Saturday, 1 May 2021

Books & Stuff (NS, No 15) - Reading in Apr 2021

Finished Reading

Ray Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles

A hang-over from 'March is Mars Month', and I discussed it in the last round-up

There I called it a lyrical classic about human baggage, which I'll stick with.






Connie Willis, To Say Nothing of the Dog

One of Willis' splendid books on the Oxford Faculty for Time Travel.  In this one, everyone has been caught up in a donor's huge vanity project (to recreate the bombed Coventry Catherdral in perfect detail).  Willis is one of those writers who keeps me up all night.

It's both a tribute to J K Jerome's Three Men in a Boat and a study of chaos theory.  A hoot.

Ben Aaronovitch, False Value

When I started this I was a little concerned that - at Book 8 - the Rivers of London series might have run out of steam.  I need have only been slightly worried.  Although, not up to the high standard of the first couple of books, this certainly kept pace with the later ones.

The only problem is that I need a concordance to keep up with all the characters and references.  I'm sure there's one online somewhere, but that's not much help to me when I'm sitting up reading at 2.30am.

Aubrey/Maturin Series

Patrick O'Brian
Master and Commander 
Post Captain
HMS Surprise
The Mauritius Command

I had an inclination to re-read some of the Aubrey/Maturin books - not necessarily all of them (that would be too much of A Project), but it seems to be heading that way.  

It was with some surprise that I see that they are older now than the Hornblower books were when I first read those (and then they seemed positively antique!).  Still, they take me back...  I first read them in the 90s when I used to have a long commute (most of my copies were bought at WH Smiths on Liverpool's Lime Street Station).  It was a formative period for me.  At the time I was developed a focus on maritime and naval history which ran as a thread in my career for a while.

Currently Reading

Patrick O'Brian, Desolation Island

The crew head towards the Botany Bay colony (with a few convicts including a beautiful female spy), but run into trouble in the South Atlantic.

Thursday, 29 April 2021

Gaming in April 2021

  • 4 Apr - Wasters (cyberpunk OSE) - on-line
  • 11 Apr - Wasters 
  • 14 Apr - Evils of Illmire (OSE) - on-line
  • 18 Apr - Wasters
  • 21 Apr - Evils of Illmire 
  • 25 Apr - Wasters 
  • 28 Apr - Evils of Illmire

Wasters


'Doctor' Klunk

Another deceptively simple mission which led to an epic session, stretching to five hours of play.  The job was recover a case containing precious metals, for which we would be rewarded with a datastick containing valuable information.

This was my first outing (I'd missed last week's session) with Klunk - our salvaged rescue-bot - which was something I'd been looking forward to.  A brute of a thing, he promised to be able to handle most situations that could be thrown at him.

The trip out to the target block proved pretty much uneventful.  Once we got there (a shop in an abandoned mall) we found a Wastes Hermit in residence.  We've decided that we were being too Murder Hobo-y of late, so made an effort to get on with him.  He proved a decent sort (happy to get some food packs), if a little paranoid about robots.

Exploration of the shop took quite a while and attracted the attention of several of the locals - some haywire Service Bots and a gang of muggers.  These we managed to see off without too much trouble.  The next encounters weren't so simple.  First we found that a homicidal nutter was living upstairs.  Then, as we sent Klunk around he managed to set off a couple of traps and walked in on a couple more Rescue Bots.  These were haywire and set out to 'rescue' us with extreme prejudice.  It was a close call, but we managed to deactivate them (beyond salvage, sadly), mainly by having Klunk destroy the stairs as just before they came down.  Klunk was disabled, but promised to be repairable if we could get him back to the Safe Zone.

Having found the stash, we now had an embarrassment of riches - far too much to carry.  We offered Dee (the hermit, who'd proved useful with a katana) what he wanted.  The kerfuffle also attracted the attention of a couple of Wastes Cops.  Those of our party with a price on their heads hid upstairs with the good loot, while my character tried to blag our way through, laying it on a bit thick.  Fortunately, these were the corrupt, murdering sort of cops but merely the ones who were ready to take whatever took their fancy.   

