27 May 2007


I love console "classics" ranges; come to the game late, get it cheaper.

I picked up Dead Rising the other day and, frustrating and tough as it has proved, running around a mall saving people, shooting psychos and slaughtering the shambling dead in myriad amusing, brutal and interesting ways is dead good fun.

The comedic tone is set when the zombies manage to get into the mall when an old lady cannot bear to leave her poodle outside the barricade, thus dooming herself and several others. Oh how I chuckled, even as I struggle to actually progress.

I've also finally acquired Microsoft Points and bought Catan (an electronic adaptation of the Settlers of Catan boardgame). Much fun, even though I've yet to play against a thinking opponent.

22 May 2007

Splitting Heirs: Session Seven

After a delayed start (and associated ad-libbing with what Pou was doing in a very quiet Himmelfeuer, chatting with Herbert and chasing up news from the South where Gunter had run to), we picked up the scene in the feast hall at Drachenmalstein; it ended up being a lot less dramatic than I had envisioned, yet at the same time ultimately working out in a way that felt right.

Lady FitzCarstein naturally invited the Captain to the feast, it would not have been proper not to; a place was made at the top table, along with the Lady and her brother and a couple of other local dignitaries. Father Cantati, meanwhile, slunk off to a low table near the exit, after having given the requisite blessings. Conversation was lively during the meal, though understandably steered away from the issue at hand; that would be discussed in relative privacy in the moments after the feast. Jurgen and Scharf poked and pried about each other, and about the nature of the tasks the Lady had invited her brother to Drachenmalstein to perform (investigating the copper-ring wearing individuals in and around Drachenmalstein and Bardslaughter, and then investigating the truth or otherwise to the involvement of vampires in Duke Mörder’s expansionistic plans). This in itself was news to Scharf, who had assumed it was merely a familial visit, and it sparked much talk of the state of the Barony, the threats facing it, and the status of Baron and (lack of) heirs. [An update of who is who and what fingers are found in which pies might be a good idea before long, eh?].

After dinner the two FitzCarsteins and the Captain retired to a more private chamber where they could talk freely. It was at this point that Scharf raised his reasons for appearing, unannounced and uninvited, at Drachenmalstein; the Lady understood, Father Cantati having given her notice that he might be wanted for questioning as a result of long-past indiscretions. Before too long – after Jurgen’s tasks had been fully outlined, and their ramifications discussed openly with the Barony’s military mind – the Lady’s brother was “called away” to deal with a “sickness amongst his retinue”; Jarla, who had been present as the maid in waiting, disappeared at the same time, casting doubt on this claim. Lady FitzCarstein and Captain Scharf then deigned to go and find the Father and question him past the point of the interruption; to get the fifth name, and take what steps were needed.

They found him seated at the back of the castle’s dark, damp, library, reading by the meagre light of a candle stub. Approaching as one, the question that had been pregnant in the air around Cantati since Vod rescued him from the pre-dinner grilling was asked: who was the fifth member of Leuchttern’s ring? Speaking slowly, clearly, and resignedly, knowing that he had to come clean and there was no dodging the question this time, Cantati revealed it had been him, following it up with weak, pointless and barely coherent ramblings of qualification. Scharf had heard enough, though; he had suspected as much, and with the nature of the crime hitting a hot button of his, he stormed over to the other side of the room so as not to unduly lose his temper whilst the Lady dealt with the inevitable need for judicial arrangements. Cantati would be taken to the cells for the night, and then brought to Himmelfeuer for due process; she thanked him for his frankness and admission, and then walked with Cantati and Scharf to the cells, where her guard were shocked, but complied with her order to lock him up.

