So last night we actually broke our gaming up a little bit, as dangerous as that sounds.
Before hopping into our Friday Night D&D game, we role played preludes for Changeling: The Lost. As it stands right now this is the only NWoD game I have yet to actually play a session of, so of course I’m looking forward to the chronicle. The woman running it has a very morbid sense of humor and an intense fascination with everything fae; and if the way she handled our preluds last night is any indication of how she is going to run a chronicle, this is going to be a delightful nightmare of madness and modern fantasy and I absolutely can’t wait. Her style is like the narrator of a mischevious fairy tale and it felt utterly “grim” just to hear the events and descriptions that transpired.
After the preludes, we packed up and I set up for our next session of my 4e Nobilis Draconic D&D campaign. Tonight was going to be very different; I had left the game boards aside as well as the books and sat down with only my dice and my laptop with the Masterplan software loaded. I had a treat in store for my players: a night that was almost entirely role-playing focussed.
It was a personal challenge on my end: Stay within the mechanics of the system yet do not hinder player choice or railroad anyone off into any path. As I’ve mentioned before, my players have decided they wanted to stay and invest their resources into the small town that they had saved, which is now being overwhelmed with refugees from a nearby city a couple days travel from after being attacked by dragons.
I had thrown out a few scenarios for them to deal with, fleshed out time lines for the events of the next day, and had written multiple “what if?” branches. Essentially, I gave them numerous opportunities to fail, many opportunities to advance, and a lot of shades of gray areas where there is no winners, but how they reacted and handled the situation would affect how the community around them sees them.
The Rough Summary of Events:
- Players caught wind that the Empiress’s youngest daughter would be visiting their town to oversee the situation with the refugees, as well as to discuss with the mayor the resources and aid needed. They also caught wind of a possible assassination plot .
- Riots had broken out during the daily brunch at the temple of Pelor; every morning they have a communal breakfast with fruits and foods provided by the local farmers and bakers. The past week’s influx of refugees has caused the whole town to have its resources stretched thin. In essence, money is plenty but the supplies are limited. This situation came to a head with local farmers getting into a food fight with refugees visiting the temple.
- A crew of bandits had been hiding out amongst the refugee camps; they had planned to lay low to avoid authority for a bit and then were planning to sale off their stolen goods amongst the displaced merchants and business men in the camps, taking advantage of the poor resource supply in the town.
- It had become apparent to the players after dealing with the food riots that not only have supplies become tight for the town, but local law enforcement has been stretched too thin due to the influx of refugees combined with many “corrupted” cultists inside the town guard being arrested and taken out
- The scene at the riots, with the Warlord and the Dragonborn Fighter giving some intense speeches and yelling down a crowd to stop, had given insight not only into the current pressure between the locals and the refugees, but also the conflicting opinions of the “heroes.” While many still looked at them as champion dragon slayers and protectors of the town, many have grown to feel they have become nothing more than ruthless warlords taking advantage of the situation and buying up all the supplies to sell out of their storefront. This would become a reoccuring theme and dramatic challenge with the rest of the events of the night.
- After seeking an audience with the Mayor, it had become clear that a decent chunk of the remaining town guards were being used exclusively to patrol and protect his country estate. He tried to dignify his decision based on an account of already having an attempt on his life since the cult was driven out, and wanted to ensure security for that evening’s visit and gathering with the Empress’s daughter and the local dignitaries.
- After trying to negotiate hiring more guards and how to handle the resources and economic situation of the town, the Mayor had also voiced his concern about the “mercenaries” involvement in the town. He had stated he felt uncomfortable knowing a few of his men would rather listen to them than to the local public office. Their suggestion for hiring on from amongst the refugees also made him quite annoyed.