We made our own cache of loot, said goodbye to Dee and headed back on our slow return journey.  This was also fairly uneventful - a distant sighting of a survelance drone and a gang-member, and a few hours sheltering from toxic rain.


In this session we sold the datastick we'd been given as payment last week to one of the local gangs - the Street Cats - after a tense negotiation (in which we didn't get to speak), and then went to collect the rest of the loot from last week.  

Our new policy of not picking fights with everyone we meet again paid off, and despite meeting the gangsters, some annoyed cops, other Wasters and a very large haywire street cleaner we all got home again without being killed.

The Radiant Family

The job we took on this time was to go and disrupt a block that was occupied by haywire bots.  One of the problems was that this was a long way from base and it took us a long time to get there.   On the way we had a few encounters with wild animals and met a new faction (some very decent chaps who were arms dealers but had some rum views on the purity of the human race).  When we finally got to the target block we were almost immediately attacked by a Stealth Bot.  The session ended with the unfortunate prospect of a near-TPK.

Carrying on with our aim of distrupting the block, we determined to destroy a warehouse.  Not as easy as it sounded, given that it was occupied by bots, and as soon as we tackled them we encountered some nanosludge, which proved difficult to damage.  And to add to that, the noise attracted yet more bots...

Yet it wasn't without reward, there were a couple of terminals which gave our techs access to cyberspace, where they harvested what promises to be valuable data.

Evils of Illmire
  • 14 Apr
The Fearmother

When we left off last time, we'd left our petrified colleague, made our way to the Cultists' lair and neutralised the guards and Hell Hounds at the entrance with a Sleep spell.  When we woke the guards, we used Charm Person on one and our Chaotic fighter used a kill-and-take-their-face magic item on the other - thereby getting a lot of intel on the Temple.

We eventually went in and had a hard fight to make headway.  After a while, we meet the Big Bads - the Fearmother and it's High Priestess.  We ended the session in a very sticky place: - one PC was tied up (because he'd gone a little mad); one was separated from the party and facing-off against half a dozen cultists; and my Cleric was bashed into pulp by the Fearmother.

His last words were to dedicate his death to Shroom (cleansing the valley of the cultists had become a Holy Quest) and a prayer for mercy on his petrified acolyte.
  • 21 Apr
Myxomycetes has a new look...

We started this session in media res (a term that our former GM claimed was horribly ungramatical), with three PCs (one tied up) and five retainers.

Fortunately, two things happened immediately.  First, the tied-up thief freed himself and, secondly - and more miraculously - the soul of my petrified Cleric of Shroom was transmogrified into the body of a revived Mycelian (Myxomycetes was almost immediately dubbed "Mushroom Jesus").    The Grace of Shroom was further evident in the fact that he was able to use his pacifying spoors to good effect.  We were therefore able to scrape a victory.  However, one of the problems in killing a Fearmother is that they explode, causing damage to anyone within 15' - thus killing one of our two surviving PCs (as well as a retainer).

Mass suicide of the Cultists, interrogation of the Priestess and some serious looting followed.

We made our way back to the village.  Due to some very lucky dice-rolls and expediture of a lot of accrued wealth, we were able to attract some very senior clerics (most of Shroomfest wanted to meet the miraclous Myxomycetes) were were able to raise Sir Robert from the dead (just in time for his wedding to the barmaid).

From these two resurrections, you will reaslise that our GM Is A Lamb.
  • 28 Apr

With our main characters variously grieving, becoming accustomned to a new fungal state, or on their hioneymoon, we rolled up some Lv 1 characters and went out on a new adventure.  But first, they decided to play about with the magical items that the main party had brought back from the Fearmother's lair: this left one fighter transformed (permanently we think) into a giant python.

