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Monday, 13 May 2013

Fates Worse Than Death: The Campaign, Part 1, Session 1

Today began my campaign of Fates Worse Than Death. Yes, unlike the one-shot, it's a campaign now!
Admittedly, it was a short session, and two of the players were missing. Well, actually, one of them came, but mostly to tell us he's not feeling well and hasn't had the time to read the system. Of course, the former was far more of a problem.
So he created an Otaku shut-in to see the system, and left him as a NPC. He's going to play something else since the next session. I think I've got the NPC somewhere, though.
BTW, Shut-ins are the only "career"* that actually become more powerful for switching to the Addict "career". But let's tell it everything since the beginning.
Milford, better known as Speedy, was contemplating gloomily his non-existing love prospects. Women tended to see him as their friend, period.
That's when he heard about a power outage in a part of Freaks territory, not far from where "his" Black trader was located. He reasoned it's a good opportunity to maybe get some shut-in to talk to him and becoming a client.
After all, they needed some way to order their food.
He passed a hot Freak in a latex costume who-like a good Freak - broke the norm and winked at him. He chose to ignore what he assumed was teasing, but she intercepted him.
"Aren't you a Runner?"
Yeah, he wore every distinguishing mark he could think of in order to advertise. So he nodded.
"I need you to deliver a letter."
The address was a shut-in in the area under power outage. It was a short note, not even closed, saying "Ha-ha-ha, who's out if Net now? Dorotheya"
Thing is, Dorotheya was a troll, always had been, and didn't plan to change. She had left her shut-in family to join the Freaks, where her trick was based around her near-legendary abilities to keep the people under sway, and to make the visitors believe a higher power is addressing them. So, shut-ins were behind her, but she kept in contact with a few from a forum she had been logged on. She even had a phone number of one of them, an Otaku. Needless to say, she teased the poor guy at every moment.
Why? When they had met, they were on even ground. As far as she knew, he was still virgin, and she was getting better and better at the Freak sexual skills. To her, that was reason enough to tease the guy. And she knew he's almost dependent on the Net.
She had sent him an SMS earlier, with the same text. But since he didn't answer, she started to suspect his battery might be down. And she had 50 cents to spare for some gentle trolling. OTOH, Speedy was more than willing to take money in order to go where he was heading anyway!
So, he went to the block where the shut-ins were getting restless, and rang on the guy's door. The poor Otaku wasn't expecting anyone, and was rightfully suspicious.
"Got a delivery for you, mister. Bringing you a letter from a friend!"
"I ain't got friends sending me letters".
"She said her name is Dorotheya."
Thing is, the guy had just received a message from her, and didn't see why she wouldn't send another SMS.
"BS. Go away, you're not tricking me into opening that door!"
"Listen, I'm gonna push the letter under the door! Got to deliver it, that's all."
The otaku was kind enough to open the cat's door for him. When he read it, he actually saw the same words he had just read.
His conclusions were that 1) D. is a troll, and 2) someone who's bringing stuff around was waiting in front of his door, while he was getting hungrier by the moment...
Long story short, he hired him to go the a pizza place and bring him one of their pizzas. He didn't know their phone, so lacking Internet had severely restricted his ability to keep himself fed... And, he noticed, employing this guy was actually cheaper than their delivery rates!
(Typical for Runners, and that's the kind of job Speedy was looking for from the get-go).
So, he decided to give him money to buy a family-sized pizza. Before risking the cash, he sent an SMS to D.
"Do you trust this guy?"
"Yes", she answered, then added emoticons with hearts on whim. Of course, our Otaku got the wrong conclusion. Again.
"Hey, you should've told me you're her boyfriend!", he called to Speedy, and actually opened the door to give him the money. The Runner was a bit surprised.
"Me? I've only known her for a day!"
"That's been rather fast, then", agreed the Otaku, somewhat surprised himself by how fast D. had hooked up with that guy. Then he looked at his athletic frame and sighed inwardly.

