The session I want to describe is a bit complicated, bear with me please as I am still a bit close to it.
First, there were two metagame agendas playing off of each other in an interesting way. I, as the GM, had goals and directions. The players, of course, had separate goals and directions. But then we had another element where the players were fielding questions/actions to the GM (me), and I had to turn them over to one of the players due to metagame issues. They were essentially sending messages to another character through me. I turned the replies to those messages over to that player right at the table (even though he was not technically "playing that character" at the moment.)
I'll try to describe the sequence of play to make more sense of this.
We pick up on our third session since this thread: Sacrifice (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=11434)
One detail I don't know if I mentioned before: The Gods sleep in our world, therefore all Faith obstacles are 10. And in fact, none of the minor prayers really work. Only miracles are remotely possible.
In the previously described session, the players attempted to turn this powerful NPC, a Hobgoblin Patriarch who is a secret police enforcer for city run by Oni and wizards.
The original argument devolved into an issue of honor. The players wanted to talk about demons, evil and obligation. The NPC Hobgoblins only wanted to discuss the honor of the PC Hobgoblin's betrayal. The subsequent duel of wits resulted in a tie which forced a compromise: Ibusu (PC Hobgoblin) agreed to give his life to remove this stain of dishonor so that the Priest and his friends could openly discuss the heart of the matter with this powerful NPC.
After the PC's execution, a second duel of wits ensued. The short of it: Another compromise was forced. The players set the terms this time. The original goal was to have the NPC Patriarch and all his men to join them. The NPC Patriarch wanted all of them to turn themselves in. Neither goal was possible due to the forced compromise. So instead, the players got the NPC Patriarch to agree to send word to HIS Patriarch and ask him permission to keep working for the demons.
Here's where the metagaming came in. The players knew that this guy's original boss was a player character. They essential forced me to ask this player what he wanted his rather influential character to do.
I discussed this with the other player -- who is also a player in this game (his character is Ssaem, the ex-thug). We actually had a private one on one session. Now one of the conceits of this current game is that none of these powerful other characters can come to the city. All players know this and all have agreed. His other character being a very potent, very scary, one-armed, blind sorcerer hobgoblin. So instead of going directly to the city, he has his character pull a little Black Ops and used his Whisper on the Wind spell to draw out the NPC Patriarch.
At this point, we argued our viewpoints in character (they're not revelant here). I managed to convince him that this former very loyal vassal of his is 1) is insane 2) he's working for the demons 3) or he's just so crazy that he's going to do more harm than good. However due to extenuating circumstances, he can't stop him from returning to the city nor from working for the demons.
So the PC Patriarch/sorcerer sent a Whisper on the Wind message to one of the characters in the city: WE NEED TO TALK, NOW!
This is how we opened this week's session. A little practice time, yadda yadda, and suddenly a bolt from the blue. "TALK NOW. COME HERE." The group packs up and heads out of town to meet with this other player character.
At this point, I had no control over the direction of the game. The players were completely running the show. I was literally sitting and watching, every so often I added some setting details.
They conferred for about 45 minutes. One of the other players at the table also jumped characters and popped into his other, scary and powerful persona. He then had words with one of the current PCs (who is essentially his student). Between these half dozen characters and the four players present, they were shaping where and how the campaign would go next.
They agreed that the rebel movement in the city would be funded and supplied more vigorously. And they agreed that the NPC Hobgoblins in the city must be given every opportunity to defect. The NPC Patriarch must be given a chance as well, but his life is forfeit. If he hesitates, he's to be killed.
The players then (all back in their current characters) returned to the city to begin prepartions.
But then I saw the "too much information" lag kick in. They settled back into their chairs and gave each other the "now what?" look. So I booted the ball back into play. I had an NPC speak up: "You made the NPC Patriarch swear that damn oath. He agreed to it. Now you've got your answer: 'No, you may not continue working for the demons.' Why not confront him with it? He made a great to-do about honor, shouldn't he honor it?"
Another discussion ensued amongst the players. There were two obvious sides: We should go and confront him vs It's a trap.
They decided to go. In fact, though they took a 17 man bodyguard, they went in fairly trusting. Unfortunately, it was a trap.
Plain and simple.
As soon as they are disarmed (they gave up their weapons willingly), they were surrounded by musket wielding soldiers and told to get in to these specially prepared armored sedans.
Pretty ominous stuff and, at this point, the players were none too happy. I got glares, grim looks and even some shouting. Everyone stayed in the game, but it was clear from the looks I was getting they were all firing hate rays at me. The "fucking RAILROAD!" vibe was thick.
I stood my ground. I even let the "villain" explain himself a bit. He opined that they were fools to come to his house. Due to the numerous spies contained therein he now had no choice but to arrest them and take them to the demons.
They attempted to challenge him to a Duel of Wits. I declined.
They attempted to challenge him to a physical duel. Again, I declined.
The decision was pretty clear: Fight now and probably die, or get arrested and see what comes next.
