(I am reposting all my recaps from my weekly I Love the Corps campaign into this, as it will be easy for re-reading, for my own purposes of checking through information and for any new ILTC fans that might be interested half way through. These were originally on the ILTC Facebook group, but this now seems a better place to put them, so the rest of the campaign will be posted on here too.)
I LOVE THE CORPS- COLD FRONTIER (EPISODE 1)
The campaign will be presented and described in the style of a gritty, sci-fi TV series, tonally something like Season One Walking Dead. Lots of stylistic quiet moments, dynamic camera shots, etc, all actually described that way. Since each episode takes place on a subsequent day from the marine’s arrival on the Iceworld, every opening, pre-titles scene, will be a character building flashback. Every week I will give you the best run down I can of the narrative of the game and try to give the best idea of how I described things, and then cut in with rules bits to explain things as necessary. These are designed to give you a true idea of what a full on campaign will be like, putting the rules in context and showing how important role play and drama are to those rules. This is a big post, being a rundown of a two and a half hour game, but should be pretty gripping stuff.
PLEASE READ if you really want to know what a campaign session can be like.
I give a rundown of the I Love the Corps background to start things off, described in white text over black background in the traditional style.
(I Love the Corps’ setting is deliberately loose on some of the specifics. The GM gets to choose a campaign background, of which the book details 7 possibilities as examples. These backgrounds give explanations of why Earth is now abandoned. I usually use the Mind Virus, so this time have deliberately chosen a different Campaign Background. This means that the Colonial Dominion I have represented is also different to other games.
This time the background is deliberately unclear… nukes were fired across the Earth, killing nearly everybody, and nobody knows exactly how that happened. Conspiracy theories abound, between terrorists, hackers, AIs, nuclear response going haywire and aliens. Instead of the Dominion being the survivors of Earth, it is made up of the remnants of the first frontier worlds founded before the destruction of Earth, so mostly colonies are Hell, Death and Iceworlds. I came up with this to explain the squad’s propensity for Iceworlders and Augmented Humans in general, despite the planet they have gone to only being around for a year, so not having its own ‘native’ Iceworlders for them to be.
So, this is essentially a totally different universe to my previous games, with the same general thematic content when it comes to how the Corps and Dominion operate, a way of showing players how you can flesh out your own individual setting with the same building blocks, but different colonies, timeline and plot hooks to suit your own game.)
“Weeks Ago”- Sergei Ramirez sits in a freezing cold room with blue lights blazing down on him. Sweat dribbles down his forehead and then starts to freeze. His breath forms in the air before him. His cybernetic limbs appeared to be botched together from various parts, and occasionally twitch involuntarily and spark. The character sits in silence for about 30 seconds before the sound of a door swishing open is heard. The camera remains on Ramirez, staring ahead, as footsteps are heard behind him.
He is interrogated by an individual, unnamed, where all that is seen of him are his black gloves slamming a com-pad down on the table. The voice talks of Ramirez as a ‘hero’ in a condescending manner. The com-pad shows a newspaper image detailing the heroic strike of marines against an important target of the Mendoza cartel. The newspaper shows an image of a burning spaceship surrounded by a barricade of Corps cruisers. Another image details that a ranking member of the Cartel has been captured, known as “Redeye”; I describe at the head of a line of mag-cuffed men, a very short man of Mexican persuasion, with one eye slightly larger than the other and bloodshot, staring death at the camera.
Ramirez defends his strike, that he did the right thing. The interrogator become angry, pointing out that the strike was never authorised and that Ramirez would not be such a hero if everybody knew “about the child”. implying some kind of news cover-up. Mention of the child makes Ramirez himself angry.
The interrogator says that normally he would be executed for going rogue, but since the media considers him such a hero, such a step cannot be taken.. but the media won’t know he is being busted from Sergeant to Private. What they will know is that he and the remains of his hero squad are being sent as guardians of a new inhabited Frontier world!
We then cut to show a planet covered in ice, as we descend through the atmosphere and the opening credits appear.
