GamePrep: ConsOps, 2.14

On to the planning for 2×14. This one looks to be potentially a little weird based on how I want to do it. I’ve basically split this up into three phases that boil down to: The Meeting; The Infiltration; The Discovery.

I also need to have a minor retcon here: the UN is shutting down their operation here, so everyone is basically packing up (which allows PCs to move about relatively unnoticed.) This is why they were able to insert into the region so easily.

The Meeting

With this scene, I want to try and emulate the DeNiro / Pacino diner scene from “Heat” but with Lynch and TYR, the Russian Spetsnaz colonel.

To properly accomplish this, I need to find a way to split the group up for a span of time. Mahoney is already taken care of since he’s off enjoying some … private time with Chana, but breaking Grayson and Ilan off is slightly more difficult. Having Grayson see another SIS agent embedded within the UN personnel could work … but what exactly does that accomplish in this apart from a reminder that he’s been burned? Hmm … actually … what if the agent-in-question is here, knowing that Grayson was heading in this direction and is thus giving him a new assignment? I’ll have to develop that a bit more in a moment as Baum (Ilan, not Chana) is the next thing to really consider as I don’t have anything for him either. Fortunately (I suppose), the player has already indicated that there is a good chance he’ll be out due to school so if that’s the case, I don’t need to worry about it; that said, this has burned me in the past when he said there was a high likelihood of his absence so I planned for that and then he showed up. I suppose they may need to obtain some additional supplies & Ilan, being Mr. I have a 20 in Stealth could be the guy to sneak in and get them.

Okay. So presuming I can get the team split up briefly, Lynch will interact with TYR. Ideally, I’ll have Lynch and Colonel Sudokov see one another at the same time, while they’re in a crowded area full of civilians (so both are encouraged to not open fire and begin a shoot-out.) If it comes to stats, I’m just going to use Lynch’s with the conceit that these two men are basically the same. Ultimately, they want the same thing: LOKI dead. The big difference is that Lynch wants to ask the man some questions first and TYR cannot allow that because it’ll negatively impact his country in some capacity. This also gives me a chance to recycle an old idea I had that was originally going to be used for Baum back in 2×08 or so. TYR reveals that he knows “Lynch” – Lynch captured and killed the men responsible for downing an Aeroflot plane because it had three American citizens on it, one of which was a CIA officer. TYR’s son was also on that plane as the pilot and he would like to know how those men died. So Lynch has his thanks but if they meet again, TYR will very much try to kill him. (This will also alert Lynch that Spetsnaz personnel are likely in the city.)

Moving on to Grayson and adding more to my above thinky-thoughts. I believe (will have to verify with the recording) that the player said Brooks was going to check-in to let SIS know what he was planning via dead drop of some sort, in which case they could have someone actually waiting to relay info. It could even be a cut-out of some sort, maybe a UN or WHO operative who isn’t an active field agent, just someone who relays intel somehow. So, with that in mind, he’ll see someone wearing the WHO vest, but they have specifically colored laces in their boots that are tied in a certain manner alerting him to the fact that they have new intelligence standing by. This is specific to his operation – it’s how his handler(s) go in touch with him. When he makes contact & the two exchange their challenge-response dance, the doctor passes off … hmm … what? A SIM card could work that he could slot into his phone, then plugin in a password. Let’s go with that. On this SIM card is a MP4 from his handler relating: his current mission has been suspended – other assets have retrieved Vladimir from the Dubai hospital and are relocating him somewhere safe until he’s recovered; “evidence” has been seeded (for Vlad, should he regain consciousness before this op is complete) that indicate that Brooks’ Russian identity was taken into custody but escaped & is currently on the run. In the interim, Brooks is to continue on his task. SIS had been discreetly investigating his previous reports – the player and I established that, while Grayson was undercover on his last assignment, he discovered some oddities regarding ConsOps & reported it up the chain, then had to deal with an assassination attempt by a former ConsOps team member! – but now, with the US government quietly but officially disavowing the private intelligence agency, they’re taking it more seriously. SIS wants to know everything he uncovers, but warns Grayson that there are multiple other agencies doing the same thing, particularly their Cousins at Langley. He is explicitly ordered not to tell anyone else that he’s actively digging into this for SIS; as far as the rest of the world is concerned, he’s been disavowed and a burn notice for one of his cover identities will be disseminated as appropriate. Finally, he’s provided a contact number for emergency support but it is made clear that this needs to be an absolute emergency as pulling the trigger on that will blow multiple operations out of the water and likely compromise his own Vladimir op.

