GamePrep: ConsOps, 2.11, Part 1

Labor Day is upon us and two of my players are out, so we’ll be skipping this week. Which, I suppose, is for the best as it means I have an additional week to figure out my next step, even though I think I’ve got a pretty decent idea of how it plays out.

With the death of Vega, I need to introduce a new character. The player in question – Ronnke – has decided to go with an Infiltrator as a basis, but he’s going to start at 290 points to bring him nearly on par with the other PCs. There also exists the possibility that another player may join in, but I’m not going to know whether that’s going to pan out or not. Currently, Ronnke’s new guy – Grayson Brooks – is an active SIS (aka MI6) operative with Fast-Talk at 20 (which is … ugh) but otherwise, he seems like a jack-of-all-trades.

What I’m currently thinking of doing, since my previous plan was so thoroughly derailed, is to begin in media res with Brooks on an undercover op. In this, I’m looking at ripping off the “Burn Notice” pilot, with Brooks basically arranging for an Very Bad Man to provide weapons to some British assets in the field by paying him off. This particular VBM doesn’t use cash because he’s been robbed three or four times in the past; that might have been part of Brooks’ original op, so the Circus (aka SIS) could get access to the guy’s accounts. So Brooks makes the phone call to begin the transaction … and gets the “We got a burn notice on you. You’re blacklisted.” (though I’ll probably have them say disavowed?) At the same time, the VBM will get an alert that all of his accounts have been frozen by the British government! This is why the guy doesn’t simply murder Brooks – he wants his damned money back!

So yeah, Brooks is in a … difficult spot which he isn’t going to be able to talk himself out of. At the same time, I don’t want to attack him for having such a high skill level, so I need to establish some boundaries. In this case, the VBM is absolutely convinced that Brooks is trying to screw him over and take his money, and the most that Brooks can probably actually do in response is convince the guy that he (Brooks) can get his (VBM’s) money back for him. Still, in his fury, VBM is likely to order his guys to “beat the information out of [Brooks].” Which is going to hurt.

Presuming Brooks doesn’t just go for a gun and kick off the shooting early, the other PCs (Baum, Lynch, Mahoney) will enter the scene. It’s going to be about a week or so since the airport mess and they’ve been laying low or following leads in that time or just healing up as is the case with Lynch, but now they’ve got a solid lead – the VBM provided a service for BRAGI, one of the guys that the PCs are in pursuit of, and they want to “ask” some questions. Hmm … since I want this to end up being a shoot-out, I could already have the assaulting team – Baum, Lynch, Mahoney – fully re-equipped (having taken care of that stuff off-camera) and let the players decide how they assault this stuff. Baum, for example, is a fantastic sniper … when the player remembers that, so they could have him sniping from cover and concealment while Lynch and Mahoney go in on foot or crash in with a vehicle. Again, I’d like to play this fast and loose without a tactical map, but after the mess that was the bathroom fight in 2×10, I’ve learned that lesson and will have a map standing by as needed. Which means I need to determine location – I’m tempted to have it be at a warehouse … but those are sooooo boring and it might be more interesting if it was set in one of Muscat’s luxury hotels.

Considering how our previous fights have gone, I can probably expect that this entire encounter will take the entire session, but I’m going to try and determine what the next step is in Part 2 of this post.

GM Commentary: ConsOps, 2.10

So … that happened.

I’d expected the (probable) bathroom fight to take a short amount of time, maybe an hour or so, but naturally, that turned out to be all we did. I certainly didn’t expect to end up killing a PC (although I think, in this case, the player sort of forced my hand there.) This was one of those situations where, despite my desire to avoid using a map, in retrospect, I absolutely should have brought one out.

At any rate, I’d expected the PCs to split up and shake their pursuers individually. This would let me run a quick HTH fight for one or two PCs (versus a single bad guy at a time) which I’d intended to use for testing Doug Cole’s Dungeon Grappling (with a possible eye toward integrating Technical Grappling down the road.) So naturally, the Players decided nope, they were going to stick together. This basically forced me to re-evaluate, so I had four Omani ISS operatives pursue the characters into a bathroom with an toward taking them into custody …

And that’s where I think I started screwing things up. As stated above, I absolutely should have ended up using a tactical map because the players didn’t seem especially clear on the environment, which complicated the fight. Since one of the players’ character wasn’t present, I had him making the actual rolls for my bad guys and he was on fire when it came to the dice. And yeah, I did not provide the PCs an adequate opportunity to effectively bullshit their way out of the fight – my bad guys came in expecting to meet resistance and were pretty aggressive from the get-go. Also, in retrospect, I should have maybe called for a Tactics check so the PCs could have obtained some sort of advantage.

