Firelight Stories

Firelight Stories: Life of the Party

Firelight Stories is a short fiction series based on the storytelling card game Firelight. Each story is based on actual play that has occurred as we are testing the game publicly. All of the events in each story are based on actual, improvised contributions from Firelight's testers.

QUEST BACKGROUND

Today's Quest is called "Life of the Party". This Quest sees our playtesters navigating a traitorous masquerade ball hosted by deadly vampires.

Below, you can look over the Quest card's objectives and the builds used by each player in the story. If you've never played a role-playing game before, you can use this guide to see how things are done before diving into actual play yourself! If you just want to read the story without seeing the background behind it, skip to the "Life of the Party" header.

Note: The card content below is unfinished and its content is subject to change. The below descriptions represent Firelight in its roughest state - That's why we're testing! Thank you for your understanding.

DESCRIPTION:

You are attempting to join the Golden Hand, a prestigious and mysterious group of criminals whose daring heists have earned them infamy across the world. For you final task, you have been asked to infiltrate a high-society masquerade ball and steal a priceless painting. The catch? The partygoers are all vampires. You have been supplied with no money and a time limit of one night. Grab your best party clothes, infiltrate the ball and make off with the art.

QUEST PHASES:

Each Quest is split into five sequential Phases. All must be completed in order to complete the game, but it is up to the Game Master's discretion what qualifies as "completing" a Phase.

Phase 1: Collect your best party clothes - without using money.

Phase 2: Infiltrate the party.

Phase 3: Find the location of the painting and form a plan to steal it.

Phase 4: Steal the painting.

Phase 5: Escape with the painting in hand.

ADVENTURER BUILDS:

This section reveals which Adventurer, Personality, and Treasure cards each player started the game with, as well as the name chosen by each player to represent their character.

VIVIENNE

Adventurer Card: Thief

Personality Cards: 

Villainous: You are a straight-up bad person.

Snobby: You openly disdain others you deem "beneath you".

Treasure Card:

Wand of Shrinkage: Point this wand at any non-living object to either decrease it to 1/5 of its original size, or increase it to 5 times its normal size.

ANGUS

Adventurer Card: Wizard

Personality Cards:

Polymorphed: You used to be a different species of your choice, until your were transformed into a human by magic. You are still getting used to your new form.

Kleptomaniac: You like to steal.

Treasure Card:

Bottle of Spirits: A brown bottle with a label reading, "Small-Batch Bourbon, Aged 250 Years". Unstop the cork to unleash an army of angry ghosts, terrifying anyone nearby and causing chaos. You may also set the item down in hopes of triggering an NPC to open it.

LIFE OF THE PARTY

Image for the "Life of the Party" Quest, drawn by Caitlin Scannell

Image for the "Life of the Party" Quest, drawn by Caitlin Scannell

PHASE ONE

Thousands of thieves in the world, and she had to get paired with him. Vivienne cursed under her breath; the Golden Hand had really screwed her on this one. She turned slightly in the saddle of her horse to eye the figure riding next to her.

Angus the Wizard perched awkwardly on the back of his steed, one foot askew and his back slouched as if weighed down by his very bones. "I was a bird once," he had introduced himself this morning, adding "That's why I like taking shiny things!" with a twinkle in his eye.

Even as Vivienne watched, he took the reigns in his mouth with a flighty twitch of his neck, as if testing its proficiency as nesting material. Yes, of all the thieves in the world, the Golden Hand paired her with this maniac.

And what a night to receive such an unfavorable pairing. Tonight was the final hurdle for Vivienne and Angus to pass before becoming honorary members of the Golden Hand, a mysterious organization known worldwide for their brash, daring heists. Some joined the Golden Hand to get back at the elite of the world, others to steal from the rich and give to the poor. Still others signed up simply for the pageantry of it all. And Vivienne? Well, she was simple. She just wanted the power that so often comes with notoriety.

