Sat down, everyone was new to the system so I gave some of the worldbuilding/history background and then we made characters. Ended up with a Panyar Sniper, a Zemyati Heavy, and a Panyar Scout. Did everything except the load-out.
Introduced the Chosen. Their Zora is Fearsome and Radiant. I talked about what a hardass she is for keeping all the rookies in line and such. I also decided that she is, to some degree, literally radiant. (Like above and beyond the whole Halo of Fire thing.) Then introduced the mission and let them choose their load-out. And then we got into it.
Used this picture (which I found here) for the castle.
They’re standing knee-deep in mud and sewer water in that trench between the farm and tents at the bottom of the image. There’s a big pipe with an iron grate over it. Zora gives them a “Get in, get out, don’t fail” speech and hikes her squad out. I ask them how they got their intel that the Commander is in this keep. Turns out to be one of the butlers that escaped, but his info is a little out of date - the escape tunnel hasn’t been used in a long time.
We get our first roll of the night as the Scout searches for the activation method to open the grate. And I set up the “Commander’s Mind Breaks” clock and tick off a couple boxes. “Oh. Well… that seems bad.”
They get into the sewer and I pull the classic rookie GM move of “well it’s dark in the sewer, what are you doing for light?” Everyone looks at their loadout and realizes they cheaped out and loaded up on fighting gear but not the basics.
Good news: this is a prime opportunity for a flashback. In fact, I decide this costs zero stress because it’s such a no-brainer. But, someone still has to roll. The Heavy rolls… a 1. “Ok, you brought a torch. But you didn’t think to remind anyone else about it because it’s so obvious you’re all going to need them.”
The Scout takes the torch and moves into the sewers. Eventually comes to a T intersection where the water is really gushing down one fork of the sewer but mostly a trickle from the other. They look down the “dry” side to see a huge bloated corpse, like 8 feet tall and nearly as wide, blocking the sewer. “This must be the way we have to go.”
The Sniper examines it from a distance with his Alchemical Eye and determines that the corpse is not alive but the forces in the castle have been pouring a great amount of chemicals down the drain and this corpse has been cancerously swelling up as it absorbs this stuff. And there’s a backlog of more chemicals behind the corpse.
Not wanting to get splashed with this stuff (“you could hack the corpse down by hand but that’s risky position, if you shoot it, it’s controlled”), they back up into the other tunnel and fire a shot. Not a great roll which means I rule there’s even more stuff dammed up behind this thing and they have to wait 10 minutes for all the ichor to drain away. Perfect opportunity to tick the clock and also start the Zora Battle/Distraction Clock.
Zora crits on her first roll. She sets off multiple fires outside the keep, draws forth a squad of Rotters and a Crow and then systematically blows them to pieces.
The party gets into the dungeon of the keep. I do a fortune roll to see how good the intel is on where the Commander is being kept. A 3 and a 1 means the intel is out of date. We do a group action to search the dungeon. I honestly don’t remember what the result was, but the Commander is not down there. IIRC this failure also prompted another Zora roll. She continues to kick ass.
The Scout moves up to reconnoiter and gets a 6 on his scout roll. A Cinder Guard marches out from the chaos of the courtyard and right up the central staircase in this wing of the keep. They hear it clomp up 4 floors and then plant itself somewhere at the top of the stairs. “Aha. The Commander must be up there.”
The party sets an ambush halfway up the stairs and sends the Scout up to aggro the Cinder Guard and kite him to the bottom. I rule this is a set-up action.
It’s all a fine plan until the Scout rolls a double 1 on his maneuver and trips off the stairs, falling flat on his face in front of the Cinder Guard.
Heavy: “Are there critical failures in this game??”
Me: “You don’t need critical failures when you’re a Threat 3 tank with an axe for a hand.”
Great opportunity to walk through resisting Harm. Scout gets by with a slice to his shoulder instead of a deep, bleeding gash. Everyone else is like “Well we hold position, we want to spring our ambush!” Ok…
Scout makes a desperate maneuver roll and leads the Cinder Guard into the trap. The Sniper and rookies fire off a blast of shot and the Heavy lifts the Cinder Guard and hurls him over the bannister where it falls to its demise.
