Actual Play – Ding Dong, the Wise-ass Wizard is Dead (10/15/2010)

GM: Shaun Hayworth
Players: Kevan, Joe, Kristin and Sean
System: Dresden Files
Setting: Atlantic City

If I wasn’t so hung up on catchy sounding titles this would actually be Ding Dong the Wise and Wise-ass Wizards are dead; but that just doesn’t have the right ring to it.

I’m going to need a belt pretty soon to keep track of all my characters that die in killer fashion.

Ahem, to the story…

We picked off from last time at a tree, a giant tree, planted from the seed of Yggdrasil, having just broken the ward around it and really pissing off the wizard inside who was trying to finish off this giant ritual to contain the world serpent, keeping it chained in the Nevernever.
We were trying to get him to stop, but negotiations being done at gunpoint never go well.

The game was a single combat so I don’t want to go through things combat round by combat round. Instead, here’s the highlights of each character.

Jameson – VERY ironically, Jameson was the hero of this debacle. He saved the girl, got her to safety and killed the Wizard. This involved running very fast, dodging spells and then coming back guns blazing. His actions were the least impaired by the other character or the wizard.

Gabe – Gabe was the punching bag who took many blows for “team good guys”. Not only was the Wizard throwing his mojo at him, but Ithilandalar, ruled by a fey mindset was adamant that the ritual must be continued, so he was also trying to stop Gabe at every step. Magical thorns, gusts of air, lighting, and several gouts of fire late, Gabe still stayed in the fight (albeit with a dislocated and then broken arm) and helped Saul keep his sanity.

Ithilandalar – The biggest contention in our little party was a changeling who was pretty sure that interrupting this spell was going to bring about Ragnarok. He started with words, worked up to vines and finished off with fire, all in attempts to keep the ritual from being interrupted. He also offered up his own soul to take the place of the little girl, but it seemed uncertain if he actually had a soul to offer up. One of the most clever things he did though was to make it really clear to Saul (read compel) that the ritual must continue, getting the thaumaturgist on his side.

Saul – I’m going to have more to say here, because Saul’s my character, so I’ve got more insight (and frankly probably interest as well) here. Saul started off with a compel to keep the ritual going (thus siding with Ithilandalar) but later was compelled to stop someone from breaking the first law (thus turning against Ithilandalar). That was some tricky business to play out. Saul’s actions, like everyone else’s, got more and more extreme as fight continued. It started with trying to reason with Mr. Spear Wizard, demanding that there had to be another way to fuel the spell, but that old bastard wasn’t having any of it. So it was up to Saul to find a way, despite knowing it was a HORRIBLE idea, Saul opened his third eye to look at the ritual being cast. Yep, he witnessed the atrocity of thousands of years of sacrifice, the immensity of the World tree with branched extending into the Nevernever and roots penetrating into the Outside. He saw the bloody handprints of the thousands of children sacrificed here, transposed onto the skin of the might tree. And he saw the immense chains wrapped around the tree, chained to the tail of the World Serpent. A Dragon; Death Incarnate. He was knee deep in the blood of innocents and immediately started losing his mind, but he “understood the sacrifice”. Initially hoping to change the ritual, find another energy source (like maybe a nuke off 3 mile island), or find another loophole, it quickly became clear that even if possible he had nowhere near enough time.

So Saul reached out across the Nevernever for his nana, the purest soul he knew, with hopes to convince here (or that Game who spoke with ghosts could convince her) to make this sacrifice for the girl. But even that wouldn’t be fast enough. Gabe took out the wizard, the spell failed and it started to fall apart. The sight still open , he saw the chain snapping and decided the old wizard was right, blood was needed, innocent human life. And Saul was the closest thing on hand, so he picked up the spear and told his nana, he’d be visiting her soon, just like a good Jewish boy.

After the spell was completed there was some pretty angry fallout between everyone. Jameson took the bodies (the wizard to Polly as promised and Saul to his mother), Gabe stalked off in anger and Ithilandalar returned to the Nevernever.

What rocked

Dude, I chained the World Serpent. I stopped the END. That was awesome. My character died doing something really meaningful and will be remembered. Loved, cursed, or berated; he’ll be remembered. He’s not really gone either, I mean not really. His bloody hands have been added to the host of thousands holding that chain in place. He’s dead, I mean really dead, but he’s not gone.

We saw some pretty serious magic mojo in there. Fate chips, maneuvers, free tags, and consequences were flying around like popcorn. It was an intense fight.

