Dungeons and Dragons: The Opposite of Fire two session catch up bonanza

It’s been [counts] many much time since I wrote about D&D. March. This year. So not a year yet. Some many much weeks. Multiple months. 5 months. Not even half a year. No time at all. Virtually yesterday, or so it seems.
What’s the rush?
Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.

Since I last wrote about The Opposite of Fire, we’ve had two whole sessions. They were great fun. You should have been there. Brilliant. Wondrous.

I think we left the last session with two separate groups of Cormyrian War Wizards teleporting into the ruins of Sember, as hordes of Kobolds poured out to surround our ‘heroes’.

I set up a fairly exciting* battle map using my trusty old Pathfinder dry wipe grid, some wooden building blocks, dry erase pens, a cut out grid map of a boat and some miscellaneous bits of scenery, hopefully depicting the lake shore, and the remains of a pathway leading into a ruined temple, with scattered remains of monuments and statues, shallow pools formed in the foundations of toppled monoliths, and a jetty built from the remains of a toppled monolith.


Plenty of cover, plenty of height advantages, mixed terrain, lines of sight, and goals.
You may note two groups of three figures on the map. These are the War Wizards teleported in towards the end of the previous session. The group closest to the center, in the path of pillars leading to the temple, are the Wizards summoned when Jov (the Rogue) interfered with a magic ring he found in a pot of water suspended above a shrine. The second group, off to the side, are the group summoned when he activated Marlowe’s ring (which he stole in the previous session).
Whilst they are both Cormyrian War Wizards, the two groups have conflicting orders – The first group are responding to a standard distress call from Colonel Karlsson, and may also want to drag him in for being AWOL; the second group are Black Ops and are responding to a summon from Marlowe’s ring. They are fully aware of Marlowe’s mission to gank Karlsson.


With all the Kobolds attacking, the players had a reasonable expectation that the heavily armed NPC wizards would make everything better again with some fireball driven deus ex machina.
Instead the Wizards spotted each other, and quickly secured a small section of the battlefield before debriefing each other and then debating union rules.
Who has authority? What are your orders? I am not at liberty to discuss my orders. What is your security clearance? Who is your CO? etc etc etc
Leaving the rest of the juicy battle to the players.

Because I’d had so much fun with the Kobold Inventor the previous session, I threw another one in, as well as a selection of Kobold Dragonshields, Kobold Sorcerers, Winged Kobolds, and regular Kobolds. The regular Kobolds died fairly quickly, as did the Winged Kobolds. The Sorcerers lasted a little longer, but were kind of boring. The Dragonshield put up a good fight against our Fighter, Regina of Fairfield, before falling.
But the real star of the show was the Kobold Inventor, who used cover to his advantage, and threw a sack of wasps at the party (they jokingly guessed ‘bees’, then howled in delight and horror when it was revealed to be wasps instead). When he finally died, a lone skunk escaped from the wreckage and ran off into the woods to great rejoicing from the party.
We also noted how fucking hard Tomgrir the Dwarven Cleric of the Forge is. Ant, his player, rolled really really well at character creation, so he’s rocking Str 19, Wis 20, Stm 18, stuff like that. With his warhammer and his +1 enchantment from the Forge, he’s dishing out more damage in hand to hand melee than the Fighter, is much harder to hit, has significantly more HP, and is more likely to hit as well. He’s a literal tank, with healing.
I will be upping the CR of any encounters he takes part in.


After the battle, the players interacted with the War Wizards, who were primarily interested in:

  • Where is Colonel Karlsson?
  • Where is Captain Marlowe?
  • What happened to the crew of the Cerberus?
  • Who are you people and what are you doing in a war zone?

The War Wizards then spent some time trying to comprehend the answers they were being given…
“You’re transporting a corpse, through a war zone, down a river that stops about halfway to your destination, at a nearly impassable mountain range, and you just happened to hitch a ride with one of Cormyr’s best assassins, and you think this is plausible?”

By this time people had started asking about Marlowe, and where he was. The party last saw him trapped in a bamboo cage hung from the ruins’ ceiling, and were quite happy to leave him there.
Marlowe is no longer in the cage.
After a search, he is found, emerging from Karlsson’s quarters, machete in hand, in a state of visible shock.


Marlowe, being iconic and batshit insane

The assembled War Wizards, primarily of the second contingent, surround Marlowe and take him into custody.
The party rush into Karlsson’s quarters to survey the damage, and find him dead on the floor. Their reaction: investigate (loot) Karlsson’s quarters.

