Tag Archives: Dresden

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.

Heartsore

My friend Ryan Rogers, @UnlicensedBrony, was killed in an accident on the 5th January in Stonehouse on his way to see us. He was a regular gamer (aka. every week) with my housemate Sam and I, and he’d often stayed with us over the past year – helping with DIY and gardening, learning to cook and drive, watching films, playing board games, talking about writing and occasionally actually doing some writing. He was someone I considered a very close friend, and someone I spoke to nearly every day.

And now he’s not here.

It still hasn’t sunk in.

I still go to text or email him – I think of something he’d find amusing or interesting, or that I want to get his opinion on. I’m waiting for the text to say he’ll be at Stroud station, or the email from him with a new story or plotline idea. I’ve got notes for the next Dresden RPG game, now abandoned; plans and snippets of ideas that would have been so much fun to play. I’m still expecting him to walk in the door and give me a quick hug before getting sat on by the cat and handed the remote so that he can choose the cheesy 80’s film for the evening.

Everything just ends so abruptly.

I’ve lost my alpha reader, my inspiration, my friend.

I’ve lost the man with an infectious smile, bright eyes, unexpected hugs, thoughtful words. I’ve lost the athlete who beat me easily in a race across Coaley Peak in the sunshine and bright frost with the view stretching out ahead of us, the world at our feet. I’ve lost the adorable idiot who let the cat sit on him until 1am and his legs had gone numb, just so that he didn’t wake the furball. I’ve lost the gamer who sighed in relief when he got his character out of danger and then promptly plunged back into it just for the fun of the game. I’ve lost the reader who loved my stories and somehow got into my character’s heads almost as well as I did. I’ve lost the caffeine addict who was always up for another cup of tea but would always offer me one too, despite knowing I don’t have tea for blood like he did. I’ve lost the opponent who regularly matched three potions before I could, and the colleague who drowned in sand with me as we failed at Forbidden Desert. I’ve lost the quiet company during our walks down the canal and our seat on the lock gate, just watching the leaves and not having to talk. I’ve lost the roleplayer who would chime in with an unexpected grin, a sharp retort, a sneaky plot. I’ve lost the insecure, broken soul who was learning how to speak out about the hurt, and say what he needed to be able to heal. I’ve lost the teenager who laughed with excitement at catching a Pokemon and always knew what they were called. I’ve lost the sleepyhead who curled up in my arms on the sofa and nodded off halfway through Poco Rosso. I’ve lost the derp who drilled through a mains water pipe and panicked at the resulting water fountain, and then learned how to solder to fix the mistake. I’ve lost the singer who corrupted me with Taylor Swift and whose unexpected voice brightened the moments when he relaxed enough to bring it out. I’ve lost the child who sprinted across the park to get the kite into the air and the adult who sprinted back, laughing as it flew. I’ve lost the writer who loved my world so much that he wrote his own stories, delved into parts I never could have created and brought so much life and imagination to a fantasy of a city. I’ve lost the student who would have a go at anything, from making lasagne to using an impact driver for the first time to taking a corner at 40mph. I’ve lost the friend who knew exactly what I was talking about when I talked about depression, about inspiration, about feeling lost, about finding your path.

I’ve lost someone who meant so much to me. I’m still crying every time I think of him; I’ve got a lump in my chest, a cold fog across my thoughts. I can’t focus for long, can’t concentrate. Every thing I see reminds me, somehow, of the person that I can no longer contact, the friend that I desperately miss.

But. The last time I saw him I got that beaming Ryan smile, and my final words to him were, “You’re awesome too. I’ll see you Wednesday.”

He knew he was loved, and that means that every memory I have makes me smile even as it makes me cry. He knew that he was cherished, valued, accepted – I told my friend that I loved him so many times and he believed me, and that’s everything I could ever want for anyone. I’m so glad that I knew him and that I took the time to listen and relax and just be in his company. He was my friend, and I cherish all the time that he chose to spend with me.

Ryan, you’re an absolute derp, and I miss you like hell. I might even finally get round to watching My Little Pony in your honour.

Dresden Files: Solstice Fight

After a while of focusing my energy on game planning, I’ve had a kick to get back into writing – and this was the result! An odd piece but good action practice.

I’m dressed in my leather jerkin over my shirt and jeans, pirate boots on my feet and my hair flowing around my head. I don’t look anything like a Knight from the real world, but I don’t need to. The acorn around my neck, the silver-woven bracelet on my wrist, the knife at my belt; they are all the armour I need.

The huge field around me is littered with bodies, dead and alive. There’s things from the worst realms of Fairytale here; we’re in the middle of a nightmare of blood and fighting, worse than any human battle could ever be. It’s the Solstice, and the Summer and Winter Courts are battling it out for control of the Table. Luckily, I’m not having to be a general; Nemain’s directing Summer’s forces. My job is simpler. Distract the Winter Knight.

