The Light that Never Warms (All for One: Regime Diabolique) – Campaign Report 1

This is the first installment of reports for my current face-to-face campaign which is using Triple Ace Games’ excellent All for One: Regime Diabolique. For those unfamiliar with this amazing game, it uses the Ubiquity Roleplaying System from Exile Games Studio (makers of Hollow Earth Expedition) which TAG has licensed for this property and several others. The basic premise is supernatural intrigue and swashbuckling action in a dark reflection of 17th Century France. Characters in the core rules are presumed to serve the King as musketeers, but since release the character options have been vastly expanded.

Campaign Background:

The game is set in Paris in 1636, and each player is running two characters, a King’s Musketeer and a character connected with the occult in some fashion. As a slight twist of things, the musketeers are the lackeys of these occultists, but they believe the situation to be the reverse.

The musketeers are decent fencers, passable shots, and social powerhouses – each with their own area of manipulative expertise. One is more adept at diplomatic approaches, one is an inveterate liar and deceiver, the other prefers more direct applications of verbal force to browbeat opponents into submission. In a subsequent post we will delve into the specifics of character, but as many prefer not to wade through character details, I have kept them separate. In this post, the tale is the thing!

The occultists are less easily described. One is an alchemist with a reputation as being what is now known as a combat medic. One is a bit of a grifter with knowledge of Homomancy (Magical effects related to human traits) in the Natural Tradition (control of spirits from this plane for magical effects), which is described in-game as a tradition passed down in families with many necessary and unnecessary trappings and rituals no less arcane than Ceremonial Magic (control of spirits from other planes for magical effects), but firmly rooted in everyday items and concepts. The last is a former inquisitor who does not practice occult arts, but can sense the activity of spirits and the presence of mystical forces (a character Talent). The three are members of a now hunted fraternity of natural philosophers and occult researchers, that met an untimely end prior to the start of the campaign during a dimly remembered nightmare encounter on the grounds of the Cardinal’s Palace against a satanic coven of villains and traitors. The fraternity was attempting to prevent the Satanists from desecrating the site of a new chapel being constructed for the Cardinal and his Bishops. The group’s destruction at the hands of such brutal opponents has driven them underground and caused them to seek protection from the very best: the King’s Musketeers. Hiring themselves out as lackeys and aides to three stalwart members of this elite unit, the trio hopes to survive the pursuit they know is coming.

The game is conducted in one of the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf locations in the Sinchon district of Seoul every other week if schedules allow and has three players, plus myself.

Session 1: A Night Out
The musketeers and their ‘lackeys’ were carousing in a favorite watering and wenching establishment when one of the regulars came stumbling in, white-faced and trembling, with a harrowing tale of having been chased by the Hounds of Hell. This was laughed off and met with calls for more ale until the man collapsed in shock. It was at that point that all realized ( although the PCs to their credit had spotted it as soon as he’d entered) that he was wounded. His tunic was torn open from his shoulders to his belt, and three long claw marks marred his strong back.

The characters decided to back-track him to verify what had actually happened. One among them noted the presence of a large flying creature circling overhead, but kept that pretty much to himself until later. The wounded man was mostly known for doing odd jobs, but made most of his money in basic carpentry and delivery. On this night, he had been delivering bundles of wood to the Cardinal’s Palace. His initial story was that he had been chased from there by something he described as a demonic hound. Interestingly, while his tracks in the mud and animal droppings of the Parisian streets were plainly evident, no sign of a beastly pursuer was… other than the semi-secret knowledge of something odd in the sky with bat-like wings. This discrepancy, and other little details ensured the group would want to speak with him again later.

The group found the abandoned bundle of wood by the road, and leaving one of their number with it, pressed on to the side gate of the Cardinal’s Palace that the carpenter had said he had fled through. One there, each of the occultists noted that the balance of Grotesques and Gargoyles on the walls (I am not using the historical palace) was missing something… until it wasn’t. The musketeers got into a war of words with the guards at the gate and narrowly avoided getting into a sword fight with the short-tempered guard leader over fashion and status, while the occultists noted the oddities with the gargoyles, and that conditions were drawing near which would enable their satanic enemies to once again seek to desecrate the new foundations of the Cardinal’s Chapel, which are just inside the wall from this gate.

Splitting up for the evening, the lackeys met up at the alchemist’s home, while the musketeers returned to the tavern for more drinks, closer interrogation of the carpenter, and women… not necessarily in that order.

Because the occultists are in hiding for fear of their lives from a mystical agency responsible for the death of their allies and patrons, going to the alchemist’s lab was a bit of a risk that entailed the use of stealth, a sleep gas, and trickery. Once in, they discovered that a small gold cross had been hidden in the bundle of wood, and that it responded to and enhanced both greed and anger. Of course, this discovery was complicated by the fact that the man left to guard the wood and carry it to the alchemist’s lab had already searched the bundle of wood and removed the cross – stashing it in his clothing. When questioned if there were anything in the bundle he prevaricated, but was quickly caught out in his lies. The cross immediately set to work influencing the greed and anger growing in the room. With the certain knowledge that magic was afoot, the group overcame the mystical influence with effort, and found their heads clearing. Already suspicious of the carpenter’s tale, they decided to return to the tavern to seek him out and get the real story, after attempting to divine some of the history of the cross.

