Scum & Villainy War Story #2: Viva la revolución!
Yesterday, I sounded the All-Call on Discord for my Scum & Villainy group pretty early. I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t going to be two players down for the second week in a row, you see, so I decided to be proactive. “Hey guys, just wanted to touch base and make sure we’re still on for tonight.” Chorus of assent; happy GM noises. But, I got a PM a couple of hours later that our Scoundrel, Tycho, was having Internet issues and his best case scenario was getting a fix on Monday. That sucks, but Tycho’s player is really good at the whole communication thing.
Usually, I keep a channel in Discord open for criticism and suggestions, and I think that Tycho’s player is the only one who’s ever used it. He’s that guy, the one who will actually give you feedback, not just the thumbs up. But he wasn’t going to make it. But I still had four scoundrels to run through another episode of thrilling heroics, so we carried on.
We jumped into the voice chat on time, got through the preliminary table talk and ran the recap. You can read that in last week’s Warstory article. No, I didn’t read it to them, because that would be overkill. We do broad-strokes, by which I mean: they tell me.
“What’d we do last week, guys?”
What ensues is basically the clippy, disjointed recap montage that you would see at the beginning of a TV episode. Super cool.
This is a diagnostic tool that I employ pretty often. At best a week has gone by and my players are going to have forgotten a lot of the fiddly details of the campaign, so anything they remember is something that has stuck in their minds. This lets me hear what people are thinking about the campaign. Even better, I get to hear about the things that they think happened. They don’t realize it, but some of that stuff ends up being better than what actually happened. See, I don’t have a studio audience playing along at home, so no one is going to hold me to task when an NPC didn’t really say this or that. That means that their take on the situation becomes canon. Typically they’ll like that situation better, or hate it more viscerally if they happen to have gotten screwed over.
Anyway, we settle in, because Brex the pig-lizard dog thing is still in the hands of our space-cowboys, and they have a mighty need to get paid for it. So, I ask where the meet is going to go down. I gave them some choices: Sonhandra the tidally-locked smugglers and thieves and prospectors world; SB-176, the mining asteroid with a seamy underbelly; Warren, the ecumenopolis planet where the regional government was headquartered. They bit off on Sonhandra, and decided that the deal was going down in an out of the way part of one of the low-security twilight cities along the planet’s terminator line. That sounded cool. So I started asking questions.
“Bastien, what makes the local dives special? Is it food or booze? Something else?”
Bastien’s player decided that it was the food, so he started riffing about the kinds of food you find on a tidally locked world like Sonhandra, and we ended up with a scene where the camera is panning around this space diner, focusing in on a waitress delivering these steaming platter-sized beetles and cracking open their exoskeletons to reveal this spicy bug-porridge stuff. This is the Sonhandran Night-beetle and I hate them. So did Mink, our synth Stitch. While we learned that Mink can indeed eat, despite being a fabricated creature (not quite a robot), she’s not going to eat that.
This is a backdrop for the conversation between Kronico, our pilot (absent last week), Zeriff, our muscle-bound bounty hunter (also absent last week), and Captain Bojangles, a retired military pilot mentor of Kronico’s. This was the guy who gave us the job last week. We kidnapped his pet from his awful ex-wife, and he was the one who was paying us the piddly two creds to return his best friend in the whole wide ‘verse. But there’s a wrinkle. As Bojangles was walking into this dive, he saw that there were a couple unsavouries keeping an eye on the door. They were wearing blue-bands…which meant Cobalt Syndicate, the local rabble-rousing union mob.
While the Scoundrels took their cred from Bojangles and ate bugs, Mink and Zerrif went to go see what that was all about. What ensued was a fun scene where the thugs try and persuade the scoundrels to get in the car and go meet with the boss. I’ll spare details, but watching the synth and the stony badass glare down these three bad stereotypical meatheads trying to sound both professional and dangerous was a lot of fun. So let’s cut to the refitted mining warehouse which comprise the Cobalt Syndicate’s local headquarters.
