Sunday, August 19, 2012

Blood and Anger : Houses of the Blooded

8/17/2012
Blood and Anger
Houses of the Blooded

Although my Friday started with some panic (family-related but thankfully not as bad as I feared), things were on an upswing for the rest of the day.  The highlight, however, was when a good friend of mine named Arvie wanted a game for his birthday and of course who am I not to grant such a geeky desire.

So yeah, we were throwing ideas on what to play (originally, two other friends were to join but one got sick and the other had to bow to his wife's preference for him to stay home), and when I told him about John Wick's Houses of the Blooded game, he just absolutely fell in love with the idea.

So we went for it.

Arvie played Adam Saxony, House of the Bear.  His mother was Miera Saxony, Marquis of Ivar, House of the Bear.  His father, Guise Verr, a Baron of the Fox was an absent parent and barely was there to guide him in his life.  He was the eldest child of two children, and his sister Luna was barely five years old.

Adam was married to Asela of the House of the Serpent and the two had two wonderful children.  Twins, to be precise.  Helen, the daughter who was older by a few minutes, and Adrian.

Adam was known to be Academy Educated and Honest to a Fault.  He left each night to sneak into the domains of other Ven, and helped wives that were being abused whenever he could.  The game opened with Adam sneaking into the Castle of Count Kether Zsanosz Yvarai, House of the Fox.  He had been abusive in his relations with the Lady No.   And while she had many times whispered to him of her anguish, she never seemed to be willing to leave him.  That night, Adam made his escape in the darkness of the missing moon, and believed he escaped without being seen.

Later in the evening, Adam and Asela would find themselves uncovering an Assassin in their very own bedchambers.  When questioned, the Assassin admits he was sent by the Count Kether.  The husband and wife begin sharing thoughts on how they will plan their revenge.

Morning comes and Asela discusses the preparations for the Party they are hosting in the evening.  Helen and Adrian are celebrating their birthday and Asela is concerned of the many guests will be present.  "I made sure to invite Count Kether," Asela admits, "So his death must be clearly revenge.  Or a blessing of the Suaven.  An accident would not be permissible.  You are of the House of the Bear.  Your house must be seen as strong as you are."  Adam merely smiles.  His weakness, sadly, was Strength.  And it was a weakness his mother always reminded him he had.

To their surprise, however, the Count had come to the castle early.  While Asela focused on the prepartions, Adam headed downstairs to meet with him.  He first receives a package the Count had sent in advance and carefully studies it for any traces of deceit.  True enough, he finds a weak poison hidden in its wrappings.  One far too faint to hurt the Ven. But a poison nonetheless.  A card inside the wrapping shows the unique brand of Count Kether as well, confirming the present was sent by him.

"I come as requested by my acquaintance, the Lady No.  She insisted I deliver the package in advance.  Her desires are mine to fulfill," the Count admitted.  Adam was aware that Count Kether's honesty was legendary  and found himself uncertain what to do.  Deep down, he believed the Count had sent the assassin.  But this admission he shared suggested it was Lady No who sought to poison his Staff!

As the two discuss a possible cooperation between them, poisonous darts strike them in their necks.  An assassin flees as the two identify the poison that was used.  A variant of the five deadly poisons, this one was far slow acting, but nonetheless fatal.  Having no apothecary, Adam realized he had to trust Count Kether, who offered to produce an antidote in his Province.  The two hurried off to the Village Marksmoon where Adam's Caravan, The Vonn Passage, was waiting.

Finding the path clear of encounters, the two reached the Village and took the Caravan to the neighboring Province.  But the route was blocked by a massive Ork.  Adam remembered this Ork to have been defeated numerous times by his mother, and believed his resemblance of her would be enough to force it to flee.  The Ork did withdraw, but not before launching a massive rock at Adam, which pounded painfully into his face.

Arriving at Kether's Swamp, the Silent Bog, the two felt the poison's wicked sting grow stronger.  The poison first dulled the tongue, stripping the Ven of speech.  Then it grew heavy, slowing their movements the way Ikhalu's Milk would.  Soon, Adam knew, it would dance like Arsenic upon the inner organs, melting them as they brought death.  Count Kether fell to the ground, unable to move forward.  And Adam, hoping to direct the Witch of the Bog in time, rushed as quickly as his lumbering form could, to the Apothecary.  He found there waiting the Lady No.