So we basically had one PC engaged in a grappling contest with a bad guy while the other two fought with two of the ISS guys while the fourth ISS dude relocated & began to try and get involved in the grapple contest. I then had one of the Russian bad guys enter, armed with a SMG … it was actually my intention to have this guy and the fourth ISS guy to be removed from the fight long enough for the PCs to deal with their fights.

But naturally, one of the players escalated by charging the guy with the SMG. This effectively forced my hand, I think – I didn’t actually want to shoot him, but … I couldn’t think of how else the Russian would react here. He’d just been winged by one of the ISS guys who’d shot at him (took out a knee, but the guy made his HT check), and then the PC clocked him in the face with a piece of a toilet that he’d turned into an improvised weapon. If he’d inflicted two more points of damage, the Russian would have been knocked out … but he didn’t. So my Russian opened fire with the SMG … and scored a critical hit … to the vitals. The Player failed his dodge (and had previously burned his Luck, so he couldn’t reroll), so he got hit in total 6 times … and one of them was another vitals hit on the random hit location. After tallying the damage, it was insta-death. The Russian was then shot to death by two of the ISS guys.

Ironically, it was about this point that the flow of the battle ultimately shifted in the PCs favor, despite one of their number being dead and the other having taken a bullet to the arm. This second PC had already successfully gotten one of his targets on the ground, face down, and successfully dodged more gunfire – I ruled that, since the guy was shooting down, I’d check to see if his bullets hit the prone guy. They did and removed him from the fight. This PC had retrieved the now dead guy’s sidearm and dropped the shooter, while the grappling PC finally beat his foe, got his pistol, and shot the man. The last of the ISS guy was hit by gunfire from outside.

Right. Outside the bathroom. With regards to that, lots of gunfire and screaming started in the middle of this fight in the bathroom which was basically some of the Russians pushing too aggressively toward the bathroom themselves, which drew notice from the other ISS personnel. Things rapidly escalated out of control to the point of an actual shoot-out in the airport. This is going to cause lots of trouble for the Russian colonel who is pursuing LOKI and actually makes things more complicated for the PCs as well.

As to the PC who had escaped the Russian embassy by stealing the ambassador’s car, the player realized that a car like that was probably lo-jacked, so he ditched it at the airport (which he arrived at after the shooting really began.) Later, he would steal an ambulance which the two uninjured PCs carried the dead one into ala “Weekend at Bernies.” Since they were far from the only ones fleeing the bloodshed with injured people, they used Acting to escape.

We left off with the PCs fleeing into Muscat proper in a stolen ambulance, away from the craziness at the airport. And I still haven’t had the chase I intended to have in Scene 2. Now, in addition to dealing with the aftermath of this mess, we’ve got to introduce a new PC.

Interesting times ahead.

The Mandalorian trailer

Oh, my freaking God. This is pushing all of my “Rogue One” buttons and keeping them pushed! After the hot mess that was The Last Jedi and the mediocre blahness of Solo, I’d pretty much given up on Disney Star Wars. Honestly, if the boss wasn’t likely taking the entire office to see EpIX, I’d probably have skipped it … but this looks freaking awesome.

GamePrep: ConsOps, 2.10

Still trying to fully narrow this down, but I’ve basically got 2.10 hashed out in broad strokes. What I’ve started doing is splitting these sessions up (in my head) into “scenes” since this is supposed to be an Action! game. To that end, I’ve got three Scenes in mind for Saturday.