Skeer, the Chairman of this particular chapter of the Cobalt Syndicate, sits the heroes around the table for tea, finger sandwiches, and a business proposition. One of his rabble-rousers roused too much rabble, shouted too much dogma, and set a few too many fires. So, Reggie Shu got pinched by the local rent-a-cops and was locked in the Hoosegow until the Hegemony Federals could fly in to pick him up and take him to a more secure facility. Job’s plenty simple, bust into the Hoosegow in one of the border settlements, a place we decide is called Disappointment, free Reggie, and deliver him to Jex the Cobalt Syndicate’s leader on Warren. Skeer offers two cred up front to cover expenses and an additional two on delivery. Oh, and if they could managed, try not to kill anyone. Apparently Hoosegow and the Cobalt Syndicate have joint interests. Union things. Still, easy money, right?
Our heroes decide that they don’t have the information necessary to spring Reggie. There’s some spit-balling of what sort of plan we want to execute. Mink is pretty excited about the Gunsmoke approach where we blow out the back wall of the old-timey prison and snatch our rabble-rouser. Zeriff thinks that sounds cool too. He didn’t get to shoot anyone last week, and he wants to use his Muscle abilities and get in a fight. Bastien and Kronico want to do things a little quieter. They’re taking the whole zero bodycount thing seriously. They know that the Feds are coming to pick up Reggie pretty soon, but they aren’t exactly sure when. But assuming they move fast, maybe impersonating an officer and taking custody might be a good idea, right? Right.
Our crew look at their sheets and start planning. Forged in the Dark games are light on this kind of thing by their very nature. We get to the good parts, because why would you want to spend more time than necessary on the boring stuff. All the planning in the world doesn’t matter when we all know that no plan survives contact with the enemy, right? But Zeriff has a crooked cop on his list of contacts, and Bastien knows the owner of a travelling junkyard who might be able to fix them up with a vehicle. Both of them nail their roles for securing assets. Zeriff pays some cred for a stolen badge and some Fed uniforms; they are pricey, but if they can pull this off, it’s easy money. Slice, Bastien’s contact, happens to have a Hegemony Federal Flitter, kind of a helicopter/hovercraft thing. It doesn’t fly, but Bastien’s a mechanic.
Mink and Zeriff are still hoping that things go sideways so they can blow up the back wall.
We smash to the scene of the crime where Bastien and Kronico are dressed as Feds, landing in the middle of the street. They want to make an entrance. Kronico manages not to crush anyone on the dusty main thoroughfare, but he does scratch a passing skimmer. The driver’s not enthused, but the two jackbooted feds who step out, are not the local constabulary. They aren’t going to be intimidated by a shouting taxpayer. So into the Hoosegow our disguised guys go.
Zeriff and Mink are in the general store which is next to the prison. They’re being unobtrusive, waiting for the signal that everything has gone horribly awry. They’re the insurance policy. Only, unlike Bastien and Kronico, they flubbed their engagement roll. So I had to introduce a complication. Someone from their past is inside the store as well. But who?
Zeriff jumped on the grenade, he decided that Aya, the Assassin on his contact list, was in the store. She threw some pottery at him, spat invectives, and forced him into the street. Zeriff decided that he had left her behind on a job the two of them had run, thus the bad feelings. Mink, had meant to drug the assassin before it got out of hand, but watching Zeriff and Aya fly out into the street, she decides instead to start taking bets. They aren’t the distraction that they hoped they would be, but in a pinch? Not bad.
So, Zeriff’s player had some real life girl troubles at this point, so he had to cut out. Kind of unfortunate, since he was having a knock-down drag out with a rival, but real life is real. You can’t tell me that I didn’t make that happen with my mind. I know I did. He’ll be back next week, I hope. And we’ll finish his first full session of a table-top RPG ever at that point. Super neat.
Back inside the Hoosegow, Bastien and Kronico tried to bluff their way past the guards, or rather tried to strong-arm their way past the rent-a-cops. It goes pretty well. They flash their stolen badge, and the rent-a-cops don’t realize that the portrait inside is not the man flashing the badge. Bastien actually is holding a Hegemony Fed badge that belongs to a tentacle-headed Kobarian. There’s a complication to the strong-arming, though, and that concerned citizen, enraged by these feds scratching his car, comes in to file a report. He takes their badge number, and the rent-a-cop begins to file the report to central. There’s a ticking clock. They need to get their package out of here before that report clears and it’s flagged…because the Kobarian fed is probably elsewhere doing things, and bad news will begin to brew.