We decided to take up a commission to clear a lake of Fishmen.  To do this, we had to first approach the local tribe of Froglings, who we were told could provide us with a means of breathing underwater.  We were also advised that before they would do this, they were likely to ask us for help in their long-running conflict with the Mantismen.  We thus wandered into the swamp, we ambushed a hunting party of Mantismen and took their heads as gifts for the Froglings.  This got us an audience with the tribe, but we were told that the price of their help would be the head of the Mantis Queen...

Saturday, 3 April 2021

Future Projects?

 


I'm a dinosaur.  I find it tricky reading and using pdf gaming resources.  So every so often I will print them off (preferably with spiral bindings) for ease of table use.

Apes Victorious

The other week I watched the recent re-boot of the Planet of the Apes films (not that recent, I know - Rise of the Planet of the Apes is almost ten years old).  I enjoyed them and it put me in mind of gaming the setting.  Or rather, gaming the setting I remember from my childhood - the 1968-1973 films, the live-action tv series and the animated series.  I'm also thinking of other 70's post-apocalyptic tv shows, such as Logan's Run and those Gene Roddenberry never quite got off the ground.

This isn't a new idea to me - I'd had the pdf of Apes Victorious from Gobliniod Games for some time.   But now I've got it printed out and I might now read it with a mind to adapting it for a one-off game.

Carcass Crawler (Issue 0)

Regular readers of my musing on RPGs will know that my system of choice is Necrotic Gnome's Old-School Essentials (OSE).  Carcass Crawler is the official zine for OSE produced by Necrotic Gnome.  Issue 0 was issued in pdf to backers of their recent Kickstarter and work is currently underway on Issue 1 which will be available in more traditional routes.

Worlds Without Number

Another product of a Kickstarter, this one from Sine Nomine Publishing, a fantasy adaptation of their Sci-Fi game Stars Without Number.  I know nothing of either system, other than they've apparently been well-recieved.  

I'm going to be reading this because one of my on-line gaming buddies has offered to run a session for us.  The link about is to the free version, which at 350 pages is very generous.

Gaming in Mar 2021

  • 3 Mar - Evils of Illmire (OSE) - on-line 
  • 10 Mar - Evils of Illmire (OSE) - on-line
  • 14 Mar - Wasters (cyberpunk OSE) - on-line
  • 17 Mar - Evils of Illmire (OSE) - on-line
  • 24 Mar - Evils of Illmire

Evils of Illmire
  • 3 Mar

This session was based in the village of Illmire itself.  We had been gradually learning that something was amiss - old illnesses, people going missing and the like.  During a session which I'd missed, members of the party had scouted out the Old Temple and come to the conclusion that the recently-arrived priest and his followers (who were 'renovating' the building) were up to no good.  We therefore decided to have a more thorough investigation.

Yet our snooping hadn't gone unoticed.  On the way to the temple we were tricked into the local tavern - The Waggoner's Rest.  There we found that the usual staff were missing and we were waylaid by half a dozen cultists (Oh yes!  The Temple has been taken over by an Evil Cult!).  A prolonged encounter took place, a major (and probably deciding) feature of which was the use of Holmund's trusty wand of fireballs.

Interrogation of the few surviving assailants confirmed our suspicions.  The cult were worshippers of a creature that fed on fear (a large one in the swamp and a smaller one in the temple cellar), the village well had been poisoned with fear potions and human sacrifices had been taking place.  Most worryingly, the next sacrifice was due to be the barmaid from the Waggoner's (to whom one of our party had formed An Attachment).

Armed with this knowledge, we advanced on the temple at the head of a mob of villagers and had a brief parley with Fr Rand, the Chief Priest.  Under cover of the mob's activities, we crept around the back and let ourselves into the crypt...
  • 10 Mar

...where we found all sorts of incrimidating evidence and useful kit.  We avoided the Thing in the Cellar and moved up into the body of the Temple itself.

