Wednesday, 9 December 2015

"Get to da chopper!" Again!

So I decided to run a game of Night's Black Agents at Dragonmeet this year: I chose to re-run my original Operation Blue Tempest one shot. I managed to garner four players, including James Semple, who is the composer of the official soundtracks for the various Gumshoe games published by Pelgrane Press. James was the only player who had any experience of Gumshoe before.

The premise of the adventure was exactly the same as before. Readers will want to refresh their memories about what happened last time I ran this, and what the mission objectives were.

I had generated two more PCs in case I ended up with a six man team for the mission, but ultimately they were:

  • Major Mike Wohlraab, a mercenary from Zimbabwe
  • Steven Saluccio, an American intrusion and demolitions expert
  • Jezz Valovich, a Serbian hacker, now a US national
  • Darius Templeton, an American fixer employer by the Parasol Corporation

The team flew in by helicopter as before, into the teeth of the storm. Valovich decided to use the helicopter's comms and his own equipment to listen for radio signals from the island, as they could see no lights on. They immediately picked up an encrypted transmission from the ground to a satellite, although it was being interrupted by the storm. Valovich identified the encryption as one generated by Chinese military software. The team decided to home in on the signal, roping into the jungle about 300 yards from the source. The helicopter was told to circle the island and stay in the air for the duration.

Major Mike Wohlraab
Progressing through the jungle, they came upon the source of the signal, a camouflaged satellite dish, of Chinese manufacture. A buried cable led them to the edge of the Parasol research compound. Here the group noted the large hole in the fence, but instead chose to approach the gate, where Saluccio picked the lock. Entering the compound, they investigated the guard hut next to the gate first, discovering the half-eaten body of a guard. This freaked them out, and they decided to put Wohlraab in the nearby watchtower to keep an eye on things with his binoculars, while the rest approach the garages.

NB - At this point Wohlraab commenced with a remarkable series of '1' results on his Sense Trouble, failing to notice vampire activity both inside and outside the perimeter fence. The weather conditions must have been horrendous!

Saluccio broke into the garage building, and investigated the two SUVs there, finding one unlocked with the keys in the ignition. At this point one of the vampires dropped onto him from the roof. Saluccio made his Stability roll, and managed to wound it with his knife before Templeton finished it off with his pistol. Templeton failed his Stability check at sight of the dead vampire in a guard's uniform.

Leaving the guard's walkie talkie, the group decided to make for the generator hut. Wohlraab rejoined them, though not before spotting activity in another tower. They decided not to approach the tower, but broke into the generator room, where they discovered a half crazed guard who almost shot Saluccio before Valovich rolled high on his Shrink and calmed him down. The guard explained the circumstances of the outbreak in the labs and that personnel were turning into vampires. He was able to give them details on the number of personnel on the base, allowing them to keep a running total of who was not accounted for. Valovich decided to medicate the guard (called 'Zach') to keep him calm.

At this point Templeton, who was on guard outside the generator, noticed two figures near the boat house. He started to approach them, which was when Wohlraab managed to get the generator up and running, thereby illuminating Templeton with the perimeter security lights. The two figures turned out to be more vampires, who had been chowing down on another guard. They immediately attacked. As with the previous game, charging at spec ops folk armed with assault rifles turned out to be suicidal for the vampires, although one of them managed to pull out a gun and shoot at the PCs, which freaked them out some more!
Steven Saluccio

Another vampire popped up on the roof of the lab, intending to jump onto Wohlraab while he was focused on the first targets, but it was seen and hit by Valovich (heavy use of Shooting pools in this scene). It used the skylight on the roof to escape back into the main building. Having secured the boat house and noted the presence of a speed boat (there was a discussion about whether they could potentially escape the hurricane in it, but Outdoor Survival told them otherwise), the team entered the main complex through a skylight and began conducting a room to room search of the ground floor.

At this point they heard someone calling for help, but decided to ignore it entirely, focusing on securing other parts of the complex, and hunting for the wounded vampire creature. This proved costly, as the cries were cut off abruptly. Eventually, they discovered the vampire devouring the luckless Professor Melluish, who had come out from hiding when the lights went back on. The last vampire was duly dispatched.

Note - for this game I moved the servers with the research data into the basement. The previous group had accessed the data on the ground floor, avoiding the lab level, and then destroyed the complex with C4.

