Character creation and the first session were interwoven.
The in-game story is in regular text…
And character creation steps are indented and italics.
To start things off, I asked each player to think about their character was being sent on this mission. As part of that, they had to create their High Concept aspect. All requirements from their template still applied as usual.
Two wizards sat in a White Council briefing room, waiting to be briefed by the Warden leader Morgan about the mission they were about to embark on. The first wizard was Alois, a strong, experienced combat wizard; he had the strength and experience to be a warden, but his resistance to authority and his focus on making money kept him on the outskirts. The other wizard was Marcovic, in many ways Alois’ opposite. Marcovic was a boy scout, eager to please, totally buying in to the party line, and intent to prove himself to the White Council. Marcovic was strong and trained in combat wizardry, but he lacked a certain maturity as of yet. Still, Marcovic was a Warden (the Vampire War was taking its toll) and technically outranked Alois.
Morgan filled them in: They were going to Las Vegas: Outsiders were being sold to the highest bidder and were now starting to show up all around the world. The Gatekeeper on the High Council had tracked the source to Las Vegas. Things were going to be dangerous for the wizards in Las Vegas. The Red Court vampires had recently begun making inroads into Las Vegas and were building it up as a stronghold in the Western U.S., which meant that the wizards would be outnumbered and outgunned. The Warlock was an extremely powerful warlock who openly flaunted his violations of the Laws of Magic and who had his so-called “Tower” with several other warlocks under his thumb. The White Court Skotakis clan was powerful in Las Vegas. Things were uncertain between the White Court and the White Council at present; the White Court had not yet entered the war alongside the Red Court and Morgan made it clear that if the two wizards did anything to tip the White Court towards joining the Red Court, they would deeply regret it. Morgan filled them in on the other factions and powers in Las Vegas.
Morgan stressed that shutting down the Outsider Trafficking was their only mission and it was of vital importance. It was not their job to take the war to the Red Court (not that a few more dead Reds would be discouraged, of course). That would be the job of future objectives. Similarly, it was not their job to capture the several warlocks openly breaking the Laws of Magic in Las Vegas and bring them to trial. In fact (and Morgan said this like he was choking), they even had permission to make a temporary alliance with the Warlock in order to achieve their goals.
Finally, Morgan told them that the Vampire War was going badly and they couldn’t expect any back-up. The Regional Warden Commander Ramirez was leading more of the Wardens on a different mission, which it was best Alois and Marcovic knew nothing about, in case they were captured. Plus the whole damn city was an anomaly, somehow blocking all attempts to scry remotely and all of the old safe routes through the Nevernever had been altered or broken by some sort of flux around Las Vegas. Still, they would have allies. There was a Venatori Umbrorum presence in the city and plans had been worked out to meet with one of their representatives once they got to the city. That representative was Daniel Hollister, who the two wizards had worked with before.
Daniel was a veteran field commander of the Venators (the secret organization hidden within the Venatori Umbrorum that neither the White Council nor the Venatori Umbrorum themselves knew anything about). He was already in the city along with another Venator field agent (James Fendler) and a fair-sized Venatori Umbrorum delegation. The Venatori Umbrorum was in town to acquire two copper ring disc artifacts that could be used to banish Outsiders from our world. The Venators were dedicated to stopping the summoning of Outsiders into our realm (something they called the “Oblivion War”) and Daniel was already tracking the Outsider trafficking and so was happy to have two wizards along.
The last ally who would join the mission was Tom, a Native American were-bear and emissary of a powerful Bear spirit dedicated to keeping unwelcome spirits, demons, and Outsiders out of the Las Vegas Valley (the thin Veil and the valley’s proclivity to trouble predated the coming of humans). Tom had worked closely with Daniel before and had worked with both wizards, as well.
The group was set and their mission was clear: Alois, Marcovic, Daniel, and Tom (two wizards, a veteran mortal, and a werebear) had to track down the source of the Outsider trafficking and shut it down with extreme prejudice… alone.
At this point I asked them to think about why they were sent on this mission instead of something else? What was their Trouble aspect? For the two wizards, what kept them from being on Ramirez’ mission instead of being sent to Las Vegas because they were the only two available? For the other two, what was going to make their life (and the mission) in Las Vegas much more difficult?
