Actually Play: City of Ixel, The Relic Heist

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Actually Play: City of Ixel, The Relic Heist
« on: April 12, 2012, 12:28:03 PM »
I created a walled port city as the location.  Before the bourgeoisie merchant ship captains claimed the city in coup de tat, the arch mage who built it centuries before had divided the city into 6 wards, each separated by walls and gates so he could more easily put a ward on lock-down to quell rebellion.  I set up four Fronts (city watch, church, wizard cabal, thieves’ guild), gave them impulses, and peopled them with NPCs with instincts. 

I started the players “in the action” with the catalyst for play in their hands.  They had just stolen a relic (the national treasure of the city) from the Parthenon and found themselves barring a door in the sub-structure (“dungeon”) against the onrushing adepts, clerics, and Templars.  Then posed the question, “What do you do?”

They broke into the sewers, where they figured out a way to get out by following the flow of fetid water to the port.  Along the twisting turning way they navigated, they faced the gelatinous cube sewer cleaning system, which caused them to re-route, running into one of several pairs of templars sent in to the sewers to find them.  During the time this was taking, the other Fronts started to realize the relic was out in the open, triggering their secondary impulses: utilize whatever resources they have at hand to possess the relic. 

After re-routing due to the gelatinous sewer cleaner, and setting a trap to slay the pursuing templars, the players found a manhole cover and climbed out into an alley amidst some prostitutes selling their wares.  This led to a confrontation with a pimp, where the players cleverly worked together to get the thief in position to back stab.  One of the prostitutes asked if they were the ones the city watch harked about as they rushed through to lock-down the port.  Now up on street level the PCs could hear the alarm bells.  The were experiencing the feeling of dread realizing the city had been in the process of lock-down while they were wandering around the sewer.  The prostitute offered a way out, only asking to be protected and taken with the PCs when they leave.  He revealed a secret hole in the wall the thieves’ guild used to move illicit good in-and-out of the city.  Avoiding the City Watch Front, the PCs snuck from alley to alley, then into a building against the wall, down into the basement to a hole between the walls in to the lower ward.  Once on the dark streets of the shanty lower ward they avoided a potential mugging, then went to the building up against the outer wall.  I could at this point feel the players thought they may be close to escape…in a more linear game they may have been, but in this game there were 3 Fronts other than the church, and each was acting on its own impulse. 

The thief failed his disable trap role, so the guild thieves who would have been lolling about drinking or playing calls (i.e. caught off guard) were now alerted, and so waited in the dark in the basement with the hole outside the wall.  When the PCs lowered themselves into the room they were backstabbed (-1 armor).  The PCs threw a light necklace they got off a slain templar on the ground, the room lit up.  They were surrounded by knife-wielding guild thieves.  In the stand-off, one of the PCs casually murdered the prostitute “to show he meant business.”  This was important for me, b/c other than the PCs setting a trap for the templars in the sewer, this was the first real departure from “kind of how I thought” these players I know very well would handle the adventure.  I had planted the boy prostitute as a kidnapped Jarl’s son sold into slavery.  It was a possible adventure path sending the PCs to the north…gone in a flash.  I’m proud to say even though I felt a fleeting something as it passed in the side window, by the time it was in the rear-view as we sped on, I was cool with it.

The PCs were surrounded by twice as many thieves in a stand-off.  I took this moment to throw in another Front; a wizard teleported into the room and used flaming hands to ring the room, burning all the thieves circling the room.  As they rolled on the floor writhing in pain, the wizard “strongly suggested” the PCs to follow him into the dimension door.  Hesitantly they did so.  Back at the wizards tower he was pleasant and polite.  He asked them about the relic.  I did this to accentuate the different feel of each front, but the PCs felt he was so pleasant maybe he somehow needed them to give the relic to them…like a Lost Boys vampire needed to be invited into a house!  Whatever the case, one of the PCs threw a chair through the bay window, the other fastened a rope around a knob, and they both jumped out of the tower.  It wasn’t what I expected, but it was cool.  When the one PC failed his defy danger to repel down the tower wall at a high rate of speed with no climbing gear, I told him his ankle felt broken, slowing him to half speed until healed. 

From there the PCs snuck through the sewers until eventually making it to the port.  It had been hours, so the gates and port were on lock-down.  They spotted a dwarven sea-raider longship defying the dockmaster by preparing to set sail.  Before slipping out the drainage tube into the harbor, the PCs wisely decided to look first.  The thief PC saw a figure hiding in a shadow at the end of the pier.  He immediately thought it was a sniper.  I had intended it to be a City Watchman with a bell.  It was an awesome scene of teamwork and great rolls.  Anyway, the one PC drew the shadowy figure out by jumping with a splash into the harbor.  The figure popped out pointing and ringing a bell.  The other PC silenced him with a single arrow.  The 2 PCs then swam for the longship to the cheers of the laughing dwaven sea raiders, who thought defying the dockmaster made for good sport.  The longship easily outpaced the warship the city sent out after them.

