Friday, 23 February 2018

Campaigns I'll Probably Never Run - Shisa Squadron TTS for Mekton Zeta

So I know it's been a while since I posted something for the Blog.  Some of you are probably wondering "Where's the next part of Yakuza 2019 you bastard?!" to answer your question.  It's going to be delayed for quite some time, probably until Summer.  Due to the fact that there was a College Faculty strike up here in Ontario, which basically meant the School year got kind of messed up.  What does that have to do with my ability to write stuff?  Quite a lot actually, since that means the GM for the Campaign doesn't have time to run it anymore or to play in any other games for that matter.  So I'm left with nothing to do until that gets cleared up.  Fortunately boredom is a great motivator, which is why I present you another Campaign Pitch I've been working on.

Now I can't really take all the credit for this one.  It in fact comes from a Hillfolk supplement called Blood on the Snow.  Those of you who've been with the Blog a long time might remember some of my earlier posts about adapting another setting from the same book.  Shanghai 1930 a series of posts about adapting that to the Call of Cthulhu system which you can find by clicking here and here.  The campaign pitch comes from a Playset within Blood on the Snow called "Article Nine" referring to the part of the Japanese constitution that prevents Japan from participating in foreign conflicts.  (Page 125 of Blood on the Snow if you're interested).  It's one of those settings that when I read it said "Wow I would really love to run a game in this world."

Artwork for the Article Nine Setting, the robot
looks a little too bulky to outmaneuver a F-35.
To briefly summarize Article Nine takes place in a Near Future (20XX) where war threatens to break out between East Asian countries in the Pacific.  China and Vietnam being chief among them.  While the United States, Japan and Russia are at risk of being drawn into the conflict to protect their interests in that area.  During one of the initial skirmishes a patrol of Chinese Warships were attacked out of nowhere!  By what observing American F-35s reported to be Giant Flying Robots!  Before losing sight of the two craft the American Military observed that they resembled a prototype developed by one Dr. Yamaguchi, a Japanese Scientist for use in Earthquake rescue and Mars Exploration.  Who disappeared along with his prototype as well as a good chunk of Kyoto.  (That kind of thing happens when you develop a Nuclear Fission-Powered robot that generates an eleven-dimensional forcefield, that can only be maintained by a Machine-Brain link with a Teenaged Pilot).  The robots that attacked the Chinese patrol were dead-ringers for Yamaguchi's missing prototype.  Only these one's were equipped with weaponry.  The Japanese government in coalition with the Americans quickly summoned the only surviving member of Yamaguchi's research team.  It was clear that the Japanese and their American Allies had fallen behind in the Giant Robot Race.