Where another long combat took place.  

Suffice it to say, after careful scouting and planning, the cultists were defeated, the barmaid rescued and there was tea and loot all round.  Huzzah!

  • 17 Mar


First, a bit of RP shtick interacting with the NPCs and establishing that one of my clerics was going to remain as the village priest and take an oath to cleanse the place (getting the Temple's super-dooper magical weapon in the process).  We then went and sorted out the Thing in the Cellar (which apparently was a baby compared to the Thing in the Swamp).

  • 24 Mar

Having dealt with the cultists and the Thing in the Temple, we now turned to the bigger picture.  We had already learned from some of our captives and incriminating documents that the cultists had a camp in the swamps, and that the Thing was just an infant of the object of their worship - the Fearmother.  We updated the village authorities on the cultists' activities and got their support for, and promise of a reward on, the destruction of the main camp.  My cleric renewed his vow.

We then headed out to the swamp, with one of our captives as guide.  We had a brief encounter with a Mantisman, which (surprisingly for us went off peacefully) before setting up camp.  Unfortunately, during the night, we encountered three Cockatrices.  A nasty combat followed.  The upshot was that my cleric was left petrified (literally 'left petrified' - we covered him up with some leaves and moved on).

The next day, we reached the Cultists' camp.  We had just taken out the guards and accompanying Hellhounds when we call the session to a halt.

Wasters


For various personal reasons, I hadn't taken part in our on-line Wasters campaign since 14 Jan (and in the meantime, the game had shifted from fortnightly to weekly).

In this session we undertook what seemed to be a simple job - to follow the directions on a datastick (given to us as payment for a previous job) which promised to take us to a big stash.  This turned out to be an epic task (a 5-hour games session!) that resulted in death and mayhem.

Almost as soon as we reached the Wastes, we were waylaid by a couple of cops-on-the-take.  They gave our newly-bought handcart a good going over, but found nothing.  We tried to persuade them that we were low-level scavengers, looking for scrap metal.  So far, so good, but this was going to come back and bite us on the bum later.

A couple more small encounters occured before we reached our target - another waster and some rattlesnakes.  We even had the good fortune to find an old ruined bot that our Tech claimed was repairable (on to the handcart it went!).  We found our target house, but night was drawing on so we made camp in a nearby ruin where we could keep a watch out for any activity there.  A hireling fell asleep on watch, so we were all awoken by the sound of a group of scavenging birds attacking our gear.  One of my hirelings foolishly waded in to shoo them off, only for one of them to nip an artery, causing him to bleed-out on the spot.

The target building seemed uninhabited, so we moved in.  It proved to be quite trappy, to have some structural instabilities, and to be home to some feral dogs, but we eventually recovered the stash (both obvious and hidden).

With various bits of loot (cash, jewelry, advanced tech weapons and even fine dresses) and a damn big bot on the cart we were heavilly-laden.  We started our slow way back.  We soon encountered another group of Wasters and got involved in a nasty conflict with them.  Two were killed, but the survivors managed to hoist some loot off the handcart as they ran off.

And just as we reached the boundry of the safe zone...

...we encountered the donut-guzzling cops again.  Again they went through the cart.  We tried to fob them off with the dresses and some cash, but they made a move to frisk us.  As the really good valuables we hidden on my character's person, he wasn't having any of that.  I turns out that cops are tough!  Three of our crew were killed in the ensuing firefight.

Nevertheless, some of us got back.  It turned out that the bot we'd scavaged was repairable and, as an ex emergency services rescue-bot, very useful.  He was repaired, co-opted into our crew and christened Dr Klunk.


Thursday, 1 April 2021

Books & Stuff (NS, No 14) - Reading in Mar 2021

For March I set myself the task of reading about Mars.  I didn't really think this through beforehand and if I have a theme month again (and I might), I shall prepare beforehand and stock up on books.  Despite that, I had more books than I read, and there were several I meant to read that I didn't quite get to.  I also didn't quite make the balence between fiction and non-fiction I wanted.  

