Arion, Episode 7: The Two-Man Rule

In which Arion finds another clue, and I think of a way to avoid setting up the table today… I’m picking up the pace because I want to try Fringe Space, so here’s another five-day blitz.

-o0o-

My notes for the session…

Roll Day Part: Early.

Find an object. Last seen with Exotic Reporter in a Flop House. 1 PEF since Early; in section 3 so easily avoided. (I find it simpler to do this step now, then the travel scene, then resolve the Advancing the Story Scene.)

Travel scene: Stay in Metropolis. Go to area 2 – Low, 1 area away. No encounter en route.

Defining Moment in target building: Contact, 1 Civilian Professional, let’s call him the manager. The Big Bad is there again, WTF? With a Rep 5 Body Guard and a Rep 4 Gangster, all with BAPs.

Talk the Talk. Chapman:1 success. Arion: 2 successes. NPC will exchange goods or services? Hmm… sounds like the obligatory job offer.

Walk the Walk:

1: Activation Arion 1, Chapman 6. Rather than set up the table I decide that manoeuvring into position for a shot without being seen is a Physical challenge, with failure triggering an In Sight test. AR both pass that challenge and fire on C and BG respectively. C ducks back, BG is OOF. Really should hire Roger. Man Down test for C (carry on) and G (duck back).

2: A1, C5. C closes, no In Sight, fires on A, misses. A takes RF test, ducks back. G closes up, no In Sight, misses R; R takes RF test, shoots back with Rush Shot and G goes OOF.

3: A2, C6. A passes 1d6 on challenge and decides to wait. R passes 2d6, no In Sight, shoots and C goes OOF. Damn, this guy’s good.

4: A2, C2. Doubles, so neither side activates. A lull in the fighting.

5: A2, C5. Chapman gets into position and fires at Arion, but misses as the latter is in cover. As Arion is ducked back he can’t respond immediately, but then activates and returns the favour, firing at Chapman and forcing him to duck back.

6: A5, C6. Arion fails the sneaking challenge and triggers an In Sight test; Chapman loses. Arion fires but misses, Roger sneaks into position and shoots Chapman who goes OOF.

Object Difficulty 1; Arion and object pass 1d6. Arion solves 1 clue, now has 4. Arion and Roger pick up an increasing Rep die each, while Chapman gets another decreasing one.

However, we’ve got three OOF opponents here, let’s question one… That works like questioning a person of interest, and as a bit of metagaming, you want to interrogate the lowest Rep person you can. Arion passes 3d6, the mook passes 2d6, so Arion solves another clue and now has 5.

o0o-

“We should’ve got a season ticket for the Transit,” grumbles Roger. “How many times have we been up and down the main line?”

“At least it’s a different area this time,” Arion points out. “Bit further west. Bracing sea breeze and all that, back towards the docks. Sun’ll be up soon, too.”

“Huh.”

“So,” Arion muses out loud. “Now we need a second physical key to decrypt the data store. Never heard of that before; two keys for the same device, and you need both to unlock it? What does that tell you?”

“There are two people involved, and they don’t trust each other. Or maybe their boss doesn’t want to trust them completely; you know, like the launch keys for planetbuster missiles. Which makes me even more uncomfortable about going to a ghetto flophouse at four in the morning.”

“Well, given that one of them turns out to be Chapman and the other one turns out to be an investigative reporter, I get that. Not natural bedfellows, those. How does Anderson know this anyway?”

“Hey, he’s your boss, I’m just along for the ride.”

The pair walk up to the flophouse, noticing that the door is open and the desk unoccupied. Arion helps himself to the computer and looks through the register.

“Huff, Huff, Huff – ah, here we go, room 203. At least this isn’t secured. Up we go, stairs I think.” And up they go.

As they approach room 203, they go slow and stealthy because they can hear voices arguing.

“Look, mister, you wanted to see the room and this is the room, not my fault they’re not here.”

“Huff had a key – looks like this. Where is it?” It’s Chapman’s voice, edged with pain from being shot yesterday.

“How should I know? You think I go through everyone’s stuff?” asks the first voice, indignantly.

“Yes, given the quality of your establishment, yes I do. So where is it?” The sound of someone being pistol-whipped comes from the room. Arion draws the gun he liberated from Chapman, and barges in with his usual impulsive lack of caution.

“Mr Chapman, I must protest, this is a clear demarcation issue. I’m supposed to be stealing, err I mean recovering, that key.”

“You again?”

“Yes. How’s the arm? Oh, by the way, this is yours,” Arion plucks Chapman’s smartphone from a pocket and holds it up to demonstrate it’s harmless before tossing it onto the bed near Chapman. The mooks tense up as he draws it, but relax once they see what it is.

Chapman picks up the phone and taps it thoughtfully in his other hand. “Hmm. You two do seem to be persistent, and frankly better at this than most of my employees. I don’t suppose I could interest you in a job? I can pay more than your current employer, and there need be no hard feelings about the arm.” Arion shrugs.

“It’s not about the money,” he explains. “Not that I’m not flattered, you understand, but my employer – well. let’s just say I owe him, and he’s good at collecting debts.”

“I see,” says Chapman, conversationally. “Can’t be helped, I suppose… Get ’em, boys.”

