5150: Hard Currency, Ch. 1

Date: January, Year One
Location: New Hope City

When the two Grath entered the subway car in Lower Hope, Lane knew that this trip was off to a rough start. In some places in the nine rings, Grath were shot on sight, but in New Hope City the xenoforms enjoyed a bit of freedom, mostly to cause odd bits of mayhem and violence. Or in this case, Lane thought to himself, perhaps a spot of crime. The two bulky aliens glanced around the few huddled shabby riders seated on the plastoform chairs molded into the side of the car before their small black eyes settled onto Lane at the far end leaning again one of the vertical poles intended to help steady riders on the speeding trip.

Lane could imagine what the Grath were thinking as they sized him up. Basic, male, approaching middle age. A worn red jacket from his days as a street racer, and tousled hair that had gone gray a little early in a way that Lane liked to tell himself made him appear older. The lines of worry that had been etched into his face by a little bit too much hard living was likely more responsible, when Lane was honest to himself about it. His CareerTrak record showed him spending the last seven years working as a driver for a interplanetary courier company shipping parcels of all kinds across the nine rings, but in reality the last three had been spent smuggling synthetic petrochem products to backward industrial planets for a Zhou-Zhou who liked to show off documents that claimed he was the bastard descendent of some royal figure to anyone who’d listen. After flying other people’s ships for a very small slice of the profits Lane had figured it was time to make himself his own boss. But first, he would have to take care of a few things…

Lane stashed the personal datapad he had scanning into his jacket pocket, letting the red coat open up enough to show the butt end of the pistol he had strapped in a cross-draw holster underneath. The ColbySpec Regulator fired a round whose size was frowned on by police on a lot nicer worlds, but was big enough to hopefully get through what passed as a brain in the two Grath who were wondering if he might be an easy target. One of brutes muttered something to the other and they turned away sullenly.

Lane thought about the face on the datapad screen. Running the kind of operation Lane was envisioning would take some skilled muscle, and word was that Stanovic was the kind of person he was looking for. A former private contractor for corporate security, Stanovic had also done a brief term working as a bodyguard for one of his company’s mistresses, a Holonet influencer who fondness for photographing herself made sure that Stanovic’s photo was out there in the public, as well as the rumor that was not now available for hire and hanging out in Lower Hope, of all places. That actually boded well for Lane; Lower Hope was the kind of place you went when you were desperate for cash, and maybe willing to take a job on spec.

Exiting the subway car, Lane was a little dismayed to see that the two Grath had also exited as well. Coincidence? Lane hoped so, but was pessimistic enough not to rest too easy.

Welcome to Hard Currency, the solo roleplaying campaign I’m running using Two Hour Wargames’ 5150: New Beginnings rules. As I did years ago at my other blog Hard Boiled Zombies, I’ll be documenting the gaming sessions by alternating between fictional narrative and a breakdown of the rules that inform the story. That commentary will be in italics, as you see here.

The Star of the story is Lane, detailed here, an aspiring hero with big dreams, moderate skills, and little resources. Right off the bat I figure that Lane will need a crew, called Band Mates in the rules. But rather than just start off with an established party, you have to locate Band Mates and convince them to join you.

Campaigns are broken down into months, with ten years to complete the campaign and career of the Star. Each month you can have an Involuntary and a Voluntary Encounter. With Lane just getting going, I decided to forego the Involuntary Encounter and choose the Voluntary one instead, specifically “Find.” I define the success of the Encounter as Lane locating and hiring Stanovic, while failure would mean failing to hire the bodyguard. Failing to locate but continue to find Clues to his location would render me a Neutral outcome.

I rolled on the New Hope City tables to determine Stanovic’s actual location. A 3 and a 2 result on 2d6 give me Lower Hope, one of the worst, most lawless parts of the city. A second roll gives me his location: a Green, which happens to be a chain of coffee shops. Rolling a d3 to determine how many PEF’s will take place in this encounter to provide the clues to Stanovic’s location gives me a result of 2. Having to roll under the number of successful PEF’s to get the accurate location means Lane’s chances of succeeding this encounter are small.

But in the meantime, I have to create a Travel PEF to represent Lane’s journey to Lower Hope. Lane starts in the Spaceport district, only one stop away on the mass transit system, so only one PEF will occur. I first have to see how many NPC’s are in the PEF and rolling 1d3 get a 3, indicating one more than are in the Star’s party, which being just himself means two NPC’s total. To see who they are, I rolled 2d6 getting a 4 and a 4, then add 2 to the result from being in Lower Hope, giving me 10. That’s indicates Lane is dealing with two criminals, which is not good news. I roll again to determine race, getting a 4 and a 2, then subtracting two for the location to give me a result of 4, which is Grath, which is even worse news. As criminals Grath are automatically Gangers, and REP 4 by default.

Rather than jump right to a likely disastrous confrontation, I decide to have Lane lean into his strengths and go for a non-combat Interaction, which I’m defining as him trying to wave off the Grath as being more trouble than they might want. Success will have the Grath wandering off to another part of the train, failure means I break out the Battle Board. I roll against Lane’s PEO of 5, dropped to 4 because the Grath are aliens. Rolling 2d6, I get a 4 and a 2, passing 2d6. Rather than use the Grath’s PEO, I decide it is more appropriate to use their REP of 4 to reflect how likely they are to be scared off, roll a 2 and another 2, passing another 2d6. Checking the table, I see the result of a tie is “NPC will ignore the PC,” which honestly sounds like the success outcome, so instead I interpret the outcome as one where the result is ambiguous and could complicate matters later.

