Author Topic: Shadow Patriots (Actual Play)  (Read 3595 times)


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Shadow Patriots (Actual Play)
« on: February 11, 2008, 06:55:15 PM »

About the time my group was wrapping up a Star Wars Saga campaign set in the Old Republic, Crafty Games released their espionage setting sourcebook for Spycraft 2.0, World On Fire. While I didn't exactly fall head over heels in love with the setting presented, it did remind me about my desire to try something with Spycraft 2.0. I'd run a pretty successful Shadowforce Archer campaign using the first edition of the rules in tabletop, and I had a lot of experience with 2.0 from Play-By-Post. After watching some spy genre films and TV shows, I decided to try an run a World On Fire game that focused on the grittier end of the fictional spectrum. I mentioned my interest in trying Spycraft 2.0 to the group at the last Star Wars Saga session, and they agreed to give it a shot.


We're using the World On Fire setting as presented in the sourcebook, albeit with some alterations. These mainly boil down to excising the supernatural and campy elements such as the Alliance of Evil Geniuses and the Eternals. Our focus is on an operations team based in San Francisco, California, working for the Shadow Patriots faction. Though they are vilified in the press and sought by the corrupt powers that be, the Shadow Patriots are one of the more heroic groups in the setting. My group prefers to play Good Guys, even when the setting is more morally ambiguous.


Brent Smith: Brent is a former CIA analyst who joined the Shadow Patriots after he witnessed a Project Pitfall operation result in the deaths of several innocent bystanders. He's got the origin of Persistent Investigator, and his initial class is that of Sleuth. His main gimmick thus far has been his Photographic Memory. He's got a Long-Term Mission subplot, but we haven't hammered out the details yet.

David Hayter: David is a former special forces soldier from Delta Force; we've not gotten around to discussing why he's with the Patriots. He's a Daring Prodigy, with a focus on Sneak. He started out as an Intruder and intends to go for the Ninja expert class. And, yes, he named him after the voice actor who portrayed Solid Snake in Metal Gear Solid. There's just no helping some people. He has a Nemesis subplot, the bad guy being a former Delta comrade.

Deanna Lark: Deanna is the daughter of a military intelligence officer who went MIA somewhere in southeast Asia. She was recruited into the CIA, which appealed to her sense of civic duty. She left the agency after a joint operation with Project Pitfall went sour and a U.S. Senator was assassinated due to the task force's inaction. She's a Charismatic Operative, her initial class being Pointman. Her player wants her to be a jack-of-all trades rather than a specialist. Her Subplot is a Mystery focusing on her father's capture and (apparent) death.

Unnamed Guy: There's a fourth player who has been intermittent in his attendance of gaming sessions. Last time I saw him, he made a character on the off chance he'll be able to join us in the future. He's Witty Special Ops, his initial class choice being Soldier. His intention is to go for Cleaner eventually. He has a Long-Term Mission Subplot involving his tracking down a mole within the Shadow Patriots organization.


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Session One
« Reply #1 on: February 11, 2008, 06:55:45 PM »
After David's player had to cancel, I ended up running the first session for only Brent and Deanna. It was a pretty quiet and low-key affair, being an introduction to both the setting and the rules. I wasn't in my best frame of mind, either, but it turned out okay despite this.

We opened with the two agents receiving messages summoning them to the Elite Travel Agency office building in downtown San Francisco. This, of course, was simply a front company for the Shadow Patriots. Brent and Deanna were relatively new recruits, having only recently completed training, but both recognized their Control, an African American woman they know only as "Z" (there's actually three Controls who oversee operations, X, Y, and Z). Z made introductions and then cut to the chase. A member of the black marketeers called the Peace Cartel had contacted the Shadow Patriots about the possibility of defecting. The defector, Janet Ling, offered not only her personal wealth of knowledge about the Cartel's operations but also the means to get at plans for a missile system codenamed NEMESIS. She had offered to meet representatives of the Patriots that night in Golden Gate Park, and Control had selected Brent and Deanna to perform that duty.

After some questions and further discussion, we entered the dreaded gear selection process. While they're great friends of mine, Brent and Deanna's players are not the most decisive of people, and neither of them had a copy of the Spycraft 2.0 core rulebook. Not wanting to let things drag on too long, I made some initial suggestions about what to take and explained what it all meant as best I could. It still took quite a while. With their equipment more or less decided upon (I skipped over selecting common items), we left the Intel Phase and entered the mission proper.

