29 July 2007

Splitting Heirs: Session Fourteen (part ii)

And so to the stag night, the wedding itself, and the immediate aftermath.

Pou, Herbert, and most of Himmelfeuer were getting into the celebratory swing by the time Captain Scharf made his appearance. Everyone was deep in their cups, with the Tileans forming a separate group in the corner, making many jokes at Pou’s expense, while the man himself was in deep conversation with Herbert, with Mannfred in attendance.

Scharf – who had shaved in the morning before leaving Drachenmalstein, ridding himself of a beard he’d had for the entirety of his service in the aftermath of a powder-burn from rifle practice – made his way over to join them, and drinks were shared. Scharf made sure to drink less than it appeared, and noticed Mannfred was doing the same. Pou, meanwhile, was busily getting more and more drunk. After some jovial japes and conversation, Pou felt the need to go outside and mingle with the wider attendance – many of the off-duty local Kupfers, and the other townspeople (figuring if you can’t beat them, join them, given the noise and the late hour) had gathered in the streets around the inn. Scharf merely shrugged and used it as an excuse to bid goodnight. The shrug gave Pou a strange sense of recognition, but in his addled state he couldn’t put a name to it.

The festivities continued throughout the night, at least for Pou who stumbled in through his door sometime around sunrise. Not long thereafter, Scharf knocked on his door with the intention of getting his friend and colleague ready for the ceremony. Deflecting Pou’s clumsy, still-drunken, attempts to bring up the similarities he saw the previous evening, Scharf prepared Pou hot drinks and food to straighten him up – the nuptials were to take place in a matter of hours, and it would not do to have the groom miss the event!

As part of his final preparations before dressing, a bleary-eyed Pou took himself off to a water pump, and with the fancy-dressed Tilean mercenary leader watching, joking and mocking him, Pou doused himself thoroughly before returning to his residence. There, Scharf presented him with a wedding gift (the original Scharf’s own well-cared for rifle), and agreed to try to have Gunter released under supervision for long enough to attend the celebration.

Lady FitzCarstein made her way into town to present her gifts to the bride-to-be, arriving later than most to the ceremony – overseen by the Baron himself (who had not been told that the bride-to-be’s business was prostitution) as an honour to his Councillor and military Lieutenant, Pou. The ceremony itself went without a hitch – save the central one planned! – and Pou and the newly named Helga de Burns, resplendently dressed, were beaming with delight and barely noticing Gunter was there in chains, looking miserable, with Tileans at his shoulders.

With the ceremony complete the couple circulated, spending a short while with the invited guests whilst the general population were tucking in to the bountiful food provided. It was then, seeing Scharf with Herbert, that Pou realised whom the Captain reminded him of – Scharf was every inch a younger picture of the Mayor. Pou was not able to take this any further in the throng, however, and soon found himself talking to Lady FitzCarstein. The Lady congratulated Pou on the wedding and the event, commenting on the opulence and grandiose provision. Pou innocently responded that “you should only marry once” and that you need to make the most of it – which left Helena seething inside, seeing a condemnation or damnation where none was meant.

As Pou and his new bride moved off around the assembled, Captain Scharf spied Cornelia, Herbert’s daughter and the one responsible for a lot of the organisation, towards the back of the gathering, about to slip off. He caught her just before she did, and then made pains to introduce her to Lady FitzCarstein, before he was, himself, called away (possibly to speak with Pou?). Cornelia and the Lady got on, but each was wary of why Scharf (or Rudi, as Cornelia slipped and called him) was so keen to introduce them to the other. Cornelia was also itching to go somewhere, and while she had the tact to not ditch of her own accord, when Scharf rejoined them, Lady FitzCarstein made excuses to end the conversation, aiding Cornelia in slipping away.

Later that evening, Scharf and Lady FitzCarstein had cause to talk as they walked back to their rooms in the castle. Scharf revealed why he had wanted to introduce Cornelia, his sister; he thought they would get on and hoped she would be a member of his family that Helena could like – a pointed reference to the lack of amicable relationship between the Lady and Herbert. They spoke then about family, relationships and expectations. Lady FitzCarstein revealed how Pou’s well-meant words had stung her – particularly in relation to how her marriage had worked out – and left the unspoken implication of their relationship hanging as they arrived at her door.

