Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Pool of Oblivion

A most rocking kick-ass session, even though it was our first. Usually, I use this blog to discus solo concepts and play reports. However, being my first actual play of Fate with someone else, I got all jazzed up about it.

I ran a Fate Accelerated game for a friend of mine. This represented his first foray into Fate (having read it once or so).

This began with me giving a few pitches in a mutually familiar game setting, that of the Forgotten Realms. Some of them included the rebuilding of Phlan, and a return of the Banites (a sequel to the Pool of Radiance video game series), revelries in Thentia with political intrigue there, and finally a visit to the last lord of Hulburg. In the end, we decided to merge some of the results of the first and last.

Getting a few more specifics down, we knew that Hulburg was a ruin — a monster-infested rundown has-been city on the north coast of the Moonsea. We knew that only the lord’s keep, a now dilapidated structure on the acropolis, was the last inhabited structure. The lord, one Gallard Hulmaster (name change edit post-facto, because I remembered that’s what the family’s surname was), an old widow in the winter of his life lived with his two remaining offspring, a sullen pouty boy named Derek, and his homely daughter, Rowena, who the lord wanted to marry off.

From the Phlan story, we liked that the cult of Bane might not be destroyed and sought a way to revive their dead god.

Good enough for starters. How does the PC fit in?

Our hero, one Orelbersk (Orel Bersk?), was a silver-tongued foolhardy treasure-seeker. We decided he was marked by the Black Network, indicating his past association as a former agent of the Zhentarim — with a knack for finding relics and treasures needed by the arcane arms of the organization. This gave us some background and hooks off the bat.

We also nailed down that he had a compulsive weakness for “just one more…”. Lastly, the thread that connected Orel to his trouble (being relentlessly hunted by the Zhentarim) was one of his last prizes — a small finger bone — one that belonged to the dead god, Bane. Our hero could not bring himself to deliver the tiny relic, because he knew through coercing a fellow agent that the Banites planned to resurrect their former god. This led to his final character aspect of the evening, a little piece of me.

Compel and invocation examples were easy to come up with for these character aspects. It also gave a very good picture of who our hero was and what he stood for. The last thing was determining what that little god bone did. Apparently, Orel had discovered that the bone offered subtle suggestions and lures, promising riches. More often, it led to trouble, and Orel surmised that the bone sought out more pieces of himself. He also couldn’t destroy or rid himself of the little relic.

This led to the idea that the next piece — the god’s eye — was a powerful artifact, but one that could be destroyed, thus thwarting the Banites’ plans once and for all. This was both our hero’s lure and salvation. Maybe if the Banites’ dreams were dashed, they might leave him alone.

We left one aspect slot open to be determined during play. Lastly, we set Orel’s approaches and stunts, getting:


High Concept: Silver-Tongued Foolhardy Treasure-Seeker

Trouble: Marked by the Black Network
Others: “Just One More…”; A Little Piece of Me; (pick 1 more)
Good (+3): Sneaky

Fair (+2): Flashy, Quick

Average (+1): Clever, Forceful

Mediocre (+0): Careful
Because I’m a second-story guy, I get +2 to Flashily overcome when attempting feats of acrobatic athleticism.
(Pick 2 more stunts)
Refresh: 3

We didn’t even talk about weapons or gear he might be carrying, which I found actually quite amazing and liberating in retrospect.

Finally, a discussion of the issues for the game included “They’re Coming!”, referring to the Banites and Zhentarim who were now hunting for Orel. There was also the crew of the Tipsy Tempest, a more immediate threat (see below).

The Banquet

We knew that the hero would be in Lord Hulmaster’s house seeking asylum from the nasty things he unwittingly released during his search for the item in question. We thought a dinner scene where Lord Gallard tries to marry off his unattractive daughter would be appropriate and amusing.

We set the scene. Doing so was such great fun!

Firstly, Hulmaster Keep was a simple square structure mostly consisting of the great hall. It was cold, wet, and drafty. It was a dilapidated shadow of its former self (added in retrospect as a minor milestone). Lord Gallard kept a dozen or so staff members and guardsmen in his employ. There were two small wings off the main hall (which served as the feast hall, lord’s court, parlor, trophy room, you name it), one underused wing for guests, and one for the family. Only a single door between you and them kept hostiles out via the front threshold.

I got a better idea of our host, a slightly unhinged aged man with only one last motivation. That gave us:

Lord Gallard Hulmaster
Miserly Lord of the Manor; Denial Is A Bitch; “What Do You Think Of My Daughter?”
Great (+4): Forceful

Fair (+2): Clever

Average (+1): Sneaky
Because I have a quick temper, I gain +2 to Forcefully create advantages when using my temper to leverage emotional states upon guests in my home.

