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Wednesday, 24 April 2013

One-shot of the 2010s: Enemy Gods

This one was the last in the series of one-shots I had planned.
So, Enemy Gods. Like the Unknown Armies game, I’m going to contain myself to the highlights of the game.
A word on setting: I ran it in a “Antiquity if the gods really had champions” mythic fantasy equivalent. The players loved it, setting-wise (we always comment on setting, system, and how the game was overall – since it depends more on the GM and other players). Still, we used the original gods from Enemy Gods. And the polis where they started was keeping the best and basically, only bridge over a river that separated the civilized lands in two. So all trade passed via said trading hub naturally, as the rest of the river had created swamps, which prevented establishing another trade route.

A poisoner (anti-) hero goes to a tavern. He is approached by a band of local mercenaries-ruffians. He doesn’t want to give his table to them, so they proceeded to “tax” him for lack of manners. He gave them his swag,
Then he went to find new poison, and found a rare Black Lotus, which he managed to make into powder. He mugged some mugger and took his knife, too, then went to find them in the abandoned temple they had used as a base.
He killed most of them in their sleep and in the ensuing fight, only using his knife. But he got captured. Due to the heavy losses, their leader tried to indoctrinate him into serving as his first-in-command. There was a prize on some wild beast (a boar or wolf, not sure). And he wanted to take that one.
It was when their captain tried to put a hand on the inner side of his thigh that our hero grabbed the knife from his belt, and proceeded to stab them to the last.
After that, he was approached by the fell gods. Really, petty vindictiveness is par for the course for a hero, but wasting precious lotus powder just to kill them with his own hands?
He could have sold this and hired a superior regimen to confront them in a battle. Ah well! He said he’s going to consider it. I wonder, what should I have done with a PC that starts worshipping Fell Gods? NPC him?
In a way, it’s good there was only this session.

A swordsman with silver tongue tried to help two influential traders reach an agreement. One of them was bringing South the skins and paint made from the horns of Northern beasts, making tremendous profits. He wanted the other one’s daughter, because his second wife has recently passed away. The trader himself had been injured this morning.
The proud father wanted a discount on his goods.
The silver-tongued hero sold the daughter, and part of the profits, for a serious discount – although he didn’t get quite what he was hoping for.
Either way, the point rapidly became moot, as the daughter had heard about plans about her wedding, and ran away with her bodyguard, a gladiatrix. Some say there has been romantic involvement. Knowledgeable people claim the reason has been naughty and animal-like instead, with no hint of romance.
Ah well.
To top it off, the Northern trader returned wounded from the vomitorium. But he had managed to stab his attacker to death.

A gambler and champion of the common people witnessed the brutal murder of a poorer woman. She had managed to scratch the hand of the attacker, but he killed her with a twisted-looking curved dagger.
(Yes, it meant he worships fell gods).
Besides, his dress was painted with expensive Northern paint.
Our hero followed him, and found out he’s a trader. Then he snuck up on the house, and managed to a) find his altar to the god of Murder, b) fight off some well-endowed slaves (shut up, they just had large muscles!), and c) see him going away in a carriage.
He followed that one, too, and following Odysseus’ example, dressed as a servant. Son, he found him talking with a famous swordsman in the main hall.
Then he ambushed him in the vomitorium. Alas, he didn’t manage perfect surprise, so they had to fight.
The hero lost, and was drowned in a vomitorium, and finished off with a cursed dagger that enslaved his soul.
If it wasn’t a one-shot, I could well see the PCs raiding Hell to free the enslaved souls. Alas, it’s a one-shot. But we managed to combine some tragedy to the negotiations and murders.
All in all, I’d say these weren’t really the traditional kind of heroes.
What would you say?

Friday, 12 April 2013

After the one-shots of the decades: Old-school or New School?

The new guy in the group is going to run a game today. It's the homebrew setting of one of his classmates (she's written a novel with a wizarding school). The game will be run via FU the RPG.
So, we're just taking a system that's light enough, beating it into shape to fit the setting, and using the setting that has inspired the GM. Which leaves me wondering: Is that the old-school or the new-school approach?
Yes, it doesn't matter, I'm just curious.

Oh, BTW, quick advice based on the events of the session:
If you're playing in a setting based on a book, before the events unfolded (it can apply to, say, Star Wars) - kill a main character as fast as you can. Fun is bound to follow!
When in a school for delinquent wizards, don't, and I repeat, DON'T play them against each other to make them feel jealous, unless you've checked their files FIRST. You could even get laid, but the risk someone might die as a result is unacceptable!