Gathering at Marverick and an Invitation
The four met up at Marverick Truck Stop, a large truck stop just outside of Las Vegas when coming up I-15 from Los Angeles. Marverick was the last outpost of White Council presence near Las Vegas. The four had all worked together before, so the greetings were warm but brief. The owner of Marverick, Ray King, was a representative of the White Council. He wasn’t a wizard (though he was a skilled practitioner with a knack for wards) and he had an abrasive personality and he delighted in making White Council members uncomfortable, but he was the best they had. He came out to meet them, making it clear from his expression that he was not encouraged by what he saw in them and that if they were the best there was, then they were all in trouble.
’You’re late,’ Ray said. ‘Here, these came for you a couple hours ago.’ He handed each of them their own fancy envelope of expensive cream colored paper.
Alois sniffed at it with his sixth sense, checking for any enchantments or curses, but it seemed clean. Alois snorted. They opened their envelopes and found invitations to a ball in their honor being held at the Aria hotel and casino on the Strip. That made the four nervous, since the Aria was the flagship of the White Court Skotakis and at the heart of their power. To make things worse, their arrival in Las Vegas was supposed to be a secret, but clearly every faction in the city had known well before they arrived. On the other hand, the invitation followed all of the protocol of the Unseelie Accords, naming them as formal guests, plus the entire Strip was Accorded Neutral Ground, so they were as safe there as they would be anywhere in Vegas. They deliberated a moment and decided they would go. Ray snorted again.
‘Of course you’re going,’ he said.
To the Ball
They arrived at the Aria; the entire building was extravagant and beautiful, full of white and silver (very much fitting the White Court). It was also, however, less than half full. The crash of the economy had hit Vegas, too, and the certainty that ever bigger and grander hotels would always be filled had been found to be not completely true. The four were met by security and escorted to a large banquet room where scores of the most powerful and dangerous men and women of the Las Vegas supernatural crows milled around in tuxes and ball gowns.
I explained the plan to the players here. Each of them was to pick a faction that their character had tangled with in the past, whether in a positive or a hostile way. We’d take turns and on each of their turns they’d pick their faction, then do their phase 3 of character creation (writing a short blurb for their first ‘novel’). Their phase 3 blurb had to include that faction in a significant way. And their aspect had to be something that could be compelled and invoked frequently in Las Vegas specifically on this mission.
On their turn, they’d have a scene with a representative of that faction, then we’d do a flashback where they did their phase 3, then we’d come back to the present in the party. I used the Social Conflict rules from (a different FATE game) with a simple map. Each faction was a pawn and the players would get an action to try and sway that faction either towards being allies or enemies for the start of the campaign (of course those initial faction dispositions could and probably would shift throughout the campaign). They’d be opposed by representatives of the Red Court, who would try to sway the factions towards opposing the group, or at least refusing to offer any aid.
Then there would be a second and third exchange. Each player would pick one of the other players’ factions (both their flashback and phase 3 and their present interactions at the ball) and guest star. They’d do their phase 4 (in the second exchange of the social conflict at the ball) then take an action to sway that faction (again, opposed by the Red Court). Then they’d do the same for a different character and faction in the third exchange (doing their phase 5 guest star roles). The first co-star role (phase 4) they chose and the second co-star role (phase 5) I assigned.
In the session, we did all of the phase 3, then all of the phase 4, then all of the phase 5 steps. I wrote up in a different order below, writing all three exchanges for each faction together, to make it easier to read.
The White Court
As soon as they arrived in the ballroom, their hostess, Monique Skotakis, approached them. Alois reeled visibly when he felt the touch of her influence. He had extensive experience with the White Court. He had once been a thrall for years before being rescued…
Flashback: When Alois was a thrall of a White Court vampire, he needed to escape the gilded cage and regain his freedom. But would he succeed when he was thoroughly addicted to his mistress’ charms? Aspect: Former Thrall of the White Court
Monique saw his reaction and smiled. ’Which one of my kin let a prize like you get away?" she asked, sliding in close.