They started out by going to Golden Gate Park some time before the arranged meeting, scouting the grounds and looking for signs of suspicious people in the area. They found nothing out of the ordinary before Ling's arrival on the scene. When their contact showed up, however, Brent spotted a suspicious black SUV with suspicious men watching Ling. Deanna and Brent ascertained that the SUV and men inside of it belonged to Project Pitfall. Deciding to move the meeting, they communicated the situation to Janet Ling and then split up; Brent going to his car, Deanna and Ling departing for an outdoor cafe. When the Pitfall agents prepared to follow Ling, Brent drove his car into their path, blocking them. One of the Pitfall suits flashed a badge and intimated that Brent could be facing criminal charges for messing with them, but Brent stood his ground and played the role of a road raging commuter until a police car arrived. Not being particularly fond of Pitfall himself, the responding cop gave Brent a warning and sent him on his way. Satisfied that he'd delayed Ling's tail long enough for Pitfall to lose track of her, Brent hopped back in his car and drove to the new meeting place.

Over food and drinks, Ling explained her situation. When she wasn't arranging deals for the Cartel, Ling was the owner and operator of a vineyard in the Napa Valley called The Village Green. She was having a wine tasting soon, an event that was sure to bring out many business contacts and friends. The Cartel was planning to use the tasting as cover for the sale of the NEMESIS missile system, but Ling had other ideas. Namely, she wanted to get the Patriots to help her fake her own death at the scene, something that would enable her to defect without her bosses suspecting a thing. The agents agreed to try and do this, and began racking their brains for ideas. After a rather long brainstorming session, Deanna and Brent decided they would try and stage Ling's murder by stabbing and then take the roles of paramedics called to the scene to take her "corpse" away. The only problem was there were only two of them and it was really (at least) a three man job...
« Last Edit: February 14, 2008, 01:19:56 PM by mathey »


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Session Two
« Reply #2 on: February 11, 2008, 06:56:19 PM »
David's player showed up for this session, and after hammering out some details we'd not covered in initial character creation (interests and Subplots), we helped him gear up for the current mission. I gave him a very brief rundown on the situation thus far, and introduced him to his fellow agents. Much of this opening scene was just a review of what was covered in the first session, with David adding some more thoughts to the pool of ideas the team had for faking Janet Ling's demise. With three participants, the "faked stabbing followed by fake paramedics" scheme seemed more feasible. The plan outline was more or less like this:

1) Deanna arrives dressed up as a guest and participant in the wine tasting. David and Brent show up with the team's van (which Deanna got with a Request check), disguised as caterers.

2) David goes upstairs to Ling's office while the party goes on downstairs. He gets things ready for the fake murder scene, utilizing some personalized props prepared by the agency (and which were, in system terms, a Gadget with three uses of Falsify +12). Deanna mingles. Brent walks around with a tray of food.

3) Brent goes up to the office to join David.

4) Deanna gives Ling some sort of signal that they're ready, and Ling goes up to the office. Brent and David use the prop knife and blood and so forth to fake Ling's apparent stabbing.

5) Brent and David exit the room via a balcony and sneak to where the emergency response helicopter (one of David's gear picks) awaits. Deanna gives them time enough to leave. Brent and David get out of caterer outfits and don paramedic getups.

6) Deanna heads upstairs and "discovers" Janet Ling and loudly announces that she's been stabbed to the other wine tasters. Mayhem ensues. Deanna fakes calling 911 but actually phones Brent and David to let them know they are go for step 7.

7) David flies the helicopter to the front lawn of the vineyard's main building. He and David enter and go to the office.

8) Brent and David carry the apparently mortally wounded Ling out on a stretcher, Deanna joining them as a concerned friend.

9) The helicopter flies away and everybody's happy and there's rainbows and kittens.

Before they could enact this scheme, however, they needed to grab the files for NEMESIS, the Norwegian missile system that Ling had told the agency about. She had told them that the files in question were on a secure server and that the server was located inside of the offices for Ling Exporters (another family business) located in San Fran's Chinatown. Armed with a passcode for a keypad lock on the server room, the agents headed down to Chinatown to scope out the place.

