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Author Topic: [Spycraft 2.0] Deguello - Neo-Western Thriller  (Read 1768 times)
mathey
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« on: April 30, 2012, 03:17:42 PM »

I'm gearing up for my first Spycraft 2.0 game in a dog's age, Deguello, a neo-western based on things like Way of the Gun and No Country for Old Men. We're playing it on Infrno - the first session is Friday - and I've done a fairly dumb amount of prep work for it already. None of the players have played any version of Spycraft before, though one or two of them played in a FantasyCraft game I ran a long time back. I thought it might be nice to share some of what I came up with here on the Crafty Games forums. Comments and questions are welcome.

First off, here's some basics on the premise and setup cut and pasted from the game profile:



About this game

Deguello is a modern western thriller set in a Mexican border town. It will focus on a violent confrontation between some desperate characters and a brutal drug cartel. Its intended to be a short campaign and uses the Spycraft 2.0 rulebook.

Premise

When the new sheriff of a little border town guns down a coked-up punk causing trouble at a local brothel, he unintentionally starts a confrontation with the dead man's brother - the head of a powerful local drug cartel. The enraged kingpin is determined to make an example of not only the idealistic lawman but the entire town, sending a force of ruthless cutthroats and gun thugs to butcher the populace and burn it to the ground. Unable to get help from deputies, Federales or Border Agents too corrupt or frightened to intervene, he takes a suitcase full of cash found in the thug's hotel room and starts hiring his own gunmen.

He can't hire as many guns as the cartel is sending, but the few he can afford will be a breed apart, too noble, too crazy, or too desperate to refuse his offer. Some are mercenaries, some are bounty hunters, some are locals with something to prove, but all of them know the odds they're facing. Together, these seven strangers will make a stand in the hot Mexican desert which will either save the town's populace or end with no survivors.

Style of play
The obvious source of inspiration for this game is the Seven Samurai, Kurosawa's classic film about seven ronin who try to protect a small village from dozens of raiding bandits. This movie has been remade several times, most notably as a western, The Magnificent Seven, another major influence on the premise.

Tonally, however, I'm looking to contemporary neo-westerns and thrillers like No Country for Old Men, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, Way of the Gun, and Man on Fire. The violence will be fairly brutal and costly, and gunplay will have more in common with the real world than the typical Hollywood action flick.

No El Mariachis, folks, but that doesn't mean you can't still be a badass. Just expect bullets to hurt and tactical play to benefit you more than acting reckless.

I'll be using Spycraft 2.0's campaign qualities feature to tweak the system help achieve this tone and I expect players to understand the intent even if they aren't familiar with the system. I'll do what I can to help those who don't know Spycraft's rules, but if you can afford the 20 bucks, I suggest grabbing a copy of the revised PDF on Drivethrurpg.

PCs will be 5th level and classes available will probably be limited to those I deem appropriate. We will work together to make our characters during our first session, so I suggest thinking of a concept first and holding off on the statistics until then. Each PC will have a Drive taken from a prepared list, which will provide their own thematic motive for risking their life in a dirtwater town - I'll post a blog to cover this in more detail.

I intend to run the campaign as three other sessions, each representing one "Act" of the story. Act One will establish the situation, Act Two will toss in some complications, and Act Three will cover the final scenes. This is not intended to be a continuing game beyond those sessions, and player character death is a real risk.
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mathey
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« Reply #1 on: April 30, 2012, 09:07:20 PM »

To keep concepts on track with the premise, I came up with Drives, which are sorta like Subplots but pared down to motivation.

As 5th Level Spycraft 2.0 PCs, the characters you play in Deguello will be exceptionally talented and dangerous men and women. They are not solely defined by their combative abilities, however, and like the protagonists in Seven Samurai and Magnificent Seven, they'll need very good reasons to make a stand for limited reward and terrible risk.

