First Run-Through: Family Dynamics, A Ball, Betrayal, A Plot

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First Run-Through: Family Dynamics, A Ball, Betrayal, A Plot

Postby ARudzki » Wed May 18, 2011 2:34 am

Played through a game of Houses of the Blooded tonight. I consider it a 'quick and dirty' game because I admit to not having finished reading through the whole book/having a 100% grasp on the rules. I've, at this point, read through to Chapter 10 and I'm somewhere in the Seasonal Actions. I figured, hey, I could probably run something light without a lot more deep-reading... would skip over the idea of Seasonal Actions, and run it as just a bit more involved preview game, I figured. I changed some details, such as Titles, Ages, and Houses as it fit the flow of the game and the facts.

It was me and one player: he conceived His Lord Sorio Adrente, Baron of Orlais, House Wolf. Third born of two nobles of the more powerful Blooded families Adrente and Yvarai who never advanced beyond Barons themselves, when he stood before the Senate to show his vassals and claim the title of Baron, he was in fact taken by Her Excellency Ul Ardente -- his mother's very own Sister, and as obvious by her title the more successful family member. Sorio Adrente has an immense chip on his shoulder about success and advancement, and he will not be left in the "squalor" of Barony with his parents.

Aspects:
Sanjein -- taught by his father, honed by his mother.
Acrobatics -- covering his Strength Weakness in terms of coordination.
"I Won't End Up Like My Parents" -- benefits him in debates; he is going to make all of the diplomatic maneuvers.

Things about Countess Ul:
She's a Countess
Blooded of the Wolf
She owes Sorio a favor
She's Sorio's aunt

The Situation:
Baroness Shara is hosting a party announcing her entitlement
She's blooded of Bear, but her mother is a Wolf
Countess Ul wants her fealty

Baron Sorio receives the simple, snide instructions from Countess Ul to get Shara's word of fealty. She wants this for a petty reason: Shara's mother is a Wolf -- she is, in fact, related to Sorio as a Cousin and Sorio's mother as a niece. Countess Ul wants her allegiance of fealty just to rub it in her sister's face that another family member has chosen advancement with the successful child of the family. Countess Ul presents Sorio with the gift to bring to Lady Shara's Spring Ball.

Dice determine that it is an ornate cask of spiced wine. Later dice specifically determine its an ivory cask with rose handles, carved by the best artisans. This unveiling leads Shara to -- well, that's getting ahead of the story.

With this in mind and gift in his keeping, Baron Sorio spends the next weeks preparing and finally sets out to the Ball -- with his entourage of spy network, a personal guard, his wife on his arm, and also his herald. He opted to send his herald ahead of himself to announce his arrival.

Imagine Lady Shara's own herald standing there, waiting to announce who is in attendance -- when suddenly an older, slightly pudgy man, appears and bellows out: "Announcing His Lordship, Baron of Orlais, Sorio Adrente -- Lady Narla Krev -- and servants!" The entire party was effectively interrupted, but it was undeniable that this Baron had a firm grasp of the concept of style, when it came to appearances. He was dressed in a deep green suit, gold vest, with cravat, and settled in with his wife on his arm, his servants at his flanks, cutting a wedge through the party...

He spied Lady Shara atop a balcony with sweeping stairs connecting her to the first floor. I announced the Three Facts about her here.

A Wisdom risk observing the party introduced a figure who actually didn't get used, and so is being omitted here because he wound up doing nothing -- but will probably be making a reappearance! A man who looked like he just rolled out of bed. Lord Sorio dismisses one of his attendants (secretly a spy network member) to observe the party -- specifically, Count Valin who has claimed Shara.

Baron Sorio joined a circle of blue-jacketed nobles deep in discussion regarding peasants and peasant rights. One of the Nobles pointed out that the peasants are growing restless, and expect better in their lives -- it's why the peasants are now seeking Titles, it's why there are now Merchant Barons, and Proud Dirt. A Count by the name of Kether derided the idea -- called out the very lunacy of the idea -- of merchant peasants making their living off the sweat of another's brow. It was preposterous! The peasants were even calling for some kind of "currency reform" and the entire thing was absurd. Count Kether called on Sorio to speak up, if he was going to loiter. Sorio made his point about how the peasants can't be under-estimated -- the Falcon, for example, hid among them for many years only to appear and take charge quite suddenly. To think them a joke was folly.

Kether acknowledged the point and got Sorio's name, and they began talking as Kether is House Fox and in fact knows Sorio's father -- he mentioned having a son. Kether recalled the man being quite distraught when that son abandoned the family for his own gain. Sorio doesn't see it that way, and they get into a debate suddenly right there about the ethics of allegiances and how kin comes into play, with Sorio invoking his Aspect to "Never End Up Like His Parents" to win the day and make his point that his advancement is not mutually exclusive to respect and support for his mother and father. He just wants better, now. Kether is seriously trounced and he politely excuses himself... and Lady No, hanging on his arm the whole time until his complete defeat graces Baron Sorio with a light touch on his arm at this Spring Court, complimenting his word-work, and smiling ever. so. politely. At Baron Sorio's wife on his other arm.

Sorio finished traveling across the party, ignoring the pink-coated ven trading romance tales for jest, and was informed that Count Valin has spent the whole night attached to Lady Shara, effectively. He runs across Lady Shara and Count Valin, deep in conversation, with Valin's dark-coated advisor perched nearby. Sorio presented the ivory cask of wine, and made a big to-do out of it, burning Wagered dice to detail the crowd's awe and Lady Shara's desire to speak to him in private. They retired up the stairs, beyond the balcony to an antechamber with vaulted ceiling and stained glass windows observing the gardens (Style Point: Aspect, Stained Glass Windows Tagged for Beautifulness; Aspect, her reflection in the glass showing her true feelings that aren't revealed in her face). Here, Lord Sorio started a game of romance, and somehow managed to come out ahead by tagging that scenery Aspect. He was the prey, and Lady Shara was the predator -- and his task for her devotion was simple: Fealty to Countess Ul. Just a simple word, but the greatest act: a Yes.

