[DFRPG] Occult Toronto

Started by Erik Weissengruber, January 07, 2011, 06:04:55 PM

Previous topic - Next topic

Erik Weissengruber

Last week's session illustrated the interaction between the resolution mechanics, and their ties to the Dresden setting.

Player uses Rapport to win a photo of missing girl from the mother who is concerned.  This was gained with a dice roll.  Moreover, it provided a tag "long hair hanging down" applicable to the missing girl.

My description of a girl with hear down was extemporized Color.

When the players homed in on the missing person, I decided that the girl was indeed wearing her hair down.  She was much older now and her loose hair was her way of declaring that she was a "freeer" or "more natural" person.  It just seemed to fit.  Perhaps FATE being an "echo chamber" or player inputs had something to do with this non-causal echo of a descriptive tag from one part of the session in a later.

2nd Player later tags that aspect to get a bouns on a Stealth roll to climb up said girl's hair and try to talk her out of her weird allegiance to a bunch of goblins.

Weird girl flees from goblins only to end up on a bridge that was the domain of a Troll who likes to eat naughty girls [did not catch Freudian slip until too late!].  The Stealth maven was carried along with the running of the girl and ended up, by the logic of cauality, near both the troll and the girl.

The Dresden setting and the rules meet in one important domain: the absolute restrictions imposed on Fey and magical characters.  In keeping with fairytales, fey operate according to very strict rules.  When I made up the rule "when you give into a goblin's invitation to wickedness, you are turned into one" it provided a certain tension to the rescue.  The girl had to be convinced or otherwise prevented from completing that third act.  And by improvising that bit of goblin lore I put myself in the position of then having to think up a 3rd act for the goblins to propose.  Shooting one of the PCs was a perfect act for that situation.

The idea of an iron-clad rule not subject to Fortune came up again with the Troll.  I phrased the rule as "when a child's parents curse her, she is the troll's legitimate prey, and no fey or Unseelie-accord following magician can interfere."  I believe that I meant to say "parent" but the players called me on the specific letter of the law I had enunciated and pointed out that the girl's mother had confessed great love for her child.  The troll could not claim immunity under the accords and was then open for a whupping.

The DFRPG bolts the setting's logic into the rule framework.  The players applied that rule Karmically and compelled (in the common meaning of the verb) the NPCs behaviour.

When I suggested that the troll's powers were greatly enhanced by being on his home bridge and the snotty bugger dared the PCs to approach him, one of the PCs took him at his word.  Literally.  When we resolved that I had, in essence, said that no-one could take the girl from him so long as he was on the bridge, the 3rd PC then contrived a spell to vault the goon off of the brigde.  He was compelled by the power of his words to release her (and by the presence of the valley's werewolf wardens).

The in-game convention of introducing beings who must be true to their words, absolutely, allows the robust application of Karma in a fictionally-appropriate manner.

If the phrase "good role-playing" means attention to the fiction and all of its logical and causal relationships, this was a night of good role-playing.  Perhaps "good role-playing" just means applying fully the Karma, Fortune, and Drama mechanisms embedded in the game itself, in addition to committing to the consistency of the unfolding fiction.


Sounds like something straight out of a DF book, so that's good to hear.

Any interesting Compels of PC Aspects?

Erik Weissengruber

In a previous session, 1 of our players commented that she liked the system but wasn't sure if she knew all of its bits.

So I decided to set up a teaching session where all of the game options would be laid out, including GM-side decisions.  So I was exposing the rules-guided GM prep I have been doing.

The one thing we didn't get to was using compels to limit other characters' courses of action.

The overal result: a greater awareness of the Aspects at play but no direct compels of those City Sheet Aspects.  (Fer instance: the "Nature Rules Here" Aspect for the Toronto ravines was quoted or rephrased by both GM and players.  But beyond that "echo chamber" effect, I don't know how inspiring or motivating they were.

And the end of the session, a Minor Milestone had been reached.  The "Nature Rules Aspect" had been transformed from a Threat to a Theme (and checked off on the city management sheet).