Where Scharf said goodnight, and set off for his own rooms.

So the wedding ended up not being nearly as central as I’d thought, but I find large-scale events with lots of people are always hard to run well. Nevertheless, the format of the session worked – the celebrations sandwiched by the contrasting forbidden, unrequited and largely unspoken desire between the other two PCs. Pou’s comments to Lady F after the wedding ceremony and the alternate way she interpreted them is perhaps the best example of how the two situations contrasted, fed off each other, and created a session that was greater than the sum of its parts. This is what I meant by every line being perfect – you couldn’t script the innocent intent and the perceived malice, how one line summed up the contrasts and conflicts of the three protagonists during the session.

The dawning of who Scharf really is on both Pou and Lady F was a fine twist, though well foreshadowed, and it has (since, I am a session behind) had consequences, too – particularly the “poacher turned gamekeeper” angle of bandit becoming military and lawman.

In many ways I wanted to end the game after this session. Each character has gone through a full story arc by the end of it, character drama was both played out and set up nicely for a next stage, and all in all the session just clicked so perfectly – for me, at least – that no planned “plot-based” ending will come close. The game has, thus, climaxed – and in a session that was supposed to be almost a throw-away preparation for a frenzied ending (it won’t work out like that, but hey…).

Splitting Heirs: Session Fourteen (part i)

This session was the best to date by some margin, and I fear that this summary will not even begin to do it justice. However, in an attempt to, I shall split the summary in two.

What was planned as a relaxed low-intensity session covering events surrounding the wedding became a tense, dramatic and highly charged affair that left me gushing about how awesome it had been to sit back and admire as the players ran away with it.

I had explicitly stated that I would bring nothing untoward into the wedding event that wasn’t already in play (like Gunter being in captivity, or Scharf wanting to find and question Jonn). I also said up front there would be no word from the various “outsourced” projects (things like Jarla searching for women with “talent”, Rolf’s trip southwards, or the Kupfers looking out for Josephine), so as to keep the focus squarely on the wedding itself.

Before we got to the big day, however, Captain Scharf had made his way to Drachenmalstein.

Captain Scharf had travelled north both to relay information to Lady FitzCarstein and, more pertinently, remind her of, and convince her to attend, Pou’s imminent wedding. It was two days before the nuptials when he headed up, leaving the evening to convince her Ladyship to accompany him back, and a day’s return travel to Himmelfeuer before the celebratory eve for man and wife alike, and then the ceremonies themselves.

In the event, the pair talked long into the evening. It started banally enough – chit chat and small talk, updating each other on the week’s activities, findings and events. Scharf spoke of news of attacks on the Kupfers to the south, whilst Lady FitzCarstein spoke of her deal with von Schicksal, her precipitous actions in tempting Duke Mörder and not having found the assassin responsible for poisoning the monks of Morr. Scharf wondered at the wisdom of Lady’s willingness to use such a double agent and such kicked off a heated confrontation about how he had dealt more directly with the Duke, and how his indiscretion had forced the Lady’s hand in following suit.

Inevitably, from this position the conversation turned once again to trust, truths, and secrets, and the Captain was motivated to ask a flat question prying into the Lady’s past. He framed it with explicit acceptance that she may not answer, but using analogies to card games, open hands, and playing well with the bad cards one may have been dealt. Inquiring whether her late husband, Hans Bodendreck, had beaten her, he was not surprised when she answered that this had been the case. The follow-up question was whether she had killed him, again framed as if not expecting an answer; it was then further qualified by Scharf taking the card analogy further, and revealing some of his hand.

