Thursday, October 13, 2011

End of the World 2011, Day Three

This entry is written by Scott, the judge in the first day's session.

This is a review of the third day of EOW 2011. Since this is Rob's blog, and it would be a little difficult perhaps for Rob to review his own scenario I will give my own review and send it to Rob. My name is Scott. I have been gaming with Rob for a number of years. This is I believe the second EOW we have attended together.

Robs scenario was ostensibly a Morrow Project scenario. This would be Rob's idea of Morrow Project. Gone are the bolt holes, the vehicles, the weapons and equipment. We played a team of seven science personnel who were dug up and moved to a "Morrow” facility before being awakened from cryogenic sleep. In previous blogs, Rob explained the basics of the Morrow Project background. So I will not waste your time or try your patience re-explaining that. Suffice to say the project intended to cryogenically freeze people who would emerge after a world shattering nuclear war for the purpose of assisting the population in regaining our technology and civilization. An attempt to stave off a dark age.

When my team awakened we found ourselves in an isolation ward. We could speak to people only through a two-way viewscreen, or we could go physically meet them only if we were wearing sealed, armored, suits provided by our hosts. The people running the facility explained that a war had occurred but it did not involve vast numbers of nuclear weapons. It did involve biological weapons and the atmosphere was contaminated with things that would kill us as we have no immunities to them. So when ever we left our sealed room we had to wear the armored bio suit. The suit incidentally looked like the armor worn in the videogame "Halo". Which is exactly where Rob got the picture. There were a number of images including a picture of an aircraft used in another wargame which saved time in description and hand drawing of these items, and in my opinion added to the flavor of the scenario.

Our keepers explained that they are Morrow Project personnel who have awakened before us and our operating the base. They have had no contact with prime base (as usual). They say we have awakened 300 years after the war. In that time an alien spacecraft came to earth and someone shot it down with a nuclear ICBM (yah, go team!). The aliens in the flying saucer survived. They were low tech aliens armed with crude firearms. They were the usual bug eyed monsters of the 1950s. Spiky skin that could puncture our bio suits. Unpleasant demeanor, demonstrated by their tendency to kill humans, rape humans, and eat humans. Not the sort of fellows one would be likely to invite to Thanksgiving dinner.

After our briefing we are equipped with armored bio suits, weapons (which only fire if one is wearing a bio suit glove) and sent via troop carrying aircraft to hunt the evil aliens. The aircraft is capable of vertical takeoff and landing. So it is an armored, high tech helicopter with a big rear ramp door for the troops to enter and exit. It also has a prodigious armament of machine gun and missiles, none of which are operated by the troops inside, but are controlled by the pilots and copilot from their sealed and separate flight deck up front. This becomes important later.

We hit the ground and went on our first bug hunt. The visor of the bio suit is a fancy electronic head up display that is heat sensing, light intensifying, shows your ammunition status, and probably with a knowledgeable user will automatically pick your nose for you in combat. We were warned that any breach of our bio suit will be detected by our support transport and by the base. We moved through a world that looked barren. The visor made everything Brown. We moved toward ruined buildings and took fire from primitive black powder muskets. The aliens weapons appeared to be a large bore led bullet firing long gun. We shot back with assault rifles, machine guns, and grenade launchers. One of our number even had a flamethrower. Not a fair fight. But then I approve of not fighting fair when my ass is getting shot at. Eventually, we killed all the evil aliens in the buildings assigned to us. During the cleanup, our flamethrower guy went into a building where three aliens were dead and found out that one of the "dead" aliens was alive enough to shoot him in the back of the helmet with a pistol. An alarm went off that we all heard indicating that that player's character had suffered a suit breach. Shortly after the alarm the character fell unconscious. We brought the character back to the transport and flew away congratulating ourselves on a job well done despite one man being injured.

It should be understood that the Morrow Project persons in charge divided our group into two fire teams with four people per team. I was in team “A” and the man who was injured was in team “1”. Yes I know it is an odd way to number the teams, but one must consider that this was the third day of gaming and we were all a little tired and punchy. The players appeared happy to go with any idea who's only merit was "damn, that would be funny". The fact that we were to separate fire teams becomes important because the player decided he did not trust anyone outside of his fire team and therefore did not impart to those of us in team "A" any information about what happened to him when his helmet was shot.

So, unbeknownst to my player character, the guy that got shot in the helmet saw that the three aliens in the building were not actually aliens but were humans. The helmet visor was apparently editing what was seen. It was a virtual reality visor. It edited out humans and replaced them with images of spiky evil rapist murdering flesh eating aliens. Unfortunately, the player that was in the building tends to make things very complicated and does not communicate simply. So, instead of telling those few people he did trust "gosh them aliens that we shot actually are human. I saw them as human when my helmet got shot", he whispered something to his fellow players about “VR helmets” and said little else. As stated earlier, he also did not share this information with anyone from the other team including my character. So, I as a player and I is a character did not know anything was amiss at this point.

