Mon. Mar 27th, 2023

So … as it turns out, having two weeks off thanks to some player absences, does absolutely nothing positive for my motivation and the narrative flow. My brain has already tried (rather successfully, I must add) to start shifting tracks to the sci-fi game I’ll be running (eventually) in my face-to-face group on Fridays, which means I’m having to seriously struggle to get into the proper headspace once more. Throw in the planning for GenCon – I currently have 47.5 hours worth of scheduled games, including a 10-hour D&D 5E game on Saturday, 8/3 – and … yeah. It’s hard.

What I’ve got at the moment is still relatively loose … which is appropriate, because I don’t see how I could run this whole boarding action otherwise, particularly since it’s really, really hard to get something resembling a legible deckplan. I’ve already declared that we’re only going to be using Range Bands from Action – it’s highly unlikely they’ll ever get beyond Short, which is -3, due to the cramped environment – and I’ve also split up the ship into what amounts to five Zones. There are a total of 18 “pirates” aboard the ship, scattered all over it, but they are better trained than one would expect of Somali pirates … which is appropriate since they’re actually Yemenese mercenaries who have been hired to pull off this job.

Originally, the group was planning on hitting the “mother ship” that was lagging behind the Pegasi … er … the Perseus, but by the time they get everything ready and back into the sea, it’s vanished entirely. This is not part of the pirates’ plan so they are on relatively high alert as a result, which could cause trouble for the PCs. Since the mother ship is gone, we’re just going to start in media res with the active PCs in a black inflatable boat near the bow of the ship – that’s the front – and about to ascend. This will require a handful of checks – Boating (but Vega has a 17 or 18 in the skill), Throwing (Chana has a 15, I think) to get the grapnel in place, then Climbing and Stealth. Sending Baum up first – Climbing-15, Stealth-20 – is probably the best idea here, and he may be able to flat-out neutralize the two mercs in the bow zone before anyone else is even on the ship! These two mercs are notably not black, which hints toward the whole “not Somali” thing, but probably won’t be a terrible surprise or shock or anything.

Zone 2 is cargo and has no Pirates in it. Traversing into a different zone will likely call for Stealth checks and/or our “universe reaction roll” for each PC to see if the Universe decided to shaft that character in some way. For example, if Vega is advancing and rolls Poor on that reaction roll, I may have a pirate step into view or the spotlight on the tower momentarily illuminate Vega, etc. PCs are still able to react against this “bad luck” – so Vega may be able to drop the pirate before he triggers an alarm, or dart to a hiding place before the spotlight came jump back to him, etc. From Zone 2, a PC equipped with a scope on their weapon may be able to make out that there are 3 pirates in the bridge (which is in Zone 4: Tower.)

There is 1 Pirate in Zone 3 who is supposed to be on guard, but is instead taking a smoke break. A successful smell-based PER check will allow a PC to realize he’s here long before this guy comes into view.

As stated above, there are 3 Pirates in the bridge (Zone 4). I expect this to be a short firefight, probably with the PCs approaching from multiple angles. In the event that a PC gets a Poor or worse result in the universe reaction roll, I may have a fourth pirate approach from a completely different angle, then join in … or maybe even sound the alarm. Regardless, the entire Zone 4: Tower is going to be (by necessity) fast and loose. I’ll need to keep track of the numbers of pirates available – starting with 18, minus 2 for the bow, minus 1 for zone 3, minus 3 for the bridge = leaves me 12 (or 11 if someone else joined in for the Tower shoot-out); if necessary, though, I’ll fudge those numbers somewhat so 18 is a rough estimate.

I’ll have to keep in mind what happens if the PCs capture someone and interrogate him. Since the team is actively looking for a dude, that’ll be the logical focus of their questions … but these guys don’t know about him or about the crew. When they boarded, the crew wasn’t here. They’ve been looking but haven’t found them yet … although they did locate the “safe space” place down below where they think the crew is hiding. They just haven’t been able to get in because it’s locked from the inside.

Zone 5 is engineering which is evidently a five-level but still relatively crampe location. I expect that the only reason the PCs will be here is if they’re actively looking for the “safe space” that many such craft possess or have interrogated a dude & learned of where it’s at. Gaining entrance is going to be tough – it’s actually been welded shut from the outside! This is information that a captured/interrogated pirate will neglect to mention. Fortunately, there is some welding equipment nearby that can be used with appropriate skills – I don’t know if anyone actually has those appropriate skills, though … which could lead to interesting alternatives.