Tonight's mission was deceptively simple. Paired with a total stranger, she would have to break into a masquerade party hosted by a vampiric Queen, and steal a priceless painting. But nothing with the Golden Hand was ever quite that easy; first, she and Angus would need to find party clothes - No shopping allowed.

That's what brought them here, to the town of Bitterfang. Cloaked perpetually in the shadow of looming cliffs, Bitterfang was the first of the vampire settlements to the north, and the hub of trade between humans and vampire kind. In the hustle and bustle of trade, two missing outfits would hardly be noticed - Or so Vivienne and Angus hoped.

So they rode their steeds through the front gate, its ivory pillars looming like massive canine teeth above their horses. The pale-skinned guards let them pass, but their red eyes traced the pair continuously as they descended into the dark maw of the town.

Stone buildings funneled the thieves down a winding road leading into a teeming town square. Crowds of vendors and customers crowded the area. Children both human and vampire ran through the streets unsupervised, picking pockets and snatching red-tinged pastries from busy carts. A large fountain in the middle of the square spouted a loud stream of water (the blood had long ago been removed from the fountain as a gesture of goodwill towards the many human traders). 

Note: Each Quest in Firelight comes along with a map detailing points of interest, from buildings to non-player characters. These maps are designed to make it easy for new players to slip right in to the Game Master role. Players experienced with GM'ing a role-playing game can feel free to ignore or update these maps, or even create maps of their own.

The pair had to dismount in order to properly navigate the crowd. They tied their horses up by an inn, and entered the crowd to explore.

Angus whistled musically, impressed at the many odds and ends being sold around the area. He made sure to pick a few from the pockets of passersby as they walked deeper into the square.

"At least try to blend in," Vivienne hissed. He'd be lucky if she didn't kill him herself by the end of all this.

Across the square, a large clothing store displayed elegant gowns and suits in its window. Vivienne led Angus past, casing the store with an experienced eye. Two glass windows displaying various dresses, with one small door between them. A shopkeeper situated in the back, keeping a watchful eye over his stock. And one blood red dress in the back left-hand corner that was calling Vivienne's name.

She had a plan.

"Now Angus," she enunciated, as if telling something very important to a fidgety child. "We'll go into the store separately. You distract the shopkeeper, and I'll steal us some clothes. Deal?" "Deal!" Angus replied, and shuffled awkwardly into the store.

As Vivienne watched from outside, Angus approached the shopkeeper. "Hello sir," he began. "I'm looking for something shiny to wear to a party tonight." The shopkeeper obliged, and soon Angus had led him to the right-hand side of the store.

Vivienne slipped inside. She crouched, sneaking through racks of clothes with one hand on the hilt of her dagger. She didn't relish killing, but didn't mind it, either. Luckily the store was mostly empty today, and she was able to make it back to the red dress without conflict. Peering around to make sure she wasn't being watched, Vivienne slipped the Wand of Shrinkage from her thief's robe and pointed it at the red dress. With a whisper-quiet whoosh, the dress shrunk to just a foot tall. Vivienne quickly folded it into her robes and turned to leave.

But Angus had already started a fight. His wandering eye had caught sight of a shiny lapel pin - Great nest material, really - And he had tried unsuccessfully to steal it. Now the shopkeeper was in a rage. Worse, they still had to steal a suit for Angus. Vivienne steeled herself, prepared to use her Backstab ability if things went for the worse.

Note: The Thief's 'Backstab' Ability allows him or her to defeat an opponent without entering combat, but only if that enemy has not yet detected the Thief's presence.

Just then, an uproar overtook the store as one of the dresses started dancing. Vivienne could hardly believe her eyes as a large green dress sprung off of a clothesline of its own volition. The sleeves of the dress reached out and wound around the shopkeeper's wrists, pulling him into a theatrical dance. He started to shout, but the fabric enveloped his face, muffling his yell.