On the way from the pizza place, though, the Runner heard a scream from a dark alley, followed by someone falling. Confident he could handle it, he went and saw 3 kids. They looked like 6, 8 and 15 yo, and the biggest one was pressing the head of a man to the ground with some cloth. The other two had grappled him by the feet.
"Hey! Leave the man at peace!"
OMG, I thought.
"Hey", the smallest one turned to him. "Get lost. We're busy!"
Sure they were. They had to bring the guy to the mental installer.
"Let go of him, or I'm going to slap you", Speedy answered and went to cuff the boy to teach him some manners.
The boy pulled out a shif, and stabbed him under the ribs.
A quick explanation for those of you not overly familiar with FWTD. There's a serial killer in the setting that takes people alive in order to download his mind over theirs. Guess who the three boys were? Yes, they all would respond to the name Colin.
Speedy had basically got a wound that could kill some more frail people before he had pulled his knife. Worse, he seemed almost as good as him, and the other two were pulling out knives.
So he ran away, and only then realised he had met a Colin.
The serial killer chased him, but didn't manage to get him. Besides, they/he were in a hurry to get the guy to the mental installer. After all, to properly reproduce, Colin needs to check his victim's relatives, habits and so on, in order to avoid a too brisque change. That's an investment of time and energy he/they didn't want to go to waste.
Speedy managed to get to a Black med, who stitched him up ("Man, this guy was trying to kill you!", "Yeah, I ran away!"). And then he went to deliver the now-cold pizza. There were shut-ins assembling in front of the house, and one of them wanted to buy it. Speedy refused, feeling honour-bound to deliver it (and yes, he has managed not to drop it, being at the top of your running skill helps!)
The hungry otaku only started complaining when he was halfway through the food. When Speedy got out, he only noticed a crowd marching through the streets towards some tent. So he followed.
Dorotheya had passed around. She saw a crowd forming, ready to start riotting...
"Hey, audience!"
So she started talking to them. The city's officials should hire her - she told them life is good, there ain't anything to be scared of, and that there's an amazing performance about to begin in that tent over there. They listened, enthralled, and thought they're hearing voices telling them it's all right.
Some turned around and went home, most followed her. This was the group Speedy had seen, and he followed as well.
Once inside the tent (because "I know her" worked once again), he felt under the influence of her voice. Life was good, as she had persuaded everybody already.
And, she claimed, we should all love each other! Before people had questioned how, a couple Freaks went to the stage and showed them the exact methods.
In short, an orgy began, with even Speedy getting some action. So, the group of shut-ins actually…got into it, and had fun, as directed.
Sounds harsh? If she wanted, Dorotheya could have made them believe they’re on LSD. Which she did, kinda, making them feel that this is a suggestion of higher beings.
Speedy had some fun as well. D. didn’t, preferring to watch the show.
I wonder whether she had helped create some new pairs of shut-ins. Probably yes, said the dice. And they had a good time. But most of all… at least some of them were likely to gain enough confidence to actually start going outside.
Besides, when they went out, they learned there has been a riot, it just started elsewhere and has been more localized. Because many of the potential rioters were either at home and thinking it’s not so bad after all, or having fun.
The Day Shift and the National Guard squashed it. That was the most immediate gain for the participants in the show – avoiding the teargas is always nice.

