GM Commentary: ConsOps 2.08

Man, that was messy. I knew going in that would be – as stated, the two week hiatus plus my feverish planning for GenCon (not to mention, this fifty-plus hour work week I’ve had) kind of ‘harshed my groove’ so to speak – but I did not anticipate it being quite that sloppy. In retrospect, I realize that what I should have done is basically treat the entire ship scenario as more akin to a dungeon, with each “zone” having a set encounter in it with X number of bad guys and so on. My ignorance of container ships internal structure also reared its head – I should have ensured that I had more screengrabs of the internal area so the players had a better grasp of exactly what they were looking at instead of relying on my sub-standard descriptive capability. Seriously, I’m fine with the written word, but come game-time I have trouble making the words not come out in a horribly jumbled mess.

The use of the “universal reaction roll” to reflect potentially bad things happening as the PCs traversed from zone to zone was ultimately, in my opinion, a wasted opportunity. Two PCs rolled Poor while going from Zone 1 to 2, and all other rolls were Neutral or better; related to that, I did not have anything in mind with regards as to what happened if the characters rolled Very Good on that roll … and one of them did. Something positive should have happened there, like he fortuitously stumbled upon a Clue or something that could be useful for later. Again, I think if I’d planned for the zones to be more akin to rooms in a dungeon and had a better idea of what was there, that sequence would not have felt so blah.

As is usual, we had some rules confusion, this time with regards to a bad guy with combat reflexes being surprised. According to RAW, that is treated as partial surprise, which hints toward their being a roll-off (1d +2 for Combat Reflexes, +1 for higher IQ, +1 for Tactics skill, -2 to leaderless side) with the loser being considered mentally stunned for 1 round, then getting a chance to come out of it in subsequent rounds … but one of the players thinks (and I agree with him in retrospect) that we should skip the roll-off in that case and instead just go straight to the momentary freeze. We also had some of the usual standard game mechanics stuff – a player wanted the +1 to shoot for braced because he was using a sling, but you only get brace (per RAW) if you Aim – but overall, the combat went well. I intentionally avoided tactical combat and used just the Action range band … which worked very nicely in my opinion. I’m currently leaning toward doing that more in the future to try and speed up our combats.

I did get the feeling that one of the players wasn’t really paying a lot of attention to the game based on his actions, although to be fair, that might just be me reading more into it than I should. He had his character basically check out and stay behind to secure the bridge while the rest proceeded deeper … which was going to really cause me a headache when the planned helicopter strike versus the bridge transpired because the chaingun being used inflicts 5dx3 pi++ damage per shot. Luckily, the nominal team leader ended up calling for him to rejoin the team, which gave me the opportunity to blow up the bridge with a strafing run and now kill a PC in what amounts to a cinematic cutscene.

Funny observation: one of the PCs took a blind shot at a bad guy through a wall – he knew he was there but couldn’t see him, so he took the -10 to the shot – and still hit him. Since it was a blind shot, he did random hit location and it came up torso … vitals! Even with the nominal DR of the walls, the damage was more than enough to insta-kill the poor bastard, which was hilarious and mondo-cool all the same.

When the helicopter arrived, all of their comms went out due to jamming, which cut off communication with their ride out of here in the form of their wounded (but recovering) colleague. I’ve already told that player (who is temporarily running a different character) via whisper that the wounded PC was going to be captured by Russian, but the other characters don’t yet know his fate. Further, one of the players may have to miss next week due to school, so if that’s the case, the other PCs will likely presume he was killed by the explosion or (sadly) drowned in ocean. Then, of course, it’ll be revealed that he was captured by any surviving Russians.

A couple of clues have been placed in front of the characters: the pirates were visibly not Somali and were notably in better shape than one would expect of struggling piratical types; the former crew that were machine gunned to death in the ‘safe room’ were killed by different calibers than the pirates were using; that bomb was very well-placed and took the entire ship to the bottom of the ocean; and finally, the soldiers that arrived alongside the helicopter were not taking prisoners. Unfortunately, the PCs still don’t know where their actual target has gone to, which means I’ve got to figure out how to relay that to them and point them in the proper direction.

Next week will begin with the PCs in a tough spot: they’re in the ocean, they’ll have to ditched the majority of their gear (since encumbrance is doubled while Swimming) and there are clearly some fairly hostile types in the region. I’m still rolling around exactly how to move forward – I’m currently leaning toward beginning in media res with them crawling up onto their abandoned fishing boat that the wounded PC should have still been on, thoroughly exhausted, only to discover that the engine has been shot. So they’ve got to MacGyver their way back to land, then figure out the next steps.