Sunday, June 19, 2016

Nu World, Sessions 3, 4, and 5

I've been running sessions of Nu World, my After the End game, off and on for the past few weeks. I haven't written them up for various reasons, most of them bad, but I'm just going to pull through and do a big summary of the past three sessions.

Cast of Characters

We Forgot to Leave a Guard

At the start of the session, I established three things: the PCs didn't have any portable light sources, they had no way of telling the exact time, and they hadn't left a guard out while they scavenged the house with the Power Wagon in it. The first one we hand-waved, since Rabbit has two Gizmos per session and is a Gadgeteer, and therefore can just fiat that he made any one invention that cost $200 or less once per session. Since he hadn't used his gizmos last session, I retroactively ruled that he'd invented a flashlight and we moved one.

The second two issues were more of a problem. The PCs didn't really know how long they'd been scavenging, beyond the general idea they were getting hungry. And I think Wash began to hear some noises from outside. Everyone quickly grabbed weapons.

A couple of pirates ran into the row house, to be greeted by gunfire and general violence. As these were low level pirates with mediocre combat skills, Wash, Ben'n, and Rabbit were just barely capable of beating them. Sadly, they were just the advance party of a large group of pirate reinforcements sent to deal with the guys who had beaten off their patrol earlier that morning.

Edwin charged out of the house to deal with reinforcements, and immediately got shot by a sniper concealed on a rooftop at the end of the street. He took some damage, but kept fighting, and managed to wound a pirate leader pretty badly. Unfortunately, there was an entire second squad of pirates on another nearby rooftop, and they aimed and volley fired at Edwin, hitting him a couple of times and wounding him. He managed to take cover from the sniper behind a tree, but he was pretty badly wounded and things were going poorly for him. He tried to jump up onto a tree limb to avoid getting captured, but failed the landing, fell off, and tore up his legs pretty bad. At that point, Uhuk realized that while Edwin was impulsive, he wasn't her usual suicidal berserker and could just surrender when he was outmatched. Which he did, curling up in a ball and not fighting any longer.

The other three in the house had defeated the two pirates who had gotten through the door before Edwin charged out, but now they had a different problem. Three against thirteen were not favorable odds for the PCs, especially since all of the opposition had guns and no one knew exactly where the sniper was. The pirates had also brought a skilled scout of their own, so Wash's plan of "sneak out and murder people with stealth" was likely to be difficult. Plus, the pirates had Edwin as a potential hostage.

Wash snuck out of a second story window on the south side of the building, away from pirates, anyway and tried to get into a good position for some bow sniping but he didn't like the odds. The pirates began calling out to the PCs, threatening to kill Edwin unless they surrendered. Ben'n stalled for time while Rabbit whipped together some molotov cocktails, but the situation looked pretty bleak and eventually the PCs did surrender on terms.

The pirates wanted everything of value inside the building, their two pirates back, and for the PCs to leave the area and never return. In exchange, the PCs got Edwin and their lives and could leave with their personal possessions. Ben'n stalled some more while he and Rabbit shoved the shotgun ammo they'd found and the new laptop into their gear, so they could claim it was their personal possessions, and then walked out. Ben'n flim-flamed the pirates about the ammo and all of the PCs walked out. After a couple of blocks, they patched up Edwin (with 20 HP and Very Rapid Healing, Edwin heals pretty fast).

Gadgeteering in Diamond City

Rabbit still wanted to recover the Power Wagon, but it was clear that they were going to need to think about their options for quite a bit. They returned to Diamond City and spent a day healing wounds while Rabbit schemed.

This was our first attempt to use the new gadgeteering rules for something big, and we found them pretty complicated. There's a lot of ways to optimize for time versus materials versus skills, and it caused a lot of decision paralysis and frustration. We finally decided that Rabbit was going to use the escape pod's parachute to make a big inflatable raft that they could use to get the PowerWagon past the low lying water. He had about half the material he needed, so he took extra time and used his Luck and still failed. That was when we ended a session that had been a bit of a downer over all.

Evaluation of Play

This was a weird session: I haven't had the PCs lose like that in a long, long time. It was also interesting, and while I wouldn't want to repeat it every session, I think everyone appreciated it. Uhuk was certainly pleased to be able to surrender, and everyone has happy that surrendering was a useful option.

After the End isn't Dungeon Fantasy, and doesn't share that genre's inherent loot and kill mentality. It's perfectly possible to let opponents escape or surrender and not everyone has to die in a combat for it to be a win. Certainly, there are consequences for letting people escape but there wasn't really much the PCs could do about the pirate patrol. Even if they had wiped out the entire patrol, which would have been really hard, the pirates would have still responded in great force to find out what had wiped out the entire patrol. Posting guards would have helped, and Kevin said that from now on, Wash needed to be guarding the group instead of assisting with the scavenging.