The Hishen’s forehead tattoos indicated he was part of the 18th Tube Kings, a local gang specializing in drugs and small business protection rackets. He recognized the vidscreen pic of Stanovic that Lane showed him and, after a small exchange of cash, told him that he had seen the bodyguard hanging around some of the shops and cafes in his territory. The young Basic waitress provided even better information: Stanovic stopped by every morning at the Green coffee shop where she worked for his usual, a large coffee with one sweetener and a shot of zorgnut flavoring. Lane thanked her with a sizeable tip and munched on his pastry, thinking he could catch Stanovic the next day.

The “Find” Encounter has two PEFs representing Lane searching for clues. The first PEF indicated a single Hishen ganger with REP 4, PEO 3, and SAV 4. Lane passed 2d6 to the Hishen’s 1d6, which moved Lane into further interaction. Lane passed 2d6 again and the Hishen passed 0d6, so Lane gained a Clue and 1 Increasing Rep d6. I needed to roll a 1 on a d6 to have the Clue pan out, but rolled a 5, so I moved onto the second PEF.

The second PEF rolled up as a single Basic, a Joe working in the service sector with REP 3, PEO 3, and SAV 2. That’s pretty promising for Lane, and I roll a 6 and 5, passing 1d6, but with Lane’s Attribute “Smooth” I can reroll the 6, getting a 4 and passing 2d6. The Joe passes 1d6. Further interaction has Lane passing 2d6 and the Joe 1d6 again, meaning Lane has another clue and a second Increasing Rep d6. But the best news is that I roll a 2 against two clues, meaning that Lane has found what he is looking for. Fitting the details into the story, I decide the Joe was a waitstaff person at the very restaurant where Stanovic was located.

Lane had taken a couple of bites out of another pastry when he saw Stanovic walk into the Green. The bodyguard was tall with a trimmed dark beard and mustache. He openly carried a pair of pistols and a large knife strapped lower down on his leg. Lane moved to intercept him and handed him a coffee cup. “Mister Stanovic? I believe this is your usual. The name is Lane, and I’d like to talk to you about a business proposition.”

Stanovic flashed a wide grin. “Okay,” he said and took the pastry out of Lane’s hand. “But how about I eat this and you drink the coffee you decided to get for me while we talk.”

I had already decided a few details about Stanovic based on the miniature I was planning on using for him if this worked out. He’s a REP 4 Basic Grunt Exotic (mercenary) with PEO 3 and SAV 4. He’s armed with two pistols (P1) and a knife (Melee). I rolled the random Attribute and ended up getting “Free Spirit,” which was unexpected and not exactly what I had been envisioning for the character. What’s more, he’d get an additional 1d6 with Interactive checks, which would make it harder for him to be swayed to become a Band Mate for Lane.

I rolled a 1 and 6 for Lane, and rerolled the 6 for a 3, passing 2d6. Stanovic got a 5, 5, and 6, which was an extraordinary bit of luck because he passed 0d6 and stuck around for Further Interaction.

Lane and Stanovic sat at a back table where they could have a little privacy. “I have to say, Mister Lane, you don’t look like a corporate headhunter,” Stanovic said.
“I don’t work for a corporation-” Lane began.
“A criminal syndicate?” interjected Stanovic.
“No, not a criminal syndicate. More of a smaller kind of outfit-“
“A micro-corporation?” interrupted Stanovic again.
“Not exactly. Right now it is more of a one-person operation.”
“And you’re the person? What kind of office space do you have?”
“I don’t have an office.”
“A ship?”
“Well, I’ve got a line on one,” said Lane uneasily. “And I have the background and contacts to launch a pretty profitable operation with low overhead.”
“Oh,” said Stanovic with a laugh, “you’re an entrepreneur. Or more accurately, you’re a freelancer looking to make a little cash doing some on-the-edge jobs and you are looking for a good gunslinger to ride shotgun on whatever this ship is that you’ve got a good line on. That about right?”
“You’ve got it pretty sewn up,” said Lane.
Stanovic took the last bite of the pastry and wiped the crumbs from his face and took the untouched coffee from Lane’s surprised hand. “Well, Lane, you’re in luck. Work has been terrible lately for a private security contractor whose face can show up a little too easily on the Holonet recognition software. And your taste in scones isn’t bad either. So tell me about this plan of yours.”

On the second round of rolls Lane passed 2d6 easily, and Stanovic rolled a 5, 2, and 6, passing only 1d6. That meant a positive result and Stanovic was willing to be hired! The Encounter was a success.
Lane gained three Increasing Rep d6: one for the two Clue PEF’s, and a third for Stanovic’s recruitment. One Increasing Rep d6 is spent for Stanovic’s salary, and rolling a 1 and a 4 for the Increasing Rep d6’s means Lane doesn’t go up in Stats or Skills.
But, given how incredibly lucky Lane was on the first go-round, I am not complaining. He’s off to a good start, and now has a competent right-hand person.

Did you enjoy the write-up? Let me know in the comments below!

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