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.

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.

GamePrep: ConsOps, 2.15

Planning for 2×15 looks to be relatively easy as it’s likely going to turn into a long tactical firefight. We ended last week immediately following the PCs (Brooks & Baum) defeat of an Infected lunatic local and all of the characters hearing someone exclaim “I’ve found it” from the target building. And, despite expecting Baum’s player to be out last week & him showing up, he’s confirmed that he absolutely will be out this week – naturally, right before a gunfight. That said, he’s said that in the past and still showed up so…

I’m planning on picking up from that point but adjusting it very slightly – one of the defenders is going to appear in visual to investigate the noise last week’s fight caused and then immediately alert everyone else. I’m also currently thinking of having Baum go to high ground – he’s got Climbing-15 and is the best shooter in the group (Guns (Rifle)-18) so having him go in Sniper-mode makes the most sense … unless the player shows up after all.

All of the hostiles are wearing face-concealing shemaghs, which will come into play later for my “twist”, and they’re pretty competent bad guys. That said, if more than 50% of their number go down, they begin a tactical retreat but if that is going to be tough, most of them will “hold the line” while one of their numbers tries to make a run for it with whatever he finds. This will turn out to be some of the bio-weapon but he’ll try to destroy it with an explosive before letting it fall into the hands of the PCs.

More interestingly is the potential presence of the Infected. Now normally, they would just be “background elements” but the PCs have seen firsthand that these dudes are crazy tough, so that’ll change. What I’m currently thinking of doing is simple: I’ll roll a Fate die (a d6 which has 2 +, 2 – and 2 blanks on side; Fantasy Grounds has this die built in.) On a +, an Infected crazy will charge one of the Hostiles, on a – a PC gets charged, and on a blank either nothing happens or an Infected lunatic appears on the tactical map but does not engage either side (which should indicate that not all of them are feral & insane.)

As stated previously, having this turn into a Chase could be very interesting – if I do that, I’m leaning toward it actually start out on foot, then transition into vehicles (ideally, motorcycles or ATVs). I’m not going to force this if the PCs are able to stop the fleeing guy(s) but I’m keeping that in mind as an option.

Regarding the “surprise,” well … underneath those shemaghs, the PCs are going to discover … themselves. (Well, all of them but Lynch because he never worked for ConsOps.) These dudes are a bunch of unaffiliated mercs wearing masks. PCs will discover themselves plus other members of the Team, including those who are dead. I really want a WTF? moment if possible…

Although … crap. The PCs might be able to capture one or two. I could have captured guy suicide in some fashion – grenade pins hit the ground ala Leon in “The Professional”? Or have the captured guy get sniped? Or maybe have a Yemenese attack helicopter (probably actually a Saudi one, but that’s not relevant) come roaring in and unloading all sorts of ordnance that results in a massive explosion. Hmm. I suppose I could also cut to Chana telling someone on a phone or something that “It’s done. There are no survivors.” which could theoretically hint at her being a villain in this mess (then I could roll that back the next session if I wanted to by having her warn the PCs beforehand so they’re out of the line of fire when the choppers actually come in?)

It’s doable.

GM Commentary: ConsOps, 2.14

So … we’re in Ta’iz, Yemen, and moving into the endgame. I’m very pleased that I planned something for Baum – originally, the player said he wasn’t going to be there due to school, but he’s done that to us like three times in the recent past … which admittedly, is better than saying “I’ll be there” then bailing. Anyway…

Lynch’s player threw me for a loop during his conversation with the Russian colonel, codenamed TYR, when he flat out agreed with the man to just kill LOKI instead of questioning him. I mostly blame myself for that as I didn’t really setup correctly that Lynch’s bosses would very much like to have a chat with LOKI … but then, it’s not out of the question, I suppose, that Lynch was lying. Damn. I should have asked him if that was the case. Not bothering to find out who or what LOKI is working for seems ill advised to me, but that’s fine.

Apart from that, none of the pre-city entrance stuff was really that big of a deal. Brooks got his new assignment and has been sort of burned, sort of not, exactly like Lynch; Baum learned that Egyptian forces were on-site … which reminds me that I need to add Officer el-Sisi to the blog; and … damn. I didn’t have enough for Mahoney to do. Need to work on that.

Into the city they went and I used my planned multiple encounters as written in the previous GamePrep post although it quickly became apparent to me I’d messed up slightly with encounter 2. As written, this was intended to be a fight with some infected so the PCs would learn how insane they were, but then during play, I realized it came directly after I’d asked for a Stealth check, which meant I was basically ignoring those rolls. In retrospect, we all forgot to apply Encumbrance modifiers to those rolls – everyone was in at least Light, possibly up to Heavy – but at the time, it felt wrong, so I rolled encounter 2 into encounter 3 as something optional. I also wasn’t expecting the PCs to intentionally go out of their way to avoid getting eyes on the firefights … which actually made sense, but their decision to get the two best climbers up on the roof to look down on the second of the firefights worked. They also didn’t disarm the claymore-like mine discovered in encounter 4, which surprised me, but if they find themselves in a chase, that could come into play.

So the PCs had eyes on the target location and here, everything went sideways. My tokens were out of whack on the map, and then I double-applied them because I was a dummy, but eventually, I got everything squared away. Baum’s player decided he was going to get a sample from one of the Infected bodies nearby and someone – I don’t recall who – joked that they were going to come alive like zombies. I decided that was a great idea (even though they’re not zombies!) and had Baum’s player make a “Universe Reaction roll” … which came up as Poor. So I decided one of the Infected was still alive here and stood up. This led to a much longer fight than expected because the Infected had Hard to Kill 3 … which also reminds me: I failed to post the stats for these guys.

Infected Lunatic

ST 10; DX 11; IQ 8; HT 9.
Damage 2d+2/1d+1; BL 20 lbs; HP 10; Will 8; Per 8; FP 9.
Basic Speed 5.50; Basic Move 5; Dodge 9; Parry 8.

Advantages/Disadvantages: Acute Hearing (2); Hard to Kill (3); Hard to Subdue (3); High Pain Threshold; Indomitable; Striking ST (6); Unfazeable; Bad Smell; Berserk (Battle Rage); Bestial; Cannot Learn; Disturbing Voice; Hidebound; Low Empathy; No Sense of Humor; Terminally Ill (Up to one month); Unnatural Feature (Blood-Drenched Eyes)

Skills: Brawling-11; Climbing-10; Running-8; Wrestling-10

You’ll note that these are “bare minimum” characters and I built them using GURPS: Zombies, so there’s that. The core concept of them and the weaponize encephalitis strike comes from Steven Konkoly’s Black Flagged books which … hmm. I was going to say they’re GURPS: Action taken to the Nth degree, but honestly, I think they’re more Covert Ops bordering on Black Ops from 3E (except without the supernatural angle.) The main characters in those books are not 250-points. They’re definitely closer to 500, IMO.

Anyway, despite having its neck cut three times, the Infected wouldn’t go down for a long time … which actually worked out for me as it means the Infected are no longer a “paper tiger”. So PCs now have firsthand knowledge of how tough and crazy these things are.

We ended with someone exclaiming “I found it” from the target site but, once the game was over, I realized I’d messed up again and am going to have to do a minor retcon at the beginning of next week where a Hostile steps out of concealment to investigate the noise caused by Baums & Brooks’ (still sounds like a Country music band) fight with the Infected.

Overall, I was fairly satisfied with this session, but not entirely. I needed more to do for Mahoney as he’s not done a whole lot in the last couple of sessions. Next week is probably going to end up being a protracted tactical firefight and I have a really great surprise to end on.

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.

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” …