As stated above, this leaves Baum with nothing to do. I’ll have to ensure there’s some make-work for him should the player actually be able to show up, but that’s pretty easy.

For Mahoney, I’d also like to do something other than relate that he had some sexy-good times with Chana, but I’m not entirely sure what. Maybe have her relate to him (following the above-mentioned sexy good times) that she’s getting tired of this life and just wants to be an actual doctor? Looking at her stats, I note that she “Enjoys danger” as a quirk and has SoD to Israel, but she’s also got a CoH (Soldier) … so that might not actually work here. Maybe instead she relates to him that, during her brief return to Israel, she learned that a few of the friends she grew up with were recently killed in the continuing escalation of violence in Israel following the bombing of the American embassy earlier in my run. So she feels … frustrated that Mossad has her way the hell out here when she could be doing more back home. Plus, her mom is harassing her about kids and wants her to marry a good Jewish boy. And “Paul” is not a good Jewish boy.

Last week, I also established that Chana wants either a sample of the (expected) bioweapon or someone who is infected that they can extract back to Israel to dig into, so she’ll give Ilan some contact information that she expects him to give to Ilan that will allow the latter to contact a Metsada team that is operating in the region should the latter option present itself. She strongly recommends using this only if they have someone valuable because, since Ilan has essentially been burned, the Metsada team might just opt to shoot them all and burn the bodies. And she’d hate to lose a perfectly good booty call in the form of Mahoney. Also, she’d hate to lose her brother. Their mom would never let her live it down.

The Infiltration

Following all of this mess – which should not take up a lot of gametime – the team gets to sneak into the city. As I stated during the previous session, the “quarantine” is geared more for preventing people from coming out than people going in. Still, as the PCs are likely going in heavily armed, they’re going to want to avoid notice which calls for Stealth checks. Mahoney is the lowest guy here with his 12; everyone else has a 14 or higher. Which begs the question: what happens if they’re detected? Firefight with the UN?

It also occurs to me here that, if Ilan’s player is absent, then Lynch could deploy him as sniper overwatch. I’ll probably put that into play here should it come up with the conceit that the PCs can call in a sniper shot every other round should a fight break out. Hmm. Even if he’s actually available, I could have Chana do that anyway which I rather like.

Three of the PCs (including Grayson) have Navigation (Land) so that part’s relatively easy. Using GPS coordinates grants a bonus to this check, but the state of the city itself adds a penalty, so it comes out even. Grayson may get an additional bonus due to familiarity … although I’m leaning toward no because he hasn’t actually been here.

As I’m presuming the PCs are going in at night, they’re likely going to expect the city to be relatively inactive. What they’ll discover, however, is that people are scuttling back-and-forth all over the place. And potentially even worse is the presence of multiple spec ops teams prowling the streets. They’re all obviously looking for something. If Baum is on sniper overwatch, he’s ideal to relate this factoid (which PCs probably should expect following Lynch’s interaction with TYR.)

Something I’m currently thinking about doing is using the city grid cards from Zombies but laying them out during time of play really isn’t going to work. What I need to do instead is pre-generate various “city blocks” and then either scan them in for the game beforehand or just use them without ever telling the players. What I’m concerned about if I use them, though, is that it could unnecessarily slow down the flow. Ideally, this scene moves relatively fast. I want the PCs to hear the constant chatter of distant gunfire – since AKs are all over the place in this region – and probably see some people scurrying around in the dark. I would also really like to have the PCs actually see some of the crazier locals swarm someone or something. And I absolutely need the PCs to find some corpses and identify them as spec ops of some nation or another.

So let’s have three to four “mini-encounters” along the way. That should let me relate this information to everyone. And I can break up the monotonous “I need another Stealth roll” with some descriptions and intel gathering.

Encounter 1: Just after entering the city, sniper overwatch (Ilan if he’s unavailable, Chana if he’s not) warns them that there is some intense activity just ahead. At the same time, PCs can hear the distinct sound of suppressed firearms followed by some shouts and screams. Advancing forward allows PCs to catch the tail end of a zerg rush of Infected locals upon a team of some sort. The casualty count of the attacking locals was immense – to take out three men, probably twenty Infected locals died. The locals are armed with a wide variety of ‘whatever the hell they can pick up’ so clubs, baseball bats, kitchen knives, etc. There are only about two of the feral locals still upright, though many others are still alive; they’re just physically incapable of walking around due to a leg being crippled. Further investigation will allow PCs to (theoretically) identify these guys as Saudi troopers. Oh, and by the way? Per sniper overwatch, there are more Infected locals advancing in this direction. Stealth check required.