Scene 1

  • At the Muscat Intl Airport. The plane team – everyone but Mahoney – has landed and are doing the usual post-arrival check-in stuffs.
  • Via the loudspeaker, there will be an announcement for Emil Boucher to contact the courtesy desk because a message is waiting for him. Emil Boucher is one of Baum’s old covers.
  • Contacting the courtesy desk gets the message and it’s mostly a coded thing couched in everyday language:
    • Mister Harish Singh wishes to inform you that he has the company car but traffic will make him late picking you up. However, he suggests you might be able to get someone from the local branch to drive you to the office since they’re already at the airport. Your arrival was not as secret as you would have liked; it appears that the office is ready for your surprise inspection.
    • Singh is one of Mahoney’s old covers and if the Players don’t understand that he’s warning them that they’re blown & are being surveilled, the characters will understand. With that warning, they are easily able to detect those watching them (though I’ll likely ask for PER or Observation to determine that there are two different groups. Maybe Intel Analysis?)
  • There are two groups surveilling the PCs. One is Omani law enforcement – using the same stats for the Egyptian NSA guys … which I evidently never posted, so I’ll put them in a different post – and the other are Vympel Spetsnaz.
    • The Omani LEOs have been tipped off that the PCs are persons of interest and want to take them into custody, ideally without too much violence or bloodshed.
    • The Russians are blunt instruments who want to the put the PCs into the ground.
  • How the PCs act is up to them, but I’m presuming they’re going to try and shake their pursuers at which point a fight is going to break out. I’d like to emulate the awesome bathroom fight in Mission Impossible: Fallout if at all possible and am considering using the simplified technical grappling rules from Doug Cole’s Hall of Judgment (since one of our players is constantly wanting to use Technical Grappling … which I’ve only skimmed TBH.) I’ve read through HoJ and it seems simple enough so this is baby steps, I suppose.

 

Scene 2

  • This is going to be a Chase scene and there are multiple entry vectors into it, depending upon what happens above.
    • IF the PCs go with the Omani LEOs peacefully, then the Russians will pull back and then assault the LEO transport with a ram (doing superficial damage to the PCs but injuring, killing or otherwise knocking out the LEOs.) Mahoney will be able to arrive in time for the PCs to pile into his vehicle … and then they have to evade the pursuing Russians to go to ground.
    • IF the PCs fail to shake their shadows from the airport, they’ll find themselves being pursued by both groups outside the airport probably with Mahoney again arriving to pick them up … although it might actually be more interesting if he’s a fourth party to this chase.
    • IF the PCs shake their shadows in the airport, then the Chase will be something different entirely. Instead, as they’re getting to their vehicle, they’ll see BRAGI and REILLY in a nearby car. Both sides will be surprised to see the other, but a chase will (likely) ensue with Reilly having access to far greater firepower than the PCs do.
  • I find option 1 the least likely … although I suppose that counts if a PC tries to shake their shadow but fails and is arrested. Depending on how the game shakes out, I could even combine all three options for really mixed up marshmallow mess of a Chase!
  • In the event that Bragi & Reilly are involved, my ideal resolution for that involves Bragi either escaping (perhaps leaving behind a Mission Impossible-esq mask, thus revealing that he isn’t Bragi at all!) or turning himself over to Omani LEOs to avoid the PCs, while Reilly is either killed (“My compliance will be rewarded.”) or badly injured somehow.

Scene 3

  • Presuming we get this far, I probably want to ripoff the opening action scene of Ronin which if you haven’t seen, what the hell is wrong with you? Basically, it’s an attempted gun buy that goes bad and I’ll have to figure out how to get there, although given the minimal gear the PCs have right now, that’s not a big surprise. Considering the PCs badly need to resupply, getting into that is pretty easy.
  • I’ve got a couple of other data points that will fit into Scene 3 in some capacity:
    • Chana has to get back to Israel ASAP
    • McKay warns PCs against trying to use the plane again; the Omani ISS is all over it
    • In the event that Bragi or Reilly is captured and if no PC considers it, I’ll have someone (DDO Riggs?) strongly urge that they need to grab that individual to interrogate them (which could probably lead to the above-mentioned Ronin ripoff as they need equipment.) In this, I’m totally thinking MI: Fallout again with them nabbing Solomon Lane.
    • McKay and Riggs are going to strongly suggest the PCs “lay low” in Muscat for as long as they can while they shake loose some alternate transport for the PCs.
  • I’d like to maybe find a way to end this session with the reveal that all of the PCs have been officially burned (so they lose Duty, but also lose all of the Legal Enforcement Powers, Patron, Rank, Security Clearance, etc. advantages as well.)

GM Commentary: ConsOps 2.09

After many weeks of being on hiatus, we resumed my Action game on Saturday … and it didn’t quite play out like I expected it to, principally because of some bad planning on my part. I intentionally planned for three major sequences as stated in previous posts that should have played out in the following way:

  • Phase 1: PCs reach their boat, repair it, make their way to land and reach out to contacts to obtain replacement gear.
  • Phase 2: While exiting with their new gear, the PCs encounter Bragi and Reilly in a car. This leads to a chase which probably would have ended with Reilly dying while “holding the line” so Bragi escaped.
  • Phase 3: Jump to Mahoney in the Russian embassy where he’s interrogated, then makes his escape.

