Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Order of The Infinite Way, pt. 7: Interesting Use of Narrative Setpieces--The Grand Ball

So, heavy, heavy things happened last session. Ferrus D'Angelus was freakin' killed by his own Inquisitrix! The Radical Inquisitrix Steffi Krueger was very efficiently rendered into a vegetative state (also by Senjak). This would mark the end of two intertwined story arcs, both revolving around Senjak's longterm relationships with a rival NPC and her own acolyte. In the case of Ferrus D'Angelus, he began life as Rhonda's PC, and then ended it as an NPC after Rhonda left our campaign. I honestly have no idea what she would have made of the outcome, or how I handled it, but I have to say that I really liked it, and I think it makes a good story. But we haven't seen the last of Ferrus, so no worries there.

The problem with resolving those plot lines was that suddenly things have come to rest. The acolytes have neutralized Steffi Krueger, but haven't rooted out the sorcerers on Valis. Given that The Order of The Infinite  Way is a clandestine organization and is, presumably, spread out over the planet and possibly the sector (or beyond), this conceivably could take a very long time to resolve. But I didn't want it to take so long. I wanted to get done with it so I can play some DCC. So sue me. So how to do that without making it seem abrupt or unnatural? Well, first off, don't reinvent the wheel. Narrative tropes exist for a reason. Use them.

The trope I chose to employ was The Grand Ball. Much like putting passengers on a train, airship, or seagoing vessel, the Grand Ball is a device that forces together a diverse cast of protagonists, antagonists, and extras. This allows lots of stuff to happen very quickly, and gives you an excuse for why all of these people would ever be in the same room together. So, here's the set up:


The PCs will receive an invitation to the Grand Ball of St. Gudrun of Karanus, the patron saint of Valis. Her symbols are the spear and the iceberg. No one really remembers why. Karanus, though, was one of the original villages of the Great Northern Continent, before it was displaced and inundated by the growth of the hive city.

This year, the ball will take place in the Ministorum's Grand Palace, a domed enclosure, at the top of the spire next to their great cathedral on Valis. The Grand Palace is not really a palace, as such, but a vast, stadium-like space, surrounded by tiers of rooms with views of the central space. The central space of the Grand Palace consists of a large, oval plaza, dead-center, with wandering paths leading out from it, through statues, gazing pools and fountains, and spectacular foliage. The paths occasionally come together at smaller plazas. It is here that you will find fountains and the larger statues. The gazing pools are found along the paths, usually in the midst of groves of the many types of trees that grow here. There are even birds here, amazing in their variety and colorful plumage. Some of them are song birds, and at least one of them is poisonous.

The Setup

The acolytes will come in through the main (eastern) entrance. There is a receiving line here, and the guests are announced as they arrive. When everyone is gathered in the eastern plaza, the will be led in pomp and ceremony to the central plaza.

The processional involves chanting and incense burning, and is led by members of the high ecclesiarcy on Valis, who drive before them dozens of acolytes of the Ministorum, flogging them in order to expiate their sins of thought and deed against the Emperor. For, St. Gudrun is the patron saint of atonement, and the Festival of St. Gundrun is, somewhat like Mardi Gras, followed by ten days of wearing of ragged furs, fasting, flagellation, and going without footwear. For most folk, the atonement part, after the festival, is not observed. For fanatics, though, it's sort of like Easter in the Philippines (e.g., actual people getting actually crucified). Most nobles, though, will wear a patch of white fur, fixed somewhere on the breast of their clothing with a spear-like stickpin.

The Central Plaza is amazingly large, about three times as large as a football field in area, but oval in shape. It is dominated by a gigantic statue, depicting St. Gudrun, clad in ragged furs and clearly dying of starvation, yet holding a giant beast at bay with only a spear.

Much of the space is clear in the center, but around the edges are tables for sitting, a variety of places to get various foodstuffs and drink, and performers of various sorts (e.g., singers, acrobats, musicians, and so forth).

Areas 1 through 5. There are five smaller plazas surrounding the Central Plaza. EVERY 10 MINUTES, ROLL 1D5 TO SEE WHICH AREA EACH FACTION IS IN. IF ENEMIES ENCOUNTER EACH OTHER, PLAY IT OUT.

The acolytes will attend this one without their Inquisitrix, who is conducting the shell of the woman formerly known as Steffi Krueger back to Scintilla. She does, however, leave them with a present: Ferrus D'Angelus, who is now (roll d10) 1-4 a medicae servitor; 5-6 an oversized cherub; 7-8 a combat servitor; 9-10 a gun servitor

[Jason rolled a 10. I was rooting for 5 or 6. Sad for me, happy for Ferrus, who is now a walking autogun turret!]

Ferrus's hair has been replaced with fiber optic strands emitting an eerie blue light, and his face is tattooed in ink of gold with the symbol of House Senjak: the Hourglass Spider. His armored exterior looks exactly like the sort of clothes he normally wore (Steampunk with emphasis on the "punk"). He will respond to commands from any of the acolytes, but Ianescu the Tech Priest has override authority.

Who is Attending?

All of the nobles are there. It is The Place to Be, to see and be seen. Every high official from the Ministorum, the Adeptus Arbites, and the Administratum are there. Even the criminals, Sapphon and Willian Bellhouse, are present, along with their retinues. Everyone has at least one bodyguard (as 5th Lev Generic Guard), and usually two or more.

