“And that’s when I took it personally,” said Stanovic as they existed the metro tram in the Spaceport district.
Lane walked beside him, half-listening and half making plans in his head for the future. He had let it known in certain circles that he was back in the freelance transport game, but was mostly looking for local courier jobs to raise some capital towards that ship that Fast Phreddy had been advertising at his dealership. He had told Stanovic that, until they made other arrangements, he could stay with him in the small apartment he had rented near the docks.
As they approached the multi-level housing complex, two figures stepped out from the shadows. They wore heavy coats, and their faces were covered in breathing masks. In their hands they held large, ugly pistols.
Welcome to the second month of my 5150: New Beginnings campaign “Hard Currency.” In each month, there is a possibility to have both an involuntary and a voluntary encounter. The details are often random, leaving you (or me, the player) left trying to weave the disparate elements into a semi-cohesive story. As with the last chapter, the rules explanations will be in italics, and the narrative in normal text.
For the involuntary encounter, I rolled “Defend,” which is an odd choice since Lane hasn’t had the chance to really make any enemies who might want to attack him. But I decided I would take all the random elements, determine the various aspects of the encounters, and then make the whole thing work. Pressing on, there are two PEF’s (Possible Enemy Forces) in “Defend,” the outside PEF and the inside PEF. Rolling for details on the PEF, I got Exotic (mercenary), Basic, and two of them, both REP 3, PEO 3, SAV 2 and both armed with B-2 pistols.
“Look out!” Stanovic yelled, shoving Lane aside just in time to have the first shots fly right where his boss’ head would be. The bodyguard crawled away from the lights on the street as more shots rang out. Stanovic pulled his pistol and shot back at the assailants. One of them staggered and fell to the ground. Lane drew his own heavy revolver and standing up, saw that the second ambusher was running away, his fallen companion left behind.
To begin, I rolled a 4 for Advantage, meaning the mercenaries would have Advantage in a tie. Rolling again to see who goes first, Lane passed 2d6 but the mercenaries also passed 2d6. Advantage would play out in this case.
Merc 1 shot at Lane, rolling a 1 and a 2, passing 2d6 and hitting Lane squarely. Merc 2 shot at Stanovic, rolling a 5 and a 2, so only passing 1d6. Since Stanovic is in cover because it is night time, the shot misses and Stanovic can return fire.
But first, the damage on Lane. Merc 1 rolls a 6 for damage, an immediate Obviously Dead. But since Lane is a Star, he has Star Power d6’s to burn, and I use 1 to drop the Obviously Dead to Out of Fight. This is where the first rules question comes into play. Lane has “Resilient,” meaning that the “first Out of Fight result counts as Carry On instead.” But I’m not sure if that applies only to Out of Fight results, or if the Out of Fight from burning Star Power counts. Hopefully Ed can help me on this, but in the meantime I decide to play conservatively and have Lane burn a second Star Power d6 to take the result to Duck Back.
Stanovic returns fire, passing 2d6 and getting an Out of Fight Result. In the Will to Fight phase Merc 1 passes only 1d6, meaning “one leaves the board,” so I figure he high-tailed it out of there.
“Who were those guys?” asked Stanovic as he ran over to the fallen attacker.
“I don’t know; I have never seen them before,” said Lane.
Stanovic examined the man’s gear. He was badly injured and unconscious, but alive. “Mercenaries,” said Stanovic. I recognize the outfit. Guns for hire.”
“But why would they be out here, and why shoot at us?” asked Lane. “Unless…”
“Lookouts,” said Stanovic, his brow furrowing. “Let’s check inside.”
The door to Lane’s apartment stood slightly open, the lock showing signs of being forced. Inside, Lane could hear someone moving about. He kicked the door open, swinging his pistol around to see who was inside. A lithe figure stood in the darkness of the unlit room near his makeshift desk, holding his personal laptop. Lane fired, but his shot missed in the darkness and the thief made made a mad dash for the window, crashing through to the outside. Lane and Stanovic rushed over, but the intruder was already running away down the street and out of sight.
Lane looked around. The place had clearly been searched in a haphazard manner, but the only thing missing was the laptop the thief had grabbed. Why could anyone want that, and that alone? He didn’t have much, and the laptop was far from new. “I wonder if it has anything to do with that job offer I just got,” he said.