“Episode 1- Day 1.” We cut inside a cruiser orbiting the ice planet. Ramirez stands with the rest of what remains of his squad: Yeti, a man so huge from GeneModding, he doesn’t fit in any armour, and looks like a gigantic barbarian from the past, clad in furs, wielding a massive sword (from a primitive tech Iceworld) and Snow Plough, a drone-obsessed techy.
Doors swish open and the camera focusses on a pair of metallic boots as the new Sergeant, Sergeant Greyjoy, surveys his new squad and his not impressed by their lack of attention, though he doesn’t openly berate them, and gives a short and effective speech. He explains that they are being sent down to protect this settlement, and doesn’t give much more than that in terms of specifics.
I cut to give a description of the immediate area around the settlement and the prime locations of the campaign.
To the north of the settlement of Frost is the Frozen Sea, where on a little outcropping of land into the sea sits a hydroelectric plants, with its equipment burrowing beneath the surface ice. Two miles sound across snowy grassland sits Frost itself. It definitely has an Old West frontier look to it, as two rows of concrete buildings packed together, which a 100ft stretch of snowy grassland in between them, where a back-up generator sits in the middle.
A cluster of settlers are stood outside the hangar building, looking up as a single dropship descends from the sky. The roof of the building opens up as the ship lands on a raised piece of flooring. The roof shuts, as a red line passes over it, heating the vessel, as the ice melts into water and flows off into run-offs which take the water into pipes in the walls. The lift then lowers down, bringing the ship to the hangar floor.
As the ramp descends and the squad step out they are greeted by Mayor Winkleman (a black, middle aged gentleman who has hung his furs, breathing mask etc on the wall behind and stands in posh suit, is seemingly all smiles, but with an underlining dress showing.) Behind him is Ryan, a mostly silent mercenary with ancient, battered, graffiti-covered armour indicating former association with the Flaming Skulls mercenary group, and Mayor Bull, an ex-marine and well known Highgrav who takes no crap, a woman of great width aptly nicknamed “The Bulldozer” when in the Corps, now retired from military service.
The Mayor demonstrates, through his smiles, his shock and annoyance that the Corps would only send four marines, whilst Bull is certain that four is more help than none. The Mayor says that he lost a whole team of ice miners, and that there will be no mining or foraging until what has happened to them is determined and the safety of his people guaranteed.
The Sergeant quietly but firmly informs the Mayor that if the ice is not mined, thousands more people will die as they will be without water, and insists that now his squad are here, the mining can carry on, and The Mayor caves. He points out that they won’t be able to head out today, as there is only five hours of sunlight, and they aren’t prepared to go. The Sergeant suggest they can work into the night, but the Mayor and Deputy laugh nervously; “nobody goes out in the dark.”
Winkleman then suggests they investigate where the miners went missing and try and determine what happened to them, before more are sent out. The Sergeant agrees, and Winkleman as the Sheriff call in her Deputy, who can apparently shed more light on the situation.
We cut outside, where the Deputy (a dashing, moustachioed, ridiculously Texan individual) is trying and failing to calm the crowd, faced in particular with the ever-complaining O’Hanlan.
(Ramirez, the Sarge and Snow Plough are PCs, and the Deputy was a new character created that night, proof that you can easily make non-Corps characters with the game. He is the Wheels of the group, as well as having some experience with explosives. Snow Plough’s player was not present so spent most of the game tinkering with his drones who kept freezing in the cold, and Yeti was created as a PC due to the player’s OOC obligations, but will now be a Friendly, so was mostly the strong, silent type.)
Bull replaces the Deputy as he heads inside, the Deputy hearing the beginning of Bull unleashing her intimidating qualities before the airlock shuts.
He explains that though all the ice miners being missing is true, it is not the whole story; they had a guard, who is their one survivor, and had both eyes torn out. When asked how she got back to town, the Mayor and deputy are awkward in revealing it was the Sheriff’s teenage son who saved her. He has something of a habit of disappearing off, and apparently rescued the team’s guard.
