Posts Tagged ‘Larger Than Life’

Arion, Episode 12: Sixteen Tons

Posted: 17 February 2016 in Arioniad
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You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go
I owe my soul to the company store
– Tennessee Ernie Ford, Sixteen Tons

Arion is sitting by a hospital bed. The periodic hiss of a ventilator can be heard.

“Gary didn’t make it,” Arion says quietly. “I’m sorry. We did everything we could.” He opens his mouth to say that everyone else is going to be fine, but decides that would add insult to injury.

“She can’t hear you,” says a voice. “She’s brain-dead.” It’s Anderson; he enters the room.

“I know,” Arion says. “But I had to say it, for me if not for her… It should be Chapman in that bed, you know.”

“If wishes were ships, we all would fly,” Anderson replies. “I’ve got enough on Chapman now to keep him quiet for a while, maybe even get his support in Council. There’s no point trying to jail him, it would cost too much to get past his lawyers, but I think I can negotiate for a favour or two.” Arion shifts uncomfortably in his seat. Is that all two lives and uncounted injuries are worth?

“You failed me, Arion,” Anderson continues. “The data store and whatever was on it have vanished – someone broke into my friend’s shop and took it; maybe Chapman sent them, maybe it was a random burglary, although whoever did it was very good at covering their tracks. Whatever Ms Huff or her partner knew has died with them.” Arion shrugs.

“However, you retain a certain utility, and having Chapman in my pocket is also going to be useful, I must admit; so I am going to make all those inconvenient charges go away. You know, assault with a deadly weapon, breaking and entering, theft, that sort of thing.”

“So you’re saying I owe you even more now than I did before.”

“Oh yes. Most definitely. But I’m not going to call in those markers just yet, and I think it would be in everyone’s interests if you went offworld for a while. As it happens, I have some cargo that needs hauling – I’ve taken the liberty of having it loaded already, all 16 tons of it…”

Meanwhile, back aboard the Dolphin, a member of the repair swarm scuttles busily up to one of the parts bins in engineering and opens it. The drone drops items inside: A battered leather-bound logbook, a data storage unit, and two decryption key fobs, one blackened and bent.

The robot closes the door purposefully, and moves off down the corridor. The door to engineering slides closed behind it.

Cue theme music. Roll credits.

-o0o-

In game terms, this is the aftermath.

Chapman was incapacitated and captured in the Final Scene, but his decreasing Rep d6 didn’t hurt him and his Star Power grows back. His as-yet-unnamed Femme Fatale got clean away.

Ms Huff was permanently retired after the fracas in the subway car in episode 11. Both her friends survived their injuries. Roger was banged up a bit (pass 1d6 for Recovery) but nothing a little time off won’t fix; the increasing Rep dice didn’t do him any good, though.

And Arion himself? He gets three increasing Rep d6 for capturing the big bad, but those are cancelled out by the three decreasing Rep d6 for Chapman’s final revenge. He did accomplish the objective, namely stopping Chapman stealing the treasure, so gets one increasing d6 for that and one each for the fights in which he did not use Star Power or go Out Of the Fight; that’s episodes 5 and 11, so he has three increasing Rep d6. I roll 2, 4, 4 for those; none of them is higher than Arion’s Rep, so he stays rep 5.

-o0o-

Now it’s completed, let’s look back at the first season of the Arioniad reboot and consider Larger Than Life as a vehicle for Arion’s ongoing adventures…

THE RULES

By this point, I’ve memorised the combat tables and the only QRS I’m still looking up in fights is the reaction table; I’m sure I’d memorise that within another couple of games. This means combat rattles along at a fair old pace, it’s taking much longer to write up than it is to fight.

What has changed in LTL since the previous edition? First, the inexorable drift towards Lost World venues is gone; if you start in a Metropolis you’re much more likely to stay there – this more than anything makes me feel a shift in the sort of stories LTL will tell, less Doc Savage and more The Shadow. Second, the combat rules are more cinematic; movement is whatever you want, and the protagonists exchange a lot of bullets and punches without really hurting each other much; it was satisfying that in the final scene the rules seemed to encourage shooting mooks but having the final showdown between hero and villain be a fistfight.

However, as in the previous version of LTL and a number of current THW products, you can go a long time without needing to pull out your figures and terrain. With a bit of thought you can do without them altogether.