He assured the Lady that no matter her answer he would not arrest her. The past was the past and it was the present that was both of their concern right now, then laid out that he knew what it was like to have killed someone, outside of war, and to have had no choice. He revealed how he had come to be Captain Reinhardt Scharf, when he had not been born with that name. He had previously admitted to her that he had been known by other names in the past, but not which names, nor how he had come to assume his current one. Here, too, he kept his former name under wraps, but told a tale of how he had been the one who had killed the abusive chandler all those years ago. He stressed that he had not, himself, been abused, but when the abuser had come for him, he had fought back, beating him to death with a set of metal tongs before convincing his fellow apprentices – the other abused souls – to help him push the man down the stairs and generate the story that he had fallen to his death. Scharf told too of how he had then fled the town and, when the caravan he was fleeing with was ambushed by bandits, he had begged for his life in such a pitifully amusing way that the brigands took him in.

He had lived the Bandit’s life for several years, rising through their ranks and earning a following. The bandits, who had preyed on everyone and anyone, also altered their practices, beginning not to, in his words “shit where they eat” – targeting their attacks southward into the troubled lands of the newly lorded and unpopular Duke Mörder, and how he himself had ended up with a sizable price on his head in Mördstat, the seat of the Duke’s power. Then, somewhere over a year ago, chance had dealt him a card to make his way home, and evade the growing scrutiny from those seeking the reward: a Captain Scharf had passed through Mördstat, where he had expired from a burst liver, caused by a lifetime of drinking too much. The inn where he passed was a commonly frequented one for the false Scharf and his comrades, and after rummaging through his things, they found papers suggesting he was to be the new military mind for the von Feuerwaffen Barony. The chance was too good to turn down, so Scharf had presented himself as expected, just somewhat younger and less accustomed to rifle tactics than his record would have suggested.

Scharf had been living his current life ever since, with none questioning his position; a few of the new faces in the ranks had followed Scharf from bandit to lawman, continuing to raid into Mörder’s lands as they did so.

With his cards on the table, Scharf waited for the Lady’s response. Yes, she had killed her husband and covered it up as an accident whilst “off adventuring” (after all, that was how they had come to be wed, when Hans had been working as a mercenary, aiding the Lady’s father in the fight against the undead back in Stirland. Helena’s hand had been promised as part of the payment). She was still wearing mainly black – even 5 years on – as a part of the official mourning period, a status that precluded suitors or re-marriage. The conversation turned then, back to the wedding, gifts, and attendance. The Lady would accompany the Captain back to Himmelfeuer to attend, and in doing so end her official mourning in order to wear something appropriate; they would leave in the morning.

There was still time for them to discuss Josephine, and how no-one knew where she was; even now the Witch Hunters’ arrival was near. Lady FitzCarstein surprised the Captain by intimating that Josephine may well actually be, for want of a better term, a witch – possessing some innate “talent” that may help her obfuscate herself – but that there was little they could do for her in the meantime. Besides, the coming of the Templars posed its own problems for each of them in any case.

The next morning they set off, arriving back in Himmelfeuer in time for the Captain to attend the celebrations at Herbert’s inn that evening in Pou’s honour, whilst Lady FitzCarstein took her residence in the castle.

The first half of the session was thus entirely given over to non-wedding affairs. The chemistry between Scharf and Lady F has been building for the entirety of the campaign and there is both a “will they/won’t they” romance angle and the examination of how trust works between them to keep it burning.

As such I found their scene compelling in every possible way, and writing it up from the skeleton notes I could take at the time (writing more would have meant missing what was said, and how) almost certainly loses the tension and drama that was pregnant in the air throughout. How much would they reveal, and how would each react to the other’s brave admissions?

The two secrets revealed (Scharf’s past, and Lady F’s killing of her abusive husband) were largely open out-of-character, and had been hinted at in character. However the way the reveal was handled by both sides was amazing; this session, just about every line uttered was perfect (more on that later). I’ve often felt that I enjoy GMing most when I have next-to-nothing to do – it means that I can sit back and enjoy watching as the fruits of everyone’s play are borne and then flourish, without fretting over what I am doing next. Almost everything in this session came from the players as the events I had introduced took a back seat to character concepts, secrets and motivations that had been present from the start.

(And if they are reading, I’d love to see written thoughts from them on the scene – particularly anything they think I have missed, distorted or glossed over too much).