The Lady and Scharf then retired to her private suites; taking wine, they talked – first about Cantati, how personally the Captain had taken the admission, and how Lady FitzCarstein would not take the consequences of choosing to confess from her former instructor, despite misgivings of the worth of a formal trial. Then, as they drank more, they talked about their childhoods, relationships with fathers (distant, though they were), and even their romantic lives. They spoke, too, on the state of the Barony, and about whether Herbert’s visions of Die Kupfers were a threat or challenge to social order; both were inclined to think Pou’s visions more innocent. Mooted amongst these words was the proposition of Lady FitzCarstein as Baroness in future, as Scharf was well abreast of much of her politicking. They ended with talk of secrets and trust, Lady F giving nothing away, and claiming to need to know little to trust her staff; her closeness on the issue, and seeming lack of interest in whatever he was hiding, (along with, perhaps, a misinterpretation) left Scharf feeling a little uneasy, and wondering how the noblewoman actually saw him. The evening tailed off in more wine and small-talk, before the Captain fell asleep in his armchair and the Lady retired to her bedchamber. Jarla returned sometime early in the morning and found the Captain asleep in the Lady’s chambers, sparking rumour and curiosity as to what had passed the night before.

The whole of Drachenmalstein was a rumour factory, however, with Cantati’s incarceration the talking point. Lady F was forced to tackle the rumours head on, assuring them of the solid grounds for detention and the Father’s willingness to accede to it, before handing the castle over to Jurgen for the time being and making ready to accompany Scharf and his captive back to Himmelfeuer. Not only the prospect of the trial awaited, but so, perhaps, did an audience with the Baron, if the entire council could be assembled.

Pou, meanwhile, had been kicking his heels a little; nothing much was happening in town and without a shipment due for a fair while the gunsmith was at something of a loose end. Herbert suggested it might be time to nail down Gunter and see what he was up to; incidentally there had been less news than might have been expected from their network down south, and it might be worth looking into it. Figuring he had nothing better to do, and that it would prove useful, Pou set off; Gunter had been seen liaising with Georg Bodendreck – the brother of Lady FitzCarstein’s late husband – which gave his father a place to start the search.

Travelling swiftly, but asking for general news from copper ring-adorned men and women on the way, Pou headed off to the southlands and the Bodendreck Manor, worried in part that the overlooked lordling, (and to a lesser extent his wayward bastard), might have mixed loyalty to the barony, so close were their lands to the borders with Mörder’s territories. He first met up with his foreman, Jonn, and the smattering of men he had left on Gunter’s trail when the lad had first skipped town, then – posing as the merchant he was – set off for the Manor house. He found it busy; wagons and carriages were outside and servants were busy attending both. A little prying revealed that the Lord of the manor had cause to be away a while – supposedly visiting Lady Helena FitzCarstein – and had left stewardship of his lands in Gunter’s hands in the meantime. This was a shock to Pou; he was unaware Gunter knew Georg that well, and knew how unsuited his lad was to estate management!

Walking in through the open door, Pou enquired as to where the Lord was, claiming he had business, and received directions to the main chambers upstairs. Passing through the garishly opulent hallway and up the stairs he heard someone giving a serving boy an ear bashing. His entrance was not appreciated, however, as the Lord, busy in his preparations to leave, and not the best tempered of men, demanded to know who he was and what he was doing, barely stopping to listen before screaming for Pou to get out. Non-plussed, Pou left and was just outside when he saw Gunter riding up. Careful to keep the busy loading of wagons between him and his son, he watched Gunter ride up, dismount and enter the manor; Pou and Jonn then ducked back inside, taking inconspicuous seating on a bench in the hallway and hoping to overhear something of interest.