“He comes!” The Little Folk swoop down towards me, squealing excitedly. They love battles. It’s more fun than parties because they get to use their swords.

Apparently you get in trouble if you stab pizza.

The Fae on the battlefield around me scatter, and I smile at the ice-armoured figure stalking towards me. We’re left alone for these duels, which is exactly how I want it. “Sir Knight.”

“Lady Knight.” It’s a familiar voice, laced with excitement and malice. And then without ceremony he throws out a handful of razor-sharp icicles, intended to slice my chest open, leaving me bleeding and screaming on the ground.

I’m already moving, whirling away to one side and calling my sword into existence as I move. As the flaming blade roars into life I throw out my other hand, dissolving the Knight’s next ice shower into warm droplets. “You’re looking very dashing today,” I call lightly.

He snorts and goes for his own sword. “I’d say the same about you-” A clash and fizz as our swords meet, and then I’ve ducked away. I can’t match his sheer strength, so I have to be quick. “Except I’d use the word fuckable.”

“That sounds like an invitation to get you out of that armour.” I’m dancing across the ground, the flame whirling around my head and body as I spin. The life and laughter that I bring with me is one of the best weapons against Winter’s dark and death; the Knight can’t attack this much vitality, and he’s forced to rely on his ice. That I can work with. Plus, it means we battle to lilting snatches of old folk songs and the laughter of long summer days. It really disconcerts him, and I love it.

“You could ask – instead of trying to – carve it up with a bloody piece – of fire.”

“That sounds far too easy.” I whirl the flaming blade around my back and thrust it towards him. This time it does hit in; I’ve already withdrawn and moved to avoid his return blow, but there’s a singed and melted hole in the side of his armour.

“I’ve had easier fucks,” the Winter Knight growls at me.

“It’s more fun when they fight,” I throw back, feeling the chill from his blade across my neck as it slices a chunk of my hair away, leaving white strands across the battered ground.

“You take it to extremes.” I’m forced into a roll by his next blow and I know what’s coming next; he’s so predictable sometimes…

So I’m already letting my sword fade and calling up protection when the ice blasts out, freezing the ground beneath my feet and filling the air around me with freezing fog. It takes a large chunk of energy to resist the chill and I know the Knight is already charging across the ground towards me, using the fog as cover.

But instead of rolling aside as I would usually do, I lunge forward. My arms meet something solid and then I’m out of the fog and into the clear, actually slamming the Winter Knight backwards into the frozen ground. I use my momentum to tuck and roll up over his head before he can grab me-

His hand catches my ankle and I’m jerked to an abrupt halt, my ribs thumping awkwardly onto something. Fuck, that hurt. I kick his ear and then his wrist while he twists on the ground, trying to get a purchase while also not letting me go. We devolve into street brawling too often for my liking, but you can’t have everything.

He’s materialised an ice knife in his fist and is thrusting it towards my foot. I swing my weight and clout him on the side of the head, and get my foot free as he momentarily lets go. He snarls and rolls as I come to my feet and draw my knife, and then we’re both on our feet again. I’m covered in smudges and dirt, while his ice is still pristine. But hey, I’m prettier than he is even with my face covered in mud.

I see Winter’s familiar lust filling the periwinkle-blue eyes; my shirt’s torn at the shoulder and I know he’d love to take advantage of that. I did make the lust win one Solstice, which was amusing; he had actually got as far as dissolving his armour before Mab turned up behind him.

Ok, that wasn’t as fun as I make it sound. I really did think I was going to die when he slammed me into the ground, and being pinned to a muddy battlefield and raped is only slightly preferable to actually dying. I was surprised when Mab interrupted. Figured she’d enjoy watching Summer get humiliated.

But I’ve got other games to play today.

I attack. He’s forced to block, parry, block again as I dance around him, whirling faster than he can move, leaving melted slices across his armoured body. This is the problem with my attacks; I’m simply not strong or powerful enough to get in directly. I have to wear him down and create weaknesses before I can properly do any damage. If the Winter Knight could actually pin me down, he’d overcome me easily – which is why I rely on being fast.

And it’s working. 

The Knight’s on the defensive. He’s trying to attack but he’s using too much strength healing his armour and trying to keep up with my movements to focus more than a few brief showers of icicles. And before he knows it, between one attack and the next, I’ve slammed him backwards with both feet and then I’m on his chest, knife in my fist and blade pressed into his neck.

I lean forward, and I kiss his cold lips.

The sound from his throat is somewhere between agony and ecstasy. The blade’s digging in and he can’t tell how far I’ve pushed it, but my lips are warm and the life surrounding me is intoxicating. He doesn’t dare move but he desperately wants to take me. He’s too busy fighting with himself to focus on me.