27 July 2007

I Am Quite Secure In My Ugliness

Or, otherwise put, there are a million and one reasons why any given person might be lonely; physical appearance does not make the (my?) top 10.

Of course, I also lack any recent photos of myself to display "proudly" under said statement (the one on my profile is at least 15 months old); I am not unhappy about this.

Could you make a character for every game you own?

It started on RPGnet, and now Garry is doing it too. The idea? To make a character for every RPG one owns.

Me? I'm dubious. This is not because I feel it is a waste of time, or that I fear it wouldn't be fun. No, I doubt I could do it because of the time I would inevitably want to sink into it. I have more games than I have read (though not an awful lot compared with many gamers), and an annoying tendency to write too much when I set out to do these things - I'd feel honour bound to have complete premise (my fundamental starting point for any character I'm actually going to play) rather than just the numbers.

An easier option might be to roll out previously used characters, but as I haven't read all of every game I own, it follows, too, that I have not actually played more. Or it has been so long since I did that the effect is the same.

Given I am falling ever behind with the actual play/summaries for my WFRP game, taking on another large project - 20 plus games, some more detailed than others, some I know better than others - is folly. Perhaps after the current game concludes it might be an option, but to be honest I should be doing other things with my time. I cannot deny that there is part of me that wants to, especially as writing up a selection of good, strong, premises might be useful as pre-gen concepts for future games. It is also fun; I enjoy the creative process - thought and writing it up, both - though much of it is muted when it is not done with an imminent game in mind and when not bouncing ideas off the GM (and potentially other players).

So I'm sitting on the fence for now; I do that quite a bit of late.

22 July 2007


No, I'm not about to complain of not sleeping (though co-incidentally I haven't been, of late).

Instead I refer to the films bearing this title. I was just about to head to bed last night having finished working my way through the story mode of Rainbow Six: Vegas when, as I switched off the 360, the beginning of the Christopher Nolan (director of Memento) remake was showing on the Beeb. I ended up getting drawn in, sitting through and thoroughly enjoying it, and then getting far less sleep than I would have otherwise.

I had been avoiding seeing this version for years, though I suspect that had I seen Memento earlier and twigged it had the same director I would have possibly not taken this approach. I ended up being pleasantly surprised by the way it had been handled, reminded of how stunning I had found the original (Norwegian) version starring Stellan Skarsgard.

That film had shown on Channel 4 at some ungodly hour (it started at 2.30 on a Tuesday morning, as I recall) that fit with the title, but I had caught wind of it and found the short blurb intriguing, so I set the video for it - not wanting to mess up my circadian rhythms unduly. What I ended up watching the next day transfixed me. The characters were strong, nuanced individuals. The plot was byzantine and unauthodox. The setting bleak and perfectly suited to the dark tale unfolding. The portrayals I remember as being spot on and convincing. It all added up to a compelling film, and one that left a distinct impression.

So when I heard it was being re-made by Hollywood I was very dubious. Doubtless, I thought, it would remove all the nuances, the strengths and the artistic depth that had been present in the film I had loved - all for ensuring commercial success.

Six years on, I now know I was wrong. The casting worked, the direction worked, the script re-working worked and, despite being pre-disposed to disliking it, I was again captivated by this twisted story of drive, intent, guilt and what it can do to a man. Every moment I was watching it, I was left thinking how well written it is, how stunningly conceived. It plays to my views of psychological horror - particularly the pivotal early scene where the twist burgeons into life and sat nicely with my psyche at present (as hinted at by my recent RPG purchases, I have a hankering for well-done "horror" right now).

Perhaps the best thing I can say, though, is that seeing this finally motivated me to do what I have meant to for a long time, and acquire the original on DVD, totally re-affirming my enjoyment for a masterwork of scripting and plotting.

Splitting Heirs: Session Thirteen

Scharf led his small troop and the Tilean mercenary company back to Himmelfeuer, the addition of the latter causing consternation in Pou after Jonn had spotted the column returning through the shop window as they were chatting. Pou, having been shot by the Tileans on his previous trip down south, was understandably paranoid about their appearance in town despite the fact they were outnumbered by Scharf’s men, and that they were marching with the Captain’s men.

