Here’s day two of the first five-day blitz of 2016, in which I kick off a new Arioniad campaign, initially using Two Hour Wargames’ Larger Than Life: The Director’s Cut. The first time I make use of rules, I’ll go through them in detail, so the first few posts will be a bit didactic – I find explaining the rules as part of the blog post is very useful in understanding them. Later, I may go into the detail intermittently but will mostly fold it into the background and concentrate more on the emerging story.
I’ll use normal text for the narrative, and italics for details of the rules.
The Star was created yesterday by reverse-engineering him into the new rules from an established character. In today’s episode: Opening Scenes, Travel Scenes, Advance the Story Scenes, non-combat table movement, PEFs and Defining Moments.
Having established the Star in Episode 0, I now need to work out the Opening Scene using the tables on pp. 45-50 of Larger Than Life – The Director’s Cut (the current version of the rules). This scene determines what the Star must accomplish, and who his antagonist is; it always begins in the star’s home locale, which I’ve previously decided is location 1 (Docks) of a Metropolis.
I roll 1d6 (5) + Rep (5) = 10; by the table on p. 46 the objective is to Find Treasure, and to do so Arion must solve 5 + 1d3 (3) = 8 clues.
Next I roll 2d6 (10) and cross-reference against the objective on the first table on p. 48; this tells me the Big Bad is a Business Magnate. To find his Rep, I roll 2d6 (1, 4) against Arion’s Rep (5, counts one lower as the BB is a Business Magnate) and pass 2d6; this means the Big Bad is also Rep 5. I roll 2d6 (5) on the final table on p. 48 and learn that if Arion fails, the Big Bad will Steal Treasure. That seems plausible enough so far. The Big Bad will need a name shortly, so I decide arbitrarily upon Richard Chapman. As a stereotypical Business Magnate BB (p. 68) he will have the Greedy attribute and roll for a second, which using the tables on pp. 8-9 turns out to be Greedy again; hmm. He is armed with a Big Ass Pistol and has a variety of henchmen, as per the table on p. 68.
Corinth, Antares Sector
Arion was sitting on the apartment balcony when the call came, sipping coffee with his feet up on the railing and looking at the Dolphin in the docking bay complex a kilometre away. He’d gone through a lot to get that little ship, and he liked to stay somewhere he could see her. Of course, the rock bottom rents on property this close to the starport didn’t hurt, either. A freighter clawed its way into the sky and lumbered off, rattling the coffee paraphernalia and reminding him why the rent was so low.
The metal spider on the coffee table beeped over the fading rumble of engines, and the Dolphin’s AI spoke through it. “Perry Anderson is calling,” said the mellifluous alto voice of the ship. Arion sighed. This was unlikely to be good news, but…
“OK, put him through.” The spider’s holo projector summoned a bust of Anderson onto the table, dressed in a bathrobe and engaged in spreading something orange over a croissant.
“Morning Arion,” the figure intoned. “Got a job for you, usual rates. You interested?” The tone said Arion had better be interested if he knew what was good for him.
“I make it a rule not to say ‘no’ until I know what I’m saying ‘no’ to,” said Arion, noncommittally. “What’s the job?”
“Easy in, easy out,” said Anderson, confidently. Arion raised an eyebrow. “Don’t look at me like that. You owe me, after that thing with the pirates.”
“I know, and I have been grateful for some time now,” Arion said, putting just the faintest stress on “some time”.
“And I know you’ll carry on being grateful,” Anderson said, letting a little of the steel show through. Arion capitulated and gestured for him to continue.
It takes me several readings of page 50 to decide that there should be a Travel Scene between the Opening Scene and the first Advance the Story Scene. I roll 1d6 (1) and see that Arion stays in a Metropolis, and the implication of the Transportation table on p. 51 is that it is the same locale, so I roll 1d6 (4) to determine that Arion must travel to the Downtown area. That’s three areas away from his current position in the docks, so he needs to make three 1d6 rolls for encounters – rolls of 5, 5 and 5 mean there are none.
“I need you to collect something for me from Downtown,” Anderson said.
“Seriously? You don’t have flunkies for that? Why me?”