They did not. However after a brief conversation with Georg, Gunter reappeared on the balcony overlooking the hall, at which point Pou engaged him in startled conversation (centred around both of their pretexts for being there, the sale of firearms). It was during this conversation, with Georg unknowing in his main chambers, that a stocky man in bright pink tailored clothing and a foppish hat walked in seemingly unnoticed and began to climb the stairs. Thinking nothing of it at first Pou and Gunter carried on their exchange, but then Pou realised that the man was going to attack his son, attempting to throw him over the handrail. Springing into life Pou began up the stairs after him, having given Gunter a warning to hold on! The warning was not enough to prevent the small man tipping Pou’s son over the rail, but had given Gunter time enough to get a hold. Pou reached the top of the stairs and confronted the man, holding a pistol level at him, but undeterred the man stepped in and swung a punch at Pou, missing, but then lunging for, and grabbing, Pou’s weapon arm. At this moment Georg came hurtling out onto the balcony, pistols waving, and loosed a poor shot at the stocky man’s back (shattering a rather expensive looking vase when he missed). Jonn (and, once he got his bearings, Georg) then combined to try and haul Gunter back to safety, whilst Pou faced off with the intruder. Unable to use his firearm, Pou looked to use the stairs and gravity; the little man’s momentum was taking him down, past Pou, and towards the rail, and by shifting his foot just so, Pou sent him tumbling, though he lost the grip on his pistol as his arm was yanked round with the small assailant.

Remarkably the little Tilean (whose feathered hat had somehow stayed atop his head throughout his tumble) managed to roll to his feet and make for the front door, astonished servants standing off as he did so. Pou gave chase but could not see him by the time he got to the door. Reasoning he must be hiding behind a wagon, Pou braced himself for a shot the second the man broke cover, then when he saw nothing moved to look the other side of the assembled carriages, calling for the figure to come out. The only response was the ping of an arrow off the stonework nearby; his assailant had had friends on the roof! A snap shot back missed, before a second figure appeared on the rooftop and loosed an arrow that caught Pou in the shoulder. Bleeding, Pou fell back to the doorway, bracing himself through the pain, his aim at the rooftop; when one figure stood to loose again, a ball of shot caught him between the eyes. Gunter was safely down by now, but with aerial cover of the courtyard outside and Pou bleeding profusely despite the arrow shaft still stuck in his shoulder, the group fell back inside the house, reasoning to take sightlines on the barn roof from the upper floor of the main house. There was a “click”, like a weapon firing, but when he turned, Pou saw no imminent danger and thought nothing further of it. It was only a minute or so later someone happened to spot the pink-clad man riding off across the fields on a stolen horse. Pou took aim from the doorway, but given the pain in his shoulder and the range, the best he could manage was catching the horse on the rump, which served no purpose but to spur the beast on in agonised flight, it’s rider hanging on for dear life…

Good fun, and the dice, when used, backed up the vision of events I had hoped for to boot. The scuffle mixed it up a bit, and probably asked even more questions than were answered; the motives for the failed assassinations down south are far from clear (though there is at least one body to search for clues). It’s worth noting that I write “Tilean” in the summary, but just said “foreign” in game; the obvious link is that this guy was either the scout seen leaving Brunnenhing’s manor or affiliated to those guys. Whether the obvious is true or not is another matter.

We’re nearing the point where something really big has to happen; small things tick over fine and everything which is going on plays to at least one of the PCs’ personalities, but shifting focus to the southern reaches of the Barony should pave the way for ramping up talk of impending war (the peasants have certainly been gossiping about it down there).

The trial of Cantati should prove an opportunity to dig at Scharf’s taking the crimes personally, whilst the possible appearance of the Baron should be a centre point of an episode in the near future.

19 May 2007

So, I'm finally watching Firefly

Yeah, that's right.

Me, who "doesn't like Sci-fi or westerns"; me who has previously stated (amongst other things) "Whedon is an overrated hack"; me who just does not get the slavish (or even non-slavish) praise thrown at Buffy or Angel (and no, no way that is going to change; I've seen enough to remain thoroughly unconvinced).

I was shown the pilot and the first episode a few weeks ago. Neither really captured me, and indeed the former rather played to my preconceptions by trying to do too much (unnecessarily introducing each and every one of the ensemble) whilst actually achieving very little. However there was enough there to hint at what everyone [on RPGnet] was banging on about for years; spots of brightness in the dull gloom, if you will.

