31 March 2007

Splitting Heirs: Session Two

Session Two played out on Tuesday.


A week or so has passed, during which Pou and Reinhardt were busy organising the locals in the building of some defenses for the larger settlements on Brunnenhing's estates. Whilst there they were able to pick up on a number of things. First, the sign they'd seen on one of the ork's armour was replicated here and there, marking buildings; the locals did not know what it signified, nor had they seen people (or things) making it. Hearsay amongst the peasants suggested that Lord Brunnenhing himself has not been seen on his lands for a year or so. In his stead mercenaries are holed up in his manor house, and the rumour was that they are the ones drawing the signs as signifying which properties should be paying higher taxes. Time spent in the province did not engender much warmth from these stewards of Brunnenhing's lands as they proved tight lipped and frosty, only showing any openness or presence when Pou forked out on a banquet for those building the palisades; at that point the reclusive mercenaries invited themselves and availed themselves of the feast provided. At this event it became clear they were, indeed, a group of very unpleasant - but not outright lawless - souls, taking Brunnenhing's coin to "look after" his estate and his affairs in his absence. The locals clearly don't like or trust them, the feeling reciprocated by the would-be stewards, but an uneasy peace lies over the land when the time comes for the Captain, his men and de Burns to head back to Himmelfeuer, leaving instructions with some of the copper ring-wearing musket men to continue the stockade-building process, and attempt to somewhat organise the populace in case a similar raid happened again.

Back in Himmelfeuer, and not all is well. Josephine has sought out Lady FitzCarstein to ask for tuition in affairs of state, sparking concerns that she is worried her father's death is imminent. The Baron still hasn't been seen outside the Chapel, but his family - and Gottfrid - all maintain that he is well, and merely praying for guidance in matters of inheritance. Moreover word has filtered through in the last few days that there have been a spate of burglaries in the usually quiet town of Himmelfeuer, and indeed in the mining camp, too. Twelve different properties had been hit over three to five nights, with not a lead for the investigators (Scharf's men, pressed into law enforcement) and the worry for the councilors that should things get more tense the merchants might start to question the safety of Himmelfeuer as a trade point and stopover.

Pou and Reinhardt arrived back late one evening, to be met with a welcome. A council meeting was immediately scheduled for the following morning to go over what they found. Lady F sought out Brunnenhing to personally inform him of the meeting, giving him no excuse not to be present, and then retired to her chambers where, no long after, she was called on by Captain Scharf. During this meeting - which was all but attended by Jarla, the Lady's handmaiden - Lady F made Scarf aware of her unease with Pou's "men", and quizzed him on the significance of the copper rings. Scharf made light of her fears, and then began to speak of the mark that he and Pou had found on the ork's armour. He showed the lady a rough sketch made in the field and it was enough - along with the other conversation, which had turned to metals and jewelry in light of the copper rings - to jog the young woman's memory: she had seen the same mark on rings worn by Brunnenhing at dinner one night the week before.

Pou, meanwhile, had headed off to find his wayward son and catch up with events in town since he had been away. Wherever he went, it delayed him, for he was late to the council meeting the following morning - albeit looking very happy with himself. By the time he arrived Felix Brunnenhing had already been subject to a grilling, pressed heavily from all sides about events on his lands and his knowledge - or lack thereof - of events. Backed into a corner by his fellow councilors the clueless noble was forced to give up his knowledge of the symbol, concede his absence from his lands and reveal how the mercenaries came to be in his employ. He claimed they had barged into his manor and presented him - at sword point - with an arrangement he couldn't refuse: take their mark, be their "boss" in name, but leave the lands and stay in court (where he had long been attempting to work towards Josephine's hand). Pressured by the inquisition Brunnenhing resolved to pay for the palisade-building work undertaken by the locals under Pou and Reinhardt's oversight and, more pertinently, to head back to his lands directly and re-assume some sort of control. However, lacking in men, it might turn out to prove a difficult task for him, given Captain Scharf was not keen on releasing any of his men to the task. Thoroughly embarrassed and defeated, Brunnenhing excused himself to "see about making preparations" shortly after Pou belatedly arrived at the meeting.

