TL;DR - We had a great time. Everyone wants to continue into a campaign and I have some studying to do before we start. Now, read the session report!
Everyone showed up more or less on time and I had borrowed a folding round table from someone. It seats eight comfortably and we only needed space for six so it was pretty much perfect. We were set up in my living room with the kitchen next to us. We decided to do a potluck style thing so there was homemade guacamole, pasta salad, humus, veggies, pork rinds, soda, peach cobbler, ice cream.
I brought a bunch of Fate Decks, as did some other players, so we had more than enough. We used one of the old decks (first edition) as the Fate Deck in the middle because they're so instantly recognizable. Everyone else got to choose their deck and decided part way through that they wanted to buy their own to customize their "gear" as much as possible. I sat to one side with my screen from the Fatemaster's Kit. I don't know if it was the height of our table or what, but the screen cut me off from being able to see the flips of the Fate Deck, which I didn't like, so I ran most of the session with the screen off to one side.
We played Recruitment Drive, which I bought off of Drive Thru RPG for a few bucks. I printed it out and put the pages in binder sleeves. This made it super simple to flip through and follow along, mark the pages with loose leaf paper, etc. I'll probably pick up some tabs for quicker flipping if I ever do that again. Once everyone was seated, I explained the gist of each pre-made Fated character and let players decide who they wanted to play. We were ready to go in no time.
The Story [WARNING: SPOILERS]
If you're going to be the Fatemaster for this one-shot, keep reading. If not, you might want to stop here if you think you'll ever play this one. I'm going to be giving some details of the story and play and I don't want to ruin it for you. That said, moving forward...
I started by reading the short description of Malifaux at the beginning of the one-shot to everyone. It's a quick history and explanation of the factions without giving away too much. Be careful though. At the end of that description it tells the Fated what they'll be facing and you don't want to ruin the surprise! After that, we dived right in. The one-shot opens up with the Fated waiting at the train station. They all have their reasons and after reading a short intro, I let them describe what their Fated look like and if they wanted to say their purpose here (out of character) that was also allowed. We also read our Destinies aloud just for fun, since they don't really come into play in this one-shot. This added to the atmosphere, as the Destiny descriptions are pretty cryptic and foreboding.
The train, coming into the station, wrecks because of Iron Zombies pulling up the tracks. The Fate don't really notice this at first (nor do the Guild Guards about) because of the fain and fog (and time of night - 10:15). Once the train wrecks, the Iron Zombies are rushing into it. My Fated reacted quickly, taking shots immediately. Since the Iron Zombies don't react until the second round of combat (per the one-shot), I went ahead and brought in one of the extra modules from the back of the one-shot. An olive-skinned lady in a green dress dashes out of the wrecked train car toward the end of the first round of Dramatic Time. She was screaming that she couldn't find her son. I made her out to be in shock and delirious. Creative license really helps all of the opportunities in the one-shot come together. One of the Fated, the construct known as Wild Bill (played by Allen), grabbed her forcibly to yank her to safety while firing his gun at the nearest undead. She startled at the motion and attacked him, dealing minor damage. She calmed though with the help of another player and the fight continued.
I Made Mistakes
Here was my first mistake. See, when I'm running a new system for the first time I tend to get anxious and make mistakes. I wanted to reference the book, but the group was pressing to continue and I didn't want to hold them up. For me, this one-shot was about the experience more than anything. I knew that, even if I got some rules wrong, I could facilitate a good session. That was the end goal and that's what I did. But still, my mistake was pretty big. I forgot about Defensive Flips. Laugh all you want, but post-session I reviewed rules and felt horrible for this. No one was making defensive flips, meaning the Iron Zombies were pretty much auto-hitting.