After locating a security camera and swipe card lock on a back door, the agents prepared to break in. David snuck up below the range of the camera and disabled the card lock, then entered the unlocked door. Brent and Deanna followed close behind. As they were preparing to deal with a second security camera, however, Deanna's player rolled a 1 on her Sneak/Hide check, and I activated it as a Critical Failure. I should note here that Deanna's player has the absolute worst luck with die rolls I have ever witnessed. In my previously mentioned Shadowforce Archer campaign, there was one night where she rolled six 1s IN A ROW, one of them being the roll for attempting to disarm a bomb. As such, she was pretty demoralized by this latest in her string of crappy rolls and the seeming inability for any PC group to successfully sneak into or out of anything.

Anyways, Deanna had somehow alerted the Peace Cartel guards on duty, and I described the approach of one of their number to investigate. After checking the doors in their hallway for an opening, Brent opened one and he and Deanna hid inside the room. David stood by the corner where the hallway met the corridor the guard was walking down, preparing to go Solid Snake on his ass. Unfortunately, his roll for Sneak was also a 1, which I also activated. We then entered our first combat.

The fight was over pretty quick. David Pummeled the guard, took some subdual damage from the guards gun butt, and then Brent and Deanna joined in. Somebody (I think Deanna?) got a Critical Success and activated it, automatically KOing the pesky security guard. Shadow Patriots 1, Peace Cartel 0.

The agents ascended to the second floor (at which point I realized I had neglected to mention or decide which floor the server room was on - I decided to make it the second floor) and heard more security goons preparing to respond to the scuffle downstairs. Thinking quickly, Brent's player asked if there was a fire extinguisher nearby. I said there was, and he had Brent take it from the wall and spray the foam down the hallway to create a temporary smoke screen. I awarded him our first GC-granted Action Die, and we once more entered combat. One Critical Success and a lot of one sided subdual damage later, the two guards were down and out. The agents quickly located the sever room, punched in the keycode Ling had given them, then downloaded the NEMESIS files before escaping from the offices. Shadow Patriots 2, Peace Cartel 0.

With the NEMESIS portion of the mission objectives taken care of, all that remained was killing off Janet Ling. The agents went to the vineyard ahead of time to scout the place out and review their scheme with Janet. She agreed to the plan, so we skipped ahead in time to the night of the wine tasting.

After their arrival, the agents got into character. Deanna was hit on by a fat member of the wine press, Brent improvised when one of the guests asked him about the food he was serving, and it was all very amusing in a "you had to be there" sort of way. While they were going around the first floor in preparation of initiating the plan, Brent noticed that there were four men keeping their eyes on Ling. One of them, a Hispanic man with pockmarked features and flat eyes, approached Ling personally and began a quiet conversation with her that the agents couldn't overhear. With Sense Motive, however, they ascertained that the man was making some kind of threat.

David and Brent headed back to the kitchen while the four suspicious guys moved to cover exits from the room. Deanna maneuvered her way to Janet, getting an Innuendo'd warning about the Hispanic man and his friends. Deanna then approached one of the suspicious men (a British guy with a bad Cockney accent) and spilled her drink all over him. With this distraction, David headed upstairs and was eventually followed by Brent. With "Humpty Dumpty Sat On A Wall" from the film score to Mission Impossible III playing in the background, I described the cat and mouse game going on as Janet made her way up the steps to head into her office, being followed by the once more alert British guy.

Deanna alerted David and Brent to the fact that they would be having unexpected company in the office, and each of them successfully hid, Brent behind a folding screen, David behind a desk. They listened tensely while the Britisher tried to get Ling to tell him what she was up to. She shrugged off his questions and convinced him to leave before she called on her personal security. With this crisis averted, David and Brent applied makeup and other touches to Ling, who lay down on her back with a fake knife in her gut. Ling also told them that the Hispanic guy was Diego Chavez, a Peace Cartel assassin who apparently had been sent to keep an eye on her. The two agents then clambered out the back window and to the back patio before hoofing it for the waiting helicopter.

Alerted that things were in place, Deanna headed upstairs on the excuse of wanting to speak to Janet about something, passing the suspicious Chavez and his international cast of thug stereotypes. She gave a convincing scream and called out to the assembled throng that Janet had been stabbed, resulting in the inevitable calls for a doctor in the house. Deanna phoned her fellow agents as they were finishing getting the 'copter ready to fly. She also had to deal with Chavez, who claimed to be a doctor as an excuse to get close to Ling. Bluffing like crazy, she managed to convince Chavez that the wound was real. As Chavez got up to leave, she loudly announced her suspicion that he was not a doctor but possibly a suspect in the murder! After gifting the player an Action Die for her quick thinking, I described the startled crowd turning on Chavez and pursuing him downstairs.

