GM Commentary: ConsOps 2.06

As expected, this session was pretty much just the tactical combat for the warehouse assault, alongside some Egyptian military forces. To set up the next plot element, I had Reilly and Vega absent from the battle which left their players to take over two NPCs. One was Agent el-Sisi, Egyptian National Security Agency, built as an Investigator using Action (stats in GamePrep: ConsOps, 2.06) while the other was a Unit 777 soldier.

Very early on, I started to get concerned that I did not have enough actually planned for the session as multiple HOSTILES went down early, principally due to the player-controlled Unit 777 solder who kept hitting the skull with his shots, but the God of Dice is a fickle master and the flow of the battle shifted. The use of a M203 by the bad guys was actually not correct as – by RAW – it requires 30 yards for the grenade to actually arm, but we handwaved that away with the excuse of “it’s Action!”; the damage it actually inflicts still seems pretty low and didn’t really do more than to scratch Mahoney who jumped into a convenient dumpster (which was another missed opportunity on my part because Action 5 has a section of dumpsters that I could have used.)

Later, Mahoney would have what should have just been a close call – one of the HOSTILE shooters had an open shot to Mahoney’s back and, after all modifiers were calculated, missed by 1. Mahoney’s player then confused us all with a rule that he misremembered (probably Shield Damage where if you miss by the Defensive Bonus, it inflicts damage to the shield itself.) As a result, he was convinced that I was due a reroll capped at 9 and, rather than spend a bunch of time looking that up, I went with it, not expecting to succeed. Naturally, I rolled very well and inflicted some hits that put him into the negative hit point range. And then he crit-failed a major wound round, which lead to him passing out. This same HOSTILE managed to drop the player-controlled Unit 777 trooper, but eventually retreated after taking some damage.

The firefight tapered off with about four of the HOSTILES still upright but quickly retreating – two of them are pretty badly injured (I shouldn’t have cleared off the combat tracker until I annotated that better). I also noted about the midpoint of this engagement that I need to figure out a better way to record ammunition expended by the HOSTILES for future encounters – MAHONEY and Agent el-Sisi both emptied their rifles in this fight and a lot of my bad guys probably should have done the same, but I was doing a crap job of monitoring that. Hmm … maybe it’s a mod I should request from Ronnke for the NPC sheet? Will consult with him.

With the warehouse firefight done, that left one PC (Mahoney) unconscious and injured, and the other (who does not speak Arabic fluently – he’s at Accented, which should attract Agent el-Sisi’s attention) surrounded by actual Unit 777 personnel.

Jumping to Reilly and Vega, I was (again) caught off guard briefly by Vega’s decision to drift his car and use it to body slam BRAGI into the wall and, for a moment, was unsure how to salvage my desire to end with him getting shot by a ‘Compliant’ Reilly since Vega was initially intending on staying in the car. Luckily, Ronnke (Vega’s player) talked himself out of the car with a desire to see what was in the car with the guys in that Bragi had just shot. This let me conclude roughly the way I wanted to, with Reilly “happy to comply” and turning to shoot Vega with his shotgun.

As with the previous session, I had a lot of trouble with comprehensible English at the beginning. The words were just tripping up around my tongue and, rather than waste time with a “setup,” I should have just started in media res, with Reilly and Vega already gone and the other two getting shot at. Or maybe have their van get RPGed so it flips. Again, lesson learned … as if I’m not going to end up screwing up the same way the next time.

And speaking of the ‘next time,’ with Mahoney sidelined for a little bit and Reilly ‘compliant,’ that means we’re going to need to introduce two new (temporary) PCs next week instead of the one I’d originally expected. So I guess I better get to work at that…

Avengers: Endgame Review

Wow. Just … wow. Ten years has led to this and … in the end, it was pretty damned awesome.

Yes, I have quibbles. I ultimately didn’t like the very last scene (which was a flashback) and thought it was unnecessary, and there’s a Grrrrrrlllll Power moment during the big, climactic battle that irritated me to no end, and they had the same problem with Carol Danvers that Justice League had with Superman, but apart from that, I really enjoyed it.

Plot descriptions can be found online – hell, you can find it on Wikipedia – so I’m not going to rehash all of that. So I’ll break it down into the Good, the Bad, the Ugly, and the Amazing.

Good

The opening scene with Hawkeye at a picnic with his family and they’re all dusted (though he doesn’t actually see them disintegrate; he’s looking away when his daughter goes and while he’s looking for her, the rest of his family goes) … just oomph. That was brutal. Professor Hulk (aka Banner’s brain in Hulk’s body) was hysterical. Once again, the humor. All of the amazing callbacks to the previous movies. They got Frigga back, and Secretary Pierce, and the STRIKE team with Cap in an elevator with them, and so on and so forth. Beautifully done.

Bad

As stated, I legitimately didn’t like the final scene which is Cap & Peggy dancing in the past. The movie basically has Steve return to Peggy (post-Agent Carter) and apparently marry her where he lives out his life with her. This doesn’t work for me because it means he sat by while the Russians used his best friend as a mind-controlled assassin who ultimately kills Tony’s parents, or Hydra infiltrating SHIELD, or his new friend Natasha raised to have red in her ledger by the Soviets, and all that other bad shit … but he did nothing? He just let it play out? In Civil War, we have that exchange where he talks about not being able to let a situation go south without intervening … yet I guess he was able to do it okay as long as he got laid by Peggy (who, admittedly, is hot.) For that matter, how is it that none of her co-workers (like Howard Stark, for example) actually meet him? Keeping Old Man Cap in the final scene is fine, but drop the flashback so we don’t know who he lived out his life with (even if everyone knows it was Peggy). I was also not a super big fan of how they killed off Nat at Vormir even though I went into it prepared. Would have liked for there to be some sort of way to bring her back like they did with Gamora, even if she’s still “Evil Nat” or something … at the same time, though, I do appreciate that they killed off two of the original Avengers … and they ain’t coming back. The Black Widow movie is evidently a prequel (which means they did the same thing to her that they did to Han Solo: whack her, then give you a prequel movie with her.)

