Saturday, June 28, 2014

Traveller Session - To Alboors rescue!

It was all action in last night's game. The PCs ended the last session in a night club and had just popped open a guitar case containing two laser rifles...

Jenkins, once a merchant but now an ad hoc trouble-shooter for the Imperial Navy, pulled out his laser rifle and swung round on the two thugs heading over from the door. The brutes dived behind some chairs and tables.

Hake, once a member of the Army but now also a trouble-shooter for the Imperial Navy, grabbed his laser rifle and clubbed down the man behind the bar with him.

Jenkins and the thugs behind the tables started trading shots, with Jenkins first shot burning through a table and the thug behind it, but not until after they had heard the fellow shouting into a radio.

The few patrons had also dived to the floor and were crawling towards the exit. Of course, the music played on.

Another thug emerged from the toilette zipping his fly, and had a rude awakening as he found himself in a fire-fight, he went for his gun. Jenkins took out the other guy hiding behind the tables and then Hake had an inspiration. He held up his ruck sack and pretended it contained a bomb. His speech had effect and the shooting stopped. The toilette thug pulled out a radio and called someone.

Another man appeared, this one carrying a sub machine gun at the rail of the balcony above the dance floor. Words were exchanged, along with bomb threats. The PCs made it clear that they wanted Alboor and they wanted him now!. Alboor, or at least a man with a bag over his head, was brought to the rail along with a nattily dressed gentlemen (who was assumed to be the manager of the club).

Further discussion ensued and it seemed that the PC's were going to get Alboor handed over. The men at the rail disappeared, but rather than them appearing downstairs with Alboor, a know of five more thugs burst from the stairwell, scattering across the dance floor and letting fly with their pistols.

Hake, dropped down behind the bar for cover, Jenkins slipped sideways and used the DJ's stand for cover. Shots were fired, near misses for the most part, but with occasional hits on the bad guys. Hake felt his shooting was rather miserable, so opted to get close and personal. He slipped his boarding axe out of the bag.

Jenkins took down one or two of the thugs, burning hole through their bodies with his laser and then Hake was bounding over the bar. He laid into a thug smashing his face and taking his nose off with the axe. Jenkins coolly burnt another bad guy to the ground and the last but one thug was soon fell victim to the axe.

That left one bad guy. Jenkins edged out moving around the DJ's stand opening his view and trying to pin down the thug. With a yell the thug leapt off the stand from behind Jenkins but missed his target and landed face down next to Jenkins, who promptly burnt his brains out.

They bounded up the stairs emerging onto the balcony. They raced around this to the door at the far end. A couple of brute force attacks bashed in the door. They were in a corridor. Bullets came out of the first door they came to. Hoping to scare the bad guys out of the room, the PCs ripped off the doorknob from the door they had smashed, and threw this into the room while shouting grenade. Instead of the bad guys rushing out, they heard a door shutting.

The room turned out to be a secretary's office with a door at the far side, the door the bad guys had no doubt just gone through.

The evening session ended as Hake burst through this door into the posh office beyond and was assaulted by a hail of bullets (that all missed)!

Uninspired map of the upper floor

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Traveller Session - The Alboor Odyssey

The last session ended with the characters getting back spaceside and having a shower. In fact things started happening while they were having a shower. odyssey

They got a call from Admiral Ranowski, the head of the navy station in the Affran system to attend him immediately. When they met him, he was busy rushing from one meeting to another (he was on his way to meet with the captain of a battleship recently arrived).  He told the PC's that an exploratory XBoat had just returned from Aslan space where it had discovered a massing fleet of warships. With the planet below in a state of near rebellion and turned against the navy he had some delicate issues that he hoped the PCs could help with.

1) A professor Alboor Gloann, on Affran was as near an Aslan expert as exists in the system. His insights and knowledge could make all the difference in the upcoming situation. Unfortunately his broadcasts in support of the Navy and against the dangers of an Aslan incursion had made him a target of anti imperial rebels. He had been kidnapped. Ranowski needed someone non-navy to try and find him.

2) The Gedes, one of the ruling families on Affran, had been one of the leaders of the anti navy anti imperial movement and their media propaganda was stirring up the populous. However the navy had had word that the Gedes family members themselves were planning to jump off planet before the Aslan arrived. Ranowski suspected that if someone was to sabotage their personal spaceships, they might stop their anti navy broadcasts as they would have no way of getting off planet themselves. Ranowski would have been very happy if someone not a member of the navy were to carry out the sabotage.

