Strategy- the ILTC games

OVERVIEW

Now, to get into more detail of the three games I managed to get to run at the Strategy convention. These games were run using my Missions campaign as a basis, after I got permission from my players to use their characters as a basis for the pregens. I did have to tweak characters here and there so they were one-shot appropriate (Arbiter went from a psychic to a highly developed Sensitive in danger of becoming psychic, for example), but they worked well, as a team of gung-ho, unhinged action orientated characters with some very colourful and bizarre backgrounds.

I ran the first Mission of the campaign twice for games one and three, as it works a nice largely spoiler free into to I Love the Corps. The basic premise is that the Containment squad are doing a ‘routine mission’ guarding a train full of Mutants and Psychics, one carriage for each, taking them in stasis pods across a dead planet on a mag-train to a prison many hours travel from the tiny space-port. Rebels attack the train, and it turns out that they are essentially human rights activists trying to free enhanced humans that (at leas they believe) have simply been captured just for being what they are. This gets across the dark tone of I Love the Corps, and introduces the whole irony of the name and the fact that in some games, you may very well be working for the bad guys, whilst being light enough on the details to let people get sucked into it. This also gives the players a taste of human vs human combat in the game, showing how you can use tactical fire-fights, make use of cover, and shows how well armour works against guns and we even had some brutal, drawn-out close combat in game 3. Whilst games 1 and 3 showed the bleak and gory sides of the horror in the game, concentrating largely on the preparation and action side of things, game 2 showed the squad investing a crashed ship on an alien jungle planet, and went very, very Aliens as the squad got split up and picked off, and started going nuts and killing each other. Every game was a storm. If you want a bit more info and some of my favourite bits from each game, READ ON!

Game 1

So in this game, the playable characters were Bailiff (specialised in ranged fire and perception, as well as fast on his feet), Arbiter (possesses three of the four Sensitive disciplines, telekinesis, empathy and telepathy, at high levels) and Defendant (support role, with long range fire, engineering skills and a decked out railgun mounted Battle Drone called Josephine), and I used their Sarge, Judge, as a Friendly.

They used the narrative scene of sitting on the train to have some ace banter (Bailiff and Arbiter were in the psychic carriage, the other two were with the mutants) and mostly concentrated on Sentry Duty to look out for trouble, ability wise, and did so with passive abilities, since in-character, they were not expecting trouble. Unfortunately, since no-one decided to go and check out the driver and look out the front of the train, there was no-one to spot the contact mine on the track as the train derailed. The power of characters over Friendlies was shown, as Judge didn’t get any dice rolls for his ability totals and ended up with Josephine pinning him to a wall. Defendant spent most of the action scene frantically trying to free the Sarge; unfortunately, as Judge has so many negative Success Levels racked up, it was incredibly difficult to do so, between the mag-walls, mag-armour and the drone’s massive weight, and the fact that its underslung railgun was crushing the Sarge’s legs was slowly but surely increasing his lethal status.

Two players got Glory Points during the train crash since their descriptions of being thrown about managed to breach the door to the mutant carriage, and tore open part of the floor panels in the other carriage. Arbiter used her telekinesis to stop two of the rebels crawling under the train from getting in through that way, so they retreated back out into cover. The other two rebels breached the other carriage, coming past Defendant, who took lots of psych damage due to the harm to his beloved drone, the fact he was slowly killing the Sarge trying to free him, rebels shooting at the Sarge (using the drone as cover) and the rebels being right by him. Bailiff opened his own carriage door and gunned down the two rebels over two beats. Defendant tried to free the Sarge one more time… and got incredibly low on Brains to guide the drone. More Sergeant Hauser got his face melted off by the drone’s plasma engines. On top of this, a stasis pod had been breached, and a mutant escaped. Defendant suffered psychological trauma and became a shivering wreck in a corner. Bailiff went to check outside, got shot at, but the cover kept him safe, and he located the rebels. He opened a pressure window, and fired upon the scouts with his BLACK HOLE GUN! His total wasn’t high enough to drag them both in, but he completely removed their cover, sucking it into a big rocky mass. Arbiter then used her telekinesis to push them into said rocky mass. Cue horrifically gross descriptions from me as they die. Arbiter’s player had to leave, so decided she passed out from the mental strain of the act, leaving Bailiff to pursue the mutant, utterly blinding it with an impressive stun grenade throw. As the mutant begged for his life, saying how his GeneMods mutating was no crime, and he was no criminal, only to be knocked out as a rifle butt smashed him across the face. And that was the end of that.