And while I was admittedly pleased that Carol Danvers was barely in the movie – she showed up in the beginning to rescue Tony, then accompanied the team that went to find post-Snap Thanos, then had a brief cameo in the middle and finally showed back up at the climax – it seems clear to me that they’re not quite sure what to do with her yet. Put simply, she’s too powerful. Look, I love Superman when done right, but Justice League Supes wasn’t – once he showed up, the fight versus Steppenwolf was done, and Carol is like that in this movie. She is literally able to take on Thanos while he has an assembled Infinity Gauntlet and overpower him. This makes no sense to me. She gained her abilities via one Infinity Stone in the form of the Tesseract (I can’t remember which one that was and can’t be bothered to look it up.) He had six. He should still be curbstomping her. But … grrrrrllll power is even greater. I dunno … she just felt shoehorned into this story and honestly didn’t add anything to it.

Ugly

And speaking of Grrrrrllll Power. Seriously, there’s a scene in the big battle where all of these powered chicks form up to rush the Iron Gauntlet to Luis’ van, and it is sooooo cringeworthy that it literally made me wince. I legitimately don’t understand how anyone can look at that sort on nonsensical pandering and not be offended. Fat Thor is also pretty rough, although once he summons his armor, he actually looks pretty badass, extra gut and all. Seeing what the Gauntlet did first to Thanos, then to Banner, then finally to Tony? Brutal.

Amazing

Captain America … wields Mjollnir during the big battle. And OMFG, it was freaking awesome. He’s got his shield and Mjollnir! I was literally cheering when Mjollnir jumped back to Steve’s hand for the first and he kicked much ass with it. Not quite enough for me, a certified MCU Cap fanboy (even if I find Chris Evans eye-rollingly dumb at times.) But it was glorious.

So ultimately … yeah, I’m going to watch this again and likely love it just as much. I’m not quite sure where I put this movie on balance just yet, but it is definitely an A- or B+ for me.

GamePrep: ConsOps, 2.06

Considering where we left off with 2×05, my original plan was for a fairly large tactical combat as the PCs put into motion their plan to A) have local SWAT storm the warehouse which B) the PCs use as cover to enter as well while dressed as SWAT. I really thought this was a great idea since not only does it allow the characters to effectively offload some of the ‘heavy lifting’ to local assets, but just the idea that they’re getting some locals to do their dirty work without said locals actually knowing that they’re doing it is crazy awesome tradecraft. However, knowing that the HOSTILES who nabbed their person of interest are Russian super special forces, specifically Vympel Spetsnaz, and knowing that Russians do not mess around, I realized that the amount of time that would pass before the SWAT personnel stormed the warehouse would be more than enough for the HOSTILES to break BRAGI … and kill him.

So I was torn: it would not properly reward PC initiative for a great plan by having them discover BRAGI was dead, but at the same time, it would be unrealistic for the Russians to inexplicably screw around. Factor in what I wanted to do with REILLY … yeah. I started to re-evaluate what I wanted to do.

This bit of rethinking has given me to my current “plan” (if you want to call it that.) And that “plan” plays out like this:

  • We start “some time” later (probably around 2 hours or so later) with the PCs decked out in appropriate gear – assault vest with trauma plates, frag helmet, tactical goggles, etc. – alongside the Egyptian special forces Unit 777 personnel who have been called into this mess.
  • Brief flashback: PCs did something sneaky to get the government to respond. I’m leaning toward them calling the equivalent of 911, exclaiming in Arabic that they just saw dudes with guns escorting a guy with a hood over his head into a warehouse, and then PC fires several rounds near the phone receiver. Egyptian plainclothes police show up soon after and recon the warehouse, noting very quickly that there are heavily armed dudes present on the grounds. Soon after, a NSA operative arrives to take over and Unit 777 personnel begin appearing soon after.
  • The NSA operative is the older brother of the NSA guy that BAUM straight-up murdered in Port Said.
  • PCs are easily able to mingle with the Unit 777 people due to the soldiers wearing the face-concealing balaclavas; however, VEGA doesn’t speak Arabic and REILLY needs to avoid attracting attention because he may have trained with some of these guys.
  • Just as the warehouse assault is about to begin, a car with two HOSTILES pulls out of the warehouse; the NSA agent-in-charge immediately points to VEGA and REILLY, and orders them to follow that car! This means that those two players will take over standard Unit 777 soldier types during the actual assault. Although … yeah. One of them will have the option to run the NSA operative (250-pt character using the Investigator template from Action 1; stats further below.)
  • This is probably the map I’m going to use:

  • There are a lot of hostiles in place on the grounds of the warehouse and inside it, and they’re pretty heavily armed. With the sheer amount of firepower that is at their disposal, I could probably fairly easily take out the attacking PCs, so I’ll have to make sure to not wholly overwhelm them.
  • This is almost to the point of needing Mass Combat … hmm … that’s actually not a terrible idea, now that I think about it. I could pre-roll everything beforehand, then presume the PCs are doing Significant Actions. So I’ll know how the overall engagement goes and can focus on the smaller scale thing. With that in mind, the defending HOSTILES are 2 units TL8 Riflemen (Good Equipment, Elite Troops), with … let’s call it a TL8 Light Truck. This looks to give me a Total TS of 860 with Fire TS of 800. The attackers are 2 units of TL8 Riflemen (Good Equipment, Good Quality), also with a TL7 APC (Basic Equipment, Average Troop Quality) which proves a total TS of 740. This appears to provide a +1 bonus to the HOSTILES’ strategy check. Total number of elements engaged are 6, which means each “round” is 15 minutes, so that should easily cover the entire encounter here. The HOSTILES also gain a +1 Defense bonus due to the area.
  • Mass combat rounds play out thus: 1. Choose Risk; 2. PC Significant Actions (I maintain this should actually come after the next one; 3. Choose Battle Strategy; 4. Battle Strategy roll; 5. Misfortunes of War. So … Risk. Both sides are bold and confident, so they’re going with Risk of 1. Presuming I shift the Significant Actions to 3, and have Battle Strategy as second, the HOSTILES are going to go with Defense, while the Unit 777 guys are going to use an Indirect Attack. Let’s presume average rolls (10 on 3d6) vs Strategy-12, so both sides succeeded by 2; which means that at the moment, the HOSTILES currently win the first “round” by 3, taking 10% casualties and inflicting 15%. Presuming the four active “PCs” (or rather the two PCs, one Named NPC, and one Elite Soldier Unnamed NPC) accomplish some sort of ‘significant action’ during the firefight, this shifts the results somewhat: now the HOSTILES lose the first “round”, take 15% casualties, inflict 10% on Unit 777. So I just have to figure out what that Significant Action is …
  • Okay … Significant Action. Let’s see. Agent EL-SISI has just ordered REILLY and VEGA to pursue the departing car. He then says “You, you and you, with me. We’ll sweep in and hit them from the side while the rest of the unit goes in the front.” Naturally, two of the “you, you and yous” are BAUM and MAHONEY. Their objective will be to breach the warehouse itself while dealing with any dug-in HOSTILES along the way.
  • Upon breaching the warehouse, PCs will have opportunity to find their person of interest who is hanging suspended from some hooks in the ceiling. He’s been visibly tortured, with hideous burns and cuts, and there’s something wrong with his face…
  • At that, I want to cut away to the pursuit team who will follow the car with the two guys in it into a parking garage some distance away. Presumably, they pursue them into the garage where they’re going to observe these guys get cut down by … BRAGI! (Although I may have him tear off his face-mask ala Mission Impossible. Logically, the two PCs will swarm toward him, weapons raised…
  • And upon seeing them approach, BRAGI will say (in Arabic) “Take a deep breath and clear your mind. What is best is that you comply. Compliance will be rewarded. Are you ready to comply?” to REILLY. Fans of the show, Agents of SHIELD will recognize this and the player who is running him is already pre-warned. The best part here is that VEGA … doesn’t speak Arabic and if retroactively spends some points at the beginning of the session to do so, then BRAGI says this in Russian, which only REILLY knows. And once REILLY responds to him – “Happy to comply, sir.” – BRAGI will tell him to shoot VEGA.
  • Hopefully, this will be the end scene of the session because having REILLY shoot VEGA with his under-barrel shotgun … which hurls VEGA off the parking garage would be a great way of ending for the night…

Agent EL-SISI

ST 10; DX 13; IQ 14; HT 11.
Damage 1d-2/1d; BL 20 lbs; HP 10; Will 14; Per 16; FP 11.
Basic Speed 6.00; Basic Move 6; Dodge 9; Parry 10.
5’11”; 200 lbs

Advantages/Disadvantages: Chummy; Contact Group (NSA) (effective skill 12, 9 or less); Curious (12); Danger Sense (16); Duty (Egyptian NSA, Extremely Hazardous, 15); Honesty (12); Intelligence Rank 2; Intuition (14); Luck; Overconfidence (12); Stubbornness

Languages: Arabic (Native); English (Accented); Farsi (Accented); Hebrew (Accented); Russian (Accented)

Skills: Administration-14; Brawling-12; Climbing-12; Computer Operation-15; Criminology-14; Cryptography-13; Current Affairs (Business)-15; Current Affairs (High Culture)-15; Current Affairs (Politics)-15; Current Affairs (Popular Culture)-15; Current Affairs (Science & Tech)-15; Current Affairs (Sports)-15; Detect Lies-15; Diplomacy-13; Driving (Automobile)-12; Electronics Operation (Surveillance)-14; Forced Entry-13; Forgery-13; Guns (Pistol)-14; Guns (Rifle)-13; Holdout-13; Intelligence Analysis-15; Interrogation-14; Lip Reading (Human)-16; Observation-16; Research-14; Search-16; Shadowing-14; Smuggling-14; Soldier-13; Stealth-13; Wrestling-13

Equipment: Glock 17 9mm pistol; concealable vest

GM Commentary: ConsOps 2.05

As expected, this session was kind of light on the “action” part, with the bulk of the time spent setting up future events. We basically began at the PC HQ where they sifted through available intel and had a conversation with their boss who revealed that he knew they’d continued to do side missions for Quinn. Here, I tried to establish him as a “Reasonable Authority Figure” … we’ll see how that plays out.

MAHONEY then began the interrogation of the captured HEIDALL. Now I’d originally intended on this serving as a data-dump, but I wasn’t sure how that’d play out … luckily, the dice cooperated with me. I’d given HEIDALL Overconfidence – I can’t recall if he originally had it or if was added later – and he failed that roll, then (to my great surprise), MAHONEY crushed him in the Interrogation check – I think the margin of success ended up being by six or seven – so I just answered the questions that MAHONEY had while trying to remain “in character” with HEIMDALL. PCs learned a bit and during this, REILLY realized that his team had been the mystery group that hit the Syria location before the other PCs. This led to the discovery that not only was the cargo human – a Russian bio-weapon guy – but he was now in the wind and more importantly, ConsOps itself was behind this mess.

