Game Prep: ConsOps Session 01a

Did some character review and have made a suggestion to one of the players – McKay is really a drone guy so he shouldn’t be in the field. No, he should be in the rear with all of the gear, so I’ve recommended to the player that we semi-retire McKay – he’ll get promoted to a desk – and that player take over another character (albeit, one I radically rebuilt using the GURPS: SEALs in Vietnam book) whose player has permanently left the group. This way, the player can be a more active participant when the inevitable shooting begins, and we can then circle back around to McKay helping as appropriate. So, for example, if the PCs are engaged in a firefight in Syria and call in a drone strike, that player can roll the results since it’ll be probable that McKay is the one piloting said drone.

I’ve also spun up a modified Shooter that’s basically a rip-off of Sameen Shaw from Person of Interest for the player who may or may not be joining us.

That alters the group dynamics slightly to the below:

  • Ilan Baum – Israeli (Mossad) Assassin – (principally a sniper, I think); Team Lead since he has the highest rank
  • Raymond Hurt – American Shooter (US Army Delta Force – he didn’t use the Shooter template, though)
  • Fearghus Mahoney – British (MI5) CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear) expert; former SAS
  • Adam Vega – Australian (ASIS) Wheelman and super-pilot, likely ex-military
  • Mackenzie Reilly – American Shooter (US Navy SEAL – not using the Shooter template)
  • Nadya Shaw – American (ISA) Shooter with serious medical skills (I did use the Shooter template for her)

This means that the group is very combat-oriented which requires me to make a few alterations to my original plan which was more … spy-like. With this group as construed, the only character who could really fit the “spy” role is probably Baum, the Mossad assassin, but his social skills frankly kind of stink (which means he’s basically just the guy you send in to kill someone.) One of our players – Gigermann, who plays Hurt – developed a social engineering spreadsheet some years ago that carries over throughout all of our games and is an especially useful tool for the GM and if you glance over the ConsOps one, you can see that their social capabilities are … minimal, to say the least.

Which should mean that I ramp up the combat and ramp down any social interactions, but I don’t know if I’m actually going to do that. My intent throughout this entire arc is for the characters to feel like they’re out of their depth and really struggling to keep from drowning, so forcing them to do some social stuff is probably a good way to do that. Of course, since they pretty much all suck at most of it, I’ll have to expect combat to ensue shortly thereafter when, for example, Baum or Mahoney fail on a Fast-Talk check.

And that sort of reminds me. With my previous post, I made the presumption that any potential readers would know what I was thinking with regards to the ‘master plan’ or the story arc. Clearly, that’s not necessarily the case. In a previous post, I outlined my overall campaign idea, but since then, I’ve streamlined and enhanced it somewhat … and will probably continue doing so. Overall, it’s expected to play out like this:

  • Begin in media res with the unsanctioned operation in Syria to confirm a bioweapon (which is already gone – it’s been taken by the “Bad Guys”).
  • Back to base of operations, which is Haifa, Israel, where the PCs end up receiving a new mission, this one for info gathering. By necessity, I may have to allow some time to pass, depending on whether any of the characters are wounded in Syria.
  • Info-gathering op takes PCs to a couple of places in Egypt – Port Said to start. This was originally intended to be a covert op, with the PCs (hopefully) doing sneaky spy stuff but the characters aren’t especially great at that so I may have to revise this and turn it into more of a combat operation. In fact, with what comes next, that may actually make more sense in an “Ethan Hunt blows up Moscow at the beginning of MI: Ghost Protocol” … which, by the way, has a name that has a striking similarity to the Phantom Doctrine game and my subtitle for this arc: Shadow Directive. Not that such a thing is totally intentional or anything…
  • Following the jaunt to Egypt, PCs return to Israel where they converse with my old PC, Quinn (who was a blatant ripoff of Phil Coulson from the MCU) via teleconference. Quinn reveals he’s in Jerusalem at the American Embassy – the current POTUS officially moved our embassy there last year so … thanks, Mr. President, I guess? Makes my game easier. In mid-sentence, the transmission ends and PCs will learn that the embassy has been bombed!
  • Presuming that the PCs go to Jerusalem … but I probably shouldn’t make such a presumption. Will need to bake in a reason to push them to go there. At the hospital where Quinn is being operated on – he’s really jacked up and surgeons aren’t confident he’ll make it (Spoiler: he probably won’t. I’m harder on my own PCs than any GM, I think), but PCs should see one of the dudes they trailed in Egypt exiting with a super-secure briefcase they recognize as belonging to Quinn. Cue chase/fight scene.
  • PCs are later contacted by their DDO (Deputy Director of Operations) who reveals the dude they just whacked is a DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency, the spy agency for the American DoD) agent and people are screaming for their heads. After hearing their side of the story, including the Egypt op info, he gives them 24 hours to prove the dead guy was dirty. 
  • Now, originally, I was planning on having a team of SEALs to hit the PCs “cover base” after the above ‘clear their names’ op, but now, I’m thinking it should happen while they’re conducting that. Yeah. That makes more sense. The PCs are in Egypt when one of them gets a text from McKay – the drone/hacker PC who I expect will be retired from active play – that says something like GET OUT. TEAM BURNED U77 COMING. DON’T CALL HOME. U77 will be a reference to the Egyptian Special Forces Unit 777. Cue action/gunfight, with PCs having to get clear while hopefully not dying.
  • Following this, PCs will learn – somehow – that their primary cover IDs have been thoroughly burned and Interpol has issued Red Notices on them. Everybody is gunning for them and they need to go to ground. Somehow, they’ll need to get into contact with their DDO – or he gets in contact with them, maybe – where he will reveal that their organization has been compromised by … someone. The DDO issues a ‘Shadow Directive’ which instructs the PCs to go off the grid, locate & neutralize the bioweapon from earlier, and take out the parties involved. This is probably where he’ll also reveal that Quinn died on the operating table so now (hopefully) it’s personal.
  • With the intel the PCs should have at this point, they’ll be pointed to Somalia where the large cargo ship that was being used to secretly transport the bioweapon has been seized by pirates. Cut to PCs conducting a commando raid against the pirates aboard the ship only to learn that the bioweapon has been moved – might work best here if, while they’re retaking the ship, a helicopter arrives, gets the bioweapon, and bugs out.
  • Some piece of intel from this raid – or maybe some secret intel passed onto them by McKay discreetly – points them to Singapore. In Singapore, they have to raid the business that ostensibly owns the helicopter … my original intent was to borrow from Phantom Doctrine and have them be forced to contact a crimelord for assistance, but I’m not sure if they have the Streetwise skills for that. Looking … ugh. One PC has the skill and it’s at -11. Well … it’s still possible, I suppose. Presuming they do contact him, he’ll point them to someplace in Jakarta, Indonesia for a relatively negligible amount of money, claiming that these people are his enemies as well and the PCs will be doing him a favor, but this is a trap. I’m presuming that the PCs will be able to evade said trap or shoot their way out of it, but what they do then is unclear. Vengeful PCs will hopefully go after the crimelord himself.
  • Anyway, intel obtained here reveals that the bioweapon has been transferred to Vancouver, Canada … which is also where the G7 is scheduled to be meeting (following a last minute change of venue due to internal security issues in Germany.) It appears that the “bad guys” are planning on releasing the bioweapon there!
  • One of the problems I immediately note here is why wouldn’t the PCs just report this to authorities and let them deal with it? I’m currently thinking that bureaucracy is probably the answer – PCs can quickly realize that its going to take too long to work its way up the chain of authority, so they have to deal with it themselves.
  • Ideally, while the PCs are in Vancouver, I’d like to split them up, like multiple hot zones have to be investigated simultaneously. Throw in the inevitable anarchist rioters who are present to “protest” the G7 as well as hostile security types pursuing the PCs and this scene has the potential of being quite exciting … and difficult as hell to run.
  • Some piece of intel here should point the PCs back to their bosses in ConsOps, headquartered in NYC, so PCs need to go in there. What I’d like to do is actually blow up the HQ while the PCs are there – obviously, they’ll have the opportunity to get out and potentially rescue some people … but the DO will be revealed to have been suborned by the Mastermind … but will be assassinated somehow before she can reveal more. I’m leaning toward her (along with some others) maybe being rigged up with explosives and, even if/when the PCs defuse these bombs, a sniper takes the DO out. But yeah … ideally, I want to blow up the building.
  • And then, I had the thought that maybe its revealed in a postscript that the Mastermind is a minor bad guy the PCs were nominally pursuing in the previous run by the originating GM – played by James Macavoy because he’s awesome – and that this guy is connected in some secretive way to the United Nations. That’s right. I’m making the UN the bad guys – the buried idea here is that some fanatics inside the UN have decided that that the only way to end all of the worldwide strife and the like is to establish a single government over it all, so they’re focusing on destabilizing the crap out of the other major nation-states with the plan of having the UN step in to “assist” whenever a nation is about to collapse.
  • I’d originally intended on having the previous version of ConsOps shut down and a new one based out of the State Department but working with other allied countries (which is basically the home countries of the PCs) be established in the postscript. May still do that.

So that’s my master plan for the story arc as it currently stands. At least until I introduce Player Characters who will inevitably mess it up.

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