The actual scene included banter by the lord, who tried to push his daughter, and his long and storied past. Hulburg is in a state of perpetual cold rain and wind, giving a very Wuthering Heights vibe. We included interruptions from banging on the door (to indicate the presence of the ghoulish dead crew of the ship Orel had been investigating; which had stirred up the evil there and sent them groping into the night — thus necessitating his need for shelter). That bit was funny as hell.

All put together, that got three compels to pre-load the session with some complications, and thus, points for the player.

Finally, there was the real meat (no pun intended) of the scene…

Orel came right out and asked what the Lord thought of the Banedeath (events from the close of the video game franchise). Gallard didn’t believe (being the type to dismiss things with a wave of the hand) that there might still be followers of Bane remaining, or that a resurrection was possible. Lord Gallard asked what Orel was doing in Hulburg, which the hero skirted somewhat, bringing attention to the homely Rowena. However, he did show the finger bone.

A couple of success with style overcomes caused Gallard to be convinced Orel had sincere interest in his daughter, and to be enamored of our hero. Orel asked if there were any valuable items in the ruined city that he might filch for the old man as a dowry. This pleased Gallard much, and he agreed he would send his son, Derek, to lead him in the morning to where remaining valuables might still be lurking in the ruins of the city.

After that, the party retired.

Off To Bed

Golan, the Hulmasters’ butler, led Orel to his chambers in the guest wing where he would be left to his own devices. He regretted to tell him that there had been few guests of late, and that the room was not as nice as in the old days.

When he was shown, Orel found the room not at all to his liking. The glass panes in the windows had long since fallen out, leaving the elements to stream in through the open window (which they presently were). “Ring if you need anything,” Golan said, indicating the pull cord near the bed.

The butler then left Orel and turned the key, leaving the hero locked inside. Orel pulled the cord, but the tether came free, being altogether mildewed. We decided that the butler was jealous of Orel regarding Rowena’s affections.

I offered a Fate Point if he could come up with a good juicy compel for that locked inside aspect. He leaned out the window to see:

Malevolent Spirits
Malevolent Incorporeal Spirits; Icy Cold Hands
Good at (+2): terrorizing

Bad at (-2): reasoning, moving fast

This was actually scary, because the spirits’ aspects meant our hero could not affect them physically. He saw a trio of the luminescent things float across the castle grounds and up the wall toward him!

He frantically pounded on the door to no avail, then looked outside up to the sheer slippery walls that led to the rooftop. Out came Orel, with no other option, seeking purchase on the surface. This triggered a fun contest to see if he could escape.

We decided since the spirits could just float, it was easy for them, while the slippery walls (with one pre-loaded free invocation) required a threshold of great (+4) to achieve any shifts.

The first exchange went to the spirits as they groped for Orel’s feet with icy cold hands. They tried also to scream to freeze Orel with fear, but he resisted. The next turn went to Orel (2 victory points due to a stunning success with style thanks to some Fate Point expenditures). In another turn, a tie caused Orel to take a maimed hand mild consequence in order to succeed at a minor cost. Eventually he scrambled up and over the rooftop, evading the ghosts between smokestacks and dormers.

Session End

A fun game, to be sure, representing about two and a half hours of play via Skype, game creation and all. Orel ended the session with 5 Fate Points.

Still not too fast with Fate, I was worried our speed would bog down with rules discussion and a monster-length character creation session. I’m happy to say it was not so!

Character creation, along with game creation flowed quickly and smoothly with lots of good ideas coming out, and really almost nothing rejected. Once I asked if my friend had enough ideas on what proactive steps his character would take, thus signaling that our game creation discussion had run its course. This naturally turned into setting the first scene.

Anything awesome that came out of our mouths got turned into a cool game aspect, without debate or discussion…it went fast. NPC stats were quick, simple, and off the cuff. This comes from someone who more often plays lighter games than Fate. Despite this perspective, it still went fast.

When my friend and I do get a chance to play, we play GM-less options, through such devices as Mythic and Rory’s Story Cubes. Fate was so fitting as a collaborative game, with ideas coming unhindered from both sides of the table that it naturally fit our style.

The speed of play was great. Really, we played with only two overcome rolls, and a contest that included some create advantage rolls. I paused to clarify the contest process, but it took only a few minutes.

A good time was had, and I can’t wait for our next session.

1 comment:

  1. You and your friend should try Microscope by Lame Mage. It is GM less and great fun for playing both solo and with other people, and the two of you seem like a team that could create some really great histories...