At this point, RIGGS (the boss) revealed some other intel: CS ODIN (who most of the PCs originally knew as Bishop during Opn: Chessmen) had been photographed in a romantic interlude with ConsOps DO Jennifer Harrington. The organization was compromised. With all of the pieces in place, RIGGS invoked a “Shadow Directive” …

which meant the PCs had to go off the grid, find & stop the bio-weapons guy, and break open the Conspiracy. Plus, they shouldn’t expect assistance from ConsOps … in fact, they should expect active interference.

Also, RIGGS got word that Phil Quinn died on the table. I think most of the players either missed this or don’t actually think I killed off my own (former) PC off-screen like this…

To my very great surprise, the PCs did not kill HEIMDALL, but instead left him outside a Haifa, Israel, police station with a note about his connection to the recent bombing. I’m not sure if they included additional evidence – I’ll have to check with them on that one. They then proceeded to the airport where they discovered their new (off the books) ride in the form of a Grumman HU-16 Albatross which matches their covers as members of a conservation non-profit.

Opting to head to Cairo to dig into BRAGI, who they learned from HEIMDALL operated out of the city, they arrived, then spent a bit of time setting up rally points and vehicle stuff, before rather quickly locating BRAGI via the “magic phone” that was in Quinn’s gear. I could have made this a little more difficult, but I didn’t want to spend a lot of time with the PCs wandering around aimlessly. The plan they put into motion required two teams and since BRAGI had made VEGA, he had to be the trail team; along with REILLY, VEGA would follow BRAGI should he get clear. As BAUM and MAHONEY moved to enter the hotel, they quickly realized another surveillance team was already present. And BRAGI was exiting…

The other team nabbed BRAGI without real trouble and when a member of hotel security started to intervene, he got shot with a burst of SMG fire. Rather than get involved, the PCs decided to shadow them … which I screwed up a little bit. VEGA was primary and I decided on the fly that since they were basically tag-teaming the fleeing bad guys, BAUM (the other driver) would make an assist roll. Here, MAHONEY made an assist roll of his own to help BAUM … which I don’t think is legal per RAW. I mean … assisting the assist roll? Seems weird. I should have just done a Group roll – all four PCs have the skill, so the primary (probably VEGA, though BAUM’s skill is actually 1-pt higher) would get a +3.

Regardless, the Shadowing was successful … which was the first time in the game that it has been, actually, and it led them to a warehouse location where the PCs observe some additional armed bad guys. This is roughly where I ended the session as we were closing in on 21:00 and the next part would be a tactical encounter. Rather than just storm in, though, the PCs opted to basically call this to the authorities somehow, then, while dressed up as fellow SWAT-equivalents, go in alongside them. I’ll get into the mechanics of how I expect that to play out in the game prep post.

Overall, I was moderately satisfied with this. It wasn’t super “actiony” per se, but neither did it bog down in boring minutae so it mostly worked. All of the players seemed engaged, so that’s a positive.

On the less positive side, I didn’t really do a great job of making the “clues” more obvious. There was a momentary hiccup in there about where to actually go after departing Israel and for a moment, I was legitimately concerned that they were going to head straight to Kuwait City for that plot thread in lieu of heading to Cairo to deal with the BRAGI stuff. So I’ll need to keep that in mind for the future. I was also surprised that they did not kill HEIMDALL, which means he can theoretically come back in the future somehow.

Next week looks like it could theoretically just be one big firefight, though I do want to find a way to spice it up a bit more. Again, more on that in a later post after I’ve had some more time to digest and figure out my next steps.

MauLer’s review of & My Thoughts on Captain Marvel

Yeah. Sounds like I made the right choice in skipping this mess. Just watching this makes me think some thinky-thoughts about how I think they should have made it. Note that this is pretty much all stream-of-consciousness and would obviously need some more in depth thinkage about various plot points.