Saul opened his eye to one of those power-of-plot spells. Shaun called it an Epic intensity, though I thought that was generous… that was until he kept tagging Saul’s consequences to beat his disciple rolls, mashing his brain up like stew and keeping him from closing the sight. It was awesome to see all this going down from its metaphorical capital “t” Truth.

The compels in this game were rough, and rough in a scraping the skin on your knee and seeing gravel stuck in there that that you’re going to have to pick out with tweezers while it stings like crazy and then you pour isophrophil alcohol on to prevent it from getting infected but also to ensure that it burns you to the bone. I like em!

Shaun’s imagery was great. It’s a tough thing to tell a GM “tell me what this looks like through the Sight” when there is that much going on, but Shaun did a fantastic job. For whatever reason the image of wading knee deep in the blood of sacrifices hit home the hardest for me. Excellent.

Jameson saved the girl. Jameson! Probably the most callous of us all. I mean Ith wanted to let her die, but for a very thought out reason (like, you know, saving the world). Jameson was just in it for the money. But sometimes the greedy bastards are ALSO doing the right thing. That was pretty awesome.

Gabe made a character that was meant to be a martyr type, the kind that can and will take a bullet for another. In this case, magic was ripping through his supernatural defenses but he still kept coming. He was NOT going to let that little girl die.

What could have improved

There’s issues on a couple different levels.

At the highest, our characters acted as extreme as they did because we didn’t know the consequences of the ritual being broke. We didn’t know whether this was really apocalyptic or not. It sure seemed like it was and had all the Ragnarok associated imagery, but Shaun revealed at the end that, if released the Serpent would have possessed the little girl and become an insidious and horrible enemy. I think that is something we (as players) could have handled, and probably would have played our characters a little less to-the-hilt.

Where do I stand on this one? Part of me says a player can’t be invested in the game if they don’t feel that the GM is being forthright about the world and the goings on in it. I’m a fan of Vincent Baker’s push for GM being honest, even generous with information. Because frankly the GM is the only access the players have to the world. What the GM doesn’t say, doesn’t exit. From that perspective, I think we should have known that was on the line.

But… what would that have done to the tension in the game? Had we known the outcome was that acceptable (exciting even) would we have tried as hard? Would we have tried to continue the ritual at all? Would Ith’s claims that the ritual must continue just be hollow fey legalese?

And from the player’s perspective, I think we should have trusted more that the GM isn’t going to end the world because of a mistake (if it can even be called that) we made, especially when put in such a difficult position to start with. Should we have just had more faith in doing the right thing and save the girl, consequences be damned? Besides the fun story conflict of our characters divided over this, as players were we just being to risk averse? Why didn’t we just “dare to be stupid”?

I really don’t know.  Shaun, I think you used a secret.

On another level, the player social contract level, some trust was breached there as well. The actions the characters took were upsetting and at the end of the day both parties felt under served by their agency in the game. This caused us to re-evaluate what actions/behaviors are going to work in our group and how we can prevent breaches from this in the future. All good exercises, but lessons learned the hard way.

Finally as a player I have two regrets. First, Saul never got a chance to rip a tree (just a tree I’m talking about, not the “Tree”) out of the ground by and drop it on someone. That would have been some uber strained kinetomancy there. Second, I could have given Ith the change to take the bullet “Hey Barry. You really want to prove you’ve got a soul? Here’s your chance” and tossed him the spear. Urgency, both in the fiction and in the moment prevented that kind of outside-the-box thinking, but I’m pretty sure Joe would have been up for it. Not that I particularly wanted to save Saul, but it would have been a chance for Ith to prove his humanity AND his dedication to the fey all in one act.

Actual Play – Introducing Gabe and Barry (10/1/2010)

GM: Shaun Hayworth
Players: Kevan, Joe, Gabe and Sean
System: Dresden Files
Setting: Atlantic City

Here’s the sitch. We’ve got two new players and here are their characters, Gabriel Underhill and Baron Ithilandalar of White Haven (aka Barry).

Gabriel Underhill (Kevan) is the son of Kalfu by birth, but adopted by Osiris and now his scion in the mortal realm. Gabe has all kinds of soft spots to poke at, which make (and made for) some great compels. First off, his heritage… bad news there. Kalfu is the dark loa of the Crossroads (the evil brother to Legba). In this world he’s the pimp, the crack dealer, the scary guy on the street. He’s temptation and all the wrong paths. And his blood courses through Gabe’s veins. He’s also got a soft spot for kids, which is delicious because the adventure we’re on is all about child kidnapping. Finally, he’s got police connections which are good at getting him in the door but they are also good and hanging him up with little details like something being “legal”.