Lady Shara, quivering, agreed. Her task for him, then, was that he must announce the news to Count Valin and inform him of the situation. Sorio agrees and steps out into the ballroom to do just this, but his efforts are stymied by the sudden outburst on the dance floor below, where two men have effectively carved out an area amidst the people: Count Jallan of House Bear exploding at Count Vulo of House Falcon, as Vulo's contribution to the game of romantic stories did not even change the names of the characters -- as Vulo recounted bedding Jallan's wife, if Jallan is to be believed. A completely intended, unhidden insult and attack on his honor. Jallan calls for a Jury immediately. (Before this scene is out, Sorio burns two Style Points: Tiered Fountain in the middle of the room, and lots of Tapestries)

Sorio calls out that he will serve, and Vulo and he exchange pleased-as-punch bellows to-and-for across the ball room as they reunite. Vulo is, in fact, one of Sorio's Contacts -- and the Uncle of his Wife. Count Jallan is outraged further and demands two jurors who will not sully themselves with bias. Count Kether volunteers, as does Count Valin. After opening statements, Kether and Valin overrule Sorio that the cases must be heard. Once made (and they effectively consist of: Vulo is blatantly saying he slept with my wife; No I didn't, that's silly, it's a story), the question is what the verdict shall be. Lord Sorio makes a compelling case for there to be no real case... No one can prove that Vulo has actually done anything, and Lura is a common name.

Kether declares it an Insult and calls for a duel.
Sorio declares it No Fault, and it should be thrown out.
Valin agrees, it is No Fault, and it is thrown out.

Jallan eyes Valin with the gaze of a man betrayed, grabs his sword's hilt -- just long enough so Valin knows, and then immediately storms out of the ball.

Lord Sorio thanks Count Valin for his decision, and the Count acknowledges simply - as Kether returns to the crowd - that he merely voted as seemed appropriate. Sorio made a well-rendered argument that had sense to it.

Shara appears and acknowledges a fear for Valin's safety, but he admits that while Jallan will be upset, he does not fear any reprisals at the very least tonight.

At which point, Lord Sorio announces that Lady Shara will in fact be leaving his service. She has accepted an offer extended by Countess Ul, and she has sworn fealty.

And now Valin is furious. He declares, ignoring the call for jury, a Duel of True Pain -- as Sorio has Insulted him and Injured him in taking his Baroness from him so suddenly, so plainly, so soon, and that the design of it reeks of poetry. Valin is fired up; furious. No Jury called, he draws iron on Lord Sorio who declares that if Valin will only surrender his lands, then he will spare the Count's life. The Count scoffs, and reminds him that True Pain is to the death. (at this point, The Last Duel came on the computer)

Up the Tiered Fountain, a gutted stomach; around the Tapestries, a sliced arm -- the duel raged from Valin to Sorio, and back again, drawn out, as though they may be equals... Equals only in the Love that was kindled in Sorio's breast, that drove him to fight with the only Maneuver a starting character has, against a Count I ran with a couple Maneuvers to his name. Back and forth -- a parry here, a sudden advantage, a bash now, wagering Injuries... and Valin was down, cursing Sorio with his last breath, announcing to him that there would be no peace on him or his family, not with what he had called down. Lord Sorio ended the Count's life there and looked around to the crowd that stood dumbly staring -- but not at this scene.

A Shriek drew the Lord's attention to the balcony where Valin's advisor stood poised, knife drawn, with three cloaked assailants dragging Lady Shara into the antechamber out of sight! Count Kether was already bounding up the stairs, his sword half drawn and a howl on his lips -- and Lord Sorio brought his bow around to let fly an arrow that struck the assailant holding Shara -- and a Wager narrated his releasing her.

Up the stairs Lord Sorio went, sword drawn, into the ork filth that was a scene of mass murder. The three assailants fell upon Count Kether to one side, springing from the shadows to plunge their knives into his back -- a distraction itself as the miserable advisor drew his knife out in a wide arc to slit open Lord Sorio's side! When at the last second, Sorio's bodyguard hurled himself into the gap, tossing his liege aside and taking the murderous blow himself.

Alone now, Lord Sorio slew the assailants first and with no regard for them, leaving them heaped around their victim. And with only the advisor remaining, he made quick work of the knife-wielding assassin. Demanding an answer of the dying traitor, Sorio called out: "Who do you work for!" And was answered only with silence. (Wager: but he has a unique plot-relevant signet ring!) And investigation revealed, yup, all the assailants did.

Immediate attention saw that Count Kether was alive, as was Sorio's bodyguard -- though both were barely there. The ball, being ruined clearly, was called and Sorio sent his retinue home ahead of him while he attended to business. A moment was had by Kether and Sorio, where the former acknowledged that perhaps the Baron Sorio was worth his pedigree and that -- maybe -- great things were ahead of him. Sorio bid Kether farewell and trusted that they would meet again; Kether told him that perhaps at the next season's ball.

And finally, Shara. Alone, she congratulated him and thanked him for accomplishing a task that grew more harrying than she could have imagined. She had offered him before her fingertips, and here she offered him her wrist... They spoke for a moment regarding their agreement, and Lady Shara asserted that yes, her allegiance was in fact now to Countess Ul but that now that Count Valin was dead, the Duke's other two Counts would begin to squabble for the land no doubt. And this did not even consider Valin's two sons-- the other two Barons she shares court with. Lady Shara informs Sorio of the most unfortunate truth that their arrangement will require all of their attention. And Baron Sorio flatly informs her that he intends to take Count Valin's land, pure and simple, and that if she will help, then she will be safe.


