Next session. It might be slightly Atia-centric, but I tend to remember my "own" parts better than stuff that mostly concerned the other players. Sorry for that
Our secons session starts on the bank of the river. A young and very dead woman is dragged out of the river. Countless bystanders try to sneak a peek.
The Quaestores get some clues for free: The girl is beautiful, has probably never done hard work in her life, her back is marred by welts and bruises, both fresh and old, and her ears are pierced by large holes. After a successful investigation roll, Corin discovers a strange smell on the girls hands and that her eyes have been crushed by a blunt object. Marcus declares that the pierced ears might be connected to the cult of Tiltia, the goddess of pain, death and generally unpleasant stuff (who we invented at this point).
The characters discuss what to do with the corpse and that’s where one ugly reality of the setting comes up: if the girl is a slave, it’s not murder, it’s property damage. Which means there isn’t much we can do legally-wise, and neither Marcus nor Corin are sure if we are morally obliged to do something. I decide punch-happy Atia is sympathetic to the slaves plight, as she has probably seen some of her plebeian neighbors sell themselves to settle a debt. Plus, I get a somewhat hard-boiled vibe of her, which means she doesn’t care about the social standing of a murder victim, she’ll still punch powerful people in the face to settle the score.
Speaking of powerful people, I took the chance to Self-Compel “Claudius Quintus, one day I’ll catch you” and launch into a tirade why of course
Quintus had to be the murderer! Who else would be so morally corrupt to just use and dispose a girl? Who likes to inflict pain? He probably has them fight each other, the bastard. We discuss Claudius for a minute, because I imagined him to be kind of a Hollywood produce with mafia ties and not just a well liked ex-gladiator with his own fighting school. The GM agrees to upgrade Claudius to an arena producer.
As a side note: I later asked the GM how much of the adventure he planned in advance, as I always have some trouble building a Fate investigation adventure. He told me he just decided on the culprit and some of the evidence, the rest was developed by our Compels and random ideas (correct me, Blechpirat, if I’m wrong).
Claudius is a real long shot, considering we don’t know anything about the girl yet. She might not even be a slave… But the other two characters still follow Atia’s reasoning. Marcus suggests a slightly better approach than “roughing up Claudius men, until one talks”: pretend to look for slaves sold by a con man and question Claudius household while he is working. If there are other girls with large holes in their eyes, he becomes a suspect.
Corin notices a suspicious old slave amongst the onlookers, but the man can loose our Quaestor in the crowd.
On to Claudius villa. The majordomos isn’t to keen to let us in and tries to slam the door in our faces. One Fate Point later, Atia smashes it right back into his face and we stroll in. Looking for trouble? Us? Nooo…
The majordomos, whom we name “Primus”, orders one of the slave boys to run and get our supervisor. The GM Compels my “In you face”-Aspect to attack the boy, but I suggest to let Atia ram her fist into the majordomos’ stomach and let the boy get away. The GM agrees.
Marcus assembles the whole household and starts passing around a picture of the dead girl. Turns out she really is Claudius’ slave and was assigned to “bed duty”, but vanished two weeks ago. Her name is, or was, Oppia.
A few of the burlier slaves take offense to their majordomos being manhandled, but Marcus can calm them down (“Just cooperate and we will be out here in no time.”). Corin tried to talk them down earlier, but did so by telling them not to mess with the Quaestores and quoting the appropriate laws, which the GM interpreted as “Intimidation” and not as “Rapport”, and as his Intimidation Skill is pretty low, he fails.
Another of the female slaves has the same pierced ears as Oppia and she tells us that it’s a punishment for disobeying. The next step is getting your nose split.
I’m a bit surprised that Claudius is way more involved than I though, but Atia decidedly is not surprised. That guy is going down hard
Corin discovers the old slave again, just as the guy tries to sneak away. As Atia is the only one with decent physical stats, she runs after him and catches him in an inner courtyard. She drags him over to a fountain, but he begs her to stop, he’ll talk, he’ll talk. I fail my Empathy Roll, because, pfsh, Empathy is for guys. Atia loosens her grip and he takes his chance to… die. Yes. Die. The smell coming from his mouth is pretty distinct; it’s the same smell we found on Oppias hands. A quick check reveals he bit down on a poisoned tooth. We’re moving into spy territory fast!
