Actual Play – This is MY Case (3/14/2011)

GM: Sean Nittner
Players: Fattig, Steve and Chris
System: Dresden Files

We played on Pi day, yay! And I even got a pie for us to eat, but then forgot it in the kitchen. Ah well, pie is still good on Pi-rounded-up-to-the-nearest-hundredth day.

I was a little dubious about this game, only because I was planning it as a big showdown between the killer and the cops, but the one cop that I really wanted there (VC), the red-court infected who’s sire was the killer, couldn’t make it to the game because he was sick. And this, this one event is the reason I am REALLY glad I did no prep for this game. I talked to Alec on the phone and we agreed that after he found his partner’s mutilated body and knew what kind of danger Armand presented to mortals that he was going lone wolf. Stone is dead, Hassad suspended, and VC gone AWOL. This had to mean someone else was going to step in and take over, and who better than Federal Agent Alisha Hayes, aka, Remington’s fling and Sahad’s ex!

Players, being players, didn’t want to open up the scene as the officer in command Rose Itsuaki was debriefing the task force, they wanted to start by making coffee, which you know, worked out better than I could have hoped for.

Scene 1: Remington’s coffee.

After Sinclair finally got it all hooked up, Remington made two cups of espresso for himself and Rose, who was gearing up to speak to a room full of officers who just lost one of their own. Raoul “Railroad” Rodriguez arrives just in time (he’s coming to pick up his watch…again) to see both of them spit out blood (as Sahad had cursed the espresso machine to fill cups with blood when Remington used it). Some hijinks occurred as they all watched (intently) as Sinclair made himself a perfectly regular cup of espresso, and Raoul, who knows only that Monroe is marked by power, assumed that he was practicing some kind of blood magic. This led to a lot of awesome later on.

Mechanics: A couple compels right off the bat (I like starting with easy ones, of course you’ll be in the middle of the action) to get everyone on set and focus on the interest on Stone’s murder. A few simple challenges (for Rauol to sneak his own personal new reporter in, and to notice that there was potentially something beyond a “practical joke” in two cups full of blood with not a bit of it on the machine where they came from.

Scene 2: Rose’s task force.

I gave Fattig an index card recapping all the recent events as a reminder (there had been a lot of craziness going on) as well as to give Rose some information to share with the PCs and cops in the room. She did well, er Fattig did, it was a compelling thingy. There was some confusion (intentionally on my part) of where the LT was, but Rose persevered. Just as she was about to cap, a report from CSI came in. The knife Rose confiscated was identified as the murder weapon of officer Olvido and it had just one set of prints on it: Hachi Itsuaki, Rose’s father. She took it much better than Monroe (who planted the prints on the weapon to frame Hachi on behest of Mab) expected, but just to be on the safe side, he started looking for places to hide from her.

Mechanics: I find I use presence an contacts a lot when dealing with cops. Presence to pull rank, contacts to find a cop that can do a specific job for you. I also throw in a fair bit of empathy to see through people’s ulterior motives (even if they are using Rapport instead of Deceit). We’ve also had a number of cases where scholarship, i.e. presenting the facts takes precidence. What this means is that the body of social skills called on is pretty extensive: Rapport, Empathy, Intimidation, Presence, Deceit, Scholarship, Investigation and Contacts. All things considered, that’s a lot more complex that physical conflicts which usually revolve around one attack/maneuver skill and one defense/maneuver skill. So Rose first had to assert that she was in fact the woman to lead this task force, which was a Presence roll. Later she was trying to raise their spirits and encourage the cops, it was rapport. Finally when she had to pin down the CSI guy that really did not want to blurt our that her dad was suspect #1 in front of 25 cops, she called on intimidation. Monroe and Rose had a contested Stealth vs. Alertness roll for him to hide from her, but it turned out not to be a factor, as Rose stormed out to get moving on the case.

Scene 3: This is MY case.