One of the few Mecha Anime I've seen Fullmetal Panic!
I forgot what the Mecha in this looked like, honestly I think the
one's in the campaign might look similar.  They've got that
boxy look that Military Hardware usually has.
The other Mecha Anime I've seen Neon Genesis Evangelion.
A.K.A. The series they stole to make Pacific Rim.  More fighting
giant monsters than the campaign calls for.
So yes this is going to be Campaign, along the lines of so many Mecha Anime.  A genre that I never really took an interest in.  I've seen Three Mecha Anime in my entire life.  Fullmetal Panic (which I liked more as a Comedy), Code Geass and Neon Genesis Evangelion (which I found to be incredibly overrated, I can feel the rage of so many Otaku everywhere).  Simply put it's a genre that I never really explored before.  The setting was so interesting to me, that I couldn't pass it up.  In this case I'm going to be taking a setting for a more Story-focused game (like Hillfolk) and give it a little more crunch.  Not that different from taking setting published for D&D and running it really.  So now it just comes down to what system to use, I had thought about using GURPS, but I found their Mecha book a little lacking.  Another that sprung to mind was the Mecha & Manga Sourcebook for Mutants and Masterminds.  I decided to drop that one as well because of a previous short-lived Super Hero Campaign.  Which caused me to lose faith in that System's validity.  That's when it hit me, Mekton Zeta!  Made by the same folks that brought us one my favourite game Systems Cyberpunk 2020.  With a great many of the same mechanics.  It was also written during the Golden Age of Mecha Anime by people who love the Genre rather than a company trying to fill a niche.  It even has some elements to it that I think make it superior to Cyberpunk (putting the Lifepath, which I think is the greatest mechanic first for one).  I've fiddled around with the Mecha Construction rules a little over the last few days (and still haven't got the starting Mech I want for the campaign down-pat yet), but at least the elements are all there to build the Robots described in Blood on the Snow.  Anti-gravity, reactive shields (forcefields to you laymen), mind-machine links,  it's all there.  Everything I'd need to build one of these super-robots.  I just need to tweak it a little.  I'm building these in the 350 to 400 point range, since these are largely prototypes rather than Standard-Military Issue.  The players would probably be playing Teenage JASDF (Japanese Air Self-Defense Force) Mecha-Pilots in training.  (This setting uses the trope of only Teens being able to pilot Mechs.  A cliche that used to piss me off, but I will let slide for now).  Probably built on 65 points and Rookies (though an argument could be made for 18 year old Professional Graduates from Elite Training Programs).  If the players so desire they could build secondary non-combat focused characters.  Military Officers, Researchers and Technicians around the base.  Built as 70 point Professionals.  A special rule I'd have to implement is that no Pilot would have Mech Piloting at higher than +3 to start and no Mech Combat Skill at higher than +2.  Since this is a setting where Mech technology is still in its infancy as are the training programs for Pilots.  In fact training exercises will make up quite a few of the earlier sessions.  I think it'd be a nice opportunity to help myself and the players get the hang of the system.  As well as get to know the inhabitants of the small Okinawan Island that their airbase is located.  Click here for more information on that.  

Anyways I think that about wraps it up for this short little campaign pitch.  Tell me what you think in the comments below.  Be sure to +1, follow and reshare.  As always have a nice day and may you roll many crits.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Yakuza 2019 - Actual Play Report #3: Breaking Hearts and the Game

This is going to be a short one, mostly because the session itself was so short.  (The reason why will come later, be patient).  It also only consisted of a single die roll and the rest was just a nice roleplaying vignette.  The rest of the post will probably be padded with my reflections on the events that occurred.  If roleplaying social encounters and reflections on the nature of roleplaying itself isn't really your thing.  You're welcome to skip this session.  Alright are they gone?  Good, for those of you still here I'm going to get right to the report, but first some housekeeping.  If you're just joining us and have no idea what's going on, you can read the first session here.  If you're a returning reader and you missed the last session, you can find it here.  Alright, with that out of the way let's get into it.

The Game Changer

When we last left off my character the ethnic Korean Yakuza Amphetamine Dealer Tae Joon-Ho; was standing over the corpse of the man who had ordered the murder of his boss and best friend.  That man was Yoshida Goro a lieutenant of the Akemi-gumi, the Yakuza group that Joon-Ho was a part of.  The man that Joon-Ho's late immediate superior Koizumi Takahiro had answered to.  Until he had discovered that Yoshida had been embezzling funds meant for the Akemi coffers.  Instead of going to the family bosses with this information Takahiro had decided to blackmail Yoshida.  Hoping to swing a promotion for both himself and his subordinate Joon-Ho.  Like most people who end up being blackmailed Yoshida had not been a fan of the idea and ordered both of them killed.  Joon-Ho had only escaped assassination because he had left the apartment to buy Takahiro cigarettes.  At first Joon-Ho had sought out Yoshida in hopes of getting his aid.  (He had no idea about Takahiro blackmailing the Akemi-gumi lieutenant, until said lieutenant had revealed it to him). Walking into an ambush Joon-Ho barely escaped with his life, by getting the drop on Yoshida and beating him to death.  (Then making sure the job had been done properly by shooting Yoshida three times in the head with the man's own handgun).  