Atia throws the corpse over her shoulder and heads back out. It’s evidence and for once, it’s not her fault he’s dead.
Meanwhile, the burly slaves suddenly face much improved odds.
Marcus decides to Concede and leave the Conflict. Marcus runs outside, leaving Corin.
The GM Compels Corin’s Aspect: “Atia is cute, but a bit violent” and he stays. You don’t leave the girl you might or might not like out in the rain, do you?
He accepts and tries to talk down the thugs. This time, Corin settles on reason: “Now, none of us wants to get into a fight, don’t we? Someone will get hurt and it might be you.” This time, he succeeds. They calm down and then… Atia comes through the door, a corpse over her shoulder. Things get violent-ish, but not for a long time. Atia uses her night stick on the leader and Corin calms down the situation with a +6 Rapport roll. The slaves a none to happy, but they let us leave in peace.
Somewhere around that time, we discover that you actually can’t use Rapport or Deceit for mental attacks. I’ll come back to this in my Conclusion, as that’s my main issue with the rules so far.
We later on had a discussion about how long you are out of the action once you conceded and what counts as separate Conflicts. Marcus player was annoyed he could not come back into the Conflict after Corin calmed down the slaves for the first time. When playing FreeFate, Concessions normally ended with a character out of scene for good, and I argued in this vein. After reading the FateCore rules for Concessions, it seems Marcus’ player was right, though I’m still not sure.
Outside, we discover why Marcus couldn’t come back in. He ran right into the other Marcus, our beloved supervisor Marcus Vitelius, who is very afraid that we managed to make an enemy of Claudius Qunitus – one bad word about the Watch out of Claudius mouth and we are done.
Marcus Livius assures Vitelius that of course we didn’t misbehave, it was just that stupid majordomos getting all hysterical and of course Atia didn’t kill somebody this time! He succeeds splendidly, but Atia has to ruin the moment again
by coming out, the corpse over her shoulder. No, she really didn’t kill him, why the Tiltia does nobody believe her?
Vitelius is pissed and orders us back to the station. “Desk work for you all and don’t dare to go out until I smooth things over with Claudius Quintus.”
Of course, as soon as Vitelius leaves, Marcus asks Atia: “Seriously, why did you kill him?”
We have our orders, but as Marcus points out, nobody told us to go directly back to the station, so we make a little detour to Alaricus the “Honest” (air quotes included). He runs a claustrophobic store stuffed with… well, pretty much everything. The corpse over Atia’s shoulder pushes a few choice items of the shelves, but we can’t leave the dead body out on the streets – someone might steal it!
Helpful as ever, he admits to selling fake teeth, but does not remember the dead guy (who we call “Aulus, the traitorous slave). What he does know is the poison, which is called “Green Clover”, was discovered in the colonies and originally used as a drug in much smaller doses.
Not much more to do here, so we decide to finally head back to the station.
The boss-burly slave has another idea. He awaits us outside, together with eight of his friends. Eh, mooks
. The street has the Aspects “Covered with trash” and “Deserted Slum”.
The GM splits them into three pairs a three mooks. Atia takes out all three mooks in one roll. The GM spends to FP to reroll, but ends up with the same low result he started with. Hehe.
Now is the time for our Magister to roll up his sleeves and unbag the Magics! He whips up a whirlwind with his elemental power as an advantage and adds the “Covered with trash”-Aspect to make it a really nasty whirlwind. Next round, he uses the whirlwind as an attack and throws all three
Corin is less lucky. He tries to get someone to help him by throwing some money to a boy (he might have bought that as a fact, not sure anymore), but still gets thoroughly beaten by the three mooks.
We use zones for the combat, and Atia has to cross two zones to get to the last three minions. We decide she can Invoke the whirlwind for Effect and surfs to wind next to the three last minions. They prefer to run.
As the fight was pretty easy for the group as a whole (even though poor Corin got kicked in the ribs while he was done), we let them escape.
