Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Reconquista : Castle Falkenstein

Castle Falkenstein

Gamers Meet night once again and this time I decided to try running for them an old favorite:  Castle Falkenstein.  With its card based resolution system (since gentlemen do not play with dice, dear sir), I opted for the pre-generated route to get the group into the game real fast.  I designed a host of characters, each one with their own back stories, reasons for being on the airship, as well as hints of goals they have in mind.   While Falkenstein prefers to have each player have a Diary to represent the character and their exploits, I decided to create instead these "Airship First Class tickets" to represent the characters.  These allowed the game to have a nice hands-felt feel to it.  I prepared a deck of red cards for the Fate resolution and the blue deck for Sorcery.  After quickly explaining the purpose of each suit, as well as how the ranking system worked, we began the story.

Each character in brief:
Honorable Gentleman Lysander Danforth, played by Justin.
Known for your sense of honor and fair play, your word is your bond.  Although you may occasionally run with the “fast crowd,” you are often careful to do the right thing in the end.  You pay your gambling debts, don’t gossip to outsiders, and stay out of the wrong bedrooms (at least around the servants).

You are here because you are bored of swimming in the same old social circles.  Perhaps this group would prove to be a more exciting circle.   

Gentleman Thief Nicholas Klaus, played by Rocky.
By day, you travel in the same circles as Nobles and Gentlemen, where wit and sophistication are the measure of the man.  But at night, you slip away from the glittering salons and take up your true calling: Grand Larceny.   You are the master of the second story, a high stakes burglar who preys only on the wealthy.  You can charm an heiress out of her diamond choker, or crack a safe with equal aplomb, and you never lose your sense of style in the bargain.

You are here because Honorable Gentleman Lysander Danforth’s watch (to the very least) is your goal.  He had broken the heart of a woman you know and so you seek to steal it from him to make him pay.  

Gentleman Samuel Warren II, played by Arj.
You are a popular ladies man who swims in many social circles.  None realize you are, in truth, the Sleepwalker – a Secret Agent serving the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.  You have a pocketful of hidden devices, stealth, charisma and derring-do to accomplish your mission and save the day.

You are here because the Agency believes the Mastermind will be here to try and take over the Airship Reconquista.  You must keep the people onboard safe.  

Daoine Sidhe Faerie Lord Count Falon, played by Carl.
You are here out of mere curiosity.  The concept of an Airship interests you, and perhaps may even inspire you to have your own army in time.  You enjoy every new sensation the Mortal world has to offer, and yet you are wary knowing many a man would seek to rid you of your immortality with a blade of Cold Iron if given the chance.

You are here because you were invited by the Adventuress Cassandra Caine, who impressed you in her previous adventure in the long lost Isle of Mu. It is so boring in Faerie where anything you desire is instantly yours.  You are here to risk everything for an unpredictable adventure!  Perhaps even romance!

Adventuress Cassandra Caine, played by Rachelle.
You are the owner of the Airship Reconquista, although Captain Miguel Innocencio will not admit it as per your own orders.  You realized there was more than one way for a “mere woman” to get ahead in the world and that was to break the rules.  You are not afraid to tear your hem and join the battle if it means protecting that which you care about. 

You are here because you want to show off what you’ve accomplished without them knowing at first the ship is yours.  You want to prove to the Journalist, and the Gentlemen how a woman has achieved so much in this “man’s world.”

Wizard Francisco Umberto, played by Erich.
You have set yourself a higher goal rather than amassing treasures on earth.  You hope to defend the world from the Darker Paths, and seek to protect man from all dark threats, including the Faerie Folk.

You are here out of a favor of the Adventuress Cassandra, who worries the Faerie Lord may cause trouble.  You, however are also here due to a personal interest: Samantha Weaver has caught your eye .

The game opens with Samantha Weaver, Journalist, attempting to interview each First Class guest.  She speaks with Umberto, but quickly shifts between Nicholas Klaus, Samuel Warren and Mister Danforth.  By the time she spots the Daoine Sidhe, however, her distate for the Fair Folk becomes readily apparent.  When he asks her to stop talking photographs, "For as legends stay, it steals away the soul.." Miss Weaver takes a few more and asks, "Do you feel your soul has been taken yet?  Or do the Fair Folk actually have none?"

