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Saturday, 25 May 2013

FWTD: Balance of power, violence and statistics, session 3 (or is it session 5?)

Today's session was shorter. We added a Humankalorie and a Math Addict. The Math Addict is played by the gal I expected to play a Risen. The Humankalorie is her boyfriend.
A reminder of what these terms mean is added at the back of the post. Thanks to +Erik McGrath for reminding me not everybody has read the FWTD setting!

The Freak and her four friends went to see what the war at 145th street was like. It turns out the two Animalists that had joined were friends of the two Freaks. Well, one of them was the lover of the Freak in poisoned spikes (both of those guys had implanted poisoned claws and fangs, so it remained unclear how they got to it).
The other Animalist said a friend has told him there might be a good fight. He also asked to pass with the PC in the metro to avoid paying the 1.50$ fee. She agreed, and noticed his stare going blank.
"Is everything alright?"
"Yeah, just getting fired up for a fight!"
In the metro, they noticed an old lady in the process of getting mugged. Nobody made a move to stop them from punching her in the face with a knuckleduster. "Not my job".
Then they got to it, and their practice fight with Skin Borgs turned into a total disaster. The guys were too well-armoured, indeed, even better than expected. It was good they retreated after being wounded. Problem was, some were in armour that protected them everywhere.
The second Animalist was the only one who managed to actually drop a Skin Borg. Literally. He pounced him until the Skin Borg was pushed up the stairs for a couple stories, than he grabbed him and threw him through a window.
The guy couldn't get up even with secondary nanotech armour. But by then, one of the Freaks had his face smashed by a skullcrusher.
They could report that yes, the Skin Borgs definitely gave a hard time to the defenders, though.
Said events were witnessed by a young Humankalorie...

Earlier the same day, the Humankalorie had received a call from one of his elders in the gang, with higher Kalor standing.
"Please, would you go to 145th street and tell me what's up with that? I hear the Skin Borgs have become more of a problem lately. And I'd like one of us to confirm or deny that."
He agreed. And he helped a sick shut-in to reach a safe place on the way to 145th. The pounders just looked at the Sardad and realised 1) that it's a Humankalorie and taking on him wouldn't be a good idea and 2) that he's damned dangerous.
He made a walk, of course, and found a beaten-up group of 3 Freaks and 2 Animalists. He also noted that while the Skin Borgs had retreated, they didn't seem to have wounded any Skin Borgs.
(Actually, that was just due to the Skin Borgs carrying their wounded away, but that's what he reported).
Then he got to participate in a meeting of the Humankalories. Their member, Mithan (some parents should be sued for giving such names...) has been attacked, and shot, by a pusher gang. Granted, he had ordered them to go off the Humankalorie turf, but reacting with violence wasn't their best ideas.
Especially given the fact that he's an Olanidad user who had paid to become as huge as he could get. Because, you know, he could get some extra reach.
This probably helped him to weather being shot, too. And he did cut off the hand and the head of the gunman (and not only his hand, too).
But it remained true that the Humankalories had been attacked more than once by Drug Lords gangs this week. So they were unanimous that a lesson was needed.
The question was whether to strike by surprise, and destroy as many pushers as possible, or to look for allies. Well, the more experienced ones had to take it - but everyone could speak their mind, except children.
The question was who would make the best allies. And most agreed on the Needle Punks. The Hungries, if they could find them, would no doubt join - otherwise, they'd probably do it a bit later. Arkadians or Omniscients, to provide intelligence, were also a popular suggestion. Risen were suggested as a gang that should hate the Drug Lords (although the same could be said of the Roofers, one might note).
It's weird, but nobody considered paying off the Drakes or Insomniacs, nor the Night Shift. Also, Methin was itching for a fight with pushers - he recently learned one of his parents had been addicted by a pusher gang, but had been unable to find out who, exactly, they were.
But then, it wasn't a big surprise. And remember the one-shot? Yeah, the Humankalories already had confronted a Skin Borg and some pushers. So they were on the look-out for both organisations.
Which actually facilitated the way to a confrontation. 
(That's not anything that some Arkadian has ever predicted, of course! If it was, there would also need to be a spoon - and we all know there is no spoon!)

