Starting Point: Donnal, a teenaged apprentice Mage, has been challenged to a Duel Arcane by Miranda Peacock, an experienced and influential Mage, member of the Consilium Council and the powerful Cabal The Golden Trinity. If Donnal wins, all charges against him are dropped. If he loses, he loses his master, and will be reassigned to someone else if the Council’s choosing. It probably won’t be someone he likes…
Donar immediately volunteered to be Donnal’s champion, mistakenly believing that a Duel Arcane might involve actual combat.
He quickly learnt that, no, it’s a match of magical power. Participating Mage’s choose two Arcana, one for attack, one for defense, and attempt to overwhelm the other, reducing their Willpower.
John Kelly stepped up, as the most magically proficient in the Cabal (Gnosis 3, Space 3, Fate 2).
As Hopper squared the circle (prepared the magical dueling area), John Kelly prepared himself… Cheating – using abilities, items and outside influences to improve your dueling capabilities – is strictly forbidden. However, it’s very hard to prove some interventions. John cast a good luck charm on himself using Fate 2, giving him the ‘9 Again’ benefit on a certain number of rolls. Normally in Mage, a single die showing ’10’ is counted as a success and rerolled: 10 Again. 9 Again allows a reroll on a 9 and a 10, increasing your chances of additional successes.
Bolstering in this manner is hard to detect and hard to prove.
John was also stocked to the gills on Mana, a magical resource that can be spent to add dice to magical dice pools, or to enhance magical effects.
What we’re saying here is that John went into the fight with lead shot in his gloves.
The first stage of any Duel Arcane is shit talking. Both combatants reel of magical lineages and accomplishments, and mock their opponents. The most cutting remarks win a bonus during the battle itself.
John won the shit talk stage, and then rolled badly, hardly denting Miranda, his opponent. In return, Miranda hit back with a solid blow.
It did not look good for John.
Then he decided to spend a point of Willpower (risky, because that’s the resource that your opponent depletes. The first to 0 Willpower loses), and rolls well.
With his Willpower expenditure and 9 Again enhancement, John scores 7 successes against Miranda, which instantly floors her. John wins. No one expects this.
I did not expect this.
As Storyteller, I’d tried to set this up as a close fight, but ultimately one they’d lose.
I let John’s player, Dave, load up on effects because I wanted him to have a chance, for the battle to last long enough, and for defeat to be close fought.
But no. Two rounds and he trounced her.
Still, this left me with a challenge.
The fight was supposed to demonstrate the inherent injustice in Mage society, and how the Golden Trinity cabal had corrupted the justice system to serve their own ends.
And their current goal was to usurp Granny and remove her from her, albeit unused, position of authority in the Consilium.
What I’d planned was a close battle, and defeat of the players, then the Golden Trinity pressing the letter of the law to strip Granny of all authority and magical assets. The players had already enforced a similar edict, so should be aware of how little of a shit the Consilium gave for ‘fairness’ in such matters.
But, my goals are The Golden Trinity’s goals are my goals. The Trinity want to antagonise Granny and goad her into an illegal act of aggression. It’s still possible, just a little harder.
Tall Les is still at large, so Angela, the defacto leader of the Trinity, issues a warrant for Tall Les’s arrest. Dead or alive, it’s all the same to me.
End Position: Granny rises to the bait, and squares off with Angela. Tall Les was her student, and she’ll throw everything else away before she sees him convicted of a crime be didn’t commit. Probably.
As the session ends, Granny has withdrawn from the Consilium and revoked her position within it. She exits the gathering warning all and sundry that any attempt to enforce Consilium law on her land or her people will be met with force.
Wait – That’s not how it ended… We had about 30 minutes of playtime left. I expected the Cabal to return home, regroup, discuss tactics and then attend to Granny.
They went straight to Tall Les’s instead. They were worried about him.
Arriving at Tall Les’s house in Tadcaster, they discovered signs of a struggle – They piece together that Les was packing in a hurry, and then was set upon. Some of the damage to the kitchen and hallway is horrific.
Then, in the bath, they find a dead body.
Outside the bathroom, they find a raven.
Winston Blue uses Mind to converse with the Raven, and they learn that Les used to feed it, and occasionally ride it. It tells them some details of the fight, and how Les fled to the other side.
Eels song: Prizefighter