In other words, you need a Drive. This is your motivation for joining the defense of the border town and not just fleeing if/when things get bloody. I'm providing seven potential Drives here, and you are required to pick one for your own PC. We don't want duplicate Drives, either, so once one has been taken, its off the table. If each suggests certain concepts, well, consider that a bonus rather than a restriction.

Dead Anyways: You are going to die soon, and that's not just fortune telling; its a medical opinion. Doesn't really matter if its cancer or a heart condition or a bullet slowly working its way through your brain; you're a dead man (or woman) walking, and you know it. As such, you don't want to waste any time on arrangements or bucket lists; you want to go out in a blaze of glory, preferably doing something half-decent for once. Lucky for you, there's this town of people who won't begrudge you your past if your last act is dying for them.

Debt: You're up to your eyeballs in debt to some very bad people, probably people who are rivals or even enemies of the Cartel. They suggested that if you don't want to see your friends and family die badly before YOU die badly, maybe you can run the risks and do them the favor of helping give the Cartel Hell. On the up side, all you might lose is your life, and it'll spare those you care about from paying for your past fuck-ups. On the down side, the best you can hope for is breaking even and starting over without this rock around your neck.

Greed: You are a mercenary in every sense of the word. You do jobs because they pay you, not because you feel morally obligated. If you feel a duty to follow through on a contract, its more of a professional thing than an ethical one. There's a good chance you have a lead on some hidden gold or other monetary bonus for following through on this border town job - otherwise, the Cartel could just hire you to join their side or walk away. There's an even better chance you're keeping this knowledge secret from the other PCs, seeing as sharing it means you get less of a cut.

Revenge: The Cartel did you dirty and you plan on making them pay, one bullet at a time. Maybe you used to work for them and they tossed you to the wolves when they had no more use for you. Maybe they killed somebody you actually cared about. The details are up to you, but the result will be the same; cold-blooded payback. The job in the border town just happens to align with what your plans were anyway. 

Sheriff: You were elected a little over a year ago on a reform platform, promising to protect the people from the drug violence that's been troubling the border for years. And now...guess what? YOU'RE the reason this shitstorm of trouble is headed to this little town. You plan on making up for it by joining these people you hired when things go down, like Gary Cooper in High Noon - only with backup. With any luck, you can live up to at least one of your promises.

Something to Prove: While some criminals and mercenaries like to build a reputation, you take it to another level. Perhaps you are brand new to the scene and want to jump up the rankings by taking this suicide mission and somehow surviving. That'd surely attract higher paying work. Perhaps you're already at the top of your game, but doubt has been cast on your abilities by circumstance or rivals. Maybe you used to be one of the best, but took a hard fall that ended with you in this shitty little town facing an army of gun thugs. Whatever the reason, you've got to show the world - and yourself - that you can do this.

Townperson: You're one of the native inhabitants of the town the Cartel is intending to destroy, and as such, you've got a pretty straight foward reason to want to help out; you want to protect your home. Its possible you've been far away for some time, probably doing dangerous and dirty work far removed from your humble origins - or maybe you settled in the town after a life as a hired gun and were hoping to enjoy a peaceful retirement. Its possible some of the people at risk aren't just loved ones - maybe they're family. Even if you're just a hermit from the outskirts, though, you're determined to stop the bad guys from levelling your little slice of heaven.
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mathey
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« Reply #2 on: April 30, 2012, 09:11:20 PM »

The following is a list of some house rules and special options/restrictions I'm using for Deguello. These may evolve as we prepare PCs and play.

Campaign Qualities

Corrupt: Its a dirty world and bribes are commonplace.

Freelance: The PCs are mostly for hire and can only count on personal networks when the chips are down.

Gritty: Bullets hurt and kill people pretty easily. Healing from a wound can be difficult, especially without proper medial support.

Jack-of-all-Trades: All skills are class skills for everybody. Simplifies making characters.