In general, the updated game is an improvement over the old one, and the rules are about as simple as you can get now. However, it feels more tightly bound to the 1930s than the original, which felt very easy to twist into covering any sort of pulp fiction.

THE STORY

Roger is new, but the damage dice love him. He could easily become a series regular; let’s give Dmitri and Coriander a chance to turn up again first, though. Chapman will clearly want to take his revenge at some point; he’s obviously a hands-on kind of guy, probably a control freak. There ought to be a flashback eventually, explaining how Arion got the ship in the first place, why he’s indebted to Anderson, and how pirates were involved. Finally, although Arion doesn’t know it yet, he has everything he needs now to find the Preserver of Life; but that’s a story for another time.

Maintaining the Arioniad at the recent pace would make the blog look one-sided, though, so I’ll hold off on the five-day blitzes for a bit now.

IN CONCLUSION

That was fun, but I expect Fringe Space will be better at telling Arion’s tale, which is hardly surprising as FS is aimed at precisely that sort of story, and LTL isn’t, although you can use it to tell space opera stories if that’s what you want.

Next time on The Arioniad: The start of Season Two – Fringe Space…

Still I don’t see a man in a mansion
That an accurate pen won’t puncture
Go to town, go to hell, go to jail.
– Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Hallowed Be Thy Name

In which the Big Bad gets his comeuppance, but at a cost…

MASS TRANSIT EFFECT

Travel Scene: We’re moving from area 2 to area 6, so four chances for an encounter, it happens as we’re leaving area 5, Uptown, and heading for the high end residential area. It’s Late in the day when we encounter eight of the Big Bad’s minions, bent on stopping us: 2 x Rep 3 thief with pistol, 5 x Rep 4 gangster with BAP, one Rep 5 Femme Fatale with pistol, who is also Stunning and Smooth.

Arion’s little band currently consists of himself, Roger (Rep 5 BAP), Ms Huff (Rep 4 BAP), Bodyguard (Rep 5 BAP), and a Rep 3 with a BAP – Arion has quite a store of BAPs built up from looting the bodies of the opposition.

I decide this happens inside a tube carriage… Set up as per Confrontation, p. 59, then go to Walk the Walk on p. 60. Arion rolls 23346 (he has Steely Eyes but everyone is concealed) and gets 3 successes, the Femme Fatale rolls 1124 for 3 successes. As it’s a tie, we roll again at -1d6; Arion 2245, FF 356, so Arion & Co. act first. Most of this is on the Shoot page of the QRS now, and while I laid it out on the table I found I was using the figures mostly as status markers with very little manoeuvre, so I didn’t bother with pictures for this little skirmish.

Turn 1: Arion and Roger go for two Rep 4 Gangsters with BAP – I’ll gloss over die rolls because you’ve seen LTL gunplay before in the Arioniad – and force both to duck back. Huff scores a hit on the FF and she ducks back. Huff’s companions each fire at a Rep 4 gangster and astonishingly the Rep 3 drops one OOF, forcing a Man Down test for everyone within 4″, which is all but two of the group; one Runs Away and another Ducks Back.

Turn 2: The Big Bad’s minions activate first; Roger and the Rep 3 sidekick go OOF, Arion and Huff duck back. Two of the Rep 4 gangsters are gunned down, causing one of the Rep 3 thieves to flee and the other to duck back.

Turn 3: Doubles for activation – nobody acts. Turn 4: Ms Huff is shot by the FF and goes OOF. Turn 5: Lots of duck backs but no significant changes. Turn 6: Doubles for activation – a lull in the fighting. Turn 7: Huff’s bodyguard takes out the FF. Turn 8: Second Rep 3 thief flees after failing a Received Fire test, remaining minion ducks back. Turn 9: Arion and Huff’s bodyguard charge into melee and beat the surviving thug unconscious in short order.

Fortunately, I can roll for recovery as this is the end of a (travel) scene. Huff is retired, her Rep 3 companion returns with a decreasing Rep die, and Roger is OK. Our little band is down to four, though, and one of those is a bit flaky. Meanwhile, the Femme Fatale recovers, and frankly who cares about the mooks? I already have enough clues to solve the mystery, and there appears to be no benefit for overachieving, so I won’t bother interrogating the survivors.

-o0o-

Arion and his little band are in a subway car discussing their plan (such as it is) when a stunning woman and seven armed thugs enter.

“I like that one,” she says, pointing at Arion. “Bring him to me alive. Kill the rest.”

