over for VC (Alec wasn’t at the game) and hit Remington with this. Look at what exposure to the supernatural has done to Rose, look how it’s make her lose her job, nearly lose her father. Any you want to bring Alicia (Remington’s would be girlfriend if she wasn’t an FBI agent that wanted to arrest him) into this? Monroe took the bait (and the fate chip) and left Alisha handcuffed to the ancient radiator in VC’s apartment.

Rose made a big deal of rigging the getaway boat to explode. When it did, with Marie/Marinette onboard, I liked the scene very much of her holding on the railing, willing herself to stay there and burn, to finally be free of the mortal coil and send the Loa home.

Helios, a wizard who really believes the earth and the moon revolve around him showed up to give the warden the tip off about the necromancers and rub his status in his face. Helios is a prick if a wizard with his own personal agenda. More of this to play out later.

Thoughts on this game.

This story had some personal touches I liked. A father who was controlling his daughter to mirror Rose and her Father’s relationship. Questions of free will and of when you’ve gone to far. Some of the stakes weren’t about defeating one side or the other but making them admit they were wrong.

My biggest struggled in this game, and one that would continue for the next two games was missing my spotlight PC. This was Raoul’s big mess to sort out. The other PCs were there for backup, but this was my attempt to give his facet of magic a face inside the city and to give Raoul an inkling of the power on the other side waiting for him to grasp it…and Chris wasn’t at the session. Bleh. It worked, but only barely.
A legendary ward that has no effect on mortals? Awesome way to get folks thinking out of the box. Not something I’ll pull every time (it would get old fast) but in this case it made a lot of sense.

Zombies inhabited by the spirits of French revolutionaries. Awesome! Yay for Rose being a Linguist.

I made a move I wasn’t sure if it was kosher. When Caine electrocuted a kid (albeit a kid with a tire iron) he describe the effect as high voltage, low amperage, non-lethal. Then proceeded to do an excess of 10 shifts of stress (I only remember then number because I had the kid take and extreme consequence and he was still taken out). The kid dropped to the ground, catatonic (his consequence) from the shock. Too harsh? I wasn’t sure. In Dresden/Fate when you take someone out you get to decide what that means. For a wizard wary of breaking the first law of magic, the system allows you to use as much firepower as you want and still describe the effects as non-lethal. There seems something wrong with that to me. Like there should be a certain bullshit factor called when you use extreme force against a mortal, but who am I to draw straws? Someone is taken out, they are out, it doesn’t matter how much stress did the job. Three would have been enough (assuming I didn’t have him take consequences) so should I really react so much to 11+? Well, I did, in a fashion I thought was befitting the attack. Nope, not dead, but comatose due to an extreme consequence. Damaged for life. Is that punishing a PC for using his toys (something I don’t want to do) or presenting the perils of power in a moving way?

Later, the building was caught on fire by the Winter Knight (I know, fire and winter, ironic) and everyone forgot the comatose boy inside until well after they had fled. Now where does THAT sit with the first law?

Warden Caine had a total Batman entrance, cape and all. It was pretty cool.

One of the first things I mentioned above was some backstory questions I asked. What I wanted was some hooks and common ground for the characters to either agree or disagree on but at least share the same knowledge of. What I got out of it were a couple responses that felt deprotagonizing to the characters. The 42nd was made out as a joke and Caine was described as someone who panics under fire. Now, in a group that had been playing together for a while, or where I just had the vibe that they would take these conflicts and use them as grist of the mill of character drama, I’d probably be happy. But bringing a new player into an existing group, it felt like it set up the precedent for un-fun ribbing rather than making the others look awesome.

Since then I’ve seen it manifest, most often but not exclusively between the Winter Knight and the Warden, who each describe the other as incompetent, specifically a klutz with a sword despite a good [+3] weapon skill and a second rate replacement for Rose as a cop and custodian. Now we’re all adults at the table and I don’t think any of the players are walking away from this hurt, I’d have brought it up to them specifically if I did. And maybe it’s just relationship dynamics set up so the characters can riff off each other, but I struggle with it at times. I think it’s my job to give the characters challenges that are opportunities to be awesome (Dresden is pretty high in the competence porn rating). I don’t want those moments of awesome diminished or negated by anyone (PC or NPC) tearing down the spotlight PC.

Also, its worth nothing some awesome friction has come up, specifically ideological differences. Like, as much as I don’t want the players squabbling over nothing, I totally LOVE it when they fight over things they believe in, like Raoul and Caine’s totally different outlook on magic and monsters (and possibly free will).

3 thoughts on “Actual Play – Introducing Warden Thomas Caine (8/15/2011)”

  1. you know, the more I think about it, the more I think it’s a mistake for Cain to have been in Chicago at all. I don’t really want to have any contact or connection with Dresden or Murphey, and the two would have been unavoidable if he was a magic using cop in Chi-town.
    Perhaps someplace like Seatle or Vancouver. Big enough city but not on Butcher’s radar.

    As for me, I’m enjoying the antagonism with Steve and the Winter Knight. At some point our agendas are going to align and we’ll get an opportunity to remove our knee-jerk initial presumptions about each other.

    1. Cool, glad to hear (re: antagonism).

      As for Caine’s origins, yeah just because his parents were in Chicago doesn’t mean he had to have been. If you’d like to retcon Caine’s past I’m down with that, we can even do it within the fiction (“Yeah, so reports here say Caine was in Chicago during that terrorist attack, but guess what, he was never part of the CPD. In fact he was working out of Vancouver at the time…What the hell was he doing in the Windy City? And why just when that attack happened? Ain’t that suspicious?”

      1. I think we got our background wires crossed.

        I had been initially wanting Cain to have been a brand-spankin’ new warden at the time of the Black Council Betrayal. I was thinking that he even might have been at the hospital that the Red Court attacked with the nerve gas, and only his high proficiency with air magic is what enabled him to fight his way out with some of the other survivors.
        This would tie nicely in to the Dark Hallow timeline, for Cain was like top on the list of new wardens to get a “head-choppin’ sword” from Luccio before she got bait and switched.

        Cause, unless we want to bring in Dresden and Murphy and other Named characters, I think it’s best that Cain is from somewhere else completed (Did I said Chicago? Sorry, I meant Seattle…my mistake).

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