The Horror

Karlsson, being dead, yet still maddeningly inspirational

I roll on the loot table, and roll well. They get 4 Art Objects, each worth 50gp, and some magic snacky items: A Dagger or Warning, an Amulet of Proof Against Detection, and a Cloak of Protection.
Somehow the party democratically decide that Jov is the most appropriate person to have the Dagger and Amulet, and Dio gets the Cloak (because he’s basically topless, and it stacks with his Dragon Scale AC).


I am always gladdened by the fact that Giant Goat’s exist in D&D

We ended the session with the Party, Greynora, Matrice and the late Devon Harding catching a lift back to Cormyr with the first group of War Wizards.

For the next session, I took a different planning approach – I plotted out the session in a Google Doc, printed it out, and ran it from that.

Here’s the intended session. I’ve added notes in bold italics on how it actually played out.
It is worth noting that Jov’s player, Ken, couldn’t make it this session, so Jov snuck off into the city at the earliest possible opportunity. I intend to run Ken through the Downtime activities section in Xanathar’s Guide, specifically the Crime ones, next session.

Structure: Roleplay / Backstory / Plot foreshadowing > Funeral > Roleplay > Undead > Roleplay This bit makes no sense, yet seems like it should…

Party are assigned a member of the War Wizards, an overly enthusiastic 13yo apprentice wizard called Edgar Tenser (I didn’t want to be a Wizard, I wanted to be a Bard, but it’s the family business, and after Great Grandpapa invented the Disc…), to supervise and guide them whilst enjoying military hospitality. Edgar will be a doomed love interest for a recurring NPC**

I also need to introduce the current Queen, Raedra Obarskyr, and the possibility of plots against her. I did this somehow, yet cannot quite remember how…

Debrief: There’s some confusion as to who the party are and who they work for. Some assume that they were with Marlowe, others that they were with Karlsson, others that they are agents of the opposing faction of War Wizards. The explanation that they were trying to transport a body to Suzail is met with blank incomprehension.

There is also confusion as to what Dio and Tomgrir are doing. Are they deserters? Are they permanently assigned to the Harding party? Are the Hardings part of the Purple Dragon Knights?

Party are given basic quarters in a keep on the East wall of Suzail, although they are expected to find their own lodgings in short order. This presents a challenge, as the Hardings are effectively broke.

They are assigned a Liason – Edgar Tenser, an apprentice Wizard. Edgar is training to be a War Wizard, but at the moment is running errands and escorting possibly dangerous dissidents. Gosh. Edgar’s portrayal went from ‘Angus McDonald‘ to ‘frustrated adult surrogate’ within the first interaction. 

Shopping opportunity! Sell the art objects they looted from Karlsson’s quarters, and buy some cool shit…

Matrice has three objectives now that they’re in Suzail

  1. Inter Devon Harding in the Obarskyr Mausoleum (situated within the Grand Necropolis, outside Suzail), with some pomp and circumstance
  2. Arrange a suitable suitor for Greynora
  3. Arrange a suitable suitor for herself

Matrice employs Dio and Tomgrir to assist in Goal 1, and Regina and Vash to assist in Goals 2 and 3.

Dio & Tomgrir are asked to speak to the High Priest of the Necropolis and arrange the funeral: The High Priest, Talling Lowspire, is sympathetic, but it cannot be done. The Necropolis is still being rebuilt after suffering extensive damage during the war, and his schedule is absolutely chock full. His deputy, Franklin, is busy overseeing the restoration of the catacombs. After some persuasion, he acquisces to releasing a trainee Acolyte, Gallows, to conduct the ceremony. “After all, Lord Harding was hardly Royalty…”

Regina and Vash are asked to deliver letters to noble households across Suzail: They need to register as Adventurers to carry weapons and armour through Cormyr. They will be challenged by guard patrols and must produce documentation or face fine and/or arrest. Adventurers must apply for registration at the Royal bureaucracy.
The letters being delivered are letters of introduction, announcing Greynora and Matrice’s presence, eligibility and availability within Suzail.

So what actually went down? Reggie and Vash, both being blue-blooded nobles, instantly assumed that they had the right to carry weapons in Suzail, irregardless of the Adventurers Licence requirements. Guards tried to stop them. They blinked in incomprehension at these outlandish requirements. “But we’re Nobility – surely these ‘rules’ do not apply to us?” Edgar had to guarantee their passage and take responsibility for them before they were arrested, and thrown out of the city. No one challenged Dio and Tomgrir, because they’re obviously members of the Purple Dragon Knights, therefore legit. This aggrieved Reggie and Vash even more. 