  1. First. Recast. Brie Larson is flat-out wrong for this character. Carol should actually come across as tough, not … this. Katee Sackhoff would have been 100% better.
  2. Do NOT set this in the 90s. She should never meet any of the characters back then, particularly Fury. So they couldn’t screw up his awesomeness.
  3. Begin in media res during Thor: The Dark World. Carol and Monica Rambeau are Air Force pilots who are responding to the insane portal stuff that is going on. They are sent tumbling through different portals and Carol crashes…
  4. She wakes somewhere else and discovers that Mahr-Vehl has saved her life. He reveals that they had to make some bio-enhancements to her to ensure that she survived, so she is faster, stronger and tougher than she was before. As this is a post-Avengers setting, she should make a comment about them turning her into Captain America … which they do not get. Mahr-Vehl acknowledges that they had to ensure she was not one of their ancient enemy…
  5. Mahr-Vehl is an older character – I’m thinking mid-50s to early-60s – but in tremendously awesome shape. He knows of Carol’s species because of certain Kree experiments in the past, a clear reference to Inhumans. Eventually, it will be revealed that Mahr-Vehl has been effectively exiled to this world to stand as a sentry or protector or defender – Carol could inject “Avenger?” during this as a reminder that they’re running around at the moment.
  6. Eventually, Carol should be well enough to want to go home, but Mahr-Vehl will reveal that she is stuck here. There is no way off this world because it is “outside reality” (or something like that) and is used to watch for a great and terrible destroyer of worlds that left this galaxy long ago but could always return. The powers that Mahr-Vehl has at his disposal should let him stand against this entity, though they have never been wholly tested and that’s just a theory.
  7. Skrulls attack the Kree community and many are lost. Carol witnesses firsthand the level of power that Mahr-Vehl has at his disposal, but then also sees the toll it takes on him. He reveals that the power he has comes at a cost – it is tearing him apart from the inside (cancer callback to the original Mar-Vell’s death) and the Nega-Bands (rename?) he wears helps him keep this cancer at bay. But one day, it will kill him, leaving the Kree scientists on this world defenseless … unless he can find a proper successor. (Obviously, he’s talking about Carol and she should be smart enough to know this fact.)
  8. Training montage as Carol learns about becoming Mahr-Vehl’s replacement, along with hints by various scientists to her that her human side should prevent the same fate from affecting her … although this will eventually be revealed to be a lie. Also during this, Carol should start noting things that indicate the other Kree (not Mahr-Vehl) are lying to her about stuff. None of them buy this whole destroyer of worlds thing; they’re here to study Mahr-Vehl’s abilities and try to harvest them when he dies. And he’s here because he offended the Supreme Intelligence by not being a mindless drone but rather being a truly honorable dude.
  9. Eventually, Carol discovers that her close friend, Monica, also survived the portal trip but appeared in a different part of the galaxy where she was taken by other Kree … who are experimenting on her! Also, Carol should learn that there is a way to escape this world … but the Skrull have it. So she tries to defect to them…
  10. Mahr-Vehl is given instructions by the Supreme Intelligence to capture/kill her for … reasons, and he swears to do so without actually swearing to do so. Exact words and all. Something like ‘I’ll stop her or die in the process’ with his actual intent being ‘die in the process’ because his arguments with Carol have reminded him of who he was before he was exiled here.
  11. Surprise reveal: the Skrull are as big of scum as the Kree and they use Carol as bait to capture Mahr-Vehl, then blast him with some doo-hickey that mostly strips him of his powers. He and Carol must now fight side-by-side against a “super” Skrull (to establish the precedent should future MCU Fantastic Four want to use this.) In the process, Mahr-Vehl actively sacrifices himself to save Carol, thus ensuring that she is the receptacle of the his abilities … and this should be hideously painful for her, revealing the need for the nega-bands.
  12. Carol kicks some butt (but clearly doesn’t fully know how to use her abilities). She wins clear of the Skrull … then is promptly attacked by the fricking Kree! Both sides kind of suck. She escapes the planet (should be narrowly) and finds herself in space … this part is problematic, I think. Maybe makes more sense for there to be some sort of pseudo-Stargate thing that she can power up with her abilities that takes her to the Kree homeworld? Even then, she’s going to be surrounded on all sides by enemies so … maybe have Mahr-Vehl have provided her with coordinates to Nova Prime …
  13. Oh. Yeah. She needs to arrive at Nova Prime after Thanos has attacked (pre-Infinity War). And then she needs to learn that he’s going after Earth (maybe through John C. Reilly’s character from Guardians of the Galaxy?) That would be a decent ending to the flick, I think.

And then, the stinger. Back on the planet Carol just escaped, one of the Named Kree who survived is picking through the wreckage when an alarm begins sounding. S/He reacts and looks up in horror; to another Kree, she reveals … its coming. The devourer of worlds is coming! (Guess who the big bad of phase 4 to 5 is?)

GamePrep: ConsOps, 2.05, Pt 2

As promised (threatened?), this is the second part of my game prep stuffs for session 2×05. We left off with the Riggs follow-up followed by my “tempted to have Spetsnaz kick in the door” commentary.

Since then, however, I’ve rethought that and, rather than have the PC location be raided after they’ve interrogated a captured guy (which I did previously in 2×03 that removed Hurt from the board), I’m instead going to have Riggs break off his commentary and tell them to get out. They’ve been burned. He was just CC’ed on a sanction request approval from higher up the chain-of-command – the PCs are being blamed for the Embassy bombing (even though they weren’t even in-country when it happened!) and shooters are being sent. Riggs tells them to get clear of Israel, then reach out to him using Quinn’s phone.

At this point, HEIMDALL is (probably) still alive so it’s wholly up to the PCs to determine what they do with him. Considering BAUM has Callous and has already displayed this rather effectively in a previous session, I fully expect HEIMDALL to take a bullet to the head … although, it might be interesting if I can sort of convinced them to keep him around for the time being? (Related to both of these, it would be amusing if they threw him out of their plane over the Med later on, but I digress.)

Presuming the PCs do bail in a timely manner, they will managed to evade any team sent after them. If they (stupidly) drag their feet, well, then we’re going to have a shoot-out with US Navy SEALs and IDF Sayeret Mat’kal on our hands and I’m not going to pull any punches. I don’t anticipate this to be the case, though, and conveniently, they not only have new covers but also should be aware of transport out of Israel via a plane at the Haifa airport. At the airport, during the pilot check-in (I really should do research into this), PC(s) will see IDF personnel chatting with the crew from the jet that ferried the characters around during the previous GM’s run. The captain of that crew is played by Bruce Campbell and since he’s awesome, he’ll go immediately into the Burn Notice BS mode and direct the IDF people in the opposite direction, thus freeing up the PCs to get out.

Once aboard the plane, the PCs can go through the hoops of getting clear of Israel then, likely setting course for Cairo, Egypt, so they can start digging into the intel about BRAGI who has escaped. However, PCs were made aware during session … 2, I think, that something was happening in and around Kuwait, so they may opt to head in that direction instead (in which case, the GM will need to scramble like mad). Presuming that the PCs do head for Cairo, once there, some Tradecraft should allow them to identify where BRAGI is held up. This is a high-end hotel which PCs could theoretically storm, though that’s probably a bad idea.