He was less than pleased to hear they had been recruited, and even less so to find out Gunter was a prisoner, but Scharf explained the necessities of the situation, and pointed out that only his captive status had spared Gunter his life. There would be a trial – for knowingly selling dangerously faulty goods – at some point, but no-one had it as a high enough priority to push the workings through, and Pou could use the time to try and find some sort of representative for his wayward son (not that there were any Lawyers out here – nor real code of laws). Aside from issues surrounding Gunter, Scharf had to sort out pay (with Werner, who was shocked on hearing which mercenaries had been recruited, but agreed to release the funds) and accommodation for the mercenaries. With the castle newly given over to a sizeable number of the Kupfers who made up the militia, the only place for them to stay was Herbert’s inn.

This caused some consternation, as the rowdy Tileans used their residence at the inn to tease Pou at every possible opportunity. Chastised by the clientele, Pou also managed to anger both Herbert and, surprisingly, Captain Scharf by making light of a suggestion that Herbert’s daughter Cornelia – recently back in town after completing accountancy studies in the Empire – might be a good match for his foreman, Jonn. Scharf, it turned out, was indeed still looking for Jonn, whilst Herbert was probably just being overprotective of his only daughter…

Meanwhile, up in Drachenmalstein, Jarla had set out in search of young women with an aptitude for herbalism or “magics” and to offer them the sanctity of the castle under the guise of a Verenan convent – thus hopefully protecting them from the incoming Witch Hunters. The Lady FitzCarstein however set about implementing plans for the castle’s defence, but not before she found time for a long chat with her brother, Jurgen, about the situation; she spoke of how, despite his anger at being shown up, she needed him and his aid, and whether he thought their father would respond to her plea for troops. Top priority however was what to do with von Schicksal. Jurgen was unhappy that Helena believed the captive’s sharp turnabout in attitude, but counselled her that if she did go ahead and turn him loose as a double agent against Mörder then his “escape” would need to seem plausible. He was to disappear the way he had come in – through the Underworks and caverns – but not to bee harmed past the point of functionality despite his crime of trespass.

Once the noble’s fate had been decreed, conversation turned to setting up a “tribunal of Truth” which played upon the staff’s superstitions of their Lady in order to see if the assassin responsible for the poisoning of the monks could be revealed. Jurgen grudgingly agreed to be present as his sister’s guardian should the killer be tempted by the presence of a naked blade and the Lady’s unarmed, un-armoured, presence. In the end the tribunal turned up nothing beyond some minor information that would at best be useful for disciplining unruly staff; the assassin was either too cool to take the bait, or more likely had fled the castle after the deed was done – there was certainly a way out, after all.

Helena also found time to visit Father Cantati in his cell, whereupon she was given the full final treatise he had prepared from the stacks of rumours contained in the tomes brought down from Stirland when Jurgen arrived. The histories showed that sporadically over the centuries nondescript and varied groups had gone from nowhere to significant power, each in a similar manner (acquiring and maintaining great influence over others) before somehow imploding. This pattern fit the emergence of Duke Mörder and his “mini-Empire,” and the Father asserted that the architect of each of these unlikely rises was almost certainly a von Carstein vampire. It had long been thought that one of the clan had fled to the Badlands to avoid destruction, and the machinations of Mörder, and the histories, combined with what seemed to be an unhealthy interest in Lady FitzCarstein (his emissary had been poking around a lot before he was recalled) to lead to a strong conclusion that this von Carstein was active again.

Helena thusly saw to accelerate her defences, and in addition to the deal she had made with Pou (the goods, men, and the Baron’s brother Gerhardt – whom was to be a guest at Drachenmalstein – had all arrived in caravan that day), she sent off a purchase request to the imperial foundry at Nuln, pleading for a cannon. (Pou had also placed an order, independently of Lady FitzCarstein, with the intent of possibly studying and copying the design).

