Actual Play – Lockdown (7/17/2010) at Good Omens Con 4

GM: Sean Nittner
Players: Teryn, Randy, Elizabeth, Noam, Geoff, and Sam.  Guest starring Chris Hanrahan as Johnny Marcone.
System: Dresden Files

Gentlemen Johnny Marcone has finally been brought to justice. And wouldn’t you know it, over a civil offence! It’s a classic. Never mind that he killed your partner in cold blood and probably caused one sort of hell or another for nearly every cop in the precinct. Tonight he’s in lockup until he can be transferred to a federal penitentiary. You lonely few have nothing else to do but keep the coffee hot, listen to radio chatter, and make sure that under no circumstance, Marcone walks out the front door until the Feds come to pick him up in the morning. He’s the loaded gun.

This was my morning game at Good Omens Con. The game was so much fun to run, I don’t even know where to start. But I’ll try.

An explosive situation: Anyone who knows anything about Dresden will know that Marcone is not a figure that sits behind bars easily. His mere presence will disturb forces political, psychological, criminal and supernatural.

Cool characters: All of the cops in the story had something they really wanted out of this case. To prove themselves, to get revenge for their murdered partner, to see justice done, to get through the last two days on the job, etc. Several of them were corrupt in one way or the other, and it turned out that those two ended up causing as much chaos as any other force in the story.

My Ace in the hole: Well before the game started I had planned to make one of the players be Marcone.  I was warned against this idea though, what if nobody wants to play him or players don’t want inter-PC divisions like that?  I really didn’t want him to be an NPC controlled by me because that would a) take up too much of my brain power and b) make it very hard to differentiate between an extremely powerful character and the GM using my control of the narrative and fate chips to get what I wanted.  It was important that he started the game with 0 fate chips.  Marcone is a monster.  And to do that monster justice I put him in the capable hands of Chris from Endgame.  And man… Chris was awesome.  In the end he walked out of that jail cell without ever going so far as intimidating one of the cops.

Props: Do I love props? Oh my how I love props. Here are some of them:

First, the box the game came in.  Which included all the other props, and was a prop itself:

The obligatory Mag light  and skull full of fate chips (6 pointed badges for the mundane cops, 5 pointed for the not so mundane)

Evidence in bags: Case files, confiscated records, Marcone’s watch, media from years of recording (disks, cds, and a flash drive)

Character Sheets (with options for either gender):

Character “tents”

The chief’s Holy Grail (inside I had an actual print off of a scanned image of  Al Capone’s guilty verdict.

Part of the police chief’s attire for his meeting with the Mayor (after arresting Marcone).  He looked very sharp!

Finally, Sir Not Appearing in this Post also include coffee and donuts, which felt perfect for a cop game in the morning . No picture because we already ate them all!

Amazing players. I was tickled pink when Teryn and Elizabeth both picked the dirty cops and Randy was sitting in between them playing the true believer. It was such good interplay. Also Geoff did an excellent cop bent on revenge. And Noam was so great a playing the underestimated cop who “couldn’t keep criminals behind bars” (his trouble). He actually took the compel to just let Marcone walk free (this was of course after they decided that otherwise everyone in the precinct was going to die, but still). Finally Sam played this great pessimistic old timer who was just aching to get out and get on with his pension.

Compels. I know I saw this all the time, but I think compels are the engine that make Fate/SotC/Dresden run.  They give the GM (and the other players) the power to twist the game in interesting ways that stay true to the world and the characters.  The nearly always eliminate the need for Deus Ex Machina and the weave the characters into the fiction like nothing else.   I say it all the time, but I love compels.

What rocked

I don’t have enough fingers and toes.

What could have improved

I should have done a bit more rules explanation (I jumped in pretty quickly).

We got in a time crunch at the end that forced two encounters into one. It ended up working out a lot like the books (a ton of things happening all at once) but I felt a little on the edge as I was trying to keep three different conflicts all running at the same time.


  1. That’s so cool!*

    *cries a little tear, because he was out of town at the time.

    • Thanks man, yeah it was a ton of fun to run. I’ll be doing more Dresden at Dead of Winter. Might you be attending?

      • I don’t know yet. It really depends on how much job I have at the time. Less job means less opportunities for play that costs money. Here’s hoping. 🙂

  2. When I first saw the Alvares character I thought you had two cops, married to each other, with the same trouble “Married to the Job.” I thought that was pure gold for character tension.

    • Now how awesome would that have been? *scribble* *scribble* *scribble* Making notes for next game *scribble* *scribble* *scribble*

  3. Anonymous

    Hey Sean,
    I was fortunate to get into this game, it was a lot of fun.

    I think that everyone grasped the rules fairly quickly, I don’t think there was too much problem there. But we were crunched for time over all.

    On the subject of compels, that was the most challenging thing about this game (as a player). Because everyone was interested (and rewarded) to do their own thing, it was difficult to build cohesive consensus. It wasn’t that we were against each other, we were just (mostly) independent characters thrown in the same precinct. It is definitely a storytelling mechanic.


    • Geoff, very glad you liked the game. You did a great job as Takabe.

      One of my goals was that despite the crazy shit going on in the game, the conflicts would fundamentally be between the characters (Marcone included). I watched a bunch of cop dramas before this and took away from them that the case was really only there to highlight and put tension on their personal issues. So, I tried to go for cops that worked together but would have lots of points of friction (hopefully meaningful friction like “that SOB killed Walters, I’m going to kill him” rather than petty squabbling).

      Did you feel like this conflict between the cops was too much though and made if difficult or unfun to move forward in the story?

      • Anonymous

        The game wasn’t unfun.

        I felt like the ‘conflict’ between the characters (including Marcone) was The Story. Since there were 6 players, there were a lot of individual spotlights/pulls to focus on in such a short time. It would have been interesting to play out the final scene in more detail, but I think that you accomplished your goal of creating friction between the characters.

        I meant the challenge comment in my previous post to be neutral (in a positive way), in the sense that some typical sessions are GM vs the teamwork of the Players. And that this game wasn’t PVP, but more Tragedy of the Commons.

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