A brief but intense gunfight erupts, ending with Huff incapacitated, Roger and the professional wounded, the femme fatale and four thugs out of the fight, and three thugs fleeing the scene.

LOW LIFE IN HIGH PLACES

Once we get to the board, there is only one PEF, in section 2, composed of the Big Bad’s minions. These can be avoided if we move through sections 9, 8, 7, 4, and 1, and considering there are eight of ’em let’s do that.

Entering the target building gives a Defining Moment, and because we haven’t met any NPCs yet it’s automatically contact, and as it’s the final scene it’s Big Bad minions, four of them; Rep 5 bodyguard with SMG, 2 x Rep 3 thieves with pistols, and one Rep 4 gangster with SMG.

On entering the target building I also roll on the appropriate table and determine that Arion and Chapman arrive at the same time and will fight to win the treasure. Chapman must be driven off or captured to win. He is a Rep 5 Business Magnate with BAP, and is accompanied by three thugs; 2 x Rep 4 gangster with BAP, Rep 3 thief with pistol. So overall we’re outnumbered 8 to 3.

I’m about to set up the table when it occurs to me I only need the building, so I pull out a couple of SmileyBomb’s binder maps and declare them the ground floor of the mansion.

Walking the Walk, Chapman wins the In Sight handily and opens up with deadly force. Arion is forced to duck back behind the couch, and both his buddies are machine-gunned down by SMG-toting thugs. Man, I have to get me one of those; the two extra damage dice are brutal.

Arion, Roger, and Huff’s bodyguard move up to Chapman’s mansion and bluff their way inside – Arion’s jacket is now red, and labelled “Pizza Delivery”. As they enter from the front door, Chapman enters unseen from the back; four armed thugs are playing cards at a table, and noting that pizza delivery boys don’t often come in threes or carry large pistols instead of pizza, they deduce that something is amiss, and open fire. Roger and the bodyguard are both hit and crawl into cover, losing first interest in the proceedings and then consciousness. Arion dives over the couch and hides behind a solid-looking armchair.

Turn 1

Activation Arion 1, Chapman 6. Arion pops up, and since this is the first time he has been seen in this activation phase,he triggers an In Sight. Chapman’s little group can’t see him as they are around a corner – there’s no point having building maps if I don’t use what’s printed on them. Arion rolls 133556 for 3 successes, the four thugs at the table roll 12256 for 3 successes – a tie, so we reroll, and this time the thugs win and act. Everyone counts as in cover and concealed (in a building and not moving), and thankfully this causes everyone to miss Arion. As a Star he can choose how many dice to pass on the Received Fire test, and replies with a Rushed Shot at the leader, but misses. This causes that worthy to take a Received Fire test, and he shoots back, hitting Arion and taking him OOF. Time for some Star Power; 23455 means the OOF is degraded to a Miss, so Arion takes a Received Fire test, opts to pass 2d6, and takes another Rushed Shot, forcing the group leader to duck back.

2016012901

Turn 2

Arion 6, Chapman 4. The thugs at the table move up, the leader trying to flank Arion while the others take cover behind the breakfast bar. Arion could already see them so I decide no In Sight is called for. The Rep 5 SMG hits Arion and he uses Star Power again to reduce all the hits to Miss (rolling separately for each); this costs him a die, though. His RF test gives him the chance to return fire and he gets lucky, dropping the thugs’ leader – when firing as a result of a reaction test, you have to shoot at whatever provoked the test. The remaining thugs in that group take a Man Down test, one Runs Away and the other two shoot back, both missing thanks to cover, but provoking another Rushed Shot from Arion which guns down the other SMG-wielding thug and triggers another Man Down test – since the remaining thug can see his friends approaching, he Carries On.

Chapman and the second group move up the hall to gain line of sight and trigger another In Sight test. Chapman wins and the second group settle in around the table and open fire. Arion ducks back and can’t activate this turn.

2016012902

Arion comes under a hail of bullets, but he sticks his gun hand over the chair and fires back blindly. Luck is with him and both the team’s leader and his second in command gos down with 12.7mm rockets in them. At this point Chapman and three other thugs heave into view down the corridor, and start shooting. Arion crouches behind his chair and hopes for the best.

Turns 3-4

A3, C1. Arion pops up and triggers an In Sight, which he wins, and fires at Chapman but misses. Chapman’s return shot forces Arion to duck back. As everyone except Arion is now inside Chapman’s command radius I decide no-one else can see Arion and the turn ends.