Instead, what I think I’m going to do here is expect the PCs to stake it out so they can locate and identify BRAGI – VEGA will be an issue here since he was previously made during Shadowing of the guy in Port Said, not to mention he has that Mistaken Identity (Russell Crowe) thing going on. Rather than have the PCs actually nab him, I’m going to gradually have the PCs become aware that they’re not the only ones staking out the hotel and … when BRAGI emerges, he promptly gets jumped by some dudes who hustle him into a car and speed off. Unless, of course, the PCs intervene in which case … shoot-out in the Cairo streets!

In the event they opt for a pursuit instead (and don’t start shooting), this will
begin as a Shadowing contest. Currently, VEGA has a Shadowing-15, which will be
reduced down to -13 in a car, and the HOSTILES have a PER-12, so there’s a good
chance that the PCs can trail them to their hideout without being detected. In
the event they are noted, then another Chase is probable, though I’m definitely going to end up throwing in some Cairo police on motorcycles as appropriate. In the event of a Chase, the HOSTILES will intentionally deviate away from where they were planning on going and, if they end up wrecking, I’ll probably go directly into a tactical combat encounter (albeit with the bad guys likely messed up due to the Wreck.) While not my intent, it would be kind of amusing if session 5 ends exactly the same way as session 4, with a Chase followed by the PCs exfiltrating with a prisoner they intend to interrogate.

Should the PCs not be detected (and thus, no Chase), they can trail the HOSTILES to their hideout, which will be a nice, secluded warehouse. HOTILES will be patrolling and how the PCs proceed here will be up to them – stealthy or frontal assault. If we actually get this far in the session, I’ll honestly be surprised since the group seems to hesitate a bit more than I’d like.

Presuming, the PCs should reacquire BRAGI, he will use the Compliance stuff (from Agents of SHIELD) against REILLY with the instructions to kill him (BRAGI), then kill everyone else. Ideally, that’d be a great way to end the session, with REILLY shooting BRAGI then turning the gun on the other PCs…

GamePrep: ConsOps, 2.05, Pt 1

So we’re finally at the point where I expected us to be by the end of session 2. Which doesn’t really bode well for my “I don’t want to run for 6 mos.” declaration, does it? Anyway…

I’m planning on beginning in media res with the PCs already at some secluded location where they can interrogate HEIMDALL. There’s a little confusion at the moment regarding where they are – at least two players suggested using their headquarters location in Haifa, which I’m currently leaning toward. Drive time from Jerusalem to Haifa is just under 2 hours, so that would put local time at around 11:30 a.m. just to get there.

Quinn’s Briefcase – the following are some things inside this MacGuffin:

  • Digital Ledger with locations & access codes for ~$500M in funds originally belonged to HEIMDALL. Quinn mentioned to the PCs that he drained those accounts and locked them down thus.
  • A spyphone. I shamelessly stole the iQPhone from the Bond book, Carte Blanche, which is basically going to give the PCs the ability to do some hacking stuff, particularly phones ala what they did all the time in Person of Interest. At the moment, this is probalby going to use ElecOps (Surveillance)…
  • Brand new Strong covers for all four PCs (even Hurt, who is unavailable) under the guise of employees of the Global Wildlife Conservation Council, which is evidently a real non-profit organization that operates (“officially”) out of California. Included with these covers are some magazines that should help the PC(s) speak the conservation lingo. They have a web presence and some cutouts hired to answer phones for the Contact Us page. Vega’s new cover is noted as having a pilot’s license. Digging into this NOC (non-official cover) reveals that Quinn clearly put some work into this. Additionally, currently in the Haifa Airport is a Grumman HU-16 Albatross registered to the GWCC. Notably, none of this is on ConsOps’ books – Quinn went to a lot of trouble to keep it on the down-low…

Grumman HU-16 Albatross

Skill Piloting (Heavy Airplane)
ST/HP 100
TL 6
Hnd/SR -2/3
HT 12f
Move 2/118 (+10 on Chase rolls)
SM +8
Occ 2+10
DR 4
Loc g3WWi
Stall 37

There’s a twin-prop transport in B465 that I used as a basis, but the important stats – Move, SM, Occ, Stall – are all from the real-world stats for the Albatross.

In the previous session, Baum reached out to Hamilton Riggs, the actual boss of the PCs, but got the voicemail. In this one, Riggs will call him back. The overview of that conversation will be:

  • Opening: WTF is going on? Egypt on the verge of war with Sudan, reports of car-chase & gunfight in Jerusalem streets, Shin Bet have three German nationals in custody…
  • After recap: Riggs reveals that he’s been working with Quinn because a bunch of ConsOps missions have gone sideways recently because the targets were forewarned, so they’ve been trying to find out who is responsible. So Riggs knew about the side missions the PCs have been doing for Quinn.
  • Riggs wants them to find out what HEIMDALL knows about Syria as well as BRAGI & BALDR, then cut him loose by either putting him in the ground or letting Shin Bet take him into custody.

The interrogation itself is intended to be something of a data-dump with HEIMDALL coming across as a guy who knows a LOT of stuff.

  • HEIMDALL knows the identities of the PCs.
  • He will throw BALDR & BRAGI to the wolves because he’s pissed off about the soccer field shoot-out. BALDR he knows as Paul Suresh, BRAGI is Rene Delacroix, and they’re gay who operate out of Cairo (which HEIMDALL acknowledges is pretty brave given their predilections.)
  • Suresh originally had a transport job – he wanted to insert a team into Syria, then extract them via Iraq. This is obviously the team that hit the bioweapon facility before the PCs … and REILLY will realize that they’re talking about the op his team did immediately before the one that took them into Sudan! They went in to retrieve a specific scientist while “sanitizing” the rest…
  • He will reveal also that the Russians strongarmed him into working with them following the Port Said mess. They want the cargo back ASAP.

