“So this job seems right up your alley, Stanovic,” said Lane.
“We are once again helping an off-worlder around town? That doesn’t seem too bad.” Stanovic said with a shrug.
“That’s what I thought, of course this time I made sure to check the guy out in advance. He’s a bounty hunter here on business, but apparently he isn’t looking for help with that. Just a guide to get him to where he needs to go.”
Lane was glad for the easy gig. The money hadn’t been coming in as quickly as he had hoped, and he was loathe to take out a huge loan, especially since the only people who would front him the money would be, in a word, sketchy. Like break-your-legs-if-you-miss-a-payment sketchy.
Until then, it was dirtside jobs like this one, and riding public transportation. The problem was, to get from where he was living near the spaceport to where the client was waiting for him, he and his bodyguard Stanovic would have to make their way through some of the not-so-great parts of New Hope City. What’s worse, Stanovic had insisted on getting off in one of these less-regulated areas of NHC, claiming he had a huge craving for a Meehat Pho that he had discovered between jobs. One plastic to-go bowl later and they were headed back to the station.
“Got a light, friend?” said a voice behind them. Lane turned to see a lanky Basic wearing a red and white colored outfit of shiny material that showed off a lean midriff and almost distracted a viewer from the pistol held in his hand.
“Um, Lane…” said Stanovic, tugging at his boss’ jacket sleeve. Two other figures wearing similar outfits had also emerged from the shadows, similarly armed.
“This is three-four-one-one territory,” said the first figure, “and to pass through, you have to pay a toll.”
“I have heard of these guys, Lane. You do not want to mess with them. They are ruthless and will come after you if you cross them,” said Stanovic nervously.
“And you didn’t know that when you decided to make this little pit stop?” asked Lane with dismay. Stanovic shrugged in reply.
It is the third episode in my 5150: New Beginnings solo roleplaying campaign, entitled “Hard Currency,” with each episode representing a single month in the life of Lane, my Star of the campaign and his hopes of finding his fortune on the shady side of the system. This month’s Involuntary Encounter turned out to be Defend, the second month in a row that happened. That seems like a lot, but the details should help. The “why” of the encounter turned out to be “Wrong Place, Wrong Time,” and the PEF in question was rolled up to be three NPC Criminals, specifically thieves. I couldn’t see yet another break-in at Lane’s place (yet) so I figured this would be a bit of a prelude vignette to the main Voluntary Encounter. I ended up finishing this Involuntary Encounter, then rolling the Voluntary one, but put the details of the Voluntary one in the final narrative of the blog post. Which is to say, I had no idea Lane would be hired to escort an alien bounty hunter at the time, but found out later that would be the case. It is funny how the story comes together post facto rather than as it linearly unfolds.
The gangers’ leader was REP 3 PEO 2 SAV 3 armed with a B2 and having SB body armor and the train Hard as Nails (will treat first OD as OOF), Ganger 2 was REP 3 PEO 2 SAVE 3 with a P1 and SB, and the third ganger was REP 3 PEO 2 SAVE 3 with a P1 and SB.
“Okay, shit, where did I put my wallet?” said Lane, seemingly to himself has he started patting down various pockets in his red racing jacket. “Oh, wait, found it.” he said as he yanked the large revolver from his cross-draw holster and fired a round at the leader then quickly pivoted to fire another round at a second gang member. The two would-be muggers dove for cover.
“Wait, we’re doing this?” said Stanovic as he pulled his own pistol out, trading shots with the third ganger. “This is a terrible idea!”
Lane glanced around, and seeing only the ganger that had fired on Stanovic still visible, loosed another round in her direction. It hit her squarely in the chest, taking her down.
Lane paused, taking in the moment of sudden silence. The other two gangers hadn’t reappeared. But also missing was his henchman Stanovic.
“Stanovic!” Lane shouted and looked around on the ground, thinking perhaps the man had been hit. Rather than see a body, there was no one around except the bleeding gang member Lane had shot. “Stanovic!” Lane shouted again. “Where are you?”
After a long pause, Lane had a sinking feeling Stanovic had fled. “Are you kidding me?!?” Lane shouted aloud to himself. “You assjacket! You’re supposed to be my bodyguard! What the hell?!?”
First of all, the timing of the encounter turned out to be at night, which made sense and also meant those without Advantage would initially have cover. Good thing, too, because a roll of 6 meant the gangers did. Lane won the Activation roll, however, passing 2d6 to 0d6. Lane fired at two gangers with his B-2 pistol, hitting both with 2d6 but on the damage roll was a 3 on the first (resulting in Duck Back) and a 2 on the next (Duck Back again). Stanovic fired, but only passed 1d6 so the Ganger was able to return fire. Thankfully the ganger passed 0d6 for a miss.On the gangers turn, Gangers 1 and 2 recover from Duck Back, while the third ganger hits Stanovic for 1d6, but since he is also under cover (night) he is able to return fire for another 1d6, so they both end up undamaged.