The Funeral: a simple ceremony. No eulogies are read. Matrice lays a simple red rose on Devon’s coffin as it is sealed in the tomb. Greynora cries.

Reggie did deliver a eulogy, because she felt that it was the right thing to do. It wasn’t very good (Gemma rolled poorly on the Performance check), which was in fact perfect. 

As they walk out of the mausoleum, Matrice tells Greynora “Good news. Salor Bleth has invited us to dine with him and his son, Jasper, at the end week. They are both highly eligible, so this is a wonderful opportunity for us both. I would like you to practice to oration and dancing before then…”

Greynora pauses for a moment, and runs off into the Necropolis.

The Catacombs: Greynora runs into the ruins; a section of the Necropolis partially burnt and demolished by the recent war. Scaffolding and canvas sheets cover buildings and monuments as they undergo repairs.

Greynora’s tracks lead into a collapsed and down to the catacombs beneath.

The catacombs here are much older than the Mausoleum the party were just in.

The party moved through the catacombs, following Greynora’s tracks in the dust. They found murdered workers and craftsmen, and evidence of more people entering the deeper depths. They fought a Ghoul, a Shadow, and a couple of Crawling Claws, then found a room with Skeletons, Zombies, Cultists, and a Cult Fanatic. Greynora was hiding in the room, watching them. As the Cult Fanatic became aware of the party’s presence, he ordered his minions to attack whilst he fled in to a further room. Greynora followed him, with Vash in tow.
We ended the session there.

  • Shadow. MM 269. CR 0.5 (100xp)
  • Skeletons. MM 272. CR 0.25 (50xp)
  • Crawling Claw(s). MM 44. CR 0 (10xp)
  • Ghoul. MM 148. CR 1 (200xp)
  • Zombies. MM 316. CR 0.25 (50xp)
  • Cultists. MM 345. CR 0.125 (25xp)
  • Cult Fanatic. MM 345. CR 2 (450xp)
  • [REDACTED]. CR 5 (1,800xp)
  1. Encounter 1: Ghoul, Shadow, 2 Crawling Claws (320xp)
  2. Encounter 2: 5 Cultists, 2 Skeletons, 2 Zombies (325xp)
  3. Encounter 3: Cult Fanatic, Crawling Claw (460xp)
  4. Encounter 4: [REDACTED] (1,800xp)

2,905xp total
726xp each
Plus roleplay awards

The combat encounters within the catacombs went well, from my perspective. Vash rolled badly, and was reduced to 1 HP (again). Everyone else took some hits and handed out some damage. My only gripe would be that the combat was not that dynamic – the party formed a line and held it, the undead dutifully attacked the line. No one used movement or special abilities. It was OK.

The next session will pick up with the rest of the party following Greynora and Vash into the final chamber, and confronting the Cult Fanatic and [REDACTED].
We’ll then (hopefully) cut to Jov and establish what he’s been doing for the last week or so. Hijinks will no doubt ensue, as well as some uncomfortable anti-halfling racism.

That… that’s not a very good strapline to end on…


*I think
**Ssssshhh the players do not know this yet…


Mage: The Awakening sessions 10 – 14 End of Season summary

I am well and truly behind on my ‘actual play’ blogging of Mage. Five sessions, including the finale, and two months behind. I ran ‘I Like Birds’ on the 14th May, and I’m writing this on the 24th July.
That’s pretty poor going. Not as far behind as I am with my D&D game, but I’m not looking to set records here…

What I’m going to do here is abandon the Start/Events/End format of previous posts (which was just a crutch to help me get back into writing again anyway) and talk about intentions, plans, and how the players pissed over it all.

I go into games with a set of intentions: a very rough plot outline, some key characters and interactions, some set pieces, and very little else. Sometimes I’ll plot out a detailed session – I did that in my most recent D&D session (and the fact that it’s a detailed, typed document means that I can re-use most of it as a blog post – win!), but find that open world games like World/Chronicles of Darkness find ways to confound that. Detailed session plans work well for Gumshoe games (because procedural clue gathering) and for settings where the GM informs the game world, as opposed to modern settings where players can pull up wikipedia articles, google street views, and draw on personal experience to inform the game world. In D&D, players are reliant on the DM to tell them what the local tavern is called and if it’s rough or not. In a game set in the real world, chances are that they can tell you.
Anyway, I digress. I sometimes produce detailed session plans. I have not been doing so for Mage.

For Mage: the Awakening I have tried to adopt a sandbox approach. I’ve tried to present options to explore, which the players can accept or reject. Kind of like mission selection in Skyrim or Grand Theft Auto. They could opt to follow a main plot line, do a number of side quests, or just dick around stealing shit.

