The Light that Never Warms (All for One: Regime Diabolique) – Campaign Report 4

This is the fourth installment of reports for my current face-to-face campaign using Triple Ace Games’ thrilling All for One: Regime Diabolique ~ a game of supernatural intrigue and swashbuckling action in a dark reflection of 17th Century France. This campaign emphasizes mystery, dark magics, and verbal sparring, but includes a dash of chasing and escaping mixed with a healthy portion of wine and revelry. This session had the characters putting deed to word with steel and sinew as they entered the lair of the villain to bring darkness to light, and send a swift message to those who flaunt the just laws of God, the King, and France!

This session was delayed a few times, so I was chomping at the bit to get going. Our third player has been unable to make the last few sessions, so it was decided to simply go on without him for the rest of the campaign and entertain the idea of recruiting someone else. In this session, we were due to begin by having the Musketeer characters (Jean and Avery), supported by Xavier (the Alchemist), Vincent (the Homomancer), and Renault (the former inquisitor) storming the lair of the mysterious group that uses the disturbing goat head/dragon rampant sigil with 6 stout allies and the two ineffective musketeers who it was reported had to be rescued by the Cardinal’s musketeers in our last session. Under threat of Jean’s vicious reprisals, the two were to do their best to keep up and do the uniform proud.  After a quick review of combat data and manoeuvres (as unless the players opted to wow me with more social antics, this session was starting with clashing steel), we jumped into things with gusto and a lot of coffee.

Session 5: For King and Country!

Where there is smoke, there are musketeers

The 8 musketeers, our heroes bearing sword rapiers, the rest bearing more modern rapiers, and but two (can you guess which two?) opting to go with muskets at the ready rode off to the devilish roadhouse to win back glory for their unit, and thwart the machinations of evil. Not far from their destination, they were flagged down by Renault, who caught them just in time.

Out of breath from running for block after block, the former agent of the inquisition informed the group that he had been able to trace the history of the sigil to confused ancient reports of a Satanic coven of fallen knights known to the Inquisition as the Order of the Crimson Dragon (Given sufficient interest, the characters may be able to uncover the secrets that I imagine most of the learned body of distinguished people who read this forum already know about blood coloured dragons as the campaign goes on). His blunt mention of Satanism and Unholy Rites broke the momentum of some of the musketeers, but when asked what he recommends, Renault replied, “Take prisoners for questioning,” with all the confidence in the world.

Dismounting and moving closer to the crumbling wall around the roadhouse, the group could easily discern that the whole building was well-lit, and activities were being carried out in each of the three buildings. (For those interested, I broke with my Abstract All Combat tradition because of the volume issues at our gaming location, and used the White Wyvern map from 0one Games on my tablet to help bring this location to life. Additional notes and clarifications were roughed out on graph paper. It worked well)

Vincent (whose stealth was enhanced by +8 via his arcane arts) and Renault who had to rely on his natural talents crept off around the far side of the wall to see if they could sneak onto the roof and up into an upper window, while the rest prepared to mount an assault through the front door of the roadhouse. While waiting for them to get into position, Xavier readied his blunderbuss and prepared to commence the festivities.

Xavier and the others moved up to the front wall of the roadhouse, then he took a look through the warped glass of the window. Near the midpoint of the room, along the outside wall, a table of 8 soldiers of the crimson dragon were conferring in quiet, serious tones and sketching maps in the foamy traces of beer on the table top. Arrayed on a table near them, packs with red livery stuffed inside hint at some of what they may be planning to do.

Once the musketeers were in position on either side of the door, Xavier (also under the benefit of Vincent’s stealth enhancing spell) fired the blunderbuss through the front window of the roadhouse, hitting the central chandelier and causing it to fall (Style Spent) on one of the tables behind the clustered mass of their enemies spattering them with hot wax and broken candles. The bulk of the shot carried on out trough the roof, alerting Vincent with its noise and blasted tatters of thatch that the invasion was on!

The surprise induced by the shot left the villains flat-footed and the 8 musketeers charged into the roadhouse through the heavy smoke of the black powder, with Xavier outside considering a reload.

The musketeers fanned out into a line to receive the blades of the Satanists, but Jean, a force to be reckoned with in any bar anywhere, further dismayed their opponents by hurling a chair into their ranks, knocking one down, and tangling up two others in the confusion. Two at the back but not entangled in limbs and chair fragments drew their swords and appeared to be readying themselves to go over the top of the table.