I’ve won.

Around us, the battle is ebbing; it looks like Summer has won the Table back and the world’s back on track. I leave the Winter Knight on the ground, blood blossoming slowly at his throat and his eyes despairing as the armour melts from his limbs. Mab won’t be happy with him, because I let him live.

But hey. There’s always another Solstice.

Dresden Files: Black Court

A snippet from a WIP – the same as this one, actually.

“Right,” the Knight says. “The Blacks probably know we’re here, so we’re not going to be subtle. Let’s whack them as fast as possible.”

“At the cost of the victims?” Grey objects. “We cannot get every vampire at once. They will kill their prey as soon as we approach.”

“They haven’t yet. We can’t get all-”

I put my hand on his arm. “It’s my turn.”

The Winter Knight turns on me. “You can’t-”

“You had your fun.” My eyes are bright; I’m awake, alive, with Summer flaring through me in a golden river. “Black Court respond best to fire.”

He scowls at me.

I point at Marta. “Do you trust her?”

The Winter Knight, unexpectedly, responds immediately. “Yes.”

My smile deepens. “Then put your Mantle away. It’s my playtime.” I don’t wait for his response, and turn to Marta. “Shall we?”

She gives the first proper smile I’ve seen; a wolfish, feral one.

“And me?” Grey says.

I wink at him. “You’re always welcome.” The priest next to him is already re-wrapping the cross around his fist, so he’s in.

The Winter Knight is staring at me with something wistful crossing his face despite the crinkle of irritation around his eyes. And then he lets Winter fade, and Summer blossoms. I spin out, whirling in glee with my hair and bloody clothes flying as I let Summer fill me. The fire and life is mine to command, and I’ve got a scourge to destroy.

“Let’s go!”

I am in the cornfield, my Queen’s lips on mine, her voice in my head and life surging through my veins.

I am alive.

The cavern’s large, with a slippery floor and dripping walls. The river’s close to the surface here. There are humans here; battered and dull-faced people who don’t look up at the noise. It’s also full of Black Court, and they descend on us as soon as we enter the space.

I let my colleagues deal with the nearest ones, just focusing on getting as far out into the cavern as I can. I duck under a grasping hand, slam into three more, and then I’m spinning with the memory in my head and Summer flaring through me, my hands going out, laughter and sunlight following my movements. I light up the cavern with warmth and life.

It’s the equivalent of an atom bomb. The vampires die; the sunshine turns them to dust as it passes across them, their arms reaching and faces screaming soundlessly.

I feel a brief moment of pity for them. Were they human, once? But they’ve chosen their actions and their natures. Summer isn’t always kind, and my fire is burning through me.

Summer is here.

DFRPG: Apocalypse…not exactly averted

We’re finished! After two years, the Dresden Files game that I’ve been in as a player, the one that first got me into role-playing games, has finished.

The world’s…sort of intact? Mostly? And we didn’t kill anyone too badly?

Well, we survived.

Mostly.

Anyway! The world’s still there, even if most of Wiltshire isn’t. So it’s fine.

Overall it was a good game, and for most of it, I loved it. I’ve written 160k of fanfiction for the world and my character’s background story. I’ve spent way too much time plotting my own casefile. I’ve been making notes on the books to help me remember details. I’ve started my own games in the same universe, just because I love it.

But towards the end, much as I hated it happening, my enthusiasm definitely vanished.

I think one of my major frustrations with it was the slow pace. We could only play once a month and if everyone was busy, we had to pass on to the next month. As I’ve got my own games running (amongst other projects) the delay meant my headspace drifted – it’s like finishing a book and sending it off for editing, and then I’m writing the next one, and when I get the first one back it’s a surprised moment of “Oh! Yeah! That! Now I gotta remember what the heck was going on with those characters…”

I had some gaming style issues as well. I have (now!) learned not to argue with the GM, but it is hard when I know the world and rules; however, it mostly comes down to different play styles, and as a player you just have to step back and admit you’d do things differently. I get annoyed by fellow-players, too; it’s very easy to go off-track in a character-heavy game, as you are RPG’ing the actual interactions! Staying in-character is difficult, but…ragh. Still. They’re minor frustrations that didn’t spoil the overall game. The campaign had a nice mix of investigation, action, various allies and groups and enemies, and it added a realistic element by being set in a location we knew.

I’ve gotta write up and finish my little project, and then it’s done; one chapter of the game closed! I was originally going to run a second campaign in the world but as I’m already involved in other groups and games, I’ve opted not to. I have more than enough on my plate with the Wolfpack, particularly as they’re currently attempting to start a war…*sigh* players, who’d have ’em?