In these respects Mars Month was a bit of a failure, as it didn't work as a deep-dive into my shelves.  One reason for that is (almost by defination) a lot of the books I have is quite dated; to get up-to-date info on Mars exploration I turned to the Internet and also listened to dozens of hours of podcasts.  This lead to a little 'Mars burn-out' and meant that at the end of the day I just didn't want to pick up a book on the subject.  I also significantly undersetimated my ability to absorb technic data - it's a long time since I had to do any 'homework'!

The lesson to me is that a themed month is OK, but it shouldn't be at the exclusion of everything else.

If any of you are tempted to ever have a Mars Month, there are a couple of useful Wikipedia pages on Mars in Fiction and Mars in Culture.

Here they are in the order I read them (do persevere through the lengthy discussion of The Red and Green Planet).


H G Wells, The War of the Worlds

I started with the grand-daddy of all 'alien invasion' books.  

I've always enjoyed the economy of Wells' writing and War of the Worlds gives an account of the invasion without any fat (even down to the fact that very few characters are named).  Despite that, it remains a very powerful story.

Of course, I'm of the age that when I read certain passages of this, I hear the voice of Richard Burton or David Essex.  Given the comments on my previous post, it seems that a number of you are too!

Thunderchild's Last Stand by Scot Andrew Bailey


Hubertus Strughold, The Green and Red Planet

The first thing that must be said is that this is the product of a shameful chapter in the history of science.  For me, at least, this makes it uneasy reading.

Strughold was a German physiologist who took an early interest in aviation medicine and, in particular, high-altitude flight.  From 1935 to 1945 he served as director of the Research Institute for Aviation Medicine in Berlin (from 1939 part of the Luftwaffe).  At the end of the war he was initially sought as a war criminal due to his complicity in experiments carried out on inmates of the Dachau concentration camp (it later emerged that he had also carried out oxygen-deprevation experiments on children scheduled to be killed as 'mentally unfit').  However, he was one of those scientists deemed by the Americans to be too useful to face justice and - as part of Operation Paperclip - he was relocated to the United States where he worked for the US Air Force and, later, NASA.  He died in 1986, lauded as the 'Father of Space Medicine'.

All of which is why I'm going to give a lengthier than normal justification of why I have the book on my shelves and have bothered to read it.

The Green and Red Planet is one of the first (if not the first) to give a popular account of the new disciplines of astrobiology and planetary ecology.  It was published at an interesting time (1954) and should be seen as part of a movement promoting the scientific exploration of space as a national goal for the US - von Braun and others had published their 'Man Will Conquer Space Soon!' articles in Collier's in 1952 and their Disneyland TV series would appear in 1955.  There is no doubt that this popular movement was influential in the Eisenhower Adminstration's decision to estabish NASA in 1958 and move rocket and satellite research out of military hands.

The first half of the 96-page book gives an introduction to astrobiology before moving on to Mars.  He gives us a planet where atmospheric pressure is the equivilent of 55,000ft above sea level and temperature ranges don't vary much from those found on Earth.  Of course, we now know these figures are wrong, but this is the definitive statement of the optimistic side of the argument for life on Mars as it was pushed until some of the basic assumptions on things like surface temperature and atmospheric conditions were proven wrong by the Mariner fly-bys of 1965 and 1969.  As such, it is a useful tool when reading pre-probe literature on the planet.

'Robinson Crusoe on Mars' (1964)

Isaac Asimov, The Martian Way and Other Stories


Only the title story of this collection is about Mars, but that's good enough to hit this month's theme.  Even that story isn't mainly set on the planet.  Ostensibly it's about solving the problem of lack of water there, but really it's about what John Wyndham called 'the Outward Urge' and Turner's (pretty much discredited) Frontier Thesis, both of which are major themes in Asimov's writing.