1 thing I did was to pass cards representing the fundamental steps of preparation that I had made.  And here they are

1) High Level Decision Making

City-Wide Theme/Threat

Toronto was smug and self-satisfied but now there is a lot of anger, apprehension, and uncertainty
"The city that works worked" [a take on one of the city's nicknames]
Name: McCoy, McCoy, Mc Coy
Concept: Hive-mind law firm, part of the mayor's new order
Name: Black Circle
Concept: Anarchist trouble makers

Aside from representatives of McCoy, McCoy, and McCoy menaced a PC but the idea or feeling never really made a concrete appearance.  Towards the end, I had to improvise a motivation for the werewolves offering a deal to heal up one of the NPCs.  So, let us assume that the people pushing to make Toronto "work" they way they want were ticking off the wolfies.  The injured PC was told to bring the wolfies the head of a Toronto cop, part of the new order being put into effect by Mc3, who had been getting up in their face.  So: when trying to create a coherent fiction, I drew upon the content of the Aspect but I can't think of any aspect where it drove play.

2) Scenario's Setting

City Locations

Parks and forests all along the Don & Humber valleys' river systems.
Nature took this place in an explosion of violence and has no intention of giving it back.
"Nature Rules Here"
Hurricane floods ripped through the city 60 years ago.  The city never resumed development down here -- until now.  Some parts are very neat and orderly, some are abandoned 19thc. buildings and businesses, some are heavily wooded.
Set up as a Threat, but chaged to Theme as a result of players' activities
Name: Mr and Mrs. Hunter
Concept: Werewolf guardians.  But at the end of the session it was resolved that they were no immediate threat to Toronto's mortals.

3) Relevant Characters from the City Sheet

Mr. and Ms. Hunter
The ravines
Werewolf wardes of the ravines' fey & monsters
"Keep this place free for us to run wild"
* Cart (a homeless guy roaming the Toronto Islands and sometimes the ravines)
* The Fey discontent

Sigh.  I keep making up new monsters instead of drawing from the bank of NPCs generated in city creation.  Must stop.

4) Scenario Notes

The rules ask GMs to set up a network of tension.  This wasn't quite the same as a relationship map.  Did players try to bring their play in line with this diagram?  I dunno.  Was this attempt at No-Illusion play actually enforce some kinda "go with the GM" illusionism?


And given the rules-instructorly intention I did not play up the tension.  But what is the "tension"?  Are players supposed to know that they are expected to play up some tension?

Erik Weissengruber

Quote from: Roger on March 14, 2011, 05:52:43 PM
Sounds like something straight out of a DF book, so that's good to hear.

Any interesting Compels of PC Aspects?

It's a direct ripoff of one of the short stories.

This was a teaching session.  I just said, "Look, you are an "Overhelper" which explains why are on the lip of this valley.  Here is your Fate Point."

Erik Weissengruber

Last Wednesday I ran DFRPG without prep, having thought that we were trying another game that day.

The diagram relating the various Aspects to each other allowed me to improvise a session rather handily.

And the reiteration of last session's key aspects helped provide continuity to our campaign, despite the 2 week hiatus.

Again, the compells were largely of the "Hey, here is an aspect I am using for tonight's complications" "Oh K, I won't pay to deny it" type.  The use of Fate Points seems to formalize the commonly accepted contract for play: GM will propose ideas and players are expected to go along with them without complaining.

But the city-creation prep gave me deep background and the diagram of linked aspects gave me conduits through which I could channel some challenges towards the players.


My take on the whole 'network of tension' thing is, to quote the relevant passage from the rules, "a pretty big potential conflict of interest."

I'm not sure I see that in your Occult Toronto diagram, but there's probably a lot more wrapped up in those terse Aspects than I know about.

I'm glad to hear that DF works as a "lots of setting prep up-front, minimal adventure prep afterwards" sort of system; I imagine that's what they were aiming for.

Erik Weissengruber

Really good Aspects require as much thought as Burning Wheel/Empires' Beliefs.  And you need, what, 7 of them for Dresden.  As it was a new group for me and I just wanted to get playing, I didn't go over Aspects with a fine-toothed comb.  But some rewriting might be in order.

