GM Commentary: ConsOps 2.02

Okay, then. Into unexpected places we go.

Overall, I was relatively happy with the session – most of the characters were frequently engaged (less so Vega, the wheelman, though I’ll get into that later) and the players themselves took some courses of action that legitimately surprised me. We did not get as far as I would have liked – the deviations in the middle took longer than expected, so my pacing obviously needs to be fine-tuned pretty significantly. The PCs also managed to nab a serious source of intel in the form of a NPC who I had not intended (or expected) to be captured here, which had the possibility of putting a serious crimp in my plans. Again, more on that later.

I opened with Mahoney at the soccer field where Egyptian NSA operatives are closing in on HEIMDALL and BALDR – based off commentary during the previous session, I went ahead and identified persons of interest by the codenames I was assigning them with the conceit that Quinn, the former team leader who sent them on the op, is an ascended fanboy and had a big list of names to pull from when a new POI was encountered. BALDR panicked and drew a mini-Uzi which he used against the Egyptian authorities and civilians before using the panicking crowd as cover for his escape; at the same time, HEIMDALL gave him a contemptuous look and went to his knees to allow the authorities to take him into custody. At this, Mahoney decided to pursue BALDR, though he momentarily lost him in the crowd because he failed the Shadowing contest – I allowed him a PER check to relocate BALDR with an unspoken penalty of -4 due to the chaos … and he fricking succeeded! This led to another Shadowing contest that Mahoney failed by more than 5 – I think it was by 7? – so BALDR knew he was being pursued. Cut to both men on stolen scooters in a “Chase.” This … didn’t play out as expected since neither character had the Driving (Motorcycle) skill (not that it really mattered in the Chase) and, while using the awesome enhanced rules from Pyramid 3-112 (“The Thrill of the Chase”), the terrain narrowed to tight, so we determined that BALDR ducked into a souq. As BALDR was still at Medium range and the rules declared that Tight has a maximum of Short, I determined that if Mahoney did not change the range band this round, his quarry would escape. And then, I screwed up by having BALDR opt for Hide which gives a -10 for Chase rolls instead of sticking with Move; had I done the latter, BALDR would have escaped, but instead, he lost the Chase contest and, per Action 2, was abruptly in Close. On the next round, I screwed up again by trying to be sneaky; BALDR opted for a Reverse (so he’d be going the other way) at the same time that Mahoney went for a Ram. This badly damaged both scooters – they were at half-Move by this point … which I only just realized should have affected the next bit. Reverse also gives you a -10 on Chase rolls, so once again, he failed it; however, if I read the RAW correctly, since he failed the Chase roll (by way more than the SR), he went directly to Wipeout. This put the scooter at something like -20 and it failed the HT checks for major wound, in negative HP, and the all-important “is it on fire?” BALDR had 10 hp normally, was down to 9hp due to the Ram, but took another 10 from the crash – 1d+6 with +6 being the speed bonus. As noted above, they were at half-move at this point due to damage, so he should not have taken that much damage which would not have triggered the “I have less than 0 hp” round that he failed & thus passed out. Mahoney ended up absconding with the dude after wrapping him in a carpet.

So … yeah. I screwed that all up. I should have had the Chase officially end once Mahoney did the Ram. BALDR could flee on foot and then get hit by a truck while running. Mahoney could still “loot” him of actionable intel, but I wouldn’t have been dealing with the “Oh, shit. They’ve captured a NPC who has lots of intel in his head! This could ruin everything!” that ended up dominating way too much of my mental bandwidth for the rest of the session (and resulted in some later dumb decisions on my part.)

Jumping over to Vega … and this actually made me feel a little bad because he honestly didn’t actually do much of anything here. He was following the guy (BRAGI) who’d obtained the second laptop and had just entered a store; hearing police sirens, Vega opted to not go into the store … which I think I screwed up here as well as I implied the police were only seconds away. With the shoot-out at the stadium above, all of the local police should have been deviated, and Vega could enter without issue. And then, he could see the shopowner dead of a bullet to the skull, the backdoor open with a jacket or something on the floor … and the revelation that the laptop case is here as well? I’d originally intended for the shop to explode, with BRAGI having left a device, but I opted against that in the middle … and shouldn’t have. This is especially true if Vega was inside – he could see the device and have to go diving out, maybe while tackling some random civilians about to enter the shop. Anyway, the reason BRAGI deviated like this is because he made Vega in the previous session – beat the Shadowing check by more than 5 – and after this deviation, the POI went directly to a nearby mosque which he entered. He swapped out his clothes and, following evening prayers, simply left via a different exit with another group of worshippers. So Vega basically sat there and did nothing for a lot of this.