This was extra fun as Defendant’s player was particularly interested in how GMing worked, so I kept giving him little asides on the mechanics and how I use Beat Sheets (that will be in the Classified Materials Appendices) to keep track of things, and he seemed impressed. Arbiter’s player was also new to the hobby; she enjoyed it and grasped the rules easily, and though she apologised for being shy, she picked a character that works for that, and she role-played it well.

Game 2

This was a very different experience, and not just because I chose a different mission. Four of the five players were all mates and new to the hobby, but they worked well together until things went out of their control… which is how the game is designed to work. The squad was Judge, Arbiter and Defendant, joined by sun-worshipping, space barbarian, close assault specialist Verdict and the mech-piloting engineer, Inquisitor. On this mission, a Drogan warrior (the one alien species that the Corps acknowledges, and who are considered ‘friendly’), Z4 is sent to observe the squad as they set foot on a jungle planet in Drogan space, where a human ship has crashed. They are told to recover their people and then destroy any ‘contamination’ left behind them.

Now, this was very different to the campaign game it was loosely based on, simply because the players focused on heading right to the vertical ship, trapped under layers of miles-high collapsed jungle trees, rather than checking out threats in the outlying jungle first. So instead of putting the surviving humans in the jungle, along with the Hostiles, I decided they were still in the ship. The players worked well together, trying to smash their way through the first piece of hull they could find. When this didn’t worked, they lasered their way through tree trunks using Verdict, under Sarge’s directions, referencing ship schematics found by the brainy Defendant. They found an airlock and made their way into the ship. Arbiter assured the team that three alien creatures, of an intelligent but bestials nature had entered the ship to feast, implying that there either were or had been crash survivors who would need help. But the cylindrical ship had smashed down point first, so what were horizontal corridors were not vertical, so the airlock tunnel you normally climb into became a walk-way. Verdict headed in first. He heard a bizarre clicking sound echoing around him. Visibility was hardly working for them, and they had no idea what was making the sound and what it was. Verdict gets to the end of a vertical drop that must be about a half a mile in length. In a moment that could not have been more horror movie, he turned round and started yelling at Z4, accusing the Drogan of sending them into a trap. Meanwhile, Inquisitor had used Grease Monkey to wire up infra-vision into his helmet. That was the only thing that allowed him to get an inkling that there was SOMETHING behind Verdict. But, with one Success Level, he only saw a red blur of heat briefly. Just as Verdict and Z4 had guns pointed at each other, Verdict was pulled upwards and disappeared into the darkness.

And then it was madness to the end. We leapt (not surprisingly) into an action scene. Verdict lasered the legs off the beast leaping upwards with him, its claws latching onto his shoulders. Then he fell. The Sarge tried to grab him. They both fell. Arbiter used telekinesis to slow their fall. Defendant was already moving down the ship, sitting atop his drone. As he avoided the falling marines, he decided to grab onto them… increasing their weight, and thus, the effective Target Number for Arbiter, as she lost control of them. Inquisitor decided to jump down after them in mech to heroically save them, the Mech’s finger sparking down the walls as he attempted to control his descent. Verdict ended up grabbing onto mag-rungs to stop his fall, but though the Sarge and descendant held on, Josie detached, and tumbled to her doom, slowly getting smashed upon the walls with her descent, which caused Defendant (vulnerable to the Tech Failure Horror) to start Losing It. The Sarge jammed a knife in the wall and climbed off of Verdict. Defendant slammed the hook for his drop-harness to the wall and decided to dive after Josie. Then Inquisitor, unable to slow his fall, deadly in his falling mech, came at the squad. The Sarge leapt down, grabbed onto a door control, opened the door and flung himself inside. Verdict leapt onto the back of the Mech as it fell past.

