A collection of rambling posts about gaming, running, and politics. (and, in 2009, photography.)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Thieves of Highwater Street: Sibling Rivalry

I had the pleasure of running one of the coolest sessions of Shadow of Yesterday ever.

After a very long wait, we picked back up with the Thieves Guild themed game of Shadow of Yesterday with Michael and Kelly. This time, we had those two, Jason, Michael's wife Beth, Doug and Sonya.

Beth had not played with us before, and was new or pretty new to role playing games. Doug and Sonya were new introductions to me. Both have played role playing games, and Doug had played or run a FUDGE game once before.

In order to simplify things, speed things up, and give us some good story hooks, I created character backgrounds for everyone, and let everyone get familiarized with them.

Each character had a few secrets from the other characters. We are not doing any sort of PvP, but there's certainly some subterfuge and conspiracy at play. We discussed handling these secrets in a Cards Up or Cards Down fashion. Cards Up indicates that we as players are all In The Know. Like the audience in a book or movie, we already know the juicy secrets. This style is better suited to casual, easygoing and friendly play. Cards Down indicates that we keep all the dirty secrets until they come out in play. As a group, we decided on Cards Up. During our quick Spilling Of Secrets, Michael mentioned that his character Thomas had a crippled father, and because of that, he worked for the Guild, to keep his family fed. Doug spoke up and asked if he could add to the background info, and asked if his character could have, on orders, been the one who broke Thomas' father's back. Oh Hell Yes.

I began by outlining that the players formed part of the Highwater Street Crewe. Not all of it though, as there are "bit players", or cronies who do stuff off screen as well. The crewe had a few things that needed to be accomplished. They still needed to turn up the missing courier and gems that their boss, Malek, wanted. They also needed to make sure that they were collecting "protection money" from the businesses around Highwater. I explained that they had a short list of establishments that had not or would not hand over money. They started at the Golden Drink gambling den, looking to secure some cash from the owner. He told them that he had little cash, and that his business had dried up in recent days. They asked as to why, and he told them that his customers had instead been buying some kind of narcotic off of some hooligans up the street, and he pointed them out. Now, Doug was aware that his character had a brother who had recently arrived in Highwater. This brother had falled in with some street punks who were selling a narcotic. Doug asked if his brother was among them. Yes. He took off up the street to get his confrontation on. He got into a physical altercation with his little brother and the two toughs with him, and we went to dice. Simple stakes, Doug won. He intimidated an agreement out of his brother to leave the dope alone and get lost, and his brother took off.

They headed on down the street, debating whether to look into the missing gem courier, or into the businesses that they needed money from. They passed by a group of city militia harassing two young men. The goody-two-shoes Lieutenant was with the guards, as well as the tough-but-corrupt watch Sergeant. The two young men were familiar to the characters, one of them being an errand boy for the Guild. Kelly's character, who has a bone to pick with the city militia, along with Beth's character, marched up to the guardsmen and started in sarcastically on the Sergeant. Soon, they could see that the watch was going to let the young men go, and Kelly's exchange with the guardsmen began to get dangerous. Beth's character chilled things out by getting them out of the confrontation, once they saw that the young men would be released.

Soon they passed the business of a dock hauler, one of the businesses that had not paid up. They debating how to deal with them, considering some options, before deciding that they needed to make an example of someone, and preferably a somewhat easier target than a bunch of haulers. They settled on a well-to-do seamstress shop just up the street. When they walked up to the shop, they recognized a young man sitting outside the shop os one of the Brickdown Street Crewe, a rival crewe to the north, and headed by the son of the Underboss. He told the characters that this seamstress shop belonged to the Brickdown Crewe now, and that Underboss Malek had given it to them. There was much consternation and discussion about this. Soon, Sonya's character went in to the shop to talk to the owner. The owner became concerned about the prospect of being caught in the middle of a Guild dispute, but Sonya's character assured her that it would be handled without any problem, and said that she would need to be giving her Guild payments to them instead of the Brickdown crewe. Headed by Michael's character, the rest of our crewe soon ran the lone Brickdown fellow off. He threatened a bit, and left.

The crewe decided that they wanted to do some hunting for the gem courier, and sought out the other gambling hall in Highwater, the Lady's Dice, and things began to pick up. Up until this point, we'd only rolled dice once or twice over the entire evening. I was having a blast narrating and playing the NPCs, and the players seemed to be having a fine time doing what it was that they were doing. At the Lady's Dice, Kelly's character did some socializing, and Sonya's character went and talked to one of the bouncers. She had taken Secret of Contacts, and decided that this bouncer was a contact of hers, a good buddy. He came clean that they'd underpaid a little, but he'd not seen this gem courier. Sonya asked if he hung out with the bouncers at the other places, and if he might be able to coax any information out of them. A light came on above my head, and I said sure - that we could go to dice for it. If Sonya won, then the bartender left work after a few hours, went and hung out with his buddies, asked them about the gem courier and got a lead. If she lost, his buddies had no information for him. This was solid gold. Tons of gift dice came out, and she handily won the contest. Her bouncer friend informed her that the gem courier who'd been thrown out into the gutter in front of the Golden Drink gambling hall, had been rolled by some punk kids.

Doug immediately expressed concern over whether his brother had been involved in this, and there was much speculation around the table. The crewe decided to go off in search of the brother, Stephan. They weren't sure where he'd be hiding, so they decided to start checking at the homes of relatives. They went by an Uncle's place, and Doug's character asked his uncle if he'd seen Stephan. The uncle replied "no", and I told Doug that we'd need to go to dice. The uncle was lying, and the dice would tell us whether he was fooled by it or not. The dice came up a tie, and Doug decided to bring down the pain. Thanks to lucky rolling on my part, and unlucky rollng on Doug's part, he finally Gave, and his character left, frustrated.

The crewe regrouped in the street, and debated their next move. They still wanted to find Stephan, and Jason proposed a dice roll to try to get some word as to where Stephan was hiding. Jason went for big stakes, and proposed that if he won, Stephan walked right into them. Wanting to meet his stakes scope, I said fine, and that if he lost, Stephan had gone and sought shelter with their rivals, the Brickdown crewe. Gift dice flew at Jason, and he won handily.

They grabbed Stephan and the guy with him, and began trying to get information out of him. We went to dice, and they learned the names of three street punks who'd done the rolling.

Quick note:

Stakes in TSOY have always been awesome. Letting stakes decide truths in the game, and the direction that the story and narration goes? AWESOME.

This was a fairly quick writeup, and I may post more about it later.

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