Sunday, August 21, 2016

Nu World Session 8

My goal for this session was to a have solid, engaging, scavenger experience with a little role-playing and possibly some combat. It didn't exactly work out the way I planned, but everyone seemed to enjoy it and that's the most important part. This was the eight session in my Nu World After the End game.

Cast of Characters

Nate wasn't able to make the game, so I ruled that Rabbit had got sick eating some of Wash's radioactive ratdog jerky and was lying ill in the back of the truck.

Looting an Abandoned Compound

I started the session by telling everyone that Redfrost knew about an eccentric gearhead who had lived in a fortified compound outside of the ruins of Boston. He'd died in the last set of raider attacks, and his compound was available for looting. Redfrost didn't have the skills to loot the place by herself (for one, she's a city gal and wouldn't be able to get there safely) but with the help of the group, she thought it was a good place to find the electronics they needed to trade to the computer at Uxbridge Farms to get information on where to revive the astronaut in hibernation.

The PCs started in the woods on the north side of the compound, looking at a 8' tall wall of junk-reinforced wood topped by razor wire coils. Beyond it, there was a large house with a bunker on the roof. Closer inspection revealed there was an electrified line running through the razor wire, and a keypad by the front gate.
The compound, showing the outer and inner fence, the minefields,
the fields of fire for the crossbow turrets, and the house itself.

What I didn't tell them, but kept notes on, was that there were also 60 or so mutant raccoons in the woods around the house who'd been prevented from overruning the house by the various automatic defenses. Loud noises and other breaks to stealth by the PCs would attract the raccoons' attention, and a scouting group would arrive and summon more and more reinforcements. I didn't really have a great plan for this, but I figured I could run some kind of siege or something.

"I blame the Rev for this!"

Redfrost hotwired the keypad at the front gate, though not very well, and didn't realize that there were two separate security systems that could be deactivated. As it was, she turned off the minefield. Then she picked the lock and opened the gate.

Wash blew a bunch of Perception rolls at this point, and failed to notice the mine field or any of the other defenses. Ben'n did slightly better, and at least noticed a set of trail markers that indicated the safe path through the minefield. Feeling confident, he stepped through the gate and heard a clicking noise from the bunker on top of the house. A second later, he was diving for cover as a crossbow bolt came flying out, narrowly missing him. As soon as he was beyond the gate, the automated system stopped firing.

There was a quick consultation, and then Wash charged down the safe path. Two automated crossbolt turrets began firing at him, and I quickly discovered that they sucked. I was using by the book standard designs, which have crossbow-12, and even with aiming, they had almost no chance to hit a target 40 yards away. They only had a 50% chance of hitting a target within 15 yards! So what was supposed to be a deadly automated defense that would easily prevent anyone from traversing the yard turned out to be a joke, and I complained bitterly and then increased the weapon skill slightly but it really wasn't a big deal. In another bit of comedy, Wash's Danger Sense failed to detect that he was in a minefield, so he ran down the path without worry.

Wash had dropped at the interior fence that indicated the end of the mine field, and there was some shouting back at forth. He got up and ran for the garage, and Edwin and Redfrost followed. Ben'n almost did too, but all the excitement had summoned the raccoon mutant scouting party, and Ben'n didn't see them but heard them moving around in the woods so he stayed with the truck, planning to drive it into the compound after the crossbows had been eliminated.

Edwin and Wash had made it down the path safely, but Redfrost took a bolt to the gut and dropped. Edwin then jumped on the roof, ran up to the bunker, and started destroying sensors and machinery. Redfrost was just barely alive, but she held on until Edwin finished and then Wash and Ben'n rescued her and performed first aid.

"That's Not What I Intended, But We Can Do That Too"

The PCs then easily broke into the house. I mean, they had to check for traps and pick locks, but all the defenses were on the other side of the fence and they got in safely. Inside, they found a huge house, full of junk and loot: several workshops for inventing, various junk, and a couple of bedrooms. After some brief discussion, they settled down to loot.

Redfrost took the lead as the scavenger, and found several major finds, an amazing find, and a stash. I took suggestions for what they found in the stash. Eilmyn proposed someone in suspended animation, but everyone else nixed that idea on the grounds that they already had one. In the end, it turned out to be an ammo cache that included a TOW missile. I suspect I will regret giving the PCs access to an anti-tank missile, but I guess it lets them solve one big problem if they decide to use. I did point out to them that although it was theoretically worth a fortune, it wasn't really tradable in their usual haunts and the places that could afford to trade for it would probably steal it. So it's more of a one-shot plot device than an instance of fabulous wealth.