In addition, I wasn't adding the Rank of the NPCs to their Defense when figuring out TN for player attacks. This meant the Iron Zombies, with their Df of 8, were a TN 8 and super easy to hit instead of a TN of 13 (Df + Rank, in this case, Minion (5)). Unless I'm still wrong, this is what it should have been and that would have changed things. In the end, missing both of these things pretty much evened it out. The Zombies were auto-hitting, but so were the Fated.
The Story Continues [WARNING: SPOILERS]
The group easily dispatched both Iron Zombies. As you read above, this was largely because I made major mistakes, but also because the module doesn't have the Iron Zombies attack until round 2. I quickly learned this wasn't going to work, though I didn't realize why until I realized my mistakes later on. Around this time, one of the players decided to help the green dress lady find her son and found him pinned beneath a train car. Kata (played by Dana) recruited two others to help lift the axle off the boy and ultimately did so without incident. The alternative was the boy bleeding out in front of his mother.
This is when it got really interesting and the group surprised me. The Guild Accountant, Travis Daley, appears out of nowhere and an Iron Zombie is rushing him. The Fated didn't lift an eyebrow, let alone a finger. They were more interested in searching the train cars for their stuff regardless of the fact that I had already strongly hinted that the other zombies had made off with it. This is all just part of a group dynamic and feeling things out. I found it funny, honestly. Travis was slaughtered by the zombie who then disappeared into the night. Two and a half pages of the one-shot got skipped because of that, which is a shame, but oh well. In the end, he was useful as a campaign ally, but they aren't going to continue with these characters.
The group did manage to stitch up the guard commander, Brennus McRae, but didn't bother to rob him or anything, which I assumed they'd do after their lack of concern for Travis. Nope. Again surprised. Next up, they found the manhole cover ajar, found some lanterns in the wrecked train, and headed down into the sewers.
Into the Sewers [WARNING: SPOILERS]
I explained out ongoing challenges worked and got a volunteer for the first tracking duel. It was a success and the group was off! I didn't harp on the speed of the water rushing by in the sewer, but no one wanted to try to get across it anyway, so that was a bit of a disappointment as I thought it could be a crazy-cool moment if someone got washed away. That said, they stayed conservative.
What we did is this: after each tracking duel, someone flipped a card and told me the suit. Then I found the corresponding extra credit module in the back of the one-shot to give the players some things to encounter while they wandered the sewers. The magic mushrooms came first, which was good because one of the Fated needed some healing. Next was the corpse with the bullets, which Livvy (played by Emily) passed with flying colors. I just had to corpse animate and then collapse into dust, not shaking her at all. Thirdly was the gator, which attacked Wild Bill first and then Noel (played by Chris), who Spirit Blasted the thing into oblivion. Lastly, the rigged explosion caught one of the Fated unaware and she took some damage. The group was at 5 successful tracking duels and 3 failed tracking duels. The next duel was result in either success or total failure. They succeeded.
Again, my combat mistakes came into play as the group found the Iron Zombies who had (in the meantime) turned the captives into Undergraduates (baby zombies). It had only taken the group around 40 minutes, so it wasn't as good as it could be, but also not as bad. Kata had the initiative, but lacked a decent ranged attack, so she tried to sneak down the stairs and critically failed in doing so. Her blunder alerted all of the zombies to their presence, losing them the positive flip they would have had when taking the zombies by surprise.
I'm going to skip ahead here because with them all fighting sans defensive flips and adding ranks to npcs, it was a bit of a slaughter. Multiple Fated reached zero, but all managed to survive because I had the Undergraduates run away. I didn't want to leave a bunch of Fated corpses during our first play because of a mistake I was pretty sure (at the time) I was making.
We ended pretty quickly. We didn't have a prologue or anything like that since these players were planning on keeping these Fated. The conversation quickly jumped into "when can we make our Fated?" and I was happy about that. I told them some opportunities they had missed during the one-shot, but for the most part everyone was just happy to have "learned" the system and enjoyed it. While I now know that I made a pretty significant mistake, everything went well enough for them to want to play again in campaign form. I was happy about that.