Arion and Roger have been expecting this and pre-empt the coming attack by rushing their opponents. Unfortunately the wordplay has given everyone time to ready weapons, and seeing large-calibre pistols aiming at them, the pilots change their minds and duck out of the room. For the next couple of minutes the pair trade shots with Chapman and his thugs, ducking in and out of rooms along the corridor. Roger takes out both guards during the gunfight, and there is a brief pause.

“Give it up, Chapman,” Arion calls. Chapman’s response is to fire at Arion, who ducks back momentarily then fires blindly round a door jamb, forcing Chapman to duck back in turn. Gambling on this, Arion emerges from cover and tries to sneak up on Chapman; Chapman spots him and opens fire, but while he is distracted, Roger gets behind him and drops him with a well-placed shot.

“Damn,” says Arion, “I really ought to hire you, you’re a lot better at this than I am.”

“Yeah, well, you may have to, eventually these guys will get bored of me shooting them and do something about me.”

“Don’t worry about it. I don’t.”

“I can see that.”

“Here, help me look for that key… I imagine even in this part of town enough gunshots will draw the police. Then help me pick up the smaller of those goons, we can damage his pride or his fingernails until he tells us something useful.”

Review: 5150 Fringe Space

“A Captain’s goal was simple: Find a crew. Find a job. Keep flying.” – Firefly

In a Nutshell: RPG Lite game for solo, co-op or head to head play, focussed on free traders, smugglers, and fringers in general; much like Firefly, Dark Matter, and similar. In fact, that Firefly quote up there pretty much summarises the game. 105 page PDF by Jospeh Beutel and Ed Teixera, published by Two Hour Wargames, $20 – hard copy also available, $25.

IF YOU’VE NEVER PLAYED A THW GAME BEFORE…

They’re skirmish wargames with roleplaying elements, designed from the ground up to be used for solo or same-side play as well as the usual head-to-head wargaming.

In most such games, side A moves, shoots and conducts melee, then side B moves, shoots and conducts melee. In the THW “reaction system”, side A activates and moves some of its figures; side B reacts to that movement, which in turn may cause side A to react to that reaction, and so on. That goes back and forth until it peters out – usually one side dies, is incapacitated or flees – and then side A moves another group of figures. It plays much faster than that description would lead you to think.

The combat scenarios are stitched together by some really clever setting and campaign rules which generate background on the fly as you play. In terms of equipment, your characters have whatever you think they should have, but they can only carry a handful of items at any given time.

Each player only really has control of one figure, the rest move according to dice rolls and the rules. That’s like Marmite: You’ll either love it or hate it.

CONTENTS

This is the latest science fiction iteration of the Chain Reaction game engine; if you’ve not played one of those before, Chain Reaction is free to download at either THW or RGPNow.

THW games are now at the stage where they are highly modular. Fringe Space essentially takes the combat engine and wilderness terrain generator from Chain Reaction (reviewed here and here) and the expanded character creation, alien races, city map system, police and crimes, and job offers from 5150 Urban Renewal (reviewed here), and adds space combat, interstellar trade and some setting material. So I’ll focus on the latter elements, because they’re what makes the game unique.

Fringe Space expands on the skeletal setting information in Urban Renewal by explaining the Gaian Hegemony’s Ring system and world classifications. Conceptually the universe is divided into nine rings; each ring has six sections, and each section has an undefined number of planets. Each race or faction has its own stomping ground; for example the Hegemony dominates rings 1-3, contests ring 4 with the Hishen slavers, and travels in rings 5-6. In a one-month campaign turn you can move from one area of a settlement to another, from a planet to a sector or vice versa, from sector to sector in the same ring, or if in sector 1 of a ring, to sector 1 in a different ring. (I may as well mention that in a campaign turn you can also choose whether to have a voluntary encounter such as looking for work, and must resolve 3 random encounters.) Why would you want to move around between planets? Normally because someone has hired you to haul cargo (possibly contraband) or passengers (ditto) along that route. You get paid in dice for increasing your Rep, and expenses are represented by dice for decreasing your Rep – in effect, your Rep is also your bank balance.

Urban Renewal’s world of New Hope is detailed here, with a simplified map which can and does apply to any settlement (very like the ones in Larger Than Life), and terrain generators for both urban and wilderness terrain.

Character rules are expanded with aging and family ties; if you survive everything else 5150 throws at you, your character will eventually die of old age, and meanwhile he (or she) might have siblings, parents or a spouse for the Big Bad to kidnap. Character advancement is entirely in terms of Rep, with rewards given as dice for increasing Rep, and penalties in terms of dice for decreasing Rep.

The other new elements are space combat (which might be merged in from some other game I don’t yet have), interstellar trade, and settlements. Space combat is highly abstracted, and works by cycling round a series of tables in the rules – models or counters are used as status markers, no map or ruler required. Half-a-dozen ship types are provided, each rated for Firepower, Hull, and Thrust; lose all Thrust and you can be boarded, lose all Hull and you blow up, everyone dies.

There are the usual quick reference sheets, followed by a “toolbox” appendix with optional rules for gambling, companionship, sports and cybernetic enhancements. And – a welcome addition – we close with two sheets of paper counters for ships and characters.