Baron Ithilandalar of White Haven
(Joe) came to us by way of Saul’s accident. He’s here, either on the Summer Lady’s agenda or on his own, we’re still not sure, but he’s a Baron of the Fey and is helping us find children, so he’s good people, er thing, in Saul’s book. Saul doesn’t know that he’s human yet, which could cause some fun should he realize that the divide between fey and man can be indecipherable. He had the horrible misfortune of being introduced to the group by Saul, which is how he ended with the moniker Barry. I know, channeling a little Harry there, but it wasn’t as an insult, it was just Saul’s way of trying to make him fit in… despite being wreathed in living flame.

Our Adventure

The adventure was fun, and a bit chaotic and a bit not what Shaun expected, I think. Though he rolled with it really well. Power went out all across Atlantic City. Something big, really BIG happened… and it wasn’t SAUL! We should have looked into it, followed up on the police chatter, looked at a power plant, etc…. but what did we do? We stole some motorcycles and rode south into the forrest, to find a wizard completing a ritual at the seed of the World Tree… 9 children sacrificed over nine days to keep this unknown horror at bay.

During all that fun, we had three cool fights.

1. Polly’s mooks came to inform Saul that he wasn’t’ working fast enough. Luckily, nobody in my little posse likes mooks, so they ended up getting chased off. Of course the way Barry chases people off is by running them through with a sword. But that’s something we’ll work through another time… like when he’s not holding a flaming sword!

2. Afterward Gabe was torn between following up on police leads (regarding the power outage) and heading right to where a child might be held captive. Torn because I responded to Shaun compelling his “Paranormal Profiler” aspect and I followed by compelling his “Overprotective Big Brother” aspect. Good times. So Saul, representing his sympathy for the child and Gabe fought it out with a brief social conflict. Gabe gave easy and earned himself a swell stash of fate chips (3 total due to two compels and taking a minor consequence).

3. In the forest, before finding “ye old wizard” we found “ye old toad monster” protecting him. It was a demon, it spit acid…. We totaled him!

What rocked

The character dynamics are fun. I had a good time banging on Gabe’s aspects and I’m sure next session we’ll see even more of this.

The tension and points of disagreement were great as well. Baron Ithilandalar was all about preserving the supernatural status quo and if that cost nice children’s live so be it. He was unanimously outvoted however by the rest of the crew who were not down with this shin dig at all.

The fights were tough and interesting… when to bring out the big guns is always a tough question for the supernatural. I am glad that Saul can handle his own in a shouting match, because it means he doesn’t need magic to get his way… which leads to…

What could have improved

I was really disappointed at my own instant leap to set the damage dial to Nuke! For a couple reasons. One, it was obvious in my mind, that I wanted to make sure that the Fey’s magic didn’t eclipse mine. He’s got inhuman beauty, speed, toughness, glamours and command over the fey… All Saul’s got is his magic… that had better be worth something. So when I saw Barry throwing fire around, I had a knee jerk reaction of “oh yeah… look what I can do”…. Which, is pretty lame. Also, it felt a bit like we were bringing a shotgun to a baseball bat fight (a previous scene aspect) in that even though the tough was tough as hell, we wiped it out pretty fast with stress 6 and 7 magical attacks.

Also I duplicated the same effect as one I’ve used before (a knife of kinetic energy), which is pretty unoriginal. Thankfully, I’ve got a REALLY good idea for how to swing my kinetomacy around next game.

There were some balance issues that I wasn’t keen on, but I’m going to work on those offline.

Actual Play – The Hanged Man (8/27/2010)

GM: Shaun Hayworth
Players: Travis, Sean and Kristin
System: Dresden Files

Saul’s aspects: Shooting the Moon -> Kaufman blood has power.

Prelude

Having “defeated” Mercutio in the last story (we should name that story by the way) our heroes took a well-deserved break to heal up and learn some new tricks.

Sven was doing work with Monoc and as reward for his services was granted “Thor’s Winged Boots”; giant boots of plate and chain with enormous metal wings shooting out behind them. I’m pretty sure even these aren’t as obvious.

Saul spent time with Warden Harris learning how to cast magic on the fly, starting with a few shields and master over the power that was most familiar to Saul, invisible energy.

