The first hour of each session is the City Game (the “City” being the City of Skorne), where most of the “acting role-playing” happens. There’s usually a brutal opening scene orchestrated by me to remind the table that the city is not a kind place. It’s ruled by totalitarian dictators with a taste for evil, after all. For the very first session, for example, a seven-foot tall skeleton chased down a merchant how couldn’t afford to pay his exorbitant taxes. He pinned him down and stabbed him with a rib that extended from his chest. Metal. Then, an official following after dropped a knife on the corpse and claimed he was armed the whole time (convincing no one). Welcome to the City of Skorne, where Armament is a crime.
The City Game is the first hour of each session specifically allotted to give each player time to engage in one of four Actions:
- Acquire Asset (find a merchant in a District and haggle)
- Long-Term Project (roll to advance a project’s progress)
- Train (gain 1 XP)
- Audience with a Lord (during tax season and other reasons)
Yes, yes. This is HEAVILY inspired by Blades in the Dark’s Downtime Activities.
“I’m looking for a grapple hook gun.” “I want to sell this ancient rusty sword I found in the Valley of the Fallen (secretly, of course).” “What luxury goods are there in Obsidian District that are worth looking through?” This is the action where players buy and sell items, meet merchants, and witness city events at the street level. The District they travel to definitely matters for finding something within their price range and high enough quality. For example, the Underbelly has many armor smithies run by demons and their dwarven slaves. It’s high quality for sure, but demons are greedy and charge extra. If you go to the Caverns, run by goblins, you’ll find armor but it will be made of kitchen appliance scraps and wooden. Just ask the player who went looking for a shield and instead bought a wooden cover of a barrel with leather straps attached…
“I’m going to the Candle Archives to find out more about the Standard of the Vanguard.” “What opportunities are there for work in the Docks District?” “Can I scout the Underbelly for disgruntled dwarves looking to escape their masters?” This is the action that fills everything else. When something captures your attention that doesn’t deal directly with the exchange of coin, training, or interacting with one of the Lords of the Districts, it’s a long-term project.
This is the lame option, but alright. If we run short on time or there’s a lot of lolly-gagging in the first hour, just mark XP and move on. That hasn’t happened yet. If you select this option with more time, it’s fun to draw out a scene between the player and a friendly NPCs and the conversation that follows their exercises. This option would be nice for players that are just 1 XP short of a level and need more HP for the next delve into the wilderness.
Audience with a Lord
This is where you interact with Skorne’s main minions. They’re are the top-dog equivalents to feudal lords with demands of high taxes and total obedience. They take all your money and give a portion back depending on how well you grovel. If you stick around long enough and pay your dues, they might recognize your worth and give you a small boon… With the expectation that you’ll be on their side of course, should a skirmish break out in the city. We’ll talk more on Lords and territory scuffles later…
After each player has done their action or time runs out, we move on to the Wilderness game.
In short, the City Game is a good time to drop hooks, gear up, and grin evilly. The session’s rising action begins.