The PEF inside the apartment is supposed to be the main one of the encounter. Based on the die rolls the tables show that I have one NPC, a member of the criminal element who is Basic, REP 3 PEO 3 SAV 3 armed with a P-1. The subtable for the Criminal Element shows a thief. That makes some sense.
Rolling for Advantage, Lane wins with a 3. Lane passes 2d6 to the thief’s 1d6 and shoots, passing 2d6 but gets a 1 for damage. The thief ducks back.
And now, another rules question. Stanovic still has an action, but the thief has ducked back, meaning she can not be seen. I’m assuming this means his action is wasted. So the thief uses her action to recover. Lane passes 2d6 on the Will to Fight, the thief 1d6, so she flees.
So at this point in the encounter, Lane has one Increasing REP d6 for the mercenary who ended up OOF, and three Decreasing d6’s for using Star Power.
The Ring’s Edge Tavern was a non-descript place in Middleton that was doing brisk business that evening. Stanovic sat at the bar and watched Lane wander around, chatting up what had to be strangers. He watched as Lane deftly swerved out of the eye line of a Grath who was hunched over a drink at a small table. What’s up with the boss and Grath? he wondered. He watched as Lane had a long conversation with some serious-looking tech-types before joining him at the bar. “Friends of yours?” Lane asked.
“I ran into some people who work at the spacesport and bought them a round,” said Lane. “It always pays to stay on their good side. But I did run into a group of netrunners called the Magpies, and hoped I could talk them into finding out what might have been on my laptop that was so important, but they weren’t interested.”
“Well, hopefully this job offer will go better,” Stanovic said.
The Voluntary Encounter for this month is “Job Offer,” which usually contains multiple sub-encounters to fulfill the goal. In this case, the Job Offer begins with a “Chillin'” encounter. Die rolls show that it is a tavern in Middleton, taking place during the day. There are four PEF’s in the Chillin’ encounter, one of which will be the person offering the job. The three others are, in no particular order, two NPC Joes (laborers), one Grath exotic (mercenary), and three NPC criminals (Net Runners).
I decide to have Lane just Talk the Talk with the Joes (he’s good at that) and passes 2d6 to 1d6. Next, I’ll just avoid the Grath with a SAV vs. SAV roll which Lane again wins 2d6 to 1d6. Finally, Lane would like to engage the Net Runners, but both end up passing 2d6, so the Net Runners ignore him.
The gentleman who approached Lane looked like money: expensive suit and shoes, styled hair done professionally but without too much flash, and an accent that suggested many years in front of real, live educators. After getting a quiet booth and a round of drinks, the man made his pitch.
“I represent a large financial consortium whose interest lie in making sure that the government of an outer ring planet agrees to a new defense contract. But those negotiations are top secret, and there are people who similarly would love to see the negotiations fail and the contract fall through. A diplomat from the planet in question is coming here for a face-to-face meeting, and rather than use regular channels, we want to bring in outside help to make sure that he makes that meeting.”
“And that is where we come in,” said Lane. “You want us to convey your guest and keep him safe.”
“Everything is very confidential,” the man continued. “You’ll use regular transportation within the city; nothing too conspicuous. Just some normal people traveling from point A to point B.”
“Regular people, but you said something about other interests wanting to stop this. How far will they go?” asked Stanovic.
“Given what is at stake, I wouldn’t be surprised at anything,” said the man.
After a few more details were exchanged, Lane and the man agreed on a price, shook hands, and the man left. “There’s a lot of variables here I don’t like,” said Stanovic. “Why are they not using their own security? Or their own vehicles?”
“For what they are paying, I can stand a little ambiguity.” said Lane, as he rose to leave the bar.
For the Encounter “Job Offer” the employer is determined by charts. A roll of 5 and 5 gives me a Mover, and 1 and 3 makes him a Patron (Basic, REP 3, PEO 3, SAV 2). The Job Specs roll is a 6, meaning he wants the Star to move someone to a destination. Some quick rolling shows this person to be a Mover (Diplomat), Basic with REP 4, PEO 4, and SAV 3. It is again left up to me to fill out the details, including some obvious questions about why a diplomat needs independent contractors, etc. But in the Job Offer exchange, Lane scored 2d6 to the Patron’s 0d6, so the job’s his for the taking.