Avery chose to enter the bar at a run and went over the top of the bar to check out the barmaid’s tracts of land and scoop up a brew while pretending not to be scoping out the lay of the taproom. His reasonably sharp eyes detected two men at the back of the tavern area, one rushing upstairs, and the other rushing him with two short swords with cruelly barbed and bladed bell guards on each. The bartender was cowering behind the bar, while the barmaid was drinking right from the keg. Amused, Avery turned to receive his Florentine foe.

Jean, his blood up, turned to the line of soldiers near him on the close side of the table, each trying to stand, draw their swords, get out of each others’ way, and discern through the smoke how many of these mad musketeers there actually were! Seizing the initiative, Jean screamed at them with the full force of his intimidating voice, and drove them back toward the wreck of the shattered chandelier with his fearsomeness. (Style)

In the centre of the room was a huge round fireplace. Placing himself just so, Avery managed to goad his charging assailant to put his back to the fire as he engaged across the top of the bar. The villain, unfazed, used his left sword to flick embers at Avery while merely pretending to set up a slash with the right weapon. Avery ducked across the top of the bar, then swinging his legs out with force, kicked the blackguard back into the flames!

On the other side of the room, two of the 8 soldiers charged across the top of their table to engage one of the closer musketeers while Xavier, finding the two shamed musketeers standing uselessly in the door way, took it upon himself to shove them inside and goad them into action. One of the briefly entangled soldiers from behind the villains’ table tried to get at Jean across its top, but he knocked him cold with a pommel smash. Three soldiers standing shoulder to shoulder simultaneously launched attacks at Jean. One on Jean’s right cut down toward his head, one in the middle tried to slash diagonally across his chest, while one on his left tried to thrust from below. Continuing the motion from his pommel strike, Jean gathered up their blades in one circular defensive motion and redirected their attacks into the floor to his right.

As the two ‘cowardly’ musketeers levelled their muskets and took aim at the enemy. Avery’s attacker tried with an awful scream to lift himself out of the fire, only to be sent back into it with Avery’s well-hurled flagon of brew, which – damned strong as it was (Style) – sped the ignition process.

Upstairs, Vincent had left Renault on guard while he opened a window and stepped into a room. It was occupied by a greying man at arms in a much more expensive version of the soldiers’ uniform, staring into a mirror with his back to the window. As Vincent silently moved forward to secure him, he noticed the mirror was not showing the room, but the battle in the tap-room below! Without hesitation, he placed his hand on the man’s sheathed arming sword while putting his dagger to his unprotected throat. Outside the room, a fist began hammering on the locked door, while an insistent voice said, “Master, they are here!”

At Vincent’s prodding the man pretended to send the soldier away, but the glibness of his tongue may have been comparable to Vincent’s own! With both knowing that both wanted the so-called “Master” to survive this encounter threats of force were hard to levy. Before the soldier outside the door could make a real nuisance of himself, the sounds of combat in the hallway began.

Down below, once he had torched his opponent, Avery had taken off like a shot to chase the man who had run up the stairs. He found him pounding on a door at the end of the upstairs hall and invited him to stop. The soldier rushed to the attack and in a matter of seconds found himself disarmed, insulted, kicked in the butt, and displaced toward the stairs while Avery now had access to the door! Grabbing up his blade again he charged only to get kicked down the stairs to land unconscious in a heap at the bottom. As he fell, the roof of the entire road house simultaneously went up in flames.

Jean, growing bored with the fighting (Flaw of ennui) wrapped it up quickly, taking out his three opponents before turning to see if his allies needed help. Two were scratched, but the battle had been won handily. Upon reflection, it would seem that the other musketeers could have just stayed outside to contain any runners.

Glancing about, he noticed a train of ten men on black war horses and dressed in the red livery of the cardinal surge into the yard and curve around the back of the building toward the vile stable and its sorcerer’s den of a cellar.

The roof, the roof, the roof is…

At that moment the roof exploded into flame. The bartender panicked, the barmaid screamed, and bits of the ceiling started to collapse, burned clean through. Taking the servants, the additional musketeers beat a retreat out the front door, while Jean leaped through the window agilely to rush up behind the rump of the last horse, and prick its rump with his blade. His instinct to violence could not have been better timed!

Upstairs, little knowing how close fiery death was, Vincent was goading his captive to go out the window. When the blaze began, Avery burst into the room and encouraged them forcefully to make good their departure. Vincent, pragmatic to the core, used the captive as a pillow and rode his twisting body to the rough ground three stories below, driving the wind out of him before rolling away acrobatically (Style).

