Pregame Setup: Faction Cards

There are going to be five players in my upcoming Traveller: The Verge game and, conveniently, there are also five different “factions” (for lack of a better term.) With that in mind, I’m going to have each player select one of these Factions as their originating one during the character creation phase. This will be at the very beginning of the process and characters are not required to remain in that faction beyond character creation.

What I’m currently planning on doing is printing the following and putting them on 3×5 cards, but not allowing any of the players to look at the adjustment side until after they’ve selected their options.

Continue reading “Pregame Setup: Faction Cards”

Game Prep: The Verge, Pt 3

As stated in a previous post, I’m looking at running Mongoose 2nd Edition Traveller for the Friday face-to-face group at some point in the foreseeable future – we’re playing Night’s Black Agents right now, but I’m “on deck” (to use some baseball lingo) when the current GM finishes his run. We’re planning on doing a Session 0 where we all gather together and spin up the characters …

As a result, there’s very, very little I can do in terms of planning because I don’t have characters to plan around. I’m still sort of planning on using Tripwire as a basis, but I sort of have Pirates of Drinax in the back of my mind as well … since we’re not using the actual Traveller universe, but rather a customized universe (more info on the Obsidian Portals site for the game: The Verge), I can’t use it exactly as written, but now … I’m sort of leaning toward Tripwire being a big-ass prequel that leads into a massively revised PoD? I guess we’ll see…

Regarding the characters, I’ve sort of spun up a Character Creation Worksheet that I’ll make a copy of for each player so I can publish this info on the Portals after session 0. Planning on using a lot of 2300 AD character stuff since that’s actually a lot closer to the game I’m looking at …

The bad part here is that I’m really enjoying the NBA game but man, I’m ready to kick this game off…

New Traveller Kickstarter

So … I might have backed this awesome-sounding Traveller RPG: The Deepnight Revelation Campaign Box Set from Mongoose. No idea when it’ll be out, but if it’s as good as Pirates of Drinax (which I didn’t back, but have since purchased), it’ll definitely be useful. Implementing it into the Friday face-to-face Traveller game I’m going to be running at some point in the foreseeable future would be difficult since that’s not using the default 3rd Imperium setting … but I could theoretically use it for the Saturday game should that come to pass down the road…

So … Now What?

Now that my GURPS: Action run is complete, I’m into the “okay, what’s next” phase. I’m next up in the GM rotation with the Friday group and will be using Mongoose 2nd Edition Traveller though not the Traveller setting itself, but I literally have no idea when that’s going to kick off. Probably after the first of the year at the very least, what with the “stupid season” about to kick in so all of our games are likely to get postponed due to holiday schedules.

For the Saturday group, we’re going to be doing Shadowrun for a couple of sessions – again, see the above-mentioned stupid season – before starting Giger’s Sea Dogs game … eventually. I’m looking forward to that game because I really dig my character.

After that, we’re presumably doing a non-GURPS game for the first time ever with Olympus with a D&D 5E game. I’m actually hoping this does happen instead of getting pushed back and pushed back and pushed back and finally cancelled altogether because I’ve liked what I’ve seen of 5E thus far.

For me, I have two games that I’m leaning toward. In our Banestorm game, my character, Finn Sardock, was “lost” in a localized banestorm at the conclusion of the previous GM’s run, which leaves it wide open for me to run a short (hopefully) story arc that I have been jokingly calling “Season 3: The Search for Sardock.” I’ve already got this mostly plotted out – excluding the inevitable hard left turns and crazy random changes to be introduced by PCs – so that’s definitely something I’m leaning toward doing down the road.

I’m also looking at a resumption of our GURPS: Traveller campaign but a.) advancing the timeline by 5-10 years and b.) using completely new characters. This is still in the preliminary planning stages at the moment as I’m sort of, kind of thinking “you know, Pirates of Drinax is right there, calling to you …” Granted, I’m already using some elements of PoD in my Friday campaign setting, but that’s easily shifted and it could be very interesting…

But at the moment, I’m clear and free for a while. Which is appropriate since NaNoWriMo is right around the corner and I really need to do some writing for a change…

GM Commentary: ConsOps 2.17

And now, my watch is ended.

So, my run of ConsOps is complete. Probably to no one’s surprise, I was only partially satisfied with this final session – it took about an hour and a half longer than it should have because I didn’t do a better job of setting some stuff up and then didn’t do a good enough job of pre-reading the actual adventure part that I was ripping off to realize that a team of four would not dare to assault a ship this size considering the numbers arrayed against them. Lynch’s player made a brief reference/thought about calling in TYR, the Russian FSB Spetsnaz guy they’d encountered, but the conversation moved on and we forgot about it.

