Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

2029: Los Culebras Feroces on South Highway One

So Earlburt came up this past weekend and was really keen on continuing with his best 2029 characters. These are the champions from the big Team Amateur Night campaign we ran and some of them have a Hot Shot or two in their garages. At the conclusion of the main part of the “American Idol” style tournament, I declared that his characters were brought to L.A. by zeppelin for some special promotional work. When they got out there, they were given complementary vehicles for the duration of their visit: a Chameleon, a Hussar, and a Timeshifter. While driving around the city, the driver of the Timeshifter ended up taking a wrong turn and having to run the Gauntlet. Earlburt assumed this situation had been set up by the sponsors as it seemed to be too much of a coincidence when the news copters from his characters’ network just so happened to be on hand to film the mayhem.

Now Earlburt took the time to write a paragraph or two of character background info on his four characters. I responded with my “Rule of Six” writeup for their adventure location. So I had characters and I had a setting… now what? No matter what I decided, I worried that it would come off like a railroady cliche of some kind. In order to alleviate this feeling… I came up with six ideas for the session:

  1. Player character’s love interest is kidnapped.
  2. Player characters witness the kidnapping of a sympathetic nonplayer-character.
  3. A large bounty is placed on the head of a nearby outlaw.
  4. The players are specifically hired by a wealthy individual to locate a person that has been kidnapped.
  5. As #4, but the missing person actually wanted to leave.
  6. The players are hired to recover a hostage, but it is totally a setup rigged to produce good footage for television.

You know… randomly choosing a railroady cliche just seemed fairer somehow. In order to help stop obsessing about planning for the session, I decided to wait until the night of the game to make the roll to determine the basic plot outline for the session. I just came up with some characters and locations that I would be able to use regardless of the specific plot… and then I tried to stop worrying about it.

Well… the night for the game arrived and Earlburt’s characters were relaxing at a diner when some cyclists showed up. Earlurt’s role playing led to some predictable friction, but as things warmed toward a showdown, an extremely posh Bombardier pulls up and the chauffeur invited the leaders of both groups to go for a ride. (I rolled situation #5.) He offers twenty thousand dollars to the group that could rescue a music video starlet. The man couldn’t say where she might be at the moment, but he says that he expects that there is a Mexican Jefe that will try to smuggle her south of the border if the players can’t track her down soon.

This lead to a brief investigative sequence as Earlburt learned that it was the Los Culebras Feroces that had the hostage. He drove through their section of the city and hired some skater dregs to sniff out any rumors. He considered teaming up with his cyclist “friends” for a crazy head on attack of the gang’s underground parking garage base, but that was just too crazy. Finally, he called up his studio for help. He offered to make a big distraction while the studio performed a commando raid with Handgunner-2 dudes brought in by helicopter. The studio was not successful in recovering the starlet… but they did manage to flush out the gang’s vehicles– they were forced to make a premature run for Mexico. With the helicopter damaged in the assault, only Earlburt’s characters are in a position to pursue! (Amazing how it all just worked out that way, eh?)

The Vigilante is about to lose control and roll…. Incredibly, the guy with the portable flamethrower misses his second shot at the extremely vulnerable Chameleon.

This all lead to a monster road duel. The hostage was in a Vacationer van that was being escorted by a Texan, a Vigilante, and an Econobox. I improvised another d6 table on the spot to help determine what the pedestrians in the low-riders’ pickup beds had. The Texan had a guy with a tripod RR and an SMG guy with Body Armor. The Vigilante and the Econobox each had a guy with six grenades and body armor and another guy with a portable flamethrower.

I didn’t expect it to take long to play this out as we dispensed with phased movement for the entire combat. (If anything was potentially lost in the translation there, I simply ruled or hand-waved Earlburt’s favor under the assumption that the gang members had slightly less initiative than successful duelists.) The action was colorful and violent… but I had to roll for to-hit about three times as much as I would have otherwise due to the extra handgunners. Still, the grenade rules from Compendium 2e gave satisfactory results even if they were a tad time consuming. It was a pleasant surprise to discover that the area effect rules were tailor made for using a VMG to take out pedestrians firing from pickup beds. (I had never applied the area effect rules in anger– in all my years of Car Wars gaming, no two pedestrians have ever dared stand within one inch of each other on the game map!)

Earburt gradually eliminated the pedestrians and low-riders. The Vacationer finally expended most all of its ammo. (Earlburt’s ace-in-the-hole was the extra magazine in the Timeshifter.) The gang ended up offering the hostage up to Earlburt’s characters– their terms were only that the asked the players to leave the salvage and let them live. Earlburt cheerfully accepted the deal and then reorganized the driver and gunner arrangements in his vehicles to accommodate the new passenger. She revealed that she was in fact trying to escape the high pressure life that the studio subjected her to. The characters didn’t care though, and took her back to “Mr. Big” for the twenty thousand dollars that they were promised.

