- In Urban Shadows, a block party which provides cover for a vital ritual.
- In Monsterhearts, a prom where the PCs get roped into the set up and preparation.
- In Legacy, a ritual festival which serves as a step in ceasing hostilities between factions. (or just the opposite, see The Red Wedding).
You have lots of interesting tasks and activities for the PCs before the party even happens. It’s a good time to look for obscure contacts, skills, and abilities and put those to use. When I GM, I usually set things up so the PCs have to divide and conquer these tasks. The “face” character can’t do everything, so each PC has to stand up.
24 Hour Party-Planning People
Below I’ve listed some parts of party prep with suggestions for questions and complications. If you’re particularly ambitious, you might write up custom moves for these segments. For example,
When you go to find a location for the party, roll. On a 10+ you can secure a site in time and within budget. Work with the GM to say what it is. Choose three of the following features: excellent acoustics, dance floor, hidden side entrances, dance floor, private rooms, stunning décor, easily secured, secret, vast kitchens, excellent vantage points, grandly spacious, warded, raised stage, (other). On a 7-9 you may pick two of the features, but you must also select a complication: in disrepair, costly, too open, cursed, squatters, poor plumbing, bad reputation, (other). On a miss, you secure the location. Pick one feature and the GM picks two complications. Additionally select one problem which will pop up during the party: something breaks, uninvited guest, or unwelcome attention.
THEME: Is there a distinct, obvious theme or something more subtle? What message do you want to convey? Who do you want to impress? Is there a hidden story you want to tell? What will you need to present that theme (costumes, decorations, entertainment, etc). If the theme’s been assigned to you, how can you make it yours? Complications: theme offends someone important, it’s been done recently, or it invokes something supernatural.
GUEST LIST: Who will be central to the party’s success? Who do you want to impress? If you’re matchmaking, how do you clear the way for the two parties to meet? Who do you have no choice about being there? If you’re trying to fan the flames, what opposed guests could be reasonably invited without making your purpose obvious? Who will make the party fun? Complications: Patron demands problematic attendees, there’s another event going on in competition, a new rivalry breaks out just before the event.
INVITATIONS: What’s cool about your physical invitations (paper, art, perfume, script, enchantment, etc) How do you craft an invitation that compels them to attend? How do you deliver the invitations? How do you ensure they get into the right hands? Do you keep some invitations back to use as a currency? Complications: someone works behind the scenes to intercept your invitations, your enchantments go wrong and one invitee is cursed, some invitations go to the wrong people?
BEVERAGES AND FOOD: What kinds of dishes and drinks reinforce the theme? Do you prepare things off or on site? Where do you store the food? Who will be doing the serving? Can you tune particularly courses to impress certain people? Who is letting people in and keeping people out? Complications: food spoilage, temperamental chef or bartender, local authorities require licenses (or bribes).
DECORATIONS: What kinds of decorations sell the theme? Can you do this with boughten items, handcrafted materials, or a mix of the two? How long will it take to get these put up? Will the space actually support the décor you want? How do you ensure it isn’t clichéd? What kinds of magics do you imbue these with? Complications: delivered materials aren’t what was ordered, site require major cleaning or remodeling to make this work, decorations create an unexpected synergistic effect.
MUSIC/ENTERTAINMENT: Do you have music? Is it live, recorded, a DJ? Is it going on the whole time or after a certain point? If there’s dancing, are your musicians up on the latest things? Do you need some kind of mundane or magical sound system? If there’s a performance, when does it happen? Where will it take place? What message do you hope to convey? Complications: drunken fiddle players, act not as advertised, seditious performers.
ARRIVAL: How do you greet your guests? Who comes first? Who comes last? Who arrives at the same time together that shouldn’t? How do you get your guests oriented and seated? When do the festivities actually start? Where do they park/hang their coats? Do guests get gift bags? What about those who show up to crash the party? Complications: someone tries to sneak in, an important guest tries to sneak in, someone brings an unexpected entourage.
MIXING: How do you keep the conversations going? Who do you maneuver into contact with each other? How do you keep your crowd lubricated but still sober? Who presents themselves as the host? How do you keep trouble from breaking out? Complications: a guest becomes toshed way too early, someone slanders another guest, someone’s murdered.
DANCES: If there’s dancing, what kind is it? How long does it go on? Is there a big showpiece dance? How do you arrange dance partners? Where do those who don’t want to dance stand or sit? How do you arrange dalliances? Complications: bump leads to dueling challenge, terrible dancer, dance-floor shyness.
DINNER: How have you seated everyone? What message does that send? Who serves the food and who gets theirs first? Are their toasts? How many courses are there? Is there a dessert? How do you manage conversations during dinner? Complications: food allergies, terrible table manners, shortages.