Final Thoughts:
Overall! It was plenty of fun! It wasn't as amazing as some sources have lead me to believe, but I basically suspect that it's because of two things:
One player.
A player learning how to play.
Had it been a fully primed, whole group calling out Cunning facts and Wisdom facts and the like, I imagine it would have been nonstop awesome action. In this case, it was very dramatic, very intriguing, and it had some fun challenges. I went ahead and included both Dueling and Mass Murder so my player could see both, just like I set him up to Debate, judge debate, and Romance (tried to get him into an Insult Game but it didn't work). Wanted to show him as much as I could! Way it worked out was interesting, like I said! And the close-out feels exactly like an Edgar Rice Burroughs novel, which is more than good enough for me!
Sometimes I roll dice and make stuff up about it (http://20facets.wordpress.com)

"I fought for the most glorious woman of a glorious race, and I fought for a great love and for the mother of my boy."
ARudzki
 
Posts: 19
Joined: Tue May 17, 2011 10:59 am
Location: Atlanta, GA

Season Actions Leading into the Second Story!

Postby ARudzki » Sat May 21, 2011 3:52 pm

Played through some more of Houses of the Blooded last night! It was terribly exciting, even moreso than the first game my friend and I played. It was again only he and I, but he plans to bring his lady friend some time next week if we play -- which I feel will certainly make things more interesting, if only because it means more people making different facts about situations. I described it to my friend Adam as "building a sprawl, not a highrise" when more than one person can be contributing facts to situations. Some other time this month another friend of ours should join, and I think the game will really take off then!

We started off with Adam copying Sorio Adrente over to a new character sheet while I spent some time trying to learn the Ork rules and reading through the narration and player chapters. While I love that John Wick provided us with character sheets, I find myself having a soft spot for the guest sheets provided on the site, so I printed those out and made a sort of fusion between the two. The third page is the Vassal/Province sheet from Mr. Wick, while the fourth page is the province map designed by Joshua LH Burnett.

While he copied, I printed out some NPC sheets and filled them out, while grabbing a few fantasy-sounding names and deciding Three True Things about them for this Story. All in all, my actual preparation that wasn't me learning rules took maybe 30 minutes, and encompassed:

  • Naming 5 new Characters
  • Deciding Three True Things about each
  • Designing an Ork
  • Writing up the Province of one of the NPCs when Adam suggested he was going to be spying.
  • Concocting the "What's Going On Right Now" kicker for the session

As far as I'm concerned, this wasn't too bad at all in terms of prep. I'm excited about this.

So, we went into by first attending to Seasonal Actions, a facet of the game I omitted when last we played. I've already explained the concept in general to Adam, and this was when we got down into the nitty-gritty of it. This involved, among other things, renaming his province to giver it a proper "not-stolen-from-dragon-age" name: So, retcon: Lor Sorio Adrente, Baron of Mirase. He went ahead and assigned a name to each of his regions, and went about making his plans for the Spring:

  • Bintwood Forest 1: Lumber
  • The Midrow Plains 1: Wine
  • Kalkent Farm 2: Food
  • And he planned an action, as the book dictates, and went with constructing a Gymnasium in his castle

I actually went ahead and proceeded through all of the Steps, which I wouldn't do again (something I'll talk about after this post I figure). So, having Planned, we then rolled for Trouble and determined that there was a disturbance in the Midrow Plains!

We moved on to Seasonal Actions, and I explained the idea and ran into a couple hiccups. Mostly because, the book explains that Vassal Bands receive a number of Seasonal Actions equal to their Rank, but that Vassal Bands are limited in the types of Actions they may take; Individual Vassals may take one Seasonal Action, and are likewise limited. This is cool and all, but little guidance is provided in the book (from what I could see) about what sorts of actions are allowed for each Vassal/Band. The Herald, for example, has unique actions: Inspire Loyalty and Propaganda; the Spy Network likewise has unique actions (8 unique actions). However, Valets are Vassals who have no unique action and are not part of the list of Vassals who may take any action a PC can. They simply hang out, I suppose. Are they able to Train up on their own, or is that an Action reserved for their Liege (Liege spends the Action, and the Vassal Ranks Up?) Or is it simply: No actions, deal with it?

I went ahead and dumped the Story's premise on him and let him plan his actions accordingly. The blurb I gave him went:

It took less than a week for word to spread -- via Heralds, via Letters, via Sweet Nothings whispered between Lovers, via Blood-Soaked Interrogations; It took less than a week, and word had spread of Baron Sorio Adrente's actions at the Spring Ball of Baroness Shara Yvarai -- word of the young Lord's duel of True Pain, of his wound that wailed red across his stomach, of his slaying of Count Valin on the dance floor. It took less than a week and the Senate was entertaining the complaints of Count Altool Steiner, sworn to the same Duke as Valin, and Barons Talmon Burghe and Jall Burghe -- the late-Valin's sons. While the notion of duel was brought up quickly, the Senate denied the demand as what was viewed as a straight-forward case of defending oneself in the face of murder, given that Valin did declare the duel and strike first without calling on a Jury. What the Senate did allow and declare proper retribution was a Meeting of Reparations, scheduled for a month and a day.

A month and a day has passed, and the time has come for the Meeting of Reparations. Discussions will be made, demands will be voiced, counterclaims with be heard, and the Jury shall decide appropriate measures. No blood shed, only law, only bureaucracy.


I then explained the NPCs who would be in attendance, and the rumors that surrounded them and their presentation to the Senate.

Talmon Burghe, Baron Vavel
Eldest son of Valin
Wanted Valin dead
Presumes Valin's lands are as good as his
Wants recompense

Jall Burghe, Baron Cyridon
Wants Revenge! Retribution!
Expects that Valin's lands will be split between the brothers
Is smitten with one of Sorio's staff

Altool Steiner, Count Q'desh
Represents Duke Liron Burghe's interests
Wishes to negotiate payments
Would see Jall elevated to Count

NOW! Seeing as Adam now knew all of this, he could plan accordingly and split his seasonal actions appropriately. With Cunning 3, a Spouse, Personal Guard 1, Spy Network 2, a Valet, a Herald and Staff 1, we worked out his Seasonal Actions consisted of:

  • 3 Seasonal Actions (1 + halfCunning, Rounded)
  • 1 Spousal Action
  • 1 Personal Guard Action
  • 2 Espionage Actions
  • no valet actions
  • 1 Herald Action
  • no staff actions

Content with this, he settled on the following...