One player spontaneously delivered a rousing speech. In addition to being dramatic, he was trying to warn his bodyguards in the next room, in code, that it was a set up. It was an Ob 3 Oratory test. He passed and a huge melee erupted throughout the manor house. In the ensuing chaos, the characters were captured and carted off. I gave them the option of scripting out a struggle, but they declined after seeing me set five opponents on each of them.
The mood was low. Lowwwwwwww.
Now, the "GM plan" here was to capture these characters and present them to the oni demon running this city. I had that written out in my notebook as the goal for this session. Players HATE that shit. However, in the game reality, this was the NPC Patriarch doing what he thought was right. And like any character in BW, had to perform the actions and make the tests. Therefore, he could be countered and thwarted. So I did not refuse the players a chance to escape or throw a moneywrench in the works. Nor did I set unreasonably high obstacles or sneer at the players. I tried very much to keep it "as it would be." This is a fine line to walk. In da old days, I would have just informed them by fiat that they were captured and off they go -- creating much ill will in the process. However, by filtering my plot goals down through fallible NPC entities and allowing the players opportunities to roll against them -- just like they would be able to in any other situation that they initiated -- we managed to remain playing the game, and stay away from ego and acting class. Or am I just kidding myself?
Either way, once in the sedans, the players took stock of their surroundings. The priest player asked: Can I offer a prayer? Certainly. He misses his obstacle. He was stuck then. There is no "re-praying". Our young swordsman player (Rich/Jong il) asked about busting his way out. I informed him, after consulting the materials chart and his power, that it would require six good kicks to put a dent in the reinforced door. Or I offered to let him try a heroic Power test to just kick in out in one shot. The other player immediately offered to help with that and tossed him a helping die.
The obstacle for the test was a reasonable 7. They rolled 6 dice total. If they really wanted it, they were going to have to spend artha. Rich declined to spend Persona points or use his one precious Deeds point. He rolled looking for a lucky shot with lots of 6s. No dice. Two attempts and they were still trapped.
At this point I asked around the table if anyone else had any escape ideas. They didn't. So I proceeded to the next scene with their permission.
The characters were taken to a remote chamber of the main government building -- the epynonymous Dome. It was a vaulted hall of marble, whose floor was a massive astrological chart, inlaid in gold and brass. The moon in the chart was beautiful pool set in the far left of the chamber.
The players' characters were dumped unceremoniously on the floor. In the room with the four of them were 25 elite hobgoblin fusiliers, the NPC hobgoblin Patriarch and two of the campaign's three MAJOR villains -- a black wizard known as The Thin Man, and an Oni Demon known as Jade.
The NPC Patriarch and his men ushered the characters forward to meet their fate. I turned to the players, "What do you do?"
"I offer a prayer!" shouted the priest's player. The other players excitedly agreed. "Can I help?! Can I help?" They offered. In order to help him, they had to have a syncretic (or specific) Belief on their character sheet. Dro's character changed a Belief on the spot in order to be of help.
"Ok, what do you say? What do you do?" I asked.
"I walk toward the pool with arms outstretched and say, 'Hosar, come forth and clean this place with your waters. Come and imprison these evil beings in this holy pool!"
At this point, the gig was up. The wizard and oni were looking on bemused. They knew the Gods sleep and the priests have no power (remember, all Faith tests are Ob 10!). They were, in fact, looking forward to breaking this holy thorn in their side.
However, the NPC Hobgoblin patriarch was of a different mind. I announced to the players that the Patriarch was changing one of his beliefs.
He changed "You cannot defeat the demons," to "Only holy, cleansing water and scourging fire can obliterate the stain of evil from this city: Come Armaggedon!"
The players were shocked. Even more shocked when his men followed suit. His elite bodyguard all have a Will of 5. That ended up granting 7 helping dice to the Faith test.
The NPC's change of Belief was based explicitly on the second Duel of Wits and his subsequent conversation with the PC Hobgoblin Patriarch/scary wizard. Though both of those ended in a compromise, I deemed them sufficient to have an impact on his addled mind and made the call that he turned sides. (There's also some backstory involving him and the priest, but it's not terribly important).
Drum roll, please . . . 11 successes were rolled on the Faith test. The miracle was a success! The pool rose up in fury, paunding the ceiling and walls with terrific clamor like unto shattering glass. But it subsided suddenly and none were wet or harmed. The dais was empty, but within the pool now swam two carp -- one jade and big, the other small and ebony.
Cheers and dancing around the table. One player laughed, "I thought we were just going to have another Duel of Wits!"
I kept up the pressure: The NPC Hobgoblin patriarch went a bit berserk. He rallied his men, shouting "Kill them all! Slaughter them in their beds!" He handed out weapons to the players -- knives and pistols to two, and his heirloom sword to the other (nothing for the priest). As it turns out, the heirloom sword is one of great history in our campaign and the players were delighted to see it enter back into the fray. It's enchanted!
They were initially going to participate in the slaughter of the government officials that the Patriarch was about to perform, but the priest player shouted to the group, "Wait, we have to save her!"
