On games, politics, and blowing up vampires

When I asked the boys – about a year ago – what they wanted their character arcs to be in the new game, Ryan’s answer was to do with Aaron’s leadership, character growth, heroic deeds…

Sam just wanted his food-obsessed werewolf to have eaten at every McDonalds in the local area. I laughed quite hard.

The game and the city for my wolfpack had grown out of the Dresden Files game I’ve played for the past three years or so. We left it in Swindon, but picked up on some unused elements – a pack of werewolf hackers in the Museum of Computing, the Paranet of magical talents, a few new characters, a few revamped old characters (including one unsavoury character called Tom Logan, a derivative from my Winter Knight) and some new arcs. The boys had both settled down in the city, and so for the arc we’ve just played I added some politics and some complications to their heroic do-good quest. So I had Aaron, a lovesick and slightly single-minded hero, and Willy, food-obsessed and sarcastic sidekick, running around Swindon causing every type of havoc there is to cause.

One of the things I loved about the world was the possibility for tangents. Ryan caused one of the most fun ones; I’d included a White Court vampire (who feed off sex) and Aaron had cheerfully gone to see her to try to solve a mystery. She got ‘interested’, Ryan gave me that big grin and said “nope!” when I asked if he wanted his character to get a clue and leave, and after a glossed-over night of debauchery that I definitely wasn’t going to roleplay we ended up with a sex-obsessed werewolf with half a soul and a revenge raid on Foxxies’ strip club that involved a bin lorry and ripping hearts out. As GM, I was sitting there laughing my ass off and cheerfully encouraging them on.

The latest arc was an offshoot from that political mix-up, and says a lot about why I loved playing. The ghouls that had been used by the White Court for people-trafficking were still in town, and people were still vanishing. But despite more cameras, more systems, more checks, the wolfpack couldn’t find any evidence of the victims in the White Court hangouts, which obviously meant they weren’t looking hard enough *GM roll of the eyes*. Incidentally, our heroic heroes were also working for one of the local mafia bosses, innocently assisting with creating drugs and not noticing that said mafia boss might have a hand in the people-trafficking…I swear, sometimes you gotta beat your players over the head with clues!

The game we’d just played was one of the most enjoyable and simultaneously frustrating for me. We were hitting the finale; Aaron’s love interest had been kidnapped, and the wolves had taken the bait to run off someplace else rather than use their heads (all planned, cue GM smirk). They’d finally twigged where she was after an in-game day, and were planning a raid on the place to get her back. I was sat there answering questions on the house layout, letting them wonder if quadcopters could be rigged to carry thermite and how big a sewer was, and knowing that as soon as it got dark I’d be playing my own move. They had so much fun, and I knew it was all potentially for nothing…best-laid plans and all that!

And then as soon as dusk fell, the Red Court vampires turned up with an offer to negotiate. They wanted to see Aaron. Now.

The wolves went. Found the girl. Agreed – reluctantly, and surprisingly without Aaron trying to tear anyone’s head off – that the wolfpack would negotiate a truce with the Red Court, and agree to join forces against Cornetti. Aaron got handed the girl. They left.

And then said girl tried to eat him.

It’s the little things.

I had – as GM – to step in at that point and do a minor amount of meta-gaming. Noelle was Ryan’s creation and character; even though he’d allowed me free rein over her (up to and including killing), I was still reluctant to see her turn Red Court and have her kill everyone, which was one of the options at that stage. And so while Sam dozed on the sofa and occasionally interjected a comment, Ryan nodded seriously and said, “Yeah, I can fit that in. Noelle, you have to go back to safety now, we’re taking you back to the Museum. I love you. And I kiss her forehead.”

“Roll for it. Your conviction against her discipline.” The strength of Aaron’s love against the bloodlust taking over his girlfriend.

And he won.

He got a grin, part relief that all my planning had finally played out and part happiness that he succeeded, and a nod as he started to smile back. “You did it.”

Of course, they still had the Red Court to blow up in revenge…why waste a good attack plan just because you’ve got the girl back? But that was the next session, and that never happened.

So the game ends there. I’ve got notes on the next arc – Ryan wanted to play Logan, a foul-mouthed and selfish wizard who had a tendency to tell everyone to have sex with themselves and push people’s buttons just to piss ’em off, and who was just ridiculous amounts of fun to play. Sam was considering plotting another game using his wizards and secret society, and my planned arc had a secret vault, a stolen book, a shadowy organisation, the world in danger and time ticking down…

Wolf by Paul in Seattle
From http://wolvesbystrangers.com/images/from-paul-in-seattle1.jpg

I miss two people. I miss Ryan, my friend and my reader, my inspiration. And I miss Aaron, ambitious and loyal, athlete, leader, werewolf and absolute bloody idiot. I loved Ryan’s grin when his character did something stupid; his frown when they were trying to make sense of my clues; his emails and pings with another snatch of story or idea for the game. He loved the world and the characters – he wrote fanfiction and short stories, wrote up the snippets of game, gave me ideas, gave himself confidence. I wanted him to run his own game, once he’d got the confidence – I wanted him to learn to GM, knowing that he’d love it as much as I did.

We’ve shelved the game and the world now; I won’t play another game in it, not yet. I need time to let the characters go and let the ideas fade. But I loved it, and I know he did too.