Sunday, 7 April 2013

FTWD: Two-shot, part 2

That's the finish of our Fates Worse than Death two-shot. The setting is definitely a runner-in for our next campaign. Yes, I haven't picked it yet.

Another runner was called urgently. The main reason was his impeccable knowledge of the city areas. And, well, there wasn't much time to find someone better suited to the job.
You know how the Night Walkers broadcast what's happening to them? Well, you can do the same with cameras. And it turned out the "corp dagger team" has had cameras. Which means they had the face of Jack Runningman. And he had barely escaped n attack from addicts earlier, who seemed to recognise him.
Well, shit. His colleague, Jimmy, was hired to take on a "human package" this time. Being a greedy guy (seems like a trait most Runners share..), he took the job for a substantial payment, despite noticing that Jack had a gun or SMG.

Ah, greed, thou who has spelled
the death of so many Runners!
(No, I’m not a poet, obviously!)

In short, they ran away. I didn't roll for whether they get intercepted, but by whom. The problem is, it wasn’t a matter of when some addicts or pushers would get to them, it was a matter of when and whether it would be addicts out for the bounty (pusher gangs pay in drugs), or pushers themselves (they’ve got guns). As it was, the first signs of suspicious activity they encountered* met some addicts warming themselves on a burning tyre. There was also an Afro-American woman with flannel shirt (for FWtD nuts, she's who you'd think she was), who was watching the junkies.
The Runners noticed that the addicts were shifting as if to encircle them. So, they ran, and had good chances. Except Jack slipped on some substance best left unmentioned, but which probably ends on …hit.
The other runner stopped his sprint to see Jack being encircled. Damn. They were already close to Humankalorie’s turf, where they were heading (with good reason – pushers aren’t allowed there, or past it).
However, Jack had pulled out a SMG and a combat knife. WTF? Jimmy didn’t have anything more than a switchblade himself…
All during this time, the Afro-American woman in a plaid flannel shirt was watching them calmly. They didn’t guess who she was, but right now, that was besides the point.
The point, however, was in the addicts trying to close with Jack to drop the SMG. Well, actually, they were willing to just close, but...not against a SMG. Well, not unless they got him talkin' first.
Of course, people who use Mauler and Chomper aren't exactly the most persuasive, and it takes quite a bit of skill to persuade someone to surrender to torture.
"Hey, man, drop it! Hear me, drop it and we ain't gonna kill you. Promise!"
"But you're gonna take me to where the pushers will!"
"Dunno about them, man..."
Yeah, I wouldn't have dropped it, either.
The distraction was provided by Jimmy, though not in the way he intended. The second Runner decided to use a nearby stone. However, he not only missed the back of the guy, he almost got Jack!
Of course, Jack dodged, but they used the opportunity to lunge for his hand. He answered with a burst.
Things were getting hairier than a steroid addict...
The guy who was lunging for his hand got a burst and dropped. The other slipped on the same surface that had slowed Jack, and missed.
The other two were out of range, and one of them turned to face the charging Jimmy. The Runner stabbed him, and he didn't pay attention. Was it the phonebook armour, or God Killer?
Who knows. He was wielding a mean machete, is all they could tell. Whenever Jimmy didn't manage to go in with quick stabs, he started swinging it in wide arcs, and made him retreat, and retreat, and retreat. Luckily, the Runner was too fast on his feet.
In the meantime, Jack had nicked another addict's ear, but being pressed, let another burst, after which a loud "CLICK" was heard. Granted, that got the addict in front of him again, tearing away his other ear, and got a few bullets in the other one. He dropped like a sack, too.
After that, Jack cut him once again, and then proceeded to disembowel him. Then he charged the machete-wielder, who was bleeding by 4-5 cuts and slashes, which he has failed to notice.
He also failed to drop from Jack's knife, but decided it prudent to beat the retreat.
The Afro-American woman cut off the throat of a still-breathing addict. He didn't stand a chance anyway, and his insurance was unlikely to cover it. They looked at her with respect.
"Can we count on you not having seen us?"
"Seen who?"
They considered that as reaching an understanding and left for Humankalorie territory. Their own conversation was less cordial, actually.
"Weren't you the Runningman? How did you slip so?"
"I fucking stepped on some trash, that's how! And didn't you say you can take care of yourself, and help me? Why are you more dangerous for friends than for enemies?"
Yeah, two Runners don't have to see eye to eye. But Jimmy gritted his teeth here and reminded himself a job is a job. Even if the "package" to be delivered is insulting.

