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[Charnel Gods] Fall of Sarantium, Story Real Soon Now

Started by kalyptein, May 08, 2006, 10:56:53 PM

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I started posting about this game down in the Adept Press forum, but I thought I'd move it up here as I'm getting away from the mechanical questions and more into general issues of running the game.  The original thread is [Charnel Gods] The Fall of Sarantium.

A quick brief: Sarantium is a faux-roman empire, post-faux-Christianization.  Its emperor is derranged and decadent, but thoe of royal blood are deemed to have a divine mandate to rule.  Corruption is undermining the strength of the legions and city, and a barbarian army is rumored to be headed for them.  Civil tensions and fears are rising.

The Characters are:

  • The General: a man of action, with recent victories to bolster his popularity.  His Fell is Zansatsu (desire: slaughter)  His kicker was that the Emperor demanded his Fell as a trophy during his victory banquet.
  • The Inquisitor: leader of the Church's effort to keep the True Faith clear of pagans and heretics.  His Fell is Andvaranaut (desire: oppression).  His kicker was discovering that the ailing Thearch's most likely heir, Niraemius, has been dabbling in sorcery and possesses a Fell.
  • The Leper: an outcast who stumbled into the Carrion Fields and discovered his Fell, Uthril (desire: desecration).  He has returned to reshape society to see to the "care and feeding" of the Corpse Wall, to end the boom or bust cycle.  His kicker was causing a beheaded magistrate to stand up and begin talking, sparking a riot, and seizing the courthouse for his nascent cult.

The game is progressing slowly due to all our weird schedules.  Things haven't gotten too far from my last entry in the old thread.  The General has shown his Fell to the court alchemist, who now covets it.  The Inquisitor met with Niraemius at the home of the ailing Thearch, exchanged platitudes, discovered the Thearch has fallen into a coma, and now suspects Niraemius has done something to him.  The General has allied with the Emperor's younger son so prevent his legion from being totally disbanded and reassigned to other officers more loyal to the Emperor.  Lots of minor shifting.  There's significance in it, but it's not been terribly exciting.

Finally, in the last two sessions the General has decided to oust the Emperor (for the good of the empire of course), probably to install the younger son.  The Inquisitor finally got a nice private meeting with his nemesis and accused him of tampering with sorcery.  Niraemius asked to show him something before he started anything formal.  They performed a sorcerous ceremony and opened a door into the Carrion Fields, where Niraemius showed him the vast corpse of the Old One that their religion based its god on and explains how matters of sin and faith are now irrelevant.  He claims the end of the empire is at hand, and that a handful from the Church should relocate to the Carrion Fields to await the next age and then emerge to shape it (couched in faithful talk, but basically he thinks he can become the god-king of the next age).  They both started back towards the normal world, intending to betray the other first.  Niraemius was a bit faster, teleporting ahead with the aid of his Fell.  The Inquisitor failed the contest of Lores to hold the mystic door open and was left sealed in the underworld.  The Leper sent the talking severed head to the Emperor as a present.  The Emperor is enraged, and his elder son (Gaius) is pissed because the head kept dropping hints about him, and now he's under suspicion.  He comes to roust the Leper and his cult from the courthouse to prove his loyalty.  The Leper roots him to the ground and threatens him with death.  When Gaius agrees to serve him (not intending to follow through of course, just trying to get away) he's able to turn him into a plague cultist with his Fell.

We are finallly, FINALLY getting some juicy play.  It's been like slogging through mud.  I suck at Banging them.  I'll hit them with a situation but then let them slink away without having made a hard choice, for fear of railroading them into something.  And I think my players are a bit paralyzed by tradition, uncertain about embracing decisive action either for lack of plot guidance or fear of mangling their characters.  They posture.  They speechify at each other.  When I first cooked up the game, I imagined they'd have pulled down the emperor and set fire to the city within the first session or two.

For example: the General is riding up to talk to the Leper and gets to see him turn the emperor's elder son into a pox-zombie right in front of everyone.  He's understandably shocked, but nothing comes of it, just more posturing.  Not that something had to, but my hunch is that the "no strife among PCs" reflex kicked in.  At least that handed me an absolutely unequivocal bang: the Emperor is going to want the General's head for consorting with the Leper.  No more vague "well, he's shifty" fears, this man is clearly a traitor!

The Fell have been about as exciting as gravel.  The General hasn't even used his once.  The Inquisitor briefly used his to subdue a pagan rabble-rouser.  Only the Leper has gotten much use out of his, and since he's been infecting people right and left, there hasn't been much conflict between them.  I've wondered if this is telling: the person with no power outside his Fell has been using it a lot.  The General and the Inquisitor are actually the kinds of people you'd look to to fix your failing empire in real life, so they haven't needed the extra help.  I thought the collapse of the empire would be a big enough problem to force anyone to turn to their demon, but I haven't been pushing things as hard as a clearly need to.