Angus gave an awkward little flourish of his hand, revealing a wand tucked up his sleeve. "It's something, isn't it?" He smiled. Then he proceeded to the men's suits and took a careful look over them. "This one... hm, no..." He puzzled over each, feeling their fabric quality at length as the shopkeeper was dragged about the store by the animated dress.

Note: The Wizard's 'Animate' Ability allows him or her to bring any inanimate object in range to life for 5 minutes. The object will do the Wizard's bidding until the end of the 5 minute timer, at which point it will return to its inanimate state.

"Come on," Vivienne yelled, grabbing Angus' sleeve and yanking him. "Just pick one already!" Angus hurriedly grabbed an emerald green suit jacket as Vivienne tugged him away. When they reached the doorway, he exclaimed and wriggled free of Vivienne's grasp. He ran back into the store, and emerged a moment later with the shiny lapel pin in hand. Together, they slunk away into the crowd, party clothes in hand.

PHASE TWO

Their clothes successfully obtained, Vivienne and Angus left the town of Bitterfang and rode north. The landscape became rocky and jagged as they neared their destination. The sun began to set in the sky, and clouds of bats blotted out what was left of the light in joyous celebration.

The sun had set and the moon sat high in the sky when they finally saw their destination: A massive castle perched atop a precarious spire of rock in the distance. The spire was entirely separated from the ground around it, connected only by a rickety bridge that crossed over a deep chasm.

A line of guests had already formed, and they were quite the sight. One group rode in a carriage made entirely from bone. Another flew in bat form encased in a massive metallic sphere being pushed by a large zombie. Many feasted on raw meat as they waited to gain entrance. Angus gulped. Even Vivienne with her ice-cold blood felt out of her element.

Still, they found their place in line and made their way across the bridge and towards the entryway of the castle. A burly vampire in a tight-fitting tuxedo stood guard at the door, a guest list in hand. He bristled and showed his long canine teeth when Vivienne and Angus approached.

"I don't recognize you," he growled. "Names?" 

"We're not on the list," Vivienne stated proudly. "And we don't need to be. We're special guests of the Queen."

The guard glowered at them, unsure of how to react to such brazenness. 

Note: When an Adventurer attempt to bluff, it is considered a Persuasion check. A middling Persuasion roll, such as a 6 or a 7, may or may not be a success as per the Game Master's discretion. Sometimes Game Masters can allow the middling check to pass, but at the cost of some imposed consequence on the Adventurers.

"Alright," the guard finally said. "If you're guests of the Queen, she can tell me that herself." He grabbed Vivienne and Angus roughly by the wrists. Angus whimpered, still expecting his bird bones to be crushed. With a jerk of his head, the doorman summoned another vampire to take his place.

"Come on," he said. "We're going to meet the Queen."

PHASE THREE

Vivienne and Angus were pulled roughly into the party by the doorman. When they entered, they could hardly believe the lavishness of their surroundings. Centuries of wealth had contributed to creating an extravagant interior unlike any other. Guests spun in dazzling dresses on a marble dance floor. Tables easily 300 yards long were strewn about the floor covered in fresh meats. A bone chandelier hung from the ceiling, and magical orbs of light floated about the room, lighting it. Above them an enchanted mural was painted on the ceiling depicting a great battle. Its vampire subjects tore at enemy werewolves, ripping them apart in an endless loop.

As they were pulled through the room, Vivienne and Angus attracted quite a few stares. They were the only guests who hadn't received masks upon entering - They had to be recognized by the Queen, after all.

They were dragged past the tables, swarming with hungry vampires. Past an "open bar" where glamoured humans stood chained to the wall, free for vampires to drain. Through the dance floor, where colorful dresses formed dazzling pinwheels as the dancers spun and turned.

A small balcony loomed over the dance floor, and atop it sat a striking figure. The Queen of the vampires looked out over her domain and smiled a toothy smile. Her bony frame was draped in a sheer dress the color of blood itself, and a black boa curled around her neck. She sipped from an ornate chalice. Two guards clad in full armor flanked her, their attention never wavering from their charge. And behind her, mounted on the wall for all to see, was a painting - The painting - Depicting the Queen.