Avery dropped to the ground as Vincent rolled to his feet, both catching sight of the red-coated soldiers racing into the back courtyard in a double line. Their leader, carrying an ornate mitre, levelled it at Vincent and grated, “You have meddled in our affairs for the last time!”

As his well-delivered line rolls across the stones of the yard implying lethal threat, a horse’s scream from the back of the line signals the furious attack of Jean and all hell breaks loose! The men, disguised with bland faces, and copies of the cardinal’s guard livery, are clearly not what they appear to be.

The two cowardly musketeers that Jean and Avery have been praying are merely ineffectual, having set up near Jean near the corner of the road house, open fire with their muskets and take two of the ten out of the saddle. Jean rushes in to the fray, as Avery dodges the attack of the leader and Vincent tries to bull him from the saddle with a tackle. Unsuccessful, he clings to the man instead. Renault, cautioned to keep the master in place, chooses to accomplish that mission with his cudgel. He takes a few extra, solid whacks. Just in case.

Avery’s intention was to roust the horses kept in the main stable and add their terror to the milling mess of horses in the courtyard, but as the other 6 musketeers start tearing into the fake cardinal’s guardsmen, there seems to be no need. The roar of the collapsing roadhouse, the scream of horses, and the clash of steel are chaos enough! Or are they? Xavier, stepping to the side of the fray, began to furiously mix philtres of components – racing against time.

Avery, turning his attention to the leader, adds his own weight to the force trying to drag the man from the saddle. He and Vincent pull the villain to the ground and subdue him. The man, one of the few to keep his horse in check despite the madness around them, was a brutal threat and if captured a source of vital information.

The faux guards, attempting to regain control of their panicked horses while defending against the furious onslaught of the musketeers, try to spur their mounts to attack their attackers, and just as it seems that they will succeed, Xavier finally manages to get his mixture just right (alchemy, loads of penalties) and stealthfully rolls the vial into the melee where it shatters under hooves. No one but he is aware that the unseen fumes which are released cause the horses to swoon, spilling their riders roughly to the blood spattered stones of the courtyard, where the musketeers made short work of them. Disoriented, demoralized, and unhorsed those who do not surrender to the clearly superior force confronting them, soon find out what a strong persuader a length of steel can really be.

Clean up is made easier with the timely (late) arrival of the watch and neighbours. Putting them in charge of binding and herding the captives, under the mean eye of Jean. Xavier and Vincent, with a member of the watch, and two musketeers, drag the leader to the back of the stable to speak for the evidence of dark arts they know to be in the cellar.

Vincent shoves the man down the short, steep steps to land at the bottom. As he falls, Vincent sees too late the look of horror which suffuses the man’s face as he falls, and ignites in a white-hot blaze of charring flame as he hits the ground. He burns to smoking remains and ash before he can even scream, leaving behind only a melted signet ring.

Up in Smoke

Vincent and Xavier investigate the cellar, and find it has the scent of incense and smoke which indicates magic was worked here a few hours ago, but other than a door like shape chalked on the wall, nothing seems different than the last time they were here. There is a place for everything, and everything is in that place.

Taking no chances, Xavier moved over to the ‘portal’ and rubbed out some important glyphs. “Is it a door? Not now.”

Slightly frustrated, they go back outside to realize from the faces of their jubilant allies that they have witnesses who can speak to the evil sorcery that took place here, and who more importantly can speak to the great courage, skill, and panache of the musketeers, so it is not a complete loss. Better yet, tomorrow they will be able to interrogate the so-called “Master.”

Just desserts~?

The Watch trundles the horsemen and the few soldiers that survived the battle and the fire off to holding cells for investigation by the Inquisition and temporal authorities. Due to their injuries, Xavier has easy access to all of them in his capacity as a known and respected physician. Renault’s familiarity with such prisons expands this access a bit further. As Avery and Jean explain their heroics to Monsieur de Treville back at that worthy’s hotel, Xavier, Vincent, and Renault – now with a growing list of questions – check the prisoners carefully for signet rings and tattoos, finding few of the former and many of the latter. Only the master has no such tattoo, and only the master and the soldiers in the tavern when the raid began had signet rings.

Inspiration strikes and they return to the hotel to speak to the musketeers about questioning the bartender and barmaid. Upon arrival, they are informed of the death of the woodcutter whose attack by a “hell hound” started them on this quest in the first place. He choked on his soup. The young woman who Xavier and Vincent freed tried to save him, but he choked to death horribly. Xavier nods knowingly as this information is collated with the rest of what they had learned, and says to his friends, “It is as I suspected – they are controlled through the tattoos!”

