Through some detective work, the PCs have traced various strange crimes in town to be the work of an eccentric clown at the carnival. Paying a visit when the carnival is closed, the PCs find the culprit on stage in the main tent with several charmed youths in-between. After a quick back-and-forth dialogue with the PCs, the clown employs similar magics to that used on the youths. A battle of wills begins as the PCs try to shrug off the charms and capture the criminal clown without having to hurt any of the charmed youths.
It's quite possible that, until now, all interaction scenarios in your campaign have involved more traditional communication efforts - diplomacy, intimidation, bluffing, and the like. In this scenario, however, the interaction system is used to model resisting the villain's powerful mind-affecting spells. Plays made from both sides should reflect this; the PCs seek to bolster their willpower while trying to help the youths snap out of it. Magic-using PCs might fight spell with spell, but traditional PC Actions should be flavored as efforts to distract or discourage the villain, beating back the mental control and overcoming the tricks and illusions.
It's largely up to you to set the stage properly for this. Take the initiative in describing the outcomes of plays in this manner. Imagine some specific illusions, tricks, and charms your villain will employ and have them prepared ahead of time so you don't have to try to come up with something in the moment. Once you've run a few interaction scenarios like this, the flavor gets easier, especially as the players catch on and join in with their own ideas.
The setup for the scenario helps; the Debate Counter cannot be used to win the scenario, and the Opponents in play generally don't try to advance it toward defeat. It's thoroughly a battle of wills and a fight against time.
|Conditions||Mystic is defeated|
Seating - Ring - Stage
Seating: No effect.
Ring: PCs may skip drawing a card at the start of their turn to gain Piercing 1 to an Action played that turn (if 3 PCs) or reduce the Damage dice level on the target's Reaction by 1 (if more than 3 PCs).
Stage: An entity that plays a Reaction having a trait other than Comical against a Charming Action loses 1 WP.
The Mystic (clown) will wait on the Stage. If no PCs are within range, it will play Soothsayer's Whispers if there are any PCs that can benefit from a positive Debate Counter (such as a Bard or Scoundrel); otherwise it will draw cards and bide its time, playing Mind Fog on a PC that reaches the Ring and Eyes of Charm on one that reaches the Stage.
The Mystic prefers to impose Controlled on PCs that can deal high damage rather than Counter-moving specialists. It might target a Dignitary to prevent healing, but only if it still has some other source of damage available (such as cards in its hand or some remaining allies).
Remaining Opponents will focus on blocking Movement and whittling down PC HP. Opponents in Seating will follow the PCs to the Ring, then split between the Ring and the Stage once the PCs have advanced all the way. This allows the Mystic to bounce between positions with Misdirect as needed.
The PCs overcome the clown's horrid magics. It likely offers no futher resistance and can be brought in by the PCs to face justice. PCs should be rewarded with Wealth, Karma, an Asset, or a combination of the above.
The easiest approach is that the PCs flee before the clown's magics take full hold. If you want defeat to mean the clown's charms enthrall the PCs, warn them of this ahead of time and give them the option to flee early if things aren't going well. The clown is able to get away, possibly with one or more of its enthralled victims; the PCs might lose out on rewards, or they may have to take additional time and run more scenarios before they can capture the villain.
If the PCs are charmed, you might skip way ahead to whatever event breaks the PCs free of the control; now the PCs must figure out what has happened in the meantime. There are two issues with this approach. First, you'd be planning a drastically different adventure, so only take this route if you're creating the adventure from session to session anyway rather than having a completed outline to follow. Second, many players may have serious issues with their PCs being enthralled and performing all sorts of activities without their consent. Most mind-affecting magics disallow the enthralled to be subjected to any sort of harm without breaking the enchantment, but this could still be highly troubling for many players. Proceed with care, if it's worth proceeding in this direction at all.
You can mix up the listed mooks in various ways if you want; for instance against 3 PCs you could have a Gossip and one or two Spirited Youths, and against five players you could swap two Assistants for a Gossip and two or three Spirited Youths. Having more mooks increases overall scenario difficulty due to how the Mystic functions and the inability to win by Debate Counter. This is unlikely an issue at higher player counts, though, since the PCs have more ways of increasing the Round Limit and dealing with enemy abilities.
It might be tempting to allow for a Debate Counter victory, representing the party's spellcasters outperforming the Mystic's magics. This could be particularly interesting if the party includes a Priest and a Magician (the Occultist is unlikely to be especially helpful in that regard). However, there's a few things to note if you take that approach. First, the Mystic's Eyes of Charm Action actually moves the Debate Counter toward victory rather than defeat. You might accept this, determining that this spell breaks the long-term enthrallment in favor of a short-term burst of control. However, you might also feel that it defeats what you're trying to simulate; in this case you should remove this property, but perhaps add an Argue entry of 1d12 so the PC has a chance to resist the effect. Additionally, PCs such as the Dignitary and Merchant are adept at moving the Counter but not typically considered to be wielders of magic, at least not at level 2. If you have such PCs in your party, you'll need to come up with an explanation for this. One option could be that they're assisting ally magics take hold by using their words to reinforce the illusions and charms.
If you do decide that a Debate Counter victory is more what you want, eliminate the Round Limit and change the Mystic's behavior so that it uses Soothsayer's Whispers whenever possible, only relying on its other Actions if it has cards in hand that advance the Counter. At higher player counts you'll probably need to give it some help in this regard, so consider including Students or Acolytes as accomplices.