Asimov always gives good value and the other stories are worth reading.  The best of the lot is probably 'Sucker Bait', a very Asimov-y tale.

John Wyndham and Lucas Parkes, The Outward Urge

This is Wyndham's account (Lucas Parkes was one of his pen-names) of the human drive to populate the solar system, told through several generations of one family who happen to be present at crucial events.

It has an interesting chronology which allows for stories at 50-year intervals: - space stations in 1994, the first Moon landing in the 2020s, the first Mars landing in 2094, the first Venus landing in 2144 and mining the Asteroid Belt in 2194.

Charles Cockell (ed), Life Beyond: From Prison to Mars

The results of a colaboration between the UK Centre for Astrobiology at the University of Edinburgh and the Scotish Prision Service, whereby inmates took part in short courses focussing on the problems of human colonisation of Mars.

Note that this is 'colonisastion' rather than 'settlement' - the starting point is 50 years after the establishment of the first base.  As such, it is 'Red Sky' thinking and glibly throws around assumed technology such as fusion reactors and the availability of graphine for construction.

Given that the plans here are the products of laymen's after only a few weeks' work, they're excellent pieces of work.  A subsequent series of courses look at living on the Moon, also producing a book (I may get that at some stage).

Ray Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles

A lyrical classic which I've never read (I tried Bradbury as a teenager, but was put off by the lack of rayguns).

Perhaps the opposite of the Frontier Thesis I mentioned above.  Here the frontier doesn't serve as a catalyst making mankind better, it just serves to show that where-ever we go, we just bring along the same old baggage.


What I didn't read...

As I said, I had several books lined up which I didn't get round to.  Some I might read in future months.

As far as fiction goes, I've never read Edgar Rice Burrough's Barsoom Series - I've only read A Princess of Mars (to be honest, I think I would need a good reason like a theme month to launch into it).  For light relief between heavier books I had a couple of Heinlein juveniles - Red Planet and Space Family Stone.  Also to be re-read as relief (because I always enjoy it so much) was Any Weir's The Martian.  And for slightly less light relief was CS Lewis' Out of the Silent Planet.

Non-fiction wise, I think I should have started by re-reading Oliver Morton's Mapping Mars, which is the best book I've read on the subject, and Patrick Moore on Mars.  I had hoped to get around to a book I have on the Beagle 2 probe and Colin Pillinger's autobiography My Life on Mars, which are still firmly on my to-read list.

Saturday, 20 March 2021

Kickstarter Watch - Terror of Octobernomicon



The other day I reviewed William Adcock's Call of Cthulhu scenario 'Without Warning'.  Hard on that comes news of a new piece by him.  Regardless of this link though, I think I'd probably flag this Kickstarter from Golden Goblin Press.

On offer is a book containing six Call of Cthulhu scenarions from young and up-coming authors - two Americans, three Brits and a Pole (the KS page includes video interviews with each of them, which is a nice touch).  It's intended to be a showcase for new talent.  The settings are varied - one in Roman Arabia, one in the Old West, and four in the 1920s Golden Age (one each in Lovecraft County, a cruise on the Nile, Cornwall and Vienna).  Each sounds interesting.

All in all, I think I'd probably be interested in backing this.  But then we come to the old problem of shipping.  Without a UK or EU distributor, shipping across the Atlantic doubles the cost for a hard copy.  That itself isn't Golden Goblin's fault (lord knows we all suffered since Trump's ultimatum to the  International Postage Union!) but the decsion does cut them off from a large market.  The lack of a European distributor is even more surprising given that in one of the interviews the point is made that the UK, Poland and Germany have thriving Call of Cthulhu communitites.

Sadly, it's not just the Kickstarter: if GGP had an European distributor, there's a lot in their back-catalogue that I'd be interested in.

Nevertheless, I put it forward for your consideration...