The PC's opted to rescue Alboor. They shuttled over to the civilian station and picked up civilian clothing before dropping down dirtside. They were let off in Alboor's home town. Like all adventurers they headed straight for a pub. When they asked if anyone knew where Alboor could be found there was an ominous silence before a large thug stepped out of the crowd. They were strident anti navy and therefore anti Alboor people. Some clever word play managed to talk the crowd round and convince them that the PCs were old friends of Alboor's and were here to talk him out of his mad views.

They got directions from the drinkers and headed off. Their destination was the university. On the way they passed cops and a news crew outside a damaged house. The university was mostly empty but a receptionist was kind enough to let them know that Alboor was not in and hadn't been for a few days.

At a loss for what to do, they wandered into a student bar. They managed to stir up the drunken yobs they found in there until they streamed out, set on going to Alboor's home and lynching them. The PCs followed the crowd. Realising that the crowd might stop them actually retrieving the good professor, they set about splitting and misdirecting members of the group. This led them back to the cops and the house with the smashed in windows.

Unwilling to be filmed by the news crew (as the Killown family would still be after them) they tipped the newsies to a non existing newsworthy event back at the university. The crew left and the PCs turned their attention to the cops.

The cop they spoke to was singularly not interested in keeping them out of the house, he seemed more interested in appearing on the news. So they wandered into the house. A brief investigation led them though the house where they found and followed a blood trail out into the garden at the back of the house. There they found a discarded and blood soaked jacket under a hedge. A number of duplicate business cards were found in the pocket of the jacket. The cards were for a nearby club.

They headed to this club which was open day and night. They showed the cards which got them into the club and past the big guys on the door. Inside loud music was playing but there wasn't too many people. The dance floor was empty. The people that were there, were clinging to the bars. One of the doormen wandered over to the PC's and suggested calmly that they get themselves a drink quickly.

At one of the bars they mentioned the name of Alboor and the barkeep was rather and suddenly frosty. When he went for alarm button under the counter the ex-Army PC dived across the bar for him. Unfortunately he missed and slammed into the shelves behind the counter. The bar keep called out and the thugs from the door started to rush over. The other PC dropped his guitar case on the bar and opened it revealing the two laser rifles they had brought...

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Taking a look at "Golo" a solitaire dice game

Traveller Session - Reverses

Friday night's game started rather unusually. Normally we pick up the narrative, right where we leave off, but inspired by a review of "Microscope" I decided to open the session in a different way. When the last session ended they were pushing the ship through a worm-hole-like-thingy to make a jump back to their home sub-sector. Instead of having them pick up the story in the usual way at the other end of the jump, I read them the following boxed text...

"You’re crawling rapidly through a concrete lined tube, too small to allow you to kneel, let alone stand. It’s dark, not a single photon moves in this environment. Your hands and knees are sloshing through sewage. Your moves are awkward as your hands are bound with metal hand cuffs.

"Between you is your long lost friend, Marin, whom you dispatched to Affran with the ship you salvaged when on a mission for the Killown family. He’s battered and bruised, you all are.

"The darkness is oppressive, the only sounds are those made by yourselves splashing along the tube, oh.. and the growling from behind, issuing from the beast that’s hunting you."

I described the above as the end point, and then encouraged the players to fill in the gap in-between,  to describe the events that lead from them entering the anomaly to crawling through a concrete sewage pipe in handcuffs.

The story they evolved was pretty cool. They had two jumps to make to get back to the Affran system and during the jumps three crew disappeared. This turned out to be the work of an Aslan who was hiding on board. Apparently this was the same Aslan they had spaced from his x-boat. But rather than doing the decent thing and dying, he'd survived and somehow made it across to their ship just as they abandoned it to the space-bugs. Since that time he'd continued to survive and hide on board until his supplies ran out and he started hunting the returned crew for food instead. The P.C.s don't know about this stowaway. As well as eating crew, this nasty chap also decided to spoil the human food supplies leading to a lot of sickness in transit.

