I’ll take you through each episode of the Headmaster Ritual and explain a little about the process of running and playing this game.
A Little Background
- Part one of the GM notes, explaining the inspiration for this series, is available here.
- I’ve also released an Appendix N for the Headmaster Ritual.
- My Google Doc (this is everything I did for the series that was not made up by myself or the players on the fly) is embarassingly small and fragmentary.
Please check out the previous GMs notes for some information on the pre-series work. It’s worth noting that this was actually the second session that we played with these characters. The first, which was unrecorded, included some background on their ties.
Basically, this episode was recorded on a warm spring evening. We all sat around my old house in Hyannis and drank beers and listened to music and imagined that we were somewhere else. I had just finished a Morrissey reading binge, and the relationship between him and the other members of the Smiths was on my mind. What if the Smiths replaced Morrissey with a girl singer after they split? What if all the work they put into album art was on purpose?
The confluence of music and magic is an interesting one. I picked music that I think of as sort of peripheral to the Smiths to play in the background. The Spotify playlist is below.
Steven Riley joined us as Alphonse Callahan for most of the remainder of the series.
There is a real life model for Liliana Bunt – Jo Slee. In the aforementioned, unrecorded roleplay session where they set up their characters, I asked the three of them to come up with demons. The monster at the end was from Gino’s description. I believe that Gino’s mind is so ripe with monster descriptions that he literally forgot about it. Andrew’s idea was a feline entity that ate the tongues of liars – this was supposed to be Bast but I wasn’t ever able to pay off the tongues of liars thing. Chris came up with a tricky, Loki type figure, whom I tried to express as Daddy Lowkey.
Thomas Lavinius was sort of meant to be an Alan Moore-esque figure. The idea for them all being turned into cats was again inspired by a Vertigo Comic, Sandman #18, A Dream of a Thousand Cats. (Such a good story). Look for my new bespoke pickle start up, watercumber.com launching Early 2017.
Episode 4 & 5
This was great fun to record. The villainous doctor and key 17 are largely stolen wholesale from the Invisibles trade paperback “Entropy in the UK.”
We decided to switch to FATE Accelerated in this episode – we weren’t familiar with FATE and our only sourcebook was The Dresden Files RPG. Since there was going to be a lot of mechanical in this session, it was simpler to maximize the speed and fun than to try and master FATE proper. I’m aware that FATE is actually a pretty simple system – however, given we had no experience and limited preparation time, I think we made the right choice.
Gino sent me the following text for episode 6:
Martins flat is a decent size. Built for one person but not very large. The entry opens up to a main room with hardwood floors and a large picture window. The wallpaper is forest and muted mint green vertical stripes and is peeling off the wall in some parts. There’s a standup globe that opens up to store alcohol. There’s currently a bottle of brandy in it with two glasses. One of the glasses is broken. There’s a few painting on the walls. Nothing notable. Make up something to be on the paintings. There’s one painting that is of a large corridor with a gaping maw of a doorway that leads to a deep inky blackness. If they investigate that one there is a safe inside it. The combination is 2.37.26.
There is a dog bowl on the floor that reads “James” on it. On the bottom side it reads 2.37.26
Also strewn about the floor and tabletops bookshelves etc. are an uncountable amount of cut up bits of multiple library cards.
Inside the safe is a VERY expensive INCREDIBLY high quality violin. The PERFECT violin. The kind you imagine the devil himself would play. Stood up against it is a letter that reads “My dearest Martin, Good luck with your performance tonight. Xoxo, Ithaca.”
There’s music sheets all over the place and directly in front the window is a stand with some sheets of music on it. Also a lot of papers are crumples up. There are several bookcases in the room filled with books and just stacks of books up to 5 feet high all over the place There is a bathroom that seems completely ordinary and a kitchen that holds nothing of interest.
There is what looks like a locked white closet door in the room with peeling paint that when opened leads to a narrow stairway going up to a second floor. This floor has a main room and past it a bedroom. The main room has an easel and paints and pencils and art supplies. Lots of windows for natural light. The floor are spattered with paint as well as some on the walls. There are a lot of paintings and drawings but none of them very good. Several of someone who kind of looks like Ithaca. Other people too. Random places and people. Some animals. Nothing fantastic. On the easel is a half finished painting of Martin and Ithaca with a photograph taped to the top left corner of it. The photograph is of them both at a bar and Martin is in the middle of sipping from his glass and looking up at the camera while Ithaca has an arm around him and is laughing. There’s a glowing neon sign in the background of the photo that says “O’Rourke’s”. On the back of the photo is says “Our special place” in a feminine hadwriting.
In his bed room there is a birdcage that looks like there has never been a bird in it. There’s another large window and one of the curtains is halfway burned. His bed doesn’t look like it’s often used but it does look VERY soft and comfortable. It is. In the side table next to his bed there are several letters from Ithaca with her address on them but the drawer is locked. The key is under the newspaper on the bottom of the birdcage. There’s an ordinary violin in an open case by the bed and another broken one partially under the bed.
That’s Martins apartment. Anything else you need?
I was genuinely impressed by the solution Andrew came up with for defeating the Outer Church. I can usually rely on these guys to be self-limiting. Generally, they will talk themselves of any wild, far reaching solutions.
I wasn’t really happy with all the plot threads that I left hanging after this episode. I’d love to return to this world some time. It’s very similar to the universe I would have all my games inhabit if I could.
Let me know if you enjoyed this article or found it helpful – @thewatermethod on Twitter.