In the first session, I tried presenting them with three different stories to investigate:

  1. Jon-Anthony bought a magical storm lamp from a carboot sale. The item is mildly haunted (they’ve still not bothered figuring out what to do about the ghost or what the haunted lamp does), and sold to them by witch hunters, who, fully aware of the magical nature of the lamp, were using it as bait to lure in wizards.
  2. A possible case of magical coercion involving an apprentice Mage and a local teenaged girl. This is the one they followed, and formed the backbone of the first 14 sessions.
  3. A local Mage tries to recruit them to reclaim a series of magical grimoires. They walked right passed the guy, and didn’t look at this job until a lull a few sessions later.

What I have come to understand is that my players like direction. They do well when they have a sense of purpose, a goal. The Donnal plot, and the Consilium politics plotline it opened up, gave them something to go at. Maybe not anything that is necessarily in their wheelhouse, but they gave it a good try…

So, as stated in the last entry, I expected the Cabal to regroup and follow the huge signs saying ‘plot resolution and end battle this way’.
Instead they went and checked on Tall Les. Tall Les is adjacent to the plot. He is in no way pivotal or essential. He is not a key player.
So, yeah, let’s check on him.

Tall Les
So, Tall Les was skipping town, or at least getting out of his house, when a bunch of Witch Hunters attacked him. They got the initial upper hand, but that quickly shifted as Tall Les transformed himself into grotesque battle form, tore them up, and made one guy’s heart explode. He then exited into the Shadow to avoid further pursuit.
The Cabal found the exploded heart guy in the bathtub. Jon-Anthony then stepped up: He summoned the dead hunter’s ghost and interrogated it, dissolved the corpse so there was no evidence, and banished the ghost afterwards.
Then, more hunters attacked – they’d been waiting outside for Tall Les to reappear or more Mages to turn up.
The Hunters flashbanged the bathroom, and took up tactical positions at the foot of the stairs. Donar lightning bolted one, which gave them pause for thought.
Then Jon-Anthony turned himself into a ghost, and walked around, immaterial and ethereal, and used Death to turn the Hunters into temporary corpses.
Which to everyone else, looked as though these mortals were just dropping dead for no reason.
This freaked the Hunters out somewhat.
Hopper used the opportunity to run down the stairs, do a fancy jump kick thing, and floor one of the remaining Hunters. Donar decided to forgo the lightning bolts and just shoulder barge one guy – this resulted in a Hunter falling backwards through a glass table, and a bookshelf falling on him.
In the ensuing chaos, Hopper grabbed a shotgun, the Cabal ran out the door, into their car, and were away.

Granny’s House
At this point, the Cabal did decide to take stock of the situation, regroup at home, then head of over to Granny’s farm.
When they got there, they found Granny and her allies (Basically a farmhand called ‘Alice’ and many many spirits) tooling up for action. Granny seemed charged – her hair was floating, her fingers and feet talons – I tried to describe her like angry Yubaba from Spirited Away without saying ‘angry Yubaba from Spirited Away’.Yubaba

Granny gave the Cabal a choice: Side with the Consilium (and by association, the Golden Trinity), or side with her.
The Cabal all went ‘oh, no, we’re good’ and took the third option, which was to have a pint down the Winchester and wait for all this to blow over…


The Cabal’s plan, in its entirety

So they ran out the house, piled into the Bentley, and drove off.
As they did, the house grew chicken legs, bees swarmed around, Alice transformed into a Werewolf, the river swelled and took humanoid form, animals and birds gathered on the edge of the farm, the clouds parted and the moon descended as a luminescent woman with a sword.
Winston floored it…

As they neared the end of the dirt road leading back to the village, two transit vans drove past. Winston pulled over to let them through, and collectively the Cabal scanned the passengers and contents…

Inside they identified:

  • Two misc thugs
  • Two members of the members of the Golden Trinity – Miranda and Jill
  • Tall Les
  • A Fire Elemental
  • An Ice Elemental (in separate vans)

They caught a fleeting glimpse of Tall Les as the van passed them – his face was streaming with tears.
It turns out that the presence of Tall Les was enough to spur them into action. Despite him never having done a thing for them, and generally being a wet blanket who always looked to other people to solve his problems, they regarded him as a friend, and someone they actually wanted to help.
Who’da thunk it. *(see footnote)

John Kelly identified and closed off a sympathetic link to Tall Les from another location, in an attempt to prevent any further (presumed) external control of Les. Dave, his player, rolled well, and slammed an iron door down on the connection.
Seconds later, the second transit van stopped, and a large ice golem got out.