David flew the chopper the short distance to the vineyard and to the front lawn, landing as Chavez fled the scene in a sports car. He and Brent entered the place in their paramedic guises, quickly putting Ling on the stretcher and taking her back to the chopper. Deanna tagged along, continuing to play the role of a distressed friend of Janet. With their cargo safely on board, the agents lifted off and Deanna noticed an Asian member of Chavez's entourage watching them as they departed the scene. Flying by a circuitous route to at first appear to be heading to the nearest hospital, the team delivered Janet Ling to a Shadow Patriot safehouse in the city.

Janet Ling personally thanked Brent, David, and Deanna, promising to tell the Patriots everything she knew about the Peace Cartel and its operations. They then received a message from Z, congratulating them about their overall success despite the somewhat unfortunate break-in attempt at Ling Exporters. I then awarded XP, noting that I was using the "Fast Growth" Campaign Quality. Everybody made enough to go up a level; Brent and Deanna continued in their current classes, and David took a level of Soldier.

All in all, this was a better session than the first, having more genuine suspense and roleplaying. While the players are still getting the hang of the system and its deep complexity, it never became an obstacle to their enjoyment. Everybody was particularly surprised that their big plan worked as well as it did. My habit of ending every mission of the previous Spycraft game in a big firefight was at least partly to blame for this; I had definitely planned to avoid such a scenario this time around, and as it happened, the dice were on the players' sides in the final scene.
« Last Edit: February 14, 2008, 01:21:10 PM by mathey »


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Re: Shadow Patriots (Actual Play)
« Reply #3 on: February 12, 2008, 04:44:59 AM »
Very nice.  It all looks to be going very well.  Turning some inopportune moments into suspenseful ones and some quick thinking into good rewards.
People sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.
--George Orwell


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Re: Shadow Patriots (Actual Play)
« Reply #4 on: February 12, 2008, 07:30:51 PM »
Very nice.  It all looks to be going very well.  Turning some inopportune moments into suspenseful ones and some quick thinking into good rewards.

Thanks! I'm trying hard to give the players room to improvise this go around.

Still puzzling over the next mission.


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Session Three
« Reply #5 on: March 03, 2008, 11:43:00 PM »
David Hader (codename SCORPION) and Brent Smith (EAGLE) met Alex Svenson (STYX; the Unnamed Guy) at an abandoned loft in San Francisco, summoned there by X, their control for their new mission. After brief introductions, the team was given the background for the operation.

Former Peace Cartel operative Janet Ling had revealed quite a bit about what she knew of the organization, naming names and indicating areas of interest. One item she had mentioned involved a business conference that was to take place in Marseille, the French port city. The conference was apparently a cover for black marketeers and smugglers to meet and hire on security in the form of mercenaries and freelance criminals. Ling was to attend the conference on the Cartel's behalf before she decided to defect to the Shadow Patriots, and she assumed that her old organization would be sending a replacement in her place. While she couldn't name her replacement, she did know how to contact the conference organizer, a Vietnamese-Chinese underworld fixer named Harry Ng. She also knew that there was a container ship with a critical, hidden cargo involved in the deal.

X then laid out the mission objectives. First, the team was to get in contact with Ng and gain access to the conference. Second, the team was to attend the meeting as soldiers-of-fortune and try to ascertain who was the Peace Cartel representative. Third, they were to try and gain the rep's trust and be hired by them, thereby gaining insider information on the location and nature of the shipment. Lastly, the team was to secure the container ship and its illicit cargo long enough for an agency investigation team to examine it. The mission was to be Caliber III (code Blue, in World on Fire terms).

Alex received a secondary objective related to his Long Term Mission plot. X told him to ascertain what, if anything, the Peace Cartel rep at the conference knew about an NSA surveillance drone system codenamed JUBILANT. X informed Alex that the Patriots had fed information on this system to certain assets in the hope of finding intelligence leaks and potential leads to the suspected mole in the agency. Alex agreed to also try and learn more about the Cartel rep's source if they displayed any knowledge of JUBILANT. He then apparently completely forgot about the Subplot.

We went through the gear selection process, which was time consuming but not quite as stressful as it had been in the first mission. With only one copy of the book available, most of the time was taken up by people simply browsing and passing the text around. The team decided that they needed to buff up their Bluff and Impress skills, seeing as none of them were particularly good at either. Ultimately, David ended up taking two Skill Boost gadgets, which we described as some sort of convincing documentation which would enhance his salesmanship.