After poking around the place a little more, people began to talk about settling down, turning the compound into the start of a player base or maybe a trade center. Kevin asked me if that's what I intended when I set it up, and I honestly hadn't. I had intented that they would loot the place of valuables and move on, but the fact that they weren't doing what I expected didn't mean what they wanted to do was wrong. It was just different than what I had planned.

I did have to tap down on their enthusiasm a bit: a fortified compound in the woods wasn't nearly as good as they expected. It provided a lot of supplies for a small group, but there wasn't enough food or water to really convince a bunch of other people to move out of some place safe like Diamond City. But they could work to change that, I guess, and that'd be an interesting set of adventures. It would mean giving up on the astronaut storyline, but doing that would change the focus of the game, not end it.

Meanwhile, Outside the Gates

Although I thought the PCs had mostly forgotten about the noises in the woods, they hadn't. After looting the place, Wash had Ben'n turn off the electric fence and headed out to scout. His first attempt to scale the fence ended in a noisy failure amid the razor wire, and he took out his multitool and cleared out a path. Sadly, the fall was just noisy enough to attract the attention of the mutant racooons, and they took positions and prepared for someone to come out.

Wash eventually got a good look over the fence, and saw a horde of raccoon mutants. He turned around and fled back to the house, shouting for Ben'n to turn on the fence again. Ben'n got caught up in the junk in the garage, and one of the raccoons made it up onto the fence before Ben'n turned it on. Wash and Edwin shot that one, and the raccoons reconsidered the assault.

The PCs prepared to receive an attack, and the raccoons began shouting at each other over what a bad idea it was to attack the fortified compound. Finally, one of their leaders began negotiations: the raccoon mutants claimed the previous owner had promised them a lot of loot, and the PCs counter-claimed that debts expired with death. It went back and forth, with the PCs pointing out that the raccoons couldn't assault the compound, and the raccoons pointing out they could certainly ambush the PCs when they left the compound. Ben'n tried Diplomacy and Redfrost did some Fast-Talking, and the raccoon mutants eventually settled on demanding some shiny loot and they'd call it a done deal. The PCs promised to provide them hot lead.

That's where we left the game, with a plan to have a discussion over email.

Take It To Email

Over email, the PCs have apparently agreed that they want to create a settlement or a trading post at least. They're still debating what to do about the mutant raccoons, but they're moving more towards "pay the buggers off" rather than "commit genocide." Though that may change. They're also planning to stay at the post for a week at least, while Redfrost heals and Rabbit pimps up the Power Wagon to have some gun mounts and hidden compartments.

Evaluation of Play

This session didn't go at all how I expected, but everyone enjoyed it and that's the important part. The useless automated turrets were very frustrating to me, as they made the main focus of the defense into a farce. I'd planned for the PCs to have to experiment and struggle to find a way past them safely, but apparently running very fast and minimzing their exposure was sufficient. Still, everyone enjoyed the game and everyone liked the idea of setting up a base, so I'm satisfied.

What Next?

One problem with this session is that I inadvertently wrote myself into a corner. It's not obvious to me what the PCs are going to do next: focus on forting up the compound? Grab some electronics and head to Uxbridge Farms? Some other random thing? As Uhuk pointed out, they all have severe cases of gamer attention deficit disorder, and there's a bunch of good things they could do. I had a good session here. I might not have a good session next time.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Nu World Session 7

I'm continuing to run my GURPS After the End game. This sessions was a bit haphazard and improvised. On the plus side, we added a new player to the group this week: Eilmyn. Shes' very new to role-playing, but she liked the game enough to come back so I must be doing something right.

Cast of Characters

A New Person, Making Plans

The sixth session with the PCs recovering a pristine but heavily modified Dodge Power Wagon and ending up deeply in debt to the contact who'd provided the information pointing them to the truck. At the start of this session, I introduced Eilmyn's character as an agent of that contact, someone who would be sent along with them in order to make sure they were working to pay back the debt.

The introduction turned into a bit of unfortunate comedy: I asked Eilmyn to describe Redfrost, and since Eilmyn was is pretty new to role-playing, she was completely unprepared. I fell back to introducing the other characters, and we prompted Eilmyn enough to get a physical description, but it wasn't the best gaming experience.

The next stumbling block was that the PCs hard no real plans. They had a vague goal: revive the astronaut in order to find the lost FEMA cache and become rich beyond the dreams of avarice, but no real idea of how to achieve that. They were supposed to have figured that out over email the week before, but the discussion had been inconclusive. I prompted them with a couple of ideas and they eventually decided to head toward Uxbridge Farms where a pre-Fall supercomputer might be able to tell the location of pre-Fall medical locations that might be able to revive the astronaut.