On the Will to fight, Lane and the Gang Leader both only pass 1d6. Lane loses one of his band, namely Stanovic, while the gang member loses two. I figure it makes sense for those to be the two who have just recovered from Duck Back (not a big deal since they are all roughly the same).On the second turn, the gangers again gain Advantage but Lane passes Activation 2d6 to 0d6 for a second time and shoots the third gang member for 2d6, and gets an Out of Fight result on his damage roll. All well and good, but in the Recovery Phase I have to roll for Stanovic’s return against his REP of 4. He only passes 1d6, and the table shows he has left the band! A terrible turn of events, and a reminder about why using tokens instead of painting miniatures makes sense some times. On the other hand, there’s nothing to say he can not come back in the future…Lane gets Increased REP 1d6 for his trouble (the OOF gang member) but has lost his only ally. Not a great turn of events so far….
Lane had run into his fair share of Zhuh-Zhuh before, but Bosengi was a large specimen even for his species. The larger sub-race of the Zhuh-Zhuh were descended from ancient Terran gorillas, but Bosengi stood straight, rather than hunched over, and carried himself with a certain confidence and poise. Lane introduced himself to the bounty hunter in the lobby of the hotel where they were to meet, produced his credentials, and then offered to carry the large bag the Zhuh-Zhuh had slung over his shoulder.
“That will not be necessary,” Bosengi said with a low rumble, “all I require is your guiding me to my destination.”
Lane shrugged, and then led his charge towards the Metro station which would lead them from Middleton across the city to its community counterpart, Midland Terrace. Both the starting venue and the end were solidly middle-class neighborhoods, as their name suggested. Lane wondered what kind of criminal would be hanging out in those locations, rather than in the seedier parts of town. Maybe some white-collar criminal like an embezzler or a hacker, Lane thought to himself.
The trip turned out to be uneventful, a welcome change of pace for Lane, who spent some of the downtime silently brooding about Stanovic’s betrayal. He pondered whether it would be worth tracking the bodyguard down, but pursuing every petty vendetta, every slight, was a good way to waste time and energy, and possibly end up getting more trouble than you bargained for. For his own part, Bosengi also seemed to be keeping to himself, subtly scanning every rider on the monorail with trained eyes.
Lane began to suspect something was amiss when the crowds outside the Midland Terrace station were just a bit thicker than they should be for this time of day. As he shouldered his way through the increasingly denser masses of pedestrians, Lane discovered what the problem was. A massive construction project had completely shut down the main artery through the area, and traffic, both walking and vehicular, were being re-routed to alternate paths. Lane looked with confusion and frustration at the byzantine signs indicating how he was to proceed.
“I’m on a tight schedule; these delays pose a serious problem for me.” said Bosengi with what Lane suspected was the beginning of the infamous Zhuh-Zhuh temper. The bounty hunter looked at him, clearly expecting Lane to have an answer to the problem.
“Let me see what I can do,” Lane said with a bit more optimism than he was actually feeling. He looked around and spotted two of the construction workers. As it turned out, they were part of the smaller sub-race of Zhuh-Zhuh, more like small chimpanzees than apes. We waved at them and the two aliens sauntered over slowly, looking warily at him under hard hats.
“Hey, fellas, I am in a real bind here,” said Lane to the two Zhuh-Zhuh. “That guy,” Lane gestured to Bosengi, “has a very important meeting he has to get to. Life and death stuff. And I’m in charge of getting him there. Is there any way that we can get through this without having to go all the way around?”
One of the Zhuh-Zhuh shook his head. “It’s not possible. Barry would have our heads if we let someone through.”
Lane paused, as if in thought, “That’s fair. I wouldn’t want you guys to get into trouble. But as one working stiff to another, is there any way to make it happen. If we got caught, I would never say it was you.”
The two Zhuh-Zhuh looked at each other, and then shrugged. “There’s an access corridor over there that we use to get to various parts of the worksite. It’s a shortcut through, but you didn’t hear about it from us.”
“You guys are the best,” said Lane. “I really, really appreciate this.”Lane waved Bosengi over, and then led him to where the access tunnel opened up into the morass of buildings and construction materials. The two walked down the long, winding corridor past piles of tools and supplies. At one point another construction worker, a Basic, came the other way and halted when he saw them. Lane could see him taking in their absence of work clothes and hard hats. “You guys are not supposed to be in here,” he said.
“Tell that to Barry,” Lane said. “He told us this was the way were supposed to go.”