Trying to build Saul into a Wizard slowly, I took channeling instead of evocation and picked kinetomancy as his field, which is a narrow focus of spirit magic that allows Saul to wield kinetic forces such as, I don’t know, a shearing blade of energy that cuts through the metal pylons of a bridge so they will collapse and impale a troll below. He also worked on some instruments of power. His new age crystals and mirrors and stones are great for thaumaturgy, but he needs something to help him focus and control this new powers, so amongst his training, Saul also found an ancient pocket-size astrolabe and restored it to working order.

Jameson was sitting pretty, established as the new head of Caesar’s Palace, having taken his sister Isabella’s place. As his mundane power grew, so did his control over the emotions of others. He can now incite greed with but a glance. Oh yeah, that’s definitely a good thing… I’m scared.

Action… adventure.

Kids have been snapped up off the street, kid-napped no less! This happens in Jersey, it’s sad but it happens. Of late though, it’s happened with unusual frequency, enough so that some noticed something was wrong… especially when the first body was found.

We all had some hooks leading us into the story, Shaun is good about making sure we all start with a compel, which is something I love. Sven was told by Monoc to investigate as the body found was “unusual”. Saul was asked by Polly to look after her cousin (he was the kid that was found). Jameson had some whales in the casino that lost their daughter and wanted him to look after them personally.

This culminated in a few individual scenes…

Sven at the crime scene talking to the police and finding out how the boy was found (and confirming that he was dead).

Saul passing for a “cashew” priest to come and give Anthony Copolla his last rights.

Jameson finding information from the Allens about their daughter, tracking down Saul by way of first his mother, then Polly and finally to the medical examiner’s office in the police precinct.

Speaking with the dead.

We walked into the morgue where the autopsy was being peformed and with no pretense at all, Jameson whipped out a wad of cash, incited the medical examiner’s greed and offered it to her if she left for 15 minutes… only 15 minutes was about a quarter of the time Saul needed to summon his ancestors and ask what happened to the boy.

The results of course was hilarity. Saul nearly killed himself trying to rush the summons, Jameson tried to put the moves on the ME but she lost it all together when she tried to open the door to her office and found not only was it barred by there were three ghosts hovering over the body of the dead boy. Sven had to “calm” her down with a choke hold, then Jameson took back the money he had bribed her with. Sometimes we do the most horrible things to help people.

Meanwhile, sweating bullets from trying to summon up all this energy in a hurry, Saul begged his aunts and uncles to stop harassing him about never calling, or about how he looked during his bar mitzvah, and tell him about the boy. Suddenly the mood was grave (get it), and the warned Saul not to interfere, the poor boy had been hung up on a great tree by one leg and killed. Powerful forces working here, evil forces. Made me think about something like this:

Ar possibly the World Tree Yggdrasil that Odin was hung on for 9 days, pierced by his own spear:

Either way… bad news

Feeding frenzy.

I don’t remember Jameson using that many powers, but his hungry finally struck him. The next scene (at Caesar’s) Saul found out that Jameson had a connection to one of the victims who status was unknown and had access to her personal belongings, meaning all that miserable summoning was unnecessary. With the help of Sven’s boots he caught Jameson and tried (unsuccessfully) to deck him. Normally this would have just been funny, but Jameson was hankering for some wanton greed in a bad way and needed to harvest. Barely holding it together enough to calm Saul down, he excused himself an found the first gambler to suck into a get rich or die trying scheme (hint: there wasn’t actually a get rich option).

Two leads

From here we got two leads. Jameson introduced us to the Anders, where Saul “the local connection” reassured them that another powerful family in town had also lost one of their children and he would muster their resources to help as well… meanwhile he took some of the missing girl’s hair from a brush.

At the same time, Jameson received a typed note. To find the girl, meet at midnight on the bridge out of town.

Well, the bridge meeting was a bit more time sensitive, and of course, there is never danger meeting someone on a bridge in the middle of the night… unless that someone is a

TROLL!

Yep, 15’ of bridge owning troll swept out of the fog and nearly killed all of us with his giant cleaver! Sven shot it in the face… a lot. Jameson did the same. Saul spent a while antagonizing it (read: creating maneuvers for the other’s to play off of) before nearly getting chopped in half with a cleaver (thank you Harris for making me practice the hell out of my shields), when he decided to whip out the big guns and use a blade of kinetic energy to slice through a pylon and send it spearing through the troll. Saul finished it off though, unloading round after round until it exploded into thousands of tiny fist size versions of itself.

What rocked

The tension of trying to cast that spell on time was really fun.

I was worried this storyline might freak me out some (violence against children is a pill that’s pretty hard for me to swallow) but ironically the child already being dead at the start (as opposed to dying because we failed in some way) make it much easier to stomach.

