Friday, October 26, 2012
Bearing Gifts : Houses of the Blooded
Houses of the Blooded
Survived a weird stomach moment and was able to run a game for a few friends. Arj, a really good friend of mine from way back (as in college years!) asked if I could run John Wick's Houses of the Blooded game and when he stated Wednesday was a good evening to have one, I just had to go for it. Arj had been reading up on the game for quite some time and I guess he felt I was one of the gms who could run it for him. Very quickly, other great friends such as Princess, Alessandro and Urim chimed in and shared their interest in playing as well. Rocky, unfortunately, had work that evening, so he wasn't going to be able to join the fun.
So, I quickly gave the players the run down of the system and showed how characters in the Game of Thrones very easily matched the game's approach. Ned Stark, for example, clearly had Cunning as his Weakness. Sansa had no Courage. Arya, no Beauty. This helped them see how having the Weakness didn't necessarily mean being dumb, or handicapped or moronic.
Arj played Lord Dillard, Blooded of the Falcon. All of Shanri were aware of his desire to find a wife. His missing (presumed dead) father was an infamous Spy and his mother, the Lady Gesserit, was a domineering woman who seemed to have no fears of doing what was necessary for her son's success. Based in Castle Dune, Lady Gesserit once reminded Dillard that when the worst happens, "Remember the Tooth. That is the reason our castle is named as such."
Fici played Lord Vittorio, Blooded of the Fox, who lived in Castle Shirah with his Mother and Step-father. Spoiled and spoonfed, Vittorio was in line to inherit the title of Marquis, assuming he were to find a way to win the attentions of Lord Wesser, Earl of Mebemer.
Urim was Maha Suchi, Blooded of the Wolf whose reputation as a ladies' man with great disregard for responsibilities was matched only by the incredible skill he had with the sword.
Princess was the Lady Sola, Blooded of the Serpent, who was the youngest of five sisters yet the wisest among them. Married to Lord Munn, Blooded of the Bear, the two resided in Castle Den where their Count Scholar seemed to have a penchant for making wrong predictions and pronouncements. She and Munn consider giving a Bloodsword as a gift to Lord wesser.
The four would find their stories meeting when Lord Wesser, Blooded of the Fox, nears the coming of his Solace and invites all to attend his final party. Lord Vittorio is reminded by his mother that this is the opportunity to show his presence to Ven society and claim his waiting title. But his lack of an appropriate present pushes him to write letters to his three friends to ask for help.
The three would eventually find themselves gathering at Lady Sola's home, each for a different reason. For Vittorio it was to ask for advice on what gift to give. For Maha Suchi, it was to flirt with Sola's sisters and meet with Vittorio. For Dillard, it was to show off necklaces he had hoped to use to gift to a future wife (as well as discuss with Lady Sola the misunderstanding brought about when he blurted out her name while talking to his mother about a future wife.) While the group do share thoughts with Vittorio on what would be a suitable gift, Lady Sola is infuriated with Maha Suchi's antics with her sisters. Quickly, she writes a letter to be sent to her absent husband Munn, asking him to someday force Maha Suchi to marry one of the four deflowered sisters.
Soon, the time for the party arrives, and while Dillard arrives pretty early, Lady Sola is terribly late upon her arrival. Vittorio has a private meeting with Lord Wesser, whose Fox nature has the young Marquis-to-be bathe him with a sponge. Dillard finds his mother in the party, who reminds him to use the tooth when all falls apart. Frustrated of not knowing what she means, he pulls her close and insists she explains. And her explanation reveals the lengths she will take to help her son succeed: The whole party is poisoned. The food. The wine. All poisoned. And hidden in a hollow tooth, is antidote for any poison. Good enough only for two. "Kiss your wife," Dillard's mother whispers, "And two you shall rule all lands that are left behind."
Even worse, Dillard realizes his mother committed to machinations that lead to Lord Munn disappearing. Sola's husband had not been replying for days now. And Dillard fears his mother may have done something to "clear the way."
Lady Sola meets the forever popular Count Kether, who after entertaining her with his wit gives her his condolences when he learns she is the Lady Sola who is wed to Lord Munn. Sola realizes Munn has not been replying for days to her letters and suddenly fears that Count Kether may have done something to him. Already bothered with how her own Scholar insisted she carry this vial of poison with her, which he claims, "She will need in her hour of greatest need" the idea that Munn may be dead pushes her to action.
Maha Suchi finds himself face to face with the Lady No, on the other hand, who offers him a small vial which she claims is an antidote for poisons that she suspects may be served tonight. Maha Suchi agrees to owe her a favor and takes the vial, not realizing Lady No is actually a good friend of the missing Lord Munn.
Vittorio had subtly used his manipulations to accomplish the following goals: Be given a seat close to Lord Wesser, have his present be the last to be presented for the greatest dramatic impact, and even have lighting adjust accordingly. However, just as Maha Suchi shares his gift: a song for the coming of the Seasons, many hear the panicked neighs of a horse, and a massive muscular white steed crashes into the party and slams both front legs down onto Lord Wesser himself!