The Milestones guidelines suggest that rewriting an Aspect is one thing to do to mark a minor achievement.  I should use those moments as an organic way of clarifying Aspects.

Erik Weissengruber

Gearing up to end the series.

Yes, FATE is a good adjunct to a "winging-it" style.

But I want a final go at prep in the recommened mode.

To give it more tension I am going to lift two practices out of Apocalypse World
* PC-NPC-PC triangles
* Love Letters

In the past I would try to bring Theme Aspects to the fore by having NPCs approach players with conflicting demands.  Too many lines of force and NPCs to manage effectively, for me, and it cluttered up the SIS.

The PC-NPC-PC triangles will reduce the number of NPCs cluttering up the place and (hopefully) engage more inter-PC action in relationship to those themes.

It's been weeks.  I am thinking of writing the PCs little love letters with Fate Points inside them to put them in the middle of a Theme/Threat charged situation, with NPCs in the course of acting against them to earn their FPs.

After establishing a strong situation, I will let the actions unfold organically but come hard and fast with NPC-originating compells and use FP to make the fiction palpable and consistent.

Erik Weissengruber

Quote from: Roger on March 28, 2011, 07:42:12 PM
My take on the whole 'network of tension' thing is, to quote the relevant passage from the rules, "a pretty big potential conflict of interest."

I'm not sure I see that in your Occult Toronto diagram, but there's probably a lot more wrapped up in those terse Aspects than I know about.

Since there weren't a lot of readily apparent conflicts of interest in the Aspects I had to back off from the book's recommended scenario creation procedure.

I instead took this one:


"I began with creating PC-NPC-PC triangles in which NPCs pursued goals that put PCs into opposing or at least orthagonal relationships with each other.

Then I recorded the aspects relevant to those potential points of tension.

The count-down clocks allow me to keep track of what the NPC has done to further his or her agenda and what to do next. (Thanks Apocalypse World).

No course of action on the part of the PC is expected or required for the NPCs to start carrying out their agendas.

It is designed as the spur to a series of sessions, not as an agenda to be completed in any singe one."

So: points of tension FIRST then related/motivating/explanatory Aspects on both PC and NPC sides.

Erik Weissengruber

Occult mysteries are often held out as the Objective or the subject matter of DFRPG.

But the rules do not really address the creation of mysteries or structuring investigations (unlike the rules texts of Call of Cthulhu or Trail of same, or recent Forge threads).

The prep I have done for this upcoming series solidifies the threats of the city and gives the various NPCs and factions encountered by the players definite agendas.

It is not as if the investigation is the Object.  Clue hunting, shadowing, evidence gathering, etc. are steps PCs must take to defend their own lives and deal with their persistent troubles, etc.

Erik Weissengruber

The game has developed its own momentum and I dont' see the need to clutter up this forum with lots of "this happened, then this happened" posts.  A fuller write up can be found here: http://occulttorontodresdenfiles.wikia.com/wiki/Wild_Hunt#Session_1

But, pursuant to the orignal agenda, re:

"* Group setting creation
* Driving scenarios with Aspects from setting creation
* Working with Compells

What I really want to do is employ the setting/scenario/Compelling mechanics AS WRITTEN and examine their efficacy.

Moreover, there is a Social Contract angle I want to follow: I am running what will be a series of linked one-shots, essentially.  I have to keep my sessions short and occasional because of family and work commitments.  Perhaps the creative group buy-in delivered by setting creation will be enough to provide the binding threads that I can't put together with regular and extensive gaming sessions."

* Group Setting Creation
- The mosque was underused.  Because the player who contributed it used to wonder what lay in the vaults of this former bank, he has invested it with a lot of significance.  I peopled it with some opposition but the setting and the essence of the conflict were player contributed.  More evidence of the power of this mode of creation.