Here is where things really lit up. The doors from the precinct opened and in walked two figures. A very confidant FBI agent Alisha Hayes and a very irate LT Alvarez. The LT stormed into her office and tossed something against a wall, while Alisha calmly approached Rose and said that since there were officers murders from multiple precincts the FBI would be lending their support to the case. Rose saw right through it, called her out and told her she wasn’t going to take the case away from the SFPD. Just then Remington (who had almost snuck away) turned back with to stand in Rose’s defense and rekindle his relationship with Alisha. Who promptly cuffed him for the forgery of Rauol’s watch. The showdown ended with a victory from Rose (she stayed lead on the case) but Remington being hauled off (to a federal building by Agent Hayes.

Another fun bit of player tension came out. Alisha returned Raoul his watch, and then told him it was a fake, made by Remington. This ended up working out great. Alisha is the only person who reasonably can spot Remington’s forgeries, and spilling the beens in front of Raoul Rodriguez gave her a great reason not to trust Remington as well as creating a divide between the PCs (Remington and Raoul). This was excellent.

Mechanics: This was a full fledged social conflict between Rose, Remington and Alisha, with at least four different goals (take over the case, arrest Remington, win Alisha’s heart and keeping in charge of the case). Since there are no real social “powers” I’ve taken to handling social conflicts differently than physical ones. Each side gets a turn and one representative gets to acts on each turn. In this case it was Rose and Remington vs. Alisha so she took an action that one had to defend against then one of them took an action she had to defend against. It’s basically using the Mouseguard format without volleys, and I think it keeps conversations making more sense. as not everyone is talking on top of each other. We had a whole slew of maneuvers, some vicious attacks, several consequences, and ended with a concession. Good stuff in my book. I also used a compel or two to keep the various parties interested. I didn’t want Remington to miss out on the show down, for instance, so I tagged him with “the girl that got away”. I also compelled Raoul’s “Demons come in many colors” to encourage him to be extra suspicious of Remington (He’s marked by power, perhaps used some blood magic, and now it turns out had forged his watch the whole time and never told him). Good stuff.

Three directions…

From here the scenes split. Alisha and Remington having the conversation in the car, him trying to prove to her that he was a changed man, that she changed him, etc. Her not wanting to buy any of it. Tenacity (and big pile of fate chips he built up form all my compels) won over Alisha and she agreed to give him another chance… once he had completed his sentence!

Meanwhile, with all the commotion Raoul had been generating the press finally broke into the precinct and he and Rose had to “smile for the sham”. After the press finally died, the players split again. Raoul headed into the LT’s office. We had already talked up some of their chemistry before and she was clearly very stressed about the feds coming in. She hated them showing up as much as Rose. Raoul played it very smooth, he sweet talked her for a bit and after a massage and an invitation to dinner laid it on her: “I could help you with this case Margarita, if I had a badge” And with the kind of smile that goes on a million baseball cards he sold her on deputizing him for the case. Completely ridiculous? Probably. But so much fun.

Rose didn’t realize it but she had the exact same intent as Raoul, to get Remington out of custody, only for VERY different reasons. She wanted him to help her find VC, where as Raoul thought he was doing some Dark Magic. Regardless, she was going to get Remington back on her leash. After piling up a mountain of paperwork she went above the LT (she was busy anyway, good that Raoul was distracting her) and talked to the captain. She dumped the paperwork on his desk and bullied him into giving her a warrant to take Remington back into HER custody. Not an inexpensive move in his part, given that he had to trade favors with the feds to make it happen, but worthwhile to find the killer.

Mechanics: Remington and Alisha had another full blown social conflict with pretty high stakes. Essentially either “your a crook” or “I’ll give you anther chance.” Both of them were just walking out of a tough fight as well, each with a moderate consequence (and Alisha had a mild as well). Remington did what any good FATE player would, he bided his time taking stress and consequences doing maneuvers to rekindle some of the old fire and then finally hit her with everything he had, including all four fate chips he had left. Luckily Monroe has LOTS of aspects that help him try to appease women in authority (her majesty’s leash, The girl that got away, plus now a consequence of heartbroken as well as her’s “sympathy for the underdog”). Result: Alisha has a new aspect: Giving Remington a fresh start… once he serves his time! Awesome.