Encounter 2: Out of seeming nowhere, an Infected local rushes out, holding up a large kitchen knife. He targets a random PC. Treat this as partial surprise, although all PCs have Combat Reflexes so they’re not going to be caught unprepared at all. At the first sound of gunfire (suppressed or not; after all, suppressed firearms still make noise, after all), several additional Infected locals rush the PCs. This is not intended to be a drawn out pitched firefight, but rather more of a “Crap! They are insane!” Run this quickly for three rounds or so with a d6 Infected arriving per round. The Infected do nothing but All Out Attacks or Move and Attack, but have no armor and limited defenses; their strength lies in numbers and general insanity. I suppose I should post the stats I have for them … might put that on the bottom. Again, remember sniper overwatch – 1 shot every other round – and once the last of them are down, sniper overwatch tells them to get moving now because there’s another bunch of these Infected lunatics en route. Stealth check required.

Encounter 3: An abrupt explosion shatters the ominous silence and it is rapidly followed by a crapton of automatic gunfire that isn’t suppressed. Naturally, it is coming from the direction that the PCs need to go in; as they approach (or flank around or whatever), the gunfire gradually dwindles. Sniper overwatch does not have a good LOS (line of sight) for whatever is going on. Should PCs investigate, much depends on how quickly they go there – if immediately, they will discover a quartet or quintet of soldiers from different organizations fighting back-to-back against a flood of insane Infected locals. Simply based on the immediate terrain, it appears that the shooters were (initially) fighting one another but ended up back-to-back as they were eventually overwhelmed by sheer numbers. If they wait out the shooting, when they get there, they discover a mound of corpses surrounding the quartet or quintet of shooters who have all been bludgeoned or stabbed to death. There are still a bunch of Infected loitering in the immediate area, but they can be evaded with a Stealth check. If the dead shooters are investigated, they have equipment indicating that they are Saudi, Yemenese and American!

Encounter 4: PCs are on final approach to the “warehouse when sniper overwatch informs them that they (Ilan or Chana) have to relocate; not only do they not have a clear LOS on PCs location, but the Yemenese military (or Saudi – it isn’t clear) appears to be moving into his/her location. At this point, I’m going to roll a secret Vision-based Traps check for the active characters – of the four PCs, only Baum doesn’t have the Traps skill, and all of them have it at 13 or greater, so I expect this will be fine. Success reveals some camouflaged MON-50 mines (which are basically just Russian Claymores) that are clearly newly installed. Mahoney is the EOD expert and he has a 20 in it, so that’s probably not going to be an issue. The fact that they’re here, though, definitely indicates that the Russians are here as well. Moving forward without detection requires another Stealth check.

The Discovery

The warehouse in question has obviously been heavily damaged by the fighting, but more importantly, it appears to be surrounded by a team of Russians (or more accurately, they’re all inside it and using it as cover). How do they know they’re Russian? Mahoney recognizes one of them as the guy he choked out at the Embassy in Muscat, Oman! Successful Tactics check reveals that the Russians have setup in four different fireteams of two men with overlapping fields of fire (total number of eight Spetsnaz guys). Sneaking by these dudes is going to be tough … but not impossible. If the PCs don’t have any issues with getting in a pitched firefight (which hopefully, by now, I’ve shown is a very bad idea), then they can go that route. Getting past these guys is going to depend entirely on the actions of the players so I can’t really plan much for that, apart from setting up the encounter location. So … there are eight troopers outside keeping watch, while another quartet are inside the warehouse … or rather, under the warehouse. Why under it? Because that’s where the actual storage vault is located at.

I’ll have to handle this by ear according to player actions – it’s possible they’ll manage to take out the Russians without firing a shot or this might devolve into a run-and-gun slugfest. In the event that the Russians are overwhelmed, whether by a gunfight or a tsunami of Infected lunatics lured into the kill-zone, at least one of them will attempt to escape via an underground tunnel – this could theoretically lead to a foot Chase through the city if they pursue. The important thing for this guy is that he’s got a biohazard transport container. I’ll need to push toward that if I want it to happen, probably with one of the PCs seeing the guy (same dude Mahoney choked out?) ducking out of sight with the biohazard thing.

