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Fortunately I had planned quite a structured core for the session, which meant it was no problem keeping everyone busy, and there wasn't much scope for secret squirrelling in the scenario to start with. The basic concept was that the party were participating in a quasi-trial as part of the local baron's council proceedings, to determine whether to require them to undergo trial by ordeal or similar, on suspicion of murder. (They were actually innocent of the murders for which this process was convened, but some of them were guilty of other murders which then got mentioned.) So first there were some NPC monologues setting the scene (one at first looked like a shocking betrayal of the party - their NPC companion had been possessed by an undead spirit the night before), then each PC got a chance to speak (and when one of the PCs went all PvP about it, two others got a brief chance to reply - in theory - but one of them being the A-ref's PC, I had him be beaten senseless by the guards first as he was the prime suspect, so he didn't say anything of note).
Overall it was a great session, because a lot of planning went into it. I had planned out the dice-rolls we needed to make before we got the session-proper under way. I had set up a map of the council chamber and nearby rooms and corridors with figures in case the PCs decided to fight their way out (all but one being unarmed, against 30 or so enemies... but I reckon they might have managed it at a heavy Fate cost). I had covered up the bits the PCs couldn't see (including at first the main council chamber, so I could unveil it when they entered). And I had thought through plenty of key stuff. One of the players in particular felt "tense - in a good way" at the end of the session, which I guess means they got swept up into the spirit of things (immersion!).
I guess it's useful to have had this experience of running a session without the a-ref after so many a-reffed sessions, at least to confirm my views on the importance of having an a-ref. Although the session was a very good one, there were plenty of times when it was a minor irritation not to have an a-ref, both during the Baron's council proceedings (when I wanted the a-ref there to play a key NPC to advise the Baron and help mix things up a little), and afterwards (when there was some potential for separating the party and for secret squirrelling, which had to be downplayed because of having no a-ref). But I think that I got off lightly as far as the consequences of having no a-ref went, because the session was so structured (unusually so, certainly, by the standards of this campaign).
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