We wasted waaaaay too much time trying to figure out gear and then, once the PCs were on the boat, the players realized that they actually didn’t have much of a plan. This was partially my fault – I didn’t realize until late in the process that there were references to un-involved crewmembers on the ship and my off-the-cuff comment that it was an open secret that the ship itself was actually a SVR asset caused the PCs to (logically) presume that all of the crew were well-trained covert bad asses – and partially the PCs in that they did not actually come up with a plan before hitting the ship itself. Most of the players basically shrugged and wanted to just “figure it out as they went” but Lynch’s player sort of vapor-locked at this because he was getting frustrated (I think) at everyone else just wanting to make it up as he went.

Regardless, the team split up to take out the sentries they knew of as well as the guy on the bridge. This forced me to make an immediate shuffle of the bad guys as the adventure I was using had the bad guy “leader” there on the bridge and I didn’t want to have BRAGI die completely like a chump here. So the three bad guys went down pretty easily – stealth attacks are brutal, after all. Interestingly enough, all three went down via a different method – one was garroted, one was choked out, and one had his throat slashed open. At this point, the explosive guy broke away from the rest of the group and headed to the engineering deck so as to locate and (ideally) disarm any explosives.

As it turns out, the three other PCs had determined to rally on the very deck that their actual target was on; this was not intentional on my part, but it worked out fairly well, I suppose since it promptly devolved into a firefight. Unfortunately, Mahoney, the explosives guy, is cut off from everyone else and I didn’t have much for him to do; what I should have done is immediately engage him in a simultaneous firefight in the engineering section while the other PCs are engaged up top. Unfortunately, that didn’t occur to me at the time so the player basically sat on his thumb for too much of the session after making his EOD disarm check.

The PCs were able to take out most of the remaining hostiles easily enough, and then, as is his wont, BRAGI attempted to flee, though he was pursued and shot in the face by Baum (which meant they could not identify who was wearing the mask). I then ended the session with the PCs being aware that a missile was incoming before jumping to a sort of narrative cutscene that revealed the guy who put them on this trail in the first place was also wearing a mask and was a bad guy.

Overall, I was nominally satisfied with this run. It had some high points, some low points and some mediocre points. I don’t think the players were as engaged as I would have liked, which resulted in me not being as excited as I would have liked. I also shifted my narrative a bit about midway through, which didn’t really help that much (though I don’t think it was immediately noticeable.) In retrospect, I really think this would have worked better in a face-to-face group where I could see the faces of the other players and adjust what I was doing along the way.

Live and learn, I suppose…

GamePrep: ConsOps, 2.17

As stated previously, this latter half is heavily influenced by “The White Queen” adventure from Top Secret/NWO and I’m continuing along those lines, although I’ll likely be expanding a bit. The original narrative has the PCs sent to Riga to discuss the abduction of a Russian bioweapon scientist (who had defected to England), the drive-by shootout occurs, the Serbian guy relates his intel, and the PCs move on to the next phase which is assaulting the boat where the defected dude is being held.

I’m going to pick up immediately after we ended, with local authorities arriving after the gunplay. The Serbian is “Robin Hood” in this city and rightly feared, so I’m going to have him cow the cops and the civilians who observed the shooting. Being a relatively intelligent fellow, the Serbian – Andris Millic – is going to want to know what’s going on, especially since he will have recognized several of the other PCs due to their faces having been used in combat actions across the globe. For example, I established during last week’s game that “Baum” attempted to assassinate the prime minister of Japan, so there’s that.

During this scene, I’m also going to try and do what I intended to do last week with regards to who Andris actually met in lieu of BRAGI. His description is going to sound suspiciously like ConsOps DDO Hamilton Riggs but unless a player mentions this, I’m not going to say it out loud.

I’m toying with having another attack take place while at Andris’ safehouse, but ultimately, after he’s been paid and he points the PCs toward the next location his part is done. In the original source material, if PCs continue following him, they will observe him be assassinated later, but I’m going to leave that open.

Regardless, the next location is the Azov, a Russian-owned (FSB, actually, but that’s something of an open secret) Global-class research vessel. It is currently scheduled to depart Riga tomorrow morning. Locating the Azov in the Riga harbor is easy enough, but if approached during the day, it’s very clear that the owners, whoever they actually are, take security pretty seriously. A successful Observation check plus some time might allow a PC to observe “BRAGI” aboard with a pair of bodyguards.

