Sunday, August 17, 2014

Return to Mar Tesaro: City Folk (Part 3)

Marcus, aka The Hawk, has been occupying his time, albeit nervously. Early in the morning, before the other players have split up, he receives a Sending from Tralene. 
Fantasy settings tend not to have cell phones, so long-distance communication requires magical work-arounds. Among the various solutions are Sendings, magical rituals which send a telepathic message to the recipient of limited length. The recipient can also respond in a limited fashion. 
"Good morning, sir. Is your refrigerator running?"
It's a careful balance determining how common such communication should be in your setting. Making them exclusive to the players, or the few rich and/or powerful people in the world, can leave the setting with a feeling of isolation. The world will feel imposing, but establishing any lasting connection with the places you've been will be next to impossible. If those communications methods are too common, the players lose any prestige in having access to it themselves; keeping it from them in any way becomes an artificial hindrance. The same can extend to other magical substitutions for modern technology; overuse can lead to thematic muddling, raising the question why you didn't simply play in a modern or sci-fi game in the first place.
 (See the rest below the fold.)

The Flight of the Hawk
Tralene indicates that she's heard Marcus was in Sar Diga, and will head there from Jolana Village to meet him. Marcus doesn't know why she's trying to find him, but he knows it must be important if she's risking being seen with him in public. Marcus responds to her to meet him at a small shop on the waterfront, then spends the remainder of the day nervously pacing the city, keeping an eye out for any threat from the Queen. 

When Tralene finally arrives, she bears terrible news: Briann has been kidnapped, carried off by soldiers from Woodhurst. Worse, Thomas witnessed the entire incident and set out in pursuit of his mother and her captors.
Some background may be in order. Thomas is the son of Marcus's late friend, Denrick. He is roughly 15 years old; approaching manhood, but still a boy in many ways. He and his mother, Briann, live with Marcus's sister, Tralene, in Jolana Village. Marcus lives two lives: In one, he's The Hawk, an outlaw who uses guerilla tactics to fight the Queen's soldiers wherever he can. In the other, he attempts to be the husband and father Denrick wasn't able to be. Needless to say, Marcus has complicated motivations.
I love being able to bring in character backgrounds for the game, but it's entirely incumbent upon the players knowing about it. Otherwise, it's like stepping into a television show in the middle of the series; you might understand the basic motivations, but none of the events or characters referenced will mean anything to you. Although it's even worse if a player doesn't remember his own character's story. Nothing demotivates a GM like focusing an adventure around NPCs and events so important that a player can't be bothered to remember them.
Marcus tells Tralene to rest, then return to Jolana Village; he'll make sure Briann is safe. He rushes off to find his companions.

The Commander's Fall
The party reconvenes and shares notes. They agree to make their way towards Woodhurst in pursuit of Briann's captors. They could take the south road out of Sar Diga, but it would cost them several hours, and time is of the essence. The north road, however, will put them right into the path of the Thorn Commander heading into the city. They decide to deal with that risk.

As they leave, they see their foe on the road: Fariba Stranglevine, Commander of the Order of the Thorns. She is surrounded by a squad of psychically dominated soldiers; sneaking around them isn't possible. Before they can decide on a course of action, Ronan rushes out to confront the enemies in an effort to allow everyone else to escape.
"Don't worry, guys. I've got this."
Ronan's player knew he wouldn't be around much longer and decided that this would be a good place for his character to give his life for the heir to Mar Tesaro's throne. The rest of the players weren't ready to let his character die here, though.
The group manages to take down the Commander without much hassle, but they now have a problem. She's too dangerous to leave here, and too valuable to kill, but they have no time for interrogations. They bind her, throw her on the back of a horse, and rush off to Woodhurst.

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