FORMAT

The usual THW trade dress; colour covers, two-column minimalist black on white text with the occasional illustration. Simple, straightforward, gets the job done.

SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT

If it were me, I’d add in some of the weapons from Star Army to improve the SF flavour, as was done in Urban renewal.

CONCLUSIONS

I really like this one. It’s the first in the 5150 line where I felt I could take a character anywhere and do anything without having to bolt on pieces from another game to cover gaps. I can be commissioned by a patron to do a mission on a world surface, haul cargo, passengers or contraband, be a pirate or fight them off, rescue damsels in distress, take in the wonders of the red light district, hunt bandits in the badlands, dogfight with slavers, salvage lost ships, negotiate with customs inspectors, get robbed or arrested, go on the run from the police or navies of one or more factions, recruit sidekicks, and of course answer distress calls. This has everything I was hoping for in a solo SF RPG.

The ring-sector-planet system looks clean and simple to use, a good halfway house between detailed starmaps and no map at all. The schematic d6 maps for settlements and ships are pure genius.

Recent THW games in the RPG Lite category seem to be de-emphasising actual tabletop battles, as movement is getting more abstract and less necessary; I suspect that like LTL, FS could be run for extended periods without getting any figures or terrain out.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5. Expect to see this in use very soon.

Arion, Episode 6: Too Quiet

In which things go suspiciously easily for both Arion and myself…

-o0o-

My notes for this episode, in full:

Travel Scene: Travel to a Metropolis area by transit. Advance the Story Scene: Find an object. Exotic had it last in a residential Midddle area office building. Travel one zone by transit; no encounter. Big Bad not present.

PEFs 4124:

  1. 10 Shaker 6 Trophy Wife [M] Rep 4 Alone. A3552=2, P2563=2. Pleasantries.
  2. 11 Shaker 1 Academic [M] Rep 3 Alone. A2515=2, P363=2. Pleasantries.
  3. 8 Exotic 5 Professional [M] Rep 3 Alone. A43436=2, P313=3. Pleasantries.
  4. 6 Civilian 1 Dependent [F] Rep 4 Alone. A61336=3, P4=0. Exchange.

DM: 6 Exotic 2 Pilot [M] Rep 4 with PI [M] Rep 5, Police [M] Rep 5, Trophy Wife [F] Rep 3. A34435=2, Po53442=2. Pleasantries.

Find object. Diff 3. A535=pass 3. O333=pass 3. Rep > Diff so counts as pass 1d6; find object and solve one clue. Total clues now 3.

As you can see, now that I’m used to the rules they are very fast and easy, and much less reliant on figures and terrain than the previous edition.

Closing status:

  • Star: Arion, 5 Star Power left, 3 clues of 8 solved, one increasing Rep die.
  • Grunt: Roger Houston, Rep 5 Pilot, one increasing Rep die.
  • Big Bad: Richard Chapman, 2 Star Power left, two decreasing Rep dice – now fully recovered.

-o0o-

“Easy in, easy out,” says Arion cheerfully, as the two pilots stroll through a mid-city residential area, exchanging pleasantries with passersby.

“Are you sure about this?”

“Absolutely. The one place we know Chapman is not going to be right now is in his office, largely because you shot him and he needs to get that looked at.” A passing white collar worker looks at the pair askance, then decides it’s none of his business and moves on. “However, I think it’s a safe bet he has some way to get into that thing, whatever it is, or he would be waiting for us to open it first and then shooting us, yes? He looks more like an I-have-the-key-fob guy than an I-know-the-password guy to me, so we just get into his office, find a physical key that matches our McGuffin, and ride off into the sunset. Easy in, easy out.”

“And how, exactly, are we getting into his office?”

“I might have picked up his smartphone so that it didn’t get lost or stolen. It might have an RFID chip in it that unlocks the door. Oh look, it does.”

“What if there’s someone inside?” says Roger, as he waves in passing to a woman on the other side of the street.

“Unlikely. I think that was them outside talking to the police.”

“And why do you think that?”

“I have a hunch somebody might have called in a credible, anonymous bomb threat. You know, somebody with detailed information about what happened to Mr Chapman.”

“I see. And how are we getting in past them?”

“One of the really good things about smart clothing is you can change the colours and patterns as fashions change. My jacket, for example, now says BOMB SQUAD on the back. It’s all the rage downtown at this time of year, you know.”

“Very, ahh, unusual programme suite your AI has.”

“The word you’re searching for is ‘complete’.”

“Someday you have to tell me how you came by it.”

“Probably better if I don’t, actually. Come on, the real bomb squad will be here in a few minutes.”

Arion, Episode 5: Person of Interest

In which Arion tools up, and I learn how to handle Persons of Interest and gunfights.

-o0o-

Travel Scene: Metropolis

Advance the Story Scene: Question a Person of Interest – Civilian Rep 4 Professional, Middle (Downtown), Retail.

“Arion,” says Anderson’s voice, distorted by some mechanism. He does not identify himself. “Take what you found to a friend of mine, address attached. He might be able to get it open. Report in once you’ve done that.”

“Huh,” says Arion. “We just came from there.”

The return trip is uneventful.