So I've borrowed the discs, and I'm ploughing through it. Mainly it's making me laugh - both through genuine "yes that is funny" moments, and "oh my god, could that be any more corny?" moments - but there is more to it to my continued watching. Visually it does not work for me (two stunning beauties aside); the planetside sets make me cringe, the camera work and cuts leave a lot to be desired (YMMV etc.); this more than cancels the humour.

I thus grudgingly have to admit, stepping back a little from my "hack" remark in the process (though his other two big shows still support it, damnit! ), that the reason I am still watching is well written characters. Some more-so than others, granted, but there is something about all of them to hold interest. That said, I don't really like Mal; sure he's a little interesting (they all are a little), but - and I'm not sure if it's performance or writing - something leaves me a bit cold there.

For me Simon is proving the heart of the show - his relationship with River, Kaylee's crush on him and the edginess between him and (most of) the rest of the crew is the primary dramatic force holding my attention.

So, um, yeah; nothing more. I'm less than half way through so far and opinions may change yet further, but I'm finally getting hints as to what all the fuss was about.

16 May 2007

So, it's another year in the Conference (and other Assorted Random Snippets to Entertain)

Another in the vein of Everything and Nothing; a sure sign that the combination of lifestyle, mental state and the work I'm doing is not good for me. A happy, healthy and alive me would be seeking to write discrete entries for these things. Oh well, it's not to be for now.

The title refers to the disasters of last week when, despite winning the away leg 1-0, Oxford conspired to lose on penalties to Exeter in the conference playoff semi-finals, ending the hopes of an immediate return to the top flight. I'm not actually as gutted about this as I would have been as, generally, I find my interest in football waning some across the board. Still, it would have been nice if the excellent early season performance had been more the "real" nature of the team than the dismal end to it.

Also on the sporting front, this week signals the beginning of the (international) cricket season in England, with the first Test at Lords kicking off on Thursday. Despite the pratfalls of team and tour party over the winter (the still somewhat unbelievable CB series win aside) England should really be looking for convincing wins over a West Indies team that has lost it's talisman of the last 15 years or so. Brian Lara retired after the World Cup and whilst his brilliant best was, I feel, some years behind him, losing someone of that talent is going to be a major hurdle for their side to straddle. England, meanwhile, have injury problems galore and a new coach to boot. The one good thing to come from the World Cup was Duncan Fletcher's resignation; hopefully new coach Peter Moores (and his new assistant, former Zimbabwe world #1 keeper/batsman Andy Flower, who I reckon will be a fantastic appointment) will revitalise a team that has great potential but has looked light of belief and direction of late. I'm hoping without real belief that Moore's pet pick, wicketkeeper Matt Prior, proves himself worthy, but more than that I'm hoping that a sea-change is signalled and that whilst we only really have 4 truly classy bowlers (Hoggy, Harmy - assuming his mind is right, and his early-season form for Durham suggests it might be - Freddie and Monty) the extra batsman is picked and any surplus overs can be cobbled from the likes of Collingwood, Bell and Pietersen, who can all turn their arms over decently. I think it would make for a stronger side, especially as and when Vaughan returns and could lend his under-rated offspin to the equation. I fear, though, looking at the make-up of the squad, the mindset is currently too firmly set on 5+5+Keeper. Time will tell.

Away from sports, I'm coming up to the end of the free trial Gold membership of Xbox Live, and will be paying for the service soon. That said, it's proving fun, even if I have so far limited myself to playing with the one person on there that I know well offline - my idiot threshold is low and whilst I'm sure there are plenty of good folks out there (and some I know I'd love to game with if our tastes and times overlapped) at the moment I haven't fully abridged myself of the opportunities. That said I have had a chance to smack Garry at Cricket, and was thumping him at Table Tennis too before my connection dropped. Hopefully thumpings will not continue, it's more fun if there's contest. Those aside, there has been more co-op shooting alien-zombies in the face in Gears of War, which is a nice wind down to any evening.