For both Raoul and Rose I didn’t want a full fledged conflict, instead I just said that both the LT and the captain where mountainous obstacles to overcome. The LT because deputizing someone just isn’t something people do, and the captain because it meant calling in favors from the feds, which isn’t cheap. I made both their difficulties Fantastic (+6) but gave each of them a chance to make a preemptive rapport roll because they had both just given the precinct a lot of press. They both rolled really well so they started each of their scenes with the aspect “I look good”. With that, and some good rolls, both got what they wanted. I gave Raoul a very special aspect of “Deputized” and told him that like all created aspects he could invoke it once for free and after that had to spend fate chips to invoke it. The aspect has a very specific effect in that in can be invoked to allow him to do something that normally only a cop could do (like be issued a uniform, sidearm, vehicle, or arrest someone). Raoul immediately double tapped that aspect and got a set of officer’s blues and a .38 derringer (remember, this precinct is broke).

Final Scene: The boys are back in town…

Armed for bear (figuratively and literally), the somewhat disgusted Rose and the very happy with himself Raou drove down to FBI headquarters to pick up Remington. Which of course royally peeved Alisha who said him being released into Rose’s custody did not count as having served his time! Then there was a subtle (okay maybe not subtle) but powerful exchange between Raoul and Remington. The all star baseball player, now acting officer removed Alisha’s cuffs (having been provided the key) and then immediately slammed a new set of cuffs on him! Yes. Then I was surprised. Remington had made an origami flower for Alisha and as he was walking out left it on her desk. Seeing that Raoul tried to hide or destroy it by throwing her cuffs on top of it. Suddenly a surge of cold and terror raced through Raoul’s body, literally freezing the cuffs to him, like a licking a metal pole in winter. He struggled and with some effort and pain was able to drop them to the ground, an exchange unnoticed by anyone else. Oh yeah, it’s one. Demons DO come in many colors!

Mechanics: The only real rolls that came up in this scene was a bit of Unseelie magic. Monroe created a block to prevent Raoul from dropping the cuffs. He didn’t quite make the roll (Raoul does have a Great [+4] Athletics so this was tough but Mab stepped in to help, she such a generous sponsor. That’s TWO free compels she’s got on him!

Fall out.

I had two players change aspects at the end of the game. This makes me REALLY happy. It means that the events that have happened IN game are are becoming a more defining part of the character than the original concept. Yes, the “high” concept of these character is unlikely to change, but the nuances of the, what they care about, those are all changing as they have meaningful interactions in the game. I love it!

What rocked

  • Well, the aspects changed mentioned above was great.
  • All the pressure from one cop being AWOL, another suspected and two dead just created so much internal struggle no actual crime fighting was done at all this game. Perfect!
  • The players were being AWESOME about following each other’s leads and reincorporating. Remington wanted the the blood coffee to be noticed and Raoul did. Raoul wanted to be suspicious of Remington and Remington played up to it. Rose wanted this being her case to be a big deal and everyone scrambled around that. I loved their dynamism and supporting each other.
  • The conflicts were fun and not to slow. I usually find conflicts a bit tiresome and filled with too many inconsequential actions, but every verb jab in these (and sometimes physical jabs) felt meaningful.

What could have improved

I’m a little leery of where to start off next game. I don’t want VC to just show up because I don’t want to invalidate the work they have done to find him but just dropping him on their doorstep, but I also don’t want to leave Alec out of the game. I think what I’ll do is play them in parallel for a bit. We’ll see what VC has been up to for some time and then pan back over to the three Rs (Rose, Raoul and Remington) to see what they are doing. It may be a bit slow, but I think it will work.

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