The Ledger proving Yoshida's embezzlement.  I never got why criminals
and embezzlers in movies kept these kind of incriminating records around.
Standing over his would-be killer's corpse, Joon-Ho grabbed some tissues from the desk and cleaned his hands of the blood.  He pocketed the now soiled, tissues in order to dump them later along with Yoshida's gun.  He then grabbed another handful of tissues to prevent fingerprints as he began to rummage through the Akemi Lieutenant's office.  Looking for either dirt that would prove Yoshida's embezzlement even from beyond the grave or at least the kilo of Amphetamines.  That Yoshida had admitted to having the hitman steal from Joon-Ho's apartment when he killed Takahiro.  The profits from its sale and maybe a sampling of the wares (Joon-Ho often got high on his own supply and was kind of jonesing for a post-kill fix) would be great right about now.  The drawers to the desk proved to be locked and Joon-Ho didn't have time to be fiddling around with the lock.  He didn't want to be here when somebody came to investigate the gunshots.  He finally struck pay dirt when opened one of the cabinets in the office.  Inside was a book, which when opened revealed itself to be a ledger.  Ordinarily Joon-Ho (who only had a Middle-School Education) would never have been able to make heads or tails of such a thing.  But still high on adrenaline Joon-Ho was able to focus enough to recognize certain irregularities.  There was a Yoshida listed in this ledger, but it wasn't Yoshida Goro. It was Yoshida Ishimaru, which meant that Goro either was using an alias or had a relative helping him embezzle Akemi-gumi funds.  On close examination there were funds still unaccounted for, just the ticket Joon-Ho needed to keep the bosses from whacking him.  It didn't really prove his innocence in all of this, but it certainly proved Yoshida's guilt; which Joon-Ho could finagle to prove his innocence.  He took the ledger with him as he left, recovered his gun from the entryway door and left through the back stairwell.

(For those of you wondering from the out of character side of things.  The GM had me roll an Intelligence check to make heads or tails of the ledger.  Since Joon-Ho doesn't have any points in the Accounting Skill it would've been nearly impossible for him decipher its secrets.  I rolled a crit.  The only die roll of the entire session which also brought it to a screeching halt.  Apparently the GM had not taken into account the possibility that I'd actually make the roll.  She also had not been prepared when I brought up the idea of presenting the evidence to the bosses.  Meaning she hadn't expected the character and myself to take the story in that direction.  Where she had nothing prepared in terms of game notes.  No information on the bosses, their personalities, how they'd react or anything.  Whereas from my end it seemed to be the obvious thing to do.  I guess it just goes to show you that people have very different ways of thinking).

Rest for the Wicked

Joon-Ho disposed of Yoshida's gun and the blood-soaked tissues which he'd used to wipe his hands.  By dumping them in the dumpster behind the bar where he'd bought the Type 54 from Shiori.  Then he went in search of a cheap hotel to spend the night at.  He managed to conceal the blood-stains on his jacket and shirt by rolling up his sleeves.  After buying a room, he went to the lobby payphone and dialled the cellphone of his girlfriend Honda Miu.  (I know that cellphones are a thing, but pay-phones are so Noire and a little more anonymous nowadays).  Joon-Ho tapped the top of the phone as he listened to the receiver ring.  
"Hell...o...?" Miu's voice had a hint of suspicion and nervousness when she answered.
"Miu, baby it's me Joon-Ho." 
"Oh, thank God.  Did you know about what happened?  The police have been looking all over for you!  Are you safe?" she still sounded a little nervous but more relieved than anything.  
"Yeah, Takahiro's dead.  A hitman killed him, would've killed me too if I hadn't been out buying cigarettes.  I got the son of a bitch though." Joon-Ho sighed at his girlfriend's ignorance of the hell that he'd been living for the past couple of hours.
" it was Mr. Koizumi... I'm sorry Joon-Ho.  I'm surprised though, the police wouldn't tell me who it was.  In fact, I was pretty sure it was you for a while there...  The police were already here when I got here.  Did you... call them anonymously or something?" Miu's words came like a wave in Joon-Ho's ear.
He rolled his eyes at her apparent ignorance that criminals didn't exactly call cops when they had a crime committed against them.  
"You didn't tell them anything did you?  No I dealt with him a different way, sweetheart."
"I didn't tell them anything because I don't know anything.  I mean they didn't find anything at the apartment, at least not that they told me, anyway.  Should I come over to where you are?  I'd feel a lot better if I could see you with my own eyes, Joon-Ho." her voice was once again filled with just a hint of panic.  
"Good, if they ask you anything, if they visit you at work; don't tell them nothing.  Yeah come over." he gave her the Hotel's address and his room number.  Probably the wrong decision, but he felt the need to see her after all that had happened today.  After that he went upstairs to wait for her.

