I ran the second session of my summer Exalted: The Dragon Blooded game last night and was very pleased with the result indeed. Despite being down two players and having a third on Skype the level of social interaction was excellent. They engaged well with the story and seemed to really get into the mind-set of being powerful scions of the Dynasty and the Immaculate Order.
We started the game with their arrival at Five Orchards. I needed to write out the two missing players so I had the Black Sheep gallop off and the Scion monk go chasing after him. His primary aim, of course, was to retrieve the horse!
On arrival in the town I was keen to reinforce the idea that the normal people of the Realm worship the Dragon Blooded and see them as something much more than men. To that end I described how the peasants of the region were gathered kneeling on the road leading into the town, paying obeisance to the mighty Exalted.
They were met at the town gate by the patrician noble who runs the town, his family and his retainers. After a few pleasantries the group retired to the patrician’s spare home for food, rest and relaxation prior to their religious duties on the following day.
I already knew that something was going on in the town and I wanted to start seeding clues straight away in order to keep the players’ interest and give them something concrete to investigate. While the Bureaucrat went for an evening walk to get a feel for the town, the Arrogant spent some time looking out of his window and riding the senses of various passersby. The Airhead meanwhile partied with some rather bemused servants of the Patrician and the Lost Egg rested and meditated on his forthcoming duties.
The Bureaucrat and the Arrogant gave me the best opportunity to drop clues so I had a cloaked figure bump into the Bureaucrat (unnoticed due to a failed roll) and deposit a message on his person to the effect that, “There is more here than meets the eye. They do not follow the Immaculate Philosophies”.
The Arrogant received a more subtle clue meanwhile in the form of a quiet conversation about the Immaculates’ arrival and whether it is likely to cause any trouble for the town.
The next day the group was invited to an evening meal at the Patrician’s house and spent the day going about their various duties. The Lost Egg conducted weddings, funerals and other religious services while The Bureaucrat and the Arrogant began to investigate some of the bureaucracy’s paperwork for suspicious inconsistencies. The Lost Egg gave the Airhead the job of tearing up coloured paper during the funerals into lots of little pieces and then scattering them as confetti during the weddings.
After a while the Airhead grew bored with this and wandered off to look for criminals or troublemakers who make others unhappy.
The Arrogant and the Bureaucrat found some interesting discrepancies in the inheritance tax records, with money apparently being creamed off that was not reported to the Realm’s bureau of taxation. They found this deeply suspicious and decided to meet with the scribe responsible for a majority of the paperwork.
With the Arrogant playing the bad cop and the Bureaucrat playing the slightly disturbing cop who speaks quietly but is still extremely scary (so not quite the good cop, then) they spoke with the nervous scribe to try and find out what was going on. In short order he confessed that the Patrician was taking a cut of the taxes for himself without reporting properly to the realm. As far as they could tell he was telling the truth (he wasn’t!).
After some veiled threats involving a grand daiklave and a suggestion that leaving town might be necessary the two bureaucrats left to figure out their next move.
The Lost Egg meanwhile noticed a peasant apparently muttering or praying to himself during the funeral of his uncle. He questioned the peasant after the service and found him to be incredibly nervous. While this might have been due to being singled out by an Exalt there was something suspicious about the peasant’s demeanour and the Lost Egg more or less instructed the peasant that he would be coming to his house later to conduct a vigil to help him to let go of his uncle.
The Airhead found that the town was largely crime free and widened her net to find people who made the townsfolk unhappy. Eventually she settled on the tax collector and went to see him. Lo and behold it was the same scribe that had recently been interrogated by the two bureaucracts. He was polite if somewhat distracted as at that time he was preparing to leave the town for some reason…
The Lost Egg went with the Arrogant to the vigil with the peasant, who it turned out was a carpenter. During this both the Arrogant and the Lost Egg noticed that the family keept averting their gaze from a corner of the room that was filled with bric a brac whenever their uncle’s name was mentioned.
Suspicious, they resolved to investigate further at a later date.
At dinner that night the group was introduced properly to the Patrician, his son and his daughter. Also present as a memory was the Patrician’s father, a portrait on the wall. Next to that was a painting of the Patrician’s deceased wife.
This scene was absolutely excellent. I was so pleased with the way the social roleplaying unfolded, with the group following their suspicions and inferring information about the family through the conversation. They even demonstrated teamwork, using their numbers to divide the family and speak to them individually to try and get to the bottom of the town’s secrets.
A complex family dynamic emerged over dinner, with the young daughter occasionally glancing with disgust/dislike at the portrait of her grandfather and misty-eyed longing at the portrait of her mother. The son seemed keen to reign the daughter in, sending her warning glances when she approached certain topics. THe Patrician himself maintained a genial and pleasant demeanour even as the topic veered towards potential tax embezzelment.
It was great to see my players puzzling at the facts I gave them from their social observations and tidbits of conversation. For instance they discovered quickly that the Patrician’s father had been dead for 30 years, so why did the Patrician’s 15-year-old daughter look at his portrait with such personal dislike?
After dinner the bureaucrats stayed to discuss the matter of tax fraud with the Patrician while the Airhead took the daughter upstairs to see her poetry (and to see why she was so upset) and the Lost Egg went with the son into the courtyard for a sparring session.
The Airhead soothed and reassured the daughter and told her that if she wanted she could whisper her worries to Gecko, a chameleon. Gecko is of course her familiar and she can hear what the animal does. I chose to keep the revelations secret for a while however in order to maintain mystery while I dealt with the simultaneous other scenes with the Patrician and his son.
The sparring between the son and the Lost Egg in the courtyard was one of my favourite scenes of the session. Despite the monk’s assumption that the boy would be inferior to him in every way he performed katas and began to spar with skill equalling the monk’s own. More disturbingly he then began to move in the form of the Five-Dragon Style, a Terrestrial martial art taught officially by the Immaculate Order.
“Who taught you?!” demanded the Lost Egg even as he threw a more serious blow at the son; a blow which was deftly parried. The son lied, claiming to have learned from texts and ‘various sources’ and then threw a haymaker punch at the monk.
The Lost Egg easily dodged the over-zealous punch and noticed essence smoking from the boy’s fist. It seemed he had a real fight on his hands…
Inside the bureaucrats drew closer to their prey, extracting assertions from the Patrician that he would do everything in his power to help them resolve the discrepancies. He assured them that he had not taken the money for himself but the Arrogant wasn’t so sure…
And so the session ended.