The man looked at the two skeptically, then with a small dismissive wave headed off in the other direction. Lane looked at Bosengi, smiled, and then continued on.
So as I mentioned earlier, I had known that I was going to be doing some sort of voluntary encounter even as I was rolling up the involuntary one. I picked “Escort” and then began rolling up the details. A nighttime event, starting in Middleton and ending in Midland Terrace. The subject being escorted surprised me. I rolled up an Exotic, then a Zhuh-Zhuh for race, then a bounty hunter specifically. On the Zhuh-Zhuh table I got a REP 4 PEO 4 SAV 3. I didn’t bother with gear unless we got into trouble along the way.Another roll showed me two PEF’s. The first was two Joe-laborers, again Zhuh-Zhuh (a trend?) with again an impressive REP 4 PEO 4 SAV 3 for their leader. It also indicated they were in manufacturing. Fortunately enough, the encounter was shown to be non-hostile. Now the rules say that the PEF engages the escorted individual, but the details of the narrative that was forming in my head suggested Lane should handle it, and with his “Smooth” ability and a Joe’s -1d6 modifier with dealing with non-Joes, Lane passed 1d6 to the Joes 0d6, meaning a problem-free interaction and one Increasing REP d6. For the story itself, I had to figure out why Zhuh-Zhuh Joes would interact with Lane and the NPC in a non-hostile but still challenging way, and came up with the construction site detour problem.The second PEF was also a Joe, this time just a simple laborer, a Basic, with a stat list of REP 3 PEO 3 SAV 3. Easy pickings for Lane. The encounter was also shown to be non-hostiles, which as the rules stated, meant that Lane was being paid for nothing. I’ll take it, given the other problems he had been having, and Lane passed 2d6 to the Joe’s 1d6, and another Increase REP d6 was had. With no hostile Confrontations, this Encounter was over. Or was it…?
A few hours later, Lane and Bosengi were having a couple of drinks at a tavern in Midland Terrace. Bosengi’s target, an accountant named Sopazt who had been skimming the books from the wrong client, was cuffed, unconscious, and lying in a curled heap at Bosengi’s feet below the table. The tavern’s other clients were solicitously avoiding looking in their direction.
“My thanks for your help, Lane,” said Bosengi after he took another gulp of his drink.
“No problem, and nice work on that guy,” replied Lane. “You know, if I had the funds, I’d think of hiring you myself.”
“Problem?” asked Bosengi, raising a furred eyebrow.
Lane shrugged. “A bad hire who turned tail at the worst moment. I suppose in the end it’s better that I learned that now instead of when things got really bad. But I thought he would be a big help in my plan-“”Your plan to start your own transport company?” Bosengi urged. “I noticed the jacket, and thought perhaps you were a little overqualified to be a simple tour guide.”
“Exactly!” said Lane with obvious excitement. “A ship, some regular business moving things about. But I would need help. Especially when it comes to watching my back.”
Bosengi thought to himself for a moment. “I really appreciated how you handled those Zhuh-Zhuh back there. Another Basic might have bullied, or threatened them. Or just treated them as less than equals. You tried to find solutions that worked for everyone, and that’s not a common quality in this line of work. You’re a decent guy, and I respect that.”
Bosengi paused a second moment, and then said, “I have been contracting out my transportation through public companies, but that’s often a hassle, and doesn’t let me set my own schedule. Plus I too could use a helping hand now and then. What do you say we combine our interests?”
“I’d say I’m all for it, partner,” said Lane, clinking their glasses together.
Looking at Bosengi’s stat line, I realized that he was a pretty formidable NPC, and an excellent substitute for the departed Stanovic. So I had Lane do the “Talk the Talk” option and added an additional 1d6 with “Sweet Talk,” which give you another die to roll, but costs you a REP d6 in the process. Good thing too, because Bosengi passed 2d6, but Lane got 3d6 (a tie would mean Bosengi would ignore Lane). With that out of the way, I needed to do Further Interaction, and again opted for Sweet Talk a second time. Bosengi again passed 2d6, but Lane (with the reroll) got 3d6, and Bosengi joins the band! The two Increased REP d6’s from the interaction are wiped out by the two “Sweet Talks,” but well worth the loss.
Lane gets one Increased REP d6 from the Involuntary Encounter, and three from the Voluntary one (two effective interactions with the PEF Joes, and completing the Encounter). None of them result in an increase. More resources for retirement however, and now it is past time to figure out the ship rules for Lane and get him moving onto his destiny!
In the meantime, this encounter reminded me how NPC’s come and go in 5150: New Beginnings. Something to consider before I get too invested in painting up miniatures for everyone…
Thanks for reading, and comments always welcome.