Using an ancient formula, the alchemist prepared fumes known to open the channels of the mind to the passage of time, and send awareness backward. The homomancer used his arts to calm their minds and steel them against the shock of what they might see. In their shared vision, they witnessed the carpenter meeting a stone mason. The mason was in shackles and headed north in a procession of other captives. He passed the carpenter a note whose meaning the occultists simply knew via dream logic to be the location of the cross… a rough map to dark magics, corruption, and greed. As the vision played out, they saw that the cross had been buried in the chapel site foundation, and the carpenter after digging it up to sell, was pursued by the devil for his temerity. Hours passed…

When the lackeys returned to the tavern, the musketeers, drunk and ready to go back to the hotel, had no trouble being persuaded to gather up the carpenter and head out. Once in a narrow alley outside the tavern, a gargoyle attacked from the air by surprise, wounding one musketeer seriously before being driven off by a flurry of blows from the other two. The musketeers were seemingly unaffected by the darkness (their sight having been surreptitiously enhanced by the homomancer) and presented a fearsome barrier of deadly steel and determination. The carpenter, convinced now the devil himself wants him dead, is more than willing to come clean.

Session 2: The Mourning After
Knowing proper healing would take ages and might cause complications and inquiries, the alchemist addressed the more serious wounds with salves and ointments, but did not go so far as to fully heal the injured. Already very suspicious of the goings on at the Cardinal’s Palace due to their foggy and distorted nightmare memories of the end of their mystical fraternity, the trio of ‘lackeys’ set about getting the full truth from the carpenter and devising a plan of investigative action. Part of this was giving the carpenter a new job as a hand at the hotel de Monsieur Treville, cutting his hair, and giving him a new set of clothes. Thus disguised, and with no reason to walk the streets, the carpenter was “safe.”

The carpenter’s tale confirmed much that they already knew: Inside the walls of the Palace a new chapel is under construction. The occultist’s fraternity had tried to foil a plot to desecrate the ground, and failed utterly – leading to death and dispersal of the membership. The carpenter confirmed basic details of the alchemical vision, and added the facts that other oddjobsmen of his acquaintance, as well as more professional construction workers associated with the chapel site, had all been unceremoniously sent to the front lines to “work” and that no one expected them to return. A friend of his, a digger and bricklayer, had seen a strange ritual, heard talk of the one true cross, and witnessed the burial of something gold and glittering as he hid on the palace grounds one night hoping for a chance to steal bread. Before he could act on his knowledge of buried gold, he was rounded up the next morning with the other workers, chained up, and prepared to be sent north. As a last-ditch effort of desperation, he slipped a map of the spot to the carpenter and begged him to get the cross, sell it, and use his share of the proceeds to obtain his freedom. In the tale, the carpenter also referred to the cross not as a cross, but as a splinter of the one true cross – which it obviously is not. (PM me for spoilers if you like)

With one musketeer down, the others needed to do extra duty for a while. When the wounded one was once again whole, two of them went out on the town to carouse and see if they could annoy some of the Cardinal’s men, while their ‘lackeys’ hoped to get them going in a more responsible direction. As fate would have it, responsibility sought them out. While at a ball where they were enjoying outshining the very guardsman from the gatehouse from the session before, intrigues with the hostess and one or more of the wait staff were laid in order to drug and capture our heroes, while their lackeys sulked and fumed in the courtyard. The musketeers spotted the drug, foiling the attempt turning the tables on the hostess and capturing her evil waiter… who threw himself out the window to his death… but not before revealing that he was a part of a larger conspiracy! Narrowly evading his quick-acting captors, his embrace of death before dishonor allowed him the chance to hurl himself out the window to the cobblestones below. Sadly for him, ’twas not the fall which killed him.

While looking for a way to irritate their opposite numbers from the Cardinal’s Guard, the musketeers note the odd behaviour of their hostess, and were able to witness the passing of a curious vial from a suspicious-seeming waiter to her just before she presented wine to the most charming of them. Taking her firmly in hand and guiding her across the dance floor to one of the many secluded spots she had artfully arranged to be present in the darkened corners of the room, he informed her that he knew what she was up to and that they would be leaving the ballroom together for somewhere more private. At the same time, the most forceful among them was rounding up the waiter and compelling him to follow suit.

Once in the hostess’s secret rendezvous chamber, behind a hidden door they stealthily passed through under cover of wall hangings and huge shadows, they shoved the waiter into a chair, and pressed the hostess for details. Bold as brass, and fearless, they tricked enough details from her with their sharply-honed wordplay that she knew she’d been caught out in lies too many to cover. With nervous looks at the waiter, she pleaded with them to let her go as her very life was in danger.

Searching the waiter, they uncovered a glass dagger filled with poison. Further examination of the vial the hostess had been passed revealed it to be something different than the poison in the dagger. When asked, the hostess claimed it was a draught to make them appear drowsy and in their cups. She was to bring them back here for the waiter to deal with.

