So I was nervous about this one. I know it showed. But I had good reason to be.
(1) My core group of two others players isn't particularly indie-conversant. Tim figures why not just play D&D? They've been good sports in the past, though, and were again tonight, especially toward the latter half of play.
(2) I'm a Vx groupie. My other players (Mpose and Tim) know this. I've only gotten to run Dogs, though, and that only once.
(3) I had, like, no prep. I found out at work that we were going to hang out tonight. Then Mpose texted me: "Man, I want to play an RPG." So I figured, why not AW?
I wasn't sure, though. I had a few other options just as unready.
But I'd had time to print out half the character refbooks (Hardholder through Skinner), and I think glancing those over did the trick.
So Tim choose the Hammer the Savvyhead; Mpose chose Uncle the Hardholder.
My improv-fu is at -1, I think. So I was worried about this first session business. I asked questions. Some were answered. A lot were tossed back at me. Player authorship was hard to squeeze out.
"Why can't you just tell us?"
"Because I don't know."
I thought about calling it off but persevered. I'm glad I did.
After around 30 minutes, we figured out that the characters lived on east bank of the Mississippi in a bustling little market town called Bartertown. It's got good security, but the security force is small. Hydroelectric power + who knows what.
Some scuffles over deals and occasionally some intrusion from a group that calls themselves the Iriquois, albeit with no relation to the actual folks. Some three-eyed fish are popping up in the otherwise okay Mississippi. Eating them gives you the Smellygut. You don't want it. It's contagious and just what it sounds like and more.
Uncle the Hardholder's in his 50s. Nice guy. Trying to make a civilized place where there's trade and justice. Hammer the Savvyhead seems to be an okay dude too. Makes pneumatic stuff somehow. Keeps to himself. Keeps the armory nice and squeaky.
Okay, I thought. That's way too nice. People can be happy here. We've got to make things interesting.
I say, who's your enforcer, Uncle? He says a guy named Saban. I say why's he been stealing stuff from you? Mpose says it's for his wife. I say her name is Tao, and they've got three sons, Bar, Foster, and III.
Now then. I say Hammer, you lock the door when you're tinkering around in your workspace, right? Yeah, dude. Of course. But that apprentice you've got? III? Saban's son? He's kind of an idiot. And he walks in with stuff from your junkyard and leaves the door open behind him, and then these two masked dudes bust in. One's got a crowbar. One's got a 9. They say Give us the protection money. We asked you once. This is the last time, or stuff gets broke.
I figure Tim (Hammer's player) is going to go straight up nuts. He's got a sleeve pistol and scalpels concealed up his sleeves. He always plays the barbarian in D&D. It's blood time, I think.
He says fine. So I say the crowbar dude is walking toward you. He says We'll start
with that. He gestures at the little cybernetic what's it you've got in your hands. Tim says fine. But, he says, when he reaches to take it, I get slicey with my scalpel. He's blocking line of sight from the other dude.
I say rock. Acting Under Fire. Roll+cool.
I say you drop the scalpel and get whacked across the face with the crowbar. Harm move: 7. You're layed out on the ground, and dude with the gun comes holds it real still on your head. He doesn't know what to do. He looks to crowbar guy. Do you do anything?
Tim says no. So I say they're going to take what they can and break some stuff. You're going to lose 1-barter if you don't do anything. He says fine. And I say III just kind of slips out while this is going on, and you see him make eye contact with one of the guys. They let him go.
At this point, I was kind of flabbergasted. In a good way. I expected the ultraviolence, but I figured Tim was planning something else.
So, later, we have Hammer going to Uncle when he's sitting down "at court"--really just on some concrete slabs in the middle of the compound. There's a little audience around. Hammer recounts what happened and wants III put on trial.
Then a disturbance. Some crazy smelly guy's walking toward the court. People are scattering. He's eating this three-eyed fish raw and stumbling everywhere. He's getting closer and closer to where Jackabacka, Uncle's little blind sister, is sitting. He nods to the guards. Bam.
Then he gives this little speech about containing the Smellygut: don't eat the fish. If you get infected and start acting like you're a danger to us, that's what happens. I say you're Manipulating the town to not get suspicious of you, to think that you're becoming a tyrant. He buys it and rolls a 8 or something. So I say that the crowd is understandably muted, but he sees some clusters whispering. I note this for later, when they will demand an as yet undefinited "promise" from him per the text of the move.
Back to the court proceedings with Hammer. Uncle says you've got no proof that III's involved. Give me some evidence, and we'll do it. It's just your word against his. But, afterward, Uncle gives Hammer one of his lackeys to help him investigate and for protection.
What's the guy's name? I said. Lackey, Mpose says. And he's missing an eye, Tim says. Lackeye. Har.
Well, Tim says he wants Lackeye to tail III when he leaves work that night. I ask if Hammer's going along. Nah, Tim says. So, wanting to inject a bit of craziness in the mix, I say that Lackeye comes back around midnight with a woman bound and gagged and bleeding. Hammer's all like WTF?
Well, it's Tao, III's mom and Saban's wife (and Saban, as you'll recall, is Uncle's right hand man). And her eye is gouged out for good measure.
Turns out Lackeye is not psychologically stable or possessed of foresight. He followed III, saw Hammer's stolen goods, and went in to get them. Long story short, the oldest son (Bar) ran for it, Foster (the second son) got gunned down, and III huddled in the corner. Bar and Foster were the hooded extorters, and Tao put them up to it, just like she put up Saban to steal luxe schwag from Uncle.
So Hammer's freaking out. He tells Lackeye to go talk to Uncle and get things sorted. Meanwhile, he pays for a medic to come to tend to Tao, planning on suing Lackeye or Tao or both for the reimbursement.
But, in the meantime, Bar's got daddy (Saban), and they're off to see Uncle. They're mad and have big guns and grenades like always. Mpose says Uncles got a couple guards on the roof of his place. He doesn't suspect any danger to himself, though; so, when Saban comes knocking, he heads outside to see what's up.
After a tense exchange of words, Lackeye shows up. Things get tenser. Guns get drawn. Uncle is unarmed. Mpose says Time for Leadership. He gets a 7. Whew. Just barely. He didn't want a bloodbath. We interpret Uncle using his gang to fight for him (vs Lackeye) and show mercy to a defeated enemy (i.e., Lackeye). I mean, they've got like 6 guns trained on him. Maybe it's a stretch of the rules, but everyone seemed happy with it.
That was a really tense moment. But it's strange: we weren't worried that Uncle was going to bite it. He wasn't even involved. We were suddenly invested in Mpose's particular investment in Uncle's investment in there being no more bloodshed in the town.
And that's where I called the session.
I wasn't sure what the other players would think, but Mpose (Uncle the Hardholder's player) was pumped about the next session. He said he was going to lose sleep over thinking how to keep the town from falling apart. Wow. That's a testament to the game and certainly not to my GMing. Even Tim (Hammer the Savvyhead's player) said he'd be up for another session.
Guess that means it's Fronts time.