Jezz Valovich

The team approached the elevator to the basement level cautiously. Saluccio went inside first, using the security card they had taken off Melluish. He decided to check the hatch on the top of the elevator and revealed a pack of 10 virus-infected monkeys clinging to the elevator cables at the top of the lift shaft (Stability check!) An opposed Athletics test allowed him to get a flash bang through the hatch before the monkeys could get to it. This bright light blinded them, allowing Saluccio and Wohlraab to wipe the primates out with burst fire (more Shooting points were burned).

The lab level was a cakewalk after that. The group accessed the servers, discovering the treachery of Doctor Grainger and his relationship with Tara Melluish. They also found that Melluish himself was being held on the island against his will by Parasol. Templeton denied all knowledge.

Note - At this point in the game the Templeton player went to answer a call of nature. The other players decided to see if they could drop a radio-armed bomb into Templeton's rucksack while he was busy helping with wiring up the basement with explosives. Valovich made a hard Filch check to do so. He and the rest of the team agreed on 'African cocktail' as the code phrase to detonate the explosive.

Darius Templeton
Leaving the bunker, they noted the storm was getting worse. The Parasol helicopter pilots contacted Valovich, asking permission to land, but were told to stay in the air at all costs. The group took both SUVs (hot wiring the other one) and drove out of the compound, detonating their charges in epic fashion as they left. 

They travelled with lights off, using their low light goggles. This was enough to spot the palm tree that had fallen across the trail on the way to the villa. Wohlraab jumped out and wired up the tree trunk with thermite. While he was working on it, he finally made a Sense Trouble check to see two glowing blue eyes peering at him from the jungle. These turned into a huge, super vampire, the size of a small car, which spat acid at the major, but failed to hit him. The major jumped over the bonnet of the SUV and detonated the explosives as the creature rushed him. This knocked it flying, but also wrote off the lead SUV.

Note - when I built this monster, which was a more mature version of the other vampires, being the first person infected, I made it a lot tougher, but also more vulnerable to fire than the more immature specimens. Hence the thermite took out about 75% of its health, and negated its other defences against bullets.

The vampire was still fighting, however, and got back to its feet, charged again, and jumped onto the roof of the disabled SUV. It spat again at Wohlraab, hitting him but not getting through his body armour. He also passed his Health check to see if he was infected by virus. It was at this point that Saluccio noted that the only person left in the damaged SUV was Templeton, who was trying to re-start the damaged engine. He yelled 'African cocktail into his mike, in the hopes that Valovich would detonate the bomb in Templeton's rucksack and kill the monster. Valovich bottled it, instead opting for a called shot to the monster's head, which, combined with a 6 on his damage roll, was enough to end it.

On the roof of the lab...

The team jumped into the undamaged SUV and proceeded at break neck speed to the Melluish villa. They contacted the helicopter, asking it to pick them up from the villa. Arriving at the villa, they burst in to find Tara and Doctor Grainger. The doctor yelled "Don't shoot!" whereupon Wohlraab hit him with a taser. Saluccio then jumped forward and clubbed Tara into unconsciousness!

Both survivors were fitted with restraints and had hoods pulled over their heads, before being escorted to the waiting chopper. The helicopter lifted off just in time, racing away ahead of the hurricane with about 30 minutes to spare. As the mercenaries began to relax, however, they heard the noise of Grainger breaking out of his restraints (Stability tests again!) By this stage the operatives' pools were getting low - Stability and Shooting were gone or virtually gone in some cases. Some shooting occurred inside the helicopter as the Grainger vampire got loose, but it ended with Wohlraab stabbing it through the eye with his combat knife, saying in an appropriately Austrian accent "An eye for an eye, motherf--ker." The vampire plunged out of the helicopter, whereupon Saluccio unilaterally tossed Tara out too (passing his Stability test to do so). The operatives then settled back to smoke cigars or file their fingernails with knives as the helicopter set course for Florida...

I really enjoyed running this game again, with a new set of players. It has been a great exercise in getting to know the NBA rules. There are still some areas I was a bit unsure of, but I'm becoming increasingly familiar with Gumshoe. This was my third game. I will definitely use Gumshoe again for future investigative games, and it still holds up for one shot horror scenarios like this. 

The players were very complementary of the system and got into character with their various personas, which were unashamedly based on action heroes from the movies. I found this provided an additional level of role playing fun which the players were more than happy to rise to. It was also worth moving the data servers into the basement, setting up the encounter with the monkeys. I deliberately kept the interiors vague, as I didn't want that stage of the adventure to turn into a room by room exploration game, which would have slowed the scenario down considerably. All in all, a great second outing for this scenario.

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