Hmm. Actually … having multiple Russians all begin withdrawing into a Chase could be interesting as well. I’d need to adjust the Chase Circumstances table to take into account the Infected swarm and potential attack by other troops in the region. I think that, if the PCs manage to halve the numbers of the Russians, they’re all going to retreat into the Chase.

Successfully recovering the biohazard container reveals that it has two odd-looking tablets inside. Mission accomplished.

And then, the Yemenese government (such as it is) begins attacking the city with attack helicopters…

So I think I’m good to go.

GM Commentary: ConsOps, 2.13

Huzzah! I finally got the car chase I’ve been wanting to do for like six weeks or so. Naturally, it ended up taking more of the session than I’d expected it to. Because of course it did. Initially, I was worried because Baum straight up ditched his pursuers due to an obstacle (that resulted in the pursuing vehicle crashing and taking out all of the guys inside), but he circled around and got back into the chase by approaching the dudes already chasing Lynch and Mahoney. This was also definitely a case where we saw how much better behind the wheel Vega was as the actual chase itself dragged out for many, many rounds because the vehicles were basically identical and the skill levels involved were all very close, so it all depended on actual die rolls.

We’ve been using the Chase Circumstances table from Pyramid 3/112 for chases and while I like it, I think that I need to tweak how it’s used somehow. One of the players introduced having some of the regular people from our Twitch stream make the checks for that and, while that worked, I don’t think that’s a good solution for the long-term because it requires the audience members to be available at all times. For example, one of the people watching went AFK briefly and he was the guy making some rolls. I wonder if maybe there is some sort of dice functionality that could be added to Twitch? Or maybe and external link to a die roller app or something? Also, I think I need to adjust the phrasing in the table to make sure it’s clear when it’s an obstacle and when it’s a stunt opportunity. We got a little confused at least once in that regard.

Looking at the Chase rules from Action 2, I also noted that the Ram maneuver is a little too streamlined – if you hit, you figure out the damage and both vehicles/inhabitants take it. However, it seems to me that if you intentionally T-bone someone – John Reese’s favorite car maneuver in “Person of Interest” – the target vehicle should probably take more damage than the rammer simply because of placement. I should look in 3E Vehicles & see if they mention that. The players kept using Force unsuccessfully & then one of them had a chance to do a Ram but opted for Force (unsuccessfully again) instead to avoid taking crippling vehicle damage (and potentially personal damage as well) which was wholly understandable since the vehicle stats were identical (so no advantage for having the “stronger” ride.) Something for me to consider.

There was a bit more debate about what to do with the incapacitated Reilly than I expected, some of it bordering on heated. Luckily, I didn’t have to step in and suggest a course of action – they opted to get the CIA doctor (who I retroactively based on Devon Woodcomb from “Chuck” – aka “Awesome!”) to a hotel/motel where he could call in CIA assets. No one really considered whether this would mean the Company might just send in cleaners. We’ve joked in the past that I’m going to do a hospital scene where Hurt wakes up and has to fend off some evil assassins, and now, there are three potential PCs for such a scene (Hurt, Reilly and the Doc) so … I may actually consider that. Could be a one-off maybe or something else entirely. Time will tell.

During the chase, Baum’s player opted to shift to Move for several rounds, which surprised me as it resulted in Brooks not being able to participate by shooting. I was already feeling a little irritated because Mahoney was basically just sitting there for the entire chase, so now there was another player just twiddling his thumbs. In retrospect, I should have had him making the attack decisions and rolls of the shooters in the trail car. At least then he would have been participating. In the course of the chase, Baum got nailed in the arm which was temporarily crippled; I (and the player as well, I think) completely forgot about this later, when the chase ended and he took a rifle shot to neutralize the fleeing driver. Ah, well.

I declared that an “unspecified amount of time” elapsed as they made their way to Yemen. At the moment, I have that down as 4 days, but I actually think it might need to be a few more than that to ensure that Baum’s arm completely heals up – reviewing the chatlog, this is HP/2 + 1 damage so 6 points for Ilan as he normally has 11hp. The doc rolled a crappy 1 for first aid recovery, so that leaves 5; they’ll need five days, not four, but this works as it puts them on 1 Mar. Regardless, they’ve arrived at Ta’iz, which (based on my research) is a nightmare of a city at the moment. The decision to have Chana Baum present was mostly for info-dump purposes – she’s essentially the “quest-giver” in this scenario. And I was mildly entertained by the back-and-forth between Ilan and Mahoney’s players regarding the latter’s relationship with the former’s sister.