When they reached the Affran system things had changed significantly. There was a much stronger Naval presence, ships from neighboring systems had been arriving to bolster the system against the oncoming Aslan invasion. The planet of Affran was in chaos. The Navy had been attempting to impose Imperial conscription on the populous as a further measure to fend off the upcoming Aslan attack, but the people of Affran and especially the ruling families didn't much like the idea. Therefore the planet was racked with conflict and insurrection. They handed the ship over to the Navy (who wanted the ship to use as a Trojan Horse, as it's Aslan in origin).

It was at this point that the P.C.s were kidnapped while transiting to the local station. The Killown family had got word of their return and were rather upset at the P.C.'s behavior, so decided to capture them and dispense Killown justice.

Cut-to: handcuffed and chained to the floor in a sewage works just outside of the Killown estate. The P.C.'s were being beaten by Killown goons, watched and directed by Karin Killown herself. In the room with them were some old friends. Ex-Admiral Marin (also an ex-P.C.) who had been dispatched to the Killown's with a salvaged space ship months before, and the "hostage" that the P.C.'s had left with the Killown family when they first took up with them, Ace Shichi. Everyone was getting a beating.

I asked what had happened to Marin that lead him to this situation. Apparently when he arrived in the system he discovered that the crate he'd been delivering to the Killowns was missing (see previous sessions for the story of the man-in-a-crate) and he decided it was best not to arrive empty handed. He sat in the ship on the outskirts of the system incognito, until supplies started running low. Then he had no choice but to head in-system by shuttle to get supplies. The Killowns then captured him and tried to wring the story out of him, but he didn't break, therefore that ship is still out-there.

The Navy stuck their oar in, and mounted a rescue raid to save our heroes, but the Killowns didn't like the idea of a happy ending! The party was thrown into a treatment tank and the inlets turned on, flooding the tank and "drowning" the P.C.'s in sh**. Only, in their rush to flush the evidence the Killowns cocked up, and forgot to close the outlet from the tank and the team were flushed down into the sewage system and hence into the concrete pipe where we opened the session. They wandered in the complete dark, totally lost until "something" started chasing them, something nasty sounding.

Then the session-proper started.

The P.C.'s found a way up and climbed up out of the sewage pipe to emerge on a suburban road. Staggering to the walkway they had to come up with a plan of action. A hardware store was across the street, and they went in looking for a hacksaw.

The proprietor was not happy that these sh** covered individuals were trailing crap across his floor and he came around the counter to shoo them out, only then spotting the handcuffs. Realising they were obviously escaped criminals he ran behind the counter looking for a weapon.

Ex-army hero and P.C. Raban Hake swung a boot at the shop-keep, only he slipped on the dripping sewage and landed on his butt. A subsequent attempt to lash out at the retiring tradesman only succeeded in causing a display of small D.I.Y. Tools to crash down upon himself.

Former-merchant hero and P.C. Kepler Jenkins made to dive across the counter at the shop-keep, only he slipped too and instead crashed head first into the glass fronted counter shattering the glass. Under the counter he saw the shotgun the proprietor was after, and an easy to reach pair of bolt cutters. Using the bolt cutters he smacked the man in the face and knocked the fight out of him. The butt of the shotgun was used to administer a sleeping draft.

A bag of tools and the shotgun were grabbed before the P.C.'s rushed out the back of the shop into an alley. Rushing  along the alley they were confronted by a civilian to whom they explained that they were sewage workers who had been hard at work.

They found a lonely strip of garages and broke into one after shooting out the lock. In the garage they found boxes of clothes, books, blankets and towels. They made as good a job as they could of cleaning themselves up with Swarfega. When they came to change into the clothes they'd found there was the small issue of the clothes all being women's, and they, the P.C.'s all being bearded gentlemen. None the less they braved on and donned between them a little red number, a pinaore, and a loverly white dress with large yellow flowers. However the best was left for last. Marin, sporting a long grey beard (stained orange with Swarfega) donned a long grey dress and additionally found a large brimmed and pointed hat to match, and being an older gentleman he also managed to find a walking stick...or rather a staff (from here on the Gandalf references were manifest).

They decided to carry some books with them and pretend to be a ladies reading circle to any that asked questions. Things were getting very Monty Python.

