Steam & Crumpets: Episodes 1 & 2
FINALLY! Time to recap the first two episodes of Steam & Crumpets!
First, I apologize … I haven’t had much time to get around to writing these posts. Juggling all of these projects with an exhausting job search and family coming in and out of town has proven, well … difficult, to say the least. The good news is that I think things are starting to settle down.
I give you … the first two episodes of my Victorian Changeling: The Lost game – Steam & Crumpets! They are, as they say, in the can. I’ll publish the third episode here, soon, but I want to make a separate post about it so that I can talk about some of the things I changed as a result of what happened during the first two sessions.
All of the sessions have gone fantastically well, thanks in large part to a great group of players. You can see in the second episode that we had two guest stars in Zak and Izzy. I was terribly bummed when the session ended. I could have played for several hours more, but responsible adults have to sleep and all of that. :)
I was initially very concerned about having seven players, mostly because I have a serious issue with saying ‘no, too many players’. I just naturally want to play with everyone, anyways… but wanting and being capable of are two different things. So, basically, I was worried I’d screwed myself for wanting too many people to play.
Yet, things have gone smashingly well, even when we had a cast of eight players. The players are doing a great job of making this happen. What you don’t see in the videos is the chat that’s going on in the sidebar almost the entire time. I keep meaning to save the chat logs, even if just for me to look at them at the end. I catch bits and pieces of juicy things happening, but I’m often too busy running another scene to really pay that much attention.
Episodes 1 & 2: TL;DW Version
For those of you who don’t have time to watch the whole things, I offer you the TL;DW version from the eyes of the Storyteller.
To make connections easier, I had all of the characters start out in a motley that escaped from the Hedge together. The night that they escaped Faerie was May 1st, Mayday. Coincidentally, the local freehold that all of the characters belonged to (and has been in London since the 11th century at LEAST) held it’s Spring Court Homecoming party on that very same night. The Spring Court’s Homecoming party (despite it’s ubiquitous name) is all about Changelings coming back from the Hedge. It’s a celebration of freedom from slavery.
At the start of the chronicle, the characters had been out of the hedge for three years. They bumped into each other on occasion during the years, but largely kept to themselves. Their occupations often had reason to overlap as well. Dalton and Floyd kept in contact and often traded information as they’re almost two sides of the same coin. Dalton and Viola also worked together at the same residence (Dalton as butler, Viola as governess). Marry occasionally came by the residence with deliveries of coal. Felicity and Franklin are both in the same business of tinkering, and are (mostly) friendly rivals, always trying to one up one another. Talya worked at a brothel nearby, and Marry was often called on to be a bouncer, and finally Franklin often helped Talya with any broken parts her clockwork body might accrue over the course of time.
I had the players put together these connections by going through a character introduction phase. I asked the player to introduce their character, explain whatever background points they felt they wanted to share with the rest of the group, and describe their mein and mask. At the end of the description, I gave everyone a chance to strike up connections with one another, find parts of their backgrounds and occupations and personalities that fit together as they heard their other motley members introducing themselves. Thus, all of those connections were wrought by the players. :)
Once a year, on the anniversary of their escape (Mayday), the characters all get together to enjoy High Tea prior to going upstairs and also enjoying the formal ball. The Spring Court spares no expenses for the shindig, even offering to bathe and clothe the less … palatable … changelings.
The characters met for dinner, and were introduced to Clarence Remington Fawkes III, the freehold’s butler, as he attended to their meal. Before food was even properly delivered, however, a ruckus in the hallway led the characters to spot a man making a beeline for the door. Further investigation revealed the man disappeared immediately thereafter. Spoooky.
After some investigation of that event, the crew had their dinner, but were rudely abandoned by the staff, who decided to attend to the party, instead. Before heading up, they found a calling card placed mysteriously on the table, and found it belonged to Eva, the freehold’s local Faeriologist. Odd.
The group went upstairs, and just as the festivities were started, the building was attacked by a giant, steam octopus with four brass-armored living tentacles and four mechanical tentacles. The thing was gobbling up changelings left and right, and our characters valiantly tried to save other changelings, but ended up having to run for their lives towards the end as the octopus systematically destroyed the entire building, leaving only a crater.
Thus ended Episode 1. I wanted to get everyone’s attention. I think it worked!
Episode 2 was gentler. The characters first fled to their hollow, then thought maybe they ought to come out and check out the library to see if Eva, at least, was still alive. They found Clarence at the library and decided to take the ‘insult first, ask questions later’ route by holding him at knifepoint and making a lot of pointed accusations. Eventually, they figured out that Clarence was there to help them, as was Eva, who stepped out of the shadows. Eva and Clarence filled them in on why they think this is happening, and the characters spent most of the rest of the night not taking their word for it and doing all of that research all over again.
Eva told the motley that at the end of any millennium, the gateway between the real world and Faerie becomes weaker, and more things can pass through it both ways. It is a time of great unrest and they had a feeling that for some reason this year would be worse. Eva has a whole stack of partially-investigated situations, and they expect more. Particularly pressing is a young man who’s suspected of having been replaced by a Fetch.