The Sarge looked up to find one of the aliens on the ceiling above him. (I won’t spoil their exact nature here; suffice to say, they are ‘agile and leapy’ with hooked talons and long limbs.) He filled the tiny room with fire, but the creature avoided it, leaping out into the corridor. Arbiter used a Glory Point to dramatically edit to appear ‘just in time’ to telekinetically throw the creature into the Sarge’s gunfire, which killed it. She then empathically located the survivors the Sarge, a few rooms below, who leapt out to save them.

Seeing Josie torn apart before him, Defendant tried to swing himself into an open room. He did so, smashing his visor and face into the door frame. He spent a Glory Point to get an incredibly high Drop and Give Me Fifty total to ignore being Compromised. He then saw Verdict and Inquisitor fall past. Losing It, he cut lose with his machine gun, seeing them as having destroyed his drone in a moment of insanity.

Verdict leapt off the mech to grab onto a door frame, but ended up tearing it from the wall (he had Powerhouse 5, which is slightly superhuman). Inquisitor managed to climbs out of his mech as he was in freefall. Jump in time to get repeatedly struck by bullets he was no longer resistant too, as he died horribly. Verdict used a Glory Point to turn the door frame into a ‘surfboard’ and escaped out of the bottom of the ship, onto the jungle floor, after the mech smashed into the bottom ahead of him and made him a hole.

The Sarge got into the room with the terrified civvies behind a barricade, where the last alien was ready to bounce. An epic close combat began, as the Sarge couldn’t hit it with a rifle shot in close quarters. He repeatedly stabbed it, but the creature’s high Hardass was significant against the knife, and yet Sarge’s only armour and its resistant plus the Sarge’s equally high Hardass meant he could hold his own. Arbiter tried to use her telekinesis to tear its head off, but did not have enough SL (not being a standard use of Low Grade Telekinesis), but I described scales peeling away of their own accord. The Sarge tried to bring his rifle to bear again, but couldn’t hit the creature. So Arbiter used her psychic powers to direct the rifle and shoot it dead. The civilians were freed. Arbiter came into the room. Sarge told her she had broken the rules (by using telekinesis for attempting lethal force, which would make her Psychic level) and shot her point blank.

Verdict picked himself to his feet. A giant tongue came from nowhere, dragging him off to the jungle.  Z4 decided the humans could not be trusted to remove the contamination of the ship. So he went to engines and shot at them with his plasma launcher, with the other three remaining marines still inside.

The end credits rolled! (Technically, only one marine died, but I just went with the player’s playstyle, and since it was a one-shot, decided to go for the horror movie end of ‘hang on, are they all dead?’ But no other definitive deaths were described).

The players seemed to really enjoy it, despite four of the five being new to role-play (which I was not told till later, and could not tell) and apparently were at the stall later, telling people how much they enjoyed the game. Win!

Game 3

This game featured Judge (played by a 12 year old kid), Verdict (played by the Dad, who didn’t want to or really understand RP, but did tell the character’s actions when given choices), Inquisitor and Defendant as characters. Bailiff was a Friendly.

I did the train scenario again, since I was asked for a shorter game. I shrunk it down to one carriage, full of the same kind of mutant, for added ease. They only did one beat of the narrative scene, since the Sarge decided to walk into the front of the train, and though he didn’t see the contact mine on the tracks, I decided that he saw the rebel’s ship far in the distance. Only enough to see some kind of object, but since the planet is supposed to be empty, he decided to stop the train and get the squad to look around.