* Driving scenarios with Aspects from setting creation
- I don't follow the same steps as the book but I cover the same areas: now I have a large relationship map with 7 NPC aspects linking up with 8 PC aspects, which should lead to multi-session plan and justify some major milestones in the campaign (and setting up the possibility of substantial character advancement)

* Working with Compells
- Usually I would do Burning Empire or WEG Star Wars-style "cut scenes" to tip the hands of my NPCs and thereby obtain Fate Points for them.  The "Love Letters" to the PCs took the place of that.  It got play going right away and accomplished the goal of giving the supernaturals some Fate to play with.
- Players are now using the Fate currency with no prompting from myself, piling up Aspects, cool consequences, etc.
- Once they start pursuing their own agendas I will try to stymie/complicate their plots with serious Compells.  Or I might not -- I am still balking at hitting the players with serious whammies.  Right now I wanted the action to start and the players to feel what is going on and did not want momentum broken.

Erik Weissengruber

The Fate Point mechanic serves to integrated character generated traits with the rest of the game in a satisfying way.

Ben must have tagged 4 of them in the run up to casting a demanding spell.  But because those traits had to be activated by paying with a limited currency, he can't keep doing this again and again.  In the 1st ed. of Heroquest, there were frequent interminable augment hunts for each and every Ability that might make a difference in the conflict resolution.  Now, 1 ability can be modified by 1 augment and that's it.  The aim is to come up with interesting combinations and the hard limit on the number of related abilities enforces that.

Some kind of limit to how, when, or how often a trait can be evoked to resolve a contest should accompany general injunctions to "work with the fiction" or "make sure that the traits are logically applicable to this circumstance."

Erik Weissengruber

The latest session brought up an interesting cross-session aspect of the Aspects in Fate.

In the previous session, a heavy was trying to assess a character and to manipulate aspects of her personality.
The player resisted this action.  The Aspect was "Nobody sees that I am O.K." and the character resists when people do pry into her business. 

I chose to put pressure on that Aspect because I simply did not know what it meant.

The player then concocted an elaborate ruse.  She and her allies pulled the heavy's mate into a stereotypical "late night spooky occult noir meeting."  It reminded me of the behaviour in earlier threads where players seem to take pleasure in elaborate disguises and misdirection soley for the purpose of proving how clever or manipulative they can be.  But there was a fictional thrust to the ruse: they wanted the werewolves and other supernaturals to stop their constant manipulations and deceptions.  This realization came as I tried to frame the contest as a social conflict that would inflict some kind of Aspect on the wolfwere woman. 

It was productive to turn the players' lord-knows-what-motivated-it resistance to the way the supernaturals (and the GM) pressured them into mechanical resolution and mechanically significant consequences.  The resolution produced a change in the NPCs' motivations and her whole approach to the players' characters.

And the player was still acting in response to the initial pressure on her "No One Sees I'm OK Aspect" a session later, and manipulating the Consequence Aspect placed during that earlier session.

The Aspect/Consequence mechanic provides coherence between sessions in a way that is hard to find in any 1 simple conflict or contested roll.

Erik Weissengruber

Last Session Blow

This was designed to bring the campaign to a close.  I didn't have any of the original questions in the back of my mind as I played.  I had some retrospective comments.

Too much too soon. Always try to compress too much into the closing session.


*Sam: "Gets the job done" Aspect: Way at the start of this story arc, Sam was helping Martine Chisud to protect the city's ghost. Now, her nemesis, spin doctor Oscar Tennenbaum, approaches Sam with an offer: protect the city from what the cultists are doing and get a huge financial reward. Tennenbaum is aligned with the City Aspect "Toronto, the City that Worksed" and has come to realize the forces that he and Quint have unleashed by letting McCoy/McCoy/and McCoy work their occult mojo on behalf of the Quint Nation. Sam takes the job and the Compel's implied consequences.

* Locke: "Network of the Unwashed" Aspect gets Locke a visit from Cart, a homeless geriatric who wanders Toronto's valleys and the Toronto Islands with his little cart. The Fey have a gift that they wish secreted in the valley. It turns out to be a Phoenix waiting to arise from its slumber. Towards the end of the session, it explodes from its hiding place and wreaks firery vengeance on Mayor Quint and his developer buddies who are celebrating a new business deal on May 1st right at the Brickworks. They are consumed in a firery blaze. Also, a few Anarcho Punk types protesting it. The long term consequences are that Locke's Network is going to be mistrusted by a the occult factions in Toronto [sorry I didn't make it clear durning the compell introduction, Ms. Snyder]. Opening scene has Locke perusing an old map of Toronto -- a speculative map of what the city could look sketched out before Fort York was built.