Lady No first mistook Adam to be Adam's wife Asela, whom she knew to be a Serpent deeply obsessed with Sorcery.  Demanding proof of his identity, the Lady No hoisted a boiling cauldron towards the silenced Baron.  But Adam's Devotion to the Green Lady was strong, and her Circle of Protection parried the blow.  Seeing the Bear Blessing as proof, Lady No begged for forgiveness and in her passion admitted her crime.  She had been pretending to have been abused by Count Kether, hoping to convince Adam to kill him.  She had also sent the assassins to Vonn Castle twice, commanding them to kill Asela and Adam's children.  She did not realize the assassins themselves fell in vrente with her, and attempted to kill instead the men that she was associated with.

Aware now that Lady No was indeed the cruel author of the unfolding drama, Adam struggled to find a chance to bring his sword to her.  But he was far too weakened by the poison to do so.  When Lady No dragged back Count Kether's limp form to the hut, Adam found himself being asked to prove his love to her by killing him.  The Game of Romance began and both exchanged challenges to prove their love.  Adam knew he had to become Predator to win this dance.  He held the Bloodsword of the Count Kether in his hands, and slipped a sleeping draught into the wine that Lady No had offered.  "Let us drink first, to celebrate, then slay this man that stands in our way."

Lady No however was deft in the games of vrente.  She insisted the Count must be killed first.  And while she leaned over the limp Fox and mused on how her life was to be far more wonderful in the future, Adam considered striking her from behind.

The poison reached its peak.  Adam fell, dying, as his organs began to dissolve.  But rather than pain, he found himself seeing a vision.  A serpent emerged and slid around him, wrapping him in a crushing embrace.  He popped open like a watermelon seed and a fresh new him slid out.  The serpent ate the remains of his poisoned flesh and faded away.  Adam sat up, realizing the poison had some how been defeated, and slammed the pommel of the Bloodsword onto Lady No's unprotected back.  With the threat defeated, he called for the Witch to brew the antidote he knew of, but alas it came too late.  Count Kether was dying.  And with his final breath, the Count willed his tongue to move and told the Baron, "Yours" as he pushed his signet ring into the Baron's hands.

*

The Marquis, Adam's mother, arrived soon after with those dressed in Black.  He explained what he knew of the events, and the Marquis inquired with her seneschal (a pale man whose disturbing grin never seemed to end) and the seneschal confirmed his tal to be true.  "But I have still lost a Baroness in my Domain," the Marquis inquired, "If the Lady No remains alive, then who had died other than the dear Count Kether?"

Fear gripped Adam's heart and the two hurried back to Castle Vonn.  There, they found their fears mistaken:  Asela was alive and well, and she was not the Baronness whom the Marquis had sensed to have perished.  Adam spoke with her and she, between heartbreaking sobs, asked Adam, "Were you poisoned?  Was poison in your tale?"  When Adam admitted it was, Asela grew violent.  She screeched.  She wailed.  "It all comes to close.  It all now makes sense.  Poison... the Poison!  And we never knew she was that gifted.  We never realized my Blood was stronger in her veins than yours!"

Another cry in the Castle.  Adam heard his mother wail in agonzy.  Rushing to the sound, Adam found her in the Party grounds.  All the servants pulled away in fear.  Adam found his mother pointing at the stage, where Adrian could be seen standing without any readable expression in his face.  Adam's fears grew into true horror with each step towards his son.  Beside Adrian, his twin sister Helen lay dead upon the floor.  She had surrounded herself with a circle of blood.  Markings of Sorcery were laid on the circle's directional points.  It was Helen, sweet young Helen, who had sensed her father's fate.  And it was Helen, sweet young child, who had cast a Sorcery to take into herself the darkness that was to consume Adam's life.

*

The Jury was called to share their decision.  Lady No's connections to the Senate were known to be strong. But the proof of her actions were, in Adam's eyes, undeniable.  Four had been chosen to determine her guilt.  The first two stood and declared her guilty.  Two that believed Lady No was to wear the black.  One declared the proof insufficient, and reminded others that a tied vote would require Lady No to be determined innocent, unless Revenge was sought.

The fourth stood.  He opened his mouth to speak.

And the credits rolled.

*

While I did shift around many of the settings predetermined rules (such as those on Poisons, and the use of the Caravan to travel through the Provinces), the changes seemed apt to maintain the drama of the game.  Since Arvie had never read the Houses of the Blooded book before, I felt the changes were acceptable since they remained easy for him to grasp.  Enjoying a session, especially when it is a one-shot game, takes precedence over accuracy of the system after all.

The game was extremely heavy, and Arvie even messaged me the next day:
Oh God Tobie Abad. That Game was so intensely painful even in an imaginary level... But thank you very very much for exerting so much passion and enthusiasm in the game for me. I appreciate it so much! :)

Houses of the Blooded.
An absolutely vicious game I highly recommend to anyone who wants to try something deadly.
Passionate.  And Ven.

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