On our way to the second mission, this player (let's call him “head shot”, which indeed we did since our keepers required us to come up with combat Nick names) got up in the transport halfway to the target and pulled out two hand grenades. He did not pull the pins, but he did have the grenades one in each hand. He walked toward the front of the aircraft. He told the judge that he was going to lunge forward and hold the grenades in front of both pilots. My character saw him walking forward with the grenades and realized that the pins were still in. I readied my machine gun and told him to stop, or I would fire. He looked at me and said "they're not human, they are the aliens". At this point, the judge stopped play and clarified that the aircraft had a sealed compartment in back where the troops ride, and a separate flight deck for the pilot and his assistant. This was an unfortunate oversight on the part of the judge. He fixed it by backing up play so that the character with the grenades never pulled them out in the first place because he could not have threatened the pilot as there was a bulkhead in the way. However, I is a player now had information that my character did not.

It is always the challenge in role-playing to play only with information that your character possesses. I have been role-playing for 35 years. I am capable of separating player information from character information but it is not and easy thing to do. My attention for the rest of the scenario was divided as I constantly did mental gymnastics trying to keep straight what my character knew and how that would affect his perception of what was going on. Alas, until we get Star Trek holo decks we will be stuck with this kind of problem.

So we hit the deck on the second mission. Team one (the team with headshot in it) went left toward the buildings. Team “A” (my team) went right. My character did not see the leader of team one take his helmet off and then immediately go unconscious.  All of the radio traffic regarding the team leaders suit breach was on team ones frequency. We in team “A” ran toward our objective building using covering fire and only knew something had gone wrong the other team when we heard headshot announce that the mission was aborted. Headshot was not the leader of team one. Pandemonium broke out over the airwaves. During this confusion our team leader of team “A” got shot and went unconscious (which seemed to be the most common reaction to any problem with the bio suit. Something that would have appeared odd to my character, but I did not know that team ones leader took his helmet off and immediately passed out. So, I the player said "hmm”. While my character was oblivious). Then I got shot and went unconscious. 

Eventually the transport came to pick up team one. Headshot repaid them for this kindness by again trying to crawl into the pilot section of the aircraft with a hand grenade. The pilot pushed a button and headshot went unconscious, falling out of the door he had just entered. In the meantime the assistant pilot/medic was in the rear of the aircraft trying to tend to the team leader when another member of team one grappled with her and then shot her with a rocket propelled grenade. The grenade was fired so close that it did not arm. But, it made one hell of a bruise and knocked medic out. It also came to rest on the ground under one of the engines. 

Fortunately, it did not go off when the transport finally lifted to pick up team A. During this part of the scenario another player who had a laptop computer handy brought up the theme music from "Benny Hill". It was deliciously appropriate.

Eventually I woke up in the hospital at the base. I recovered and returned to the isolation room with my team. While I was away, the team members examined their injuries and the bio suits. They discovered a needle at the back of the collar on the suit and surmised correctly that this was an automatic drug system to disable them by remote control. They did not tell anyone this information either. But, it is plain to everyone that we were being watched and listened to while in the isolation room.

Given the odd behavior of the team our unit was relieved of combat duties for a while. The keepers specifically asked my character watch the behavior of other team members and report any anomalies. This put my character on alert as it seemed to be a tactic that would be used at a POW camp. I was being asked to snitch to the guards on my fellow inmates, not very Morrow Project behavior. I decided that my character could now come suspicious of the motives of our keepers. We asked for and were given permission to go outside the base to practice with our firearms. My character had higher skill than most of the other characters in our team in handling a rifle. So I told the judge that my character was assisting in the training of each team member by drawing in the dirt their target and showing them where each shot went. At the point the guards lost interest I wrote messages to each team member. They wrote messages back and thus we were able to communicate all of our concerns and form a plan.

The third mission found us delivered to a small village full of "evil aliens". As soon as we were away from the transport we took cover and the best electrician in our group disabled the visor of each of our team mates except one. We went forward to the village quickly found that the aliens were indeed human. We got into the village and the same electrician disabled the alarms on our helmets allowing us to remove them. We made a deal with the villagers. They lay down and pretended to be dead while we walked through the village shooting over their heads. Then we called for the transport to take us back to the base.
The scenario ended with a battle in the base in which we to the armory and expanded from there killing every alien we could find. The end battle was quick run and rightly so.

Overall, the scenario was run well. The pacing was reasonable. The plot was clever. In retrospect it reminded me of the movie "they live" in which the hero sees the aliens living among people only when he is wearing special sunglasses. Even more clever than plot was the judging.  Rob did a good job of distracting the players so that they would not think to closely, too soon, about the possibility that the helmets were not showing reality and that they were indeed working for the bad guys.

All in all a good strong ending to the three day game Fest.

Movie for the night: Dylan Dog (horrible, just horrible)

1 comment:

  1. In hindsight, I should have had a blueprint of the transport. I knew the aliens would not use a craft where the humans could access the cockpit from the inside, but I never told that to the players, so the one guy "Head Shot" didn't know he couldn't do it. I don't know how I could have handled it differently, either. The player's plan came out of nowhere too; another problem when you've got a situation where the judge is particularly adversarial in terms of the narrative.


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