The PEFs are in sections 4641, and let’s assume I’ve set the table up so that I can reach the target building in section 1 avoiding three of the four PEFs by moving through sections 9, 8, 5, 3, and 1 in that order.

The PEF resolves as four NPCs; Rep 4 Exotic Private Eye, Rep 4 Shaker Academic, Rep 5 Exotic Police, Rep 4 Exotic Professional. Talk the Talk: Arion 14124 = 3 successes, Police 33144 = 3 successes, exchange pleasantries only.

Roger is walking a bit less stiffly now, so draws no attention from a group of people as the two pilots walk up to a computer repair shop downtown. They enter, the doorbell announcing their arrival.

The dice determine that the Big Bad is there ahead of Arion, this time with two mooks (both Rep 4 Gangsters, like Chapman himself armed with BAPs) and a further roll for the Defining Moment says there is no-one else to encounter. After the Defining Moment we would meet the Person of Interest, but since the Big Bad is already there, he is already talking to the PoI. As Arion has solved fewer than 4 clues we go to Talk the Talk; Arion rolls 55161 = 2 successes, while Chapman rolls 26131 = 4 successes; this means the Confrontation escalates to deadly force.

Chapman is inside, with a couple of hard-looking individuals backing him up, talking to the shop owner. At the sound of the bell he looks towards the door.

“You again?!” He gestures to his minions. “Kill them.” As the shopkeeper drops to the floor and scuttles into the back room, all five of the others draw their pistols and seek what cover they can amid the displays of electronics and counters.

TURN 1

Here we see a barebones setup for the encounter as per p.59 – Rep 5s opposite each other 6″ apart. As stationary figures inside a building, everyone is counted as concealed and in cover (p. 28). I could argue that as Arion and Roger have just entered they are moving, and thus only concealed, but they’re outnumbered and outgunned so that seems harsh.

2016011201

Activation dice are not in use at this stage. As per p. 60, the two leaders now take an In Sight test with neither counting as active. Arion gets +1d6 due to his Steely Eyes attribute, and everyone gets -1d6 for being Concealed; Arion rolls 5d6 (5+1-1) for 24666 = 1 success, while Chapman rolls 4d6 (5-1) for 3556 = 1 success. As this is a tie, I roll again for both sides at -1d6. Arion 2356 = 2 successes, Chapman 446 = 0 successes; Arion wins the In Sight test and so he and Roger will act. Flipping back from p. 60 to p. 25, I see that all figures on the active side now act in descending order of Rep, then we take reaction tests, then the active side continues its movement.

Since “if the figure can fire, it will” Arion clears leather and opens up on Chapman – a little metagaming here, I’m picking him because he has the highest Rep and is therefore the most dangerous, and as a Star I could move instead of shooting, but I want to see how shooting works, so… Arion only has an ordinary pistol (Target Rating 1) and so only has one shot. He rolls 2d6 vs Rep and gets 1, 6 = pass 1d6. Since the target is in cover, he misses. Roger now fires at Chapman and gets 14 = pass 2d6, a hit. Roger now rolls for damage using only 1d6 (because none of the modifiers on p. 28 apply), scoring 6; Chapman is knocked to the ground and Out of the Fight. I really ought to consider hiring this guy permanently.

Chapman has two Star Power dice left and may as well use them; he rolls 44 and fails to soak the damage. Say goodnight, Dick.

Now my instinct was to take the Received Fire test as soon as Arion missed Chapman, but p. 25 seems pretty clear that Arion and Roger both fire before any tests are taken. Page 31 also seems clear that only Chapman would take the test; I hunt around for a while and find from the NPC Generators that Business Magnates use the Civilian reaction tables. Good, but by the point Chapman could take the test he has been gunned down and won’t be able to execute whatever the tables mandate, so I don’t bother rolling.

His two mooks, however, have seen their boss shot and drop, triggering a Man Down test. They are both Rep 4 Criminals. The first mook rolls 3d6 (he gets an extra die for being in cover) against Rep 4 and gets 224 = pass 2d6; he will Carry On with his last orders (“kill them”). The second mook rolls 446 = pass 2d6 and also carries on. If Chapman were still in the fight he could help with his Leader Die, but once he has gone OOF that seems unreasonable. I turn his token grey to indicate he is OOF. Mook One steps up as the new leader on Chapman’s side.

At this point Arion could lead Roger away as they haven’t finished moving, but I still want to see how the gunfight plays out, so they stand their ground.

Arion draws on Chapman’s orders and fires, missing him. Roger takes a fraction of a second to aim, and his first round drops the opposing leader. The two bodyguards are taken by surprise.

TURN 2

Activation: Arion 5, Chapman 2. Both sides act but Arion goes first.

Arion fires at Mook One, missing but causing a Received Fire test. The mook passes 2d6 and as he can fire, he does; he misses Arion, forcing Arion to take a Received Fire test, but as Arion is a Star he may choose how many dice to pass and chooses two, allowing him to return fire with a Rush Shotl he passes 2d6 and hits, rolling a 3 for damage; this is less that the target’s Rep so the mook Ducks Back into cover. He is already in cover, but the advantage of this is that he can’t fire again until next active.

