Thursday, May 26, 2016

Nu World Session 2

I ran the second session of the Nu World, my After the End game, three weeks ago. I haven't written about it because I've been playing Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead, the open-source roguelike that Fallout 4 wants to be when FO4 grows up. But that's no real excuse.

Cast of Characters

Getting the Preliminaries Out of the Way

At the end of the first session, the PCs were in possession of a spaceship escape pod, a female astronaut in nanostasis, and some random junk, as well as the anger of the Redeemers gang. They didn't really have a plan, but they wanted to head to Diamond City in the ruins of Boston, make some trades, and do some scavenging in the city.

I wanted to focus on the scavenging, so we handwaved the trip back to Diamond City other than a quick experiment with the new hunting rules introduce in ATE2: the New World. That was enough to satisfy me that Wash could keep the group fed in the wilderness nearly indefinitely with minimal effort and we didn't need to do the rolls every time. I do want to say that the hunting rules worked fine, but they do have a lot of rolls.

At Diamond City, the group quickly sold the escape pod for scrap value and argued about how to split the proceeds. They finally decided to buy a small house in Diamond City so they'd have a permanent base and then bought some group equipment (like extra toolkits for Rabbit) and gave everyone $1000 in trade goods to buy specific stuff.

At the same time, I baited my hook. One of Ben'n's contacts was a retired scavenger who told them a long story that worked out to "there's a house in Roxbury that looks like it hasn't been scavenged since the bombs dropped. It's right at the edge of Pirate and Greenskin territory so it's dangerous but it could be profitable." The PCs agreed to pay the scavenger 10% of the loot they recovered and he gave them directions to the house. They made plans to set out the next day.

Meet the Neighbors

So I created this map of the neighborhood in the Roxbury suburbs:
I think it's a pretty decent map. The color of the building walls indicated whether they're brick and cover against bullets or just sheetrock and only concealment. The whites and grays indicate elevation levels of the ground and the blues indicate the depth of the water. It covers several blocks and has a hundred or more potential scavenge sites.

At any rate, the PCs set out around mid-morning and arrive in the northeast corner of the map a few hours later. One thing they immediately noticed was the brick building to the east had been fortified. Further investigation revealed there was a mine by the door. Rabbit was delegated to disarm the mine and everyone else drew back to watch.

Nate was working through the math of maximizing his chances of disarming the mine when someone took a shot at him! A bunch of pirates standing on the west side were shooting at him and not hitting (cheap black powder weapons just aren't that accurate out at 200 yards). Rabbit carefully took cover away from the mine, Ben'n dodged south, Edwin charged west through the drink, and Wash started loosing arrows. As it turns out, Wash is an improbably good shot, and managed to penetrate the pirates' cheap armor at a distance. After one of the pirates got badly wounded and it was obvious that the others weren't going to hit the PCs faster than the PCs were going to hurt more pirates, the pirates broke contact and withdrew to the south. The PCs declined to pursue.

In the process, though, Ben'n discovered that he was now within 15 yards of a spore bomber: a mutant tree that senses vibrations in the air and releases floating sacs of acidic mucus. The PCs might have known this if any of them had Expert Skill (Mutants), but despite my handy cheat sheet, none of them did at non-laughable levels. Ben'n ran for cover, and aggravated the spore bomber further, sending more mucus sacs after him. Eventually someone realized that moving slowly was safer than running, and Ben'n escaped.

Rabbit finished disarming the mine and then Wash lobbed it at the spore bomber, destroying it utterly. That problem taken care of, the PCs did their first scavenge of an abandoned encampment. I don't remember what they found - some food or something non-descript - and they decided to stash their wagon and pack animals there and proceed toward their target over the rooftops, rather than wading through the water.

Over and Through the Rooftops!

ATE2: The New World has extensive rules for moving through ruins, and this was a great chance to use them. I pretty much used them as written, only increasing the penalty for Edwin's rolls slightly since he's big. The PCs spent the next several minutes making Perception rolls to avoid stepping on rotten roof timbers, and since Uhuk rolled pretty poorly, also making DX rolls to avoid being injured when Edwin's feet inevitably went through roof. Edwin wasn't hurt too bad - he never went all the way through a roof - but he did strain his ankle at some points.

I was pretty pleased with this part of the session: it played quickly but with some tension. As Uhuk noted, "I want to do something during each session - falling through roofs because I'm big is something."

