We managed to get a little bit more done in Monday’s game this week, though it still isn’t quite gelling for me yet. Baby Alexander is cute but very distracting and of course his mum and dad have to spend quite a bit of time keeping him happy, all of which makes it hard to stay focused.
I completely understand this and I knew what I was getting into when I agreed to run the game; I’m glad to give his parents a chance to play a game and regularly see some of their friends.
On to the Wednesday Dragon Blooded game!
I took a chance last week when I wrote the Lost Egg out by having him possessed by a ghost only to turn up at the end of the session to confront the rest of the player characters.
The player could have legitimately complained about my doing this, especially since he missed the previous session through no fault of his own. To ensure that this wasn’t a problem I spoke to him between sessions and let him know what was going on and he confirmed that he was happy with playing himself as an NPC while possessed.
What would I have done if he had been upset? Rather than writing the possession out of continuity I think I would have instead described his mind overthrowing the shackles of the ghost right at the beginning of the confrontation.
In the event I think he quite enjoyed confronting the rest of the group. Following a few minutes of silence in which he simply blockaded their movement and they spent a while considering what to do they decided to rush him. He shot The Arrogant (almost killing him) and was then bludgeoned into incapacitation by a coordinated attack from the rest of the group.
This was a little unfortunate because it made it difficult for him to contribute to the rest of the session even though the possessing entity left him once he had been incapacitated. Fortunately the mental communication set up by the Scion meant that he could at least watch what was going on from the tomb where they left him for safe keeping (!).
While this was going on I rather enjoyed what was happening outside the catacombs. The Airhead woke up from a restful sleep (having fallen asleep comforting the daughter of the Patrician) to find the glow of fire shining through the window.
Now the Airhead’s player had been absent in the previous week and hadn’t been brought up to date in character. It was great watching her react to what was going on with confusion and concern and slowly piecing together the events of the preceding week’s session by wandering about with a magnifying glass gathering clues.
Eventually she made her way to the cemetery and joined the others just after the Lost Egg had been knocked unconscious.
After they supplied some emergency medical attention to the Arrogant and removed the arrow from his chest cavity the group proceeded deeper into the catacombs. After a short while they realised that they had entered the Underworld.
I made the catacombs a shadowland (and therefore the Underworld at night) for one reason. Only one of the circle has the ability to interact with unmanifested spirits and that’s the Lost Egg – who was currently languishing in a coffin on a bed of crushed and broken bones.
Being the Underworld, all ghosts would be solidly manifested and able to be interacted with normally by the players.
They started to encounter ghosts on the way and managed to extort some information from them in respect of their destination. I enjoyed playing up the alien nature of the ghosts, one of which tried to slowly engulf the Airhead’s head with its unnaturally distended mouth when she approached it for information.
Finally they arrived at the centre of the catacombs, a large open room with an altar on which the ghost of the Patrician’s wife suffered and some sort of ornate organ-like apparatus. In the doorway were six mortal guardians of the Patrician while he and his son waited near the altar with the ghost of the Patrician’s father.
Annoyed by his near-death experience the Arrogant proceeded to unleash a Flying Guillotine on the leader of the mortal guards with deadly results. Making a surprise attack he decapitated the man with a single blow. The only mildly annoying facet of this was that I’d just asked the player of the Lost Egg to play the leader of the guards since he wasn’t in the scene with his own character.
Combat ensued with the rest of the guards, with the Scion using his Phoenix Gem and the mobility it allowed him to quickly tear through extras without much difficulty while the Bureaucrat and the Airhead also moved in to join the fight. The Arrogant waited behind to use his spells again, relying on the senses he was being fed by the other members of the group to allow him to unleash the spell from behind cover.
I felt a bit bad for the Bureaucrat, whose martial arts weapon of choice was the Jewelled Peacock Fan. He was able to hit the extras without too much difficulty but their lamellar armour meant that he was only able to inflict a small amount of damage on them with each blow. His pool wasn’t quite good enough however to risk taking a flurry.
My advice to him would be to investigate magical multiple action charms that would enable him to flurry relatively weak attacks into a deadly series of blows that would not impose a high defence penalty on him or reduce his dice pool for each attack.
The mortal guards were taken down very quickly and the Patrician’s son took action. He activated his Water caste anima banner and stepped forward, revealing himself to be a Dragon Blooded. He did this on the basis that the Immaculate Philosophies clearly state that Dragon Blooded are near-perfect beings etc. and he expected that revealing his true nature would cause the Dynasts to stop fighting in order to discuss the matter with him as an equal.
He underestimated their blood-lust.
After a brief mental conversation in which they decided he was an Anathema and should be killed (a reaction which may theoretically cause censure from their superiors – interesting political fodder for future sessions), they asked the Arrogant to unleash another Flying Guillotine.
He did so with pleasure and moments later the boy’s decapitated head bounced step-by-step down to the ground and settled to a halt, eyes rolling up in dismay as its essence guttered out.
That left the Patrician, who had no fight in him, and the Patrician’s ghostly father. After a few more moments of conversation they realised that the only one who could permanently slay the ghost was the Airhead, whose daggers exuded a Holy influence.
First she freed the ghost of the Patrician’s wife (who some of the players had not realised was a ghost) and then she joined the attack. She managed to strike him a fairly serious blow, inflicting three levels of Aggravated damage despite his reasonably heavy armour. In turn he tried to touch her to being a possession of her body but she was able to dodge out of the way.
It was time to end the game so I paused there with the battle between the dynast and the ghost in mid-flow. The stakes are higher than perhaps they realise; if she fails to dodge just once then it is highly likely that he will be able to possess her, shielding himself from his enemies in a suit of expendable flesh.
Who will prevail?
I was pleased with the overall shape of the session but felt slightly bad that the Lost Egg had been effectively written out of about 60% of the session. I gave him an extra experience point in compensation and to thank him for being a good sport; hopefully he was generally content with the session even if he had been sidelined for a good portion of it.
I have been most pleased with the way the story has unfolded. It has been quite cinematic and action-packed and that’s always a good thing for an Exalted game. I’m also glad that I have nice plot threads dangling from events that will let me expand past the first mission into what is to follow.
I could have benefited from a bit more preparation this game, as I didn’t have full statistics for the Patrician’s son or his ghostly father or the captain of the guard. Having said that they would almost certainly have been redundant due to the efficacy of the Flying Guillotines so I can’t feel too bad about not having spent the time to detail them more fully.
I think I will take the time before next week to fully detail the ghost’s statistics in order to improve the dramatic final confrontation, however.