Shoe String Budget: Gear picks are more limited than usual. I will also reserve the right to refuse any equipment which I deem unrealistic or unbalancing.

Violent: The threat ranges of attacks are increased, which means critical hits are more frequent, which means PCs are less bulletproof than usual.

Character Options

Remember; we're going to spend a session working on characters together. Don't get too attached to stats made before that session.

Drive: See the Drives blog post.

Some Possible Concepts: Biker Thug, Border Coyote, Bounty Hunter, Crazy Hermit, Drug Smuggler, Ex-Cartel Soldier, Grizzled Veteran, Gun Dealer, Hotshot Pilot, Loyal Deputy, Maverick Border Agent, Mobster on the Run, PMC Merc, Professional Hitman, Rogue Federale, Rookie Soldier of Fortune, The Sheriff, Small Time Gangster

Available Talents: Any

Available Specialties: Authority, City Dweller, Contract Professional, Criminal, Doctor, Entertainer, Grifter, Hot Rodder, Hunter, Icon, Investigator, Jack of All Trades, Journalist, Motorhead, Outdoorsman, Pickpocket, Pilot, Rescuer, Sailor, Serviceman, Soldier of Fortune, Special Ops, Spiritualist, Student, Thrill-seeker, Tradesman, Tribesman, Wanderer, Warrior

Available Classes: Lawman*, Pointman, Scout, Soldier, Thug*, Wheelman

Available Expert Classes: Brawler, Counter-Terrorist, Grunt, Sniper, Tactician, Triggerman

* From Ten Thousand Bullets Preview

Gear

Armor rules will be taken from the revised printing and may be further restricted/reduced to keep people from making walking tanks.

Gadgets simply won't be available in this game. If you have a Gadget gear pick, we'll find something else to replace it with.

Vehicles will probably be fairly restricted as you're mostly holding a position, though I can see a helicopter or wheeled vehicle as a useful asset.

Weapons should mostly be small arms, though explosives and military gear aren't entirely out of the question for limited usage.

Other Rules

I don't know if we'll use Resources/Net Worth or Contacts very much; while they aren't totally inappropriate, their respective rules are kinda a chore.

XP is kind of irrelevant, as this isn't a continuing campaign.

Addendum: I ended up simply tossing the Wealth and Gear Picks systems entirely. Instead, I'm giving each player character a sidearm, a longarm, and some kind of armor. The armor will likely not come into play until we're deep into the siege. They will have plenty of opportunities to pick up more gear during the course of the game, especially once they start fighting the Cartel gun thugs.
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« Reply #3 on: April 30, 2012, 11:21:56 PM »

I am incredibly jealous of your players, sounds like a great game. I love the Drive concept (Alex you should be stealing that). The briefness in your write up is golden, junkie's brother is in the cartel and he is coming for you. No names, no background, gives a 'this is happening, get moving' vibe.

The Firebrand and One Man Army would also make nice class choices, FB may not fit the feel but it's seems right to me. I'm just typing here, it's your barbecue Mathey and it tastes good.
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« Reply #4 on: May 01, 2012, 02:11:24 AM »

I love the Drive concept

Second, and big time.  I'm gonna be stealing it for my next game - I was originally considering "heavily suggested" subplots for all characters, but this is so much cleaner and less heavy handed.

Also looks like a great game all round - I'm pretty jealous of them too.
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« Reply #5 on: May 01, 2012, 03:02:26 AM »

Mathey, this is awesome!