A few incident-free days passed with preparations ongoing in Drachenmalstein and, indeed, in Himmelfeuer where Cornelia and Herbert were busily putting together the finer points for Pou’s wedding, whilst the mercenaries were earning their keep during the days by training the militia, and spending it at night by getting drunk and mocking Pou. A council meeting was called – in Lady F’s absence – when Georg Bodendreck arrived back in town with word that there had been more attacks down south. It appeared that bandits had been selectively targeting the Kupfers still based in the southlands.

This situation was discussed and it was decided it would be wise to call the militiamen in – no force before Himmelfeuer could even hope to stand up should Mörder attack and the men would be more useful up here out of harm’s way. Scharf would, however, send a couple of men, including his Sergeant, Rolf, down to keep an ear to the ground, and to train in raven-handling so as to be able to send advance warning if they spotted the enemy. They, being outlaws who joined since Scharf’s appointment, would also have (secret) instruction to seek out Gretel the Rabbit and find out her side. Pou had also made secret arrangements, sending instruction for one or two of the Kupfers to ignore the call-back and stay, being his eyes and ears.

The only other business of note was when Werner informed the assembled councillors that the Templars would be due in 7 days time.

It was now also just two days before Pou’s wedding, and Captain Scharf, having dispatched Rolf southwards, readied himself for a trip. He would head north to Drachenmalstein, where to inform Lady FitzCarstein of developments and, more importantly, remind her of – and convince her to attend – the imminent wedding.

This was the first session that really suffered from drag from my point of view. Set-up was such that I was able to prep even less than usual and the action would need to come from the PCs. It came about because the constant stream of new and immediate things to investigate finally dried up - I’m (early) in the process of drawing the strings now, to provide a wrap.

Left with space and to their own devices for the first time, the characters fell back on the plethora of “everyday tasks” that they had been ignoring. These were important - training the militia, preparing for a siege defence etc - but of minimal interest in Actual Play, much better that they be assumed and happen in the background. As a result, game-time accelerated and just under a week passed in the session - bringing forward the big events lined up (and the last of the big introductions). The next session is given over largely to Pou’s wedding, thus giving quantified space and a low-pressure session to allow people to relax in- and out- of character, and provide a laid back and joyous counterpoint to the hell that will break loose thereafter when the Templars ride into the Barony.

20 July 2007


Well... not really, eh?

Nothing but wet, dark days, and it is really starting to do my head in!

19 July 2007

Just Because...

This is the coolest emoticon I have ever seen. Found whilst randomly flicking through threads on an Xbox360-related forum, it does a little ironic dance that I have come to associate with mocking appreciation, self-deprecating congratulation (oxymoron though that might seem) and general over-the-top or inappropriate celebration.


18 July 2007

Increased Mobility

So I inherited a car about 10 days ago. A small, old, car but with virtually no miles on the clock, a known history and for no initial outlay other than fuel. I have my grandmother to thank for this, as it had got to the point where it was no longer making economic sense for her to run it and she kindly offered to pass it on to me.

It is (initially, at least) a short-term measure; I am far from sure I wish to take on the expense of running a car at this time, especially whilst I am still just temping in terms of work. The road tax, service and MOT are up for renewal in October and so realistically I have until the end of August to make the final decision.

On the one hand, the option is nice. Having the car gives a lot more freedom as evidenced by the fact I haven't had to rely on the bus to get to my last two game sessions, or that it would open up the chance of nipping up to do clothes-type shopping in Bicester Village with ease (and I have such shopping to do thanks to a wedding to attend, my shoes wearing thin, and so forth). With each passing day I am also getting more and more frustrated with taking two busses to get to work over in Cowley, a journey of 40 minutes or more (if the traffic is bad or a bus doesn't show it can take 75) , when if I aimed to get in for 8am I could do each way in 15-20 minutes as I would thusly beat the rush hour traffic.

On the other, I really don't want to get into the habit of driving everyday and everywhere when, the odd niggle aside, public transport, bikes, and my feet have served me fine until now. I have used the car just three times in 10 days, twice to go gaming; the first trip was driving it back to Oxford from Hampshire, where my Grandmother lives.