The next problem was that they were a bunch of traders without any real trade goods. After a little more prompting, they decided to scavenge the ruins of Boston on the way out, looking for high-tech goods that could make a good profit in Uxbridge Farms.

There was also an inconclusive bit where they realized they needed to modify the Power Wagon's engine to use ethanol or biodiesel, and no one could decide which option to use. This wasn't helped by the fact that Nate was running late due to a schedule change and everyone was deferring to the techie. Since the costs for both systems are the same, we went through the gadgeteering rolls and agreed that Nate would decide what Rabbit had installed at some future date.

Improvised Scavenging

Obviously, I wasn't really prepared for whatever they were doing, so this was a pretty improvised session. Fortunately, After the End has plenty of support for scavenging and it doesn't require a lot of prep. The Pcs rolled some Perception checks to find some good stuff and went into the buildings, which were basically falling apart. Wisely, they decided to leave Edwin on guard, since his huge size and massive weight are definitely disadvantages when exploring rotting buildings. As it was, in the first building, despite the difficulty, everyone rolled near critical successes and got the loot out without problem.

That luck continued in a mostly intact grocery, and failed badly in a ruined research lab. Ben'n collapsed part of a wall on him and Wash, and while neither of them were injured, the noise alerted the local greenskin mutants.

Improvised Fighting

I quickly drew up a map of the building and stationed the PCs in and around it, and then placed nine greenskin mutants outside. I'd prefer to have been more prepared, but this didn't take too long and I don't think it's any worse than drawing maps during play at a tabletop game.

The greenskins charged in, dividing into groups to attack the widely separated PCs. Redfrost pulled out a 9mm semi-automatic pistol and backpedaled, firing high-damage shots into the greenskins as they approached her and dodging their attacks.

Edwin charged in to support her, slamming his clawed feet into another greenskin that was charging him. At a combined impact of about 50 miles per hour, he smashed through the greenskin's excessive DR and also took enough damage to almost break his own feet. He also smashed a support beam in the ceiling, dropping acoustic tile and miscellaneous gunk in a three yard radius and almost taking out Redfrost. Two more greenskins threw spears at him, but failed to penetrate his armor and thick feathers. He then jump another greenskin that was menacing Redfrost and clobbered him from the flank with one of his yield sign axes.

Wash hid from the greenskins and was nearly overrun but managed to loose an arrow into his attacker's eye at the last moment. That was his only kill, at the same time that Redfrost had dropped two greenskins and severely wounded another. As Kevin noted, "This is why Black Widow is better that Hawkeye." Ben'n was standing near Wash but has been surprised by the attack and barely got his rifle to shoulder before the fighting was over.

Two of the greenskins ran around for the truck, defended by Rabbit. Rabbit fired his shotgun at one of them, but even a slug barely penetrated their thick skin. Luckily for Rabbit, but the time the greenskins reached him, the rest of their allies were mostly dying and dead and the survivors panicked and ran off.

We ended the session at that point.

Evaluation of Play

I'm slowly coming to the conclusion that this group just doesn't do open-ended sandbox games very well. They can handle small, linear dungeons and obvious set pieces, but give them a dozen options and they dither with option paralysis. I need to accept that and give them better guidelines. I don't want to railroad them, but putting them on rails would probably help.

Other than that, this session went okay for a small piece of improvised filler. The greenskins continue to not be a threat - I need to give them better weapons than spears, obviously - and the scavenging is too much die rolling with too little decision making, I think.

What Next?

I'm going to prep a better bit of scavenging for the next session, and make it into a set piece and see how that goes. I suspect it will go fairly well if I can come up with something good.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Nu World Session 6

This is the last session of Nu World I ran before the cancer surgery, and it also neatly tied up the "rescue the Power Wagon" plot, so it was a good and fortunate stopping place.

Cast of Characters

Time to Leave

At the end of the previous session, the PCs had forced the pirates of the house containing the Power Wagon truck, and now just needed to figure out a way to move the truck across seventy or eighty yards of deep water. And they needed to figure that out in a hurry, because the pirates were going to come back soon.

Privately, I'd decided that the pirates were either going to take about 60 hours to regroup, or they were going to come back as soon as the PCs were ready to move the Power Wagon. Either the PCs would be forced to abandon the damn thing, or there would be a (hopefully) exciting chase scene. It didn't quite work out that way.