The Fun Stuff
While making my players actually sweat a bit trying to defend their actions and deal with the building pressures and conflicts of the day’s event, I snickered with the things going on behind the scenes. The “Mayor” they were dealing with was, in actuality, the Doppleganger Assassin that had killed the mayor a month prior and was frantically working to lure the Empress’s daughter to Fellhaven to assassinate her. I had the time lines all worked out, and I knew no matter what the players were going to focus themselves on, things were going to happen.
End Result in a Nutshell:
The players talked to the priest of Pelor to help them crash the Mayor’s party, worked their way in and managed to have a private audience with the Empress’s daughter and the Mayor. Major scene of discussing the situation, and making the Mayor look like a total tool and coward, followed by the Mayor lashing out at the “petty Mercs” who had no regard for public office. The gnome Wizard managed to sneak a private word in with the daughter, letting her know about the possible assassination attempt. The daughter replied that while she would’ve felt safer having the player’s protect her, she felt that due to the Mayor’s prejudice against them it would’ve been in poor taste to demand them to stay. Instead, she had asked for a more “off the record” patrol.
Here’s the kicker: Only the Wizard stuck around, hiding in the trees outside the estate. The Dragonborn had gone to the temple of Pelor to work as a guard overnight, and the Warlord returned to the inn mostly because he wanted to keep an eye on the halfling rogue who had caused a lot of mischief throughout the day.
So, the Gnome Wizard ends up seeing the would-be killer, in the form of a guard who shifted into the mayor, attack the Empress’s Daughter. The Gnome went flying through the window (literally), blasted the Doppleganger (although he had already delivered a poisonous crit into the daughter), and then used her familiar to alert nearby guards while he took a few slashes from the assassin, who then used his mind trick to go unseen and flee out the window.
They managed to get the daughter to the temple and had her saved by the Priest. But now, there’s still a doppleganger on the loose and the original mayor had been found dead.
Aftermath of the Evening, Out of Character.
We probably spent an entire hour outside afterwards, talking about the events of the evening and re-capping the whole campaign. I think my goal for the evening was reached, as now the players were talking about how now their characters feel so much more than 2-dimensional stats on paper. The Warlord’s player talked about how now, after being called out about his Merc mentality, he’s realizing the whole “With power comes responsibility.” He still wants to establish a Lordship in time, but he definitely has a taste that doing so means making decisions that affect a lot of people.
Meanwhile, our Dragonborn player reflected how he felt originally his character was all about the “crush’em, loot’em” mentality. He didn’t care for my lore concerning the Dragon Born and the Church; saw all of the loyal soldiers of the Empire as just tools being sent off to die for the authority. But now, he feels both him AND his character is getting an understanding that there is something to die for. That it isn’t about serving a ruler, it’s about defending and protecting a people and a way of life. He honestly feels like now, his character has seen that there is a purpose to stand up and fight, and he wants really bad to become more involved with the affairs of the world.
Coming Up Next…
We ended our evening going back to talking about our Changeling characters. The preludes were cool, but it was nice to sit outside of character and talk about our pasts, and share our stories about how our characters came to be. Next Friday, we’re actually starting that chronicle instead of another D&D night.
But that’s cool in two ways: One, it keeps things fresh. It’s nice to take a break and not burn out on a game or system. Two, it gives me time to flesh out more of the world and research more details. I’m probably going to establish a map of the local area the players are in now (as opposed to my entire Empire map.) To keep this campaign fresh on our minds, I’m probably going to be setting up mini-sessions during the week for us to get together and discuss plans for how the characters are going to go about setting up trade, handling their resources and recruiting more people to protect the area.
Essentially, in return for their hard work, I had the daughter grant them authority over Fellhaven and a chance to prove themselves for Lordship. This is essentially a goal to take them through the end of the Heroic Tier and have them arrive at Paragon. Using guidelines from Dangers & Dweomers, I’m going to sit down with them and discuss what they’re needing to build, what they’re needing to recruit, and also plot out what they’re going to need to weed out in a 20-50 mile radius for them to be rewarded with Lordship.
Okay, that’s my wall of text! Good gaming to everyone!