TROLL! Nothing beats troll, cept maybe rock. Troll was awesome. Especially “This is MY Bridge” as an aspect.

The scene were Jameson visited Dukes and saw all the made men on the east coast assembled really gave a lot of weight to the setting. I suddenly had this feeling like “yeah, this shit is real!” Not sure how to describe it but I really like it.

Saul Kaufmanni, the Catholic priest for the win!

The imagery for this case has been pretty cool so far.

What could have improved

NEED TO READ THE MAGIC SYSTEM. NEED TO DO IT. I keep thinking, and maybe this is laziness or ego, that because I play-tested the game, I should know how it works. Which works most of the time, but not with magic which a) has been re-worked since I play-tested it and b) is one of the more complex parts of the game. Not sure why I haven’t done this already.

The start of the game, like the start of many stories was a little slow. It was a matter of wrapping up the “what have you been doing” bits and introducing the “what is going on” bits.

Actual Play – Mankiller Island Doesn’t Take Prisoners (8/13/2010)

GM: Shaun Hayworth
Players: Kristin, Sean and Fattig
System: Dresden Files

Happy Friday 13th Yo! We didn’t have a haunted game at all! No creepy stuff here. Sept maybe the warlock that was summoning outsiders… and being trapped in a storm drain with three hungry (as if they are ever not) ghouls. It was a cake walk.

Here’s the deal, we swam some, froze some, and eventually found a way into this light house by falling down a dune and landing on a storm pipe that led in. There was much nudity on the part of our were-spider and this discussion of junk.

Once inside, after much banter, we got attacked by Ghouls. It was a rough fight, the kind I really like. They were great (+4) at everything physical (fist and athletics) as well as pumped up with inhuman speed, inhuman strength and claws making even a graze from them very dangerous. Fights like those are full of maneuvers, blowing through fate chips, near misses, and nasty consequences, which I love. Some things I thought worked particularly well for my character, who is good at Craftsmanship (+3) but only Average (+1) with fists was to start making declarations (in this case, that ever storm drain needs a turbine to funnel the water out) and the tag those aspects for effect (to turn on the turbine and trip said Ghoul into it).

After that we found Mercutio downstairs with his three bound hags. So we found one of the sorcerers in Atlantic City, who was powerful enough to bind three Hecatean Hags to his service. Holy crap! We bantered a bit until I just couldn’t resist making a social attack on him (threatening him with the White Council’s wrath) and then things went down, in a bad way.

Luckily we were below water level next to the ocean, and had a combustible generator in the room… This led to explosions, the basement being flooded, and magic not working so hot. For my part, I dished out two nasty blows, one social attack that gave Mercutio the severe consequence “hunted by the white council” and another mental attack to break his circle and his control over the hags. For all that though, we got served up as bad as we dished out. Saul took a severe consequence “Murcutio’s black blood” which now runs through his veins as a result of a powerful force attack he ate and Donnie took a severe as well: Punctured Lung. Bad stuff. Great fight.

What rocked

I love, love, love Shaun’s format he’s had in the last three games. Let em mess around then slam them with something. Let the attack from last session be a lead for their investigation next session. This way we literally do push forward by getting messed up. It’s SO DRESDEN!

The fights have been brutal. We’ve been way outmatched and taken some nasty consequences because of it. I like it. I like folks wielding Weapon 4 attacks. It means that even a graze is going to put you in consequence area.

Jameson’s feeding has become more prevalent as well, because of all the crap we’re going through, he’s had to draw on his supernatural nature a lot, which has drained him… a lot! I’ve been digging the hunger rolls.

Our enemies are scary within the fiction and the mechanics have backed that up. Sometimes things don’t mesh that well (perception of danger doesn’t equate to mechanical danger), and Dresden has done a great job of matching danger in the books to danger in the game.

Having characters without great physical skills has not totally handicapped us (but see below as well). It’s just meant we proceed down other avenues.

Mercutio got an aspect in the game. Mortimer’s mentor. Mortimer was Saul’s uncle who was killed by a warden. Things just got very, very personal for Saul.

Getting compelled by the aspect “Dante’s Inferno wasn’t the Half of it” to accidentally soul gaze a Warlock and see who he really was… WAS AWESOME!