Notably, descent into Zone 5 also results in their communications with Mahoney who is lurking relatively nearby in their purchased fishing boat. He is still injured by functional enough to be able to drive the boat to pick them up when they exfiltrate. This communications disruption is expected, however, due to the rather thick metal of the ship. No cell service down here!

Presuming they do manage to penetrate the entrance, though, they’re going to find a bloody mess. The crew is here … but they’ve all been machine-guned to death and quite some time ago. Examination of the bodies may reveal that they were killed by weapons other than the ones that the pirates possess – so, FREX, all wounds are from a 5.56mm round and the pirates are all carrying 7.62mm weapons. PCs might also discover some sort of recording – a cellphone, perhaps? – that indicates their target, CS: LOKI, is responsible for the machine-gunning. Since he’s not present, though, now they have to figure out the next step.

Far more important, however, is the discovery of a rather sizeable explosive device secured in the back of this safe place. It is armed and counting down. There are less than 10 minutes remaining on this countdown and, by the look of things, this explosive will probably do enough damage to scuttle this ship…

Disarming it is going to be tough since Mahoney is unavailable and Lynch’s explosives skill is for Demolition which, admittedly, EOD defaults to at -4 … but that gives him an effective skill of 9 and he can’t take extra time. In fact, should he settle in and start looking at this, the PCs will hear the sound of additional gunfire above them, which is rather distracting. Attempts to contact Mahoney for assistance are difficult before he cuts out entirely … also to the sound of gunfire. In the event Lynch does decide to make the attempt to disarm, I’m going to have him roll it in the box. However, with all of the penalties associated here, it’s logical to presume that Lynch is going to “Nope. Not even going to try.” with this one and order them to bug out.

Depending on how they proceed, they may encounter some unexpected Spetsnaz on the boat. If they just retrace their steps, I sort of envision a scene similar to the first “Expendables” movie when the team opened the door, discovered a buttload of bad-guys, and promptly shut the door. “He said we’re dead with an accent.” That scene. If I can swing that, I’m totally going to do so and then have someone announce over the loudspeaker in Russian-accented English: “Consular Operations team. You are surrounded. Throw down weapons or comrade will be killed.” This will follow with Mahoney announcing that he’s sorry. They caught him by surprise. Russian leader – CS: TYR, who Ilan Baum and Vega saw in Syria – will arrive via helicopter ala Nick Fury near the end of Winter Soldier, complete with Bad Ass Trenchcoat. He identifies Baum as the guy responsible for killing a specific terrorist (who I name-dropped about two or three sessions ago when the PCs were interrogating HEIMDALL); this terrorist downed an Aeroflot flight from Tel Aviv to Moscow and TYR’s son was on that flight. So he (TYR) is grateful that Baum killed an animal who greatly deserved killing and simultaneously pissed off that he was not afforded the opportunity to do it himself. TYR demands to know where Breznikov is – this is LOKI – and does not believe them when they insist he’s not here. Things should look dire for the PCs … but they’re aware that a rather large explosive is about to go off. Ideally, I’d like to let TYR order their deaths – a simple, “Kill them and dump their bodies.” is probably fine – but PCs might surprise me here and talk their way into a joint operation; I need to make sure I’ve got TYR’s headspace completely figured out.

And all of that presumes they actually go up the same way they came in. They might surprise me again by finding an alternate way off the ship. Regardless, the explosive will detonate … which results in the ship going down.

So, as stated, the bomb explodes and the PCs find themselves in the ocean. Swimming checks are obviously required and getting clear of the sinking ship should be their first option … and crap. I literally just realized that the potential presence of that helicopter puts me in a corner. Why couldn’t they just machine-gun the PCs while they’re swimming? Hmm. Need to find a way to neutralize the chopper … maybe the explosion damages it so it is limping away and trailing smoke?

Anyway, in the ocean, PCs are in deep, deep crap here. It is highly unlikely that their inflatable rubber boat is still present, and when or if they locate the fishing boat that Mahoney was in, it’s been shot up as well. Hmm. Damn. In an ideal universe, ending the session with the PCs in the middle of the ocean would be freaking awesome … Yeah. I’m going to have to make sure to vamp up until that point and end that way because it’s too awesome not to end thus…