There was a fight. To be honest, it didn’t last long against five Mages, two of which are Obrimos. The Bentley was wrecked, though.

With the car on its side with a broken axle, the Cabal reviewed their policy of non-intervention.
Basically, it was shot. They were in it now, they’d chosen a side, so they started walking back up towards the farm.
The farm itself was silent. They could see it in the distance, but could see no signs of battle, or of a farmhouse walking along with chicken legs.
Looking at it again with their Mage Sight, they realised that a giant magical dome sat over the farm, preventing sound and sight from escaping and alerting the mundane population.
As they crossed the boundary, they saw things as they were: the farm lay in ruins, some hundred feet or so away from where it should be. A Fire Elemental wrestled a River Spirit in a roiling cloud of scalding steam. Alice (presumably), in Werewolf battle form, fought the two handy lads – one armed with a Roman sword and shield, the other with a Celtic axe.
The Cabal kind of passively observed for a second, before deciding to assist Alice and the River Spirit. They tipped the scales in favour of their allies, without stepping into the combat zone. The Fire Elemental was extinguished, and the River Spirit returned to the river; the two thugs were killed, and Alice dragged one body off like a cat with a bird.

Moving on, they found Miranda’s body, swollen from bee stings and anaphylactic shock. Bees still swarmed around her.
The Cabal moved on.

Investigating the large tractor and storage barn to the side of the house, they found Donnal and Tall Les, locked in battle. Donnal had reshaped his body to something like a Bear and an Oak Tree – huge muscles, fur and bark, claws like branches; Les was giant like, with spindly limbs that he swung like clubs. With every blow he rained on Donnal, he sobbed and said how sorry he was.
The Cabal looked on in horror as Donnal pushed his master back, crushed him with a tractor, and then impaled him with slender wooden claws that shot from his hands.
This was not the Donnal they knew and had grown to be infuriated by.
As his life ebbed away, Les praised Donnal, told him how proud he was, and thanked him.
The Cabal left Donnal with Les, and went looking for Angela, Jill, and Granny, the pieces as yet unaccounted for.
Somehow, I can’t remember how, the Cabal ended up with Tall Les’s Soul Stone – a hip flask with sizeable dent in it. Maybe it was on Miranda’s corpse. Nevermind, the important thing is that the Cabal got hold of it.

John Kelly traced the influence on Tall Les, via his Soul Stone, back to an enclosed, small room, and the Cabal decided that the best thing to do would be to teleport directly to it. That’s fair enough. Cut to the chase – drop in on Angela or Jill, kick their ass(es) and save the day.
But they weren’t there – they dropped into a shed at the end of Granny’s garden, yards away from the destroyed chicken house and next to the pond that Donar and Hopper first emerged from.
A quick investigation roll augmented by Mage Sight suggested that Angela had vacated the position moments earlier, and couldn’t be far away (presuming she travelled by mundane means).

Surveying the wreckage around them, they heard sounds of battle from nearby, and found a hidden entrance beneath Granny’s house.
When the house was in its original position, this entrance would have been a hidden room. Now that the house has shifted a few metres to the left, it’s a hole in the ground, loosely covered by rubble.

The entrance becomes a brick lined passage, which becomes a rough hewn tunnel, before opening up into a large natural cavern.
It is immediately obvious that it’s here that Granny has established her Sanctum, and possibly a Demesne. In the centre of the cavern a tall stalagmite rises some 10 feet off the floor. Atop it sits a verdant green plant, like an ivy in bloom with a rose. A green glow emanates from it and illuminates the cavern. Patches of the cavern wall are embedded with large crystals that reflect and refract the green light. Humanoid images move inside them like holograms.


A bit like this, but more verdant, and with spooky crystals on the walls

On the other side of the cavern, Granny, Angela and Jill are locked in battle. Angela is clearly bolstering Jill with enchantments, Jill is using a knife to attack Granny, and Granny is defending herself with magic and a staff.
As is now par for the course with the Cabal, they take a few moments to take stock of the scene, and to discuss tactics, motives, consequences, and their own personal inclination.
They decide that Granny is splitting her attention between defence and casting an active spell. She is not fighting back against Angela and Jill, instead she is concentrating he attention on a swelling mound of earth at her feet.