Baron Sorio
Personal Training: Defense 1
Quell Trouble: Midrow Plains
Spymaster, Spy on Region: Talmon's Castle

Narla Krev (Spouse)
Explore a Region: Ruins 1

Personal Guard
Personal Training: Defend
(This is My fault, as I misread that you teach Personal Guard Advanced Maneuvers; which is interesting. This implies that Personal Guard possess maxed out Basic Maneuvers; could a single guardsmen Duel on your behalf?)

Spy Network
Spy on Region: Lord Talmon's Castle
Spy on Person: Lord Talmon

Herald
Summon a favor from Count Vulo
(I really liked this idea! Sorio saved Vulo from a duel in the first game, and I liked the idea of using the Herald to communicate with Vulo and call him to serve on the Reparations Jury.)

We narrated a small thing (no dice rolling) about the Baron riding out to Midrow and sighting a veth revolt -- dirt burning the vineyards to make some sort of statement about equal treament or some nonsense. Sorio and his Personal Guard set the veth straight.

From there, we moved right into Harvest (like I said above, we just moved through all of the stages). It was a good Season! Quelling Trouble went easily, and so all Resources were produced exactly as planned! Everything that was arranged to happen, went off without a hitch and all was well. Give it another Season, and even that Gymnasium will be complete!

The results of the Espionage Actions were plenty of fun to determine. I jotted out the stats of Baron Talmon's lands while Adam was planning, and used them for the Contested Espionage Risks.

The results were that Sorio learned that Talmon's Castle has Produced No Resources/Security 3/Loyalty 5/Etiquette School, Sword Academy, Gymnasium/Has no Secret Army. And when Adam rolled to see if he succeeded in Spying on Talmon's Season Actions, he failed the roll.

So I had privilege, and I let him succeed! :D

I said Talmon spent a Season Action bribing one of Sorio's Vassals. :twisted:

I'll summarize the second Story of our (Chronicle? Saga? Volume? What's a good word for Campaign?) in the next post. Excitement!
Sometimes I roll dice and make stuff up about it (http://20facets.wordpress.com)

"I fought for the most glorious woman of a glorious race, and I fought for a great love and for the mother of my boy."
ARudzki
 
Posts: 19
Joined: Tue May 17, 2011 10:59 am
Location: Atlanta, GA

My Guide To Handling Season Paperwork

Postby ARudzki » Sat May 21, 2011 9:07 pm

Oh! BEFORE I FORGET!
I actually went ahead and proceeded through all of the Steps, which I wouldn't do again (something I'll talk about after this post I figure).


My thoughts on this basically go like this: Proceeding through the Season with a group of players strikes me as potentially tedious, and hard to manage overall -- It just seems hard to organize doing all of these steps with every person in a group. With just one person I managed to make a couple goofs that needed to be handled, and I could see more cropping up in a group of 3 or 4 or 5...

I checked in the book for any helpful advice (beyond the step-by-step breakdown) on handling this, and I found none. Now, let me be clear: This is no attack. Goodness no. I am honestly loving this game. I'm having heaps of fun. I just openly acknowledge that this system does not receive the same treatment as other Narrator business in the final chapter of the book. So, This is my contribution to understanding how best to handle the Season Phases, from Planning through Harvest. These are just my ideas and impressions, take them or leave them:

Alfred's Guide To Managing Season Phases And Influencing People
Herein, I refer to adventures as "Stories."
Herein, I refer to game sessions as "Chapters."

1. The Bait & Switch Betrayal
If you want to play Axis & Allies, go play Axis & Allies.
If you want to role-play noble, backstabbing society -- role-play noble, backstabbing society.

Rule one of my personal guide is simply that there shall never ever be Season Phases in the first Chapter (Session) that I Narrate. That first Chapter will serve as character creation, introducing the characters, explaining the concept of Wagering, giving examples of things, and maybe even playing through the first Story I have planned for them, but I will not go through the Phases. Most likely, you have gotten your group to sit down and give this game a try because they like role-playing. Ok, yeah, sure maybe you got your friend who loves Risk to play because you mentioned the Province-Management System, but the first thing you're probably focusing on is role-playing right? That's the point of Wagers, after all! So, the role-playing happens first. I will happily explain, in general terms, what Vassals do and how they're useful to help guide them -- and I won't conceal the fact that there is a meta-game of resource management, deal-making, and improvement. However, the first Chapter will not (in my games, in this guide) be host to the Bait & Switch Betrayal of walking through the rules and spending time getting people to decide what to do with their Provinces 3 minutes after making them.

2. Making the Rounds
This is an idea that just appeals to me, and just as everything I say here is solely my experience and ideas and can therefore be ignored at your earliest choice to do so, this idea is probably the easiest to throw out.

I don't think I believe in making the first Story longer than one Chapter in length. Tell all of it in one gathering of your close group of pals. I figure, run a variation on the Roses & Thorn Story -- not necessarily identical by any means. Ideally, just make up an occasion for a Party, for people to be gathering under fairly calm conditions. Let your players have control over what kinds of NPCs are introduced, but if they are hesitant to get in on it, you have 100% justification to bring them in yourself -- it's a party! Shmoozing is the point! You can get your NPCs out there, get some characterization going, and discard those that the players don't have any interest in.

Making the Rounds. Several NPCs and PCs make the rounds, and only the ones who *click* keep in contact with one another.

Making the Rounds.

Use this first, potentially very light Chapter to give each player adequate attention when introducing their Characters, and give adequate attention to the NPCs you introduce, and their interactions. While, yes, you should be doing this every session -- the First session is vital to get your bearings so you can at the very least run those NPCs on steam later on once you know how they work.