Cassandra juggles concerning reports from her Captain, Innocencio, who informs her that the crew had discovered a stowaway chamber in the cargo hold.  A room with dresses, clothes, wigs and cosmetics had been uncovered, raising question to who among the guests might not be who he claims to be.   Umberto silently casts a spell, allowing him to gaze through the Airship for the duration of the trip.  He notices how Weaver seems intent on focusing between Mr. Klaus and Mr. Danforth.  When a bearded man comes up to chat with Danforth, the man shows of a small degree of telekinetic talent to impress the noble man.  Warren seems watchful of the group while the Daoine Sidhe mostly keeps to himself.    

A small contest of sorts forms when Klaus notices Ezrael, the bearded man, constantly making contact with Danforth.  The bearded man addresses Umberto, asks him to demonstrate his Sorcery, which brings Umberto to offer to make his watch "thief proof".  Danforth declines the offer.  The Captain informs Cassandra that more "hideouts" have been located, suggesting more than a single stowaway was on board the Airship's flight from London to Amsterdam.    Thankfully, the call for the Noon Meal is made and all make their way to the dining area.

With the staff further pressed to find "wheat" for the Daoine Sidhe, who proclaims he eats nothing else, Cassandra is revealed to be the true Captain of the ship when Innocencio slips and calls out for her attention.  Frustrated that her ruse was so quickly unfurled, she walks up to him at the far metal door to discover things have taken a slip for the worse.  Outside, the Captain is held at gunpoint by what seem to be Prussian soldiers with rifles.  With over eight armed men on their side, Cassandra mentally quickly considers her options.  Warren notices the event and quickly staggers away, declaring himself too sick to wait.  As he slips out the side door, Klaus rises to check on what is delaying the food.  Umberto sees through his Clairvoyance the armed group outside, and at a mention of the trouble outside, the enthusiastic Danforth flips the massive oak table to the side and prepares to draw his blade!  The soldiers turn out to be kobolds, creatures of faerie nature.
Cassandra throws a powerful punch at the soldier's face, and while they are all shocked, pulls the Captain into the dining room with her.  Klaus slams the door shut to keep the soliders out, while Danforth calls for the Daoine Sidhe and Umberto to help him drag the table to the door.  But Umberto is lost in his meditations as he mentally usurps the soldier's minds to shoot at each other!  

Sliding into the room next door, Warren finds himself headlong bumping into another person.  Instincts kick in as he draws the blade and holds it against the man's throat.  "I have your life, Sir," But the man retorts, "As I have your jewels," with a dagger trained at his crotch, "I can die in peace, but I doubt you will be willing to live as less than a man."  The two realize who each other is!  "002," the man identifies Warren.  "Mastermind," Warren identifies the man.  But as the two talk, Warren quickly realizes that Facade actually does not know about the soldiers that have taken over the vessel!  "I am here for the Queen," Facade admits, and explains how she had boarded the vessel under guise, seeking excitement.  Warren realizes he has to save the Queen first, then the vessel.  "A momentary truce," Facade offers, and Warren agrees.

The group at first peg Count Falon as behind the attack, and when laughter emerges from the door, the group see the metal door become as translucent as glass.  The leader of the soldiers, as it turns out, is a Daoine Sidhe as well, the brother of Count Falon himself.  He questions his brother on why he has sided with the mortals, and at first Falon attempts to feint being against them by flinging a dagger at Cassandra while Enchanting her to fall unconscious.  But Danforth parries the dagger with his blade, and swiftly demands that he face him for insulting the woman!  The Enchantment fails as well, and Cassandra, not willing to be challenged unprepared kicks open a floor panel that reveals two daggers of Cold Iron.  She quickly draws one to prepare herself, uses her incredible Athletic ability to maneuver behind the Count, and while the Daoine Sidhe can become Ethereal, the Fair Folk reconsiders challenging the edge of Cold Iron.    Umberto creates a Talsiman against the Fair Folk for Cassandra, but when the use of unaspected harmonics nearly causes her to transform into Cold Iron, he cancels the spell and dispels its magical presence instantly.  Ezrael faints out of sheer panic, and Klaus takes this opportunity to approach Danforth and sleight of hand the watch from the Noble man.