No longer having a SMG, they ran even faster. The attempt at camouflaging Jack's face failed, but even making it didn’t improve the Humankalories’ disposition towards them. And since helping them could get them on the wrong end of Drug Lords’ attention, they denied them access, and lead them to where they asked to.
(And the bad idea the new Runner had didn't help either. He decided the best approach would be to offer a bribe… to, let me remind you, the Humankalories! Yes, the society of warriors who believe in the ethical code of an alien culture, which in turn requires total honesty, personal responsibility, and readiness to fight. As could be expected, this didn’t go over well… although the Olanidads stopped the Olaninans from attacking. But they helped them get elsewhere only because they hated the Drug Lords more – I actually rolled whether they had lost even that much help).
So, they had asked to go to the neighbouring Hole (see Note). There, they avoided the punji traps (not made from bamboo, but the principle remains), managed not to meet a predator, and when encountering one of the Keepers, pleaded for help. Well, actually, he had ambushed them with a crossbow, but was in the mood to talk.
Pleading was actually smart - I had decided beforehand that he's more compassionate than usual (which is why he didn't shoot them). So he lead them to his Elders.
They weren't too thrilled to see them, but seeing as some hours had passed since they were in the Hole, some of the more stupid pursuers had tried breaking the perimeter. Unlike the two runners, they haven't tried stealth, and needed to be punished for trespassing.
So, the Elders had already decided to help smuggle Jack out. They still played an act of threatening him, though, and got Jimmy to promise returning the service. Every bit of connections helps.
And that's how a PC escaped with his skin intact.

The most important part, however, wasn’t about them. The important part was to get the Pusher gangs strike teams clash with the Humankalories. Yes, that’s why Jack Runningman had received some help, but not enough to move totally unnoticed.
In short, the Math Addict and the Arcadian who were moving said conspiracy were using them as bait. And it worked (I just rolled their Self-control roll, and the Pushers failed despite having a bonus). The best part is, the Pushers had a couple Skin Borgs with them!
(Don’t ask me who gave them the idea to hire young Skin Borgs that needed money for their next armour. That’s definitely not the work of a certain Arcadian and a certain Math Addict, and most certainly they weren’t helped by an Omniscient!
Also, there is no spoon… no, wait, that was from another movie, wasn’t it?)
So, the Humankalories are currently considering how best to answer to that. And if Skin Borgs are allying with Drug Lords, would it be enough to join the Orphans-Purists-Hummingbirds alliance and help scattering them?

Meanwhile, the black med went back to see his Animalist patient. It was a surprise when he found him in good health, and walking.
(The Sexologist who was there made some really amazing rolls – for calling on contacts first, then the contact made another really hard roll to establish contact just by touching her fingers to the Animalist. Yes, legendary difficulty. The chance was something like 10% or less. Finally she made a roll to cure him. It wasn’t harder than healing inoperable cancer – which Sexologist psychics can do, as we know).
He was glad to see him and assumed his healing has worked. The Animalist quickly disabused him of said notion, and asked him whether he could at least help them locate a secret brothel And he had to diagnose whether someone was making experiments on the whores (them being illegal immigrants).