What could have been improved

I said above that I liked how the non-physical characters were still dangerous. It’s true, but I also feel like there are fights (and or creatures) where social attacks shouldn’t work. I’m thinking of a fight in the books where there is some plant monster that just trashes the hell out of Harry and Murphy. It’s utterly unintelligible and is on a path of destruction. No amount of intimidation would work on this thing. That’s kind of how I was feeling about the Ghouls. Of the three of them we defeated two by cowing them with social attacks. It just seemed like too much of a stretch. “Okay Ghouls… I know were stuck in this storm drain right now in the middle of nowhere… but if you mess with me, House Anders is going to know and they’re going to rip your ugly heads off and use them as lawn ornaments.” Maybe? I mean, Ghouls aren’t especially dumb. Maybe it would work, but it just seems far-fetched. And yet, for two of us, social attacks were the only chance we had. Something, like using our opponent’s maneuvers against them, just feels wrong about it. Maybe I’m overreacting and maybe I’m just too much of a character masochist.

Actual Play – You Can’t Afford This Mess Mr. Anders (8/6/2010)

GM: Shaun Hayworth
Players: Sean, Kristin and Fattig
System: Dresden Files

To set the mood, the evening’s tweets:

Gearing up in #DFRPG. @SeanNittner is blackmailing my vampire father. Friday, August 06, 2010 8:56:04 PM via UberTwitter

@_TheRussian That blackmail was fun… heck, I probably didn’t ask more than for an Average resources roll… and I know your dad is loaded.

@SeanNittner it wasn’t that I minded. It was hilarious. And the amount was kind of ridiculous. 😉 Saturday, August 07, 2010 7:55:07 AM via UberTwitter in reply to SeanNittner

Being an emotional vampire is fun. Just fed off a few people while playing cards. (I feed on greed and run a casino) #DFRPG Friday, August 06, 2010 9:32:11 PM via UberTwitter

The hook

Who were those masked hags? And what did they want at the Ander’s house? Questions we all wanted to know the answers to and questions Mr. Anders would pay Saul $2,850 to find out (the price of Jameson’s suit that he had ruined).

So we did a big of investigation, contacting and thaumaturgy to find out they had come through a security checkpoint at an airport but hadn’t apparently use their names (or possibly their bodies) on the plane trip over. Asking around turned out that they didn’t know many people and nobody (except perhaps Isabella, who was in hiding) knew why they were on the guest list. A bit of the remaining ectoplasm was fuel enough for a tracking spell that took us all the way to the ocean and kept pointing seaward.

Jameson rounded up a crusty old sea captain named bob who agreed, for an exorbitant price, to take us out trolling in the middle of the night.

We got a ways out when the engine died and Captain Bob (who’s hat had all the letters but “apt” faded out) declared this was the idea night fishing spot.

And then the storm came in.

Invoking the City’s aspect “unnatural disaster” Shaun through a great storm at us… and I mean a +4 kick us in the butts’ GREAT storm. We made all kinds of moves to escape it: fixing the engine, calling the coast guard, rescuing captain bob (who had gone overboard), pointing the boat out of the storm, and detecting its supernatural origins. For its part the storm mostly drenched, drowned and flooded us.

We got out on a lifeboat, with captain Bob being lifted into a coast guard helicopter just before the winch got hexed and couldn’t pull the rest of us up. We instead were left on Mankiller island with a promise that they would send a boat out to get us in the morning. Go Go Coast Guard.

What rocked

Again, Shaun nailed the pacing of the game. Let the PCs move towards their goals and then slam them with something (in this case, a wave) that sets them off track but gives them more leads to follow.

Fighting the storm was tons of fun, it thrashed us around (taking out Donnie) and we scraped by. It also meant we got to use some fun skills in conflicts: Craftsmanship, Athletics, Contacting, etc, that might not be usable for “attacks” in a fight against something we could kill.

I loved blackmailing Mr. Anders, that was just fun.

What could have improved

I’m always a little frustrated in games with magic that magic tends to trump everything else when it comes to information gathering. I was using my +4 Lore, Jameson was using his +4 Investigation and Donnie was using his +4 Scholarship all to get information on the Hags. While both Jameson and Donnie found information (they were flown in, nobody knows them, etc), it was my thaumaturgy that found them (or at least pointed us in the direction of finding them). I don’t think it’s bad for magic to do awesome things but I’m leery of it creating a precedent that it is a) the easy solution and b) will trump all other mundane abilities as that makes a wizard outshine other characters and takes the fun flavor of mundane investigations out of the game. I don’t think we did anything wrong but I want to make sure that everyone else’s skills shine as well.