The Next Problems

Soon the PCs were on a building to the east of their target, looking down at the street and alley. They immediately noticed two problems: first, there was another spore bomber in the alley immediately behind the house. Second, and more distressingly, there was an unexploded 75mm artillery shell just in front of the house. None of the PCs were surprised when I told them that Diamond City cooks up some pretty unstable high explosives, and that an old dud shell like that could possibly blow up if anyone too close or made too much noise near it.

The PCs decided to try the back entrance, at least to start, and came up with a brilliant ploy to deal with the spore bomber: kill it with fire! Rabbit whipped up some molotov cocktails and Wash through them at the spore bomber until it was burnt down. This wasn't particularly difficult for the PCs and we moved on.

We Like Loot!

The target house had locked metal shutters over all the windows and doors. Sadly for the PCs, someone had picked one of the locks before them, so the loot wasn't as good as they'd hoped. Rabbit picked the lock and they made their way inside.

They quickly found a garage with a large vehicle under a tarp. They removed the tarp and found a 1970s style Dodge Power Wagon with a crew cab, custom six wheels, and a supercharged engine protruding from the hood. It had obviously been lovingly restored before the bombs fell, and was still in good shape aside from missing its tires. The PCs definitely wanted it, but getting it out wasn't going to be trivial: they needed to get it past the artillery shell and then past the water before they could get it to dry enough land to drive unaware. And of course, it was out of gas.

The PCs decided to not worry about those problems and instead focus on looting the rest of the house. Since they considered this to be a mother lode, they focused on searching it. Upstairs, they found two tons of junk (literally - they found $400 of random junk, and random junk weighs 10 lbs per $1 of value). Much to my surprise, they decided to search the upstairs again. Another hour of searching and a lot of everyone's Luck revealed some baton rounds for a 12g shotgun (at Kevin's suggested when they found some generic ammo). A third search found a stash: "something that’s been intentionally hidden... A stash should always be something interesting, not just another bit of gear" (ATE2: The New World p. 38). I took this opportunity to get my slightly derailed plot slightly more back on track, by saying they'd found a pre-War laptop. The PCs prompted derailed the plot again by failing to hack the laptop, but I handwaved that as Rabbit being unable to crack it in his first two or three attempts and everyone else telling him to try experimenting with the passwords again.

The PCs then trooped downstairs and started searching the garage level. It turns out this was somewhat sub-optimal behavior: they'd burnt all their Luck rerolls on the residential area, which is easy to search and only produces junk, instead of the garage/transport area which is harder to search but produces valuable fuel and mechanical parts. As it turns out, they found some spoiled gasoline that Rabbit could easily filter and some more shotgun ammo.

By this point, it was getting pretty late. I had some ideas for what would happen next, and I wanted to give the PCs some time to think about how they intended to get the Dodge Wagon out so I ended the session. As it turns out, the players didn't think about that very much and I couldn't run last week because of prior commitments.

Evaluation of Play

This session was pretty much an experiment with the various new rules from After the End: the New World. We did a little trading, some hunting, a lot of scrounging, and a bit of traversal of ruined buildings. The only big thing we didn't try were the expanded gadgeteering and inventing rules.

Everything worked out pretty well. The hunting rules have too many rolls in them for regular use, but they're an acceptable simulation of hunting when people really want that detail. The scrounging and scavenging rules worked well. Much to my surprise, my players didn't need my house rules for scouting potential scavenge sites: they were pretty focused on just a couple of sites and didn't entertain the idea of searching elsewhere.

They were also so focused that I think they lost track of the fact that they were in a dangerous area and that all this scrounging took a lot of time. That turned out to bite them in the ass.

What Next?

The PCs chased off a pirate patrol, and then left a bunch of markers in smoke and fire as to where they were. They didn't seem to think much of that, but the pirates had more resources. The next session started with the pirate ambush and went down from there.

Interested in playing? We've still got space available! Email me! We play on Wednesday nights, 5:30 pm CDT until 9:30 or so.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

After the End: Scouting the Scavenge Sites

I'm preparing for the second session of my Nu World After the End game, which is going to focus on the PCs scavenging in the ruins of Boston. As part of my preparation, I drew a map of the area they'll be exploring:
Sunken Ruins in Boston
I may have over prepared a bit: that map is about 250 by 160 hexes and contains around 70 or 80 potential scavenging locations. I'd rather be overprepared than underprepared, so I'm not regretting the work, but it did raise a concern that isn't, as far as I know, address in the ATE2 scavenging rules.