Meanwhile, however, Speedy had been exhausted. Actually, he managed to notice he’s feeling even weaker than he should. So, they concluded he’s been developing an infection.
(Well, they were right…the guy’s got Endurance 5, so he blew his save vs. disease progression. What else can I say?)
What he did was kinda uncharacteristic for him. But then, so was getting stabbed by a kid. He told her what had happened, and his suspicions.
Together, they went to see “his” Black Trader. The guy is in his early 40ies, wearing a turban to hide his death borg. Meaning, there are protrusions on his head, which would explode if he ever died. Standard security measures. Well, that, and paying the Saints of the Corner for 24/7 protection.
Sure, he could fix him with some antibiotics, no issue… by the way, have you got money?
Here, D. tried to bargain. He wasn’t likely to bulge. So she inquired about his intimate life. Nah, he didn’t have much of this, as he explained – a business needs lots of a trader’s time.
So she got the antibiotics quite cheaply when she struck a date with him…
(Later, she explained that her PC felt excited by the death borg. I wasn’t even surprised).
So, Speedy went to his shack to heal, reaching it without incidents, and planned to participate in a metro-circling from the next day on, in order to alleviate the efforts he needed to do. But before, he hugged D. awkwardly, and promised that if she needs him, she only needs to call him. For whatever.
Meanwhile, D. got a call from her otaku friend.
“Help! Someone’s breaking my door!”
He had already called the police. The Day Shift was, as always, slow to respond – not to mention still preoccupied with dispersing groups of young people to prevent riots, and to feel important.
So, she rand there, and found his door broken down, and him looking in a single point in the nothingness while clenching his teeth.
Yeah. He had been forcibly injected with Chomper. Nasty pusher gangs, she could even hear them breaking another door upstairs.
Not being much of a fighter, she just dragged him to the nearest Black Med.
“Well, gal, it’s Chomper”.
“I know that much. I want you to help him, damnit!”
He looked at the latex:
“Weird. You seem like an woman that’s got her own handcuffs. Why don’t you shack him to the wall in your own apartment? Because that’s what I’d do.”
She didn’t want the bother, so he got paid to make the otaku go “cold turkey”. Another round of haggling later (food and $0.50 per day until he doesn’t ask for Chomper and starts asking for food and water by himself). So the otaku ended up shacked in a Black Med’s house.
He was in for quite a bit of pain. But he was going to survive. Most likely. I still haven’t thrown the dice.
Funny enough, Otaku and VR addict are about the only career where becoming an Addict might have been an improvement. But she was more than willing to have her friend missing on useful skills – like stealing – in order to give him improved life expectancy.
And we ended the session at this point. D. had called the Night Shift when it became dark, in order to tell them about the pusher gangs getting active. She didn’t mention the Colin activity, though.
Meaning Colin strain would get a few days to pick a few people off the streets, if it had a mental installer…

*Yes, it's a career, despite the book calling it a "class". FWTD claims to be class-and-level-based. In reality, AFAICT, it isn't a class-and-level based game any more than GURPS can be called one. And whatever you think of GURPS, I'd hope you know it's like the grandfather of point-buy classless games.
Actually, FTWD is much more like RuneQuest or Traveller, but neither of these is class-based, either. Let's focus on GURPS.
Consider this: FTWD has "classes" that raise the cost for certain skills and lower it for other skills, because of the people you hang with. That's all a class does, beyond maybe opening up some exclusive skill nobody else knows! Maybe. Not guaranteed. And the "class" changes if you run to another gang. Yeah, sounds like a Career to me!
Now compare it with your temple training you in the skills of your chosen deity in Runequest...
Or compare it with getting on-the-job training during Traveller character generation, before switching to another career...
At the end, compare it making a GURPS character using a Template that tells you to spread X points between skills A, B and C, taking each. Also use Y points to buy some Advantages from the list containing advantages D, E, and F, but you can only take D and E or F, not all. And then you must pick disadvantages amounting to Z points from the list containing G, H and I disadvantages. Yeah, I don't see it as meaningfully different from a FWTD "class".
And whether in GURPS, FWTD, Traveller or Runequest, this kind of mechanics is used for the same reason. Namely, such templates help you tying the PC to the setting from the get go. IME, it works splendidly! It's simply not what I call a "class" system.
Same thing with FWTD being level-based, really. Your skills don't go up because you gained a level, you gain a level because your skills went up! If you've gained 100 points in one class, you've gained a level. The XP is used for point-buy advancement, so levels are just a rough indicator of how good you're at what you've been doing. Point totals have been used in GURPS for the same purpose for ages.
Keep in mind, I don't really like the "classic" classes and levels, and actually tend to avoid games that have them. So this was a strike in the system's favour, actually!