I should, however, actively look to use it more in this evaluation period, even if I wouldn't use it quite so much later on. It would seem silly not to give myself the chance to really familiarise myself with driving now that I have the means (I've done bits here and there before, but never enough to really get confident, practised or familiar). The trouble is manufacturing the reasons needed to take it for a spin.

16 July 2007

Some things I'd really like.

  1. To have a sense of what I want to do with my life, work wise; I just have no clue. And hell, fun-wise, too, I'm too often feeling at a loose end.
  2. To be able to talk to people. Other people seem to have a knack for "conversation," "introducing themselves," "making friends" or "meeting people"; all of the above would be nice, but I score 1 of 4 at best. Alone is fine, always lonely is not.
  3. To not always feel quite so down on myself. I've had friends tell me this is the most annoying thing about me (apart from being English), and y'know? If you think it is annoying for those around me, have a care for how bad it is for me. Also, I'm pretty sure this one feeds both 1 and 2, thus exacerbating an already bad situation.

Just about everything I could realistically wish for could come from those three little things.

Without any of them? Well... I've been in this rut for years already.

14 July 2007

So, how you doin'?

Sheesh this blog has been utterly dominated by sporadically posted Actual Play of late. It was never my intention to drop all other points of view or diary-like posts and monopolise the space with one thing but funny how things turn out, eh?

Most of it is a time thing: writing takes a lot of it, especially writing something that I am satisfied with. It also takes a working mind, and of late I have been far from awake enough to get around to doing anything. No, this isn't really much of a change, but somehow blogging has been further from my thoughts (or more accurately leaving me feeling less enthused when I have thought about it) in the last couple of months. Even getting the APs up and done has been a step too far on occasion (S12 is 10 days overdue and s13 notes are sitting here ready for transcription).

Also there is the fact I don't really feel like I have anything interesting to say at the moment - I'd have liked to have commented on a couple of books (Reaper's Gale by Steven Erikson, and Londonstani by Gautam Malikani) that I read recently, my final thoughts on completing my watching of Firefly, or possibly even the conclusion of series two of Supernatural but when it comes down to it I was finding myself without anything really compelling to say. And that's for my interest, let alone anyone else's!

Noteworthy life news is thin on the ground, too (as it ever is - much pressing thought, but little interest, fun or pursuit of choice); that said, I have recently inherited a car - at least in the short-term - which might produce some lifestyle changes. Already I've avoided having to bus to Bicester in order to game, which is nice. In other news I'm hoping my 360 doesn't fail like all the others, and in the meantime intend on getting good value out of Rainbow Six: Vegas and Oblivion - both of which I was able to pick up for under £20 each last week. I also indulged in 3 new RPGs, ordering Dread, Roanoke, and Mortal Coil from Indie Press Revolution. Now I just need to wait for them to ship from the States, but all 3 have me buzzing for different reasons (which I might go into if I speak about them individually later).

Gods, I'm boring! What about you?

Splitting Heirs: Session Twelve

Captain Scharf had marched 30 or so men, and Georg Bodendreck the landowner, down to the southlands of the Barony with a view to determining the nature of, and if possible dealing with, the “siege” that Gunter’s brief note had said was in progress.

Camping overnight and then meeting up with some of the local Kupfers in the morning had been the plan, but when his local aid was slow to arrive Scharf took a couple of his more stealthy men and decided to reconnoitre the manor. He quickly determined that the besieging force was a mercenary company of Tileans – those same who had previously occupied Brunnenhing’s manor – and not a standing army in the service of Mörder as was feared. The house was breached, but seemed that Gunter was both alive and holding out; the attackers, however, seemed more interested in jeering and tormenting their prey than storming the house again and dragging him out.

Retreating back to the camp, to find the Kupfers had arrived, Scharf ordered a quiet march up to the manor, hoping to get as close as possible before being spotted. With albeit un-attentive lookouts placed on roofs of the side-buildings however the advancing force were seen before they got within earshot (or, arguably rifle-shot). Keen to avoid violence at least until numbers and advantages had been determined, Scharf stepped up to parlay.