I love the Drive concept and Alex better be making a copy of it for 10KB too. If he doesn't it, I'll using it any home game I run. This has a great Way of the Gun/Reservoir Dogs/Seven Samurai blend sewn up in it and begs to be a one-shot at a convention. ... Just ripe for a Tarantino film.
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« Reply #6 on: May 01, 2012, 11:25:00 PM »

Esperanza

The following is a description of the fictional town of Esperanza, the setting of Deguello




Population: ~300

Established: 1849

Mayor: Miguel Navarro

State: Chihuahua

Average Temperature: 77 degrees fahrenheit (25 degress celsius)

Elevation: ~2000 feet (~600 meters)

History

Esperanza ("Hope") is a Mexican border town located in the Valley of Juarez, a stretch of land 50 miles east of Ciudad Juarez in the state of Chihuahua. Established by settlers in the 19th century following the Mexican-American War, its populace was largely composed of cotton-farmers, miners, and some missionaries from the nearby colonial mission of Virgen de Guadalupe. Over the following years the mines would be shut down, the mission would be burned to the ground in the Mexican Revolution, and the once profitable cotton industry would grind almost to a halt. Despite these setbacks, the small town would somehow continue to eke out an existence in relative anonymity at the end of Federal Highway 24.

Around the time the Sinaloa and Juarez drug cartels began their war with each other and the Federales, Esperanza had a population of about 750 people, most of them working poor. It suffered along with the rest of its neighbors as their region became known as the Valley of Death, caught in the crossfire of the cartels as they fought over the trade route between their criminal empires. Bodies and decpitated heads of anybody who stood in the cartel's path began to appear on roadsides and in streets on a daily basis. The police force tasked with patrolling the region dwindled to a tiny handful - at one point only 3 people were on the entire force. Even the arrival of the Mexican Army to keep the peace did little to quell the violence...chiefly because the officers in charge were also on the payrolls of the cartels.

By 2012, Esperanza's population tops out at around 300 men, women, and children, the last few inhabitants who are either too stubborn or too poor to pick up and move.

Key Locations

Del Valle: This restaurant has passed through many hands over the past few years, most recently those of Jorge Salas, a jovial but not terribly bright man who once entertained dreams of a franchise operation after the last owner fled across the border. The food is passable Mexican-American fare, but few of the locals frequent the place.

The Brothel: A clapboard structure lying just outside of the official city limits, the unnamed brothel is home to four prostitutes, the madam Carmalita and her lover/boss "El Chingon" (translates as "big shot"). They have kept afloat by servicing errant travelers, locals, and militia soldiers alike, and they are known to pay protection to Roman Castillo, the local cartel boss. They are down three girls, however, the result of the antics of Luz "El Caiman" Castillo, Roman's wayward brother.

El Migra: El Migra is the town's sole bar, located on the highway that cuts through the center of Esperanza. It is owned and operated by Rocio Canedo, a bitter and sour-faced woman who saw her father and brother murdered by the cartels. The bar's liquor is heavily watered down and the sole entertainment offered is an out-of-date jukebox.

Heraclio's Farm: A rundown and delapidated homestead on the outskirts of town, this farm is more dust and rust than crops. The drunken farmer, Heraclio Tolosa, alternates between terrorizing his wife Teresa and their five children and tearfully begging for their forgiveness. There's a trailer outside of the farmhouse which he sometimes sleeps in.

Junkyard: A junkyard lies a short distance outside of the town. Its not really maintained or monitored by anybody in particular, and whatever organization there may have once been has fallen completely by the wayside. Some people tell of furtive meetings amidst the abandoned husks of cars between the militia and cartel thugs late at night.

The Plaza: There's a park roughly in the middle of Esperanza which has not seen a lot of traffic over the last two years. Its got an ampitheatre and a playground, but few fiestas or public events have been held beyond a visit by a regional official some months back. In the center of the plaza there is a memorial statue depicting an eagle devouring a snake, symbolic of the destined home of the Mexican people.

Tecate Gas Station: This gas station is the sole franchise operation in Esperanza, but it sees little business aside from departures gassing up for a trip elsewhere. Izek, the creepy attendant, doesn't seem to mind, spending most of his time polishing and refurbishing an ancient sedan he keeps in the garage.