We herd the remaining thugs plus the slave back to the station. The thugs don’t know anything – they were hired by the burly slave. We throw them into a cell, together with our newly invented snitch Servius (Aspect: “Can be bribed with a bottle of wine”).
To get the truth out of the slave, we enact the good old “good cop – bad cop” routine: Atia kicks down his chair and puts her boot on his throat, creating an Advantage with Intimidation. Then Corin takes over and offers him a deal: Even though he’s a slave, we’ll help him escape and provide some money (making this theft in our setting). The Advantage and a good roll later, the slave tells us that Claudius makes the girls fight each other and invites other aristocrats to watch the spectacle. It’s more of a mud wrestling thing, watching scantily clad girls rolling around on the floor. Blood would just ruin the mood, so Oppia probably wasn’t killed during these fights. She was punished after she refused to fight her best friend Narcissia. He can’t tell us who visits the fights or how she died.
We suspect someone turned her on Claudius (which shouldn’t be too hard, as he was a real asshole), she tried to poison him and he killed her. The old slave was probably another agent of that shadowy person, who might be one of Claudius’ rivals, Sentia or Agricola.
The GM Compels Marcus’ Aspect “Unwilling agent of Consul Sentia”. Marcus tells his colleagues that he has arranged for the slave to leave the city, but in fact sells him out to Sentia. Atia believes him, of course, because she can “Always count on Marcus” (and actually compliments him on being such a good guy) and Marcus’ high deceit skill leaves Corin in the dust. Two inconspicuous men come and take the slave away.
And that’s that. We decide to take the next session into a more political direction. Pretty fitting, as we have managed to anger at least one very powerful person with our direct methods. Schemes and intrigues or not, I guess I’ll still find enough people to punch in the face for Atia.Conclusion:
One thing I didn’t record in my diary was the many Successes with Style we got. I think most conflicts had at least one of those and they did seem to somewhat speed up the conflicts (which isn’t a bad thing in my book, but it might end in downward spiral).
Creating Scene Aspects through FPs is pretty great and shifts the Aspects use to Compels – after all, you first need to earn those FPs. It also means you can always get your +2 or reroll, as long as you have FPs, which I really like (no more “Hummm… ehhhmmm… How can I still make this Aspect work, I really need that +2…”)
I’m still not 100% sure how Concessions work. How long are you “out” of the Conflict?
And now to the not so nice stuff
What I strongly dislike is that only Intimidation can be used for mental attacks. We did have a short discussion about the whys and wherefores of this change, but I still don’t really get it. What we came up with were balancing reasons (“If you’re able to use several mental skills to attack, why can’t you, let’s say, use Physique to defend against physical attacks? You know, like a boxer just taking the hit.”), reasons of plausibility (“It’s not plausible that you can just ‘argue’ someone out of a conflict.”) and simplification (“No need to think about which skill to use for mental attacks, it’s all set.”). To clarify; not all players disliked the change as much as I did.
It would still be the first thing I would house rule. There are several reasons for that:
- You can’t do the iconic “I am your father, Luke” scene with intimidation
- What about scenes where you try to get someone “around” to your way of thinking? Sure, you could use a Challenge to do it, but I think a real Conflict with Consequences is more appropriate.
- And following: Some of the greatest Consequences in our Fate games came from the enemy sowing doubt about the hero’s way of life. How fun is it to have a crusader for good running around with a Severe Consequence of “Am I even a real hero?”? Extreme fun, as I see it
To rephrase that: different mental skills allow for different “flavors” of Consequences and I like all of them. I shed tears for the ones I can’t use anymore.
- One nice thing about mental Conflicts is the ability to switch around the skills you use: Think about two spies from rival organizations talking. They might try to persuade the other to defect, because their side offers free dental (Rapport), they might lie that of course they have the sensitive information you might want to sell or that they have snipers in place (Deceit) and they might really have snipers in place (Intimidation). Of course, you might count the use of Rapport and Deceit just to create Advantages and delivering the final blow with Intimidation, but remember the scene from Star Wars: Why shouldn’t the final blow delivered by Rapport? Yeah, and I would find “The dark attraction of Nastassia Romanov” a much more fun Consequence than “Nastassia Romanov is one scary broad”.