This is my first time GMing sorcerer, or doing any "non-traditional" gaming for that matter.  I can feel all the cool potential right there, just out of arms reach.  But it's definitely a bit frustrating, which probably doesn't help drive us to clear our schedules for the next installment.


Mister Six


I've GMed Sorcerer and played S&S but never read Charnel Gods. I've got some ideas but caveat emptor.

I think you see your number one priority here is to get those Fell engaged in play right away. The General & the Inquisitor are probably getting on great with just Cover, Will & Stamina rolls, right? So they don't need the extra help in normal social and combat situations. Hit these guys with some heavy demonic weirdness. Maybe another sorcerer with a Fell who has motives that cross the motives of one or both characters. Or, if there are other kinds of demons & supernatural stuff in the fiction world, work them into a Bang. In raw terms, that'll set the opposing dice high enough to encourage the General & the Inquisitor to use their demons. Which will put them in Need & their personalities will shine through more.

One thing I've found helpful for game prep is to set those demons out on the relationship map, & figure out what they think of & want from the other characters (PCs & NPCs). Might be hard with object demons but they need to be characters in the story, not just powers.

Final point: whatever it is the characters want, it ain't hard enough to get if they're not using demons to get it.



QuoteI think you see your number one priority here is to get those Fell engaged in play right away. The General & the Inquisitor are probably getting on great with just Cover, Will & Stamina rolls, right? So they don't need the extra help in normal social and combat situations.

That's definitely what I'm after.  That's changed a bit with the most recent session, but I still need a lot more of it.  Bringing in the supernatural more strongly would probably help, although I've written the epoch as relatively demon-light, so it'd take some thought on how to do so.

Just finished a very fun and yet very frustrating session.  The Inquisitor stuck in the underworld summoned a small demon-thing to lead him out.  The General was summoned to account for his failure to lift a finger when the Leper infected the emperor's elder son.  The General ended up slicing his way through a host of praetorians and taking the emperor hostage.  He demanded the emperor reliquish the throne and called for a meeting of the Senate to decide the on a new emperor or temporary regent.  Pretty much everyone showed up at the Senate and we had a grand mexican standoff with everyone leveling accusations at everyone else.

  • Niraemius accused the Inquisitor of being mad, just like his predecesor who wielded the same Fell.
  • The Inquisitor accused Niraemius of consorting with demons and poisoning the Thearch.
  • The Leper accused the Inquisitor and General of dabbling with the very forces he's been preaching will bring about the doom of the city.
  • Everyone else accused the Leper of vile sorcery and turning the elder son into a monster.

This apart from even all the political talk about who would take command.  There's Power 9 demon Covers being thrown around (Demagogue and Doomsayer), some naturally charismatic leaders, and a great use of the Warp power by the Leper to turn a statue of the current emperor into a statue of his son as a sign to the people.  Everyone and their kid brother is claiming to be divinely inspired while their enemies are in league with demons.  The general is covered in blood from his battle, which will never wash off (his telltale).  I got so overwhelmed with all the finger-pointing and powerslinging I decided to just give up on trying to roll to see if anyone won, and we ended with the Senate errupting into chaos.  Good stuff.

I can't seem to drive people into Humanity checks, or maybe I don't trust myself about when to make them.  The General killed eight praetorians, so that's an obvious candidate.  He was called into the palace to account for himself, and didn't fight until the guards went to "seize him!"  I'm totally uncertain whether this counts as self-defense.  The sorcerery was obviously a Humanity check, which was made.  Beyond that, maybe I'm unclear about how much harm has to be done short of physical assault to cause a check.  The emperor is being stripped of his power and title, sounds like harm; him being a bastard doesn't excuse that.  Does standing around doing nothing after seeing Gaius get infected count?  He couldn't have stopped it from happening, but maybe he could have cured him or threatened the Leper into freeing him, but he just chatted with the Leper a bit and left.

Next session I'm just going to have everyone go for each other's throats.  The emperor's two sons will try to kill each other.  The populace will start stoning priests and accusing them of leading them astray.  Niraemius will send the swiss guard to kill the Inquisitor.  The emperor's agents will threaten to kill the General's family if he doesn't reinstate him.  And since the General's unwilling to step up and take the throne, some other general will try to do so in the confusion.  The Leper's cult will try to get their revenge on the rich and beautiful.

If that doesn't force them to kill someone, I don't know what will.