Rancho Valdez: The Valdez family lives on this small ranch a short distance from downtown. It was once the site of local rodeos and the occasional wedding, but lately it has begun to fall into disrepair due to a shortage of hands to help maintain it. There's a large ranch house, a fenced in yard, and a small stable where the Valdez's three remaining horses are currently kept.

San Miguel Church: The town's church has been destroyed and rebuilt at least once in its history, and while its number of parishoners has dwindled the grizzled local priest Father Almazan has vowed to weather the coming storm. It has an overcrowded cemetary adjacent to its grounds and an open door policy concerning those who seek sanctuary.

Sheriff's Office and Jail: Esperanza is home to three of the few surviving police officials in the Juarez Valley, a fact most attribute to luck or providence. More cynical voices claim that they have brokered a deal with one of the cartels and the local militia commander. The newly elected Sheriff and their two remaining deputies would say they have managed to stay alive through constant vigilance and the assistance of townsfolk who have not caved to cartel pressure. Whatever the reason, they are an outlier in the lawless landscape of the Valley of Death.

Super Mercado: This "super market" is on a street corner in the middle of town, and it functions both as the town's sole grocery and the center of gossip. It is run by the Valdez family, the oldest and proudest local inhabitants of Esperanza. The patriarch, Flaco, was a vocal opponent of the corruption in local politics, and despite his murder two years ago his family continues his resolute defiance of the cartels. Dora, his eldest daughter, runs the store and refuses to leave despite continued threats and violence against herself and her loved ones.

Virgen de Guadalupe: This ruin was once the site of a colonial mission established in the 17th century. It was destroyed by a fire in 1915 and has stood mostly uninhabited for decades since. The occasional drifter or pack of coyotes hides out in its walls for shelter from the weather or the law.  
« Last Edit: May 01, 2012, 11:26:54 PM by mathey » Logged
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« Reply #7 on: May 01, 2012, 11:27:24 PM »

People of Note

Mayor Miguel Navarro: Miguel Navarro found himself in the role of mayor more or less by default after his sole competition in local elections fled the region two years ago. He is an anxious, jittery man of small stature and limited vision who has just barely placated the cartels and militia in the past. Most expect him to turn up missing or dead some time soon.

Dora Valdez: The eldest daughter of Flaco Valdez has taken over her murdered father's dual role as operator of the local mercado and as the town's loudest opponent of the cartels. While some suggested she run for Sheriff or Mayor, she feels she does more good without having to kowtow to the corrupt bureaucracy that runs things in the Valley. Her husband Diego and son Ignacio were kidnapped and killed by the cartel six months ago, but despite this tragedy she and her surviving family members (an aunt, two cousins, and her daughter Mercedes) remain steadfast in their determination to stay and keep Esperanza alive.

Deputies Serrano and Regla: These two deputies were roped into helping the current Sheriff of Esperanza a year ago as the cartel violence was beginning to die down. Now word is getting around that they're thinking about alternative options. Serrano is generally considered to be simple-minded, but Regla is smart enough to be dangerous should he prove disloyal.

Father Almazan: The local Padre is a rickety, sunburned man in his late 60s who has ancestry in Esperanza dating back to the 1900s. He claims to have once scared off cartel thugs with a jug of holy water and chanted exorcism ritual, but in truth he was most aided by the double-barreled shotgun he keeps behind the church's door. There was a time long ago that he hoped to build up his congregation's numbers through good works and community outreach - now he just wants to keep his town from being destroyed.

Izek: Izek is looked on by most of Esperanza's inhabitants with pity or disgust, sometimes both. A shifty and muttering man with a hunched back, he is the sole son of an entrepeneurial mechanic who opened the local gas station three decades ago to much fanfare, but his family's fortunes faded as quickly as those of the town, leaving his father a notorious and abusive drunk. When his liver gave up on him and he died, Izek inherited the station and the sedan he lovingly keeps in the garage. He has a reputation for sudden outburts of violence, and he regularly rants at the local kids who come to stare and shout insults at him.