After the foppish, foolish, lord had left the others speculated a little on Brunnenhing's motives: was he just stupid, was he being played the fool? Or was he involved in something more sinister? Speculation that Brunnenhing himself - or the mercenaries acting in his name - had colluded with, or commanded, the orkish raid was rife. Matters then switched to Pou and his copper rings - Lady F raising to table her concerns about the nature of his copper-ringed network, alerting Werner to the brotherhood operating under his nose, but Pou, Herbert and Captain Scharf all playing it down, and laying it at at the door of Pou himself, the merchant who cares for the Barony passing out cheap trinket jewelery to those he meets and learns to trust. This was just a stepping-stone conversation, however, as turning back to Brunnenhing in subject Werner raised the matter of the inheritance.

Werner's urgency came from both the fact that no-one had seen the Baron in a week or more, and his obvious disdain and distaste for Brunnenhing - the natural successor as things stood (and assuming that the Barony survived the transition); a determination to prevent such a handover coming to pass was audible in his voice. The treasurer raised a number of scenarios of varying degrees of practicality or sanity; it served, however, to bring the situation to the front of everyone's minds again and resolved the council to seek an audience with the Baron in order to press for some direction on determining what might happen when the time does come.

The final point of order was brief discussion of the spate of thefts; worse, a body had turned up overnight - the sort of discovery that made investigation and resolution of the events a priority, before more dead appeared and spooked the merchants from which Himmelfeuer makes its money. With this in mind, three of the council prepared immediately to depart for the mining colony to investigate it themselves; Pou, Reinhardt and Lady FitzCarstein all saddled up and left for the mining colony where a homeowner had been strangled by an intruder during a suspected theft.

When they arrived they discovered that, the death aside, the pattern did indeed follow that of the other thefts: houses not trashed, but seemingly known, and picked for the odd item of value rather than being the holdings of richer members of the communities. It appeared the dweller had been up when the intruder broke in, unlike the other cases where the thefts had been whilst home-owners slept. The confrontation cost the miner his life, strangled with a piece of rope. Lady F was concerned for the proper treatment of the body (her family being steeped in devotion to Morr, despite her own devotion to Verena), whilst Pou and Reinhardt were set to visit the mine and talk to the dead man's colleagues and neighbours. As they turned to leave they spotted a clue as to what was missing from the room: a framed hand-drawn picture on the wall depicted the dead man receiving a gilded commemorative plaque - an item conspicuously missing from his abode; a single item of value, which fit with the profiles of the previous crimes.

As they set off to the mine itself they heard a rider approaching. One of Scharf's men had ridden hard from the castle with news: the stolen items were beginning to turn up. In the castle. Who amongst the staff might be thieving? Who might have the chance to set someone in the castle up as the culprit?


I enjoyed this session a lot; better than the opener from my point of view for sure. It began stickily however, as the between sessions communications had not resolved as much as I'd hoped - with me being very culpable here - and so the start I was gearing up for was too far on from the end of the first session. Justifiably the players had questions to ask and answer about the intervening time and I was mentally somewhere else and slow to answer. Still, things clicked in when everything caught up to the starting point I had in mind. Scenes formed well, with the centrepiece being the council showdown with Brunnenhing, but I perhaps enjoyed the scene between Lady F and Captain Scharf in her rooms the most - sitting back and appreciating the quality of play is one of my biggest pleasures in GMing.

Everything I'm doing is aimed at setting up a continual turnover of conflicts - between NPCs, between PCs, and between PCs and NPCs - in order to provide some spark; one resolves and another kicks off, or changes shape because of it. Certainly there is plenty of opportunity for this given the PCs themselves and the base situation; not everything is out in the open yet, of course, and the nature of the conflicts is not always clear right off the bat. My strength is in the people and knowing how they interact; my biggest weakness is my description - I'm not really doing a good job in setting scenes, at least from my perspective. I'm trying to personalise every interaction - compel the characters' interests and motives to come to the fore but I don't think this has been overly successful yet. This might be because I've quickly come to the conclusion that an episodic structure won't work - sessions are too short and when the group are often split it makes resolving issues in the time a tough ask. Perhaps once rustiness wears off I might be up to it but for now it will have to go (as good as) serial, and I'll look for other ways to work the personal angles into play.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Where do you come up with this? Just stating you are very resourceful.