Amazingly, the Cabal take action. They decide that if computer RPGs have ever taught them anything, it’s ‘take out the caster first’, so Donar lightening blasts Angela, Winston Blue confuses her, John Kelly curses Angela, Hopper punches Jill, and Jon-Anthony turns into a ghost.
Hopper pushes Jill into a pool of water and then freezes the water solid. She then decks Jill, who falls unconscious. Angela casts a ranged Curing spell on Jill, who wakes up and starts trying to free herself. Jon-Anthony then casts a horrific decomposition spell on Jill, causing her flesh to rot and slough off her bones. She falls unconscious again.
Winston, Donar and John Kelly harry Angela.
Meanwhile, Granny uses the cessation of hostilities against her to complete her spell – she opens a gateway to the Shadow and draws forth a powerful fertility spirit, which erupts from the earth mound, leaving a gaping portal behind it.

Eath mother

The Fertility Spirit summoned by Granny. It turns out that all fertility spirits are thirsty

Granny seems quite pleased with herself, and directs the manifest Earth Mother to attack Angela. Angela responds with a direct focused attack against Granny, which staggers her. In that moment of anger and confusion, she loses control of the spirit. Granny becomes hysterical, and falls into uncontrolled laughter. Everyone else braces themselves for Bad Things.

Except Winston Blue, who steps in front of the Earth Mother, and smiles.
Winston is very attractive already, and he’s bolstered his Presence with Mind magic. He’s magnetic, beautiful and sexy. I rule that fertility spirits are, by default, interested in sexy times.

I did not plan for Steve.

Stupid, sexy Steve.

sexy flanders

With the Earth Mother suitably distracted, Granny was able to regain control and banish the now extraneous spirit back to the Shadow.
Bit of an anti-climax.
But that’s ok. Jon-Anthony is creating drama on the other side of the cavern.

On the other side of the cavern, Jill is semi frozen in ice, and pretty beat up. Everytime she tries to heal herself, Jon-Anthony fucks her up some more, each time a little more than the last. She’s fading fast.
Matt, Jon-Anthony’s player, announces that he intends to harvest Jill’s soul as she finally dies. He’s not quite sure what he’ll do with it, but that’s a problem for another time. The first step is to extract the soul as Jill dies.
The other players are not particularly happy with this, but can’t do anything about it, bar administering basic first aid to Jill to stabilise her wounds (which are pretty horrific – she’s been struck by lightning, punch, frozen, and had her flesh magically rotted so that it sloughs off her bones. It’s an actual miracle that she isn’t actually dead yet).
To prevent this, Jon-Anthony opens a portal to Twilight – an ephemeral state half-way between the material world and the other non-material worlds – and draws Jill and Hopper into it. He uses the pool of water that they’re stood in as the boundaries of the gateway, and anyone inside it passes through to Twilight automatically. Jon-Anthony is in a Twilight state already.
Donar see’s Hopper and Jill fade into invisibility, and can see the magic of the gate with his Mage Sight, so dives in as well.

So no Jon-Anthony, Hopper and Donar, as well as the unconscious Jill, are in Twilight. There’s an awkward beat as Hopper and Donar take stock of their current condition. The fact that they can suddenly see and hear Jon-Anthony provides them with enough information to deduce that this is all his fault.
Hopper considers punching him.
Donar considers blasting him with lightning.
Neither of them are skilled enough in Spirit or Death to push themselves back into the material world, though, so are forced to talk to Jon-Anthony instead.

At this point I am rubbing my hands together, as it’s becoming clear that Jon-Anthony will be the ‘big bad’ at some point in the campaign, and I’m cool with that.

Hopper and Donar ask Jon-Anthony to make them solid again. Jon-Anthony suggests that being ghosts is so much safer, and everyone can exit this dangerous magical cavern without resistance, and then pass through another gate later to become solid again.
Hopper and Donar point out that the battle is now over – Angela has surrendered, Jill is unconscious, and Granny has put the Earth Mother back in her box. The door out is wide open. We’re cool. Let’s stop dicking about and start being solid again please.
Jon-Anthony reluctantly acquiesces to the request, and reopens the gateway, allowing all four to become material again.

As everyone starts to exit the cavern, Granny walks up to Angela and casually kills her with a Life spell – massive cancerous growths erupt out of and consume Angela and she dies quickly and painfully. Granny continues walking out of the cavern as nothing had happened.
The Cabal take a moment, then walk out after her.

At this point we start wrapping up the session. We’re playing Monster of the Week the following week, so I have to handwave a few things.

Granny has now withdrawn from the Consilium, and is no longer Hierarch. Two leading Councilors are dead, and a third is disgraced. There is now a very real power vacuum in local Mage society. The Cabal consider this for a moment, and choose to ignore it.
Winston Blue decides that an insane old witch is exactly the type of Mage he wants to learn from, and takes Granny as a Mentor. We’ll see how that pans out.