The package, Reggie, is like something out of a French Revolution painting: long black curls, flowing tunic, leather pants, bucket boots, exaggerated martyr complex. I’m pretty sure the characters hated him. My players loved him. He greets them with “Ah! Look here, the fascist dogs come to bring me to my appointment with the headsman. Beware, good sirs! Today the sun shines on your Hegemony, but the Light of Liberty makes all suns pale beside its radiance.” Or something, I was riffing. Bastien doesn’t have the prisoner transfer chit, but with a solid command role, helped out by Kronico’s gleeful suckerpunch to the gut of the prisoner, it becomes clear to the Hoosegow guys that this isn’t a time for paperwork. A revolutionary is getting the black-bag treatment, and they don’t want to be next on the agenda.
As they’re leaving though, the report is submitted and the ping-back has the Hoosegow supervisor flagging over Bastien. Bastien motions Kronico to continue with the prisoner as he prepares to face the music. The obvious problem is that Bastien is not a Kobarian. “Uh…sorry to be a bother Agent…uh…Chi-tweel?” Bastien is prepared for this. He calls a flashback and makes a killer Rig role to create mechanized prosthetics and a backplate for his uniform. He spins a terse sort of sob story about the nature of being a xeno in a human’s world and how “we all have to change if we want to be who we really are on the inside.” It was audacious and clever and backed by a good roll. We were all loving it. So it passes. Brilliant.
Kronico kept walking the prisoner into the street, and kept giving him gentle encouragement. With his fists. Disappointment has a lot of street-theatre going on today, and the locals are pretty enthusiastic. But this is a border planet, and the feds are taking a local boy away in a flitter, beating him as they go to really sell the jackbooted thug angle, and there are a couple of bleeding hearts in the crowd. Kronico gets to use his piloting skills to try and extract Bastien before the mob gets going, but with the rotor wash, he doesn’t hear Reggie get his binders off.
When Bastien boards the flitter, Reggie spears him with a “Ha-ha! Have at you!” The would be revolutionary gets Bastien’s blaster away from him, but Kronico hits the brakes and sends Reggie into a bulkhead. There is some hurried explanation, and Reggie is only a little disappointed that he doesn’t get to be a martyr.
Mink and Zeriff extricate themselves from the street fight after Aya gets tired of beating on Zeriff. She left promising the bounty-hunter that if they crossed paths on the job again, she’d put him down. Can’t wait to bring her back. Mink and Zeriff make for the extraction point just in time to uncover bad news in the terminal. Feds have rigged the Sonhandran air defenses to blast any ships departing without authorization.
Our pilot is a man of steel, so he takes off anyway. With clever roles, some teamwork, and a lucky shot at a sensor array, the crew of the Alleged Ship (currently called Lenara) gets away. But the Feds have their drive signature, so there’s some reprogramming necessary. Mink tinkers and renames the ship “Snuggles.” Is this a bad time to remind people that Mink’s vice is watching cute puppy videos?
Bastien and Kronico have a moment with Reggie, curious as to what it was exactly that he did to wind up in the Hoosegow. Reggie waxes poetic:
“Ah, fellows. Behold. One who loved not wisely, but too well. I shone a light upon the iniquitites of our system, the Hegemony that lays its foot upon the throat of the working class, making us to toil in the darkness that they might jealously guard the light. It is a machine, friends. It is a thing of wheels and gears and levers, an atrocity of self-perpetuating greed and spite. I threw myself upon the wheels, upon the gears, upon the levers. There was a livery in Disappointment, a place where all of the prospectors got their equipment, their beasts. It was owned by a retired Hegemony officer. His prices… I shone a light…I set a fire.” He looked off into the middle distance. “I set fire to a livery.” He cleared his throat. “I believe the technical charge was Arson…”
Anyway, the crew take a circuitous route to Warren, and drop off the revolutionary with Jex, a vaguely Russian accented hyper-capitalist rat creature called a Sc’Ree. It turns out that Jex does not mean to chasten Reggie; Bastien was worried that Reg was going to wind up in a shallow grave. Instead, Jex is actually fond of Reggie, thanking him for working to spread the message of the Cobalt Syndicate. “He’s not clever. He’s not forward-thinking. He’s not easy to work with. But Reggie Shu is the kind of person that gets people to listen…they can’t help it. Reggie believes everything he says, and people can feel that.”
They add Reggie as a contact, because Bastien actually kind of likes the guy.
Our heroes have flashed their arse to the law, continued to foster their relationship to the Cobalt Syndicate, and is a little less poor for it. Check in next week and we’ll see what kind of trouble our scrappy band of bounty hunters and extractions specialists find next.