“You’re deniable. You owe me. As best I can tell, you’re not being watched. And you’re demonstrated a certain… flexibility, a competence, in stressful situations.”
“I suppose I can take the transit downtown easily enough. What would make this situation stressful?”
“Richard Chapman is also interested in this object. He would prefer I did not get it, and he has a well-deserved reputation for doing what he pleases and letting his lawyers settle any arguments later.”
“They are very expensive lawyers,” Arion admitted. “What is the object?”
“You don’t need to know that. It’s in a sealed burgundy leather case, about 20 by 12 by 3 centimetres. Don’t get any ideas about looking inside – I will know, and I will be very irritated.”
The first story-advancing scene is always Find an Object. First I need to know the Day Part; rolling 1d6 (2) tells me it’s daytime, between 11 AM and 5 PM (p. 37). Next I consult pp. 40-41 for the Area and Map Arion is currently in and learn that Downtown is a Middle class area, and during the daytime will have 4 PEFS on the table. I already know Arion is trying to Find an Object, so I don’t need to roll for that; but I do need to roll for Who Had It Last (p. 53), and 2d6 (5) in a Middle area means a Shaker (i.e. a white collar professional) had it last. Where was it? Rolling through the tables on p. 54 tells me that it was in a Middle class area in a Retail building. Rolling on the Metropolis NPC Generator (p. 16) confirms the Shaker as a male Political Assistant – interesting.
“One of my assistants has the object and I have a meeting place pre-arranged for such discreet activities. I’m sending you the location, encrypted of course.”
To save time, I decide to recycle use a map I’ve been working up for All Things Zombie, which is basically the layout you’d get from using the City Deck. It looks like this:
Black is road, grey are pavements (sidewalks), orange rectangles are buildings, and in this case so are green rectangles as otherwise there’s no place for the target building.
Arion enters the table from section 9 (bottom right) and must make his way across the board to the Target Building in section 1 (top left), then exit from section 9. A few quick die rolls tell me that one PEF is in section 2, and the other three are in section 3. PEFs are much simpler than usual in LTL; they all have Rep 4 and they don’t move. PEFs may not be placed in buildings, but must be placed out of line of sight if possible. This means that Arion will only get line of sight on the one in section 2 unless I specifically go looking for the others.
Using section movement (p. 22) Arion can move from section 9, through sections 8, 5, and 4, and into section 1 without having to slow down. However, as he enters section 8, he first has a Defining Moment (resolved in the same way as PEFs) in building 14, then gets line of sight on the PEF in section 2 and resolves it, and then Defining Moments in building 2 and the large green one in section 1. So far, no need to set up figures or counters. Let’s take those encounters in turn…
Arion enters building 14 and rolls 2d6 (2, 4) vs PEF Rep (4) – passed 2d6, so by the PEF Resolution table on p. 43 that is a Contact. Checking the How Many of Them rule (p. 43) shows there are three NPCs, from the Who Are They table on p. 44 we learn that there are two Civilians and an Exotic, and the NPC Generator (p. 16) names them as two unarmed Rep 3 Service Industry workers, one male one female, and a male Rep 5 Pilot with a pistol. As Arion has no prior history with these folks I flip to p. 35 for a Talk the Talk test. The Pilot has the highest Rep and is thus the de facto leader; I could roll for attributes but experience teaches me that slows down the game. Maybe if he becomes a recurring character. Both Arion and the Pilot have Rep 5 and both are Exotics, so they roll 5d6 each looking for successes (i.e. rolls of 1-3). Arion rolls 12335 for 4 successes, the other pilot rolls 13456 for two. Since Arion has more successes, the NPCs will exchange goods or services with him, and can (but need not) then be recruited; if not recruited, they leave the table.
Another pilot could be useful, if only as a bullet sponge, but having more than one person in the party increases the number of NPCs encountered. However, I don’t know when Arion will get a chance to recruit another pilot again, they can be released from service at any time, and we’re unlikely to meet much trouble this session, so in the end I decide to recruit him, and dub him Roger Houston. The Service Industry workers leave the table.
The transit flares in at a downtown stop in the retail district; Arion gets off, and threads his way through the shoppers into a store. Partway through the ground floor displays he comes upon a cluster of three people, two obviously employees and one a customer. He grins in recognition.