The new Hierarch of the Consilium is a very boring man called Mr Balding. He is round, and grey and wears brown suits. He has three rules that he immediately laid down to the Consilium:

  1. Don’t bother me
  2. Don’t cause any trouble
  3. Absolutely no Vampires

We’ve taken a break to play Monster of the Week now (which is brilliant, you should all play it immediately), and will be starting a new Mage story arc on 6th August. I’ll be moving the ruleset onto Mage: the Awakening Second Edition as we start. I may do a post about the character conversion process and the differences. Shortly, it’s both simpler and more complex, and 90% of the changes are for the better. I resisted moving to 2e for the longest time because I’d invested so heavily in the original (new) World of Darkness books, but I see now that I was wrong.

Collected Eels References

10 – I Like Birds
11 – End Times
12 – Bombs Away
13 – Your Lucky Day In Hell
14 – The Other Shoe


apparently i should have seen it. my players, since reading this, have been vociferous in their defence of and attachment to ‘Tall Les’.

they have asserted that the sentence “Despite him never having done a thing for them, … they regarded him as a friend” says more about me than it does about Tall Les or them.
Andy, who plays Donar, reminded me:

Well I can’t speak for the others but for my part I was recalling how you’d introduced him as “a friend” and subsequently was victimised and endangered by sinister political machinations
And volunteered a part of his very soul as collateral
I mean even if that hadn’t flagged him as “basically decent” he certainly was somebody who needed our help
Phil, who plays Hopper, backed him up with:
You told us we already knew him and he was a friend. I proceeded on the basis you weren’t a big fat liar
Steve, who plays Winton Blue, then chipped in with:
Re: Tall Les. I seem to remember you introducing him as; “a bit shit, but a mate”, with an implied addition of; “that person you wish you didn’t, a bit shit at parties, but you know him and he’s just a but rubbish rather than a bellend”. Plus we gave him his nickname.
which basically is me told.
good news, everybody. the players are paying more attention to the plot than i am…
good news

Mage: the Awakening session 7 report – Things the Grandchildren Should Know

Starting position: the Cabal have beaten up Ch’ord Upperhill, and forced their way into his shop. They are looking for a 5 volume arcane book (books? Whatever, it’s a set), and are happy to break shit until they get it.

Main events: the players did break shit. They broke my plot.

They had two options

  1. Take the books from Ch’ord, give them to Barnaby Woodhouse, because he’s the legal owner of the books, and set Plot Ball A rolling
  2. Let Ch’ord keep the books, because he’s the moral owner, and set Plot Ball B rolling

So, the thing about Mage, is that you can choose to magically create a second trolley, and achieve both results.

Yes, the results in this case is ‘through the players conscious choice, they have caused 6 innocent people to die, rather than 1 or 5’. This was not lost on the players. They delighted in it.

After whaling on Ch’ord, they started talking to him, and out of the blue decided to use magic to create a second, identical set. They even provided raw materials, 5 pawns of Tass to make them permanent, and the Arcanum that Ch’ord lacked, Mind, so that he could perform a ritual to create identical copies.

Ch’ord took them to his secret sanctum; a locked storage unit in a converted industrial estate. Behind the standard yellow corrugated iron door, Ch’ord keeps what looks like a small pocket dimension. It has a TARDIS effect, and was much larger inside than it appeared to be on the outside. At this point all the nerds in my game shouted “yes, we know what a TARDIS is, thank you…”

Ch’ord also keeps a pet zombie, called Lennie. Lennie was supposed to be a combat encounter, as he guards the sanctum, but the Cabal had effectively negged Ch’ord by this point and he called Lennie off.

Lennie is an enhanced, permanent zombie, and as such probably worth quite a bit. Ch’ord claims to have stolen him from a morgue.

The sanctum also featured an angry portrait of a stern looking woman (I know what I said) that the Cabal were advised not to touch.

So Barnaby Woodhouse got the originals, and is very happy. Plot Ball A is rolling.

Ch’ord Upperhill also got the copies, and is happy. He gets to continue his Master’s work, as well as having 5 large handwritten books (in Sumerian, you should have heard Lionel read Sumerian poetry) to remember his departed father figure. Plot Ball B is rolling.

So both balls are going to try to roll down the same track, bounce off each other, and probably kill more than 6 innocent bystanders.