And it all fell down in Phase 1 because of bad planning on my part. Vega was the only PC with the Mechanic skills and even then, he was defaulting off Mechanic (Motorcycle). I calculated everything and determined this check would be at -6 (defaulting at -4, additional -2 due to missing some tools.) Vega has Luck, so I figured that was fine … and then, the dice screwed him. Even with maximum +5 bonus for extra time (which turns out to be something like 30 hours since each check would take 1 hour!), Vega failed on his best roll by 1. So that meant they weren’t going to ever be able to repair the boat!

One of the players (Mark, I think?) threw out the idea that Somali pirates might show up to investigate their missing buddies, but someone else correctly pointed out that in the previous adventure I established that it wasn’t actually Somalis who took the ship (it was actually Yemenese mercs, but the PCs don’t know that yet.) In the end, I had someone make a “Universe reaction roll” which came up Poor, so I decided that the Royal Oman Navy would be the first to respond and the PCs would naturally be persons of interest.

This led to a bunch of improvisation on my part, but the PCs did a good job of sticking to their story and having a believable tale to tell … plus, as someone (Daniel, I think) pointed out, the owner of the cargo ship had previously gone “radio silent” so that would delay their actual response. Eventually, the PCs were ferried to the mainland where they managed to vanish like smoke in the wind. I did increase their HEAT by 1 for “fleeing arrest” which brings this up to 7.

The players split up, with one group basically counter-surveilling the team already at their hotel while the other group headed to the plane to try and get a lock on where Mahoney was via the GPS tracker. I threw in a half-hearted attempt to get the surveilling team (the Baum siblings) back “on track” by having the Russians they were following enter into a hot spot with SMGs, but the players declined to bite – logically so, since they had not replaced their gear yet and were, thus, down to bare knuckles and harsh words. If they did follow up, that would (or rather, could) have led to the Chase with Bragi & Reilly, but since they didn’t, it’ll remain a mystery … hmm. Amusing thought there: what if their actual target (CS: LOKI) was there and the Baums walked away? That’s such an amusing thought that it’s now what actually happened.

So with the team in the air and heading toward Muscat, Oman, I jumped to Mahoney … who was already there. He interacted with the Russian Spetsnaz colonel the Team observed in Syria waaaaay back in episode 1, but Mahoney easily withstood the initial “soft” interrogation (beat him by 7, I think); this didn’t work as well as I would have liked it to, so I’ll have to figure out a better way to do that should it happen again in the future. He would overhear the colonel learning that the other PCs have arrived in Muscat. After the colonel left (following a promise to get some “specialists”), Mahoney was given the opportunity to make his escape when his guard received a phone call from his former team-mate, McKay. Again, this didn’t play out as well as I would have liked – I really need to read up on the technical grappling stuff. Regardless, Mahoney choked the guy out and, with McKay’s assistance, escaped. So we ended with Mahoney driving out of the Russian embassy in the ambassador’s car.

Overall, I felt really rusty but we’re back in the game and I’m hopeful that I can improve this. I’m planning on starting next week with the Chase that I’d intended on being Phase 3 … but I’ll get into that later when I outline my gameprep.

GenCon Recap

So, as promised, here is my “recap” for the GenCon games I played:

Thursday:

  • Starfinder – Liked what I saw. Was basically what I expected with it being “Pathfinder in Space”, but there were some interesting adjustments like two different ACs (energy AC and physical or kinetic AC.) Didn’t realize (though I should have) that this game was organized play with 3 of 5 players having characters already, and they were definitely optimized. I played a bug cleric who traveled around with his larval son in a jar … which was weird but neat weird.
  • 13th AgeI really, REALLY liked this game. In fact, it is definitely my favorite d20 game thus far. Cool elements they include are Escalation Die (so as the fight progresses, it gets easier to hit for PCs … and does some bad guys as well), the mook mechanic (mooks have hit points but they go onto a collective pool so damage that drops a NPC rolls over into the pool; 10x NPCs with 10hp ea have a pool of 100. Doing 20hp dmg kills two mooks); some spells have recharge ability; etc. Favorite thing in this is the One Unique thing where you define the thing that makes your character unique in the world – for example, I was playing a dark elf but the adventure was very dwarf-centric, so I decided my One Unique Thing was that “Both of his biological parents are dwarves.” So yeah. Really, really liked this game.
  • Legend of the Five Rings – This was kind of a mess. Two GMs were out due to medical emergency (appendicitis for one who was supposed to be my GM, the other was her husband) so we started more than hour late. One player was being kind of a dick about these GM woes and became really passive-aggressive to the actual GM we had … even though he was 30 to 45 minutes late himself. Overall, it was interesting system that, in my opinion, is slightly too in love with itself and setting. Very roleplaying heavy with some major limitations- like playing roguely murder hobo types? Not for you. In fact, I think its TOO roleplaying heavy at times. And since I suck at Japanese pronunciation, that’d be really tough to get through, I think…