Turn 4 is pretty much a repeat of turn 3; A4, C1. Arion aces the In Sight and hits Chapman – Mr C avoids going OOF by adroit use of Star Power, which gives him a chance to return fire. Arion ducks back.

Turn 5

A3, C4. Chapman gestures his men forwards, bringing them up next to Arion and triggering an In Sight. Arion wins this and targets one of the Rep 4 BAP thugs, hoping to whittle down the odds against him; he only manages a duck back though, then he is forced to duck back in turn by fire from the others.

Shooting isn’t working, so when he activates and wins the In Sight, he charges into melee, trusting to Star Power to win the day. One of the thugs manages to get a shot off, and Star Power turns the OOF result into a Miss again; then Arion is upon them. Chapman has more figures in the melee but can only use three; he opts for Rep 4, then Rep 3, then Rep 3, as the other Rep 4 is ducked back and as a Big Bad he need not dirty his hands with fistfights, he has minions for that.

2016012903

  • Round 1: Rep 4 vs Arion – Arion gets two more successes followed by boxcars and scores a clean KO.
  • Rounds 2-4: First Rep 3 vs Arion – Arion loses one Rep before removing his opponent from play.
  • Rounds 5-6: Second Rep 3 vs Arion – Rep 3 is clubbed to the ground at no loss to Arion. As this melee is now over, Arion’s Rep returns to 5.

2016012904

Turns 6-7

Turn 6: A6 C1. Not liking what he has just seen, Chapman and the remaining thug both fire at Arion, and both miss. Arion’s reaction fire drops the last mook.

Turn 7: A5 C6. Hand to hand worked last time, and Chapman only has two Star Power dice left, so Arion charges into melee before Chapman can shoot again.

  • Round 1: Chapman loses the round and a Star Power die. Now he has one left to Arion’s four.
  • Round 2: Arion loses the round and two Star Power dice, but that’s better than losing Rep.
  • Round 3: Arion gets three hits in, and Chapman’s lone Star Power die does its best, stopping two of them; but the last one gets through and takes the Big Bad out.

A few seconds of inconclusive gunfire follow, until Chapman yells “Get him! What are you waiting for, there’s four of you!” and stings his men into action. They move up – a mistake as Arion leaps from cover into melee, and disposes of three of them in short order in a hail of boots and fists. Arion still has his hand cannon, and when the surviving thug draws a bead on him, Arion shoots him in the forehead.

“That’ll be quite enough of that,” he pants, and after circling each other for a moment, he and Chapman pounce on each other. After a brief exchange of solid punches, Chapman falls.

MY FINAL REVENGE

Chapman rolls 4 successes, which would injure and permanently retire Arion’s love interest, except he doesn’t have one, so let’s off Huff’s love interest instead who is obviously tied up somewhere out of sight, probably sitting on the bomb. Arion does get three decreasing Rep dice though.

“You think you’ve won,” gasps Chapman through broken teeth as Arion stands over him, fist cocked for another blow.

“You haven’t. House: X-Ray Four Seven!” – and the scene dissolves in the white-out of a bomb blast.

-o0o-

We’ll leave that as a cliffhanger for now. In the next episode, I’ll do a retrospective of this first season – how the game worked, and what happened to everyone.

CREDITS

Rules: Larger Than Life Director’s Cut, THW. Figures: eM4, Mongoose. Floor Plans: SmileyBomb Productions.

“One question remains unanswered: Was it a lady’s gun, like this? Beng! Beng beng! Or a PROPER gun, like THIS?” – Bad Bob, Rex the Runt

In which everything comes together at last…

-o0o-

The dice say the next step is to Find An Object, last seen with a Civilian Rep 4 Dependent (male, so let’s say Huff’s boyfriend) in a No-Tell Motel near the Docks. It’s Late, so there are two PEFs in sections 1 and 6. We can avoid the one in section 6 easily enough, but should probably meet the one in section 1 because I have dodged a lot of them lately. Then there’s a defining moment, then we can look for the object.

PEF: Three people. Unarmed male Rep 3 Exotic Professional, with two other Exotics; a Rep 5 Bodyguard with a BAP, and a female Rep 4 Reporter with a Pistol – I decide that has to be Ms Huff.

Talking the Talk, the Rep 5 Bodyguard gets one success and Arion gets three, so they can be recruited – why not, let’s do that.

