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Hack For More

WEEK 36: 01/18/05

by Edward McEneely
Jan 25,2005


Hack For More

WEEK 36: 01/18/05

Well, we managed, by dint of starting extremely late and ordering delicious gourmet pizza, to not wrap the adventure up. Heaven knows if the players are getting any enjoyment out of it at all, by this point, but I suppose it gives them something to do, poor dears.

At any rate, the players rejoined the game and promptly took the heroic way out of their dilemma; they fled for the woods, hoping to wait things out until the shooting stopped.

A digression: one of the major difficulties in writing this column and trying to run anything more than Hackmaster is that it's difficult to strike the fine balance between saying enough about what I'm planning so that you, the reader, derive at least some level of enjoyment from this column, and the equally pressing desire not to show my entire hand to the players, who protest as they might that they would never---never!---engage in metagame thinking, would take me for all I was worth in EP before I even knew what hit me. I've been trying to protect myself from this by giving experience points only for particularly Victorian attitudes and phraseology on the part of the players, but it's hard to enforce, and I've never much worried about experience points anyway. (I can perhaps get away with blaming Rifts for this, as I grew up on a system that started you out at a level of power so high that most of us couldn't even conceive of a need for second level.)

At any rate, once they had rested up in the woods, and after some dickering about whether or not Erich's character had broken a leg or an arm (I decided on arm after a moment of uncertainty), the players came up with a plan.

Speaking as a GM, I love plans. They function as a point of standard deviation. Most wargamers are familiar (to the point of tedium) with von Clausewitz's maxims of war, and I'll spare you most of them, but here is the most important part, the absolute truth that makes tedious blowhards holding Tom Clancy novels qoute him endlessly: everything in life, every action, is subject to friction. It's a pretty self-evident concept, and I don't really need to explain it to y'all, but basically, it means that small problems accumulate ("the terrible ifs," Winston Churchill called them), creating huge problems and leading eventually to the abandonment of the plan. I think all players subconciously believe that their GMs are out to screw them, and I'm here to tell you that in my case, it's true. It's more interesting to watch PCs react to adversity than it is to watch them succeed. Does that make me a bad person? Undoubtedly.

At any rate, the players gathered up their revolvers and made for the huge zombie tank farm with the intent to destroy it. Of course, they weren't really very clear on how they planned to do that, but whatever.

Unfortunately---that damned friction---Bedford Forrest had left sentries behind to secure his power base, and the players came under fire as they crested the hill overlooking the tank farm. One of the guards, along with two zombies, was sent to bring them in, while a few more soldiers (unbeknownst to the PCs) circled around their position.

The Confederates were content to let their zombies deal with the PCs, and hiding behind the reverse slope of the hill, they unleashed them upon the hapless players, who found out that it's hard to shoot a zombie's head off. Erich managed to dispatch his tormenter, but Laura held her fire, hoping for a good shot, and was bitten badly on the arm before Seth and Erich came to her salvation. The sentry then peered over the hill to see what was going on, but Erich plugged him in the head. The other Confederate sentry opened fire at Erich, who took the gutsy move of rolling down the hill towards him with a loaded revolver, gun safety not having been invented yet. Reversing a trend begun in the previous session, Erich rolled a critical success and pulled off a perfect action-movie moment, killing the sentry as his intrepid PC rolled to a stop at his foe's feet. Well bowled, sir! A beauty!

Seth and Laura, meanwhile, had been bushwacked by the Confederates circling around the hill, and were taken hostage temporarily before a brisk exchange of gunfire, that ultimate argument of Anglo-Saxons, felled the Confederates, but not before one of them managed to shoot Erich's character in the leg with a carbine, further crippling Erich. This left Seth---the least combat-optimized PC in the party---as the sole uninjured PC.

At this point, I'm not sure where I'm going with this. I just got another All Flesh Must Be Eaten sourcebook (best game title EVER, I think you'll have to agree---shame about the mechanics), though, so the temptation to unleash hordes of zombies on them is strong.

But I also want to get away from all of this and move to a more European setting---not that Imperial Brazil isn't heavily influenced by Europe, but...Portugal, man, Portugal---by which I mean somewhere on the continent, especially as I just finished reading a boatload of books on the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Russian Czars (good book: The Russian Dagger, about Russian intrigue in the Balkans, by Virginia Cowles, which is an excellent GM resource, and bad book: The End of Austria-Hungary, by Leo Valiani, who despite sounding like a really cool guy---he was in the anti-fascist resistance in Italy during World War II---has written a very tedious book about what ought to be an engrossing subject. I'll blame the translator.)

Sadly, the history of the Balkans---despite eliciting a certain amount of attention in the last decade---is pretty underreported in English, and possibly not very engaging to the players, one imagines. I doubt, for example, anyone besides Seth could get very engaged in a discussion of the Dual Monarchy, that most peculiar of props for a doddering empire.

At any rate, we shall see...


NPCs & Plot Information.doc consists of my rough notes for the current adventure

Supplementary Documents.doc is the handout I gave to the PCs at the start of the session.

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