Ryan explains, from a message through his helmet radio, that she is awake.
The group heads next door, to a building with a sign saying FORAGERS. This building has a lab area, as well as two curtained off medical cubicles and a separate office area.
Dodd, the injured guard in question, is in one of the cubicles.
Dr Stapes (a gaunt, highly serious, prideful man in his work) explains how he has made best of a bad situation and replaced Dodd’s eyes with cybernetic ones, though the materials he had available were hardly top quality, due to the nature of deliveries to the ‘backwater pisshole.’ He is not a medical doctor primarily, but a skilled cyber-surgeon.
Stapes explains that though she is conscious and well medicated, with no further injury, that psychological damage will likely be evident. (Dodd is the fifth and final PC, currently.) When first questioned, she is understandably evasive and not willing to talk. and the conversation is short.
They leave her and go to talk in a lounge area. The Mayor suggests the best course of action is for them to investigate where the miners go missing, and Dodd is the only candidate, since he doesn’t want to encourage the Sheriff’s son’s walkabouts, and the Deputy agrees that Bull would not allow it anyway. Stapes acknowledges that physically she is able to go, but psychologically, it will be a hard sell. Sergeant Greyjoy suggests that Snow Plough take a look at the cybernetics and see if he can improve them… the very suggestion annoys Stapes, who makes his case on poor equipment, not craftsmanship, and heads off in a huff to the lab area.
The group get into talking about what could have attacked the miners and taken Dodd’s eyes, and the Mayor suggests they talk to Dr Mya Ross, in charge of the building; an expert biologist, she doubles as settlement doctor when needed, though missing eyes were beyond her resources to deal with, hence handing over to Stapes. She is in her office area and called out to speak to them; she is an over-enthusiastic woman, who has many, many theories about life on the planet. She explains that there is plant-matter on the planet, creating the oxygen, and that it stands to reason that they would exist to sustain other life on the planet, though she hasn’t found it yet. She goes with the foragers to gather the plant matter that grows out of the sunlight in the tunnels of the Moss Mountains. They aren’t allowed to go deep, but she is sure that if she did, she would find animal life. When asked how long the planet has been ice, she postulates likely millions of years, and thinks it will be at least a thousand before that changes.
When questioned on what kind of life may be found, she postulates that the fur, thick pelts and blubber of artic creatures would not be enough here, as in darkness, the cold is deadly enough to cause instant frostbite if flesh is exposed, followed swiftly by hypothermia and death, and even in the shelter of the mountains, she doesn’t think such creatures could survive, which hints at an entirely different kind of life, if there is any.
Meanwhile, Snow Plough goes to Dodd and manages to stop the flickering of her eyes. The Sergeant entices her to come and aid them with the promise of revenge. Ross wants to come with them, but Dodd immediately says ‘no’, adding ‘not after last time.’
(The player has therefore added some previously unstated background between them, leaving me a fun flashback scene to explain that later.)
Ross tries to encourage them to not just kill what they find, as it would be new life; when reminded that whatever it was took Dodd’s eyes, she tries to compare it to a lion, saying that they are only dangerous when you don’t understand them and no how to handle them, but no-one agrees, saying that maybe they will bring back a body.
The Mayor assigns the Deputy to look after the marines, and help Dodd aid them in their duties here and to basically give them information about the settlement as they need it.
Sergeant- “Now we just need to get there… do you have a vehicle?”
We cut to the Deputy describing the vehicle in character (rather than an OOC description), a heavy jeep adapted for snow and ice with massive treads… and a mounted rail-gun. Affectionately called “Maisy.” They drive for about twenty minutes across the glacier until they reach an area carved out of the glacier that is 200ft down and several miles across. There is a scaffold platform as a way down, but it is frozen over.