He determined numbers, and that they were there purely for Gunter who, as he had told Pou earlier in the week, had sold their company a batch of faulty firearms, some of which had backfired and caused injury and death amongst their ranks. Protracted negotiations followed and Scharf began to think their beef was justified; he also reckoned that a professional mercenary outfit might be of use. As such he managed to negotiate their employ, telling them who Gunter was and how Pou might recompense financially and materially for his errors, and promising he would be hauled up by the law. All this in addition to payment from the treasury – which they had taken from Werner before now, though were not doing so at this time.

Details of non-hostilities sorted, Scharf walked in, made himself known to Gunter, and persuaded him to open up – he and some house staff were barricaded in the master bedroom. Once inside, Scharf promptly arrested Gunter, regrouped his men and led them, plus the company of mercenaries, northward back toward Himmelfeuer.

Later that evening as they made camp for the night, one of the Kupfers who had been at the manor with them rode up in haste with news that the dispersing militiamen had been attacked by “bandits in the woods” as they were returning to their homes and villages. Figuring this was a mugging gone wrong by the group Scharf knew to be active in the region, he decided that they would not investigate further at this time, prioritising the trip back to Himmelfeuer and dealing with Gunter.

Meanwhile in Drachenmalstein the morning brought a renewed interrogation of the captive von Schicksal, and with it a surprising enlightenment. He had been talking across the cell block with Father Cantati during the night and heard the strong suspicion that Mörder was, or was working for, a vampire. This spooked the imprisoned noble and brought forth his confession – not for the deaths of the monks, but for his reasons for being in the Barony. He had been promised financial support and influential backing by Duke Mörder in the setting up of his own little principality should he manage to persuade Josephine – the Baron’s Daughter – to wed him. Such a union would have handed Mörder the von Feuerwaffen territory on a plate, an outcome that mattered not to von Schicksal until he had cause to doubt his backer’s nature. A pious man, von Schicksal was horrified at the thought of having aided a vampire and pledged to help all he could – once recovered from the beating Jurgen had given him – if Lady FitzCarstein would allow it. Whilst in the cellblock, the Lady spoke briefly to Cantati, too – his final report on the movements of vampires in the Badlands was nearing completion and he wanted to assure her of its readiness.

Away from the dungeons, Helena had written to Pou de Burns in order to arrange a purchase of gunpowder and other munitions for use in the defence of Bardslaughter and Drachenmalstein; the shipment would come north in a caravan also carrying Gerhardt von Feuerwaffen – the Baron’s somewhat addled brother (whom the Lady was planning to pass off as the Baron to all she could). She also had time to have a private chat with her handmaiden, Jarla, about the Baron’s decision to call in the Templars and what it might mean for Josephine – whom they believed to have latent “talent” – and those like her who might similarly be blessed; those like Jarla, and Roderick’s sister Anne, an unusually young and gifted midwife who had joined her brother in the Lady’s household. The Lady decided it would benefit these souls – and the image of herself and her castle – if they were at least to appear as a convent of Verena before the eyes of the arriving Witch Hunters and so she set Jarla on the task of spreading the word, searching out such individuals and bringing them under their wing.

Pou, meanwhile, remained resident in Himmelfeuer, hand-picking the Kupfers for the Baron’s castle guard and overseeing their training as an official militia. He also liaised with Herbert and Cornelia over the wedding plans, whilst trying on the sly to intimate that Jonn and Cornelia would make a nice couple.

OK, it seems from my memory and notes that Pou did not do a lot this time out; probably true, but I’m sure he was more involved than that short paragraph intimates. Nevertheless the outcome of Scharf’s excursion set things up for a possible tense encounter between him and Pou, and more-so for Jonn’s re-appearance.

The game hit a slow point in the last few sessions – a bit like the calm before the storm. I decided between this session and the next that resolutions and an end point would come fairly soon, with the goal to have the game end (at least for this run) as war with the south kicked off. There are obviously still a fair number of things to be resolved and to work their way out before that can happen, but I am confident that most of these can be woven into a fitting conclusion, whilst leaving enough of interest open so that if we as a group were to decide to revisit it in future, we could do so with ease.