With the host of the party brought down by seemingly accident, panic breaks out as all the guests attempt to leave. But it is at that moment that all feel the horrible fingers of hemlock coursing through their limbs. Many quickly fall down as the poison weakens them before killing them by shutting down their lungs. Others struggle to make their leave. Lord Dillard, seeing the bucking horse, leaps towards it with sword in hand, hoping to bring the beast low before more are hurt by its wild movement. He slams headlong into the steed as he plunges his blade into its chest, twisting it as he strikes the heart. The dying beast collapses atop of him, however, and the two hit the ground with a painful slam. As Dillard crawls out from underneath the dying horse, he realizes the horse has Ven-like eyes, and hears what sounds like "Sola..." whispered between its equine mouth.
Vittorio shoves past the dead body of Wesser and hurriedly makes his way to the rear of the party. There, seeing his mother, he asks her what she has done and she admits to him that this is his opportunity to take what is rightfully his! "Claim your title and lands. Survive this. But prove to me you want it." The mother draws a blade from her clothing and holds a vial in her hands. "The antidote is yours, but only if you can show me how much you want it. Take it from your mother's dead hands. If you can."
And Maha Suchi, feeling the poison swirl, sees the Lady No approach him with a glass of wine in her hands. Remembering the vial, Maha Suchi quaffs the liquid down, only to discover in his horror it is another poison! The Lady No hisses at him as he stumbles to her and tells him the poison is courtesy of Lord Munn, Sola's husband, who had asked her to punish him for his defilement of Sola's sisters. Thinking No's wine holds the antidote, Maha Suchi grabs her close, pushes his lips against hers, and pours the remaining wine over them both. Unfortunately, the wine is just wine, and Lady No's immunity must exist in some other form.
Dillard pulls Vittorio close and sets the terms of the deal. "I shall save you from the poison. But in exchange, you shall be my wife. The lands shall be ours to share. Are we in agreement?" Vittorio agrees, just happy to be alive. And as Dillard considers how to save Sola as well, Vittorio draws out the vial his mother hand, but realizes it too was a vial of poison. His mother had him fight for a vial that would have killed him as well. Dillard looks over Sola and finds she had died. The party, it seems, is over.
Count Kether walks up to Lady No and Maha Suchi, and reminds her that it is time to go. When Maha Suchi tries to verbally trick Count Kether into giving him the antidote to challenge him to a duel, Count Kether admits he would appreciate the duel but would prefer it under fair circumstances. He slips him the antidote but tells him their duel is not till two Seasons hence. "She made the deal sound appealing," Kether admitted, though never clarifying who she was meant to be, "Your body shall be collected."
Lady Sola however, just before succumbing to the poison, brings the vial of her Scholar to her lips, and drinks it. In her mind, she feels the "poison" working against the poison already in her system. An antidote, it seems, but in some ways not just that. She feels her consciousness lift from her body. She feels a shift in her perception of time.
Vittorio calls for the staff to gather all the bodies and burn them. He and Dillard soon find themselves called before the Senate to explain the events. While the Senate rules them to have justly gained the lands of the fallen Ven, Vittorio's brash demeanor earns the ire of the speakers and has him stripped of his title once again.
Little do the two realize, however, that three others plan vengeance against them. Back in Huenadora Castle, Maha Suchi recovers from the poison to be told that a visitor has arrived. Heading downstairs, he wonders who else was secreted from that fated party like he was. The carriage that waits opens to reveal Lord Munn and Lady Sola, both of whom had survived because Sola's consciousness had danced back in time before the party and allowed her to carry the needed antidotes, bribe the appropriate Vassals, and send the necessary warnings to Munn. "Those two played us well," Munn admits even as his speech struggles in its halting manner. His survival was not without a price, "Those two deserve Vrentae. Revenge." The Bloodsword is handed to Maha Suchi, and the Wolf feels the sword yearning for blood.
Sola and Maha Suchi nodded in agreement. Revenge will come indeed.
The only question was how much they wanted Vittorio and Dillard to suffer before it was revealed.
In this one-shot, lots of fun key moments were present. Fici kept "giving tips" to the Vassals to do stuff for him, even if it was not necessary at all. Urim had a blast playing a devil-may-care lecherous man who cared only about who he would bed next. Arj was able to slide in some twists which he wanted to do ever since he got to read the Houses of the Blooded book. And Princess was able to succeed in her Wisdom risk on the vial that the Scholar made for her. Her declarations were "It is the antidote. And it also is sorcery. It allows me to travel back in time to be prepared." In this case, I had her travel back mentally, being able to do things that can affect what happens next after the vial's drinking, but without cancelling out completely what already had transpired. Lord Munn, for example, instead of being dead after Dillard stabbed him in the chest while he was trapped by sorcery in the form of a horse, recovered thanks to the Healing Salve the vassals applied to the dead horse which Sola had prearranged. He recovered but at great cost: Munn now has an additional Weakness, the loss of Cunning.
The game was quite a hoot however, with Style points flying around. Even more fun was penalizing Fici of Style Points whenever he tried to explain his texting on his cellphone as "Vittorio is looking at himself in his hand mirror" one too many times. All in all, a great game.
The players have already made a Facebook group for the next session. While that one will have new characters, there's talk of trying to make it a Cut-throat game instead. Oh boy. I wonder if that will push through well.
Before more characters die.