The ATE2 rules seem to assume that scavengers know where they want to scavenge. There are respectable rules for determining how many scavengers get hurt, based on the structural integrity of the building, and there are decent rules for determining what the scavengers find, based on what type of building they're scavenging and how many groups have scavenged that site before. That all works fine, I suspect, and I'll find out for sure tomorrow. But there aren't any rules for scavengers to scout or survey a bunch of potential sites, to determine which sites are the least dangerous and which sites have the best or most desirable loot.

I'm going to use the following house rules to address those issues:

  • Danger Survey: takes an hour per six areas (ATE2 p 35). GM secretly rolls against the surveyor's Architecture, with a +2 bonus for every 3 points of positive or negative structural integrity modifier (SIM) of the area: it's easy to spot a solidly built or nearly destroyed building. On success, the GM reveals each area's approximate SIM, or exact SIM on a critical success. Failure means no information and on critical failure the GM lies. 
  • Scrounging Survey: takes an hour per six areas. GM secretly rolls against the surveyor's Scrounging and provides each area's scavenging type (as per the table on ATE2 p 37, including both location type and looting level) on success; critical success gives a +1 on subsequent tests to scavenge any of those areas. On failure, the surveyor learns nothing and on a critical failure, the GM lies about the areas and there is a -1 on subsequent tests to scavenge any of those areas.
I already proposed these on the SJ Games forums, but the thread was ignored in favor of arguments about how realistic the current GURPS rules for crossbows and muskets are.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Nu World Session 1

I started a new After the End game, titled "the Nu World", last night. The basic premise is that after a global nuclear/biochemical exchange, the remnant populations have spent the last seventy years trying to rebuild, only to be knocked down again by raiders infected by a persistent toxic meme complex. It's inspired by Fallout and Gamma World, and is meant to be a bit over the top and gonzo. The campaign wiki is here.

The specific setting is the Boston Commonwealth, which is stolen from Fallout 4, but in this case represents a 100 mile by 100 mile square reaching from Cape Cod to the end of Rhode Island, and from Nantucket to Cape Ann. The Commonwealth has about two dozen major cities that were hit by nukes, biochem, or ultratech wonder weapons, and about sixty post-Fall settlements ranging in size from a few thousand people around Gillette Stadium to a few hundred people living on a beached cruise ship. It's a pretty good setting, I think: large parts of Fallout 4 mixed with the Pitzburke Allegheny from Gamma World second edition.

Boston Commonwealth Settlement Map

I've only got four players so far. Conceptually, it's a pair of trader/scavengers and their bodyguards, exploring the waste:

When a Star Falls

At the start of the game, the group had just completed a fairly unsuccessful scavenging run in the ruins of Milford and were working their way northeast towards Boston, with the intent of resupplying in Boston City. They saw a meteor streaking west to east across the sky, and then breaking off every few seconds into secondary meteors that burnt out after a few moments. The last of those meteors burnt out somewhere over them, and then blossomed into an orange parachute that drifted towards the ground into a forest to the north of the PCs.

Ben'n is supposed to be intensely curious, but Eric didn't even bother rolling the dice to resist: "Let's go find what that is!" They quickly stashed and camouflaged Ben'n's wagon and took the horses and Rabbit's mule into the woods. Half an hour of searching and they found the orange parachute draped over some trees, suspending a scorched black and metallic egg, about two yards long on its long axis and around four feet in diameter. They tied off the animals and approached (well, Wash went past and starting looking around in the woods).

Closer examination revealed the egg to be a USAAF marked escape pod, likely from some kind of space craft. Rabbit started hitting switches and the egg popped open. Inside was a survival kit and an apparently dead astronaut who looked something like Ben'n: clearly a family resemblance, but since Ben'n was an orphan who didn't know his family, that was something of a dead lead. Rabbit noticed a kind of white frosting on the dead astronaut's nostrils, eyelids, mouth, and ears, and surmised that she was actually in nanostasis: so dead, in a lot of ways, but revivable if they could find a TL9 medical complex with the correct nanobots. Admittedly, they didn't know of any facilities like that, but there was always a chance they could find one somehow.

