I have returned to my roots, by which I mean I have once more sat down to run a game.
This time it was Phoenix: Dawn Command, which in its theme harkens back to many years ago when I was heavily involved in running Exalted Second Edition campaigns. (On a related note, I'm also quite happy to say that the local Roleplay Club is currently running Exalted Third Edition.)
While the game's website offers a set of pre-made characters, I thought that giving only four for players to pick from wouldn't be enough of a choice and some might feel like they're picking a leftover character. Instead of going with those, I sat down and created six characters, trying very hard not to have duplicate Traits between them. Additionally, I presented the players with a choice of basic supernatural powers to choose from to further customise their chosen character.
In the end, we ended up with a Durant, Forceful, Elemental and Shrouded.
Mission One: The Harvest
The first mission finds the group of Phoenixes, called a Wing, in the seat of Dawn Command's power when an urgent message is received. The Wing is approached by Cinder, a powerful Elemental who serves as one of their commanding officers. At this point, the scenario suggests asking the players to describe Cinder. It seemed an odd idea when I read it. You don't normally ask players to provide detail on the surroundings but I thought I'd give it a try nonetheless. Only one player provided some description of Cinder, which is more than I expected, so I picked some other elements from the provided ones that struck my fancy in particular.
We ended up with an old, bald man with sunburnt skin and an aura of heat surrounding him. He wields a tall charred staff. He has a long white beard that sometimes catches on fire and it is said that when he gets mad, people explode.
He gave them simple instructions: Enter the Imperial Flame (which acts as a gateway between their current location and Dawn Command's outposts throughout the Empire), Investigate and Survive. He also warned them that since whoever contacted them is not responding, they're most likely going straight into battle.
Exactly as predicted, the first Phoenix through, the Durant, stepped out of the flame and into a chamber of carved solid black marble where what appeared to be a gruesome undead knight was menacing an adept. They exchanged blows once before the Shrouded came through and promptly disappeared out of sight only to reappear behind the knight, stab him in the back and swirl its cape around his person so that when it fell, he was once again out of sight.
The fight continued, the Elemental reached into the Imperial Flame and threw fire at the knight while the Durant took the Imperial Banner he found in the chamber and charged the undead creature with a fierce battle cry. The Forceful fought with lightning speed while the Shrouded, going by the name Tome, convinced the adept that he will be safe provided he flees from the violence. With the adept gone, the Dreadknight was left without his power source and was quickly defeated by the Wing's combined efforts.
After that scene concluded, I realised I made a mistake. Normally in a roleplaying game you have some system to define Initiative Order, the order of when all characters involved in a fight get to act. In Phoenix, however, you've got what's called a Torch. It's a card defining elements of the environment but it also functions as a marker of who gets to act. Whoever holds the Torch is the active player and may perform an action. Who's going next is entirely up to the active player as he passes the Torch to a fellow player.
As previously mentioned, it has a list of elements that are part of the scene. Players can interact with them to gain special benefits. In this case, they used them to improve their attacks. What I forgot about is that using an Environmental Element also allows a player to draw a card.
Thus we get to the point that drove me to getting this game. Instead of using dice as a form of action resolution, Phoenix uses special cards that you play in order to overcome a numerical difficulty. For instance, the Dreadknight they fought had a Defence of 4 so while performing their attack, a player must have had to play cards up to at least a total value of 4 for the attack to connect. Of course, there are limitations to what you can play and good roleplaying allows you to add onto the value of what you've played but I must sadly say that by forgetting about this rule, I've put the players at a disadvantage. Hopefully, I'll rectify this error in future fight scenes.
Since it was the first session and I spent a good chunk of time explaining the basic rules and setting information, by the time the fight concluded the pub was about to close. The Forceful managed to find the adept out in the corridor, which was strangely covered by a mist that gave him the creeps, and brought him back into the chamber. Said adept was having some form of panic attack but got progressively better the closer he got to the Imperial Flame from which the Phoenixes entered the stronghold. Talking to him they've learned that they're under attack by some masked lord with a cloak composed of shadowy faces and several of these knights in his entourage. They burst through the gates, stuff happened and the adept ran to call for help.
As the adept gave his panicked and rather lacking in detail description of the event that unfolded, Tome realised he had heard this place was once the stronghold of The Harvester of Fear, a powerful figure in local folklore called a Fallen One, that the Phoenixes banished from this world a long time ago. After which they repurposed the stronghold into one of their own.
Armed with this knowledge, they were resolute to stop The Harvester from reclaiming his power.
To be continued...