Monday, May 6, 2013

New Year, New (Social) Game: Wastelands Game Session 4

The session opened with Jade and Pa Ku having descended out of the mountains and gazing across the Waste, at the great walled city of Nekheb a short distance away.

The city is Surrounded by a 50' high circular wall made of smooth, polished stone with only one visible gate and the ruins of an ancient city shore up the base of the massive wall for the entirety of its circumference. As these things go, there were two guards blocking the way into the city.

Jade attempted to diplomatically negotiate their way in, but had the fact that she initially approached wearing a respirator mask working against her. Pa Ku, in yet another display of controlled power, forced the guard to back down [For those following along, he has Intimidation as a Specialism]. With that they passed into the gate where they were confronted with a large plaque decreeing that:
  • It is unlawful to sleep in public spaces.
  • Dueling is prohibited.
  • Any magic user seeking to reside in the Upper City must register with the Department of the White Banner.
[From a GM standpoint, the first is obviously to encourage players to seek out an inn or, if they chose to sleep in a public park, for example, to allow them to prepare for an inevitable encounter with the city watch. The 2nd and 3rd item have yet to come into play, if they ever will, and so I have to withhold discussion in the case that one of the players reads this.]

Inside, they could more clearly see the twisting corkscrew towers with balconies overlooking polished stone-walled courtyards,  multi-foil archways leading into dim interiors, and fountains splashing water at intersections in the distance. The latter being somewhat curious, given the lack of an obvious water source for miles around.

With no "coin of the realm" to their names, the party needed a way to make some money and night was coming fast, so a place to sleep wouldn't hurt either, if they wanted to avoid running afoul of the city's laws.

["To the inn!"]

At The Fat Archer, the , inn's owner, Mustafa  [a short, rotund bearded fellow with a booming voice and who resembled  Princess Jasmine's father in Disney's Aladdin, at least as we all pictured him ] hired the party to keep tabs on his bartender, Taimur, whom he believed was stealing from the till, but he had no evidence.

As they debated taking the job, a group of ruffians came in, muttering about outsiders and casting eyes in the party's direction. [I was tempted to have violence erupt - there is a strong anti-immigrant sentiment held by no small part of the population, but as the party wasn't actually moving in, at that point at least, it seemed unwarranted ]. Jade and Pa Ku basically took no heed of the glares of resentment.

After much deliberation, they took the job, which included free room and a small payment of 10 credits each, and set about spying on Taimur during the evening's rush.

Jade and Pa Ku approached the bar, intermingling and making chit chat with other tavern goers. With his extra sensory abilities, Pa Ku honed in on the bartender and received a strong impression that Taimur was under extreme emotional duress and money was the root of his problem. Meanwhile, Jade [using her Stealth specialism], kept a close eye on him without drawing any suspicion and sure enough, found he was skimming.

When the bartender took off "on his break", the party opted not to follow him and simply informed Mustafa of the situation. Thankful for their help, they were granted several days stay.

Jade made the most of this the next day, by finding the academy of magic and the world's most bored bureaucrat seated inside the entrance hall. Said bureaucrat informed her that the cost of admission was 100,000 credits, or she could go on a "small" quest to earn her way in. [At this point the players could only see one option: the quest. I tried to explain that they could pursue other options to earn the money, everything from getting a job to find a loan shark, but the quest won the day].

The session ended as the bureaucrat prepared to explain the task.

This session was played on May 1, but I felt pretty "meh" about it for awhile. Now with a few days since we played, and talking to the player of Pa Ku a bit, I feel a bit better about it. Clearly progress has been made on goals important to Jade (the magic academy), and Pa Ku although he hasn't had much, if any spotlight, has more than accomplished his primary objective, which is to keep Jade safe from harm.

What I think I felt the most unhappy with was the bartender's situation. Instead of having him "go on break", I should have had him duck out suspiciously - something a little more enticing. I'm not sure the party would have gone after him, however. The Journeyman of Shadow Moss explained that he thought about it, but it would have endangered Jade, and since his objective is quite the opposite, there was a strong disincentive.

Still, my small victory here is that I didn't force the players to have an encounter just because I conceived of it. They determined how to satisfy the mission they were given.

Oddly, I feel pretty good about the next session or two , even though they haven't happened yet - if they go on the quest, it's already set up, and other elements in the city can come into play, if Jade attends the school. At the same time, Pa Ku will have a chance for the spotlight a bit as he can't attend the school with Jade and will have to occupy himself, and find a means to earn some scratch, while she is studying. He also has some research he wants to do, related to the woman he was to deliver Jade to in the city of Hakami.

What I'm not sure of is how I'll handle is Jade's attendance at the academy. I think I'd like to role play some of it with challenges /quests / obligations and part of it would be hand waived - "After 18 months..." The players both seem on board with this approach but I want to mull it over a bit more before I come to a decision.

If they opt to skip the quest and go somewhere else, the hex map is already keyed and there are plenty of possible encounters.

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