Roger meets all the requirements to be in the same group as Arion and also fires, at the other mook; he misses and the second mook passes 1d6 on Received Fire, so makes a Rush Shot at Roger; this misses because Roger is in cover, but does trigger a Received Fire test. Roger is able to benefit from Arion’s Leader Die, and so rolls 1d6 vs Arion’s Rep (5); a 4 gives him pass 1d6 on that, and the roll of 23 vs Roger’s Rep (also 5) is pass 2d6 for a total of pass 3d6; Roger can’t pass more than 2d6 so takes that result, and since he can fire, he takes a Rush Shot at his assailant. 25 = pass 2d6, hit, and a 2 for damage forces the second mook to Duck Back.

Both mooks have now broken line of sight with Our Heroes. Notice that had they not ducked back, they would still have line of sight despite being in cover and concealed (p. 23). I turn the mooks’ counters around to show that they are ducked back.

2016011202

The mooks now activate, pop up and fire back. One hits Arion, but the damage dice are less than his Rep so force him to Duck Back; luckily he is not OOF so doesn’t need to use Star Power. Since he wasn’t missed, he doesn’t suffer a Received Fire test. Mook two misses Roger, who does take a Received Fire test and replies with a Rush Shot – this misses, causing another Received Fire test and mook two fires back, causing Roger to Duck Back.

All four combatants trade shots for a few seconds while ducking in and out of cover.

TURN 3

Activation: Arion 4, Chapman 1. Both sides active, Arion goes first.

Now, as per p. 22, figures can move as much as they want when active and inside a section, so I move Arion and Roger up to the Person of Interest, taking care to turn them to leave the gangsters inside their front arc. Arion pauses to pick up Chapman’s Big Ass Pistol as it’s a better weapon.

Arion and Roger both fire at mook one in the hope of triggering a reaction test that will cause both to flee. Arion now has a BAP so gets two shots, and points both at mook one so that he can claim an extra damage die. He hits once, misses once, and forces two Duck Backs, which by definition means Roger can’t hit, so he shifts target to mook two. Meanwhile mook one takes a Received Fire test, passes 1d6 and Ducks Back again. Unfortunately Duck Back doesn’t stack, so this has no further impact. Roger’s shot at mook two misses, but passing 1d6 on the Received Fire test causes the second mook to duck back also.

2016011203

The fire and movement continues, with Arion and Roger working their way up the left hand side of the shop to get to the shopkeeper and flank their opponents.

TURN 4

Activation: Arion 4, Chapman 2. Both sides activate, Arion goes first.

I debate whether to give the gangsters an In Sight test when Arion and Roger move; after poring over p. 23 for a while I decide that I should have done that last turn, so let’s do that now. Arion gets 24556 = 1 success, the mooks get 123 = 3 successes, but since they are ducked back they cannot fire and complete their reaction instead. The only option available to them if they can’t fire is to charge into melee, so they do that.

By this point I’m confident enough to abandon the main body of the rules and run the rest of the fight just using the Quick Reference Sheets, shifting to entirely abstract movement.

This is a two on two melee, so everyone takes a charge into melee test at +1d6 for having a target in cover. Arion passes 3d6, as does mook one, while Roger passes 2d6 and mook two passes 1d6. Mook one fires a Rush Shot at Roger and hits, forcing Roger to Duck Back. Damn, that means Arion is alone against two mooks, and as a Civilian he cannot fire at mook two even though he scored more successes.

  • Round 1: Arion 1 success, mook one 1 success.
  • Round 2: Arion 1, mook 0; Arion rolls 5 for damage and as this exceeds the mook’s Rep, he is down and Out of the Fight. As a Grunt, he has no Star Power so it’s goodnight Vienna.
  • Round 3: Mook two steps up and Arion hasn’t lost any Rep or dice. Arion rolls 2 successes, the mook one; Arion rolls 2 for damage and the mook loses one point of Rep for the duration of the fight.
  • Round 4: Arion 3 successes, mook 2, Arion shaves another point of Rep off the mook.
  • Round 5: Arion 2, mook 0; Arion KO’s the mook.

Unfortunately this flanking manoeuvre brings the two pilots within charging range of the bodyguards, who ambush them, and things descend into a brutal melee. Roger is pushed back and gets tangled up in one of the displays, but Arion makes short work of the gangsters with fists, feet and knees.

QUESTIONING THE PERSON

As Arion has possession of the field of battle, he can now question the Person of Interest. Each rolls Rep d6 looking for successes; there are no applicable modifiers on p. 57 so it’s raw dice rolls. Arion gets 11246 = 3 successes, the shopkeeper gets 2346 = 2 successes so he provides some useful information and Arion counts as having solved one clue, bringing his running total to two out of eight.

“Hello,” says Arion, leaning over the counter where the shopkeeper is hiding. He dangles the McGuffin over the edge. “Mr Anderson said you might be able to help us? We’re trying to find out what’s on this.” The contact reaches out tentatively for it.

“Oh, wait, where are my manners?” says Arion, putting away his gun. “There, that’s more civilised, isn’t it? Roger, would you mind collecting up their pistols please? We shouldn’t leave them lying around, somebody might get hurt.”

The contact turns the McGuffin over in his hands several times, and examines it thoughtfully.

“I might be able to do something with this,” he admits. “But I’ll need something. This has military-grade physical encryption – see that tag there? We either need the key it’s paired with, or someone who knows the admin reset password. You have either of those?”