Damn. I need better tactical maps than the ones I actually have. Wonder if I can avoid making this a tactical encounter entirely? I also have a couple of semi-surprises that I would like to stick in here such as the reveal that DDO Riggs has been compromised, what with him telling the PCs that his compliance will be rewarded; or that LOKI has actually been trying to defect to the US (maybe – not sold on that one yet); or that there’s a larger plan in action here that the PCs don’t know about. I especially like the idea of the Bad Guy (whoever it is) laughing as he’s bleeding out that the PCs are too late and there, on television, we see that Berlin has gone mad due to the water being infected. Ultimately, though, I want to really end the session with a bang, like maybe incoming missiles or a massive scuttling charge & the PCs are all presumed KIA …

Jeez. I just realized that this could easily be the final session for my run (which is probably kind of overdue…)

GM Commentary: ConsOps, 2.16

Well, that happened.

This session was problematic from the get-go. We got a really late start due to one of the players not showing up for almost an hour; I think we started at around 35 or 40 minutes in and then my computer seemingly froze up. Later, I would discover that this seems to be the USB hub that my wireless keyboard and mouse were plugged in, but at the time, I thought it was my computer so I had to restart. By the time we got everything functional and moving along, the errant player had joined us.

The “universe reaction roll” for the airstrike thing worked relatively well, though in retrospect, I should have been more clear about what the players could actually do during this strike because I’m fairly certain that most of the players were still confused and just rolled the dice to “get on with it.” Still, it worked fairly well.

Once the team got clear of Ta’iz, there was some discussion about them going to Berlin next … which almost caused me to panic because I was completely geared up for Riga instead. Luckily, one of the characters has Intuition and he made a roll for that, so I was able to steer them in that direction.

In Riga, things played out about as expected, although I must admit that I did not expect the firefight to be over as quickly as it was. I think it ended up being a total of three or maybe four seconds? This was one of those moments where the badassery of the PCs was very, very obvious. I think only one of my bad guys actually got a shot off before they were gunned down like punks.

During the conversation between Grayson and Andris, the Serbian guy, I made a snap decision about something in the identity of a “big bad” but it didn’t actually come up … or rather, I didn’t do a very good job of getting that information across. I’m going to try that again during the next session which involves the identity of the guy who Andris coordinated with.

It is entirely possible that I’ve only got about two sessions left … time will tell, I suppose.

GamePrep: ConsOps, 2.16

I ended 2×15 with the PCs having discovered the masks of ConsOps personnel on the bodies of those they’d taken out as well as a pack containing apparent bio-weapon material. In retrospect, I should have handled the mask discovery better – I’m finding that the phrase, ‘in retrospect, I should have…’ is in my lexicon a lot. Regardless, it’s been discovered … and crap. I just realized I haven’t worked on my recap image. Ugh. Moving on…

So, the masks have been discovered. There were nine of the hostiles, but one of them was blown up by the dropped RPG so identifying his mask is difficult and another was shot in the face by Baum, which leaves seven. I established in-game that at least one of them was wearing Phil Quinn’s face, so the five of the six are going to be Brooks, Hurt, McKay, Reilly and Vega with the last one being one of the guys from Reilly’s team that the PCs met briefly when the extracted from Egypt via the helicopter. Underneath the masks are unfamiliar faces of varying ethnicities.

One of the dead guys – let’s say it was the Vega guy – had a hardened briefcase-type thing handcuffed to his wrist. Breaking into it is going to be difficult as it’s a similar model to the one that Quinn had. It does not have much in it – a single tablet that honestly looks like a menacing red eye – but there is some other stuff that is probably of more interest, specifically a bunch of shredded material and what looks to be a salvaged internal disk drive. This latter stuff will eventually push the PCs to Riga, Latvia.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. As stated in the commentary for 2.15, I mentioned that I forgot to actually use Chana much and I’m going to immediately rectify that by having her alert them that she’s just observed multiple drones conduct a flyby. She’s trying to get a better look at them … and crap. They’re MQ-9 Reapers! Incoming fire! One of the nearby buildings abruptly explodes and the PCs have to flee now!