Session 4 - Greenskins

The PCs started this session by reflected what they knew about the pirates. They were technically the South Boston Pirates or the Cannons, based out of Boston Harbor, and believed to be about 50-60 active combatants. The two squads that had defeated the PCs were about as much force as the Cannons could project casually, but they could put out about 40 or 50 guys for a major raid. They didn't have a Gadgeteer like Rabbit, but they could probably brute force a recover of the Power Wagon if they were given enough time.

Taking all that in, the PCs decided to head back to Roxbury and see what was going on. I think there was some vague plan to either pick off isolated pirates, or let the pirates do the hard work in getting the PowerWagon to dry land and then hijack it. Either way, they needed more information, and since most of the PCs saw well in the dark, they decided to do as much of the scout as possible in darkness. Which meant that they headed to Roxbury in late afternoon, and got to the old fortified building they were using as a base a little before dark.

"It's at the Edge of Pirate and Greenskin Territory"

My notes had the pirates patrolling the west portion of the map in the morning, and the Greenskins patrolling the eastern half in the evening. The Greenskins saw the PCs before the PCs spotted them, and moved to ambush them. Wash's danger sense triggered and a fight broke out.

The PCs were in the courtyard when they heard a howling. Rabbit and Wash took cover by the building walls while Ben'n moved south through the building in an attempt to flank. Then the PCs heard thumps on the rooftop as some Greenskin mutants with the Fast Leg mutation (double ground speed and Super Jump) jumped on the building in an attempt to vertically envelop the PCs, and Edwin jumped up (using his own Fast Legs) in response. A group of mutant ratdogs with razor spikes ran down the alley into Rabbit and Wash's fire.

This was an amazingly fast combat, with guns and arrows going off and a swirling melee on the rooftop. Several of the ratdogs died to Wash's arrows and Rabbit managed to wound one of the greenskins in the alley. Edwin took down another on the roof and the greenskins fled. Meanwhile Ben'n was scouting in exactly the wrong direction and missed all of the excitement despite Rabbit's urgent cries for help and support.

Everyone Takes Prisoners

One of the greenskins had been knocked unconscious, so Rabbit bandaged him up and Edwin and Ben'n played bad cop, good cop to interrogate him. I had to look up the interrogation rules from Action because After the End doesn't have any. I wasn't really happy with the Action rules, so I ended up winging it a bit and expanding the applicable skills to include Intimidation and not just Psychology, so that Edwin could actually usefully play bad cop.

The greenskin didn't have much useful to say: the greenskins patrolled this area, hadn't seen any pirates, and wasn't particularly interested in trade goods, though Ben'n did contemplate trying to trade with the mutant cannibals. The PCs decided to release him, though Wash killed and skinned the ratdogs: apparently Wash has enough radiation resistance to safely eat a couple of radiation tainted meals a day, and figured "meat is meat".

Scouting with Fire

It was after dark at this point, so Wash set out alone to see what the pirates were doing. Based on the greenskin's answers, he suspected "not much" and there was an outside hope that they'd just abandoned the Power Wagon - or more fearfully, had scavenged it for parts and left a ruined hulk.

As it turned out, they'd left a squad at the house: Wash spotted their boat beached outside. He lit up a molotov and was immediately fired at by a pair of riflemen hiding behind the shutters on the house's second floor. They didn't hit him, but he tossed the molotov at the boat and broke contact, then snuck back around to see what happened.

A half dozen pirates poured out the building and doused the boat. From that, Wash reasoned there were 8-9 pirates and they were just securing the site against further attacks while the pirates at their main base made whatever preparations they had for further attacks.

Uhuk had to quit early this night, so we ended it here.

Evaluation of Play

The PCs didn't accomplish much this session, but it was again interesting to see the difference in their attitude toward negotiating and taking prisoners. In my old Dungeon Fantasy games, the assumptions was that monsters got killed. In Castle of Horrors, "monsters" got killed but they were sometimes willing to negotiate with things that weren't monsters. In this game, there's no impetus to fight to death, no real tendency to finish off the wounded, and nearly every fight ends as soon as one side realizes it can't win and needs to surrender or flee. I'm really quite enjoying the vibe.

Session 5 - Return to the Power Wagon

Nate couldn't make it this session, due to prior commitments, so I kind of ran his character until events would have put him at the center stage and then we quit. It was another short session.