“No,” says Arion, thoughtfully. “But I bet I know someone who does…”

RECOVERY AND REP

Chapman passes 1d6 for Recovery, meaning he returns at Rep 5 but has another Decreasing d6. Mook one returns at normal Rep, but mook two returns at normal Rep with one Decreasing d6.

Arion and Roger both fought without going Out of the Fight or using Star Power, so they each get one Increasing d6. As I understand the rules, Arion hasn’t solved all the clues yet so can’t capture the Big Bad – “We don’t have enough evidence to hold him.”

Status

  • Star: Arion, 5 Star Power left, 2 clue of 8 solved, one increasing Rep die.
  • Grunt: Roger Houston, Rep 5 Pilot, one increasing Rep die.
  • Big Bad: Richard Chapman, 2 Star Power left, two decreasing Rep dice – now fully recovered.

REFLECTIONS

I hadn’t noticed this during my readthrough and subsequent review, but rolling to hit is now 2d6 vs Rep rather than 1d6 + Rep vs target number; statistically, this means figures are more likely to hit than before, speeding up combat.

Rerolling ties until somebody wins the In Sight seems unnecessarily slow, but I will try it a few more times before doing anything about it; I find that it helps to play a few games with the Rules As Written before changing them, as this often teases out the reason why things are as they are.

Movement is much more cinematic than I’m used to in THW games, i.e. as much as you want but watch out for line of sight and triggering In Sight tests.

Notice how you can get in a lot of attacks in a single turn, and it looks as if actual figures on a table are largely optional, so with a spreadsheet for random numbers I could run a LTL campaign in the office during my lunch hours, which is an attractive idea.

Overall, the rules changes seem to make things faster-moving and more cinematic.

Arion, Episode 4: Breaking and Entering

“I prefer to spend my time playing the game and try to keep the set up and take down of the table as short as possible.” – Ed Teixeira, Larger Than Life: The Director’s Cut

In which Arion searches his contact’s home for the McGuffin, and I generally improve my understanding of the game’s workings.

-o0o-

Travel Scene: The dice say that Arion and Roger travel to  a Metropolis, which I could say is a different one, but won’t.

Advancing the Story Scene: The pilots need to find an object. It was last seen with a Shaker (a Political Assistant) in a Middle class area (area 3, residential). I could dice for things, especially the target building, but the logical assumption is that Arion is checking out the home of the the guy Chapman injured in the department store, in case the McGuffin is there. That means Arion needs to move to the next area; there are no encounters en route.

“Yeah, Mr. A? It’s me, Arion. Listen, the guy you wanted us to meet got hurt, Chapman was there and I think he did it. We had a scuffle, I’m still standing and he isn’t. I called the cops for him and an ambulance for your guy, anonymously. I’m sending you the camera footage. Your man didn’t have the thing on him, so I got his address from his ID card and I’m heading over there now, I figure he stashed it there – maybe he wanted more than whatever you offered him. If I find anything I’ll call in, otherwise you can call me when you pick this message up.”

Before I set up the board, I roll for PEF location and see both PEFs (you only get two in this area in daytime) are in section 2. I can legitimately set up the board so that the Star never gets Line Of Sight on the PEF as he moves from section 9 to section 1 and back again, so I won’t bother; I would do this by putting a road through sections 4-6 and leaving gaps between buildings.

The thing I can’t avoid is the Defining Moment when the team enters the target building; however a roll of 5, 5 vs PEF Rep (4) = pass 0d6 so the building is empty.

Now I roll to find the object; Arion gets 3 successes vs his Rep (5) and the object gets 2 vs its Difficulty (in this case 4); Arion finds the object and solves one clue, before escaping off the board the way he came in.

“Mr. A? Arion again. I’ve got the case, it was inside a fake book in his study – you ought to get your people better security. Where do you want me to take it?”

STATUS

  • Star: Arion, 5 Star Power left, 1 clue of 8 solved.
  • Grunt: Roger Houston, Rep 5 Pilot – now fully recovered.
  • Big Bad: Richard Chapman, 2 Star Power left, one decreasing Rep die – now fully recovered.

REFLECTIONS

It looks like it will be most convenient to treat travel scenes as part of the setup for the following advancing the story scene.

I can see that like the previous edition of Larger Than Life, this one can be played for quite some time without getting the lead out onto the board.

Arion, Episode 3: Walk, Don’t Run

In which Arion makes good his escape from the scene of the crime, and I learn about restocking PEFs.

-o0o-

Emerging from the department store in section 1 of the board, Arion and Roger must now exit the board from section 9. I now need to restock the PEFs (p. 42); the three in section 3 of the board are still there, so I create one new PEF to replace the one I resolved in episode 1, and the dice place it in section 1.

Turn 1: Arion and Roger leave the store and immediately resolve the first PEF. Two civilians, both unarmed, a Rep 4 factory worker and a Rep 3 service industry worker. Arion gets 5 successes to the factory worker’s one, so could recruit them if needed, but I don’t need more sidekicks just yet and I want to leave some recruitment points for the ones I’m actually after.