All of this Vivienne saw between the twirls of the dancers.

Note: The Thief Adventurer has fairly sharp Perception, and can make out small details in the environment.

She nudged Angus subtly, and he gave a nearly imperceptible nod.

The pair was dragged off of the dance floor and towards a sconce mounted on the wall. With a quick look around the room, the guard pulled a handle on the sconce and a secret passage opened in the wall. They went in, and then up. A winding stone staircase led them past secret rooms and halls. Angus was beginning to feel claustrophobic in the tight stairwell; a bird just couldn't fly in a tight space like this.

Finally they reached their destination: A small door inlaid in the back wall of a long hallway. Suits of armor flanked them as they proceeded to the end of the hall. The doorman tightened his grip on their wrists and yanked them to face him.

"Now listen here," he growled. "If I see so much as one move -"

Angus moved. A suit of armor appeared in his place, its wrist wrapped up in the doorman's meaty hand. Angus had traded places with the armor using magic. Taking advantage of the doorman's confusion, Vivienne pulled a dagger from her boot and slashed at the doorman's arm. He released her with a yelp. Angus joined the fray, blasting fiery sparks from his wand and singing the doorman's face.

The lumbering vampire stumbled backwards, but retaliated quickly. Razor-sharp claws raked the air where Vivienne had stood only a moment earlier. The thief dodged deftly, rolling behind the doorman and bringing him to his knees with a sharp kick to the leg. Angus delivered the finishing blow, knocking the doorman out with a sharp rap of his wand.

The pair stood silently in the hallway for a moment, tensed and fully expecting the Queen's guards to come bursting through the door. But the guards never came. The sounds of the party outside must have drowned out the noise of their combat.

Note: The Wizard's 'Swap' Ability allows him or her to change places with an inanimate object close to the Wizard. Meanwhile, the Thief's 'Dodge' Ability allows him or her to avoid an incoming attack.

"How about a little warning next time, huh?" Vivienne hissed.

"I'm sorry," Angus retorted. "I thought I just saved us." 

Vivienne snorted, which Angus took to mean he was right. He laughed and gave her a playful pat on the back (a concealed attempt to fish her pockets for valuables - There were none). 

"Touch me again and lose an arm," Vivienne growled. Angus laughed and threw his hands in the air. "We're bonding!" He said. He genuinely did not seem to understand human interactions.

"Alright," Vivienne said. "First, no we're not. Second, that was almost definitely the painting on the other side of this door."

"True," Angus mused. "I could Swap with it, but my magic only works in a very limited radius. I could Animate it, but it's square and there isn't much it could do..." 

Vivienne cracked a wicked smile. She had clearly been ignoring him and working up her own plan. "What about that bottle in your bag?" She asked.

"What, the Bottle of Spirits?" Angus replied.

"That's the one. Get the Queen to open that, and the whole party will be in chaos. We can grab the painting, try to slip past the guards and escape back through this secret passage." Angus considered it for a moment. "Well," he said at last, "I don't think we have a much better option."

"Perfect," Vivienne smiled nastily. "I've always loved crashing a party."

PHASE FOUR

The bumbling thieves immediately went to work. Angus dragged the unconscious doorman and the suit of armor behind the door, where it would be difficult to see them. Meanwhile, Vivienne went back down the winding passage. She cracked the door behind the sconce and surveyed the party, out of sight. She waited and watched, searching for any servant pacing the floor. She didn't have to wait long before a busy-looking vampire emerged from a side room and moved towards the open bar.

Vivienne waited until a dancer's swirling dress obscured the door, and bolted out onto the dance floor. She stealthily wove between dancers, keeping the servant in her line of sight as he unhooked one of the humans at the bar and led him back towards the door. Vivienne adjusted her trajectory so that she was able to slip into the door behind the servant.