And obviously, use this as an opportunity to introduce as many of the rules systems as you can, in brief.

These guys argue, explain Debate.
THOSE guys argue, let someone be on a Jury!
These guys look around, explain Cunning wagers.
These guys flirt, explain Romance.
These guys lock horns, explain Insult.
These guys think, explain Wisdom wagers.
These guys fight, explain Duels.
These guys deal, explain Contracts.
These guys ambush, explain Mass-Murder (if you're so inclined!)

Make the Rounds. All the way around. Engage everyone, engage everyone as differently as you can. Let them sample, as participant or audience member, everything the game can offer. I figure, fill the First Story with all this so that everyone is hooked. Leading into...

3. Wait, I Left the Oven On!
...start of the Second Chapter (and if you followed #2 above, the start of your second Story) go ahead and make them handle managing their Provinces! Now, yes, help the players...100%. Make sure they understand what their regions are making, what resources they start with, what it means to choose between two resources, what it means to make goods, all of that.

However! Only run through Steps 1 and 2. Only run through Planning, and only run through Trouble.

Let them go ahead and select what they'd like to see their Regions producing, go ahead and let them see what they want their villages making, go ahead and let them have their 1 Action as a part of Step 1. And then roll the dice, and PRAY they get some Trouble :twisted:

You will have already finished a Story by now, so you're not interrupting the narrative any! You give the bookkeeping a time and a place! And once you have plans, and you see how they've gone awry?

Start up Story 2, and make sure the NPCs have ALL heard word of the Trouble plaguing the PC's lands. Word travels fast, when everyone is out to get you. Make the NPCs twist the knife, and really make the PCs a little nervous about their Troubles. Hey, maybe someone uses Cunning or Wisdom to help blame their Trouble on another ven! Sounds like a brilliant Story to me! Maybe a favor is owed and that means you don't have to Quell your own Trouble! How nice is that?

Let them Plan.
Make them watch their Plans fall apart.
And then jump back into the Stories, and make sure everyone is talking about the problems.
And only the *wrong* people are talking about helping.

4. Draw it Out
Your Second Story? Let it go on for a few Chapters. Not a lot, maybe. As many as are necessary, of course! Do not ever kill the group's fun, obviously. But in terms of the narrative pace that you, the Narrator, ought to be contributing too, draw it out just enough. Maybe two Chapters, or maybe three Chapters. Don't let the players get back to dealing with their Trouble. Continuing with the dealing, the wheeling, the alliances and betrayals as we should all be trying to make happen, and let the troubles keep coming up in conversation if it makes sense.

Don't piss the players off that they haven't had their Season Actions yet.
Just make them really want to have their Season Actions.

When the Second Story closes out, go ahead and let them decide on their Actions right there. For one, waiting until now gives them all of the previous sessions to be thinking about it! It even let's them benefit from any useful connections made during the Story! Suddenly, you don't HAVE to use an Action you were going to, because your ally will be! And there is no die rolling right now, because Espionage, Craft and such resolve in Harvest. So. Yeah, this mirrors Planning! The players will simply make their Action lists at the end of the Second Story -- as you clean up the space, have them stay seated and write out their Actions, while they talk to you about what they enjoyed!

5. Experiencing the Harvest
As I said above, handle Actions at the end of the Second Story. That would place that theoretically around what? Chapter 3 or 4? (1 session for adventure one, and 2 to 3 for adventure two) Run through all of Story 3. However many sessions. Wait until the very end. If you have a large group, this much time to handle their actions could be necessary (or at the least helpful)!

If their action was to spy on someone's land, well, damn, you'd better work out what their land is like! Sure, give them the chance in play to make a Wisdom check to know some stuff, but take that and run with it and add to it during your downtime! This is your opportunity -- between the end of Story 2 and the end of Story 3 -- to be able to answer the player's questions the way they deserve! Figure out what people's Security and Loyalties are! Figure out what an NPCs actions would be! Figure out who the Traitors are! OBVIOUSLY: Anything you don't want to solve, you don't have to. You can leave it in their hands to a degree -- however, you shouldn't be left out of the fun just because you're the Narrator! Throw in starting details (Three Truths, remember!) and let them run with it. The players trust you after all! That's the point!

So, use the time between their Actions and the Harvest to determine all the necessary info to actually help them. So you know what dice to roll, so you know what of their plans have been sabotaged by enemies (probably made during Story 2 and Story 3, haha!), so you know who is trading them what, etc.

Run them through Story 3 and be sure to use this opportunity! They made plans and arrangements during Story 2, remember! They made enemies and friends! Use those to inform this Story! Enemies of your enemies and friends of your friends, after all. This is gold in terms of storytelling. And hey, even better, this gives you a unique opportunity! Maybe someone's Seasonal Action creeps into the game, yeah? Maybe those spies you figured Baron Example was sending as his action? Hey, let them interfere with this Story. Could be interesting, yeah?

Finally, when everything is said and done, and Story 3 comes to a close and you've done all you can for the season: Then let Harvest happen. Harvest is one of the fun little stand-ins we have in this game for age-old Leveling Up... that's how I feel about it. Your resources grow, your land expands, your vassals improve, your family grows -- let your players Experience the Harvest! When the story ends, take this chance to run through Harvest like you would experience points and leveling up in any other RPG!

Go around and dish out the Resources like XP -- you've been processing their Actions for the last couple games, you could easily handle this!

Go around and dish out the Maneuvers earned by Vassals and PCs!

Go around and figure out who's Holdings are done, who's Goods are done, who's Art is done, etc!

Go around and roll the small die pools first, typically for actions performed solely by Vassals!

Go around and run through the die rolls for Seasonal Actions requiring the PC next! The big die pools!

And then resolve them Espionage Actions! Bam!

If it's Winter you're resolving, then cap it off by having them roll their Age, and any adjustments necessary for that.