As Arion and Roger emerge from the store, trying not to attract attention by walking too quickly, they see a couple window-shopping; the woman in the uniform of another store, and the man in overalls. They turn to look at Arion staggering under the weight of his buddy.

“Overdid it a bit in the bar,” Arion smiles, and rather than get involved, they turn back to the window.

“Surveillance?” asks Roger, quietly.

“Maybe,” Arion replies. “Maybe not.”

Turn 2: Into building 2, and a Defining Moment. Five Shakers; Trophy Wife, Shaker, two Pilots (man, there’s a lot of those about today), and a gangster. Arion scores fewer successes so exchanges pleasantries and no more; fortunately, he scored at least one success so the encounter does not spiral into a Confrontation. (I could build that into quite a bit of roleplaying detail – looks to me like we have a gangster and his pilot meeting up with a couple of Shakers and theirs – or pick up their story after this scene, but I choose to take this as a minor sideshow and stay focused on Arion.)

Our Heroes enter another store, moving purposely, and pausing only to exchange nods with a couple of pilots with a group inside.

Turns 3-6: Using unoccupied section movement (p. 22), Arion and Roger fast-forward across the board, without encountering any other PEFs. As there is only one side moving there’s no point rolling for activation. No narrative for this as nothing happens.

Turn 7: Entering the last building they have to, the pilots face another Defining Moment; but there’s nothing there.

Turn 8: Our heroes exit the board through section 9, and terminate this Advancing the Story scene.

MAPLESS

I haven’t filled up the post with pictures as I did this on an extremely non-photogenic piece of scratch paper – one of the things I learned from THW games is that I don’t need all the artistically-painted figures and fancy terrain, nice though they are. “Just play the game,” as they say.

I will show you this one though; black is for board constructs like sections, blue are buildings and terrain, green is our heroes and red is PEFs or enemies.

arion-03

STATUS

  • Star: Arion, 5 Star Power left, 0 clues out of 8 solved.
  •  Grunt: Roger Houston, Rep 5 Pilot.
  • Big Bad: Richard Chapman, 2 Star Power left, one decreasing Rep die.

REFLECTIONS

By careful placement of  PEFs I could control how many of them the Star meets; that could be a useful metagaming tactic in later games, but one would still need to resolve the Defining Moments.

Arion, Episode 2: Clueless

In which Arion engages in fisticuffs with the Big Bad, and I learn how melee combat works in the current edition of LTL.

-o0o-

Arion and Roger emerge from a lift into the main aisle of the store’s toy department to find Chapman, gun in hand, searching a feebly moving body on the floor.

The scene has turned into a Confrontation as per p. 59 of Larger Than Life, between Arion and Roger on one side, both Rep 5 LWC with pistols, and Richard Chapman on the other, Rep 5 with a BAP. This calls for an alley, 6″ wide and 18″ long, and I can’t be bothered to haul the figures out so I set up something very simple in Hex Map Pro. As we’re inside a building, I check p. 28 for rules on cover and concealment; nice and simple, figures are in cover and concealed if stationary, and concealed while moving. Back to p. 59, and I set up Chapman 6″ away from Arion and in LOS.

Since we have solved fewer than 4 clues (none, in fact) we begin by Talking the Talk (p. 36). I see from pp. 10-11 that Business Magnates are Movers, two circles above us lowly pilots, so Chapman is rolling 5d6 to our 3d6 (we lose two dice for his superior status). Chapman gets 44556 for no  successes (rolls of 1-3), while Arion gets 115 for two successes. Had we scored fewer successes Chapman would have used deadly force, but as it is he will try to kick our butts in melee.

The two leaders now take an In Sight test, neither counting as active. Both have Rep 5, but the ever-alert Arion has Steely Eyes which gives him +1d6 on In Sight tests, and both are concealed due to being inside a building and get -1d6 for that; so Chapman is rolling 4d6 and Arion 5d6. Arion rolls 33346 for three successes, Chapman rolls 2346 for two; Arion’s side wins the In Sight test and he goes first. After a lot of flipping backwards and forwards I decide I don’t need to roll activation dice, so Arion and Roger charge into melee, figuring an assault rap will be easier to beat than murder.

Arion and Roger will roll 2d6 vs Rep (5), while Chapman gets a third die because he is stationary in a building and therefore in cover. Arion: 12 = pass 2d6. Roger: 34 = pass 2d6. Chapman: 116 = pass 2d6. as everyone has passed the same number of d6, the two chargers move into melee and no reaction tests are taken.

Arion charges Chapman, quickly followed by Roger. Chapman ducks around the corner of a display but the two pilots skid round the corner after him and pounce on him as he scrambles to his feet. Arion’s spider jumps off his shoulder and climbs up a pile of boxes full of dolls to get a good view of the proceedings.

We now move into melee combat. There are no modifiers so everyone is simply rolling 1d6 per point of Rep. Melee attacks are resolved in turn, one on one, but the side with more figures decides who goes first; I choose Roger, because the way the rules are written it looks like you fight one opponent until one of you goes Out Of the Fight, and then the survivor faces off against the next foe. This means the board isn’t doing anything in this fight so I abandon it – that’s why you won’t see it in this port.

