Inferno Playtest Session 5: Campaign catchup

Let’s call the conspiracy

Last night’s session was enjoyable enough, but ran into a problem I should have seen coming. I provided the PCs with a setup and some options about which way to go. They dug in, found the object that’s at the heart of all the weirdness and then… reached out for support.

This is something I’m going to have to think about hard. Members of the Inferno club are part of a conspiracy that spans the globe and can call on immense resources. Sooner or later the players are going to encounter a problem and decide ‘that’s more than we can handle, let’s call on the club’. And if the problem is one that strikes the club as important then it will intervene.

So the session came to a slightly premature end so I could have a think about what was going to happen next.

Todo: Come up with a reason for players not to do this. Perhaps calling in help has a cost in terms of prestige? The club expects you to stand on your own two feet. Call in help and your reputation / security clearance suffers…

On the plus side, I now have a very clear idea of how I want to set up the last part of this mini-campaign, and I can show off something we haven’t seen much of so far – the rest of the Inferno club. We’ve not ended up anywhere close to where I thought we would and I think that’s a good thing.

Hello. I’m Carmilla. It’s a pleasure to meet you.

It turns out if you trail someone’s arrival for four sessions, and make clear that they’re behind all the evil and weirdness going on in the world having them turn up at a state banquet as the new fiance of a prince strikes exactly the right kind of terror into a party. And I got to use a masterpiece as her character portrait, because running historical games is fun like that.

Madam X, by Sergeant, 1884, aka Carmilla, Countess von Karnstein*

I’ve enjoyed the way this game has developed it’s own world in a short space of time. We’ve got a predictive policing system in London, a (now lapsed) cult of cat devotees, signature villains, a mutual insurance fund and characters with increasing numbers of nervous ticks.

Unconventional approaches

This party continue to approach problems in ways unlike those you’d find in traditional RPGs, the ultimate one being ‘let’s get elected‘. This is down to a mix of things. The players themselves are open to it, the characters lean in unusual directions (not one of them is a natural fighter), they have access to a lot of skills and resources, and the timelines in games of Inferno are relaxed enough that ‘let’s do this for a week or two and see what happens’ is a reasonable approach. They’re happy to look into using the legal system, or politics, or public opinion as tools and the system makes that easy to do. It does require the odd bit of mental gymnastics on the part of the GM though.

Basically, the GM advice section in this book is going to be a beast to write.

What’s the skill for blowing things up?

This has come up twice now. I think I’m going to make being good with explosives a talent (sabotage) and make mucking about with nineteenth century explosives horribly dangerous for anyone without it.

Thinking about it, any party which includes a member of a fire House is going to have access to all kinds of weaponry (in the case of House Leo, perhaps even an entire army), so it’s not weird this is coming up.

Beyond the veil

As part of their investigation Alexander Pavel, a conjurer from House Cancer summoned a demon to carry himself into the spirit world and do some investigating. And it was suitably weird and scary, despite his drawing a perfect success. I’m quite happy that this character has started exploring more and more of what they can do with magic, but remains suitably intimidated by the powers they have.

* I didn’t steal this name from Games Workshop. They stole it from Sheridan le Fanu’s 1872 novella. I’m stealing it back.

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