So we’re finally in Ta’iz. Next week, I have some minor roleplaying in mind for the beginning of the session, then the PCs will be stealthing into the city to discover that it’s worse than they thought, especially when they discover that there are multiple kill teams on site, all after the same time thing. But that’s for the game prep post. I’m hoping Ta’iz will take a session and a half, maybe two tops, then we move on to Riga for another session and a half or two, then on to the climax…

GamePrep: ConsOps, 2.13

With the firefight from last week having taken much longer than expected, much of the stuff from the previous gameprep post stands, but as I stated in the recap for 2.12, I’m currently leaning toward starting the session with a Chase. Logically, it needs to begin with the PCs fleeing from the safehouse, but being observed by UAE/Dubai LEOs and then pursued … so, easy enough. The problem, I think, is that a regular car Chase is just kind of boring. That means I need to find a way to spice it up.

Splitting the PCs up is probably a decent way to do that, like the vehicles they have access to aren’t big enough for the entire party, so they have to split up. Looking at the stats, seems that Baum is the best Automobile driver in the group now that Vega is dead – he’s got a 15, everyone else has a 12, though Lynch also has Motorcycle at 12 – so splitting them up is viable since my pursuers aren’t going to have higher than -12 in their Driving (Automobile) either. So … three Jeeps available outside the safehouse and with four PCs + 2 NPCs (one of which is critically injured) + 1 corpse … yeah. They’d have to split up … unless they decide “Doc, you take the dead gal and the injured dead while we run that way” … in which case, the doc will be caught by the Dubai cops. And Reilly will die because he won’t get any medical attention during the time that the Doc is driving.

Regardless, a Chase happens. Cops will be in regular cars and/or motorcycles. I need to find a way to make it more than just a chase … maybe turn it into a three-way chase with the PCs, the Dubai cops, and unknown mercenaries? That seems a little out of nowhere … or does it really? If the dead CIA officer received a phone call from BRAGI or one of his operatives to ‘activate’ her, then it stands to reason that they could also dispatch other assets to ensure the job was done. Yeah. So not only is it a three-way chase with the PCs being pursued by both the local cops and unknown bad guys, but the PCs are theoretically split up into multiple vehicles … this chase could be a mess. Maybe I need to just ditch the splitting up? Or drop the cops …

Okay. Thoughts now: PCs exit from building and immediately come under fire from some mercenary-looking dudes who are just arriving in SUVs. Bad guys shots are crap at the moment, but just a look at them can tell that these dudes are not UAE personnel; they look too European (not Slavic, but European). There are two SUVs with four to six personnel in each one. And the sounds of aproaching sirens can still be heard, so having a shoot-out here is probably a bad idea. If PCs seem like they’re leaning toward that, I’ll have one of them note that a helicopter with police markings appears to be en route as well.

Who are these guys? Just mercs. They’ve been paid a crapton of money to take out these dudes. Enough money that they could risk Dubai LEOs. So … Chase happens.

And then, once they manage to escape, the PCs can do whatever it is they’re going to do that lets them head toward Yemen and Ta’iz. I covered a lot this in the previous GamePrep for 2.12.

GM Commentary: ConsOps, 2.12

Well. That didn’t quite go like I expected it to. Once again, we got into a tactical encounter that was planned to be a really quick “bang-bang-bang, we’re done” and it ended up eating most of the session. I absolutely need to find a way to speed these things up … but at the same time, I don’t want the bad guys to suddenly start being complete morons.

Dialing back, the players caught me off guard with their decision to put Grayson into play by having him “act” as a fellow captive while in the same room as Reilly and I don’t think I recovered very well with that. I’d originally expected this to just be handled as a regular interrogation – they want to find out some info, they make the roll, information is gleaned, and we move on – but their decision to put Grayson in like they did almost demanded something more and then I started having trouble with expressing myself which only made things worse. I knew what I wanted to convey but utterly failed to do so. I also completely dropped the ball with the setup for the brainwashed agent kicking in the door to shoot them as well; my notes specifically stated that the CIA doctor was supposed to mention that the agent was taking a call when he came in … and I didn’t add that.