She found herself in a dimly lit and mostly empty room. There were supplies on shelves, including food and drink for the guests, but nobody else was visible in the room at the time. The vampire took the human servant to the corner. "A little off the top..." he muttered, and began to drain the human.

Vivienne cleared her throat behind the servant and he turned with a start. "Oh! Um, madam, you're not supposed to be in here!" He said, surprised.

"Ah, I'm terribly sorry," Vivienne cooed, putting on her best "innocent" voice. "I was hoping to give a gift to the Queen. Would you be able to accompany my friend and I to her chamber?"

The guard looked uncomfortable. "Um, well, the thing is," he began, "Guests aren't supposed to have access to the Queen tonight, and, um..." 

Clearly the friendly approach wasn't working. "Listen here you malignant parasite," Vivienne seethed. "I doubt that servants are supposed to be skimming off the top of the human cattle, either, so I guess this will be a night of exceptions. Won't it?" She flashed a friendly smile just to rub it in.

If the servant's face could have turned red, it almost certainly would have. He stuttered and shook before agreeing to take Vivienne up to see the Queen. And so he accompanied her back to the main room, through the dancers and up the stairs behind the sconce.

"Hello!" Angus said with a friendly smile. "I'd like to present a gift for the Queen!" He held out the Bottle of Spirits.

The servant took the bottle, gulped and opened the door to the Queen's balcony.

All eyes turned towards them. The two guards immediately unsheathed their swords and crossed them to protect the Queen, whose red eyes seemed to pierce the very air. The servant bowed his head and extended the Bottle of Spirits before him in offering. Vivienne and Angus inched into the room behind him until they were nearly standing beneath the painting.

"Um, m-m-madam," the servant stuttered. "These g-guests would like to o-o-offer you -" The Queen waved her arm and he fell silent. She motioned her guards aside and approached the servant, plucking the bottle gently from his hands. "A gift," she finished for him. Her voice rasped like two bones grinding against one another.

"Dismissed," she said curtly, and the servant graciously bowed his head as he practically ran back into the hallway.

"What a lovely gesture," the Queen continued, her piercing gaze now resting on Vivienne and Angus alone. "But the Queen never accepts gifts from a stranger. And I don't believe we've met."

Without a word, the guards yanked Vivienne and Angus onto the balcony and took up position behind them, blocking the door. There was no escape.

The Queen handed the bottle to Angus. He took it from her, and was suddenly pulled off the ground. The Queen wrapped a hand around his throat, lifting him off the ground. Her sharp nails dug into him and her bright red eyes bored right into his head. 

"Drink it," she ordered.

Angus almost laughed. What luck! He smiled at the Queen and said, as clearly as he could with her hand on his throat, "Cheers." He popped the cork from the Bottle of Spirits.

The bottle erupted from Angus' hand, propelled into the air by an iridescent green stream of angry ghosts. It rocketed across the ceiling, spraying grisly phantoms all across the ballroom. They dive bombed the guests and terrorized the guards, screaming and shrieking. Their ghostly voices sounded like nails on a chalkboard.

The Queen dropped Angus, shocked. The guards swung their swords, but couldn't hit the ephemeral ghosts. By the time the Queen could shout "Kill them!", Vivienne had already pulled the painting from its mount on the wall.

PHASE FIVE

The party was in chaos. Guests fled through the door or transformed into bats, and the humans chained to the bar awoke from their glamour and freed themselves. Only the Queen was undeterred, resolute in her rage. 

She charged. Vivienne attempted to flee past the guards, who were busy fending off spirits, and into to hallway. The painting was too big, though, and it smacked against the door. With that, the Queen was upon her. Vivienne dodged the first attack, but the second sent her reeling. Angus recovered his breath and dove in to help. He shot out a shower of sparks at the Queen, damaging her, but she reeled around and slashed him. As she struck Angus, the burns from the sparks seemed to heal. Some dark magic was healing the Queen as she damaged her foes.

Note: The Vampire Queen can drain health from enemies.