I’m not sure how successful I was as a game master in all of this. I think I did manage to come up with a passable initial frame given everything that we had played out before and perhaps some of the odd loose ends of this session can be reframed into something interesting for next time. But that’s the great thing about role-playing– in an ongoing campaign, you’re not on the hook to figure everything out in one shot. At the very least, Earlburt’s characters will get to brag about their encounter with a music video star….

8 responses to “2029: Los Culebras Feroces on South Highway One

  1. earlburt December 10, 2012 at 9:11 am

    With limited time, you can’t really afford not to railroad. And I could have walked away from the studio mogul’s offer. But there’s an implied contract that the player be a good sport about what’s offered by a GM. I don’t experience that as railroading. At least not in any pejorative sense.

    And of course because it’s CAR WARS, every role-playing scenario is pretty much going to end in a road duel. And that right there kind of limits the potential kinds of adventures that are possible, and limits the characters’ responses to them. When everything is hurtling towards an eventual combat, the wide-openness of a more normal RPG in an ongoing campaign collapses a bit.

    That’s fine, because (for me anyway) one of the most important elements of the role-play dimension is to add color and meaning to the tactical situations. It turns the combat into an extension of roleplay. And since I’m really a role-player at my core, rather than a miniatures or board gamer, that’s all good stuff.

    I did not know there was a chart dictating the actual scenario. But once its was underway, I thought sure something like scenario 6 was happening. So, the bikers coming in and messing with Weezie… that was the setup for scenario 2 or just local color?

    • jeffro December 10, 2012 at 9:24 am

      The bikers were just local color… but with the potential to either interfere or coordinate with your efforts as required by the situation. I wanted to get across the idea that these gangs have both some semblance of a code and also that they serve a purpose for the poor saps that have to survive outside of the fortress towns. (He was arguing with Weezie to get more “donations” in order to “invest” in a couple of replacement bikes. Without them, Weezie’s diner could be threatened by other gangs– there are certainly no cops to protect her. If you had been dead set on smearing the cyclists, Weezie would have ultimately spilled coffee all over you the next day… and the day after that, her place might even have been turned into a smoking crater.)

      Ultimately… I was more interested in introducing the studios as having an ominous undertone. No telling whats going to Los Culebras Feroces now that they are diminished so greatly.

  2. earlburt December 10, 2012 at 9:29 am

    During the game, I didn’t know how balanced/unbalanced that combat was. Now, looking over the Texan, Vigilante, Econobox and Vacationer, I think it was pretty even on paper (especially with the Timeshifter still damaged from the Gauntlet scenario). Throughout the game, both teams brought about 5D worth of weapons to bear each turn. The gang used a little more firepower. But we had that first free round of attack, and generally better to-hit rolls.

    The Texan probably should have slammed on the brakes to start, dropped his spikes, and then used his accel. 10 to catch up and harass us from behind. His PFT ped would have been relevant sooner that way too.

    Even though they did slow everything down, the peds were really fun. The more so because it took me four or five turns to realize that they were a big enough threat to warrant targeting.

    • jeffro December 10, 2012 at 10:08 am

      Road tactics require an entirely different mindset than arena dueling… and I have to say… I just don’t grok the tactics required to do well on the freeway.

      • earlburt December 10, 2012 at 2:15 pm

        Road tactics are less elegant, because there are fewer options. And that magnifies the millenia old goal of combat of concentrating mximum firepower on the narrowest units of time and space. There are few ways to block such contentration in a linear environment.

        When front armor got critically thin, I dropped the weak vehicle behind the others. That removed the firepower, but protected the asset. If there’s room to maneuver and screen friendlies, it becomes possible to treat a team kind of like a pool of collective armor, rather than discreet bits of armor.

        Dropped weapons aren’t that big a deal in a road duel if they don’t cover at least half the road, unless an opponent is very close. Maneuver just isn’t that hard when there’s a full ten inches or so to respond. I think that’s why so many big rig designs have so many dropped weapons– they need that much coverage to be an effective deterrent.

        While simplistic, I still find road duels fun. And I like how vehicles can drop out when life is threatened– especially autos in the rearward team. But even up front, a vehicle that isn’t a primary target can always escape by slowing down and going off road. It sometimes reminds me of naval combat in the age of sail. Decisive battles only happened when both sides stayed put long enough for it to be decisive. Escape was usually a tactical option if something started to go bad.

      • jeffro December 10, 2012 at 2:27 pm

        Ah… I see now. If I had moved the Vigilante up and forward, I could have kept it alive longer. Also… I could have broken your continuous fire bonuses. Interesting.

  3. RogerBW December 10, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    I think that the game should work that way: just as the skilled arena duellist in the world may not have the road-fighting mindset, it’s reasonable to demand different skills from the players too.

  4. Pingback: Scorcher Duel at Kettering Arena « Jeffro’s Car Wars Blog

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