* Hannah: "Observant" Aspect puzzled me. How do I make this a difficulty instead of a strength. Well, the incarnate voice of the Ravine approaches Hannah with an offering to make her as observant of nature as she is of human emotions. Perhaps a vision of dandilions orgasmically releasing their seed into the air isn't the right way to do it. She is offered the chance to "observe" the King of the Wild Hunt and compose a report of his dread deads to the mortals of Toronto. Hannah turns down the compel [and as it was a real stretch I didn't extract the fate point -- really it was a metaphoric reach NOT a challenge to the Aspect]. Hannah uses the news to get the heroes on the move to prepare for May 1 hijinx.

* Ben: The ghost of Lt. Phillipots -- who composed the first Toronto map at the behest of Lord Simcoe -- stares over Ben's shoulder as Ben looks at a reproduction of the original, (a magically potent item now hidden in the Danforth Mosque). The ghosts need Locke to give back the portion of power lent to her by the leader of Toronto's ghosts. Ben sees possible tension. He also notes that Mayor Quint's new subway lines are running right along magically potent lines of old Toronto -- under the valley floor where the old road to Kingston used to run. He also observes that the new lines of the subway are the first roads to be inscribed IN the valleys in about 200 years and represent a kind of magicall grid which will bring the Don Valley into the orderly grid of downtown Toronto, when it has been outside of it for as long as there has been a Toronto map (the Don and its delta were not crisscrossed with projected streets on the Phillipots map). The cultists backing the new mayor's development scheme are creating a trap for the Goblin King/Jaegermeister/Herne the Hunter/Boss dog of the Wild Hunt. The werewolves and others have been trying to prevent it. Ben finds a way to use the the implications of the map for his own purposes.

* Sam comes up with the plan. He takes the utopic map of Toronto -- a map of "no place" and a map of a "good place" -- and has the crew place Aspects on it to help in a magical ritual: Sam's aim is to create a barrier that will prevent the Wild Hunt from sweeping down into Toronto proper, thus frustrating both the valley creatures who want him to run wild and the cultists who want to tame him and use him to police their new grid. Ben places a "New Harbour" Aspect on the mouth of the Don (I had visions of fey ships sailing over from the Islands, but we didn't specify it further); Sam adds "for wizards" to the map's title "Town and Settlement"; Locke circles the spatial location of the current Kensington Market on part of the utopic map that was to be a green "commons" around the administrative centre of the city, and labels it "for humans"; Hannah refrains from marking up the map.

* The crew pull the classic Red Harvest/Yojimbo/Fist Full of Dollars move of setting the riled-up factions against each other. First they dump the cart [which contains the Phoenix] next to the brick works. They accomplish this by getting Lt. Brazeau (my take on Dresden's monster hunting cop) to pull a distraction that draws Arkham and his half-ogre motorcycle cops away from the Brickworks (a flaming ambulance will do that). After an ambush by Arkham's ogre brother George, the crew back off.

* They then sit perched up on the Dairy Queen in East York, the one overlooking the Don Valley Parkway, and watch the unfolding chaos which has been weeks in the making. Sam calls on Harley Arkham to meet him at a place -- the place where the werewolves are preparing a ritual welcome for the Wild Hunt. Arkham owes Sam a fey promise and cannot refuse. The half-ogres and the werewolves go nuts on each other, with Mr. Hunter going for Arkham's head (which Sam had long ago promised to deliver), the cops unloading their weapons and slaying the werewolves. Then the "heroes" call in Brazeau with a tip about Arkham's involvement in the gunfire taking place. She rushes in and both she and Arkham are killed in the ensuing gunfire. Given a bloody slaughter involving civilians and cops vs. cops, the key ritual spot in the Valley is unavailable to our heroes due to the RCMP, Toronto Police, EMTs, and media rushing in. [All this was mediated using Fate Point currency: I just rotated through each NPC and paid an FP every time I declared a fact in their benefit. Arkham was able to beat Hunter (who never would concede), but Lt. Brazeau did the best of all due to the fact she was always conceding to the heroes in the social challenges she and Hannah engaged in. I figured Brazeau would spend her advantages helping her mates and ensuring the demise of the bads ahead of her own safety. And I wanted the "heroes" to see the consequences of their scheming.]