When setting up the city, I felt the two most likely ways of escape were by land or by sea, so I build two ‘monsters,’ dwarven sea raiders and their captain.  One of their moves was to re-negotiate a deal once they someone over the barrel.  So they stopped rowing just at the edge of the city lights on the horizon, demanding to negotiate payment.  The thief had 41sp on him, but decided to low ball at 10sp, them 20sp.  The negotiation broke down in a laughable way due to cultural differences.  So, based on useful information gained by a spot lore, the fighter PC dared the dwarven sea captain to a challenge of strength.  On the fly I came up with a game of core-strength & balance where the two tied their strong-hands with a tether while standing opposite (front foot touching) on the narrow center board of the longship.  I knew the dwarven sea raider had a move called “sure-footed” due to his low center of gravity giving him advantage on the deck of a ship in rolling seas.  So I was fairly confident the PCs were going to wind up marooned on an island looted of wealth, which would be the start of the next adventure.  Wow, was I wrong!  As I started to speak, the fighter PC cut in and said he jams the spike at the butt of his scourge into the dwarven sea captains temple.  Yeah, I was shocked, but I didn’t react based on my intentions, I stayed true to the fiction.  The Dwarven sea raiders are all about respect honor and courage, so they grabbed the honorless Fighter PC and subdued him with a beat down.  Being so distracted, allowed the Thief PC (who had the relic) to jump overboard into the night sea…saying he grabbed a rope trailing in the waves behind the longship.  That moment I felt it was a good time to end the session on a cliff-hanger. 




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Re: Actually Play: City of Ixel, The Relic Heist
« Reply #1 on: April 12, 2012, 12:38:40 PM »
Actual Play: Session 2: The players had separated themselves at the end of session 1.  The Fighter PC created a distraction (which got him caught), so the Thief PC could get away with the relic.  It always poses a concern in any RPG when the party is divided, but I imagined it would be especially so in a story-based game.  In order to move things along, I wrote a brief  “what happened since the last session” synopsis followed by a brief set of questioning by a notable NPC for each character, followed by a cut scene to give a little overview of how the PCs actions (steal the national treasure) was impacting the city and its Fronts.

Here is where I may have some questions:  Because the relic was free of the wards that protected it in the Parthenon, it triggered secondary impulses in all for Fronts.  The church’s was to ‘retrieve the relic at any cost.’  The other three Fronts were to ‘utilize any resources at hand to possess the relic.’  Is that OK?  Can an event set into motion by the PCs trigger secondary impulses in the Fronts?

Another question: while the Fighter PC was captured and imprisoned, the Thief PC was able to swim out of sight back into the drainage pipe into the sewer system.  My understanding is the Fronts are always working on their impulses towards goals.  So, I said the Arch Mage who had teleported them once, now had their bio-signature and could find them again (as he warned them) as long as they were within city limits.  His initial instinct was to ‘gain knowledge, power, and influence.’  Based on the secondary impulse of his Front being triggered, I created a new move for him: “Snap up the PCs” after a few hours of the PCs being back within city limits, the Arch Mage would be able to hone in on their bio-signal and teleport to them, in order to retrieve them back to his tower.  When the Thief PC came back into the city limit I asked him, “what do you want to do?” He had a cool plan to try and work all the Fronts against each other, promising each the relic to draw them to a single meeting where they fight each other, and the PCs could grab the relic and escape in the confusion.  I thought it was an awesome idea, and I couldn’t wait to see what would happen!  So, I asked him in an ominous tone, “Do you bring the relic on your person when you visit the Thieves’ Guild?” since it was the first Front he planned to con.  The player tossed around the idea, whether to hide it somewhere, but where?  Would the GM take that as a Golden Opportunity?  Finally he said his character had an 8 INT and a 9 WIS and didn’t know enough about magic to be anything but superstitious, so to be true to his character he took the relic with him.  First he wandered around the port ward, trying to steal a change of wardrobe, then trying to find a razor to shave his head, so when he ducked down an alley to avoid a City Watch patrol…being true to the trigger secondary impulse of the Arcanists’ Cabal, the instinct of the Arch Mage, and the new move developed out of the evolving fiction, I had the Arch Mage snap up the Thief PC.  I felt the better story would have been the ‘con job’ which we left in the rear view mirror as the fiction sped onward, but both PC and GM stayed true to form.  So my question is…was it right to stay true to form…or should I have abandoned the impulses and instincts and new moves evolved by the PCs actions…to go in a direction I think could possibly produce a better story?  In this case it probably would have been more exciting.  As it went, the Arch Mage used the relic to free the PCs of the blood oath they were bound to by a foreign Arch Mage who sent them to the city to steal the relic in the first place.  Plus they got heavy coin and a magic item.  It was a neat and tidy ending, and a good pay-off, but not exciting.