Their objective was to get off planet, but without money or resources they needed help. It was decided to contact their friends in the Navy and found a Navy recruitment center. Unfortunately it was surrounded by angry citizens protesting the conscription. They joined the back of the crowd and played a magnificent game. By passing themselves off as draft-dodgers disguised as women they were propelled through the crowd as heroes, and even made a speech about sticking-it-to-the-man and going in-there to give the Navy a piece of their mind! It worked, they got through the door and put through a call to get help. Not content with merely surviving, they also dispersed the crowd as it was turning rowdy.

The journey to the space port revealed evidence of fires and chaos across the city. The port itself was surrounded by burning vehicles and screaming citizenry. Navy and Marine personnel were even firing into the air to keep the crowds back.

Once back in the comfort of  the station they got cleaned up and we ended the session.

As GM I really enjoyed the session. The players imagination in the first half was outstanding, building upon the previous story elements and weaving in some new threads that can reappear later. I lost it a couple of times as the Monty Python elements were introduced, even finding it hard to breath at times :)

Well done chaps.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Maelstrom - an RPG review

Maelstrom is an RPG published in 1984. Yeah it's old and this review is thirty years late, but give me a break, we didn't even have the internet back then!

The physical format of the game is a perfect bound novel of 304 pages. The games genre is rather original, it's set in 16th century England and the PCs have some rather unusual role choices.

As the genre suggests the game does not cater well for the normal fantasy tropes, and although you can play a thief or a fighter, don't expect to be meeting Orcs or casting fireball spells.

This book came out during the 80's craze for gamebooks such as the Fighting Fantasy and Lone Wolf series and appears to be inspired by that, in fact it includes two "scenarios" that are presented in that style (turn to entry 10 if you want to fight). In these adventures you learn to use the system, any fights are played out using the system and so it seeks to teach you the system.

Oh dear, where do I start laying into this.

Characters can be Nobles, Professionals, Craftsmen, Traders, Labourers, Mercenaries, Thieves, Priests, Actors, Mages or Herbalists. Quite an odd mix. I was puzzled about this as it doesn't suggest high adventure if your PC is a simple Stone Mason. Reading further into the book though it started to become clear. The "world" of Maelstrom is almost the real world of 16th century England including  all of the misery, poverty and poor health, and the average person there doesn't ever leave their home town let alone go on adventures. So the focus of this book, is travel. A journey from one town to another in the company of fellow travelers who stick together for safety. Hence you play the parts of people who would be making such a journey.

Being a product of the 80's, character generation is somewhat of a drag, there are huge tracts of text describing each of the backgrounds for your character trades, each of which really plays no part in your final character. It also spends an inordinate amount of time explaining why your character must be about fifty years of age before they can start to "adventure" (which means walk to the next town).  This section was such a drag. It was not written to empower your character, but rather to limit them, hold them back, and beat on them. Too much realism of the "period" was written in here. Sure its background material that lets you get into the period, but your modern roleplayer doesn't want to read a text book on history before he even starts rolling the character stats.

If you want to play a female character, change your mind. This book explains at length how women can't do this, do that, have one of those, go anywhere, look up, speak or ... breath without permission. Sure, perhaps a realistic fact of the period, but no fun for gaming.

So lets assume you want to play a more flamboyant character, such as a mage! I wouldn't bother. You're old, crippled, immenesly wise and can maybe reach to heady height of a Gandalf-spell such as "Ignite Pinecone".

Or how about playing a mercenary?  That sounds fun, right? Sure you're good in a fight, but no one will like you or trust you, and get injured and it's bye bye bye.

Seriously, I got depressed reading this book. Everything was about how un-empowered you were, how you're held back, how you can't do this or that and how miserable life was. The book has a rather dodgy cover showing what appears to be the end of rather tame fight and that aptly suits the content of the book, which all about taking a story and wringing any fun or excitement out of it.

I know people have played this game, and even enjoyed it. I suspect that was despite the book, not because the rules enabled it.

ZZZZZZZ...Oh... you're still here. There is more. The skill/attribute system is percentile based and making a skill check is called a "saving roll" for some reason. Doesn't make sense to me. Want fix an axle on your cart, that's a saving roll. Want to harvest some potatoes, that's a saving roll. Want to block a sword blow, that's saving, hang on that actually makes sense.

To summarise, I won't be playing this game, playing in this background is too depressing. I might well play a game set in a 16th century, but not this one. If you see this book going cheap, sure pick it up have a read and see how games were written back-in-the-day, but don't expect to play it.