Putting their heads together, they conclude that the riders were dupes, disguised as a the Cardinal’s Guard as a distraction, but the men in the roadhouse were the real deal – sacrificed to ensure the success of whatever it was the villains are planning. They know that they have the power to appear as other people, and they have been kidnapping specific people for weeks. Some they kill, and others….others they control body and soul and use as blade fodder for musketeers!

Exhausted, and with wine and celebration flowing without restraint from Monsieur do Treville, the group surrenders to the tide of the night and party until dawn. No reports of villainy interrupt their festivities and the group begins to realize that while they may not have earned a total victory, they may have earned a stalemate. The plans of the villain were checked, but those responsible have gotten away to try again on the next dark of the moon!

Revenge on the Red

The next day, Avery and Jean and their loyal lackeys were called to the palace with Monsieur de Treville to receive the thanks of the King, a generous sum of money (temporary Resources 1), and the grudging but eloquent thanks of the Cardinal Richelieu himself (temporary Status 1) for revealing the true plot, its satanic underpinnings, the identity of the plotters’ secret cabal, and capturing a valuable source of further information.

The lackeys, kept in the kitchens and far from all of this pomp, could not then reveal their knowledge that the impostors feigning to be the cardinal’s guard were simple townsfolk gathered from around the roadhouse and forced into false faces and altered minds, nor that the captive master was slowly wasting away without regaining consciousness from an inexplicable ailment. C’est la guerre~

The musketeers were heroes! Does anything else really matter?

Epilogue

Later, after another exhausting round of revelry and enthusiastic visitation of mistresses, the mystical lackeys – not ones to allow their attention to wander from the threat hanging over them – were discussing all the evidence they had gleaned, and all they knew about this Order of the Crimson Dragon. They were gearing up to attempt deeper investigations of the order, when the smoke from the candles and incense burners in the room coalesced like globular coils of thick oil in clear water to form the face of a man… a man with a hooked and broken nose, and a scar across his eye… It moved to regard each of them with a promise of malice until Xavier, host and master of this Refuge, took a deep breath, and blew the face away.

End Notes

This session concluded the first story in the campaign and was intended to serve as a quick introduction to the setting in general, my dark take on the city of Paris in particular, and give a suggestion of what could serve as a good motivation to occupy the minds and hearts of the characters the players had created. Will the second story in ‘The Light that Never Warms’ entail the group striking another blow at ‘The Order of the Crimson Dragon’ or will it race off in other directions entirely? That is up to the players!

Session 6: June 2, 2012

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2 Responses to “The Light that Never Warms (All for One: Regime Diabolique) – Campaign Report 4”
  1. Kyrei says:

    I had a great time with this session, mostly because it was the first time I got to work out the kinks in Jean (my fighter character). I was able to do this, mostly because I didn’t have to fiddle with rules and checking because the Ubiquity system is so simple! Once we had our Fencing Skills boosted (giving me a base of 15 and +3L for the weapon) it was a no-brainer to take the average for almost everything. Runeslinger had everything written down and we whizzed through it. I now have a firm idea of who and what Jean is, and I walked away very satisfied that we had saved the day, worked well together, and had no issues with rules. I am more confident with Xavier (the Alchemist) now and as long as we don’t get bogged down talking about other things, I am sure our games will just fly along. Great work prepping the session RS, and I hope you had as much fun as we did.

    • Runeslinger says:

      I enjoyed this session quite a bit, too. I enjoyed seeing you both employ both tricks and terrain to your advantage, I am enjoying that the genre-appropriate earning and spending of Style points is flowing much more easily now for all of us, and best is as you say, the real characters are starting to rise off the sheets.

      It makes me laugh a little, but on my side the simplicityof Ubiquity can sometimes throw me for a loop in a large combat. Out of habit I guess, I keep expecting that there is something more I should be doing, and it takes me a beat to recognize, no – the system has already represented everything, the dice have been rolled, the results are already evident in that roll, and all I need to do is describe and link it to what came before with openings for things to come next. Being able to realistically represent something like an attack of 3 on 1 and resolve the mechanical side of things from armour, to hitting, to damage and related damage effects, all in one opposed roll – without giving undue advantage to the PCs, diminishing the import of each of the elements, or taking away risk or consequence is amazing.

      As we literally have not had a combat since the first day of this campaign and it lasted only two rounds before the enemy fled, this is an area lacking the fluid familiarity of regular practice. Conversely, we have the social dueling rules well in hand. 😉 Now that we have gotten this big tavern-ranging conflict under our belts, will there be more swordplay in the characters’ future?

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