Follow-up with Riggs after this intel is obtained:

  • The reveal about REILLY’s Syrian op makes him dig and learn that KLENDATHU BLACK SHADOW is locked for Director’s Eyes Only. He pulls up an image & gets confirmation from REILLY that this is the dude they extracted, then reveals this is Mikhail Andrusha Breznikov (now known as C/S LOKI) who is a Russian bioweapon expert.
  • He also reveals another image that involves a bad guy from the first run (James McAvoy) kissing a woman. The man, Riggs says, most of the PCs will recognize. They’d originally considered him as just a middleman but obviously not. Quinn redubbed him C/S ODIN.
  • The woman, however, is ConsOps Director of Operations, Jennifer Harrington! Which means ConsOps appears to be compromised!
  • And then he gets word: Quinn died on the table 30 minutes ago and Shin Bet is investigating it as suspicious.
  • Riggs issues a “Shadow Directive” to the PCs (The title has been stated! Take a drink!) “Your team needs to get off the grid, locate and neutralize this asshole, Breznikov, and identify the parties behind him. Take them down, whoever they are, wherever this leads, but don’t expect assistance from ConsOps. I’ll do what I can from the inside but it looks like we’re compromised. In the meantime, I’ll have our wounded relocated to someplace more secure as well.”
  • Riggs doesn’t give a damn about HEIMDALL – in fact, he sort of blames him for Phil Quinn’s death since he had Quinn’s briefcase so if one of the PCs (e.g., Baum) shoots the guy in the head, he’ll shed no tears…

In the wake of this, I’m kind of tempted to have the Russians (Spetsnaz, of course) raid the location that the PCs are lurking at … but I already did that in 2.03! So I’m digesting how to proceed in that regard with the ultimate destination from here (after I figure out the next step) being Cairo, Egypt, to dig into intel regarding BALDR/BRAGI operations there…

GM Commentary: ConsOps 2.04

Finally. Progress. In session 4, we reached the point where I expected us to be at the end of session 2 … and all it really boiled down to was “Three Chases.”

Having learned my lession from the previous session, I jumped straight into the boat chase but, once again, I underestimated Vega’s skills. My original thought was for the other PCs to use the weapons on the boat to shoot back at the pursuing Coast Guard types but Vega’s player argued that they probably didn’t want to actually shoot at more official Egyptian authorities which was technically correct, but made for a very anticlimatic chase as Vega left the pursuers in the metaphorical dust. In retrospect, what I should have done is start out with the PCs in pursuit of the surviving HOSTILES who are in the other boat, and then the Coast Guard types show up afterward. As it stands, the only thing exciting was when I rolled a crit with my 25mm deck gun … that Vega’s player promptly Lucked away.

After leaving the Coasties way behind – and responsible for blowing up an obstacle that I think we determined to be a ferry or a barge of some sort thanks to a missed shot with the 25mm – the PCs radioed for help, and soon after, a helicopter with Sudanese colors arrived, bearing REILLY, a former PC in this campaign who is not active anymore as his player dropped out. This will be Hurt’s Player’s temporary character since Hurt is going to be sidelined for quite a while. For some reason, I thought Sudan was a little closer than it was – technically, the chopper they arrived in should not have been able to actually cover that distance; I handwaved it away at the time with “it’s an Action movie” and “they had external fuel tanks.” Reilly’s entire team was shot up, including his pilot, so Vega had to take over again … which once more made the ensuing chase as an Egyptian chopper arrived very anticlimatic. Again, Vega’s skill was so much higher than the guy chasing them that, despite the pursuing chopper being quite a bit faster, he left the guy behind. Again, massive property damage was incurred when the Egyptian chopper used a missile that Vega dodged while stunting versus an obstacle; we determined this was a bridge and I rolled damage anyway to see how bad it was … and it was pretty significant: 160 points of cr ex with an armor divisor of 10 … yeah. That bridge is jacked up.

Once clear of that, the PCs proceeded to an unspecified location in Israel where the chopper was hidden away and the wounded rushed to the hospital, which freed up the PCs to head toward Jerusalem & the hospital that they presume Quinn is located at. Once there, the team basically broke up into two groups … although really it was 3. Reilly went to talk to one of the guarding US Marines to get some intel, while Baum used his Mossad credentials to enter and gain more; Mahoney and Vega remained near their SUV at a close-by cafe. As Baum & Reilly exited, they observed the POI HEIMDALL along with some bodyguard types heading toward a car, and Baum had Vega pick them up. The intent was to shadow HEIMDALL and company … but that went out the window straight away when the contest (Shadowing at -2 vs bad guys’ PER) went against the PCs. Cue … car chase.

This time, the chase included the PCs shooting back – or critically failing and dropping their pistol out the window as happened to poor Reilly. Gigermann, the player, is starting to wonder if HE’S the one who is cursed in this game, not the character(s) he plays. I was moderately happy with this chase, though there are some things I need to figure out for the future – PCs shoot up a tire (-3 on hit location according to Chase rules) … but what happens then? Consulting B555, damage over HP/(2 x number of wheels so 4) (in this that would 57/(2×4=8)=7 cripples the wheel, which would reduce move and the like. It would also require a HT check to determine if crippled. I’ll need to keep that in mind for the next time (as well as shooting at their tires too!) Regardless, I critically failed a Dodge check and decided that this would cause my guys to auto-fail the contest with the Force that Vega was attempting – this led to a Wreck & the damage the car too reduced it to 0hp … and I failed both HT checks (so the car was effectively knocked out and it was now on fire!) The damage the occupants took from the crash put HEIMDALL over his first death check threshold – he’d already been hit by a bullt that passed through the rear window – but he didn’t die outright. We ended with the PCs snatching him and the MacGuffin they were after and bailing to the sound of sirens.