Friday:

  • Mongoose Traveller 2nd Edition – This was fantastic. GM was very engaging, group was fun, and dice were inconsistent, especially for pilot which made for a very enjoyable romp. Amusingly, an offhand remark by a player from beginning of adventure ended up saving most of our lives. Less worried about running this now though we didn’t really get space combat opportunity so I’m still not sure about that angle. Combat went by fast and easy.
  • The Expanse RPG Interesting mechanics. 3d6 with 1 being the “drama” die … you add them together vs a target number. If successful and two die are doubled (a pair of 5s, FREX) you gain “stunt points” equal to drama die number that must be spent immediately. Drama die also determines other stuff but less clear on specifics with that. No real hp. You’re just normal, injured, wounded, or unconscious/dying. This was obviously an intro adventure and I’m certainly curious about the coming “adventure arc” (to see what I can raid from it for my Verge game), but I’m not sure how likely I would be to play this for a long time.
  • Mutant City Blues – Gumshoe game involving superhuman cops. Very fun, though all of the players (myself included) had clearly watched too many police procedurals because we flew through the adventure, picking up on clues and guessing at stuff very, very quickly. In the end, we arrested our people and threw them in jail. Good times. I’m a big fan of the Gumshoe system – looking forward the Night’s Black Agents game we’re starting up next week in our face-to-face game – so this was a lot of fun.

Saturday:

  • D&D 5E – Had a blast in this ten hour game. Learned a bunch about 5E that I did not know including “half orc monks at 10th level are fun as hell”; “paladins critting can burn spell slots to power up their smites”; and “ten hours is a LONG time to play a single game … but nowhere near long enough to play out all of Red Hand of Doom.” Also, 5E has a much different feel than 3.5/Pathfinder. Overall, though, this was a lot of fun.
  • Cypher – This was a strange system to me but for the most part, I enjoyed it. The GM never rolls any dice and stats are pretty minimal, but the mechanics worked nicely and both the GM & the story were quite good. This was definitely NOT a tactical game, but rather a more narratively based one. I’d be very interested in giving this another try at some point but I’m not sure how well it’d work for a longer term campaign.

Sunday:

  • HarnMaster – Really liked this game. A lot easier than I expected it to be, while also being rather lethal. Very interested in seeing more of this. Uses d% with target being under skill level. Difference here was there were four effective rolls – 5s under skill roll (05 or 10 or 15, etc.) are critical success, rolls under skill are marginal success, rolls over are marginal failures. 5s over (95, 00, etc) are critical failures. These are contested – so marginal success on atk is blocked with marginal success on defense, beaten by crit success. Wounding reduces skill capability (minor dmg = -5%), etc. Very neat.

Back From GenCon

And, ugh … I am so tired right now. We ended up leaving Indy around 6 and arrived in OKC a little before 5a.m. As it turned out, I was the only one in the car who didn’t get in a quick nap – just couldn’t actually force myself to drift off like everyone else did. Came home and crashed for a few hours – three and a half, I think – which was not nearly enough. I had to do laundry for work tomorrow (ugh) as well as taking a buddy to the airport so he can fly home to Portland. I could probably get to sleep now, but I’m trying to hold it off until around 2000 or 2100 when its properly bed-time. But man, I am really fricking tired. Next time I go to GenCon, I’m getting the house until Monday a.m. so I can get a good night’s sleep before driving home.

This week, I’m intending to type up a big review of the games I played, so watch for that, I suppose. In the event anyone but spambots actually read this.

Thought that I was going to resume ConsOps this Saturday (the 10th), but looks like it’s actually going to be next week (17th). Whee…