Depending on what the acolytes decide to do, this could go just about anywhere. In order to keep some semblance of direction, keep the following NPCs' motivations in mind. And, by the way, I just love coming up with names for Dark Heresy NPCs. Witness the glory that is... 

Lord Captain His Grace Arch-Duke Corneliuz Katz-Dobermann, of The Emperor's Tears, an imperial Mars-Class Battlecruiser. He is the highest ranking Imperial Navy officer in the system, and is "showing the colors." He is corrupt, and connected with Willian Bellhouse.

Acadius Kapperman is there with Mikki Navappo, as well as the rest of his contingent. He will spend time with the high Ministorum officials, for the most part, but will also attempt to get the acolytes to provide information about their doings. He will give nothing away of his own plans. Mikki Navappo, though, is much more naïve in many ways, and may let drop what he's up to. NOT SURE WHAT THAT IS YET.

Alize Mythrux is well-aware that the inquisition is here, and will do her best to avoid them. If cornered, she will make small talk, and then pretend to see someone she just has to see. She is accompanied by:

Dalmo Mythrux, Younger brother of Alize Mythrux. He is also a very powerful sorcerer, though he stays in the background more than she does. One wonders what sorts of evil he might get up to should a source of great power suddenly become available to him. Freeny’s grimoire might be worth betraying the other members of The Order, even his sister, should he be presented with a chance to take it for himself. He will attempt to get away from his sister to talk to the acolytes, because he's heard rumors of the found grimoire and wants it for himself.

Lorien Dekkarta. When they encounter Lorien Dekkarta, she will inform that acolytes that she really loves their servitor (She is known as "The Spider," here on Valis).  She also may be convinced to provide them with one or more pieces of information. She is attended by:

Miklas Freeny, He is a noted scholar of medicae. He comes across as, essentially, a kindly old doctor. He will attempt to get information about the acolytes' mission on Valis. He may, depending on how that goes, attempt to implicate Alize Mythrux. If the acolytes make an Easy (+20) Intelligence test, then they recognize him as the tall, older man who was Davilia Mythrux's lover. If not, then he will simply seem familiar for some reason.

Sapphon will circulate freely, talking to everyone. He seems very comfortable and friendly, but will be trying to figure out why the acolytes are there. He may send them toward the Willian Bellhouse/House Mythrux conspiracy. He's figured out that Bellhouse is about to screw him, and he's hoping to do the same, but preemptively.

Sonda da Narutha, Matriarch—she is a tough old biddy, and has a variety of friends and relations with power and influence. She’s seen the future, and it is in gaining power through the underground economy, especially expanding power out-of-system. SHE WILL BE IN THE COMPANY OF WILLIAN BELLHOUSE

Willian Bellhouse—He knows who the acolytes are, and will attempt to avoid them. He also pointedly ignores his constituencies (e.g., Kalan Lemulio, Alize Mythrux, Sonda da Narutha, Lord Captain Cornelius Katz-Dobermann). If confronted he will remain reserved and cool, and will attempt to disengage from the conversation. He is accompanied by bodyguards and an aide with a data slate, with whom he will occasionally have whispered conversations, which will lead to the aide inputting more information.

Khrysdam Haslinger—He is accompanied by this wife, and is already half-drunk. He is surprisingly friendly with Sapphon, when he encounters him, slyly joking about what will happen when he gets caught (getting buggered in prison jokes). His wife is mildly scandalized by his bluster, and will shush him. Sapphon, for his part, is very good humored about it, and doesn't really acknowledge the veiled accusuations.

Groot de Jagger and Wife: They make the rounds. Of all the guests, they are the only ones thoroughly costumed for the festival, wearing elaborate furs, and even carrying gilded spears. Neither wears shoes. They will wear these costumes, they claim, until the end of the festival, and have already done so for three days (without bathing). They are funky, but seem to want to talk to the acolytes about how the rest of the nobility no longer shows proper reverence toward the Emperor and the Saints.

Kalan Lemulio, Matriarch. Associated with criminal underworld. She will be cool and correct, but not really engage with anyone, except for Alize Mythrux.

Paxxu Melus, Patriarch—He is not aware of his young daughter’s involvement with sorcery, and would probably kill her, himself, if he knew. He will hang out with Krysdam Haslinger, getting drunk, and laughing at his jokes. He laughs like a braying donkey, and occasionally snorts. He may spill wine on any bystanders. He will openly snub Milius Ninz Cortenses, if he should happen by.

Paxxu Glorina, Youngest Daughter of Patriarch--She is a spoiled little tart, with no morals to speak of, but she presents herself well, and is far, far more intelligent and cunning that her shallow socialite demeanor would lead one to believe. SHE WILL TRY TO ATTACH HERSELF TO MIKLAS FREENY.

Milius Ninz Cortenses, Patriarch—A young dandy whose father and brother preceded him in death. He takes the reins of power at a time when House Cortenses is at its nadir. The house’s ambitious, young patriarch is seeking a return to the days of glory, and will be ruthless about it. He is young and vicious, and seeks no less than the utter destruction of House Paxxu. He will

Corvus Marko Gallo, Patriarch. He’s as honest a businessman as one could expect amongst the feudal nobility. He’s interested in stability and predictability. He resents the influence of criminals in his affairs, and those who traffic with them. He will be openly rude toward Sapphon and Willian Bellhouse, causing some consternation.

Logician Assassins—Here to kill Ferrus and Ianescu.

The rest of this follows, in a separate Post.