The Fair Folk brother is amused by the events, and asks Falon if he is willing to duel for the ship.  He informs them that the cargo and kitchen have been enchanted to all become deadly nitroglycerine.  Weaver realizes the Fair Folk seek to transform the Reconquista into a massive weapon, that upon striking Amsterdamn, would raze it from the map!  Falon was about to agree, but it is Danforth who takes the challenge.  With a simple act of Etherealness, the brother steps through the door and approaches the Noble Man.  Umberto crafts a second talisman against the Fair Folk, and slips it into Danforth's pocket as he gives him a handshake for luck.  The Fair Folk boasts about being the man who taught the French the Florentine Style, and the two assume the position for the duel.  

Outside, Warren and Facade work as a "team" with Facade using his disguise skills to appear as Warren's double.  They bring down kobold flukies and use Facade's tinkering skills to deactivate the nitroglycerine in the kitchen.  As Facade seemingly relishes in being the hero, Warren locates the Queen who has donned the clothes of a servant boy and wore a fake mustache.  He charms his way into her heart to defuse her demands to be followed, and asks her to stay close to him as they fight their way to the cargo bay.   The queen attempts to kiss him, and Warren tells her to wait, sending instead Facade into the cargo bay with the Queen.  The two kiss, and while they kiss, the tinkered vial is splashed all around, rendering the vessel safe.   Warren smiles, knowing his job is done, and when he steps into the cargo hold, he finds the Queen alone, a hole in the wall, and Facade no longer in sight.  "He... you.. said something about feeling changed," the Queen mutters.  Warren at least knows only the Daoine Sidhe needs to be dealt with.

Danforth and the Daoine Sidhe trade blows, with the Daoine Sidhe having the upper hand.  However, each time the Count strikes true, the blade meets nothing but cloth as Umberto's Sorcery alters fortunes.  Soon, Danforth strikes true twice, bringing the Daoine Sidhe to his knees.  As Fairie blood splatters on the floor, Count Falon calls for the Duel to end and explains that he and his brother shall now withdraw.  Cassandra warns them to never set foot on her vessel ever again, and Danforth poses for a few photographs for Weaver.  As the two Daoine Sidhe fly away, with the brother rising and all wounds vanishing in a blink of an eye, Count Falon can see how it is merely a use of Glamour to not look grievously hurt.  They leave, with Falon admitting this has been a most exciting day for him outside Faerie.

Danforth realizes his watch is missing just as Weaver asks him what the time of the day it is.  He looks up to see Klaus and Ezreal by the window.  Ezreal leaps out, laughing, while Klaus reminds Danforth to respect the women he meets.  He shows the noble man that he has the watch, and leaps out as well, with his own personal parachute to allow him to land safely elsewhere.

Cassandra Caine sighs, turns to her "Captain" and warns him that she is considering hiring someone new.  The "Captain" laughs and offers, "It is not too late to turn back and return to London."  Umberto smiles, happy to have done his job.  And Miss Weaver is delighted to have her scoop.


The game was crazy! Given the number of players I had to juggle, I admit I wasn't sure if I would be able to manage the game okay at first.  But man, it was a hoot to see many of the players interacting on their own even while I ran another player's turn.  That, to be honest, felt like an achievement given most players at the start "wait" and at times need to be prompted on what they can do.  But here, we had new players already chatting with other players whom they have met only for the first time ever.  

The players bought me TWO boxes of J.Co donuts!  And not wanting to get too huge, I wisely opted to make the first box part of the game as "the snack table" which all the players started eating from without slipping out of character.  I'm feeling pretty damn proud that my players feel that comfortable enough to game in that way even with people they've never met before.

The Duel was fantastic, with me and the other player standing up to represent any points when the other had to step back or get Injured.  While the duel was clearly meant to be in the Fair Folk's favor (He has Fencing at Excellent) the Talisman made things side with the mortal very quickly.  And in the end, each player had their dramatic moment before we ended the game.

Using playing cards in this manner was pretty awesome!  I wonder when I can run another game with a similar approach.

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