The diplomat’s name was Volante, a dark-skinned Basic in a cream colored outfit that looked tailored to his large frame. Lane exchanged the agreed-upon introductory phrases and Volante handed over his luggage to them with a careful smile that showed a bit of tension underneath. He’s anxious, expecting trouble, Lane thought.
As they exited the spaceport terminal onto the street and began walking to the nearby metro terminal, a long black hoversedan pulled up to the curb and three men exited the vehicle. “Mr. Volante,” one of the men said, “our employer would like a chance to talk to you.”
Lane sized up the three men slowly approaching from the car. Medium build, businesswear attire, both nothing that screamed serious trouble. “I am afraid I am going to have to turn down your generous hospitality,” said Volante in his tilting off-world accent. “I have business elsewhere.”
“I am afraid we are going to have to insist,” said the first man, gesturing to his two companions. The three men slowly approached, hands flexing as if ready to snatch a candy bar from a newstand. Lane and Stanovic dropped the luggage they were carrying. Two on three didn’t make for great odds, but the knife Lane kept in a sheath under his coat would help. He glanced at Stanovic, who was taking out a small rod. With a push of a button, the rod extended out into a 60 centimeter baton of black metal.
Deciding that finishing this quickly would be the best, Lane lunged at the closest man from the car, catching him with a long cut across his arm that left him falling back, howling in pain. Stanovic easily dodged a clumsy attack from a second man and clouted him solidly on the head. He fell hard, catching the edge of the curb with a sickening crunch. Lane swung around to the third man, catching him with his knife and dropping him as well. Lane glanced around, spotting Volante running for the entrance to the metrorail. “Don’t lose him!” he shouted to Stanovic.
Onboard the train, Stanovic leaned over and muttered to Lane. “Now we know what those guys wanted in your apartment: information about this job. Word must have leaked that you were being hired as the transporter. I wonder how much they know.”
“Five minutes in, and we also have a dead body on our hands, right in public too,” said Lane darkly.
“Honestly, I thought he’d block the swing. These guys were not professionals, just some mooks that looked like they were pulled from the mail room.” said Stanovic.
“Well, that was just round one,” said Lane, glancing at Volante who was sitting nervously on a nearby seat.
“Escort” has the very likely possibility of hostile Confrontation encounters being a part of the process, and in this case I rolled that there would be two, both with their own PEF. The first PEF turned out to be three NPC’s, Joes-Service (salespeople), all of whom are unarmed. It took me a long while to figure out how this fit into the story, but in the end I just went with it, figuring the three Joes were staff of a rival firm who were going to try to muscle their way into stopping the deal if things went south.
In the combat, the Joes got Advantage, but Lane passed 2d6 to their 1d6 so Lane & Co. went first. Lane rolled 3d6 for melee (on account of his hand weapon), but only passed 1d6. The Joe (REP 3) only passed 0d6, and Lane got an OOF result for damage (rolling a 6). Stanovic passed 3d6 to the Joe’s 1d6 but his role was a 1, 1, and 2, meaning that the outcome of his damage roll (higher than the Joe’s REP) is an “Obviously Dead” result. That’s good news combat-wise, but narratively could pose some real problems down the line.
In the Will to Fight, the Joes pass 2d6, Lane passes 1d6, meaning one person leaves the board (the diplomat).
In the second round of melee combat, Lane passes 2d6 to the last Joe’s 0d6, and scores an OOF. In the Recovery portion, Lane passes 2d6 and recovers the diplomat.
Lane and Stanovic hustled the diplomat out of the metro station and towards the restaurant where the meeting was to be taking place. “Strange location for this kind of thing,” remarked Stanovic. “You would think ‘office building’ or ’embassy.'”
“This whole thing smells,” said Lane sourly, but softly enough so that Volante couldn’t hear them. I am beginning to think this isn’t what we were told it was-“
The half-second high-pitched whine was the only warning Lane got of the energy weapon being powered up nearby. Three loud whomps followed, signs that the heavy weapon was discharging rounds of coherent light in their direction. Windows and ferroconcrete walls shattered around them. The two men scrambled for cover, pulling their shocked companion with them.