Huh? Her who?
This was great. The player had a contact in the upper echelons of the government since day one. Purchased with resource points: The youngest princess, no less! He never mentioned it before tonight. But suddenly he took over the session and turned it into a "save the princess" scenario. I had not planned for nor foreseen this. Time to wing it. NICE!
So where's the princess in the middle of the night? In the palace of course!
They rushed over to the sprawling malaysian style palace and were confronted by four tough enforcers. Three of these four were beheaded by the new heirloom sword... but not before one of them delivered a Midi wound to one of the characters -- Ssaem, the ex-street thug. It's ironic, he'd been untouchable up to this point. His luck had held up until now, but he just pushed it too far this last time. He was wounded badly, but his player decided to press on.
Now the real badness! Entering the palace of tyrannical despots at night, causing a ruckus ... there's only one answer to that kind of problem: The Queen's personal NINJA ASSASSIN! This assassin was not invented on the spot. He'd been previously established -- he'd poisoned the swordsman, broken the ex-thug's nose and nearly kidnapped the priest -- so they all knew he was here somewhere.
Wasting no time, the ninja leapt into the fray. Now, if Mr Ninja was "being smart", he would have acted completely differently -- sniping from afar, picking them off, being clever, yadda yadda. What fun is that? We needed action!
So he literally leapt down from the ceiling on top of one of the characters -- the swordsman -- and combat ensued.
Three ugly actions later (five minutes of real time, two seconds of game time), the swordsman, Jong-Il, is lying face down with a Traumatic wound -- a shuriken to the face. Ssaem, the wounded ex-street thug is holding a smoking pistol -- and the ninja has collapsed to the ground, clutching his belly. Two Traumatic wounds in two volleys.
The priest leapt on the swordsman and rolled him over. "Jong-Il!" He cries.
Stop right there. Time to award some artha. I should have really awarded artha after the prayer, but we were in the heat of the moment. With the death of the ninja, the scenario is really over over over. 2 Deeds and couple of Persona points each. They had completed their mission to rid the city both of the tyrannical government and the evil demons. I rewarded them lavishly.
The priest player immediately reinvested some of that in saving Jong Il. Still he only barely passed that Herbalism test to pull out that shuriken and save his friend from bleeding to death. (On an interesting side note, the other wounded character, Ssaem, never got medical attention and ended up bleeding to a Severe wound before passing out.)
Did they save the princess? Nope. As they were tending their friend, she came running down the staircase to help them. But the window burst open and ANOTHER Oni demon (who the players knew about -- remember, they only got two of three in their prayer. I wasn't pulling anything out of my ass) flew in and wisked the girl away! I had to provide a future adventure scenario for next time -- save the princess from the clutches of the evil demon!
That's where we ended. The final session of this campaign will be a one-shot with the two players who couldn't make this session plus the characters who survived this one. Now they the coup is in full swing, they're job is going to be to pull it all together and through off the yoke of oppression.
hope that shed some light on running a BW game. sorry if it got convoluted, but I do have a hard time keeping it all straight in my head. I'd be happy to answer questions about actual mechanics or even table/player stuff.
terribly sorry about the double post.
i'm having some odd problems with posting over here in general.
Ron, Clinton, please delete this double post.
That, quite simply, sounds cool.
And reading between the lines, it doesn't sound like your players were griping about the 'railroading' a lot in the end.
Shuriken in the face. Ouch. Even rubber ones hurt, I know, so that HAD to smart.
As a player in this campaign, I am sorry to be one of the guys who missed it. But, I think my character is VERY happy not to have been there! :o)
I'm glad you posted this. You gave me the rundown of the events leading up to this on Friday, so it's cool to see what they and you actually did with it. I think it should also be pointed out, for those that don't know, that this was the climax of a years-long campaign.
I think railroading is a pretty strong word for what you did. It seems like the players always chose their actions, and you just responded with the consequences.
Anyway, it sounds like it was a blast. Out of curiosity, what are your plans after the follow-up session with the demon and the princess. Do you think you'll say goodbye to these characters and the setting and start a fresh campaign? Or will you start another campaign with these characters?
Just to clarify, this was the finale of a 15-session campaign that began in January. It took place in the world we've been playing in for years, but the players for this game made all new characters. Hence the cool metagame weirdness involving the older characters (currently not in play) dictating the direction of the world.
The Oni and the princess will be held onto for a later date. I think many of the characters will be reprised in that scenario.
But we're also going to play out an epilogue session later this summer, involving the two players who couldn't make this session.
Our next game is actually going to be set in our Wester European setting. We're looking at a 2-3 month game.
After that, next fall, I'm planning on running a "witchhunter" type campaign in the same world as this last adventure. This arc was actually instigated by player character actions and formally requested by the players in my group. Two of their characters REALLY want to hunt down this cabal of sorcerers.
Also, we'll do more big picture/background stuff with those powerful PCs later this summer.
Always a busy schedule here at BWHQ,