Lastly, I tried out the “steading” move, but I put a different spin on it.  I made the steading a massive caravan of gypsies kind of like the ones that traveled the Silk Road.  I thought it might be a cool concept to have the steading move with the players or vice versa, i.e. “you hear a rumor of an opportunity,” stuff like that.  I got mixed reviews from the players, one prefers to “abstract” the details associated with the concept of the steading, another player brought up the debate, “is the price of 100gp really worth the value of rolling Carouse?”  So, it didn’t help that they rolled snake eyes (double 1s) on their Carouse!  I see there is already discussion on the site about this very topic.   

I’ve only played in 3 sessions, and GMed another 2.  I feel like I’m still in the “try everything for the first time” phase.  So, I’ll keep reading the rules revisions to get better familiar with the moves and such.  I’m sure over time I will improve.  For now, I’m going to use the Golden Opportunity the players laid in my lap with that 1,1 Carouse roll while partying all night with those gypsy caravaniers to Shanghai the PCs!!!  I think I’m going to begin the next session like the beginning of the movie The Hangover.

Re: Actually Play: City of Ixel, The Relic Heist
« Reply #2 on: April 12, 2012, 12:59:42 PM »
As the player of the thief PC, Dirk Bravo, I can say the 2 sessions were lots of fun. When the GM told us that the first session would start with us having stolen a relic, of course I decided to be a thief. Plus it's one of the DW classes that I hadn't played yet. So far Dirk Bravo has stolen a national relic, killed a templar with poison, murdered a pimp by backstab, escaped the arch mage's tower, jumped ship before being beaten to a pulp by dwarf pirates, got re-captured by the arch mage, infiltrated the church's dungeon to rescue his companion the fighter, made some coin and recieved a magic rope as reward, escaped the city with a caravan of gypsies, and now is awaiting the results of a failed carouse roll...whew! All in a days work!

It's true that there were a few opportunities for the GM to go in a different way with the story that "might" have been more interesting, but by sticking to the Fronts and impulses of the NPC's, it allows the GM to see how things work in DW. With more experience, there will be opportunities to try new and different things. Having played DW a few times but never GM'd, I know that it can be tough to make things up on the fly and just "go with the fiction". It is much easier to look to your story and see what to do based on what's been written, but with practice I think it will become easier to "improv" and to move the story towards more interesting fiction. One of the great things about DW is that you really never know what's going to happen!

Re: Actually Play: City of Ixel, The Relic Heist
« Reply #3 on: April 12, 2012, 01:53:07 PM »
As the player of the fighter, Traigo Dolor, I had good fun. I actually stuck a 15 in my Int because I wanted to be a little different and am thinking about seeking out a dark pact to learn the forbidden arcane arts. So part of my rp is to make people think I'm crazy and stupid when really I'm quite intelligent. Calculating in a Hannibal Lecter sort of way, but still in his prime - you can't take the stairs two steps at a time to escape the wrath of Traigo Dolor like you can with Anthony Hopkins.

To set the record straight though:

1. I killed the boy prostitute because we were outnumbered and it seemed like a good way to let them know they weren't going to take me down without a vicious, nasty fight. You may kill me, but some of you are going straight to Hell with me. I expected to move toward a Parley before the wizards unexpectedly showed up. Anyway, the boy was already dead inside, so it wasn't really murder.

2. Something about those archmages didn't sit well with Traigo in the first encounter with them. We had the relic on our person. They could have taken it, but didn't. So something was up there. I didn't think they'd let us leave scot-free, so escape was my thought. To play up his cunning, Traigo likes to think about escape exits before doing anything rash. The window seemed like a good idea at the time, but I broke my ankle. In the second session, when we were brought back to the wizard's tower (they had taken the relic from Dirk by this point) and one of the apprentices brought us to that same sitting room, I strongly considered killing him, smashing the window again, and lowering a rope, then grabbing Dirk and hiding somewhere in the tower. The idea being they'd think we escaped and we'd have some time in the confusion to search the tower for the relic. I opted not to. I felt like I had pushed my luck in the previous session with the GM.

3. The dwarven captain kill was a fine moment indeed, one that Traigo will relish for years. It was worth the beating. All the negotiations and lead up and prep for the contest and once they said "Go!" I plunged a spike in that guy's head with my one free hand. I nodded to Dirk as the dwarves bumrushed me as if that's what I had planned all along. Good ol' smart fighter.

Re: Actually Play: City of Ixel, The Relic Heist
« Reply #4 on: April 17, 2012, 10:10:00 PM »
Love the game setup and the mayhem that followed. The gelatinous cube sewer cleaning system is pure genius.

Actual Play: Session 2:So my question is…was it right to stay true to form…or should I have abandoned the impulses and instincts and new moves evolved by the PCs actions…to go in a direction I think could possibly produce a better story?  In this case it probably would have been more exciting.
I think you found a tension between what the adventure demands and what the principles and agenda demand.

Your prep demanded the Fronts react in a certain way. However, I think that's trumped by your agenda to "Fill the characters lives with adventure". If your gut says there's more adventure not sticking with your prep, than don't stick to it—go off the map.