Then we’re into the Defining Moment, which turns out to be nothing at all. Now we can search the Motel. Object difficulty is 1, both the Object and Arion pass 1d6, so Arion solves another clue, taking him to 8 – the target number for this adventure. The next scene will be the Final Scene, so the clue must explain where that is – I roll for another Where To Next and get the Metropolis again.

-o0o-

“She’s either not used to doing this – not likely for a reporter – or she’s badly shaken, because she left her commlink switched on,” says Arion.

“So the, err, complete program suite aboard ship found her?”

“Exactly. We could still have done it from traffic cameras and so on, but it’s faster if she leaves her comm on.”

“There she is,” Roger says, nodding in her direction, “Just opposite the motel.”

“Ah,” says Huff as the two pilots approach. “There you are. Took you long enough.”

“Traffic,” says Arion, not missing a beat.

“The less we know about each other, the better,” Huff says, “So no names, all right?” She counts around the circle, pointing as she goes. “One, two, three, four, five. There.”

“Okay,” Huff continues. “My man Gary is in there, room 12, and we are going to get him out alive. Agreed?” Everyone nods. “You do not need to know who told me that or why.”

“Then, we are going to go find the stuff Chapman is after and take it away from him, because there isn’t any person he loves more than his loot. Agreed?”

“I like your style,” says Arion. “We’re in.”

“All right then, let’s go.” And with that, Huff leads the team into the motel, moving like she has a purpose. The bodyguard kicks in the door to room 12, and the team trip over each other getting inside, which would have been more serious if the room weren’t empty. Huff starts swearing, surprisingly well.

“Nobody move,” says Arion. “Ship, search the room with the spider. We need to know where Gary went.”

The spider drops from Arion’s shoulder and scuttles around, apparently at random, for a few minutes. Huff runs out of expletives and steps outside, quivering like a violin string but refusing to cry.

“Search complete,” says the spider in the ship’s voice. “You will find Gary in the Heights, at Chapman’s residence.”

“How do you know that?” asks Huff.

“Analysis of DNA and dirt in the carpet, combined with access to surveillance cameras across the city,” explains the spider.

Huff gives Arion a very strange look. “Where did you get your ship?”

“Best not to ask, really. It involves secrets, and pirates, and…” belatedly Arion realises he is talking to an investigative journalist. “…and, umm, well, stuff. You know.” He brightens.

“Oh, hey, does anyone need a 12.7mm gyrojet? I brought some spares. Here, Ms Huff, put that lady’s gun away and have a proper one. Very little recoil from a gyrojet, you’ll be fine… Ship, call us a taxi please.”

In which the investigation is derailed somewhat…

-o0o-

The adventure stays in the Metropolis again, it’s day three, and Arion has to question a person of interest – I could roll for that, but the logic of the narrative suggests it should be Ms Huff at this point. So I overrule the dice and make it her.

The dice tell me the Day Part is Early, and we’re meeting Ms Huff in a (coffee) bar downtown. There’s only one PEF that early, and it’s in section 4 of the board, so I use unoccupied section movement to glide past it.

There’s still a defining moment in the bar though; Chapman (the Big Bad) isn’t there, but we do find an Exotic and 4 companions; a Rep 5 Bodyguard with a BAP (on a die roll of 4, fortunately not one of the ones Roger enthusiastically perforated earlier in the game), with a Mover (Rep 3 Hollywood), a Criminal (Rep 4 Dealer with a BAP) and two other Exotics (both Rep 5 Private Eyes with BAPs). The Bodyguard gets 4 successes, Arion 2; since the Bodyguard is Law & Order class and Arion is not a Criminal, at least as far as his Class goes, no confrontation occurs and thus the other group leaves the table.

Arion can now question the Person of Interest; Ms Huff rolls 2 successes and Arion 1. Huff has no information? That can’t be right per se, but it would be very genre-appropriate for someone to have scared her off.

-o0o-

“There she is,” Arion says, as he and Roger enter Green’s. Huff is sitting in a corner, alone; between her and the door a group of five people, most of them openly carrying large-calibre pistols. After an exchange of muffled and insincere greetings with our heroes, they rise and leave.

“Hello, Ms Huff,” Arion begins. “How do you want to proceed?”

“I don’t,” snaps Huff. “The evidence I saw was faked. I can’t use the story. I was a fool to believe it. Forget all about it.” And she stands and leaves.

“What was that all about?” Roger asks.