Meanwhile, in Freak and Math Addict territory...
 A young Math Addict (Korean by origin) was called by a more experienced friend. This one was in one of the Colin Hunters societies, and he needed her help.
"I need data for the activity of Colin strains in Freaks territory. Can you get me some? I don't have favours left from the Omniscients, and I'd rather owe a favour to one in our gang."
Park agreed and went to look it up. She was mostly wandering around, dressed in black leather clothes and practising her psychic skills - because yes, she was a psychic...a big advantage over the other Math Addicts.
She didn't just use Mind Reading at random, either. Instead, she picked up people that weren't interested in the current show - a Freak swallowing balls and vomiting them back in the same order they entered. While in an impossible position due to Freak Elasticity. Yeah, not surprising she actually botched it the first time.
Then she tried to read their minds... only succeeded in getting their emotions. Bored, bored (these two seemed like typical Freaks), worried, in love, focused on something else.
Have I noted that my PCs have the weirdest luck when I roll on a random d1000 table?
Next thing you know, she starts putting the idea in their head that "the show sucks, but there's something more interesting: the serial hunter, Colin".
The reactions changed to fear, surprise, worrying even stronger, surprise, and the last one - a Caucasian gal in her 20ies or something - turned to look behind her. It looked like she was looking for someone to kill, right now.
"Is she looking for someone to kill indeed?"
"She doesn't seem angry, but you can she is."
"Did she realize someone else put it in her head?"
"It's not impossible, many people get angry about it."
Meanwhile, the one that looked worried - and seemed well-dressed, even a bit provocatively - turned and left. She followed him.
He didn't go all that far. It was a seemingly abandoned building, but the guy pushed the door and entered. It seemed like at least the first 3 floors were in use.
To clarify for the readers - she didn't know that - this is an abandoned building run by an old veteran-turned-wino, Jalal Smith, and a couple of his friends, which houses mostly other homeless people. The guy promises no running water, but it has electricity some of the time, when one of his assistants manages to re-route it, and someone rushes to the rooms if anyone screams for help. A room is worth as much as a round in the metro would be, $1.50, but with better protection and commodities. In practice, this is quite the secure place.
Instead of trying to enter, she tried to use her telepathy and discern thoughts. She only managed to get emotions, again (actually, on revising the psychic system, that might be more due to me botching the penalties for range, but whatever happened, happened). It also seemed there's nobody above the third floor. So she decided to climb from the top floor and descend, (over)confident in her athletic ability. Sure she had studied climbing, but climbing a wall without tools, no matter how many natural handholds there are? Yeah, that was not really her level. So, unsurprisingly, she failed the first time.
However, when she dropped, she decided to look around. And that's when an unknown man (Jalal) burst out, swinging a piece of glass.
He had been alerted by a customer that there was "some weirdness that's not from the Freaks" around. And he heard a drop outside. So he came prepared to deal with some thief, or some pounders, or a very weird Freak. Whatever, the Drake Pain Drops on the glass would have worked all the same! It actually has a handle - part of it is wrapped with paper, and a cord on top of it. Jalal prefers it to normal knives, because he doesn't intend to kill anyone, just to slash and incapacitate, so he could put his boxing skills to use.
In practice, it was unnecessary.
Instead of facing him, she ran and said she's hiding in the trash-littered area between two blocks. The man turned and got back in. She waited a couple minutes, and tried again.
Of course, she failed again, and this time the man, who had been waiting behind the door, burst out.
Instead of running, this time she put an idea in his head - that there was a Colin prowling around.
This stopped the attack indeed. Instead, he started waving the glass in front of her and shouting angrily.
"You! You be the one who puts thoughts in people's heads? Get lost! We don't wanna your kind around!"
She sent him a kiss, and went away. "Freak!", he spat. Black leather clothes, acting funny, made sense...
That's when she caught a glimpse of the gal who breathed menace, back where the crowd had gathered.
She hid and let her pass by.
Actually, she thought she was hidden, but that's one of the few occasions in my last few sessions when I used hidden rolls. The gal didn't manage to prowl on her, but was more than able to notice her. She's got surprising skills, that one...
And she was looking for Park already.
So, our Math Addict followed her, and the gal didn't give any signs of noticing her. She was even easy to follow.
So she went to a nice, gothic-style building, and entered. Actually, Park noticed, this one was well-maintained! But nobody had scrubbed off the dirt from it, so at first glance, it was no different from other abandoned buildings.
Abandoned? Not really, if you ask the city - an off-shore company is paying the bills. I wonder whether anyone would ask. She sure didn't, at least not at the time.
Again, read the following psychic skill test results keeping in mind I might have botched the modifiers. Although there were a couple natural 20s occurring, and this is generally a success.
Also, remember the first part of the earlier two-shot!
So, she waited outside, and tried to listen to the thoughts of people inside the building. Surprisingly, she made it! Well, at least partially, and for one of them. The words in italic are what she didn't hear, but to make it clear, I'm going to include the whole sentences. In the session, I told her "dots, dots, dots" instead of them
"So, what you're saying is that there is some psychic bitch walking around and putting thoughts about me-us-in people's heads. Seems to be acting at random. And you lead her here because you didn't have chloroform, is that it?"
She decided to hide at that point. Smart move.
At this point, a 6-yo boy opens the door and gets out. She reads his mind with a total success this time.
"So, where's that bitch that's making people think of me?"
Well, at this point she realised she had found lots of info on Colin activity. It was one of the few occasions when a Math Addict feels overwhelmed with information.
In fact, she hid even deeper in the trash, definitely not caring about the smell. As soon as the boy passed, she ran away.
The only problem was, she didn't pick the best road, and soon a 15yo boy was running behind her. He ran out of a street behind her, clutching his gut, and there was blood seeping from under his hand.
She quickly scanned his head, and again succeeded only partially.
"Come on, bitch! I'm hurt here, don't you wanna help me? Come, you know you want to do it!"
She looked more attentively at the wound. About the time she realised it was a fake - it was his hand that was cut up, and he was clutching his gut with it - he smiled and got up.
"We're not helping people in need, huh?"
She turned and ran. There was a chase and he was catching up with her. Being a trained acrobat, she jumped and tried to get to a low-floor balcony. No luck, and it allowed him to get within range and to try and stab her with a last jump.
I'm sorry I didn't remember to use the rules for chases from In Dark Alleys. It's based on the same system, and was actually on my tablet as well. Ah well, I improvised. And if he didn't have penalties from a split action, and a bad roll, she would have been stabbed.
She managed to jump away in a split second, and used her action to turn and run again. This time, having seen his knife from up close, it worked - possibly the adrenaline rush helped her. She got to the metro station in time, ran in, paying with her card (more time for her, since Colin had to dig out some cash) and managed to jump a train.
When she called him, her Math Addict connection tried to persuade her to lead the Colin to their territory. She decided, wisely, not to tempt the fate.
Wisely indeed, the difference between her defence and his attack is something like 12 points. When he's using a Vital strike, which has a TN 10 higher than her defence.