Looking at Alois’ new aspect, the GM held up a fate point and smiled. He suggested that Alois didn’t trust himself to reply, giving up his turn to try and influence the White Court through her for this turn and letting the GM choose where the White Court would start on the disposition map. He agreed and took the fate point.
Alois stared at her, blushing but not trusting himself to speak. Monique laughed and put her arm through his.
’I’m glad you came,’ she said.
‘Yes, indeed,’ said a rich voice with a noticeable but not overpowering Serbian accent. It was the Red CourtCount Valon ‘Val’ Dosti, the leader of the Red Court in Las Vegas. ‘But they won’t be here long. They might be a pleasant diversion, but we don’t want to forget the long-term view, would we?’
Count Dosti rolled Rapport to move the White Court pawn towards being enemies of the PCs by suggesting it would be foolish to associate with the here-today-gone-tomorrow White Council delegation when the Count and the Red Court would be around for the long haul. He got a fair success, moving the White Court.
Monique graciously removed her arm from Alois and turned more formally towards the rest of the group.
Daniel knew what had happened with Alois…
Flashback: Daniel, on a mission from the Venatori Umbrorum, visited Alois’ mistress and saw the wizard under her thrall, so he notified a White Council ally of his plight.
Daniel also knew that the disposition of the White Court would be very important to their mission. Monique was rumored to be a business mogul first and foremost, so he approached her on that level.
‘Our physical presence may be short-lived, but that doesn’t mean our influence will be,’ Daniel said, ’My organization has considerable resources and has been considering investing in Las Vegas. Perhaps we can discuss details at a later time?"
He rolled Resources to try and sway her with the offering of future business considerations. He succeeded solidly and the White Court moved back towards the White Council.
‘Ah, let’s not forget our own ongoing dealings,’ Count Dosti cut in.
Count Dosti also rolled Resources, trying to beat Daniel at his own game, but he fails. The White Court pawn doesn’t move.
Monique’s smile grows a little less warm as she turns to Count Dosti. She doesn’t say anything, but it’s clear that they’re both remembering something and Count Dosti realizes he made a misstep.
Marcovic decides to speak up as the representative of the White Council here.
Flashback: After Daniel’s tip, a warden visited Alois’ mistress. Marcovic was that warden’s apprentice. They negotiated an exchange and Alois came back with them. During Alois’ debriefing and ‘detox’ period, Alois and Marcovic became, if not friends, at least friendly acquaintances.
I’m embarrassed to say I can’t remember what Marcovic rolled, but he also succeeded solidly and the White Court pawn moved all the way to the ‘Open Allies’ space on the map. I also can’t remember what the Count rolled, but he failed again.
Count Dosti tried to recover from his losses, but fails . He’s clearly angry, though he covers it with the required levels of decorum. Marcovic and Monique exchange some pleasantries and Monique offers the group free penthouse rooms at the Aria as long as they are in town and the friendship of the Skotakis clan.
The starting disposition of the White Court is ‘Openly Allies’
The Tower and the Warlock
A little later, the group notices the Warlock. At first glance, he seems like an absorbed, introverted intellectual, but that impression is quickly supplanted by an aura of power on many levels and the realization that his detachment is the outward sign of a sociopathic lack of empathy. He does not see people, but background data, threats, or tools.
Daniel’s stomach churns when the Warlock looks his direction. What does the Warlock know…?
Flashback: When Outsider trafficking rears its head in Las Vegas, Daniel must stop it at all costs. But will he succeed when Max Gray, the rebel warlock, tries to co-opt him into his schemes? Aspect: Potentially incriminating correspondence with Max Gray
Looking at the new aspect, the GM offer’s Daniel’s player a FP to be blocked form action when Max Gray arrives and Daniel’s too focused on avoiding suspicion to be at his best.
Max Gray approaches and begins to talking to Daniel. Daniel glances over and sees the Warlock watching them with a distracted squint.
Marcovic didn’t know the details, but he noticed the look and approaches the Warlock.
Flashback: No flashbacks for the two co-stars in Daniel’s story with Max Gray and the Warlock; since they just got there, we decide to treat the interactions at the ball as the co-starring.
Marcovic decided to run interference for Daniel and approached the Warlock. Marcovic enthusiastically set into a pitch (bordering on a lecture) on magic and ethics. Everyone who knows Marcovic tenses a little; he’s very… enthusiastic (you either love him or pray he doesn’t get you cornered at a party).