6. If It Works, If It Works
I can't guarantee any of this makes sense. I can't guarantee any of this works. It sounds reasonable to me, and it's what I wish I had done when playing. I think it helps integrate the Seasonal considerations more closely with the rest of the narrative -- at least to me, if only to me! This is how I figure I will be handling it in the future, and go through this pattern with a view variations as necessary from Season to Season. Otherwise, players will know what to expect, and can plan accordingly -- few surprises, so it's not like you're robbing them or cheating them or what have you. They know when they'll get the chance to plan, etc!

If this works: Repeat it, and see where it takes you, until it stops working or you find something better.

Just my thoughts! Thanks to anyone who read this!
Sometimes I roll dice and make stuff up about it (http://20facets.wordpress.com)

"I fought for the most glorious woman of a glorious race, and I fought for a great love and for the mother of my boy."
ARudzki
 
Posts: 19
Joined: Tue May 17, 2011 10:59 am
Location: Atlanta, GA

Second Run-Through: Guests, Reparations, and Sins of our Spo

Postby ARudzki » Sun May 22, 2011 12:33 am

I went ahead and dumped the Story's premise on him and let him plan his actions accordingly. The blurb I gave him went:

It took less than a week for word to spread -- via Heralds, via Letters, via Sweet Nothings whispered between Lovers, via Blood-Soaked Interrogations; It took less than a week, and word had spread of Baron Sorio Adrente's actions at the Spring Ball of Baroness Shara Yvarai -- word of the young Lord's duel of True Pain, of his wound that wailed red across his stomach, of his slaying of Count Valin on the dance floor. It took less than a week and the Senate was entertaining the complaints of Count Altool Steiner, sworn to the same Duke as Valin, and Barons Talmon Burghe and Jall Burghe -- the late-Valin's sons. While the notion of duel was brought up quickly, the Senate denied the demand as what was viewed as a straight-forward case of defending oneself in the face of murder, given that Valin did declare the duel and strike first without calling on a Jury. What the Senate did allow and declare proper retribution was a Meeting of Reparations, scheduled for a month and a day.

A month and a day has passed, and the time has come for the Meeting of Reparations. Discussions will be made, demands will be voiced, counterclaims with be heard, and the Jury shall decide appropriate measures. No blood shed, only law, only bureaucracy.


I then explained the NPCs who would be in attendance, and the rumors that surrounded them and their presentation to the Senate.

Talamon Burghe, Baron Vavel
Eldest son of Valin
Wanted Valin dead
Presumes Valin's lands are as good as his
Wants recompense

Jall Burghe, Baron Cyridon
Wants Revenge! Retribution!
Expects that Valin's lands will be split between the brothers
Is smitten with one of Sorio's staff

Altool Steiner, Count Q'desh
Represents Duke Liron Burghe's interests
Wishes to negotiate payments
Would see Jall elevated to Count

...

The results [of the Espionage Actions] were that Sorio learned that Talmon's Castle has Produced No Resources/Security 3/Loyalty 5/Etiquette School, Sword Academy, Gymnasium/Has no Secret Army. And when Adam rolled to see if he succeeded in Spying on Talmon's Season Actions, he failed the roll.

So I had privilege, and I let him succeed! :D

I said Talmon spent a Season Action bribing one of Sorio's Vassals. :twisted:


Late in the afternoon, three carriages approached Baron Sorio's castle -- named by the player as The Basilica -- and unloaded their passengers. The first was Baron Talmon, the second was Baron Jall and Count Altool, while the third was a complete surprise in that it contained the three nobles acting as jury: Count Vulo and two of Sorio's siblings: Alexei and Shajar.

Instead of concocting the backgrounds to these characters, only one of whom was recurring at this point, I called for dice! Knowledge Risks! Together, Adam and I concocted these:

Vulo Uvan, Count Coner
His province, in fact, is a neighbor to Sorio's
His province is full of Ruins
At Narla and Sorio's wedding, Sorio saved Vulo's life...
...from an assassin sent by Count Valin

Alexei Uvan, Baron Tharq
First-born son of Sorio's family
Headstrong
Believes Ven high-law is Truth
Well-seasoned duelist
Falcon-blooded

Shajar Yvarai, Baroness Helia
Second-born child of Sorio's family
Exquisitely beautiful
Pragmatic
Sorceress
Fox-blooded
Immensely close to Sorio

We kept the ball-rolling, calling for heaps of risks to help set up details before getting down in the sandbox and actually playing with what we came up with. The above was all produced, and along the way Adam called for a Cunning risk -- Baron Sorio, observing his visitors, intended to spy what staff member had caught Baron Jall's eye! Cunning and Wisdom aren't really Sorio's best Virtues, but I threw him a bone and said that he did notice: it was a plain-but-pretty veth girl named Nula. A Wisdom risk later informed us that Nula used to serve in Baron Talamon's Castle, apparently!

Baron Sorio greeted his visitors, and I got right to dishing out the Style Points by Compelling Sorio to be overly flamboyant in his presentation (as part of his Sanjein Aspect), and Adam proceed to role-play an extremely overblown, over the top welcoming to his "huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuumble abooooode," and his "small castle." Each guest was extended the honor of hospitality, and he spoke with each before informing them that they would be speaking and dining in the banquet hall. When he spoke with Baron Talamon, I played up that Talamon just carries himself as a king -- always. Complete with disdain and disinterest in the veth that serve him. Playing up his over-enthusiastic presentation, Adam depicted Sorio begging Talamon to "Pleeeeeease excuse the dust" as part of his Holding-construction of a Gymnasium. Talamon commended Sorio on his construction, informing him that -- why, he himself had a gymnasium! Possibly the best investment of his rule -- as his biceps nearly ripped through his finery. Adam acknowledged he should never ever fist fight Talamon (Strength is Sorio's Weakness).

