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The Second XCOM Saga, part 53
by Dan Repperger

December 7th, 2017…

  • The temple ship still hangs in Earth orbit, and the engineering team estimates another eight days until the Gollop chamber is done.
  • Dan retreats to his office to thumb through the list of psionic-enabled soldiers: John and Annette.  If this ship is anything like the last one, one of these two will have to die to end the invasion.
  • He looks through the full roster of troops, considering each name.  Unwilling to bear the idea of sending a good person to their death through the temptation of being a hero, he orders the psi lab sealed.  No further tests will be performed.

December 8th, 2017…

  • At 7:45am, an urgent message from the Council awakens Dan.  He returns to his office.
  • An alien detachment is in the process of raiding Japan.  What concerns the Council is a UN official caught in the middle of it.  They want us to extract him.
  • Dan agrees and sharply cuts the communication.  How many civilians are caught in the middle of the same battle?  Apparently prioritizing human lives comes naturally to other people.
  • Tex is sent to prep John, Jimmy, Amanda, Kite, and Hussey at the Sky Ranger.  Dan will take C3.
  • Ryan is told to avoid the operations center and continue evaluating the mental and physical state of Alex as he adjusts to his gene modifications.
  • As the Sky Ranger descends over Tokyo, Dan comms the team for final instructions.  He reminds Hussey and Kite that the power of their MEC units might be critical to this battle, but restraint needs to be shown in such a densely populated city.
  • The team lands on an overpass, the night sky lit by the burning cars cluttered about.  The Council informs command that our objective is a man named General Van Doorn.  Dan snorts.  Somehow the “General” part hadn’t been mentioned until this point.  So much for saving a diplomat.
  • The ground team spots a lone human ahead, hiding behind a car.  Tex orders Kite and Hussey up to his position as the rest of the team moves to support.
  • The friendly is part of the General’s security detail.  He shows no shock upon seeing the MEC units.  Clearly he knows more than he should.  He introduces himself as a member of Van Doorn’s security detail and tells Hussey the General is farther ahead, beyond a collapsed portion of the bridge.
  • The squad makes a careful advance.  Kite spots a trio of barfers just beyond our landing zone.  She and Hussey drop two.  The third takes shots at her chassis but misses.
  • Tex moves the other soldiers up as the MECs hold their position.  He kills the third barfer himself to buy them time.
  • Dan informs Tex he’s located the General, just down from their current position.
  • Tex decides to hold the high ground with support from John and Jimmy.  Kite, Hussey, and Amanda will drop in, get the General, and get out as fast as possible.
  • More barfers spring from the darkness.  Two of them hide behind a taxi cab.  Kite launches a mortar shot that takes both of them out.  A third rushes toward the General.  John is able to drop it with a shot of plasma, though the ensuing cloud of venom blankets Van Doorn.  Fortunately, we have two medics nearby.
  • A fourth barfer can be seen on higher ground across from Tex’s position.  Hussey  unleashes a particle stream at it but fails to connect.
  • More aliens are spotted on the opposing high ground.  The team trades fire with them as Hussey and Kite head for the General.
  • Unlike his guards, Van Doorn seems genuinely shocked by our team’s equipment.  Why keep the VIP in the dark but tell his thugs so much?  Or is he just a better actor?
  • The General climbs toward our position, but the aliens keep coming.  Amanda drops a smoke grenade that saves our team from several shots.  Hussey takes a hit, but it hardly even scratches his MEC.
  • Dan informs Tex that barfers are dropping in behind his team.  They’ll have to fight in two directions as they try to retreat.  And just to add to the fun, the General has apparently succumbed to the stress and is now panicking.  Apparently his ignorance wasn’t an act.
  • Jimmy lays down fire, cutting through a pair of aliens blocking the path to the Sky Ranger.
  • The entire team is given weapons free on explosives, though with careful discretion for innocents and squadmates.  A collapsed bridge is hardly worth protecting.
  • Hussey launches a grenade upward, blasting a barfer from its cover.  John tracks another and brings it down.
  • With the General still poisoned and out of his gourd, Amanda is told to drop down, treat the poison, and calm him.
  • Tex orders the team backward, with Hussey and Kite covering the move.  Amanda is able to get the General up again, and she urges him toward the waiting plane.
  • Jimmy gets eyes on the LZ.  It appears clear.
  • Seconds later, two barfers jump to block our path.  John and Amanda kill them both before the xenos can raise their weapons.  However, as the bodies are falling, a brilliant surge of energy lances right over John’s shoulder and through the spot where an alien had been standing.  Dan cringes.  Would have been a hell of a shot from Hussey if it had come a split-second earlier.  Now to see if John will cuss out a MEC in close quarters on the flight back.
  • With the way open, Tex orders a sprint across the final stretch.
  • 15 xenos dead, 0 XCOM losses, and one really bizarre VIP on the Ranger.
  • In return for our performance, XCOM is sent another “top soldier” from some country’s special forces.  Without even reviewing the dossier, Dan assigns him to base defense of the personnel area.
  • As the team unloads, the CO returns to his office.  Seven days until the Gollop chamber is complete and someone has to die.