With regards to the Dubai agents coming in, that was due to the Heat stuff. As stated elsewhere, I’m ripping off the HEAT mechanic from Night’s Black Agents, but obviously handling it a little differently. In this, I’m treating it as basically a group Enemy. When the PCs enter a new country, they begin with a 2 in frequency of appearance (unless something changes this, like they come in hot or failed a cover check.) This is modified up according to action and I’m pre-rolling before the session – pre 2×12, the PCs had a 5 in this and I rolled a surprising 4, so the assault was on. Since the guys they shot were federal agents, this increases Heat by 4 (!), giving them an appearance of 9 or less … and just as a note for planning of 2×13, I rolled a 9.

My thinking for this guys was that they were investigating, but did not move to breach until they heard the automatic gunfire from the brainwashed agent who was trying to kill Reilly. (To my surprise, she failed – he’s at -34hp, but he made his death checks and if they can get the appropriate medical gear, the doctor currently with them can save his life.) During the fight, my bad guys were intending on using smoke and flash-bangs, but neither really helped here – with the smoke, one of the hurled grenades was shot by Baum who wanted to bounce it back into the attackers; he rolled high enough that I decided to go with it. Another agent intended to throw a flash-bang stun grenade into the players’ midst … but was flash-banged before he could do so and the HT-5 to come out of stun was brutal considering they only had HT 10 to begin with.

In the wake of the firefight, the PCs (wisely) determined that they had to bail immediately. They took the dead (brainwashed) CIA agent with them, the critically injured Reilly, and the CIA doctor (who believes he can save Reilly if they get him the proper gear), but left the now stable Vladimir in the expectations that the Dubai authorities will recognize that he wasn’t involved (considering he’d been operated on to save his life from bullet wounds.) Three dead UAE feds are in the blown safehouse, along with a zip-tied and hooded fourth (who might still be trying to come out of stun.) The PCs have already decided that Ta’iz, Yemen is their next likely destination …

I’m currently thinking that, since I rolled a 9 on the Heat check above, I’m going to start the session with a car chase of some sort because we haven’t had one of those in a long time and I think we’re overdue. Still rolling around the specifics, but I want it to be slightly more interesting than just “we drive really fast to get away.” Hmm. I could set it during a sandstorm like in “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” …

GamePrep: ConsOps, 2.12

Man, I’ve sort of written myself into a corner here. At the conclusion of the previous episode, I basically gave the PCs four options for where to go next … and I have no idea which one they’re going to choose! This means that I basically need to plan out four different adventure paths! Even worse, I’ve been horribly, horribly lazy this week, so I’m way, way behind…

Okay. Trying to focus. Before we get there, I’ll need to do some recap/reminder to the players:

  • PCs have all been ordered by their respective agencies to come in immediately for debrief. The phrasing and tenseness in speakers sends alarms.
  • Lynch has learned that Ta’iz was target of major biological attack and US govt has quietly disavowed ConsOps as two of their agents have been identified as the parties responsible. All agencies that have lent people to ConsOps are discreetly pulling them in for extensive “debrief”…
  • McKay goes radio silent. Riggs remains radio silent. (Is he a bad guy? He just might be…)
  • PCs have relocated to a “CIA” safehouse in Dubai.
    • Vladimir has been handed over to doctors – his injuries are sufficiently severe that they believe that waking him for any form of interrogation has a high probability of being lethal so it is strongly opposed. (He’s at -11hp, out of 10hp, so he’s in “critical” condition.)
    • Reilly has also been stabilized – he’s at -10hp of 12. Presuming First Aid applied, he could theoretically be at -4hp.
      • If Interrogated, he is visibly disoriented and confused, waffling back and forth between a Fanatic and the Reilly they recall. With each question, roll Fate Die – on +, he’s helpful, on -, he’s actively against them, and on a blank, he’s just confused.
      • Scans (MRI?) could reveal some strange anomalies in his brain (if this is available); even if it’s not, the medical guys reveal that they’ve discovered some oddness about him – his responses to various stimuli are atypical. The medical types are convinced that something has been done to him and, since they’re CIA, one of them should mention the whole MKUltra stuff.
      • Not sure what all they’re going to get from him considering the before-mentioned disorientation, not to mention he was basically just being used as muscle. He’s aware that Breznikov (aka C/S: LOKI) was supposed to go to Ta’iz, Yemen to take over “Phase Three of The Project” (he doesn’t know what the Project is, only that BRAGI … who he knows only as Sir, was coordinating with multiple parties about this) and a Russian kill-team was sighted in the region.
  • At least one of the players has indicated wanting to do some additional research/intel analysis based on what they’ve learned; I’ll have to play that by ear and see what they’re trying to learn/find out.
  • Continuing the hunt for BRAGI is possible as well, though they know he’s a master of disguise now so they’re not going to know exactly who he looks like … which I can totally play with during the safehouse thing.
    • For example, one of the people at the safehouse could get a phone call, then seek out a SMG to shoot up the place because their “compliance will be rewarded.”
    • I’ll only do that if things start getting bogged down ala Raymond Chandler’s “when in doubt, have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand.”