"We're Not Pirate Hunters"

The session started out with the PCs brainstorming ways to take the Power Wagon house back from the pirates. As Kevin repeatedly noted, they're merchants and scavengers, not pirate-hunters. Half the party is fairly ineffective in combat, Edwin's primary value is mostly being a bullet sponge, and only Wash is stealthy. It's actually pretty hard for them for them to reliably take on twice their numbers armed with decent rifles.

Eventually, they realized that if they could just cross some 30' gaps between the buildings, it'd be possible to sneak up on the pirates without giving them many opportunities to observe the PCs: Edwin could almost literally be on top of them before any of the pirates noticed. Rabbit gizmo'd and gadgeteered up an invention as a portable extension bridge, and they set off.
The proposed route over the rooftops.
Edwin can drop down on the pirates from above if things go according to plan.

Things Go Wrong From the Start

The PCs made it to the rowhouse nearly without incident, but predictably Edwin failed the stealth check when trying to move off the bridge and on to the rowhouse roof. That alerted the pirates, and they sent someone out with a flashlight while the sentries covered her.

Seeing as how their cover was blown, Edwin charged over the rooftops and dropped in front of the door the pirates were using, while Wash took aim at the pirate with the flashlight. Ben'n ran after Wash, forgetting or not realizing that Edwin's movements had separated the bridge from the rowhouses and forcing the wily merchant to have to make a dramatic jump to get to the roof. Rabbit ran north to support Wash.

About this point, the sneaky pirate scout that Wash had not previously spotted showed by shooting an arrow at Ben'n, who luckily dodged. The scout took cover in the valley between the peaked roofs, but Ben'n climbed up after her and hit her with a 5.56mm bullet, taking her out of the fight. Wash kept launching arrows at the pirates, but after hitting the one with the flashlight in the face and taking her out of the fight, he was short on exposed targets and I don't think he hit anyone else.

"He's Immune to Bullets!"

Meanwhile, Edwin and the pirates had a very strange fight at the doorway. Edwin started by chopping off the arm of one of the sentries on the second floor, at which point the other one shot him in the head at point blank range with a .44-40 rifle. As it happened, the damage from the rifle was a bit low, and Edwin's armor was sufficient enough that he wasn't hurt. The sentry cried out, "the mutie's immune to bullets!" and that set the tone for the rest of fight.
Edwin stays near the door as the pirates reload,
Ben'n fights the scout on the rooftops,
and Wash snipes from across the street.

A half squad of pirates gathered inside the door, loading their weapons and preparing to charge out. Edwin grabbed up the wounded pirate and tossed her into the door, causing several of them to fire their weapons (they were covering the door) at her ally. Then they charged out. Their leader critically hit Edwin in the vitals with his own .44-40 rifle, and although that penetrated armor and dropped Edwin into negative HP, it didn't actually stop him. The pirates were a bit freaked out by this point, and things were not helped by Edwin absorbing another rifle shot to the top of the skull without even noticing. He proceeded to clobber one or two of the pirates who started to flee. Edwin then managed a credible Intimidation roll (helped a great deal by being large and enormously violent and dangerous) and the pirates surrendered on terms.


Rabbit and Ben'n graciously patched up the wounded pirates, though most of them were in pretty bad shape: missing arms, multiple bullet wounds, that kind of thing. Then Wash confiscated their firearms and sent them away on their boat. The PCs had recovered the Power Wagon house.

The next obvious step was to get the Power Wagon out of the building and back to dry land. That would require Rabbit to disarm the unexploded artillery shell, and Rabbit to invent a way to ford the Power Wagon through the deeps, and Rabbit to gadgeteer up some fuel. Basically, Nate's character was going to be front and center for the next bit, so I decided to end the game early.

Evaluation of Play

This was a fairly straightforward fight, though somewhat annoying to run. MapTools doesn't really have good support for 3D fights, especially the sort of thing that we had here: multiple levels with people stacked on top of each other in the same XY space, and vision blocking going away and coming back depending on which level someone was on and what level they were looking at. I improvised around it, and it mostly worked, but it would be great if MapTools had better native support for this kind of thing.

The repeated fights over the Power Wagon house are beginning to remind me of the North Africa campaigns of WWII: either side can take the house, but in doing so they become overextended, and immediately lose the house when the other side regroups and counterattacks. This is going to be a problem for the PCs, because the pirates can throw more bodies at the problem than they can, and they probably won't be allowed to surrender next time. So basically, they have to get the Power Wagon out before the pirates regroup and counterattack, or they're going to have to give up on recovering the Power Wagon.

What Next?

Well, clearly the pirates are going to regroup and counterattack: they've got another 30-40 bodies to throw at the problem, and the truck is worth $100,000 or more so it's clearly worth it. The PCs are going to have to hurry to figure out a way to get the truck out of that area. It should be interesting.