Marcovic rolls Conviction to impress the Warlock. The difficulty is pretty high for a number of reasons, but he manages to slide the Tower pawn a space or two towards alliance.
The Warlock hesitates, then begins arguing back. He certainly is convinced of anything, but he seems to be enjoying the conversation and his attention is drawn away from Daniel and Max (which was the goal).
Then Count Dosti’s right-hand man, the Red Court Infected Fisnik “Nikki” Kraja, meanders up and asks the Warlock who Max was talking to (drawing attention back to Daniel).
Nikki rolls Intimidation, loading his statement with a mixture of menace and mocking. He rolls about as well as marcovic did, sliding the Tower pawn back to the middle of the disposition map.
The Warlock glances over and his eyes narrow again.
‘Thank you for the conversation, Warden,’ the Warlock said in a calm but somehow frightening voice, ‘I am pleased by your civility and look forward to future conversations.’ With that, the Warden takes a step towards Max and Daniel.
Tom has also been watching the exchange from across the room. When he tells a young White Court vampire (who’s been drinking heavily) that he’s a werebear, she gigglingly asks him to transform. Tom knows about the danger to Daniel, so he obliges, doing a dance in bear form.
Flashback: Again, no flashback, since this is the co-star role.
Tom rolls Performance to create a distraction. He just succeeds, not moving the Tower token, but pulling the Warlock’s attention.
The Warlock stops and looks over when there’s a crash and loud laughter from across the ballroom. Tom, in bear form, is dancing and a crowd has gathered to watch.
Nikki shoots the bear an annoyed look and calls to Max loudly enough to cut over the laughter.
Nikki rolls Presence, competing for attention. He fails.
The Warlock doesn’t hear Nikki, but Max does and notices the Warlock is nearby. With a smirk, Max excuses himself and asks Daniel again to consider an alliance. Daniel is noncommittal and Max walks away before the Warlock looks back again. The Warlock seems distracted by something and wanders on to other concerns.
The starting disposition of the Tower is ‘Neutral’.
The Wild Hunt
A while later, Tom (back in human form) is shocked to see a goblin sidhe in the room. Tom knows this goblin well; it is Karsa, a head huntsman of the Wild Hunt.
Flashback: When Tom is in the path of the Wild Hunt, he must join the Hunt to survive. But will he be able to separate himself from the hunt again when part of him revels in it? Aspect: Thrill of the Kill
‘Tom! It is good to see you!’ Karsa says, approaching with an asymmetrical grin. All of his features are disturbingly asymmetrical and he radiates a feral aura of danger.
Looking at Tom’s aspect, the GM offers a fate point to lose his action as he struggles against the reminder of the Hunt that almost stripped his humanity completely. Tom’s player refuses, buying off the compel and rolling [I can’t remember what] to greet Karsa warmly as an old friend. He succeeds and the Wild Hunt token slides towards the group.
Tom greets him warmly and they fall into easy conversation.
Count Dosti steps in to try to bring the Wild Hunt around to the Red Court side.
The Count rolls Presence, playing up the predatory nature of the Red Court. He gets a marginal success, moving the Wild Hunt pawn a little, though it’s still solidly towards the group.
The Count joins the conversation, presenting himself as a fellow predator while getting in digs against the White Council (though not against Tom himself). Karsa welcomes the Count easily (Tom is not nearly as comfortable), and responds to the jabs at the White Council with deep laughter, then responds that he’s enjoying watching the war between two such great powers.
Alois jumps in at that opening…
Flashback: Alois found the near-feral Tom after the Wild Hunt and helped nurse him back to his humanity.
He plays up his own background in two world wars, showing confidence that the current Vampire War would end in the White Council’s favor.
Rex rolls Intimidation, digging at the Count. He succeeds, sliding the Wild Hunt pawn solidly to the very end of the map in their favor.
Count Dosti tries to load the conversation with greater implications and change it from a personal conversation to a political one.
The Count rolls Intimidation, too, to bring the benefits of alliance with the Red Court and the dangers of enmity. He fails.