We then went into a BIG action scene. Not cos the rules slowed it down or anything, but simply an involved scene with lots of situational changes based on the player’s actions. Whereas Game 1 had some quick and brutal takedowns, because the marine’s stopped the train, the rebels were able to prepare for them a little and try to take the train without damaging it, so we got into some very drawn out firefights.

Because none of the players decided to use active Sentry Duty, their passive totals weren’t enough to beat my high rolls plus decent Freakin’ Ninja scores for the rebel scouts. Bailiff was sent first out and got shot, so the Sarge barrelled past him, and he and Inquisitor went out to deal with the enemy, backed up by Josie. But they had couldn’t spot the enemy, and when they stopped firing, had no idea if they were going to attack, were moving, hiding or had fled, since Inquisitor was trying to intimidate them with his Chutzpah. Whilst those had their backs turned, two of the other scouts got into the rear of the train. Several beats opened out of Verdict and Defendant firing at them, and due to the rebel’s increased Target Numbers from using stasis pods the marines didn’t want to hit as cover, we had a proper fire-fight situation of bullets and lasers flying back and forth with nothing but aesthetic harm. Josie came in behind the rebels to shoot at them,  but they shut the airlock behind them, and one of them held the handle pushed themselves against it to stop the marines getting in. They disintegrated a pod and freed a mutant with a plasma charge. Meanwhile, the other rebels came in the other entrance, sneaking behind Inquisitor. He saw them exiting cover, so used his mech thrusters to fly at them, swinging at them, but missing them. They used his negative success levels as positive success levels to run into the train. Defendant fired at them, missed as ruptured another stasis pod, as the train filled with two clouds of cryo-gas. However, this meant nothing against Defendant’s infravision, as he shot at them. Their armour protected them… until cut both their heads off with Powerhouse and his axe. The freed mutants attacked, but had no chance against his high Powerhouse total, getting negative success levels, which got them horribly killed.

Two rebels left.  The Sarge decided to kick at the door, using a Glory Point, sending the one rebel flying backwards and breaking a mag-bench in half. The other rebel was gunned down horribly after repeated shots from Defendant. Inquisitor’s AI controlled plasma launcher fired at the rebel, but he used his Powerhouse to oppose, wielding the piece of mag-bench as a shield, which was disintegrated. Then the remaining rebel leapt at the Sarge. The other marines decided to let him have his kill. The rebel tried to smack the Sarge in the face with the butt of his rifle. The rifle was caught in one hand by the Sarge, who proceeded to use it smash the rebels’ visor open. He then slammed his knife into the rebel’s helmet. He then used the rifle to hammer the knife into the rebel’s brain.

And that was that! Again, the player’s really enjoyed it, and the kid went back to Joe to tell him about the game.

All in all, three very different games and success all round.

Chris, out.

 

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Strategy Con- Convention Rundown

Warning: this a big one.

You may hear a lot of terrible things about this con (if you hear of it all). Yes, a lot of things went very wrong in the running of it, but before I continue, I would like to say that Joe (my very close friend and stall volunteer) and I managed to have a good time, regardless, and we managed to spread interest in I Love the Corps, despite the otherwise infamous rep the event will now have forever. So it was at least a minor success on a personal level.

Originally, we were told the event would be Thursday-Sunday. The impression was also given that it was going to have a massive turnout. I was sceptical of how big a first time con could be, when Expo is the only real big one to start with, and has taken a long time to get to its size, but with the MCM name behind the con, it seemed sensible to think that they had decent contacts and publicity. I wasn’t expecting a massive con, but I was at least expecting a decent chance to promote  and a professional event.

I was directly asked to come a few months back, and was flattered by that… and well, any publicity, right? So I came along with great enthusiasm. I had originally asked to just run games to get the game out there, and was pleased to have been booked in for a ton of four hour game slots, though did think the 9 games I was down for may kill me. But plenty of chance for exposure, so this was good. Joe offered to come with me and help me attract people to the game by running a stall with promo materials, so I paid for a stall. I was kindly offered a discount for being new to the industry, which was another gratifying sign.