The Second XCOM Saga, part 52
by Dan Repperger

December 7th, 2017…

  • Alex has been released from his vat and is in the process of being awoken from his induced coma.  The gene modifications are complete.  Dan orders a full medical evaluation, followed by combat evaluation from Ryan.  Alex is also granted as much time as he wants out of combat rotation to adjust to his new reality.
  • Less than an hour later, a small scout saucer is detected over Brazil.  The local fighter base is given the green light to bring it down hard.  One shot, one kill.  Just the kind of engagement we like.
  • Chad will lead a clean-up team consisting of Annette, Jeremy, Beth, Jimmy, and Chris Mais.  Tex will take C3.
  • Much to our dismay, the UFO crashed in a small town near Palmas.  Buildings sit torn apart by the craft’s careening descent and ultimate impact.  The locals appear to have fled but will return eventually, so we need to get this one wrapped up fast.
  • There’s no shortage of cover for either side among the collapsed buildings and wrecked vehicles.
  • As Chad and Mais move toward one of the few buildings with enough structure left to be climbed, a gray and smith come into view.  They take a few shots at Chad, but none connect.
  • A gray puts up a shield around the smith as the aliens advance.
  • Filled with rage against the aliens that took turns with EXALT tormenting her for so long, Annette unleashes her psychic fury on a gray and shreds its mind.
  • Chad and Mais take up position atop the building.  They spot the crashed saucer, a Meld canister, and another perch closer to the saucer.  Time to move in for a better vantage point.
  • From inside the saucer, a prophet spots Beth.  It speaks in its alien tongue, but Beth suddenly understands every word and cannot help but obey each one.  Her friends are her enemies and she knows what must be done.
  • The prophet moves from the saucer and comes close to Beth, its presence warm and reassuring.  Encouraged by her master’s proximity, she sprints from cover and intercepts Chad as he’s move between perches.  Her shot does serious damage to his armor, rendering its chestplate useless.
  • Chad realizes the team is running out of options.  Killing Beth is not an acceptable plan, but most of the troops don’t have line-of-sight on the prophet.  That has to change fast.
  • Several squad members fire into the prophet, though it’s a pair of alloy cannon blasts from Annette that finally put it down.
  • A surge of psychic energy crackles through the air, burning Beth’s armor.  But psychological trauma aside, she’s fine.
  • From atop his vantage point, Mais can see the prophet’s elite guard.  He hits it hard, but doesn’t quite bring it down.
  • Chad clicks on his armor’s cloaking device and joins Mais on the roof.
  • A trio of hulks charge us from the left side of the craft.  As they take up position, the elite inside tosses a grenade right at Beth’s feed.  The flash of light and energy leaves her even more disoriented, though back at C3 Tex is able to confirm her Titan armor is holding together, albeit barely so.
  • From the nearby rooftop, Mais finishes off the elite.  Chad scopes a hulk and buries it as well.  Tex guides Beth to a more distant point on the battlefield until she can regain her mental bearings.
  • Jeremy tosses a grenade at the two surviving hulks, killing one and stripping the cover from the other.
  • Mais tracks the last xeno and finishes the job.
  • 7 xenos dead, 0 XCOM losses, and miraculously no injuries to the team.  Or at least none to the bodies.
  • Upon return, Dan puts in an order to temporarily remove Beth from combat duties until she’s recovered.

Episode 348 – stats vs story
by Dan Repperger

* (0:55) “Yes, but…” GMing.  The honest movie trailer for Frozen.  The adult version (NSFW language).  And the parody version.

* (10:53) When a character’s description falls well below the power level described on the sheet.  For example, a party of 1st level characters where one person insists they’re a seasoned veteran.  What happens when three master fencers take on 50 opponents at once.

* (21:55) Social or “soft” imbalances that aren’t necessarily reflected in a character’s stats.  Enforcing the consequences agreed upon for those perks.

* (27:52) Brodeur Break!

* (31:07) “Reset” characters that have been reduced in power by a major life event.

Hosts: Beth, Brodeur, Dan, John. Wayne

Episode 347 – building a PC during play
by Dan Repperger

With a repaired internet connection, we try again at getting John on an episode!  After talking about the social difficulties of constraining group size (or removing problem players), we dig into making characters during the course of a game.  Since many people are either burnt out on character creation or just don’t understand their character until they’ve played him/her, there can be an advantage to starting out with very little and building both the personality and stats during play.

* (1:33) Keeping the group small and select.  The value of exclusivity.  The Geek Social Fallacies.