There are no modifiers, so Roger and Chapman each roll Rep d6, looking for successes. Roger rolls 22334 for four successes, Chapman rolls 11235 also for four successes; since they’re evenly matched, they immediately fight another round. Roger’s 13356 vs Chapman’s 12346 gives me the same result. Round three, and Roger rolls 13345 vs Chapman’s 34566; Roger has two more successes so rolls two damage dice, 34, both less than or equal to Chapman’s Rep so Chapman potentially loses two points of Rep; but he has five dice of Star Power so can roll to soak the damage. Against the first hit he rolls 12256, soaking the wound but losing one of his Star Power dice due to the 6. Against the second hit he rolls 1122, soaking it.

  • Round 4: Roger 13556, Chapman 14566. Roger rolls 4 for damage, Chapman rolls 1234 and soaks the -1 Rep.
  • Round 5: Roger 13334, Chapman 11344, Roger damage 2, Chapman soak 2235. No effect.
  • Round 6: Roger 33446, Chapman 12346, Chapman damage 3, as a Grunt Roger has no Star Power so has to take the -1 Rep and is now rolling 4d6 rather than 5d6 for melee.
  • Round 7: Roger 1346, Chapman 13334, Chapman damage 16 – Roger loses another point of Rep and is then knocked Out Of the Fight.
  • Round 8: Arion now steps in, with one of Chapman’s Star Power dice eroded. Arion 23446, Chapman 13555 – evenly matched.
  • Round 9: Arion 11256, Chapman 44566, Arion damage 135 and Chapman is facing -3 Rep. He rolls 2566 for the first hit and soaks it at the cost of losing two Star power dice; now he’s on 2d6. Against the second hit Chapman scores 14, and against the third 25; he soaks both.
  • Round 10: Arion 11234, Chapman 13345, Arion damage 6 and Chapman is OOF.

There’s a confused scuffle lasting almost a minute, with the two sides punching and kicking and throwing each other into shelves full of toys. This ends with Chapman exhausted on the floor and Arion and Roger standing over him.

“You think you’ve won, you thieves?” Chapman gasps, “Wait till my lawyers are done with you.”

“Dolphin, you get all that?” asks Arion, kicking Chapman’s BAP out of grabbing range.

“Yes, Captain,” replies the spider drone.

“Good, we might need it later. Make two anonymous calls for me: An ambulance for this guy on the floor, and the police for Chapman. Keep recording, and upload everything to secure storage.”

“Why not just call the cops and send them the recording?” Roger asks. “Or wait and explain things when they arrive.”

“My patron wanted discretion. I can always be indiscreet later.”

“Yeah, but the store security cameras…”

“Are off. I guarantee it. Chapman won’t want any footage of him shooting and pistol-whipping this guy here. That makes our footage leverage in case he tries anything.”

Having completed the Defining Moment for the Target Building, we can now find the object – or not. First I roll 2d6 and take the lower score as the difficulty factor; 4, 5 so it’s difficulty 4. Arion and the object now each roll 3d6 as per pp. 54-55; Arion gets 346 vs Rep 5 and passes d6, the object gets 233 vs Difficulty 4 and passes 3d6. Arion fails to find the object, and so doesn’t solve any clues. Bah.

Arion checks the fallen figure’s pulse and respiration before quickly searching him while Roger holds Chapman at gunpoint. He then moves on to search Chapman.

“Nothing,” he says over his shoulder to Roger. “C’mon, let’s go before store security arrives. Can you walk?”

“Hobble, maybe. What’s going on?” asks Roger.

“Haven’t a clue,” says Arion, cheerfully, hoisting Roger to his feet and supporting him as they limp away. “Fun, isn’t it?”

That’s enough for one post I think, although strictly the scene doesn’t end until Our Heroes have escaped the board through section 9. (Before I forget, I consult the Recovery Table on p. 35; anyone knocked OOF rolls 2d6 on that table against their Rep. Chapman rolls 56, passes 1d6, and returns at full Rep but gets one decreasing Rep die and thus a chance for an all-expenses-paid trip to Rep 4. Roger rolls 24, passes 2d6, and returns at full Rep.) There are rules for shooting at figures carrying wounded, so it must be possible, and there are no dice rolls required to pick someone up, so I guess it just happens if I say it does; as I often do, when I’m not clear what to do from the rules I’m using, I look in the latest edition of Chain Reaction, which I think of as the core version of the rules, to validate my assumption; p.21 of that states that Stars can always choose to recover wounded by moving into contact with them at a cost of 2″ of movement. That’ll do.

STATUS

  • Star: Arion, 5 Star Power left, 0 clues out of 8 required.
  • Grunt: Roger Houston, Rep 5 Pilot.
  • Big Bad: Richard Chapman, 2 Star Power left, one decreasing Rep die.

REFLECTIONS

Once you’re in melee, under this version of the rules you’re stuck there until the fight ends – there’s no chance to withdraw at any point. I checked on the THW forum, and the author recommends using a Man Down test for Grunts withdrawing, and agrees a physical challenge could work for Stars.

I also wondered whether it was right that in a multi-figure melee you finish with one combatant completely before the next engages, as I’ve done above, but from other forum comments it looks like I’m doing it right.

The melee took longer than I’d like in real time, if it doesn’t speed up after repeated play I’ll replace it with something simpler.