A Wisdom risk was attempted! The intention: Determine what Vassal(s) Talamon had bribed and potentially turned traitor! With wagers, this risk failed, but I gave him a mild success.... It was someone in Sorio's Staff. One, out of the entire staff. :twisted: However, Sorio did have 1 Wager and he declared "...and it's a female." Interesting things are being woven together here, no doubt.

Baron Jall had little to say, simply announcing again his desire to settle this with a proper duel and punish Sorio; he would, at least, expect much in the way of repayment.

Count Altool was level-headed at least, and he and Baron Sorio got on swimmingly! They talked very much about the situation, and Altool explained that his aims in the talks to come were straight-forward: those above him were expecting greater gifts, taxes, resources (what have you) to account for the lands lost with Valin's death, and the turmoil that is no doubt erupting. Altool doesn't particularly see need to punish or slay Sorio... he wants the young Baron, if he is so bold in his claims, to take responsibility for his claim and pay his part of what is owed.

Sorio spoke with his Jury, which is where many of their facts were contributed. From this conversation, I role-played the pomp and superiority of Alexei, and his vow to support his brother one-hundred percent; I role-played Shajar's more conserved feelings on the matter, hoping her brother was acting wisely, as she heard he was indeed at fault for the grievance to be discussed; I role-played Vulo as a big, large-as-life and twice-as-jolly ven noble who was here to repay a long series of favors exchanged between the two.

And as everyone moved inside, heading for the banquet hall, I introduced the splash of turmoil I intended to include for three days that arguments would last.

On the steps of the castle, ascending them, approached a woman -- plainly a woman from the way her sari clung to and wrapped around her body. She wore black breeches, and knee high riding boots, and leather gloves... on her hip hung a sword, and a knife beneath that. A veil hung down over her eyes, with gold beads hanging down from the edges, and gold was woven throughout the fabric, with designs coursing all over her body.

And the sari was such a Deep Red that it shimmered between blood and black with every step she took. She informed Sorio that she was here for revenge, but with him -- she was here for his wife.

Zrudura Steele
Devotee of Ikhalu
Narla killed her son
Blooded of House Elk

And a quick Cunning risk on Sorio's part as she blew past him into his house yielded the results: House Elk Tattoo on her back, in a pattern variation that means Ikhalu (Adam got a Style Point for that coolness right there).

Proceed from here to the scene within the banquet hall. I took the liberty of starting things off, describing the vaulted ceilings, tall narrow windows facing the setting sun and cutting the room into panels of pink-orange light, the Staff lighting lanterns along the walls... And a Cunning Risk revealed a long mirror running along one wall -- and the hidden passageway behind it, allowing one to spy on the private chambers nearby! (Another Style Point, because it was so cool.)

I described the meal the way John Wick explains the ven's banquets -- the whole potluck, salad bar, nobody-gets-poisoned-ideally thing -- and narrated Nula the staff girl approaching Sorio while staring at the floor, a bottle of wine in her hands, asking if he was ready for it to be opened. He said yes and very quickly pointed out to her, as she continued to be bashful and squeaky, that she was to serve Baron Jall first and proceed around the room.

She did, and everyone took refreshments except for the Zrudura. I then narrated Sorio's two small children scampering down into the banquet hall, by mistake, while playing. Collected by their father, they asked about the guests, and he coyly told them to go ahead and ask them whateeeeeever they wanted. The wife also appeared, and Sorio informed her that Zrudura had issue with her. Narla went to speak to her.

We proceeded through the debates, playing out the speeches given. This particular night, it was Baron Talamon's turn to speak. His demands were pretty simple overall: Obviously (as far as he was concerned), his father's lands were meant to be his lands, as the first born son. So, now that Valin was gone, it put him in an unfortunate position of having to immediately consolidate his power! It was just inconvenient! He has to up and move in and establish himself as the ruler and its resource consuming! So, his demands are for the resources of Lumber and Stone necessary to construct his castle in Valin's lands and make it clear he is moving in.

Sorio responds with, more or less, that there is no real sense of inheritance in their culture -- Talamon's idea is predicated on an assumption that one cannot actually assume. It doesn't make any sense to ask for the resources, even if he believes the land is to be his. He says he owes Talamon nothing.

We then rolled dice as for a Debate -- I tagged Sorio's stomach wound, pointing out how Sorio goes pale and clammy and trails off with his argument towards the end, like someone with a grievous stomach injury might. Sorio won regardless, and Vulo spoke for the Jury, saying that the notion of inheritance is an important one and that is understandable that any close-knit family may like to see their children elevated to great heights, and deserving of their lands and resources -- but, there is no legal enforcement of the idea. So, this plan was a no go.

A second round of debates was called, this time with Sorio leading. He made a big to-do of the idea of owning what you can hold, and how by all accounts he won the duel with Count Valin and was extremely entitled to land; he made his point thusly: a duel for the lands, but not a conventional duel. A duel of the arts -- a piano duel. Talamon scoffed that a challenge of arts for all the province was far too much. He proposed instead a duel for the resources he previous mentioned: 3 loads of Stone, and 3 loads of Timber. Sorio then rebuked this as the resources did not expand his domain in anyway, and returned to his previous demand -- but was silenced as Talamon called him out as seeking to expand into a province when even his own is not tamed! Talamon presented new conditions: if Talamon should win, Sorio would provide him with the 3 loads of both Stone and Timber; if Sorio should win, Talamon will dispatch his own Personal Guard to assist Sorio in taming the remaining four regions in his own province.

They shook on it, both likewise claiming they would not set try to conquer the province themselves (we'll see how long that lasts!) and that was resolved. Baron Jall took this opportunity to stand up angrily, and lose his cool over what a joke this entire discussion was -- dueling pianos, complete idiocy unrelated to the matter at hand. He continues to demand Baron Sorio's blood, cursing him and cursing his Countess Ul who refused his demand for a duel, even after she told him the details of the ball and Sorio's slaying (Style Point to establish fact: Sorio wrote to Countess Ul and gave her a review of events, but never reported in person). Jall storms out, unappeased by Sorio's claims that the violence that happened was tragic and unavoidable and that he held no malice.