And yes, that’s the third time I’ve tried to run a pre-made adventure, slightly adapting it for the occasion. Otherwise, it’s the "CHOO-UHY" scenario from the Fates Worse than Death main book.
This is also the only time in my GMing experience when running a pre-made scenario actually worked – probably because it’s written in the same format I tend to use myself. NPCs want to achieve something, often at cross purposes even if they’re not aware of each other. Plans to achieve it are made. A timeline of things that would happen unless the PCs intervene is made. Then you point out what hints the PCs would notice for the action in progress.
I use the same model for all genres, and was pleasantly surprised to see it used in FWTD. Besides, it means the adventures incorporate seamlessly – so I had decided this one would be used. Besides, it’s a good one for making the PCs meet up.
In order not to spoil it, I’m not going to describe this part in detail, but I’m not going to jump to the conclusion, either.
(For those that haven’t read the game, it’s an adventure where the Sexologists get you to discover the location of a hidden brothel for them – all brothels are hidden, and it’s because of the Sexologists who have declared the profession of “pimp” reads as “a guy that can expect trouble from the Sexologists and their allies”. And they’re second only to the Black Med families in allies. Clients are picked up from isolated locations, and are transported to a place they don’t know. Yes, it’s actually dangerous for both parties, which drives prices up. OTOH, there are very, very few pimps, and most S-Workers are working for themselves. Of course, they’re also more vulnerable, but have come with a new way to deal with this… read more in the setting book)!
Suffice it to say, the Black Med’s strong composure and good senses paid out in spades, pulling them through this task with success. He used his work as a pretext, claiming he gets off on making exams on partners – so he’d feel in total control, like when working.
That was actually a good enough lie – most clients in this situation want the control pimps can grant them, not just the sex they can get with any Sex Worker – and a Black Med sure wields the power of life and death. So, paying extra, he was able to collect tissues, blood and other bodily fluids from two whores, then just left, unperturbed (and confident the Sexologists would deal with it either way). One of them tested positive, and they knew where the lab for the new drug was hidden.
And his sense of direction helped them narrow the search to two blocks. They just hired an Omniscient to, basically, walk around and sniff them out. Which, of course, totally wasn't an Omniscient that some Math Addict and an Arcadian know and respect! Or was she?...
Of course, the Black Med didn’t go in the subsequent attack. But he has been instrumental in uncovering it, and so got a nice XP bonus. Or would have, if there was a third session planned. But whatever, he was allowed to learn of a new threat – although Black Meds wouldn’t be able to do much.
Now, what he soon learned was perturbing. The plan of the Drug Lords – uncovered by some Arcadian and a Math Addict working together, and confirmed by some guy hacking into a corp's black lab – has been to use the new drug both as a weapon (concentrated), and to make Well gangers into shut-ins that require special assistance, and are addicted. They would be utterly dependent on the drug that got them into this state, and couldn’t even overdose, because the pushers would have instructions to only deliver the necessary quantities.
Yes, it was an attempt to create a stable source of revenue, taking away a large portion of their welfare checks, which would lead to… you can imagine Drug Lords with stable revenue on top of selling Mauler and Chomper, right? And when you add their pushers with nasty poison on their weapon, that even Drakes aren’t immune to, things would really get bad for the city.
The Math Addict also suspects there's at least one Collin somewhere high up the Drug Lord's organisation. And the Arcadian believes the Drug Lord is sponsoring the Skin Borgs, by providing new members a discount to buy their first "skin".

If I run a campaign, it’s going to start at this point. How do you stop a drug from being released?
Well, the Math Addict has predicted they can’t, not with their current resources. But the Arcadian has a plan.
And the plan is to deal with two threats at once. Three threats, if possible.

…no, I’m not telling you more (nor did I tell more to the players).
Just ask yourself: what would you do if you were an (utterly devoid of compassion) Arcadian?
(I actually rated high as an Arcadian, and I suspect most gamers would rate at least decently. This guy, however, is nicknamed Piter de Vries by an Eccentric). I’m going to run it with my original plan either way… but I’d like to know what YOU would do.

*I hate the word “encounter” in the context of RPGs. Just saying.
Note: I’m totally sure I’ve botched the map-reading here, after printing a map out and forgetting it home. Apologies to anyone from New York.
Note 2: I’m also behind on posting Actual Plays. Last session we had was a Witchcraft one-shot (after my other group joined a new guy), and the one before that was Enemy gods as the One-shot of the 2010s. Neither is written out yet. And I’m expecting a third session of H+I in a couple of days.

Friday, 5 April 2013

One-shots of the decades series: OVER!

My one-shots of the decades series is over! The games, per decades, were: Backswords&Bucklers (70ies), ZeFRS (80ies), Unknown Armies (90ies), Fates Worse than Death (2000s and the only one where the group requested a second session), Enemy Gods (2010s).

End result: I can confirm that different people simply like different stuff! While newer games got more approval overall, the OSR game B&B, based on OD&D, was a major contender. Although I'm still waiting for their feedback, from the "exit polls", I think FWTD wins overall. That's probably due to the setting more than anything else. Brian has put meticulous research into it, and it pays off.

B&B is close behind, though, probably on par with Unknown Armies. Although that's almost definitely due to the players taking a liking to the proto-Victorian setting (only one has mentioned liking the B&B system).

ZeFRS got the lowest note overall. Seems like the 80ies had many good ideas, but the realisation was found lacking by today's gamers.
Of course, it might have been my fault entirely, if I botched running the game. But assuming I made a roughly equal job at presenting them, these are the results!
Make of them what you will.