(It is this point that after an hour and a half of entirely description and RP, we get to our first Abilities of the game, as we get into the rules with the player’s first experience of a Narrative Scene structure, which is split into three Beats; in each Beat, a player can use two different Abilities in two different ways. a Passive Ability is a static number of 3 + an Ability score in a Narrative, and an Active is a D6 plus score.)
Sentry Duty is used by three of the four active PCs to find a way down or to scan the glacier for clues.
Ramirez decides to head down without orders to do so, and gets his Defining Trait +1 situational bonus, as a Lone Wolf. He uses blades inside his cybernetic arms to use them as picks to climb down.
Dodd has Hunter, increasing her Sentry Duty to follow tracks, and is able to follow him down, making her climb a lower Target Number.
The Sarge is meanwhile remaining above looking for clues initially.
He spots the wrecks of the ice miner’s vehicles; they appear to be partially submerged in the ice, close to where the glacier has been cut away and meets the rock of the mountain.
The Deputy uses Quick Study to notice what the Sarge is looking for to find his own way down. (By using a Passive Ability to watch others use their Abilities, using one of your three Passives in such a scene, you can use the Quick Study Aspect then get a bonus in the next Beat.) He then recalls the heated extinguisher in his jeep, and sprays the scaffold with hot water to melt the ice, and the Sarge then climbs down… alas, he has no movement abilities, so when he climbs down, he only has dice roll as a total, and rolls 1. He gets two Negative Success Levels; I decide not enough to fall and hit the ice, but enough to be hanging by his hood. Yeti rescues him and carries him down.
(By this point we are on the Second Beat of the scene, as drama increases a little, creating the need for new ability totals, since the Deputy needs a better move total than 1 to get across ice… or even ordinary ground.)
Dodd and Ramirez investigate the wrecks; it looks like the ice has given away under the vehicles, burying most of them. The front of the land-train is visible; the windscreen has been smashed through, and blood is everywhere. There are puncture holes in the driver’s seat, as if someone was stabbed in both shoulders and then pulled out.
The ice is stained red around where the vehicles are stuck, but there are no sign of bodies. When Dodd is asked what did this, she doesn’t either know or recall, saying “something took my eyes.” An expert tracker, she notices one trail of stained ice leading towards the mountain, into a tunnel, big enough for a human to crawl into. She also notices a trail of cracks on either side of the blood trail, like someone slamming picks into the ice.
The Sergeant heads in to investigate.
The Deputy wants to follow, but though the 3 he rolled is just about sufficient to walk across the ice, it results in him slamming his head of the tunnel. He rolls again to follow the Sergeant, determined to do better; this is his third dice roll and Active Ability, taking him to the final Beat of the scene. (It is that this point that when everyone has used their Abilities, the scene will end in some manner based on what the marines have done up until this point. There is no limit to movement in a Narrative Scene, so one move Ability could allow them to crawl through the tunnel system, and that would be one way to end the Scene, unless something I change events to turn it into an Action Scene…)
Dust and sediment falls on the Sarge. He then hears… a skittering?
“Something is alive in here!”
As his final Active for the scene, he gets 7 on Brains (military strategy)… and decides that continuing in this tunnel is unwise. Whatever it is is designed to move through these tunnels, and his own manoeuvrability is compromised. With his mission complete (getting an idea of what happened to the miners) I advise him (representing his strategic knowledge) it is time to head back.
He exits and says “There’s something in there. And whatever it is… its big.”
ROLL END CREDITS! (The end credits music being Snowblind by Black Sabbath.)
Essentially there are three ways that Scene could have ended… leaving, as they did, or continuing on, which could have either led to another Narrative Scene set a time later of my choosing or some kind of Action Scene, since the head-bashing alerted SOMETHING to their presence…. but the use of Brains allowed me to forestall the action and further clues for ANOTHER TIME…
And that is how a game of ILTC will work, before Action Scenes come into play!
All players bar one were brand new to the game.
They were particularly complimentary of Narrative Scenes and Beats creating a dramatic control over how many Abilities you can use. They were all really sucked into it and ended the game very intrigued.