Cinematically, this has fantastic appeal. The PCs, plunging through the shattered city, smashing through doors or diving into ditches, and all that … it makes for great cinema. But dear God, it’s a nightmare to arbitrate. A Chase seems relatively logical at first, but in this case, they’re trying to get clear of the target site, not pursue somebody or evade someone on their tail … one of the players did something like this in Banestorm with the PCs basically trying to outrun a magical effect (a localized banestorm, in fact) where he had the storm always roll a 12 on the Chase (it always did a Move maneuver) and PCs could not be within Close when the last round ticked over. In this case, that doesn’t actually work properly, so instead, I need to determine an alternate method. Obviously, failure is bad but I need to figure out a way to avoid it just being terminally bad since, per RPG.net, the AGM-114 Hellfire has 6dx20 (10) cr ex which does, on average, 420 points of damage to something it hits (maximum of 720!); that’ll ruin a person’s day really quickly.

I’ve gone back and forth over a handful of options – just when I thought I had one locked down as the best idea, something would come up to remind why it was a terrible option – and I think I’m going to just stick with something really simple: individual Universe Reaction Rolls modified accordingly. All PCs will have an arbitrary -3 on this roll because the GM is a jerk and wants to blow them up with an AGM-114 Hellfire but also because this city is a shithole and there’s always crap in the way or smoke in the air or crazy lunatics coming out of nowhere. Some other bonuses/penalties that may apply:

  • Diving into an old 1940s fridge: -15. Because that movie was stupid.
  • Dropping gear (rucksack, rifle, etc.) and running, flat-out: +2
  • Going to ground in a nearby ditch: +1
  • Insisting on staying together as a team: -1
  • Opting to not look for additional cover but instead, opening fire at the drone: -5 for you, but +5 for the rest of your team. You drew the fire of the drone operator which could end rather … messily for you.
  • Spending the extra time necessary to get that secured case off the hand of dead guy: -2 (Failing to do this means they don’t get the sample because the explosion causes it to break, but other intel inside it might be salvageable.)
  • Anything above a 13 on the result means no damage was taken by the character in question whatsoever, but the rest is adjusted according: 10-12 puts the character at about 25 yards away from the blast point, 7-9 puts them at 12 yards, 4-6 puts them at 6 yards, 1-3 puts them at 3 yards (which is very likely lethal as that’s on average 47 points of damage (with an armor divisor of 10) and a maximum of 80 points.

Now this is supposed to be happening super quickly, so let’s say … five to ten seconds to react total before the next missile hits the blast zone, so PCs need to haul ass and get out the blast zone.

Presuming no one died, getting clear of Ta’iz probably won’t be a difficult matter. I established in previous sessions that the UN and WHO personnel were already packing up, so when very large explosions occur (due to above-mentioned drone strikes) everyone really panics. Mixing into

As stated above, the material obtained from the rucksack will point the PCs to Latvia – this is probably shredded ID stuff like pictures clearly intended for use in passports, shipping manifests, etc. It’ll take a while for the PCs to reassemble this info (once they get clear of Ta’iz), but once they do, it points them toward Latvia and

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…
  • During this conversation, there is an attempted drive-by on Andros that can be prevented/stopped by PCs.
  • With the information provided by Andros, the PCs will be pointed toward a ship where LOKI is currently located. This requires the PCs to do another boarding action.

GM Commentary: ConsOps, 2.15

Exactly as I expected, this session was dominated by a long tactical firefight. We were down one player due to school, but his character was handled by having to deal with the persistent “don’t call them zombies” zombie attacks. That part had not been my original intent – I’d intended on the Infected to harass all of the PCs, but it just worked out this way which, in retrospect, was a mistake. I should have forced the other characters to deal with them as well, which would have ramped up the tension a bit more than it was.

There were a couple of minor preparation issues on my part where I had not added the proper gear to various hostiles. I also completely forgot to have Chana get involved via the sniping, though to be fair, the players seemed to have forgotten as well and honestly, the firefight was over in a couple of seconds, so it’s entirely possible she simply didn’t have the time to get a shot off. I’ll probably start off next week with her.

The advantage to a really long tactical firefight is that it doesn’t leave me a lot to comment on about what I screwed up since, if I jacked up something in the fight, one of the players would probably identify it. Overall, I was relatively satisfied with the firefight but less happy with the actual end. Interestingly enough, right before the shooting began, I was a little worried that it was too weighted against the PCs, but it seemed that I couldn’t begin to roll lower than a 14 on Dodge checks while the PCs themselves were relatively on fire in that regard – Mahoney especially was a murder machine, dropping five of the hostiles by himself due to good fields of fire and my above-mentioned inability to accomplish much.

This inability to hit and my error with having the Infected focus entirely on Baum sort of made this entire encounter less threatening than it should have been, which is something I need to work on with the coming stuffs. Next week, I’m anticipating that the PCs will need to get clear of Yemen – I have some other ideas for that which I’ll go into later – and then proceed on to Latvia toward the endgame.