Tuesday, 16 March 2021

Without Warning

Some of you may remember that last October I took part in the virtual Miskatonic Repository Con 2020 celebrating the Miskatonic Repository, the online collection of user-made content for Call of Cthulhu supported by Chaosium, the CoC publishers.  Details of the MR and several hundred products (mainly scenarios) can be found on the DriveThruRPG here.

Although I was able to listen to some of the panel discussions, due to some scheduling problems I only participated in one of the games that were on offer that weekend.  This was a play-test of William Adcock's 'Without Warning' (to be honest, that chance of playing in one of Bill's games with him as Keeper was what brought me to the con in the first place).  

Well, the published version of the scenario is now available through DriveThruRPG.com.  I would recommend it - I had fun playing it and reading later drafts.

The setting is the Canadian Arctic in 1958, where something odd had happened to the crew of a remote radar station...

Fans of 'The Thing from Another World' will love it

Bill makes no secret that the inspiration for this was Howard Hawkes' 1951 classic 'The Thing from Another World'.  For me, that is recommendation in itself.


OK, to steal a format from the incomparable Reviews from R'lyeh...


Name: Without Warning

Publisher: Chaosium Inc (Miskatonic Repository).  Availble to download.

Author: William Adcock

Setting: 1950s Arctic outpost (military)

Product: Scenario

What You Get: 27 page, 18.74 MB illustrated PDF

Elevator Pitch: The Arctic is deadly, but sometimes it's worse than that...

Plot Hook:  November, 1957. An isolated DEW-line radar station in the Canadian Arctic has radioed in a medical emergency. A relief flight carrying a medic is dispatched, but as a winter storm closes in, the crew of the Hula Honey discovers something far worse than seals and seabirds roaming the Arctic ice.

Plot Support: Plot set-up, one plan/map, one handout, stat-block for adversaries, six pre-generated Investigators.

Production Values: Clean and readable, well-laid out (by Danial Carroll), atmospheric illustrations (by Jonathan Myers), PDF background layer can be turned off for easy printing.

Pros

  • One-night, one-shot set-up
  • Potential convention scenario
  • Set firmly in the period
  • Could be set in other periods (back to a Franklin Expedition-like mystery, forward to a contempory setting, or even transfered to an outpost on another planet)
  • Could be included in a Cold-War conspiracy campaign
  • Pre-generated investigators tie in well with scenario
  • 'Time running out' scenario set in a bottle location
  • Captures the feeling of 1959's 'creature features'
  • Evocotive and menacing adversary
  • Optional additional encounter raises the stakes significantly.
Cons
  • One-night, one-shot set-up
  • Set firmly in the period 
  • 'Time running out' scenario set in a bottle location
  • All pre-gens are male.  Even within the restraints of the setting, a female character could be introduced as a civilan medic or scientist.
  • Very little oportunity for player agency or character development
  • Linear plot
  • Not much will come as a surprise to anyone familiar with 'The Thing from Another World'
  • Mythos-light
  • Could degenerate into a 'creature feature' if the Investigators don't follow the clues to the second location

Conclusion

I enjoyed taking part in the play-test and reading the final text (finding out what we'd missed in-game!) and would recommend it for an afternoon or evening's play.  

It's bottle adventure suitable for one-shots or convention play, which is a draw-back, though of course there no reason why this might not just be the beginning for any surviving Investigators...

Sunday, 14 March 2021

Wasters No 5: 'Making Mischief'

 


Played 17 Jan 2021 (On-line) 

Due to various circumstances, this ended up being a one-on-one session – not necessarily a bad thing to have during a run of play-tests.   I think we showed that it’s feasible to play Wasters with only two participants.  Not surprisingly, it took less play-time than a group session. 

I’m writing this up two months after the event from notes I made at the time – please excuse me any faults in narrative coherence! 

 

Seph 

Games Master 

 

Me 

Mieville - Level 1 Sentinel 

Retainers 

 

Boston – Level 1 Ronin 

 

Skunk – Level 1 Infiltrator 

 

 


The Job 

To travel to a named block and do as much to disturb the status quo there. 