Once the team was doing gearing up, we cut to their arrival in Marseille and their making contact with Harry Ng via dead drop. They got a room key, a prepaid cellphone, and basic instructions from Ng, learning that the conference ("International Trade Cooperative") was to take place that evening in the number two meeting room of the New Hotel Vieux Port. Checking into their room and examining it for surveillance, they eventually split up to relax and take in the sights until the conference started.

When the time for the meeting rolled around, the three agents got together and entered the designated meeting room with agency-provided fake IDs. They began mingling, meeting with a man who called himself Luc Chennard and who claimed to be a mercenary with Black Border Security Incorporated. A successful Knowledge Check informed them that said company was no longer in existence, marking Chennard as a suspicious character. While they picked out people in the crowd to approach, David recognized one of the mercs as a former Delta Force comrade named Richard Alderidge. Alderidge was a very bad man and David's Nemesis, having done things like shooting a kid while trying to get a terrorist suspect to talk. Both men were surprised to see one another, and David was understandably concerned that his cover might get blown. As it was, though, Alderidge did all the talking and scoffed at David's claims of being freelance now. As David's player entered a kind of mental fugue, Alderidge returned his attention to his Asian client, claiming he had a big job coming up in Burma.

Meanwhile, Brent and Alex had chatted with some other prospective employers, learning a little bit about the potential jobs and the details of the relevant contracts. Brent singled out one representative as a likely operative of the Peace Cartel; Porter Lipscomb, a French ex-attorney who he recognized (thanks to Photographic Memory) from agency files on potential Franchise associates. After Alex was shot down by Lipscomb, David refocused, approached her, and used his Skill Boost gadgets to improve her disposition and convince her he was a veteran mercenary looking for work around the Ivory Coast. Lipscomb seemed impressed, but wasn't totally convinced. In order to seal the deal, she asked David and his two associates to take care of a problem she had - a Turk merc named Mehmet Ugras. Ugras had been working for her as security on her ship when he discovered an undercover French cop snooping around their operation. He captured, tortured, then murdered the policeman, doing so in a fashion that would be sure to bring down heat on Lipscomb and her employers. Therefore, Lipscomb wanted her would-be hirelings to track the Turk down and "silence" him. David agreed to do the deed if it would get him the main contract on the ship (and its location).

At this point, I asked the PCs if anybody had moral objections to bumping off this complete stranger, but I was surprised and a little disturbed to find they had none whatsoever. They didn't even know Ugras had tortured and killed the cop before they signed on to the hit. Some cold-hearted motherfuckers, these three. Anyways, they departed from the conference with some basic clues as to Ugras' hangouts and how to contact Lipscomb when the deed was done. At some point, they also contacted their Investigation Workgroup to start tracking down the "Star of Odessa", the name Lipscomb had given as her ship. With no way to know when they'd get an answer, they focused on locating the Turk and killing him dead.

Brent hit the streets in the Old Port section of the city, picking up clues pointing to a sleazy bar near the waterfront called La Samaritane. Here the three Patriots located their prey, sitting in a booth with three shifty looking gentlemen, one of them wearing an Italian designer suit. Brent set himself up at the front door, Alex and David inside near the bar's tiny single bathroom. Alex even prepared an ambush with Tactics. Mehmet Ugras sensed something amiss, however, and when Brent entered the bar, Ugras got up and bolted. The team gave chase on foot, pursuing their target through the winding back streets.

The chase was pretty long and involved, with the lead swinging back and forth from one extreme to another. The agents never got closer than forty feet or so, and I ended up scoring no less than three critical successes on Ugras' Athletics checks, much to their consternation. Eventually David took out his suppressed USP .45 and Alex took out his Beretta holdout, Brent driving the team's minivan parallel to the chase in order to try and cut off Ugras' escape. David took some shots, causing Ugras to draw his .357 magnum and exchange fire with his pursuers as they ran. It was rather messy. The Turk took multiple hits and was knocked down at least once by the team's firepower, but he clung onto life and kept winning the opposed checks. He was at Lead 9 and 1 wound point when David won with Attack Run and put an advantage toward Crisis. Ugras flubbed the maneuver roll and "crashed", which I interpreted as his running into traffic and getting creamed by a speeding car.

With their bloody deed complete, the team got a hold of Lipscomb and let her know they were ready. An hour later after presumably checking on their story, she called them back, telling them the location of the container ship they were now hired to protect...