“Somebody got to her,” Arion says. “You’ve seen the evidence, at least some of it, and more importantly you’ve seen what Chapman is willing to do to get it. This doesn’t stand up. Somebody scared her off.”

“Good thing they didn’t try that with you,” Roger says. “You’re not smart enough for it to work.”

“I’m not going to dignify that with a response.”

“I think you just did. What now?”

“Coffee, while we plan our next move.”

In which Arion and I find out just what is going on here…

-o0o-

Working through the sequence…

Where to Next? Metropolis. Advance the Story: Find an object, last seen with an Exotic Pilot in a bank downtown.

Travel scene: Move two areas. No encounters. Day part is now Late.

Advance the Story scene: Two PEFs, both in section 3; easy to avoid so I won’t bother.

Defining moment in the target building: Party of five; Shaker Attorney Rep 3, 2 Shakers (Rep 3 Accountant, Rep 4 Political Assistant), 2 Criminals (Gangster Rep 4 BAP, Working Girl Rep 3). Big Bad not present.

Rep 4 PA leads Talk the Talk 1 success; Arion 1 success. Exchange pleasantries.

Search for clue: Difficulty 3. Object passes 1d6, Arion 3 – solves 2 clues, now has 7. I suppose I’d better work out what this is about then, because next time he solves a clue we move to the final confrontation.

-o0o-

The metal spider on Arion’s shoulder speaks in the Dolphin’s warm contralto voice. “Call for you, Captain. ID withheld.”

“OK, put it through. Hi, this is Arion, how can I help?”

“Arion. You were just in my room, I think. Did you find anything?”

“Yes, Ms Huff. It looks like a key.”

“Yes, but it’s not what you think. Be at the Pilots’ Guild Savings and Loan on 14th at ten PM tonight. It opens a deposit box. I’ll call you when you have what’s inside.”

“How will you know…” Arion begins, but the line has gone dead.

It’s just before ten when Arion and Roger arrive at the PGSL.

“Why here?” Arion wonders. “Maybe the box belongs to a pilot?”

“It could just be that not many banks are open twenty-four seven,” Roger suggests. “Can’t legislate for when a ship lands. Or lifts.” Arion nods.

In the lobby, a group of five people, three obviously members of the elite and two equally obviously not, one a woman with a bruised face, are talking quietly. One of the suits gives the woman’s companion a briefcase, and he hands over a small package in exchange.

“What’s that all about?” Arion wonders.

“Stay on target,” says Roger. “We have enough trouble chasing us as it is.”

“You know what your trouble is? You have no spirit of adventure.”

“No, but I have a girl, and a steady job, and a nice place in midtown. What have you got, Arion? Besides your spirit of adventure, and some guy you owe dangerous favours?”

“The key to a safe deposit box. And more curiousity than is healthy for me,” Arion grins.

They swipe the key on a lift and descend. Below, a robot scans the key, motions them into a small room, and leaves them alone for a moment. With a pneumatic puff, a hatch just big enough for an attache case opens in one of the walls, and a box emerges. Arion takes it out and swipes the key over its sensor.

Inside is a battered leather notebook. And a commlink.

“Man,” breathes Roger. “Old school.”

The commlink beeps softly, and Arion answers it.

“Ms Huff, I presume,” he says. He puts the commlink on speakerphone and motions to Roger to stay quiet.

“Yes,” Huff replies. “You should have a book. It’s a diary, or maybe a logbook, written by Captain Utnapishtim of the – well, it’s not really pronounceable by a human throat, but it translates as Preserver of Life. You ever heard of it?”

“Not as such, no.”

“It’s a sleeper colony ship. A long time ago, it was used to evacuate an entire population before their planet became uninhabitable. If we can put together what’s in the diary with what’s on the data store, we can find out where the wreck is.”

“OK, but why bother? I mean, space is full of wrecks from who knows how many civilisations.”

“This one is special. These guys were supposed to have discovered an immortality treatment, or maybe a rejuvenation serum. Can you imagine how much that would be worth?”

“Frankly, no. More than enough for three of us, I think.”

“Quite. Now, you have a ship, the data store, the logbook and one of the two decryptor keys. I have the other, and I’ve done the research to put them all together and find out where the ship is. Shall we work together?”

Arion looks at Roger. Roger draws a deep breath, and nods.

“We work together,” Arion says. “What next?”

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.”

Arion, Episode 6: Too Quiet

Posted: 20 January 2016 in Arioniad
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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.”