Vivienne and Angus knew they were outmatched. The Queen would keep hitting them, and keep healing herself as she did. A Thief and a Wizard were ill-equipped to deal with such a powerful enemy on their own. They had to escape instead.

The Queen attacked again, but Vivienne deflected by holding up the painting. Taking advantage of the Queen's moment of indecision, Angus grabbed Vivienne and pulled her away from the Queen, towards the edge of the balcony.

"What are you doing?" Vivienne yelled. "Flying!" Angus yelled back. He grabbed her and leaped off of the balcony.

Time seemed to stand still for a moment as the pair soared through the air, painting held aloft. Then Angus blasted the chandelier with a spell. It sprung to life, and swung itself out to meet them. Vivienne grabbed the chandelier with one hand, holding the painting in another. Angus grabbed onto her leg, dangling over the teeming dance floor below. He waved his wand, and the chandelier lowered itself - And them - To safety. It then retreated back up to its original location on the ceiling.

The Queen had recovered from her sleight by now, and roared angrily. With a puff of smoke she transformed into a bat and hurtled down to the dance floor to meet the thieves. Behind them, guards came pouring in through the main entrance. They wouldn't be able to get out the same way they had come in.

"Distract the guards," Vivienne ordered. "I'll find us a way out!" She took off towards the nearest door, painting in hand. Angus was left alone as the Queen descended in front of him, and guards circled behind him.

"There's nowhere to go now!" The Queen yelled, and her commanding voice could be heard even over the cacophony of the flying spirits. She attacked. Angus tried to fend her off, but the guards fell upon him from behind. He was trapped where he stood, and it was all he could do to withstand the attacks.

He needed to escape. As a guard swung his sword, Angus ducked beneath him. He almost managed to get free of the tangle, but the Queen dragged him back in, throwing him to the floor. Angus rolled, and a sword cleaved the ground where his head had been, sending up a shower of sparks. The guards moved to surround him again. The Queen closed in.

Just then, a shout cut through the air.

"Hey, Queen!" It was Vivienne. She was standing by a doorway behind them, and she held her dagger up against the sconce that was supporting the chandelier. "Party's over." She sliced the chain supporting the chandelier and the whole thing came crashing down. Angus rolled out of the way as the chandelier crushed the Queen beneath it. The shrapnel from the impact sent guards rolling. Angus took off towards the door, and together he and Vivienne ran into a back room.

"I thought you were going to abandon me!" Angus shouted above the cacophony behind them. "Yeah, well I definitely considered it," Vivienne yelled back. They ran down a long hallway that led towards the side of the castle. "Where are we going?" Angus asked. "Secret passage," Vivienne said. "We can get outside through here."

She led Angus to a side door, where the painting stood propped up against the wall. "Hold this," Vivienne said, and got out her lockpicking tools. "Door's locked." Within seconds the lock had been discarded onto the ground and the door was open.

The thieves opened the door to a chaotic scene. Guests were still fleeing the castle, and only so many could fit over the rickety bridge at a time. They pushed their way into the crowd, frantically making their way towards the bridge. They passed a few guards, but nobody had the time to process the painting being stolen with all of the angry spirits around. After what seemed like an eternity, the pair reached the other side of the bridge safely. They took off, fleeing up the side of a nearby mountain to a cave, where they had stashed their horses. In the distance they could hear the Queen roaring with rage.

They had escaped.

EPILOGUE

One year later, Vivienne the Vicious and Angus the Animal had become legends of the Golden Hand. Their exploits were whispered by children under the cover of night and plastered on Wanted posters across the land. Though Vivienne had played at wanting to go their separate ways, secretly she was actually pleased when Angus begged her to stay together. It seemed the Golden Hand had found her a worthy a partner, after all.

The pair shared a roving caravan, travelling everywhere, never stationary. They couldn't afford to be in the same place for any longer than it took to fleece the locals for everything they had. What they stole they either sold or gave back to the poor. All except one piece - The ornate painting hanging above their beds in that tiny caravan.