Rabbit stuck with his plan to use the astronaut's parachute as the basis of an inflatable raft. We looked up the numbers, did some math, and he spent about twelve hours in game furiously gadgeteering. Then he burnt his luck, made some rolls, and got the raft together. He also disarmed the shell in front of the garage, so that the PCs could easily move the truck out without having to destroy the back wall.

Trouble Coming

The PCs had finally learned and posted Wash as a scout, so as Rabbit was finishing up the raft, Wash could see several rowboat's worth of pirates approaching from the southwest. He relayed word to Rabbit and took some potshots at the pirates, but the range was pretty far even for him and he didn't want to waste too many arrows. Rabbit was forced to wait while the raft finished inflating.

Finally, the raft was ready. Ben'n drove the truck onto the raft, and then Edwin started poling the raft to the east. Meanwhile, the pirate boats swung around in a big loop and came in from the north east.

Action! Chase

I pulled out the chase rules from Action: Exploits. I had in mind an exciting chase, where the pirates would pull up to the raft, exchanging gunfire with the PCs, and then a few pirates would jump into the wagon bed and there'd be a melee. As it turned out, not so much.

Everyone involved had about the same skills, the same speed, and the same luck. No one managed to gain or loose any ground, so the PCs stayed at long range and no one tried shooting anyone else. At one point, one of the PCs use Serendipity to have a tree trunk fall across the canals, blocking the pirates (which counted as a Mobility Escape for the PCs). The pirates tried to portable past the blockage, and one boat succeeded while another got high-centered, but it gave the PCs a chance to escape. And then they were on dry land, and I'd already ruled that once the truck was on the dry road again, they could make a mobility escape because at even 30 mph, there was no way the PCs couldn't just drive the truck away faster than the pirates could pursue in boats or on foot.

So overall, what I hoped would be a tense, fun, exciting chase turned into a fairly pedestrian exercise in number crunching and reading charts. I was pretty disappointed. Next time, I'm just going to fiat that some of the pursuers get close enough that they can jump on the truck, and I think everyone will be okay with that, because it'll be more exciting and interesting.

Back to Diamond City

The PCs drove the truck back to Diamond City, where they ran into their next problem: they'd promised their sponsor, Ben'n's contact, that they'd give him 10% of the value of whatever they found in the unlooted house. Given that the truck had an approximate value of $200,000, and no one in Diamond City is readily reach enough to afford that, they couldn't easily sell the truck either and they couldn't exactly cut off a chunk and give it to him.

Finally, the contact took pity on them. Ben'n has a reputation for trustworthiness, so the contact offered to loan them the $20,000 if they promised to pay it back within a year at 50% interest. The PCs said "sure, sign us up!", much to my surprise. I'd expected a negotiating session and getting talked down to 25% or less - Ben'n surely has the skills to do it. But they didn't, and the contact was happy. Speaking of which, the contact needs a name but I'm hoping +Eric Schmidt will come up with one. It's his character's contact, after all.

Return of the Plot

One last detail was Rabbit finally had some time to spend to really concentrate on cracking the password of the laptop they'd looted from the house. He used his luck again and rolled well, making the machine usable again. I decided that the laptop had non-volatile memory (which is pretty reasonable, I think) and by some cosmic coincidence, had last been used to browse the biography of the astronaut the PCs recovered in session 1. I'd say "what are the odds" but three of the PCs have Serendipity and this kind of crazy chance is exactly what the advantage is for. At any rate, her bio revealed she was married to the administrator of the FEMA emergency cache, a long rumored store of wealth that had been lost during the apocalypse that created the Nu World.

The PCs quickly figured out what this meant: if they could awaken the astronaut, they could ask her the location of the FEMA cache and get stupid rich. They made some vague plans to head down to Uxbridge Farms, in hopes that the pre-Fall supercomputer there would know the location of a medical facility capable of reversing nanostasis. And with that, the game was back on my vague plot after the long, large detour to recover the Power Wagon.

Evaluation of Play

Like I said above, the chase sequence was a big disappointment that I'll handle differently in the future. The rest of the session went well, though I wish the players made more use of the campaign wiki to keep up on things like rumors and possible trade routes. Ohl well.

What Next

Obviously, the game was on hiatus through most of July thanks to my cancer surgery. We're going to start playing again tomorrow. Hopefully we'll have a fifth player. Her character will be an agent of Ben'n's unnamed contact, sent to keep watch on his investment and make sure the PCs don't do anything stupid and generally work toward paying that debt back. I'm pretty excited to have a new player but we'll see how it goes.