* The team does an adapted ritual: under the CN Rail bridge futher up the valley, Sam invoked a Ward massive enough to stop the Huntsman's advance. To do this he needs the help of 2 local wizards -- a Wagner-hating Rabbi from Kensington Market's Minsker Shul and a Sanskrit-spouting mythology buff from the U of T (the Germano-Celtic Wild Hunt being a knock off of an Indo-European myth associated with the figure of Lord Shiva in Hinduism, dontcha know). Tariq the mentor gets the call but does not respond. Ritual works, with the Rabbi exhausted and the Sanskrit nerd convulsing on the ground, babbling.

* The Wilde Hunt stops at the bridge. It's master can't continue on his path but is ravenous with hunger. "Where is my promised sacrifice?" On cue, McCoy/McCoy/Martine straggle through the storm towards the barrier with Lilian Paolilo in their grip. They are going to try to use her as bait to manipulate the Huntsman in some way, possibly to distract him while they feed on his energy or direct them against their enemies (I didn't know and didn't have time to figure out -- I was Crossing one set of NPCs with an NPC from another part of the City and providing an opening for the characters to put down their DQ Blizzards and DO something).

* Heroes act heroically and rush down to save the day. M/M/M have a number of banked up FP from earlier concessions. And their rote spells frustrate Ben's attempts to zap them. But while they are occupied by the wizards, Locke manages to call on the Psychopomp. She uses the portion of power he has lent her to free him from his prison, which happens to be the very crystal that M/M/M have at the centre of their cult. P-pomp rushes across the barrier to take on the beast who has sworn to flood the river and destroy what he can. P-pomp is no match for the Huntsman, but the Huntsman shows "mercy": he gives the ghost a 13-count lead because such a magical foe would make fine sport. As the Hunt runs back North up the Don Valley, M/M/M turn their attention on the heroes. Who are mostly out of Fate Points, hurt, and exhausted. At this point, Tariq shows up.

* Yeah, the wizard mentor saved the day. Well, not really. The heroes' manipulations set the stage for Walpurgisnacht's mayhem. And I brought out a conflict from earlier in the campaign: Tariq did not want to get involved because he was under the Sword of Damocles for messing with magic from beyond the Outer Gates. And M/M/M were manipulating an interdimensional being which Tariq himself might have losed into our dimension. But Sam's persuading was effective. Sam opened The Sight to an overwhelming vision of Tariq's terrifying implementation of Outer Gates magic, a vision so strong as to render him speechless and immobile. He could do or say nothing while Tariq threw down his ceremonial Warden sword and departed with the words "I have just signed my own death warrant." Consequences, Sam, consequences.


* Moments of GM fiat were there, but my excuse was that we were ending the session.

* When Locke and the guys were ambushed as they placed the cart I came up with some fast talking BS about how she couldn't transform into miniature form in time, blah blah blah. Next time I will follow the wisdom of the ages and "Say 'Yes' or Roll the Dice."

* Even when doing lose narration (like the multiple NPC group stand-offs) I tried to relate everything to currency (FP) or mechanics [Sam, the rating of the vision you are facing was WAY beyond your capacity to resist it -- I was starting it at Legendary and you had no FP. Still, "Say 'Yes' or ...". At least I let you know why Tariq was doing what he was doing and he DID leave Saladin's Scimitar in your hands. If an non-Muslim like Locke tries to pick it up, she or her will learn a valuable lesson about infringing on waqaf.]

* A good Dresden-y Goetterdaemerung. But, really, the Phoenix was a bit much. Still, it was part of the City Sheet and we hadn't seen it so far. No chance to use the Unicorn. The cart was a McGuffin designed to see your response to the "Network of the Unwashed" compel. I did have to figure out how the Autum Court out on the Island were going to wreck the Mayor's party.