This week's session - and, unfortunately, the whole story arc - was hampered by logistical problems. We had one player missing from the whole story arc, another only available intermittently, and a third sick for nearly half of it. Last night's session was a good one anyways, but I think despite every session of the story arc being successful, the story arc as a whole was not particularly so.
The session ended up being rather disjointed due to two players being absent and one arriving halfway through the session - and one of the absent players had a major chunk of plot hanging off him, which kind of cut the story arc short. Instead of having three plots going on, we were reduced down to two, and one of them had been mostly resolved in the previous session. They had successfully found an acceptable solution for the problem of the Praetorian Guard, and the plot involving Caracalla, Geta and the three athletes was mostly related to players who weren't here last night. They did have quite a time dealing with the death of Lucretia Valeria, but there was one PC who wasn't at all involved in that particular plot, so we were a bit at loose ends.
We managed to handle things and had some absolutely magnificent scenes, and I was rather proud of the way that I tried to integrate the various plots tactically. For example, Balachandra had saved Geta's life last session, so as co-Emperor, Geta wanted to reward him. This ended up causing political trouble for the PCs as it made it seem like they were taking sides in the Caracalla-Geta conflict while they had to remain neutral to see the Praetorians appropriately disposed of. This tied the Caracalla/Geta plot together with the Praetorian Guard plot nicely! Another example was about the death of Lucretia Valeria. A member of the group opposed to the PCs used this as an opportunity to make a client out of one of Quintus's childer, and now has their nose firmly poked into the Fifth District. I imagine this conflict will escalate slowly over time, which is nice, and it tied their larger political issues into their Fifth District woes. Finally, there were some great personal scenes with people, as when Netikerti (Remius's long-time lover) made a suggestion to Idir which practically made his hair stand on end . . . .
Strategically, though, the story arc didn't quite have the shape I'd hoped for. At the end of last session, Rufus of the Four Pillars had announced that he was going to oppose the PCs, and the PCs had a whole plan for how they were going to deal with him and with public opinion. I'd hoped to have this session be an escalating conflict between the opposing group and the PCs, but the players stubbornly refused to pick up on any of the hints I was dropping on them. Their opponents spread rumors of civil war in Parthia, got spies into the camps of the PCs' friends, and have managed to screw over someone the PCs tacitly agreed to protect. But somehow the PCs just refused to follow up on any of this stuff, and I couldn't keep throwing stuff at them without continuing to escalate the attacks to a point where I wasn't willing to go. I wanted this story to be about them being successful at manipulating the large-scale politics of Rome, and they were. But their ignoring the events of this story arc cut it short so that it ended relatively undramatically - and it will have consequences for them in the future. Two direct results of their actions? A temporary imposition of martial law, and an agreement made between Alliances that does not benefit them in the long term. But there will be more personal consequences later. It doesn't do to ignore one's enemies - all the more so when one isn't even sure who they are.
Nevertheless, the lack of narrative closure in this story arc was extremely frustrating for me, and I'm not pleased with how I ran things. I know there's only so much you can do, particularly when a major tenet of the game is about giving as much narrative control as possible to the players, but I'm still frustrated. Between the logistics problems and the players ignoring half the plot I threw at them, I felt like this wasn't really a story arc at all, just a couple of good conjoined sessions.