By now, it is night, and as Jall has already stormed out and so the meeting disperses. All that remain are Narla, Zrudura, and Sorio. Zrudura speaks to Sorio... and invokes an Elk Blessing! Suddenly, Sorio is swearing not to set foot outside of his property before dawn! She then reveals the nature of her revenge: that Narla killed her son, in her estate... and that it may have been an accident. Perhaps. But the pain is still true, and Ikhalu has blessed her revenge (she revealed her eyes) and so she will be as fair in her issue as she can. Zrudura has released an ork into his castle.

Something rumbled from deep within the bowels of the estate, and a storm rolled in just outside.

The beast only kills at night. He may hunt it in the day or attend to his business with his guests as he sees fit; but at night, the beast hunts and intends to kill. Zrudura then adjourned to a room.

We had a scene of Narla and Sorio talking, and used it to roll and establish facts which we wove into the scene we played out:

Narla Krev
Killed Zrudura's son...
...in Zrudura's estate
Potentially on accident
Committed while on Icefire!
The son was training with the guards, dressed-down -- veth clothes.
She dictated a heartfelt apology to Zrudura...
...but a plague ensured Zrudura would not receive it before she went into seclusion

Considering the matter carefully... Lord Sorio called for an ork hunt! The moon was high, the wind was vicious, the rain fell sideways against the castle, but he awakened his servants to call for his guests and assemble them in the hall. In the end, his wife and siblings, Vulo, and Altool were those who assembled. Altool claimed responsibility for the young Barons, and believed it appropriate that he respond to the threat himself. Sorio explained the situation and dispatched them to collect their personal guards, as they would need all of them.

Once they were gone, Sorio sent a Valet to gather his children -- and when he returned, children in his veth arms (oh he looked so ashamed!), Sorio took them and quickly took them into the banquet hall. Speaking simply, he told them that he loved them, and that they were to hide silently and wait for him to come back... and thus, he secreted them away into the hallway behind the mirror! (Style Point man, Style Point!)

They then went out to hunt the ork... Sorio, Narla, Alexei, Shajar, Vulo, Atool, and 5 collective ranks of Personal Guard.

Their search took them to the under-construction gymnasium... stone piled up everywhere, timber scaffolding looking like skeletons rising up around them... cotton sheets to keep the elements out flapping gently as rain and wind poured into the space... Sorio rolled Cunning to find the ork and failed. He had a Wager so I let him go first.

Sorio fails to find the ork...
...but he hears it breathing

To which I added with my wager:

...and feels it, suddenly, on his neck.

The ork ambushed the hunting party! Leaping down from the scaffolding to end them all! It was twice the size of a ven, with a thin, gaunt body rippling with muscle, its shoulders and hands grossly out of proportion -- with long, slender fingers tapering to claws, and legs bent doubled over like the haunches of a hound; its head was like an almond, with studs and horns all along it... tiny ears, and immense eyes over a mouth of teeth that consumes half its face!

Now to cut this short(er), it was a very fun fight! Immensely fun! Claws everywhere, people going down! Violence, swords, Rank 5 Wounds! Adam took the opportunity to roll dice and define Count Altool before things got hectic (he realized he really liked the Count, but we hadn't really defined him! A Wisdom check later and we know he has "Seen the rise and fall of powerful men," and is "Extremely devout to the Suaven"). We used the rule for "Mysteries" from the Narrator chapter and Adam spent 10 Style to narrate his sword suddenly coming to life with spectral flames that burnt blue and sundered the ork in twain with a final strike, when all was said and done! It was cool, and likely not happening again -- the point of the Mysteries (although I foresee a fun story to take out of that!) However...

I bungled the Mass Murder rules, and the Courage rules, and was not positive of how to handle the 'Extra attack risk per beat" bonus of Weapon Traits on the monster. I went with it all, sure! But it wasn't perfect and I'm gonna beat myself up over it.

In the end, the ork landed 8 blows. Under the appropriate rules, all of the guards would be down, and 3 NPCs (probably) would be down as well. Given my screw up, which I will treat as canon, 8 guards total went down. Still terrifying, sure! But not the horror it should have been (8 guards vs 50 guards). It was FUN though, so there ya go.

With the beast felled, Baron Sorio took his wife into his arms -- the revenge was dealt with -- and he spoke to those who has aided him. He thanked them for their help, for their grace under pressure, and for their immense bravery. He thanked his kin for being there for him... and he thank Count Altool, and told him that he owed him greatly for his aid. (The Best Words ever spoken. :twisted: )

A denouement, more or less, occurred when everyone returned to their chambers after the hunt. Retrieving his children, Sorio put them to rest, and encountered Zrudura in the hall... she explained her attempt at revenge was done. She merely wanted the chance. That was enough for her. The lives lost were just as random and as violent, she felt, as the meaninglessness of her son's death. She was ready to take her leave. Sorio contemplated killing her. She removed her veil, and her eyes were no longer black. She bid Sorio farewell as she left.

Her eyes were what staved off Sorio's blade; her eyes were brilliant green. The brilliant green of Narla and her kin.

----------------

Adam reported having a lot of fun. And I'll say, yeah, I did too! A lot! More than I had last time! The game is growing on me, I suppose? I dunno! This time around it just was more exciting to me, maybe as I began to grasp the rules better. We're probably going to play again soon, and we'll see what happens.

Fun Fact: The morning after we played, a package was on my porch. It contained my print copy of Houses of the Blooded. Excitement abounds!
Sometimes I roll dice and make stuff up about it (http://20facets.wordpress.com)

"I fought for the most glorious woman of a glorious race, and I fought for a great love and for the mother of my boy."
ARudzki
 
Posts: 19
Joined: Tue May 17, 2011 10:59 am
Location: Atlanta, GA


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