Back to 145th street...
After the Orphans elected a new leader for the day, he summoned Dimitri.
"Man, are you alright? Something nasty has happened to get to your nerves? We're ready to help, remember?"
"What do you mean? Nothing has happened!"
"You sure? I hear you've been very cautious lately. Maybe too cautious."
"I'm sure. If you mean that old guy, I didn't want to get us into conflict."
"Yeah, you seem to be avoiding conflicts a lot lately. Sure, your call about the old guy. Probably prudent, too. I'm just asking, is there any reason you're extra-cautious?"
"Nah, no such thing!"
"Good, then why don't you take your armour and make a walk on 145th street? We need to send some patrols, you know. And it would refresh you."
"Your memory that conflict ain't the worst that can happen" is what the man wanted to say. But he didn't. BTW, tomorrow's leader is a chick that had fancied Dimitri, and is sorely disappointed in hearing about him leaving the old man to his fate on the hands - and bullets - of the dagger team. My dice are nasty to him.
There's not much more to say here, the player left early after helping the two new guys make their own PCs. I should award him a couple XP for the patience. After all, dealing with rules is playing the game.
When he and a few other Orphans got there, the Hummingbirds were fighting a group of Skin Borgs - and mostly, losing, despite outnumbering them 3 to 1 or so. They had been outnumbering them worse than that at the beginning, too...
Our Orphan attacked one of them, but the armour protected completely against his sharpened railroad spike and the Skin Borg dropped another Hummingbird instead of defending.
Then Dimitri started attacking the eyes.
Bottomline, he got a hit from a bat to the ribs - phonebook armour protected him only to a degree - but managed to stick it in the enemy's eyes.
Weirdly, the other Orphans acted only then, and knocked the Skin Borg down. Then they simply knocked him out with a stranglehold, without hurting him much worse.
When an average NPC combatant gets a -15 penalty, you can as well not bother.
The rest of the Skin Borgs started to retreat. They congratulated Dimitri on his good strike, and one of them even mentioned "seems like you're not as scared as some implied, or at least you got over it".

What makes you think the guys let him fight the Skin Borg for a while in order to test him? Or that the leader ordered it? That's a completely unfounded suggestion, I'm telling you!
Meaning, you ain't got proof.
After that, they went with the Hummingbirds to party. But it was kinda worrying to Dimitri. The Skin Borgs had even better armour by now than he remembered them! Since he hasn't been to 145th street for a while, the contrast was especially obvious to him.
Ah well, that was for another day...

The Runner
He was summoned by the Freak, but they got separated in the fight. At least, he haven't suffered any important wounds, and is back at his place, waiting for her to call again. He managed to cut up a couple Skin Borgs with armour that wasn't top-of-the-game, but that was about it.
(The player had extra work to deal with and didn't make it. I just happen to know that when he attacks with a Wing manoeuvre, not many people in the world can defend, and most can't even defend the parts their armours aren't covering).

So, this is our last session. The Humankalorie player has experience with D&D, and seems surprised I'm not presenting them an adventure, but a world that acts on them and reacts to them, and letting them deal with it. I also warned him fudging doesn't exist in my games, which is the mandatory warning before a game.
Readers comments would be welcome, as always!

Also: as stated at the beginning of this post, here are some terms.
It's the latest session of my campaign in the Fates Worse Than Death setting. Colin is a self-replicating serial killer that "downloads" his mind in the mind of victims via technology, and "overwrites" their identity, replacing them. Math Addicts, Freaks, Humankalories, Hummingbirds and Orphans are gangs in 2080 Manhattan, and number in the hundreds, some in the thousands. Pusher gangs are the footsoldiers of the Drug lords, which have a monopoly on the drug market that they have wrested away from the gangs. Gangs are more like mutual protection societies, since they can't sell drugs, the city is monitored against importing guns, and the gang of Sexologists forbids pimps from working. These are, as we know, the three greatest sources of income for organised crime.
Hope that helps.

Also, I need to remind you that there is a video tutorial for the setting if you're interested to learn more.