With her story in full swing, and her magnificent bosom heaving with fear, the musketeers were caught flat-footed when the waiter-cum-assassin bolted from the chair and through himself with complete dedication into the task of getting out the window. Narrowly missed by a rapidly hurled dagger and a brutally flung chair, the man crashed headlong through the glass to lie broken on the cobbles below, at the feet of bored servants – the occultists among them.

This shocking turn of events was too much for the hostess, and with a great show of tears for her fears (sorry) she told a tale of brutality, coercion, and blackmail, wherein she must do what she is ordered by ‘The Black Man.’ She ended her tale with the presentation of a note from him, bearing a strange sigil looking like nothing so much as a goat’s head. Her tale informed them that the Black Man had a small army of soldiers at his disposal, and that she had heard that they were quartered in the northern section of the city in an old, run-down roadhouse.

With this confession from the hostess, the curious note with a vile sigil with a goat’s head motif, and the actions of the waiter, the musketeers were almost ready to believe something might be going on… but what? The hostess’s confession revealed that she believed a shadowy and terrifying group of bloodthirsty men would kill her if she betrayed them (and this confession is clearly one such betrayal). The musketeers found the idea of a group of knightly soldiers, black livery, and an implied goat’s head sigil to be intriguing, but the news that they were lairing in a mostly disused roadhouse in the northern reaches of the city meant…they could investigate after the party.

The alchemist and the homomancer, seeing the waiter’s fall and subsequent crushing by startled carriage horses, were quick to elicit details from the King’s musketeers. They tried to instigate action in their protectors, but those worthies refused to bite. A brief question about if the philtre of sleeping agent truly belonged to the alchemist was quickly answered, and then growing bored with the whole thing the miusketeers returned to the party. The occultists, knowing their ’employers’ would be busy for hours, decided to sneak back to the alchemical laboratory. Being perspicacious men, they did not fail to note the ugly goat-like sigil burned into the dead waiter’s chest through a rip in the bloody tatters of his thin livery.

On edge as a matter of course, but more so as they were hearing rumours and reports that a man believed to be the alchemist had just been torn apart by a pack of huge hounds not far from the lab, and that the victim’s remains had been carted off by a cadre of soldiers in black travel cloaks, suspicion was not a difficult attitude for them to form. After a quick discussion – and with the realization that the black-cloaked soldiers had left the scene just moments before – the pair decided to give chase.

Using their knowledge of Paris, and hoping to cover ground more quickly than a squad of men on large horses with pack animals, the two set off at a run. With the application of native wit and Style, the pair managed to stumble across the rear guard of the troop and followed them. The soldiers did take precautions to throw off speculation about their destination but not to elude pursuit, so trailing them presented no real difficulties.

Already aware from the Musketeers that there was something awry at a roadhouse in the north of the city, the two were not surprised to find the trail end at one.

Seeing two of the guard sent to the rear of the stable out of sight to dispose of the corpse, they snuck along behind them and took them by surprise and sorcery; laying them out to slumber. Taking clothes and keys, they descended into the odd cellar below the stable to see if there were more corpses, and to hide their disrobed and somnolent victims.

In the cellar, they uncovered signs of regular ceremonial magic, a number of fresh graves, and a captive damsel chained to a post. The damsel was branded with the same sigil as the waiter.

Taking a risk, the homomancer decided to check for signs of sacrifice and reached out to feel the traces of energy derived from the spilling of human blood. The ground in spots was wet, but was it equine urine, or blood? The smell and location definitely obscured the issue. Up from the earth bubbled blood energized by his magical exertions, and its patterns in the cleared section reserved for the mystic circle removed any doubt that vile magics had been practiced.

Turning his attention to the captive soldiers while the alchemist tended to the damsel’s health, the homomancer probed and twisted their dreaming minds seeking memories of this underground sanctum. He was rewarded with vivid imagery of masked chanters channeling their will to allow their leader to steal a man’s face and form. The face stolen was not clear, but the fate of the victim was death.

Already on the run, and in fear of their lives, no one would blame them for heading for Spain… or farther, but no… these men stood, and looking upon the unconscious damsel – a likely future victim of certain villainy – they vowed to put an end to this once and for all.

Session Three: March 31, 2012

Related articles

All for One ~ Regime Diabolique Campaign Development Report 1
All for One ~ Regime Diabolique Campaign Development Report 2
All for One ~ Regime Diabolique Campaign Development Report 3

Comments
2 Responses to “The Light that Never Warms (All for One: Regime Diabolique) – Campaign Report 1”
  1. Daniel says:

    I love the whole ‘lackey’ twist y’all have going. Seems like you’ve gotten things off to an intriguing start.

    • Runeslinger says:

      Thanks~
      I have been really enjoying the whole thing. As you might remember, it was AfO that got me into Ubiquity, so it has been a long run of preparation getting to this point, more than a year later.

      Intriguingly, in HEX my crew did not want to be heroes, in Desolation they did not want to rebuild, and in AfO they seem averse to swordplay… Go figure.

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