I started to get very worried when I still didn’t know when the trade floor opened, when we were expected to set up on Thursday etc on the week of the event, and I had e-mailed a lot of questions with little answers, and still didn’t know a whole lot till the week of the event. The original pack I was sent mentioned being able to camp, so I was set on that, and yet no details appeared. I e-mailed if and how that was happening… there was nothing. (When I got there, there was also nowhere you could camp AT ALL, so who knows where that nation came from.) So I had to book a very last minute hotel (two weeks before is last minute, by my terms) for the Thursday-Sunday. And then on the week itself, after I had asked for times, they THEN sent an event pack, apologising for reducing the event time to Friday afternoon to Sunday. Now, we didn’t have a huge stall to set-up, but we had to turn up on Thursday anyway, cos I had already booked everything. On the plus side, my game slots went down to a slightly more sane 7, and it seemed weird to start a con on Thursday anyway, so wasn’t too bothered.

We turned up on Thursday at the Telford International Centre. Security were friendly, volunteers were friendly, and the organiser personally showed us around and took us to our stall spot. He then said he’d sort our wristbands, but disappeared with being very busy. We got our wristbands sorted quickly by asking security, so no problem there. Admittedly, nobody wanted to see my ID or sheets for stall ownership I had signed and was told to bring, which was weird (and they were never asked for). We noticed that the trade floor seemed very bare, but assumed more would be setting up in the morning, so we didn’t worry. We headed to the local Spoons, had some food and stayed there till midnight, chatting and drinking, so the forced early arrival was not really a problem, though it obviously cost me more for the extra hotel night. But we made a good time of it.

FRIDAY

Since the con didn’t start till the afternoon on Friday, this was actually better for us, giving us a pleasant morning to lie in, get a massive breakfast and acquire lunch materials, breakfast, water and snacks to power us for the next few days. We’d also had plenty of time to wander about the weirdly laid out but easy enough to navigate centre of Telford. So we started the day in a good mood. This lowered a little bit, when there was absolutely no-one queuing a half hour before opening.

On the trade floor, more space was filled… mostly by empty tables, rather than stalls, though a few more had arrived. It still didn’t look exactly enticing. 1’0 clock came… and a depressingly small amount of people slowly trickled in. You could feel the tension from the traders. They were open till 5.3o, and everyone made horrible losses cos there was barely anyone to sell anything too. Fortunately, we weren’t there to sell so we were not going to make a profit anyway. Though there wasn’t exactly a lot of visitors, we still had a fair amount of role-players come over, and they were very interested in the game. Joe being in costume, and having some of the phenomenal art I paid for on display did wonders in bringing people over. Joe and I both basically spent the first hour in excited conversation, since there weren’t many things for people to do, so it was at least a positive for us. After an hour I went for my FIRST GAME SLOT!

… there was no game slot. There were four GMs, myself included in the GM room most of the time, and there was never enough people for more than two games at once (which were mostly about 3-4 players, usually bulked out by at least one GM). The GMs were all wonderful people, however, and when I had nothing to do, Simon Burley (aka Uncle Simon), a veteran solo game designer called me over to play a small supers game whilst we were waiting for people. It was a fun game with three of us playing… two of us were GMs. Still, I had an awesome time playing with fellow GM, ‘Uncle Steve’, trading super hero one-liners and being well meaning, but utterly catastrophic super heroes. The game was designed to be a short intro, so we waited for other players. People came in ones and twos and didn’t play, but we did have plenty of chats with people. Uncle Simon was particularly ace at designating himself as meet and greet for the room, and introduced people to all the GMs and the games, and was very gracious in encouraging people to try games other than his own. Robin, the other GM, was also a lovely guy, and we had a great camaraderie in the room. He was at least locked down running an intense game for most of the afternoon.

