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.

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