“I think we just got promoted to Varsity, coach!” yelled Stanovic over the noise.
“Great! Really great!” shouted Lane back as he pulled the large revolver from its cross holster and fired the shooter, a large bald man with rounded shoulders and heavy coat. The military-grade lasgun held to one shoulder. Lane fired and the round caught the man squarely in the chest, knocking him backwards. But Lane saw the man stagger up and shuffle under cover by a nearby parked car. Body armor, Lane thought with a scowl. “Get him inside the restaurant–I’ll provide cover,” he shouted to Stanovic, who was taking Volante by the arm and steering him towards the building, hunched low to avoid further gunfire.
But no further shots were heard, and Lane thought he saw the large man with the rifle hustling off into a nearby alley. Inside the restaurant, Volante was being greeted by worried staff and several men who were clearly expecting him. They quickly began moving to a back room of the building.
“Looks like our part is done,” said Stanovic.
“Almost,” said Lane, taking his phone out of his pocket and, when it looked like no one was paying attention, snapping a photo of Volante and the men who were expecting him. “Just a little insurance. You were right; there were too many questions at the beginning, and now we are in deep. I want a few answers, just for my own comfort.”
In a nearby alley, the bald man tossed the lasgun into the trunk of his car, his phone pressed to his ear. “The target got away,” he said. “Yes, I know that will be problem, but not something that can’t be fixed. We move onto Phase Two.” He grunted in pain and he shifted his frame around, feeling where the bullet had smacked the chest plate of his armor. “In the meantime, find out everything you can about those two jokers who were with him.”
He clicked off the phone and slid in into his pocket. The coat pulled aside to show the sheen of the badge clipped to his belt, the light from nearby cars shining off its surface.
The second Confrontation PEF turned out to be a single Exotic NPC, but this time the table came up as a police officer! Now I was really trying to figure out how all this fit in. Was he a local beat cop, or some sort of provincial agent, like the FBI? Why would a law enforcement person be after a diplomat? I began to imagine possible scenarios, like perhaps he was a crooked cop who took jobs on the side, or was the inside man for a larger cabal of some kind. Details like this, however, don’t need to be completely fleshed out. What I did need was his hardware, and the dice were not friendly: an A-3 assault rifle and soft body armor. What’s more, the guy clocked in at REP 4.
To make matters worse, he gained Advantage, and passed 2d6 to Lane’s 1d6. The NPC passed 2d6 on the shooting, but thankfully both Lane and Stanovic ended up with Duck Back results. That meant they would lose their first turn recovering from that, however. Lane passed the Will to Fight with 2d6.
Thankfully Lane regained Advantage, and passed 1d6 to a surprising 0d6 from the NPC (the dice turned quickly this game). Lane’s shooting passed 2d6, but he failed to beat the adjusted REP of 5 from the soft body armor (he rolled a 4) and the NPC also Ducked Back. This time the NPC failed his Will to Fight, and left the board, ending the fight and the encounter, with Lane successfully escorting the diplomat to his destination.
Totally up the REP d6’s, Lane got zero increases from the involuntary encounter but got three decreases. Stanovic got one increase, the mercenary he took out. In the voluntary encounter, Lane got three increases from interacting with others in the “Chillin'” portion(the Joes, the avoided Grath, and the Patron), and two for the Joes he took out in the melee fight. Finally, he got four for completing the Job. With one decrease for having Stanovic on the payroll, that brings his net total to five Increase REP d6’s. Stanovic get’s two, one for the mercenary and another for the Joe in the melee. Neither of them manage any increases, however.
What they do have now, however, is several plot lines and accompanying NPC’s ready to show up in later encounters and PEF’s! So what did you all think? Where do you think this goes from here?
You handled the Defend great. In NB you may not know who they are the first time you meet them or why they’re after you, but you know them now. Great story, dang, I need to start playing again.
Thanks! A good bit of the fun was connecting the dots after the essentials had been rolled up.
Love the story. I like the way THW games throw unsuspecting curve balls to frame the narrative.
Thanks for posting – a great and interesting read.