There was a bit of excitement this week when the gaming group were briefly discussing Primetime Adventures, the game I most want to actually play - by the rules and everything! Ultimately though I suspect we shall not - it really isn't a good style match for everyone and whilst people might be willing to give it a try, the success or failure would appear to ride on peoples' initial buy in and enthusiasm for the concept, which is far enough removed from standard RPGs to not be a given. It will be a shame if it does not happen, but perhaps more of one if it does and falls flat. In any case the current game is set to continue a few weeks yet (at the very least) , and what happens thereafter is up in the air for now.

To end on a thoroughly positive note, musically life is good. A couple of weeks ago I had a few days off and headed down to see a mate in Bristol. Whilst there I not only saw Thea Gilmore play an acoustic set at the Fleece (my primary reason for booking holiday and descending on Bristol), I was also back in the same venue the next night to see Nick Harper who, whilst he did not thrill me with his music, certainly knew how to entertain a crowd. In between the two - God Bless Fopp! - I found a copy of Tom Waits' Orphans for £20, so finally persuaded myself to make it mine. Even better than all of that, though - and surely worth a post to itself but for my tired mind - is the album that has been on constant play for the last 5 days since it arrived.

Ma Fleur by The Cinematic Orchestra is a stunningly good album. I liked - not loved - their earlier works, but this release has everything. So well crafted, so appropriately rich or sparse where required, so beautifully performed and recorded. It is Music That Makes the World Alright. That is, no matter what the weather (and it has been doing allsorts; the drive to Windsor Castle - where we took my Grandmother for a birthday outing on Sunday - was through almost zero visibility for rain and spray, and both today and Saturday were changeable if nothing else!) it makes it feel like a bright warm sunny day. Despite the fact I have really been feeling my loneliness recently - this during a few weeks that have seen more social activity for me than most 3 month periods - it banishes all such thoughts.

Now, I have to go press play before I type "if only I had someone to share it with".... Bugger.

15 May 2007

Splitting Heirs: Session Six

An interesting session this; it began (and to a degree ended) with a discussion of system and style. We’ve never really been playing WFRP despite the setting and the character sheets: I don’t tend to introduce much in the way of crunch at all, and then only at pivotal moments, and there was discussion about increasing scene control for the players, which I was all for; it had been planned all along but lost in discussion and interpretation of setup.

It was also interesting from an in game point of view: more happened, which helped, but the greatest impact was made by the character dynamics changing. The explicit endorsement of player-set scenes and faster pace of background events allowed Captain Scharf to really come to the fore for the first time in the six sessions.

We picked up by wrapping up events to the West, where the Lady FitzCarstein’s ruse of war had succeeded in ousting the mercenaries squatting in Lord Brunnenhing’s manor.

The plan having been successful in dislodging the occupants, and the prolonged no show of the scout making the continued vigil on the road obsolete, the Lord Brunnenhing was moved back into his manor house. Over the next few days arrangements were made with the local smallfolk by the resourcefulness of the Captain and his use of the copper ring and Pou’s name; Lady FitzCarstein was involved in the initial stages but soon set off for her seat at Drachenmalstein, where her brother Jurgen was due any day, and there were many administrative tasks to perform. She would arrange for a capable steward to return west to aid the smooth running of Brunnenhing’s lands, whilst the Captain was instructing the locals on how things would run in the coming weeks. A moratorium on taxes sent back to Himmelfeuer was used as weight against them helping to clean, fortify and run the manor and it’s surrounding lands, whilst Brunnenhing and Josephine, who surprised everyone by electing to stay, would be expected to muck in on pains of missing out (as the smallfolk had been explicitly told not to listen to either of the nobles).