As some of the only changelings left, our motley is going to have to establish a new freehold, investigate the Fae intrusions that Eva has, and shepherd in the new changelings about to come in. They have to replace an ancient and well-established freehold, and they’re only three years out of the hedge themselves. Plus, every single character has to worry that his or her Keeper might find an easy way to get them back with so little protection around them.
At the end of episode 2, the characters decided they needed to break up to do some independent investigation here and there, some of which we did between sessions via Play-By-Post.
For the first game, I was incredibly prepared. Maps, floor plans, and everything (I’ll link those below). Even the steam-powered octopus was statted out and I made a very poor sketch of the thing to get an idea of what it looked like. I, however, had a shaky – at best – idea of how the rules worked. I find this to be at least partially because of usability reasons (as already discussed by me here).
Most of which were corrected by Episode 2, and since we didn’t do any combat, completely rectified by the time we got to Episode 3. Here are some general observations and notes:
- It seems too easy to succeed. There were very few failures, and if one person failed, another person succeeded. This has continued through all three episodes. Failures help make things interesting. nWoD has a modifiers system to adjust the difficulty levels of things, but I didn’t really use much of it. In the future, I need to be more of a hard-ass about that and apply more modifiers to a scene.
- Also, I need to do more contested rolls. When the characters were ever-so rudely interrogating poor Clarence, I didn’t make any rolls by HIM to pull the wool over their eyes or to resist their interrogation. There are also a number of contracts that he has that could have helped him out. Basically, that scene should have gone MUCH differently, and it should have served as a reminder to the party that they’re fairly weak just yet, and the world around them is fairly dangerous – even the people who are there to help them. In that regard, it completely failed … but there’s time for redemption.
- As a result, the motley seems to fear nothing. By the end of episode 2, I realized I really needed to pump up the danger level.
- Extended actions kinda suck, actually. Unless there’s some sort of time limit, or time needs to be measured, or a project has to go on for multiple days at multiple times, I’m not using extended actions. The time it takes to count up the successes for that many rolls is just silly. It seems to me that if there is a set amount of time, one roll should actually do it for a majority of the things needing done.
What I spent a majority of my time working on was an adventure the characters still haven’t really gotten to. This is a boon and a curse at the same time. The boon is that the group is going through what I’ve written up for them rather slower than I expected, so it’ll be easier to meet my goal, which is to have 4-5 possible plots available for the characters to pick and choose from at any time. Kind of like choosing which quest you want to go on, next.
I have plans to do this via a rumors system. I’ll go over in another post how I’m handling some Player-Storyteller interaction using Google Docs. Really, Google’s turning out to be an incredible platform for gaming. There are things that I want to improve upon, but they’re really minor.
The curse is that I’m super excited to play out this adventure. I just can’t let my own eagerness interfere with what the players want to do, because they’ve come up with some pretty ingenious ideas.
These images are shared under a Creative Commons non-commercial attribute share alike license, so you can use them in your games if you like! I used Floorplanner.com to make them, which is turning out to be a fantastic tool.
The Giant Octopus
Also free to use for your games (non-commercially). Attribution appreciated, but not necessary. Also, I make no claims for the balance-ness of this particular monster. :) I needed it to destroy a building, not to really be fightable.
This huge machine easily stands four stories tall, and has been made with pure destruction in mind. It comes to the world from below the streets, destroying everything in it’s path as it makes it’s way up to it’s target. It is shaped like a giant, brass octopus on top of tank treads with razor-sharp “teeth” meant to rip into most sorts of material and tear it to shreds.
The brass octopus has 8 tentacles. Four of the tentacles are made of living tissue, and are armored with hinged, brass armor. The other four are hinged brass mechanical tentacles with weaponry attached to the end of them. Each mechanical tentacle can access 1 Gatling Gun, 1 Chainsaw, 1 Grabbing Claw, and 1 emission of sleeping gas.
The beak of the octopus is guarded by gatling guns mounted to either side. When it first opens, it expels 1d10 Steam Imps (red, scaly, imp-like creatures). The imps each do two die worth of damage with their claws, but on one successful hit disappear into a puff of steam.
The Octopus has one eye, which is a bulbous, rounded protrusion from the main form, extra armored, and with an eye slit present. The Gentry running the device is mostly shielded.
The middle of the Octopus is empty, serving as a holding pen for the changelings gobbled down into it.
Overall armor: 2/3
4 Living Tentacles: 4 Health each. Firearms do bash damage unless armor is removed.
Gatling Guns: 2 @ mouth, 1 each on mechanical tentacles (4). Large SMG, 3 damage.
Chainsaws: Do 4(L) damage.
Sleeping Gas: Stamina + Resolve (Reflexive)
Damage from all weapons is added to the driver’s Dexterity + Steam dice pool (steam is a skill I added to replace computer in a Victorian setting).