We’ve certainly done a bunch of Chases in this game thus far … but Vega’s insanely high skill level has shown to me that all of my future driving baddies will have to have skills of -14 or greater just to avoid them being immediately left in the dust and even then, there’s no guarantee that he won’t make them look stupid. I’ll have to keep in mind shooting out his tires and the like … though again, he’s got an insane vehicle dodge (I think it’s usually around 12 or 13 thanks to Enhanced Dodge (Vehicles) 3.)

But the PCs have captured HEIMDALL, obtained the MacGuffin case and we’re back on track. So naturally, I’m going to send them back to Egypt very soon…

Episode IX Teaser … Bores Me

 

I fricking hate that I am so utterly indifferent to this trailer. When I watched it, I literally shrugged and realized just how badly The Last Jedi burned me. A friend of mine commented (and it fits my thinking perfectly): “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this trailer. I just don’t care.

Yeah. That’s perfect.

Note that this teaser is wholly without merit. The fact that it ends with Emperor Palpatine laughing at the end (plus the reveal that Ian McDiarmid is back for EpIX) makes me vaguely interested, but beyond that? I legitimately don’t care about this trilogy’s “big three” (MaRey Sue, Finn, Poe) and the OT cast are all gone or on the way out.

I expect the boss will still take the office out to see EpIX like he did with VII and VIII and Rogue One, but like TLJ, I expect that’ll be the only time I watch the movie.

Also? “The Rise of Skywalker”? Uh … the last actual Skywalker is dead as of TLJ … unless Rey is retconned somehow.

Maybe I’m just getting old and that’s why but this trailer just left me bored. And that makes me sad.

GamePrep: ConsOps Season 2 Revised Arc

Did some rejiggering for the planned story arc and these are the major bullet points that will come into play:

To Israel

  • These events are mostly covered elsewhere and revolve around the PCs chasing after HEIMDALL. Chases and potential firefights abound here.
  • Mackenzie Reilly, Navy SEAL who is member of DEVGRU, joins the team temporarily to replace the critically injured Hurt (who could, according to RAW, be back in about 38 days!)

To Cairo, Egypt

  • PCs must insert into Cairo to retrieve information from HEIMDALL’s safety deposit box that they’ve identified.
  • Reilly will betray the team here, which will likely lead to at least one PC being incarcerated by Egyptian authorities. I’m shooting for Baum as he’s a POI for the death of an Egyptian NSA operative (who Baum did kill).
  • A new PC – Cameron Lynch, likely an Investigator – will be joining the team here.
  • This could theoretically include a time skip … depending on what they do, especially if a PC has been arrested…
  • While in Egypt, PCs learn that they’ve been burned and their organization – ConsOps – has suspended operations due to the potential regional conflict between Egypt and Sudan accidentally precipitated by the PCs. Their boss issues a ‘shadow directive’ that tells them to go off the grid and finish the mission anyway.

To Bosaso, Somalia

  • Intel obtained from CS: HEIMDALL reveals he has actively hired Somali pirates to seize the M/V Pegasi & then turn over the CARGO to other parties.
  • PCs have to board ship, learn that CARGO is long gone, destination: Yemen. Further, learn that the CARGO is actually a person, specifically a man named Mikhail Andrusha Breznikov and he’s an insane bio-weapon expert being hunted by the Russians…
  • If PCs are really dragging their feet, I could theoretically skip Somalia entirely and proceed directly to Yemen below.

To Yemen

  • Following intel takes PCs to out of the way place inside Yemen where they discover a lab site.
  • Ambushed by HOSTILES
  • Following ambush, intel points them to the (quarantined) city of Sana’a, Yemen which they must enter. Discover the extent of the threat of the bio-weapon – “insane zombie city!”
  • Obtain additional intel that identifies the next destination of Breznikov…

To Kuwait City

  • Redo of the Top Secret NWO adventure, The White Queen, but set in Kuwait instead of Riga, Latvia. Includes a meeting with a “facilitator,” a street ambush and then another boarding of a ship, though this one is going to be at sea and mobile
  • Learn that Breznikov has disappeared again, but gain intel that identifies some cargo that he’s sent…

To Berlin

  • It’s the location where this year’s G7 summit is being held … which is going to become the G8 again since Russia is being reintegrated into the gathering.
  • The city is crawling with protective measures and PCs need to be reminded that they are POIs in multiple recent “events.” Plus, they’re burned. Will need to find a way to convince players to not just report this up the various chains and let everyone else deal with it…
  • Race against time to stop Breznikov from unleashing his bio-weapon (which is now known as weaponized encephalitis – it is less lethal but now turns the infected into lunatic & murderous nutjobs.)
  • Breznikov’s plan: infect not the city of Berlin but rather the G8 leaders (and their associate people) instead. They then go publicly insane and murderous, which has seriously hampers the faith in their respective governments.
  • Depending on how well the PCs have done to this point, they may or may not actually succeed. I’m trying not to predetermine success or fail but am really tempted to pull a Watchmen on them: “I’m not a Bond villain. Do you seriously think I’d explain my master-stroke if there remained the slightest chance of you affecting its outcome? I did it two days ago.” The reason I’m so tempted to go there is because it’d be an awesome hard end to my run, complete with the PCs having actually failed … but at the same time, that’d be kind of a dick move to the primary GM as he’d be left with the aftermath…
  • Regardless, PCs have to deal with Breznikov and, if they failed, having them learn that the G8 leadership are all dead … that’s pretty brutal…
  • And then, the PCs will be aware that Breznikov was working for someone else…