We're Not Alone in These Woods

Around this point, Wash spotted a dozen or more figures in black and white moving through the woods and hid. Soon, nine Redeemers - a local gang with a serious hatred for mutants - were at the scene. Luckily for the PCs, Ben'n is charismatic and has a good reputation, and the gang leader, a Brother Wilton, reacted well enough  that the gang didn't attack immediately and Wilton even offered Ben'n a place in the gang if he'd just stop associating with Edwin. All through this discussion, everyone had their guns low - ready but not aimed - but it was clear that tempers were ratcheting up. As Ben'n has a Sense of Duty to his friends, he refused to abandon Edwin and Brother Wilton ordered his riflemen to cover the PCs while the rest of the gang beat some sense into them. Muskets and SMGs were brought to the shoulder as well as the PC's rifles and shotguns.

Of course, Wash was hidden behind the Redeemers with a longbow and anticipating that things would go south, so he shot the Redeemer with the SMG first, putting an arrow in his kidneys and dropping him instantly. A general melee broke out, with several of the Redeemers but none of the PCs surprised by the sudden turn of events.

Edwin dashed forward to take cover behind a tree and then remembered he had the Crazy Legs mutation that gave him a 7 yard standing broad jump and a move of 12 yards per second. He then jumped on a Redeemer musketeer with his taloned feet out, dropping him. Another three Redeemers, including Brother Wilton, attacked Edwin, but their puny pistols and weak melee attacks were no match for his inherent DR and light plastic body armor. It wasn't quite that every second Edwin put another Redeemer in the ground - Brother Wilton dueled him for a good eight or nine seconds - but more that the Redeemers didn't have any weapons that could noticeably harm him (even a blast of birdshot to the eyes didn't slow him down) while Edwin could easily crack their armor.

Another Redeemer charged Ben'n, only to take a .30-06 round to the gut from Ben'n's single-shot rifle. Ben'n reloaded and covered Edwin's fight, but decided that beating people up with shovels was cheaper than firing expensive bullets at them.

Wash played hide and seek with the other Redeemers, dropping their other leader with arrow to the heart. One of the Redeemers exercised discretion, grabbed the SMG from the fallen gunner, and fled north. Wash took some shots at him but either missed or failed to penetrate his coat lined with flattened cans, I forget which.

Rabbit exchanged some long range shotgun fire with a Redeemer and then hid while the Redeemer closed the distance. A short range shotgun blast to the face mostly missed, except for a single errant pellet that caught the Redeemer in the lungs and immediately dropped him.


Four Redeemers managed to flee and meet up with another three or four that had been lost in the woods. Wash wisely broke off pursuit to avoid being ambushed and returned to the escape pod where the other PCs were grabbing some loot.

The PCs were pretty happy with their haul: a collection of hatchets, chains, and derringers, two Enfield style muskets, a pair of .36 caplock Colt revolvers, two more double barreled shotguns, a scattering of ammo for the same, and several suits of armor ranging from "tin can lined coats" to "steel plate forged from speed limit signs." Plus the escape pod and its electronics, the astronaut, and a survival pack that included some MREs and the like.

After some discussion, the PCs decided to continue on to Diamond City. They had enough loot to pay for a scavenge license that would let them scrounge in the ruins of Boston as well as pick up a bunch of other critical equipment (Rabbit is entirely lacking in the various equipment kits that an inventor really needs) and there was some hope that someone in Diamond City might know where to find a nanostasis revival tank.

Evaluation on Play

This was a good introductory session. I knew that the Redeemers weren't going to be dangerous threats because I'd done a solo run with similar foes against similar PCs already. With most of the Redeemers focusing on Edwin, the other PCs would be fairly safe though it wasn't entirely risk free: a lucky hit by a .41 ball would easily break through everyone else's DR 2 armor for some damage. Sadly for the Redeemers, they never got that far.

Everyone role-played pretty well. Nothing was really outstanding, though I was glad that they grabbed the parachute lead and went with it. I have a vague storyline in mind from this point on, but it's up the PCs to pursue it, or not, as they please.

What Next

Next week will be scavenging in the ruins of Boston, so I'll have to prepare something for that. It'll give us a chance to put the scrounging in ruined buildings rules from ATE2: The New World to the test, and I'm looking forward to that.

Interested in playing? We've still got space available! Email me! We play on Wednesday nights, 5:30 pm CDT until 9:30 or so.