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7th Sea: Illusionism in practice (session 2)

Started by gentrification, November 21, 2002, 02:36:49 PM

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I wanted to start this session with another bang, and at the same time demonstrate an example of drama points (see my first post in this series) in action. So I back-edited a little bit, and informed Brian that the innkeeper's attractive (and fully nubile) daughter had been making eyes at Gabriel earlier in the evening, and that LaJaune, with whom he shared a room, talked loudly in his sleep. Brian had decided at character creation that Gabriel's loneliness and bitterness at the loss of his wife occasionally manifested itself in the Heroic Flaw of Lecherousness. Rather than be coy about it, I told Brian flat-out that if Gabriel snuck downstairs to engage the innkeeper's daughter in a midnight tryst, it would get everyone in sufficient trouble to earn him a drama point.

Brian took the bait, as I was sure he would. We described the initial flirting (much to the amusement of the rest of the group), and then discreetly pulled the curtain over the rest of the scene, in which Gabriel and the innkeeper's daughter consummate their affair in the inn's storeroom.

Cut to the next morning, when a group of Montaigne soldiers arrived to requisition supplies. The players, not realizing that the soldiers weren't there for them, panicked and beat a hasty retreat out an upstairs window. This bit of farce was already planned regardless of Brian's actions, but because he had indulged in his Heroic Flaw, there was an added complication: Gabriel was still in the storeroom (precisely where the soldiers were headed), fast asleep in the arms of the innkeeper's daughter. The ensuing combat was predictably farcical, with Gabriel fighting naked, simultaneously holding off four soldiers and an enraged, cleaver-weilding innkeeper while trying to cover his shame with a wadded-up cloak.

From there we went to the meeting with Guzman, who had been hiding in a secret room beneath the sacristy of Padre Ontiveros' church. I gave Brian a grapple-gun, as a gift from Guzman to Gabriel, because quite frankly grapple-guns are cool and I wanted to see Brian do cool things with it. I also introduced a significant change to the structure of the adventure, which had some far-reaching consequences.

In my original notes, Guzman had memorized the blueprints for the special ship, and would not write them down lest they fall into "the wrong hands". For this reason, the players would have to figure out a way to smuggle the man out of the city, rather than just a few sheets of paper. I had also decided that Guzman's house was being watched constantly, and the heroes would be ambushed if they attempted to look for Guzman there.

Well, the players wisely avoided Guzman's house right from the start. I was a bit concerned that, without an important conflict for a centrepiece, the city portion of the adventure would feel lean. The heroes had already discovered Guzman, and unless they deliberately went looking for trouble, all that was left was to plan and then execute an escape. There was the matter of whether Gabriel should go after Leveque, of course, but I could tell that issue didn't seem very urgent to Brian, yet, and in any case that particular combat would necessarily leave the other characters on the sidelines. I also thought that the house ambush would be a good opportunity to showcase the Montaigne using Porté magic (another bit of pertinent setting info).

So before the second session, I rewrote the blueprint situation. Guzman had now made a single copy of the blueprints, but had been forced to hide them in his home and had not been able to retrieve them before going into hiding himself. The new goal seamlessly integrated with the old. The heroes would have to fetch the blueprints, because the commanders at El Moro would need to know technical details about the ships in order to mount a proper defense; but they would also still have to smuggle Guzman himself out of the city, since the commanders would need his technical expertise in order to interpret the blueprints. Since the players had never been aware of any blueprints before meeting Guzman, they were none the wiser.

The players had a brief planning stage. Perhaps to expiate a small amount of guilt over having tricked them into tripping the ambush anyway, I promised myself that if everyone made their sneak rolls, I would let them get away clean with the blueprints, and count it as a player victory. However, the dice took that decision away from me. The moon coming out from the clouds briefly illuminated Alessandra as she scrambled up the white stucco wall. The trap was fairly sprung.

The ensuing fight gave me a chance to further test the fencing mechanics, and to get a feel for what kinds of odds were necessary to really challenge the players tactically. Alessandra went out a second-story window, was wounded by a sharpshooter, and went down after a brief but tense struggle with a soldier on the ground. A few rounds later, Iain was also nearly defenestrated, but Brian burned his drama point to describe a fantastic stunt involving the grapple gun, leaping out the window, grabbing his companion, and swinging back into the house through a window on the ground floor. Alessandra was nowhere to be found, shouts and whistles and footsteps were closing from all around; the remaining two heroes beat a hasty retreat.

I informed Alessandra's player that she needn't worry; heroes aren't arbitrarily killed in combat; they're taken to dungeons and thrown into cells. I had decided well before the campaign started that capture would be the default result of failure in any combat-related scene. Telling the players so baldly was yet another means of establishing trust and expectations.

We decided to adjourn for the evening; we had come to a natural break in the action, and I needed to figure out how to incorporate the rescue scene into the flow of events. The session had consisted mostly of combat, but no one seemed dissatisfied by it. At one point during the ambush scene, in fact, Brian said something to the effect of, "Dude, I hope this combat never ends." Whether that speaks to my skill as a game master, my skill as a FUDGE designer, or Brian's own peculiar proclivities, is open to debate.
Michael Gentry