* (13:01) Why it’s so much harder to remove someone from an RPG group that most other social engagements.

* (22:52) Playing with the skeleton of a character and developing him/her during the course of the game.

* (29:25) How skeleton characters relate to the principles of the group template.

Hosts: Dan, John, Pat, Wayne

Episode 346 – save or suck
by Dan Repperger

When a Game Master repeatedly uses a character’s weaknesses to reduce them to uselessness.  We discuss whether it’s a fair tactic or just a quick way to wreck that player’s fun.

* (1:10) Congratulating Julia on getting married.

* (2:48) A reminder about Fear the Boot’s Twitch channel.

* (4:20) Save or suck: when failing a roll takes away your control of the character (e.g. sleep spells).  Other situations when a character can be reduced to irrelevance.

* (16:23) The critical differences between being ineffective and being incapacitated.

* (21:39) Ironically, John gets robbed of his contribution to the episode by a crashed internet connection.

* (22:32) The double-standard when players lock down the GM’s NPCs.

* (30:44) How much of this comes from being unable to read the players.

Hosts: Chad, Dan, John, Wayne

Episode 345 – free association
by Dan Repperger

* (0:59) “Shnotes” and other words that annoy us.

* (3:42) Chad introduces us to Rory’s Story Cubes, and we try some RP experiments with them.  We discuss the value of random words and images in helping to break creative block or get out of ruts.

* (25:59) Alternate ways of creating the same (or similar) story aids for your game.

* (28:36) Using free association to create character-to-character links, NPCs, plot encounters, magic items, etc.

* (40:08) The potential drawbacks of the story cubes or other inspirational aids.

Hosts: Chad, Dan, Pat, Wayne

Episode 344 – realizing you were wrong
by Dan Repperger

In this episode we discuss handling a game after realizing you were wrong about an important rule or bit of setting, and correcting that mistake will alter the course of the game.

* (0:29) TsunamiCon in Wichita, KS on November 7th – 9th.

* (2:04) Mic-dropping on games.  Walking away from a game, whether as a player or GM.

* (13:20) Realizing you’ve been wrong about a major rule or piece of setting.  Whether it’s worth fixing or not, and what fixing it can cause.

Hosts: Beth, Brodeur, Dan, Wayne

Episode 343 – Backseat GMing
by Dan Repperger

In this episode we talk about players that overstep their bounds, going beyond helping the GM to apparently trying to help run the game.  We talk about why this might happen and ways to address it.

* (0:29) Some thanks to the other podcasts at Fear the Con!

Action Nerds: GO!

Beer Powered Time Machine

THE ESTABLiSHED FACTS

The Hippest of Hops

Ideology of Madness

Kicked in the Dicebags

Postcards from the Dungeon

Pros and Cons

Role Playing Public Radio

Saving the Game

* (2:03) Brodeur buys a book.

* (4:44) Backseat GMing.  The reasons it might happen.  How it can manifest in rules, role, or setting.

* (17:17) Settings we would hesitate to play for fear of being Backseat GMs with the canon.

* (22:20) The four stages of GM reactions to problem players.

* (26:25) A deconstruction of Pokemon.

Hosts: Beth, Brodeur, Dan, Wayne

Bonus Episode 56 – Chris gets caught
by Dan Repperger

In this episode, we talk about Chris’ trip home from the con and the misadventures he has with a cop on a fishing expedition and a gas station attendant telling rather implausible war stories.

* (0:23) Please leave reviews for Sojourn on Barnes & Noble to help us get it stocked in stores!  If you’re still looking to buy the book, you can find a list of places it’s available for sale here.

* (1:21) Some thanks to some of the unsung folks that made Fear the Con 7 possible.

* (4:59) Post-con stories.

* (7:22) Chris has a run-in with a cop at 2:00am.

* (25:49) Chris meets the RPG guy.  How an RPG warhead works.

Hosts: Chris, Dan, Pat, Wayne

Episode 342 – Skye’s the limit
by Dan Repperger

* (0:29) Reign of the Descended for the Mecha RPG (free quickstart, full version).

* (2:02) Fear the Con 7!  Information on the pre-con tourism.  Take care of the people that take care of you.

* (4:49) Chad’s family night turns into a family RPG.  We talk about the steps he went through (and avoided) to build the best experience for his son.

* (12:34) Setting clear objectives.  The prior episode that touched on this topic can be found here and the accompanying list of games can be found here.

* (30:01) The teaching power of, “No.”

* (33:40) The missing muffins.  Leading by breadcrumbs and example.

* (51:92) The difference between intellect and experience.

* (54:06) Some help Chad got from the forums.

* (55:53) Lessons learned from the whole effort.  Stuart Robertson’s pocketmod game.

Hosts: Chad, Chris, Dan, Pat

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