As stated, there are four Probable Targets:

TA’IZ, YEMEN – this is the closest to the PCs currently, but has been officially quarantined due to what is being reported as a massive outbreak of cholera by the UN who are working with the Yemen government. 

  • Ideally, I need to push this as the first destination so the PCs have firsthand knowledge of what this bioweapon will do for down the road.
  • Research will reveal that WHO personnel have been sighted entering Ta’iz in full hazmat gear, but later exiting without it (so whatever the problem is, it isn’t airborne.)
  • Gaining entrance is still possible because the PCs are awesome and GRAYSON can probably identify where in the city they need to go based on Vladimir’s phone records.
  • If not done as the first destination, this option goes away due to the weaponized encephalitis burning out.
  • Presuming the PCs do enter this first, they find intel indicating that LOKI was supposed to come here after the Perseus/Pegasus thing, but his destination was changed at the last minute and he was redirected to Europe. 
  • The warehouse that they’re seeking out is going to have already been hit by the
  • This is ultimately going to become a zombie survival scene once the PCs arrive when they encounter the Infected inhabitants of the city.

RIGA, LATVIA – Meeting with “The Serbian.” 

  • This is The White Queen from Top Secret/NWO. He responds positively to Grayson, suspiciously to everyone else; PCs could get around this by only having Grayson actually meet him while the rest are loitering as backup. 
  • If informed that Vladimir is incapacitated/injured, Andros immediately begins making plans to take over his “old friend’s” organization. He’ll even hint at bringing Grayson on…
  • Leads to a street shoot-out and a boat insertion

BERLIN, GERMANY – investigate shipment of material to Vladimir’s warehouse

  • This should probably be closer to endgame.
  • After arriving at Berlin, redirected elsewhere?
  • I currently don’t have a lot here, so I’m very much hoping they don’t go there.
  • If absolutely necessary, I’ll direct them toward a warehouse where they can get into a shoot-out with some Bad Dudes, then learn that Phase 4 is hitting the G7 conference … and Berlin itself.

ASTANA, KAZAKASTAN – overdue shipment of material to holding facility

  • I currently don’t know what happens here if they opt to go there … luckily, this seems like an unlikely option.

GM Commentary: ConsOps, 2.11

Exactly as I feared, what I’d hoped would be the first half of the session – the opening firefight – turned into pretty much the entire session. Ultimately, I think it was probably for the best as I wasn’t entirely sure where we were going next … but that basically punted the “ah, crap. What’s next?” part until next week.

Immediately before the game, when Ronnke imported his character into Fantasy Grounds, I had a moment of “Oh, crap!” that necessitated an urgent rewrite of some of the opening scene. In his original pass, the character of Grayson Brooks didn’t speak Russian, so most of the stuff at the beginning was developed around that conceit, but he’d changed that by the time of importing, so I had to feverishly update my notes as the conversation between Bragi and Vladimir the arms merchant took place entirely in that language so, rather than Grayson not understanding them, he’s totally fluent in the language. I suppose I could have just changed the language they used so he didn’t understand, but that didn’t really make any sense to me.

Interestingly enough, the combat itself went relatively smoothly with only a couple of minor hiccups due to crazy die rolls along the way. Based on the floorplans of the Presidential Suite of the Burj Al-Arab, I knew that range wasn’t really going to be a factor, so I used Action’s range bands with shots basically being either Close (0-5 yards, so no modifier) or Short (5-20 yards, -3). The Lighting was an issue only for the bad guys although once again, I forgot that a couple times and then had to quickly backtrack to take back some shots that did connect. I wanted the fight to be fast and brutal, and while technically it took us about 3 hours, the fight itself only lasted about 10 seconds or so.