A Hotel Room not unlike the one where Joon-Ho was staying.
Though I imagine his was cheaper looking.
Once in the room Joon-Ho flipped on the TV turning the channel over the news.  Hoping to see whether the police had released a statement about Takahiro or Yoshida's murders.  He stripped out of his shirt and jacket, revealing his Irezumi tattoo of a wanton Geisha smoking a traditional tobacco pipe with smouldering eyes.  (Really it would've been accurate to call it a Yujo since Geisha's aren't prostitutes or Courtesans.  Which is more what I was going for when I thought up the idea of Joon-Ho's tattoo.  Something classy and kind of sexy.  Rather than the traditional Samurai, Demons and Dragons that most Irezumi portray).  The sad truth of the world was that bloodstains don't come out of clothes.  The garments would have to be disposed of and new ones procured.  That was partly the reason he had called Miu over, since he couldn't go out in public shirtless.  The pants would have to stay for now, since he didn't want to be caught with his pants down by a hitman.  About twenty minutes after he had called her, there was knock at the door.  He reached for the Type 54 and approached the door, looking through the peephole.  

Honda Miu, cabaret girl and Joon-Ho's
current girlfriend.
He saw Miu in a disheveled state.  Still wearing the same clothes he'd seen on her, when she'd left his apartment; which seemed like an eternity ago now.  Despite her dishevelment she was still beautiful not in the way she was dressed or dolled up, but in the way she carried herself.  Her posture was straight and her eyes focused.  Not the look of someone born with natural beauty, but someone who had spent her whole life attaining it.  Joon-Ho opened the door for her not wide and not very long.  Long-enough for her enter the room and for him to look up and down the hall.  Making sure that no one had followed her.  Miu smiled upon seeing her boyfriend but didn't go in for her usual kiss.  The circumstances didn't exactly warrant such displays of affection.  Never breaking eye-contact with Joon-Ho as she sat down on the bed, when eye-contact did break it was because Joon-Ho was looking up and down the hall.