They move to the top floor of the keep and do a group scout action to locate the Commander, who is in a guest room midway down the hall. I think at this point Zora crits AGAIN on her roll. Just taking it to the forces at the gate.
The Heavy kicks in the door. They see what was once a lavish guest room with long velvet curtains and an ornate canopy bed. But the bed is badly stained with some sort of yellowish fluid and the Commander is there, tied face down.
I take a moment to go around the table: What’s something your character remembers or finds notable about the Legion Commander.
Scout: He was kind to the rookies.
Heavy: He’s a straight shooter.
Sniper: He values the lives of his troops and doesn’t take rash chances with his tactics.
Me. Hmmm… sounds like exactly the opposite of Zora. Was Zora sent to you to show the Commander the error of his ways? (insert Morpheus face here)
At this point we had one player show up very late. No problem, put a face on a Rookie, check off some boxes, and away we go.
Hey Rookie, what’s one thing you remember about the Commander?
“He had long hair. Like, luscious flowing locks…”
Perfect. You gaze upon the figure on the bed and see that his head has been shaved bald. A narrow wooden box is perched along the length of his spine and a whirring column of needles rhythmically poke and prod him like an infernal steel millipede. Three jugs of fluid are cabled into the top of the canopy bed, two of them drain purplish juice into the box below but one of them seems to be filling up with some sort of blue fluid. Behind the bed is a single solitary figure in a bright red velvet hood and cloak, it appears to be working some type of wooden bellows in its pale claws to power the millipede of needles…
So that’s all not good. I set a 10-clock for Overcome the Inquisitor.
The Heavy steps up and slashes the Inquisitor, cutting through the red velvet cloak to reveal that its body is riddled with various rubber tubes. A gout of vile fluid sprays forth. The Heavy reduces that from 2 points of Corruption to 1.
The Sniper takes a shot. He really wants to juice this roll so I offer him a Devil’s Bargain. If he takes this shot with the Heavy so close to the Inquisitor and the Commander, he may get a reputation back at camp for being reckless. Sounds good to him, I set a 4 clock and tick off 2 segments. He fires and gets a partial success. The Inquisitor clock advances but: the door across the hall bursts into a shards as a second Cinder Guard activates and advances on the party. Looking at how there’s only 4 ticks left on Overcome The Inquisitor, I set another 8 clock for the new Cinder Guard.
The Rookie takes a point of stress to help out the Scout. The Rookie picks up the doorknob that just bounced off the wall and wings it back at the Cinder Guard. The Scout fires but misses wildly. Our brave new (and basically stress-free) Rookie dives in front of the Scout and protects him, averting a killing blow. The Rookie and other squad mates skirmish the Cinder Guard and push it down the hall, away from the action.
The Heavy disarms the Inquisitor of its bellows and the Sniper fires another round of Black Shot into the wound in its shoulder, burning it to death from the inside. They set about unhooking the Commander from the spinal metalpede. “Hmm anyone have any dots in Rig? No? Noooo??”
Meanwhile, out in the hall, the Rookie decides he and the squad will gang up and push the Cinder Guard out the window. They get… a partial success. The Scout speaks up “That means one of the squad grunts goes out the window too, right?”
Friends, don’t pass up an offer like that. “YES that is EXACTLY what that means! Unless…” (devious look to Rookie) “…you want to protect your squad mate. He’s going to die for sure. You might be able to resist this.”
The Rookie takes up the challenge aaaaaand ends up falling 4 stories out the window with a smashed Cinder Guard on top of him. “You only break your leg, not bad!”
The rest of the party needs to escape. And also, it’s getting late. I decide to call for a group action to climb out the window. “Who’s going to take the stress?” Everyone looks at their character sheet.
Heavy: one box left.
Sniper: one box left.
Scout: zero boxes left, full stress.
Scout: “I’ll do it.”
Between all of them and the remaining squad mates, they roll three fails. The Scout takes two Trama and dies. I narrate how he’s overwhelmed by rotters, he prefers to assume he dies jumping out the window.
Either way the rest of the squad and the Commander gets out free…
That’s it, a good time was had by all and we’re planning to keep playing. I’ll post thoughts and rules f$ck-ups later.