As expected, “Bragi” got away, but he left behind another mystery with the Mission Impossible-style mask he left behind. Now the PCs definitely know that Bragi wasn’t actually Bragi although I’m hedging my bets on exactly who it was. Still leaning toward it having actually been CS: ODIN, the alleged mastermind of this entire mess, but dropping in some last minute surprises isn’t entirely out of the question yet. I also knew that, as soon as Bragi went over the side, one of the PCs was going to do so as well – I just wasn’t sure which one. And of course it was Mahoney. He got shot up again during the fight and very nearly would have been barely combat capable if I hadn’t realized the before-mentioned lighting modifier that hadn’t been applied properly to the bad guys. He’s

Geography wasn’t an issue for this fight because I’d discovered the below video which has an excellent walkthrough of the Presidential Suite. I also had the actual floorplans as images – both floors – though I didn’t add a grid to them because in my experiments beforehand, it made them very difficult to read. Ultimately, that didn’t matter too terribly as, apart from Mahoney’s initial sprint forward and jump over the railing, the characters remained fairly static in their positioning.

Something that occurred to me after the game that I should have done is better differentiate which bad guys had SMGs and which ones didn’t. Or, more accurately, the ones actually wearing armor. What I should have done is change the tokens being used on the combat tracker. The was less for the players than for me, as it turned out, because there were several instances where one of the players accidentally reminded me that a hostile was armored up when they remarked about that fact to the player who was making his attack roll. I’m thinking that the suited SMG token worked fine for the guys armored up, but I should have used a white shirt token for the others.

Alas, poor Reilly. On one hand, he’s currently not dead and he just took a bullet to the head – which didn’t kill him and turned out to be little more than a graze … although I should probably review the YouTube again to make sure I didn’t miscalculate terribly. Regardless, before then, he’d been seriously nickel and dimed with blunt trauma as the armor he was wearing was as good as what the PCs had & they couldn’t penetrate it with their regular shots. That said, he accomplished exactly what he was supposed to – he drew their fire and gave Bragi time to escape. Hmm. It occurs to me now that I think about it that the head shot and resulting trauma could theoretically break his brainwashing. Not that the PCs are necessarily inclined to believe him, but that is something I’ll have to keep in mind when I start working on notes for the next session.

The introduction of Grayson as a new PC did not go as smoothly as I would like because I realized that I’d sort of written myself into a corner. As part of original backstory that I then started moving away from without telling the player (foolishly, I know, but we had a week off and I got distracted), he was former ConsOps who’d discovered some discrepancies about some missions, reported it to his SIS (aka MI6) chain-of-command, then nearly been assassinated by one of his former ConsOps team members while on his current mission. This meant he was primed to not trust the PCs … and they were dealing with a betrayal of their own with Reilly. Taken from Grayson perspective, this team of ConsOps guys blew into his his op, targeted a guy he knew was ConsOps with obvious intent to kill, and now they’re eyeing him? He took some shots at Lynch whose player was legitimately going to engage with intent to kill … although he did amend that with a plan to use a flash-bang against Grayson which could have been amusing. The players managed to extricate themselves from that mess by using their advantages – Grayson has Intuition, for example – but I did appreciate that Grayson stayed “in-character” while other bodyguards were in play.

The final scene was a bit rushed and basically revolved around a data dump as well as setting up the next steps. There are really four major angles that the PCs can follow at this point and none of them are wrong: Ta’iz, Yemen, is easily the closest, but is quarantined by the UN so entering that city is going to be tough – if they go there, it’s going to feel like they’re in a zombie horror movie due to the biological attack that has taken place there ostensibly perpetrated by former ConsOps personnel; Riga, Latvia, is probably the smart angle since Grayson would have an in with the asset there, and that’s going to put them on the trail of another Russian biological weapons guy who knows some things; going into Germany is probably the least fleshed out at the moment, but will be complicated by the fact that they’re gearing up for the G7 summit so security will be tight; Astana, Kazakhstan, is ultimately a partial red herring with the PCs eventually discovering that the bio-weapons material has been sent on to Germany … and the G7 summit.

And I have absolutely no idea which way the PCs are going to jump so I get to hash out rudimentary plans for all four! Huzzah. What I do know, however, is that they’re on a time table. They’re not going to be able to hit all four before the balloon goes up. Ideally, Germany is end-game so I’m thinking … two major location pieces remaining? Although … I think I should probably push them toward Riga, then Kazakhstan (or maybe the other way around), and then Germany for the climax. But that’s getting ahead of myself.

Ultimately, I was more satisfied with this session than the previous one, probably due to the PCs being better able to be Bad Asses. Not entirely satisfied, of course – I would have liked the firefight to take less time so we could hash out the next steps better, but alas. Things happen.