Lady F, meanwhile, got home the night before her brother arrived. She had much to mull over; the message appended to the rabbit had been from Georg Bodendreck – her late husband’s brother – to Werner… but sent via the mercenaries then holding Brunenhing’s lands. It contained information about goings on to the south – where the barony bordered Mörder’s lands, and records of the Bodendreck tax takings. In addition to her ruling duties, her scheming regarding Brunnenhing’s land, and Josephine, and the imminent arrival of her brother there was the situation with Father Cantati to deal with. However, arriving back late as she did, her first stop was to check in with Jarla and have a good girly catch-up; gossip was shared, primarily regarding the Baron’s daughter and her willingness to “mix” with the smallfolk. Jarla proffered the opinion that perhaps there was more to Josephine than met the eye, and that maybe she knew how to protect herself in romantic dalliances through some “talent” or other; this would also explain the Baron’s lukewarm appreciation of her, with his devout attention to Sigmar cooling him decidedly on other forms of supernatural signs. Speaking of the Baron, there was a missive bearing his seal awaiting Her Ladyship; it spoke (in Gottfrid’s hand) of the Baron wishing to give council once all of his councillors were back in Himmelfeuer. Being unable to leave right away, but knowing that Brunnenhing would linger long to the West, she put it out of her mind turned to other tasks: sending a steward to Brunnenhing. Lady F called her own steward in for advice – did he know someone capable to send? He offered to go himself, sensing the size and potential import of the task and without another suitable recommendation. In his place he recommended an up-and-coming member of the household staff who would flourish under the responsibility with the tutelage of a shrewd Lady.

Meanwhile Pou was back in a quiet Himmelfeuer, trying to pry into Herbert’s mind after his old friend’s mannerisms had aroused suspicions. By taking the friendly drink (or 10!) route he managed to winkle out the fact that Herbert was still concerned about the death at the mining camp, more than most others were now, some days after the fact. A second night’s revelry paid off further, Herbert letting slip that he had been behind the thefts that occurred, wishing to split the council, not trusting the higher-born members (items had been “found” in Brunnenhing’s and Lady F’s retinues and rooms). His motives were not clear from his drunken spilling, but Herbert clearly had something in mind.

Captain Scharf came back to Himmelfeuer with all this in the air. He spoke at length with Pou, and they decided it was time to break Die Kupfers into the open, planning training drills and the like and involving the small standing army in the creation of this “people’s militia” to give it a veneer of respect. Werner noticed the change but, given the army’s involvement and the finance being privately provided he had to relent and agree that given omens to the south it might well be needed. Scharf and Pou also found a moment to speak with the until-then elusive Manfred, who was back working in the bar (this may or may not have been before Herbert’s second slip of the tongue). He revealed that Herbert had instructed him to take, then place the stolen items, Scharf’s stated lack of interest in prosecution convincing him to come clean in his motives.

The day of Jurgen’s arrival came; Lady F had the house in order to receive him and a feast planned for the evening in celebration. She still had to outline to Jurgen the exact nature of the tasks she had for him, but there would be time for that in the coming day(s). Jurgen – a big, booming character – was both impressed and disappointed with Drachenmalstein, but was thinking of staying for a decent period given the hints of vampiric activity that had prompted Helena to request certain books from the family library.

The evening feast came, and was about to get underway when a member of the house staff called Father Cantati from the great hall; a messenger had come to speak to him with some urgency. The Father went out to see his summoner, but returned presently requesting a private chamber in which to receive his guest. And to ask for the Lady to send Commander Vod, captain of the Drachenmalstein guard, to fetch him were he not back in 10 minutes.

Cantati had been called out by Captain Scharf, who did not with his presence to be known; the Captain had travelled to Drachenmalstein that day to interrogate Cantati, whose name had come up in the investigations of child abusers linked to the killing at the mining camp. Cantati took Scharf to an ornate, but rarely used, drawing room and began questioning, probing for the names of others that may have been involved. Cantati revealed that he knew Leuchttern well, meeting him in social circles before finding out of his perversions – which the priest (in his eternal shame, and having just left the formal priesthood) did nothing to stop. As the chat proceeded, Cantati revealed other names, four of five involved were named, the dead miner and Leuchttern already known. Of the other three, one was reported as fled, and another of whereabouts unknown.