“Hey, Roger!” Roger turns to meet him and grins back. He looks over his shoulder at the store employees and says, “Thanks, would you get that wrapped up and delivered for me? OK then, we’re done, thanks.”
“Arion! Haven’t seen you since Lygos! Man, how’ve you been? I heard you had some pirate trouble?”
“Yeah, well, nothing I couldn’t handle,” Arion shrugs, and honesty compels him to add, “With a little help from a friend.”
“Sounds like a useful friend.”
“He has his moments. Listen, Roger, you got any plans today? I’m doing somebody a favour and I could use some help.”
“No problem, so long as it’s legal and you’re buying afterwards. What’s the favour?”
“Walk with me, I’ll fill you in as we go…”
In turn 2, Arion and his new buddy enter section 8 and get line of sight on the PEF in section 2, so I roll to resolve that; a Rep 3 male Thief with a pistol. We Talk the Talk again, but a lowly thief gets -2d6 on his Rep against us Exotic pilots; Arion rolls 12446 for two successes, the thief rolls 2 for one success. Again, could exchange goods or services, could recruit him; but I don’t see a need for a thief right now, so I’ll let him go. (I’m on the lookout for a Private Eye, which would bring Dmitri the spy Co-Star into play, or a Witch, to bring back Coriander the psionic Love Interest, but I could only find her in a Jungle or Lost World locale.) The thief leaves the table.
Turns 3-4 are uneventful as we move through sections 5 and 4; in reality the Talk the Talk probably happens on the edge of sections 2 and 5 and in turn 3, but it’s irrelevant for story purposes.
A long-haired man dressed in casual but expensive clothes ambles up to the pair and pulls a package from under his coat, unwrapping it a little to show what seems to be a joint of beef inside.
“Hey man,” he says, “D’you want to buy some meat?”
“No thanks,” says Arion, moving on.
“Where did he get that from?” asks Roger, “And why is he selling it on the street?”
“I don’t know. And I don’t want to know.”
(GM’s note: This actually happened to me once… in a movie, this kind of thing would introduce you to a vast, thrilling conspiracy and a life full of glamorous women, car chases and gunfights; in real life, you never find out what’s going on. Hey ho.)
Entering building 2, we get the second Defining Moment. Another contact, specifically with two Rep 4 male Service Industry workers (unarmed), accompanied by a male Rep 5 Bodyguard with a Big Ass Pistol. More Talking the Talk; Arion 11334 = 4 successes, bodyguard 11234 = 4 successes; the two groups exchange pleasantries and the NPCs leave the table.
Crossing the street, Arion and Roger walk into another store. A big guy with a bulge under his left armpit is talking to a couple of employees, and catches sight of Arion and Roger in a mirror. Noticing they’re both carrying holstered weapons, he turns to size them up, but decides they’re not an immediate threat, and turns back to his business.
Finally we enter the big green building in section 1 for another Defining Moment. First, as per p. 49, I roll to see if the Big Bad is there in person; a 1d6 roll of 1 says that he is – that’s unexpected, but at least it brings him out into the open early on. Using the relevant table and rules on p. 68, I determine he has no minions with him.
Arion and Roger enter the store where the rendezvous is to occur.
“Third floor, Anderson said. Now, where’s the lift? Ah, there it is. Come on.” They enter, press the button, rise to the third floor and emerge into a large aisle between suspiciously deserted displays of toys. There is a bleeding figure lying on the floor, weakly trying to fend off another, kneeling over him; the kneeling figure clubs the supine one viciously with a huge pistol and continues rifling through his pockets.
“Where is it?” the attacker hisses. “Where is it?” He turns his head to glare at Arion and Roger; it is Chapman.
This now becomes a Confrontation (p. 59) and that will take me to an actual fight, so I’ll pause here until next time.
I’m a bit rusty, but there was a lot of flipping backwards and forwards in the rulebook this session. I wonder if hyperlinks in the PDF would help?
Something I hadn’t noticed when I reviewed the game was that interpersonal challenges, which are resolved using People skill in other THW rules, are resolved in LTL by using the Talk the Talk table.
As expected, the simpler PEF rules speed things up quite a bit.