Preparation 

Mieville determined that this was a covert infiltration job best suited to a small team.  He therefore didn’t involve the usual Crew, but just took along a couple of goons – Boston who appeared to be quite useful muscle and Skunk, who Mieville had worked with before.  [Boston was a GM-generated retainer-for-hire.  Skunk is my reserve PC.  My notes also mention ‘Freddy’, but I’ve no idea who he is!

We also bought a quantity of spray-paints in various colours. 

The Action

Moving the four blocks into The Wastes necessary to get to the target was uneventful, although it meant traversing territory claimed by the Street Cats.   
 

On reaching the target block, we hunkered down before cautiously scouting the area.  Almost immediately we encountered a Crazy, clad in animal skins and wielding an axe.  A sharp combat ensued which left him dead.  As the first stroke of Mieville’s cunning plan, the body was left in a prominent position, with a fake Street Cats tag sprayed on the wall nearby. 


Soon afterwards Skunk heard the sound of approaching feet.  After we took cover, we saw a group of Food Service Bots approaching.  Skunk insisted that they might be a good source of tech, if not hard cash.  Boston shrugged “I’ve got this” and confidently strode into the street.  He was soon swamped by the deranged bots, a barista knocking him over as it insisted on giving him a seat, and the others trampling him in their eagerness to sell him their wares.  Belatedly, the others joined in, Mieville deploying a jamming function that drove two of them off.  When the remaining bots were defeated, it was clear that Boston was dead.  To make things worse, the bots had no salvage of value on them. 
 

We hid Boston’s body but left the evidence of the bot carnage.  Nearby Mieville faked the tag of the Fast Dogs, seemingly defaced by Butch Killers. 

Scouting of the block continued.   

The next site of interest was an office building.   There were no lights showing, but some evidence of recent activity.  We put a fake tag on a side door and gathered refuse together to set a fire by the front door before retreating to secure positions.  Once the fire took hold, a gang member with two guard dogs came out to investigate.  From his hidden position, Skunk made a sniper attack, killing the gangster.  One of the dogs was also killed in the surprise attack, and the other ran off.   

After stripping the gangster of his tactical armour and weapons, we left the bodies out in the open and the fire burning before again retiring to secure positions. 

This mayhem had the desired effect.  Soon, two groups – three members of the Butch Killers and four Fast Dogs – were approaching to investigate.  As they faced off against each other Skunk made another sniper attack, killing one of the Fast Dogs.  Bloodshed followed, with the Killers eventually driving the Dogs off. 

As night-time was approaching, our group decided to retire into a neighbouring block (formerly a Park) which was unclaimed and promised to be a safer area in which to camp. 

Moving in to this block, Skunk hear the noise of an animal in one of the alleyways.  On investigation this appeared to be a heavily-laden mule.  Thinking we’d scored, we moved in, only for a hidden figure to pop up and warn us off.  This turned out to be a wandering trader.  Mieville indicated that he thought that parley was better than combat, and everyone stood down.  The trader offered various goods, but we declined them.  We agreed to go our separate ways and make their own camps for the night. 

As the night wore on, it became clear that there was some serious fighting taking place in the neighbouring block.  We therefore decided that our mission had been a success and that we should head back in the morning.  We made contact again with the trader, and offered to escort him back to the Safe Zone for a fee, but he was a solitary, anti-social type and declined. 

The morning’s journey back was uneventful until, just on the verge on entering the Safe Zone, we encountered a group of six youths wearing the colours of the Street Cats.  We were better armed, but outnumbered and they had the jump on us.  Communication was difficult, but in the end. we managed to trade the armour and weapons we’d taken from the Butch Killer for safe passage.  They went off, presumably to spin a tale of besting one of their rivals. 


We transited into the Safe Zone successfully, and returned to Club Lavender to collect our payment for a job well done. 


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