Scharf was pressing for the fifth name when there was a knock on the door; Vod had come to find Cantati. Scharf asked for another couple of minutes, but under the Father’s visual direction Vod made out there was no chance of delay. At this point Captain Scharf decided to invite himself to the feast, and the trio moved off towards the feast hall, the Captain’s presence causing a surprise to those assembled as he entered…

Poised nicely, in the end; a centrepiece conflict which on the surface, at least, pits Scharf directly against Lady F will hopefully not disappoint as it opens next session.

That setup aside, two new pieces of information are also now completely open for interpretation: Herbert’s masterminding of the thefts, using Manfred’s expertise to introduce conflict amongst councillors, and Werner’s explicit ties to the mercenaries in the West. There were also signs to establish that, despite the universal fear to the contrary, the Baron is still alive, and that things might be afoot to the south – inside and outside the Barony. Various machinations are now underway (PC and NPC), and they are beginning to advance to bear fruit.

It was really nice to see more of Scharf this time out, and a point of conflict with Lady F will be a real potential insight into the depths of both characters, whilst the elevation of Die Kupfers to semi-formal “people’s militia” will surely spark interest between the three PCs when Lady F finds out about these developments. Jurgen’s poking around might stir things up, too and there is plenty of slack in events elsewhere to kick things if they start to flag a little.

It was a really fun session for me, and I’m hopeful that the little clearing up of any misconceptions before we began, and a conscious effort to maintain the higher pace, will help keep this working onwards and upwards.

12 May 2007

A whiney, self-pitying, interjection

Gods I feel rough. I've had hangovers before; I've had much worse hangovers before. But I have never before had hangovers that give me sharp biting pains in my stomach whilst leaving my head almost entirely clear.


06 May 2007

Splitting Heirs: Session Five

An abridged summary this time, as I have not had the occasion to write up the session until 10 days later and as a result my memory is sadly rather less clear.

Lady FitzCarstein’s plan to scare the mercenaries hiding out in Brunnenhing’s manor was put into action. Fires were lit, “refugees” paraded, and words of war spoken; the show seemed to scare the brigands witless, but they have not yet made move from the place.

Whilst Lady F headed the column of refugees, Captain Scharf, his 2 men and Josephine – who had been refused a place in the refugee train – were watching the road, hoping to ambush the Tilean scout on his return (so that word of there not being war would not reach the manor). It was wet and unpleasant, even in the cover of woods. Scharf heard noises, coming across what appeared to be a trapper, yet who looked unsuited to the task. Scharf left him alone for now, and returned to the ambush point just as a rider was travelling past. He arrived just in time to prevent Josephine, never the most suited of characters to the situation, from standing and exclaiming, giving away their position.

On the other hand, it mattered not. The rider was Brunnenhing, with two bedraggled looking “men at arms” trailing behind him; it then fell on Captain Scharf to defuse the situation and get the Lord up to date on the plans in action. Manfred was nowhere to be seen, Brunnenhing saying that he left his company that morning (or overnight). With their added threesome, Scharf and those with him continued to watch the road until the “trapper” appeared, seemingly headed for the manor with his captured furs. Scharf now stepped out, leading the man around the ambush spot and engaging him in conversation: who was he, what was he doing? The man claimed to be a furrier with goods to sell at the manor and gave his name as Aachen – a name that rang vague bells with the Captain. The two walked and talked until they were a ways past the ambush site before Scharf turned back.

From nearer the manor, heading down to find the Captain after concluding her words with the mercenaries inside, Lady F (who had taken the guise of a Verenan initiate) saw the two men talking then parting. Fearing that the man would blow her plan by discrediting talk of war, but unsure how to sway him away from the manor she simply pulled up her hood and pressed on. Passing the man, they had a brief conversation without breaking character; as she turned to go, however, she heard a thump on the ground behind her. Looking around she saw a freshly caught rabbit on the ground, and an envelope labelled with an F. Picking it up she hung the rabbit from her belt and tucked the note inside her garb to keep it from the rain. Herr Aachen had vanished from sight.