Joe came to the room after the trade floor closed, and told me had only seen about a dozen new people to talk to in the three and a half hours since I had last seen him. Still, he had made friends and contacts with nearly all the traders nearby, and has got me some new contacts and found many potential backers. We went to grab some quick food before my next potential game slot, and very much struggled to find anywhere, as the food stall in the centre was in the closed trade area. The centre of Telford had a complete lack of open fast food shops (being in the closing shopping centre) and chip shops so we ended up back at Wetherspoons. When we returned, no people turned up for a game bar a guy waiting to play D&D, so we and the other GMs jumped in on that. A few more people turned up, so two of the GMs split off to game with them, whilst four of us had an AMAZING D&D game run by Uncle Steve. We played till 2.00.am and had a storm.

SATURDAY

As Joe and I approached the centre, just before nine, we were glad to see a giant crowd. In the hour I was in the trade hall to start with, it was still near dead. Apparently, most of the giant crowd never got further than the tournaments they had come for, leaving straight after (and apparently some weren’t let into the rest of the event when they tried!) Still, though the trade floor was pretty quiet, when I went to GM, there was actually a fair amount of people in the open gaming area. I went to the Role Play Room and almost immediately had a lovely guy who had come to my table and had booked to play. Admittedly, he was the only person I ever saw who had booked to play, but he had looked up the Kickstarter, and his enthusiasm was clear. We sat nattering for half an hour as he dove into mechanical questions. Very few people came into the room again, but when they did, Simon showed them all the games, and encouraged two other people to play ILTC with me. All three of them really enjoyed it, and the two who joined in apparently went back to the floor to grab fliers later (and one of them is on the Facebook group). So that was a success. I learned that the game slot times were not going to work, but did my best to encourage people who wandered in to come back, and eventually got a second game with four mates Joe had sent my way, and another guy who had checked in a few times to see if there was enough for a game group. Game 2 went down a STORM (I will go into these games more in a second blog). I found out from Joe that the initial four had never role-played, which astounded me, cos they really got into it, so another success there. My third game didn’t happen; the group I had expecting played in another game when Ed of ‘Shades of Vengeance’ turned up to showcase his own games- he ended up pledging to my Kickstarter just from a brief 30 second chat, so thumbs up to him for doing it. One of those players, a lovely guy called Andre came back to play, even when his friends were too knackered. I only had him and Joe, so decided it wasn’t enough for ILTC, so instead I decided to invent a nonsensical role-playing game off of the top of my head. Hilarity ensued as they played ‘Bionic Superhuman Caterers Division.’ Andre’s friends turned up just as we were finishing, but it was approaching midnight, and I wasn’t up for running another game. But still, it was a pretty successful day.

SUNDAY

It seemed even more dead than the Friday, but Joe still managed to find the odd interested party. Meanwhile, I killed the morning following Uncle Simon’s advice, and wrote down the core ideas for the game I had invented the previous night (now dubbed ‘ANOTHER EXCITING EPISODE OF…’), so it can be referred to later. A kid (probably about 12) and his Dad that Joe had sent my way came around about midday. The Dad didn’t get RP at all or really want to learn, but his son was an RPer, and Dad was very gracious in sitting in with him to play. Simon joined in at the start so we could play. And then Andre returned with one of the friends who had wanted to play, so Simon pulled out to entertain some other people, and we had a phenomenally fun game. (Kids play AMAZING Sergeants.) I might have gone slightly over the 1 hour game Simon promised the Dad… but he didn’t seem bothered, since his son had a storm. I finished that game at 3. My last 3-7 slot was clearly not going to happen, so after I gave Joe a late break, I stayed in the room for an hour before I decided to pack up and we went home early, but on a high.

So, hardly the perfect con, but I ran three games which seemed universally enjoyed, and got to introduce a majority of them to the hobby, and for that, though the convention seems to have been a big failure, it was for me, a personal success, and all the role-play GMs also had a good time in a similar way. Got to make many new friends and contacts. (I will go more into the games for those that care in another blog.)