"You weren't followed, were you?" asked Joon-Ho despite having confirmed that fact himself.
"Not to my knowledge.  If I had, I wouldn't be here, so why ask?" she sniped back at him.
Joon-Ho walked over to the bed sitting down right next to her, intimately close.
"Considering the fact that I just pissed off some very dangerous men and am being hunted by the police?  Can't be too careful." he elaborated.  
"I didn't mention this on the phone, but... the police said you weren't a suspect.  But that's pretty suspicious.  It's your apartment of course you're a suspect.  I just smiled and nodded.  Do you have someone looking for you, Joon-Ho?"  
Joon-Ho smiled at his girlfriend's display of loyalty "Clever girl.  Yoshida mentioned something similar before he tried to kill me.  His boys are probably after me." he turned it over in his head.  Maybe Yoshida had a Cop on his payroll or had provided him an alibi just so he could murder him?
"Hmm, you never mentioned a Yoshida.  Do I know the guy?" asked Miu.  "Doesn't matter I came here to find out what you plan to do.  If I can help, I will."  
Joon-Ho took out the single cigarette he had found after searching Takahiro's corpse after finding him dead in his apartment.  He lit it, took a puff and said, 
"He was a very dangerous man, which is why dangerous men worked for him.  Turns out I'm more dangerous than he was.  And yeah, there is something you can do for me.  I'm gonna need some new clothes there's money on the nightstand.  But first..." this is where he turned her face towards his own and planted a kiss on her lips.  
"Ew, cigarette smoke~If I smell like that my customers won't love me anymore." giggled Miu, her eyes lighting up after the kiss had been broken.  She put her arms around Joon-Ho and leaned in close.  "I do love you, but I don't rely on you.  I'm a self-made woman you know?  So you don't have to worry about a thing.  Just focus on getting out of this with all your fingers, okay?" she winked at that last part.
"Oh, I know you are.  I also know you'd hate to lose these fingers." smiled Joon-Ho as he began to gently caress Miu, before going in for another kiss lowering her down onto the bed.  Things had been breaking down with Miu for some time and they might still after this.  Right now though, he'd nearly gotten killed and his survival instincts had kicked in.  


That's where we left it, if this had been a movie.  It would've been the kind where the screen fades to black just as the sex scene starts.  While the session itself was very short it did serve as a teaching moment in many ways.  For the GM it was a lesson in preparation, you need to be at least minimally prepared for multiple possibilities.  You can't just expect the players in a game to follow a single track that you have meticulously planned out.  Anything can throw a monkey wrench in your best laid plans, be it the player making a decision that you hadn't expected or a rogue die roll.  (Both of which occurred in this session, apparently I was supposed to be on a train to Hokkaido to hide out with Joon-Ho's biker friends.  Which ended up not being the decision I made, since I thought only a guilty man would run.  From my character's perspective he's innocent or at least completely justified in everything he's done).  The point being you need to be able to adapt your plans and improvise.  If you don't have stats prepared for a certain NPC, recycle the stats from another.  Make up details as you go along, roll with the punches so to speak.  Part of the fun of tabletop roleplaying is the ability to tailor a world to a player character's actions.  In my GM's case she couldn't adapt on the fly and needed some time to figure out how to recover.  Fortunately she's running a single-player campaign, online with a very understanding veteran player; who has GM-ed extensively himself.  If any one of these factors had been different this could've been a lot worse.  She's had an opportunity to learn from her mistakes while the kid-gloves are still on.  I hope it's a lesson that she will take to heart.  

Which leads into the second part of my reflections.  The scene with Joon-Ho's girlfriend Miu was my attempt to salvage something that resembled a session, from what my GM perceived as the wreckage.  I'm a player who likes to role-play more than he likes to roll dice.  I put forward that I wanted to narrate a little bit before we left the game, hoping to urge her to improvise a little.  I'd wanted to know a little more about the NPC Miu since she featured so prominently in Joon-Ho's LifePath.  I knew the GM had notes about Miu so at least she'd have a base to improvise from.  It resulted in what I thought was a nice quiet scene.  Which was also a first for me, the first time I've ever been in a game.  Where romance or sexual encounters were handled in a mature manner, if at all.  It'd been something that I'd wanted to try ever since the Aki campaign.  Honestly I'm quite happy with how it had turned out.  Since we primarily use the Cyberpunk 2020 system for our games, romance shows up a lot in the characters' backgrounds.  Meaning that such topics would eventually have to show up eventually in gameplay.  I've wanted to tackle the subject ever since that occurred to me.  So this was an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.  Incidentally if any of you are looking for a good essay on Sex & Romance in RPGs (specifically Cyberpunk but applicable to many games), click here.  The link should take you to Datafortress 2020 where you can download Kristian de Valle's essay on the topic.  Well that about covers it for me, if you like this post; be sure to +1, comment and follow this blog.  As always have a good day and may you roll many crits.