During this, Mahoney called for extraction, but Baum (the team lead) decided to have Vega continue to follow BRAGI while he and Hurt would pick up Mahoney. He had some valid thinking about why which everyone agreed on, but with me knowing that BRAGI was likely going to escape which meant Vega was going to be sitting on his thumb … yeah.

And then I jumped to Baum & Hurt, who were heading back to their room after having bugged HEIMDALL’s. I screwed up here by not adequately establishing that the bugging had just happened – Baum’s player, I think, believed they were leaving their rooms, having had time to return and change clothes. Anyway, the elevator opened, revealing a bunch of law enforcement officers, including the guy that Hurt had choked out in the previous episode. They advance toward HEIMDALL’s room but the choked out guy hesitates, looks at Hurt in almost recognition. Baum & Hurt enter the elevator, it almost closes but that LEO stops it, intending on demanding Hurt’s papers. Instead, Baum yanked the guy in and they choked him out, then got him in their room – which they were planning on ditching anyway – and bugged out with their gear (after changing clothes.) And as Baum left, he cut the unconscious guy’s femoral so he’d bleed out.

This did not play out like I’d expected. At all. At the same time, Baum is Callous, so everything he did was in character. I’d originally expected this guy to focus entirely on Hurt, then get cold-cocked by Baum from behind and ditched somewhere by these two so he’d be humiliated … again. Then he could come back down the road as a rogue operative, intent on revenge. Instead, he appears to have died anti-climatically, stuck in a closet while tied up. That’s just sad. I’ll need to evaluate that and determine if there’s anything resembling a feasible way for him to have escaped…

So Baum and Hurt escape the hotel and rent a taxi to pick up Mahoney. And here again, I messed up. As stated, my brain was overclocking in an attempt to figure out how to get BALDR away from them, whether that was by death or whatnot, that I had a local police officer poking around and when he tried to stop them, Baum shoved money at the taxi driver and told him to “get rid of the guy.” My screw-up here was manyfold. First, I should have had Baum do a Reaction roll with the taxi driver to determine whether he would help or not with a Neutral result being “I’m just bugging out with the money. Screw these guys.” and stuff below that being “Hey, Mr. Policeman! These guys are criminals … what? No. I’m not holding a thousand Euros! Bye!” Second, I should have done a better job of describing geography of the situation because confusion kept rearing its head. We broke out a quick image, but that shouldn’t have been necessary. And finally, there should have been two police, not one, with them approaching the vehicle from front and rear. I’ll have to make sure that Baum’s player is aware that screwed that up, not him, because bribing the taxi guy to get rid of the cop was actually a smart play that I failed to reward properly.

Anyway, the team escaped, ditched the stolen taxi, reunited with Vega, and went to ground in a storage facility where they could interrogate BALDR. Using the “Making them talk” bit in Action 2, the interrogator (Mahoney) made one roll and BALDR kicked his butt with the contested Will check (margin of success was something like 9.) Having established that this guy has been trained to withstand interrogation and aware that the Egyptian government has locked down the city in an attempt to find the “Zionist perpetrators” of the heinous acts, they punt and reach out to Quinn. This allowed me to get the narrative back on track by having his phone convo cut out in the middle of a sentence, and then the PCs learn via al-Jazeera that the US Embassy in Jerusalem has been bombed.

The players seemed to be entertained by this, but man, I keep focusing on the missteps and screw-ups that I did mostly because too much mental bandwidth was taken up with “What does BALDR know that can ruin the adventure?” There was also some debate among the players regarding their next step; Baum wanted to rush to Jerusalem but Hurt (also correctly) wanted to remain in place and continue digging into the clues they do have. I believe I’ve got a solution for that which I’ll go into detail in the game prep post later this week and, luckily for me, it also lets me resolve the BALDR issue … although I probably will check with the players about what they intend to do with him. I seem to recall at least one vote for “just shoot him in the head because he deserves it for that soccer field mess”, one for “let’s dump him off at the nearest ER with a sign that says ‘you’re welcome'” and one for “let him go and follow him.”

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