Creating aspects and having them used against you. Arg… I’ve really got to get off my butt and look this up but it seems wrong that someone can create an aspect for their benefit and then have their opponent free tag it for their own. It means in a one on one fight you would never create an aspect because your enemy would just use it against you. In this case our boat got the aspect “swamped” (or maybe “flooded”, can’t remember) as a result of a maneuver from the storm, and one of the PCs free tagged it to help out on another move. Our opponent’s successes should not be to our benefit (mechanically speaking at least). I need to look this up and see if there is actually a rule pertaining to it.

Actual Play – Party at the Anders (7/30/2010)

GM: Shaun Hayworth
Payers: Kristin, Fattig, and Travis
System: Dresden Files

House Anders (the White Court vampires who focus on greed) was hosting a charity gambling event at the Anders mansion on the outskirts of Atlantic City.

Of course we made a show of things…

First, before things went to hell

Donney got the trait “I’ve got all the chips at this table”. Handily using his superior mind to count cards and clean house.

Sven got busy with one of the three beautiful Greek women in attendance. First by insulting the mafia mook hitting on her and then by telling her tales of adventure.

Saul got busy with some Thaumaturgy, a spell that took all night to cast but aligned entropy and order in his favor, giving Isabella (Jameson’s sister that just fired him) an amazing hand but giving Saul a Royal Straight Flush in her FACE! It was a ton of fun to drive her crazy.

Jameson kept chips from flying. Finding out who was who and what was what?

And what was what? That’s when things went to hell.

Of the three beautiful Greek women one was in the Champagne room making out with Sven, one had disappeared with rabbi Feldstein and one was upstairs rifling through the House Anders rooms….
All were Hecetean hags that tor things up! PCs are inclusive in the set of [things].

What rocked

The was the first of three sessions with this formula. Let the PCs do their stuff, make some progress and have some fun on their terms. Then drop a bomb on them. A vicious, snarling, savage, tough as all hell bomb. With sharp pointy teeth! It’s a really good formula and it matches with the Dresden stories really well. Keep it up dude.

Sven finally got tore up and got to outlast most all of us at the end.

Jameson was all about keeping things cool while shit hit the fan.

Donnie was hilarious, as always. And he was almost hag bait!

For Saul I had many moments of awesome. Beating Isabella and making her look the fool in front of her father was awesome. I got Jameson back his job… in fact I got him HER job.

When the Hags were running around I blew up a generator and called it “fireworks” to distract people and keep them out of the Hag’s swath of destruction.

I turned on the sight for the first tie and the image of the Hags kicked the ever-loving crap out of me. I got a consequence of gibbering madness and couldn’t stop talking about the new born child and angels. I took the aspect “Dante’s Inferno wasn’t the HALF of it!” after that bit.

Two of us got taken out and all but Sven got seriously beat up!

What could have improved

I couldn’t think of good names for a consequence. Gibbering madness is great, but second degree burns (the hags were burning us after all) wasn’t very interesting.

I really need to read up more on Thaumaturgy so I’m not constantly looking it up or asking Shaun for answers on stuff.

Actual Play – Lighting Makes Things Go Boom! (7/9/2010)

GM: Shaun Hayworth
Players: Kristin, Fattig, Travis and Sean
System: Dresden Files

The game started with a bang! A big one. Saul’s spell when off and electricity started coursing through the entire steel pipe… blowing everything to hell.

Outside both Sven and Donnie ended up doing a lot of swimming to get back to show after being blow off their respective perches. The vampires disappeared. Chaos ensued on the grounds and Saul shot himself out of a human canon to escape the soon to be burning down and/or exploding circus tent.

The rest of the night was a muddled mess. Sven handcuffed Saul so as to keep him from getting away again. Saul infuriated Jameson into punching him across the room, taking Sven with him. A warden showed up, who Saul assumed was there to take off his head, but instead wanted us to track down the warlock in town. Which we did through some investigation and asking around. We ended delivering him up to the Warden who made his 163rd kill.

What rocked

The Warden and Saul had a soulgaze. Saul’s first ever and a terrifying experience for him. He saw this lion of a man standing over the graves of all the men and women he had killed, remember each of them. Saul appeared a goldsmith, weaving infinitesimally thin strands of gold, each of which animated and trying to unweave itself and unmake him.

We got some good old character on character violence, an important factor in keeping tensions interesting. It even turned into some emotional feeding. Nothing like inner party cannibalism!

Fighting the sorcerer was good stuff. I was glad we were able to each do some cool things. I got to unweave his ward with Thaumaturgy, others got to do some kicking butt.

