Brugghes #7: For a Fistful of Doomstone

If you're new to this column, read the read this first. Play date: october 8, 2010

Serapha really wants to infiltrate the vampyre chain of command, but to prove that she is with the vampyres, she feels she has to betray the hunters. And she also has to let it look like she's betraying Francesco. And he has to believe it. So, she sends out the order to capture, and possibly execute Francesco's favorite adopted niece. And tell him about it. Naturally he is not amused at all.

Yes, indeed. This adventure I let something dreaded happen as a GM. I allowed a player to play a basically chaotic and evil character. Or, that is surely what it looks like. And worse, Serapha, who fits the description, now confronts the other player characters in direct conflict. This gives incredible tension and excitement – like, is she really gonna kill this innocent NPC, is she really turning on us? – but it's also walking a thin line. If Serapha does not come up with a sensible explanation – which she does have, but she'll still have to tell in time – it will become unplayable. Player character killing player character is just not an option – we tried in the past, and hated it.

So, Francesco and Will find themselves on the streets at midnight to send a message out to set up a rescue of the niece. Through the priests of St. Gabriel, who can send messages with godspeed. But the church is strangely padlocked, and full of cobwebs. Creepy. In the next building, where they know the Paladyns have their secret base a strange couple enters. They don't look like Paladyns, and the bearded Paladyn that always waved so friendly at them now acts as if he doesn't know them. Weird.

Francois, a fourth PC who missed last week's episode, is just across the square. As second man of the shadowcouncil, and recently also second in command to the mayor, he has his own problems. One of them is mayor Richard himself, who rightfully suspects Francois of foul play. Another is that Francois has hired the Paladyn order to raid the vampyres that hide in the factory of the influential mr. Thyssen. And Thyssen is friends with both the vampyres... and the mayor. Richard will of course play the game along, and now chat and drink with the Bishop of Cluny, the boss of the Paladyns. But will Richard drop his friend Thyssen?

An earthshattering explosion across the square gives him the answer. Doomstone grinder bombs. Will and Francesco stood next to it and try to evade the debris. Serapha, watching from a house nearby is hit by shattering windowpanes. The safehouse of the Paladyn order has been blown to bits. And so are all left inside. It looks like there will be no Paladyn left to do a raid tomorrow. More explosions follow under the street, close to the cathedral.

Francois realizes: “That's where the bone relics are”. The relics they worked hard to take from the vampyres. The relics they handed to the Paladyns, to help prevent Doomstone plagues. To help prevent war. While he shouts and commands as many people he can to fight the fires, his brain fevers. How to save the bones? There is hardly a Paladyn left! Then he spots Francesco and Will. They will help him.

When I GM, I now like to work on many different levels at once. Each character has its own goals, its own edge, its own conflicts. And all these personal stories I try to weave together into one whole, which hopefully is enjoyed by all. The good thing is that you can tell a complex story and motivate everyone personally. The tough thing is to get all characters heading the same way.

Serapha is on her own now. But she sees how the couple that entered the exploded building of the Paladyns, are walking away unscathed! She burns some of the blood she sucked – she is a vampyre, too – and follows them to an inn on the edge of town.

Francesco has a smart plan. He will create a diversion. He'll take the wrong bones from the crypt of the cathedral, and bring them to the safehouse mayor Richard suggested. And Francois will tell Richard and others that these are the real relics – to keep away from the vampyres underground. But the real relics are instead secretly taken into the bell tower.

And then a mysterious knight drops a note to Will. It turns out to be Aster, the Paladyn. And most other Paladyns are still alive too. They were already out to do the raid one night earlier than planned. So they have not been blown up after all. Will, Francesco and Francois should join them.

And that's where the party wants to split up demon kicked in again – it took another threat from Aster to get him to join. A realistic one, but still. “If you don't join, I'll tell them about your dirty ops.” Serapha meanwhile drifts by the other heroes in a boat, together with the couple. It's not quite clear if she is the hostage or they are. But, all are at least heading for the same goal. The Thyssen mansion and factory.

Approaching the estate from different sides, the heroes break in, climb the walls, and join the Paladyns. Will and Francesco go for the mansion, Francois and the main force storm the factory. Quickly both parties dispose of the guards, and with the use of grenades they make diversions. They're in. But why are the cellars so empty? Where are the coffins? Where are the doomstone containers? Where are the people experimented upon, that Francois saw in a vision? A greenish light shimmers in a corner. “It's a trap!” Francois and the Paladyns dive for cover. But for most of them it's too late.

The explosion breaks all windows in the mansion too, where Will, Francesco and Aster are. They too have to conclude that the vampyres have fled, and Thyssen too. It's just the guards and servants that are left. And a horrible creature – a kind of huge eyeless fish – which lies in a bed. In horror they find themselves displaced in the house. GM-ing a bit of delirium again.

As you see, a lot of twists and double turns. But it's not over. The heroes manage to rescue the dragon rider, and reunite her with her mount. Soon enough, it appears that both may be dragons! One in human form. In the city another surprise awaits. The bones have been stolen... just as Francois feared. Mayor Richard is said to be very sorry. Yet it seems to Francois that Richard made a trade with Thyssen and the vampyres. They left town but took the bones. The messenger tells they were taken right from the safehouse. Francois lightens up – those were the false bones! The ones in the tower are still safe. But for how long? And now for sure he cannot enter town without fearing for his life.

As a last scene, Serapha's threat still stands. She betrayed Francesco, and her vampyre blood boils too much – no matter how much he likes, or loves her. And no matter that she is a PC. Will, Francesco and Aster have bound and gagged Serapha. But what next? Well, that's to be continued...

1 comment:

  1. Yup. Still got it, after 15 years hiatus...