Meanwhile back in Himmelfeuer Pou was trying to calm down the mob gathered outside the garrison. They were adamant that the man in custody could not be the child abductor, as several had been out with him the night before and knew the man well. Rolf, the sergeant left in charge in Scharf’s absence, was not the brightest of men when it came to these “townies” and had hoped that “assuring” the public that the criminal had been caught would put the mass mind at ease. Pou succeeded in convincing the lawman to take statements one by one, and convincing the mob to let him handle the complaints; he bargained for co-operation from both sides by agreeing to take an active part in the investigations.

This role took him to see Herbert, Werner and others; his old friend was acting up, and Pou even suspected at one point that Herbert might have had something to do with it, but his visit to Werner pointed fingers in other directions. The treasurer had spent a few days re-visiting judicial and watch accounts from 10 years past for information surrounding the Leuchttern incident, and was struck by a reference to Father Cantati – Lady FitzCarstein’s spiritual advisor and Verenan tutor – who had been in the town at that time and who had known the lecherous Leuchttern well. Pou was aware, however, that Lady F’s entourage had left town the night before the child went missing so Cantati could not have been involved.

Pou’s investigations were turning up nothing but the suspicion generated by Herbert’s avoidance of him, which was enough to persuade Pou to have his friend watched – under the guise of security – by others of Die Kupfers. Rolf was eventually convinced that the man they had taken was innocent after the illusion of due process was carried out. The man was released the next morning, when the whole “abduction” was shown to be nothing more than a tragic combination of mistake and accident: the missing child was found trapped but alive under a collapsed beam inside an unused building adjacent to his house; he had wandered in whilst his mother was out procuring food and got trapped, his feeble, trapped, lungs not generating enough noise to have caught much attention – especially with the town’s ire focussed on the watch for a presumptuous and wrongful arrest. This, again, stirred up the people and has left faith in the watch low amongst the populace. One of the mob’s ringleaders – a member of Die Kupfers – was calling for the group to take over law enforcement matters themselves, citing the incompetence of those currently charged with the role. Pou had to talk him down, adroitly figuring the best way to control this impulsive character was to draw him into the responsibilities for making sure that the organisation could take over, but making sure that it remained behind the scenes: big displays of dissatisfaction would not help their cause. Pou and Herbert resolved once again to petition the Baron to accept a trained civilian militia… Die Kupfers by another name.

It felt like not a lot happened in this session, and the shorter summary is thus appropriate. Events with Lady F and Captain Scharf seemed to take a long while to achieve little – a fault I lay at my door, as pacing was very poor this time out. On the other hand, events in Himmelfeuer went swimmingly and encompassed more than I have been able to reliably recount here. The aim was to set up a mistrust of the Captain’s men (if not the Captain himself) amongst the general populace and increase a groundswell for popular revolt – a situation that would lead to some great roleplaying potential. This is made more interesting by the fact that Pou does not want such to happen, yet if it did he would be placed squarely at its head.

Tensions between the councillors are rising – typified by the suspicion generated between Pou and Herbert over the past few sessions. Trust is not eroded entirely – a game without any trust between characters (PC or NPC) quickly becomes Paranoia – but is being made less than certain, guarded and questionable, hopefully raising the impact factor of choices made by the characters.

One thing missing from this summary and from my understanding of events is a conversation that took place between Lady F and Captain Scharf whilst I was running Himmelfeuer events with Pou. I believe this hinted at the Captain’s past, and continued the setting up of an interesting power balance relationship between the characters, but the exact nature of what was discussed is beyond my ken.

Overall I remain very happy with the game, but would really like to pick up the pace a bit; I am not sure how to achieve this, but I suspect it involves me putting aside my spectator’s mentality when the PCs are interacting with each other – I have always gained a large proportion of my enjoyment of roleplaying from watching (other) players’ creativity – and looking to actively inject more conflict to each scene to keep things moving along.