Karsa seems greatly amused by the Count’s insinuations, easily mocking both sides and seemingly utterly unconcerned by the War or the potential ire of the Red Court.
Daniel wanders over from across the room.
Flashback: Daniel gave Tom, was still on teetering on the edge, a mission and a cause to help bring him all the way back.
Daniel hasn’t been part of the earlier conversation and comes in with a totally different tack.
Daniel rolls [I can’t remember] and criticizes the surrender to base, feral instincts (he is speaking more for Tom’s benefit than Karsa’s). Surprisingly, Karsa eats it up and the Wild Hunt pawn would have slid even further in favor of the group if it wasn’t already all the way towards ‘Open Allies’.
Karsa doesn’t seem insulted at all, and gets into the argument.
Count Dosti tries again, this time focusing on attacking the individuals rather than the White Council as a whole.
The Count rolls Deceit, weaving insinuations and half-lies to paint Alois (and by extension the White Council) as stuffed-up buffoons. He fails.
Karsa laughs heartily at Count Dosti’s insinuations and stories and Alois feels his ears going red, sure that the Count is swaying the Wild Hunt. Count Dosti clearly thinks so, too. Until Karsa excuses himself and warmly wishes both Tom and Alois a fond farewell, and even Daniel gets a warmer farewell than the merely polite farewell to Count Dosti. The Count is livid.
The Wild Hunt’s starting disposition is ‘Openly Allies’.
Two positive and a potential enemy merely neutral… can things continue this well?
The Winter Court
Marcovic feels the familiar rage in the pit of his stomach when he spots a servant of Winter at the ball. She notices him, too, and walks towards him with a cold smile and colder eyes.
‘Too bad this is Neutral Ground,’ Jenni said in a sultry voice, ‘I hope next time we have a chance to… resolve things.’
Flashback: When Marcovic’s entire village is wiped out by a winter storm made unnaturally vicious by fae from the Winter Court, he sets out for revenge. Can the trail of dead Winter fae continue indefinitely, or will Winter stop him cold? Aspect: Writes his name in Winter snow
Looking at Marcovic’s accent, the GM holds up a fate point to have him spend too long sorting his words and miss the chance for a retort (and so miss his turn). Marcovic’s player refuses, buying off the compel and rolling Intimidation to push Winter’s disposition farther away from his group and towards the enemy side of the map. He doesn’t roll great, but the difficulty was low and the Winter pawn slides a few spaces towards the enemy side of the map.
Marcovic assured her that he looked forward to that, too. They remain civil, but their eyes are both filled with fury.
Nikki notices the tense introduction, and steps in to do his part to make things worse.
Nikki rolls Empathy to get a handle on the details of the tension. He succeeds, learning Marcovic’s aspect about Winter and getting a free tag for later.
Tom steps in before things escalate.
Flashback: Tom was there in that small Balkans town when Winter attacked and he saved the young Marcovic from the initial assault.
Embarrassingly, I can’t remember what Tom rolled or if he succeeded.
The immediate tension eases a little, but the promise of future encounters is clear.
Nikki pushes further.
Nikki rolls Rapport, playing on the shared enmity, trying to link Winter’s anger at Marcovic with the Red Court’s war with the White Council as a whole. Even with the free tag from his last action, he fails. Winter is still on the hostile end, but doesn’t slide further.
Alois arrives to make a show of unity with his fellow White Council wizard.
Flashback: Alois helped Tom hunt down and kill the Winter fae behind the storm that killed Marcovic’s village.
Alois is civil on the surface, but makes it clear he’s on Marcovic’s side here.
Gah, I can’t remember his roll either!
Nikki realizes he doesn’t have to make the animosity worse, so he focuses on offering the Red Court’s willingness to help kill the whole group.
Again, I can’t remember the roll, but Nikki pushes the Winter pawn the rest of the way towards ‘Open Enemies’.
The conversation breaks off with a hiss from Jenni and tension thick enough to choke on. It’s clear that things are not over between them.
The starting disposition of the Winter Court is ‘Openly Enemies’.
And so ended the first half of character creation and the first session. Phases 1 and 2 of character creation still need to be completed, plus skills, powers, stunts, etc. are still only partially completed.