End point: Ch’ord is now their BFF. He owes them 5 Tass and a solid. They are Facebook friends (of a sort)…

Barnaby is acting like a doting uncle. He’s promised to pull some strings on behalf of Donnal, although he’s incredulous that he’d need help if Granny is his Master’s Master. He’s also made promises of future employment.

Session Title: Things the Grandchildren Should Know – Eels

Mage: the Awakening e6 Report: Estate Sale

Starting Position:

The Mages have been hired by Barnaby Woodhouse to reclaim items stolen from the estate of Lionel Davidson by Davidson’s apprentice, Ch’ord Upperhill.

Woodhouse is named as beneficiary in Davidson’s Last Will and Testament, however it is over ten years old, and written prior to Woodhouse and Davidson splitting up and never speaking again.

Upperhill has taken certain magical items and arcane texts, claiming that Davidson wanted him to have them. Sleeper law and the local Mage Consilium support Woodhouse’s claim.

Our Cabal of Mages are empowered to recover the items of Davidson’s estate from Upperhill.

Notable/Key Events:

The Cabal opted to take the direct approach, and confront Upperhill at his Sanctum: a Taxidermist in Wetherby (Upperhill Restorations). They found him vaping in the alley at the side of his shop.

Upperhill is in his late 20s, wears a black shirt, drainpipe black jeans, winklepicker boots, and a trenchcoat. He is doing vape tricks when they find him. His vape smells of strawberry shortcake.

The Mages cut straight to the chase: “we’re here for the items you took from Davidson’s estate.”

Upperhill firmly states his position: Davidson wanted him to have his works, Woodhouse has no claim, the Cabal can get bent. Whilst he’s talking, John Kelly notices that Upperhill is using the thick white vape cloud to hide the fact that he’s been manifesting Ectoplasm and weaving it into a functional shield and weapon.

Kelly acts first, and opens a portal behind Upperhill, with the intention of seizing the shield or weapon from his hands.

We fall into combat time, and Upperhill rolls really, really badly on initiative. Upperhill has been statted as a real combat threat, but that’s basically all negated if literally all the players get to act before he does.

The combat is short. Upperhill is cursed with Fate magic by Kelly, confused with Mind magic by Winston, whacked with a telekinetic blast and then electromagnetically disrupted by Hopper, intimidated by Donar and persued by Jon-Anthony and Sebastian the shadow pony familiar.

Upperhill flees into his taxidermy shop, with the cabal giving chase. Kelly opens a portal through the locked door, and Hopper and Donar rush in. They are confronted by a bizarre menagerie of posed animals.

An antique stuffed chimpanzee with cymbals and a fez animated and started laughing and clapping whilst following their movements with intelligent eyes, so Donar blasted it with a lightening bolt from his wand, leaving the chimp ablaze and partially melted. Hopper found Upperhill crouched in the middle of the floor, and booted him as hard as she could, knocking any remaining fight out of him.

End Position:

The cabal have a defeated Upperhill in the foetal position on the floor, and full access to his shop. They still do not have the volumes of work they’ve been employed to retrieve, or know their location.

Session title: Eels – Estate Sale


In this month’s “See Page XX” from Pelgrane Press there is an article by Robin Laws about ‘The History of No’. Here’s a quote…

Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson weren’t trying to create a new narrative art form when they developed the ideas that turned into Dungeons & Dragons

I entirely agree with this assertion, and I’m occasionally struck by how a gaming hobby has evolved into a storytelling medium.

I didn’t say ‘legitimate’, as I don’t think RPGs have the mainstream recognition required for legitimacy, but I don’t think it’s far off.

I did a Creative Writing degree, and I thought about story and drama a helluva lot less then than I do now, plotting out a gaming session*.

I’m running D&D tomorrow, and in that I have at least three layers of plot running:

  1. The long term fate of the Harding family, low nobles now without land or status, struggling after the death of their patriarch, Lord Devon Harding.
  2. A mid-term journey to Suzail, the capital of Cormyr, to bury Lord Harding.
  3. A conspiracy plot that the players are as yet unaware of, but have been participating in for the last two sessions. I’ve said too much.

Plot 1. is meat and potatoes D&D, and draws on standard fantasy tropes. Plot 2. however has been running as a straight Apocalypse Now homage.

The fact that I can tell these two markedly different stories, dipping into their own genres as required, is a testament to the flexibility and adaptability of RPGs as a storytelling medium.**

*I generally don’t produce more than a sketch of what I want to happen in a session, because players, chaos and not thinking like a bag of cats…

**Ok, it may not be seamless, but that’s down to my failings as a storyteller, not the medium.