HIGHLIGHT MOMENT: If you’ve got a big event you’re leading to-- a speech, a ceremony, gift-giving, public accusation, magic ritual, proposal, etc—when do you have it go off? How do each of the PCs work to have this go off without a hitch? Complications: someone’s decided this is perfect time to murder everyone, a guest pulls off a mark to reveal another identity, suddenly the lights go out!
If you’ve hit the high-points at the party itself, you may want to skip over this. But if you want to bring things back to earth, think about these points:
- Dealing with the Uninvited: As above, but this time there’s no way to bring them into the event. Managing recriminations, accusations, and rivalries.
- Clean Up: Who actually cleans the site? What about permanent damage to the location? What if there’s a time crunch, the need to hide what happened, or the people they hired just don’t show up?
- Capitalizing: Striking while the iron is hot on social bonds and relationships. Does this event push others to do similar ones?
In our most recent Changeling the Lost PbtA session, one of the Princes tasked the PCs with putting together a party for thirteen people. They had no other guidelines, but knew it would be a ritual event. They settled on a theme of “superstitions” and invited guests appropriately (for example Abyssinian Max, the black cat beast fey). To decorate they used mismatched tarot cards drawn from an endless magical deck. We devoted a session to planning and a session to playing out the party.
To show how they’re invocation of the tarot had accidentally created a magical resonance, I created four custom moves. Each is linked to a Major Arcana. At the high point of the party, I had each character choose a card and roll the move, selecting if it targeted them or someone else. Then, based on those results I had a custom move to resolve the event as a whole. This wasn’t too much work—it took about 45 minutes to put together and paid off huge.
When you invoke the Star, roll with Humanity if you invoke upon yourself and Power if you invoke upon another. On a 10+ you gain inspiration. Complete your XP track immediately. Additionally you gain a skill you’ve always desired (the ability to speak French, mastery of driving, expertise in cooking). On a 7-9, you gain the skill as above, but you must sacrifice another skill for it. Name something you can’t do. If you try to do that, you must roll Inner Turmoil first. Mark clarity. On a miss, you feel fate reweave itself against you. Mark two moods (choice) and clarity. Choose one of the two moods you marked, it will require a sacrifice to clear that.
When you invoke the Lovers, roll with Humanity if you invoke upon yourself and Power if you invoke upon another. On a 10+ the subject of your attentions will be aware of your feelings in the most positive way. This will not change their emotion, but may assist. Take +1 Ongoing for social interactions with them. On a 7-9, they can make this revelation, but they must sacrifice their memory of someone in the Freehold. If they cannot or will not, they mark clarity. On a miss, they create animosity, misunderstanding and hostility with someone they care about. They take -1 Ongoing to interact with them and must roll Inner Turmoil when encountering them. Mark Clarity.
When you invoke Justice, roll with Humanity if you invoke upon yourself and Power if you invoke upon a guest. On a 10+, you will find yourself promoted to an office within your Court. Fates will conspire to gain you this recognition. On a 7-9, you will gain the promotion but it comes with an unpleasant or questionable task you must undertake. Mark clarity. If you decide not to complete the task, you do not gain the position and will fill your clarity track. On a miss, you find yourself the target of ire from one of the Courts. Evidence appears apparently proving your involvement. Until you settle this matter, roll inner turmoil when trying to deal with non-PC members of that court. Mark clarity.
When you invoke the Hanging Woman, roll with Humanity if you invoke upon yourself and Power if you invoke upon another. On a 10+ your subject reveals one secret they have been hiding from others present. Additionally, they will gain something about themselves they have been striving for: a change in appearance, wealth, physical feature, etc. On a 7-9, they’re only partially freed from their obligations and worries. They must choose one PC to reveal a hidden truth to and mark clarity. On a miss, they’re trapped in their direction and journey. Fill their clarity track and mark both humanity and power.
When you enact the ritual party for the Freehold, roll with -1 for every invocation made on a guest and +1 for every invocation made on a PC (max +3). On a 10+ you enact the ritual with panache and style. No one is made the scapegoat of the ritual. The portents are excellent for the coming season. The next time you petition for aid from a threat, that Court will believe you of the seriousness. The Spring Court owes all of you a debt. Mark 2 XP. On a 7-9, your success is within reach. You must choose: A) offer up a one of the guests to the twisted fate. Bad things will happen to them. Mark clarity. You must roll Inner Turmoil before dealing with them because of your guilt. B) sacrifice no one to the fates. Instead the twisted fate will strike the Freehold and a new threat will arise. The Spring Court will know your role in this. Mark clarity.
On a miss, one of the guests is sacrificed to the ritual without your choice or intervention. The will suffer a dire fate now or in the immediate future. Spring’s turning will come, but it will be neither auspicious nor inauspicious. Fill your Clarity track and mark two states. The scapegoat may return in another form to extract payment from you.
For the video of the party prep session, see here
For video of the actual party, see here