What could have been improved

Once again, I’ve made a character than several of the other characters disregard as immature or naïve. Sven walks him around in handcuffs and Jameson laughs about the fact that Saul doesn’t know that White Court vampires kill people. But those are minor things, quirks. What’s tough is that Saul’s ideas are just disregarded. So, I’ll work on this, try to gain back the confidence and respect of the other characters. Saul was very good following orders from Sven (even though he repeatedly made offers to Monoc to kill Saul if the need ever arose) and staying handcuffed to him. I doubt he’s made much of an impression on Jameson, but I’ll keep working on that.

I miss beliefs. Without them I’m not sure what my character is about, and that sometime leads to crazy “what if” type actions. So far I’ve tried to take a new aspect as often as I can, reflecting Saul changing by the events, which is cool, but I might just have to engineer an aspect into a belief of sorts. Something to give Saul some direction.

Actual Play – This Ends Now (6/25/2010)

GM: Shaun Hayworth
Players: Sean, Travis, Fattig and Kristin
System: Dresden Files

The red court vampire Hernandez has put a hit on Saul Kaufman. Can his friend’s keep him alive when it turns out Hernandez is a guest of Maltheus, the Black Court monster with a hereditary hunger for Kaufman blood?

Yep, that’s the adventure in a pulp novel. Highlights included Sauls mom being the most disappointed Jewish mother on the planet. Sven trying so hard to protect Saul and constantly having his mark disappear. Jameson backing Saul’s plan of telling vampires “how it’s gonna be!” because he had pulled it off with Jameson’s sister Isabella.

Who is the Master of Bater Field? (yeah, that was gratuitous). It looks like Donnie. He messed up a sorcerer and his red court buddies. Wait… Sven hit one with a car. Two points there. And Jameson got all silver eyed and hungry tearing them up. Hard to say. I had fun using a sock with a rear view mirror stuffed inside as a bludgeon.

Final Scene – inside the Metal Clown pavilion that is home of the Black Court and his Red Court guests just as the ground suddenly polarizes and a flash of lightning strikes the metal coffin we’re all occupying. And mom said Thaumatury was never good for anything!

What rocked

I enjoyed getting to pull off a pretty big spell, that was fun.

Having everyone eventually agree to a stupid, stupid plan is always great.

Driving Sven crazy by being impossible to protect.

Finding out Gard is Sven’s handler… and then having him deputize Donnie with a high power rifle.

I’m seriously going to drop a giant lightning bolt onto a Ferris Wheel… that should be epic.

What could have improved

I’ve got to read the magic system over again… I keep doing it just as I try to cast a spell and it’s slowing the game down.

I realize I don’t have a good sense of what geomancy should do. My whole idea of aligning energies sounds great on paper when we’re talking about doing feng shui but it’s been hard to apply what I think are reasonable applications in game. Any suggestions on this front would be appreciated.

Actual Play – Polly Wanna Cracker (6/18/2010)

GM: Shaun Hayworth
Players: Sean, Travis, Fattig, Kristin and Rich
System: Dresden Files

We added Rich, in the form of our sold out warden to our motley bunch. It’s an interesting juxtaposition for me having another spellcaster in the group in that I believe it’ll cause Saul’s role to become more defined by who he is than by his power (as the warden is a more capable caster) or his connections (as the warden is also works for the mob). I think Luca (Rich’s character) will be a warning for Saul of what he could become if he doesn’t get out.

So yeah… the story. It was very Compelling!

Actual Play – Of Course it’s Your Last Job Saul (6/11/2010)

GM: Shaun Hayworth
Players: Travis, Sean, Fattig and Kristin
System: Dresden Files

I’m not sure if I can capture of the cool of this game, but I’ll try. I spent a car ride down to San Jose (about an hour and a half) talking about it with Steve and I thought that would get my mind ready to write the AP, but it seems that the frantic energy I had about the game has faded just leaving a nostalgic afterglow. The game rocked.

Fattig ran a little late for the game but that turns out to be cool. Kristin jumped in and took one of our “Face” NPCs and made it into her character. Anders, the White Court Pit Boss made flesh. Travis and I had her star in our books, forge a few connections and voom… we were ready to play.

As we were doing this Shaun casually turns to the group and says “I need a magoffin”. I wasn’t sure what it was for so I just spouted out “A Hollow earth threatening to collapse in on itself.” He looked at me a little strange and then I offered one less epic “An idol of power, taken from the vampires”. He nodded and went back to some notes while we continued integrating Anders with our charactes.

Fattig shows up and we got the party started.

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