Jorge Salas: Jorge is the owner of the local restaurant, a venture that everybody but he is convinced will fail. Eternally optimistic to the point of delusion, he serves customers with a smile and a smattering of tired old advice. He never speaks of the wife who left him or the two sons she took with her, but he is known to spend long sessions in confession with Father Almazan.

Rocio Canedo: Rocio was once the town's most fetching beauty and the pride of her husband, Old Pablo. They ran the El Migra bar with the help of her brother Osvaldo, who would often play music while she danced for weekend crowds of local farmers and ranch hands. That was a long time ago. A decade ago Osvaldo was shot by the Juarez cartel after running up debts he couldn't pay in the city, and a few years later Old Pablo was beaten to death by some thugs from the Sinaloa when he dared to spit on one of their boots. No longer a beauty, Rocio doesn't smile much any more and she never dances - but she also has refused to leave the establishment she helped to build.

The Tolosas: Heraclio and Teresa have five kids ranging in age from 4 to 17. Their eldest is Hugo, a brash kid who wants to leave his miserable family and their lousy farm far behind, the sooner the better. He's already been caught visiting the brothel once, though the sheriff helped keep his father from finding out.

Carmalita and El Chingon: A happy albeit unmarried couple for several decades, the "Boss" and madam from the brothel have profited from the arrival of the Mexican Militia in the Juarez Valley. While they are not precisely allied with the militia or the Juarez cartel, they are also paying them protection in cash, drugs, and whores. El Chingon was hoping to get into the good graces of Juarez boss Ramon Castillo when the Sheriff went and killed Castillo's little brother in his establishment. What he'll do now nobody knows.

Major Calar: Officially, Major Calar is an Army officer in charge of patrolling the Juarez Valley's border towns like Esperanza and keeping the peace. Unofficially, he is Ramon Castillo's chief messenger and spy. While he and his corrupt force have been known to help put down incursions by rival cartels or unaffiliated criminals, they spend as much time collecting protection from the unhappy locals and running surprise searches of their homes. These searches are often followed by nightly raids by cartel gunmen targeting homes suspected to be aligned against the Castillos. Calar justifies these acts as a necessary evil to keep the massacres of 2010 from erupting once more. The money, cigars, and women don't hurt.

Ramon Castillo: Ramon is the current boss of the cartel which "owns" the Juarez Valley. A former enforcer and collector for operations in Ciudad Juarez, he's moved into a hacienda taken from a debtor and made it his personal fortress. A large man with expansive appetites, he has a professional attitude about his business and tries not to let personal feelings interfere. The death of his wayward brother Luz, however, was one offense too many from the tiny town of Esperanza, and he has dedicated himself to making an example of the village, its sheriff, and its inhabitants.

Luz "El Caiman" Castillo: Luz was Ramon's youngest brother and "the runt of the litter" according to his elder siblings. Always a bit unstable, the vast wealth and power his family gathered in the 90s and early 21st century tipped him over the edge into pure crazy-town. Addicted to a variety of narcotics and possessing a violent temper, he never felt respected by the cartel and made a habit of taking out his frustrations on women, especially hookers. While Ramon was able to hush up most of these incidents, his latest outrage at the Esperanza brothel ended with him pulling a gun on the Sheriff - and getting shot in the face. Mourned by few, his death has still precipitated the massacre that surely awaits Esperanza.
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« Reply #8 on: May 01, 2012, 11:34:46 PM »

I'm hoping the Drives will help keep people from wandering off the game grid and trying to join the Cartels or something. Its admittedly a super-directed premise with a clear objective and antagonist, but giving the PCs a stake still seemed necessary.

Part I look forward to most? The part of the first session where we go through the vignettes introducing each of the PCs. I'm still pondering some quick setups akin to the bits in Seven Samurai and Magnificent Seven - like the part where the Mexican villagers see McQueen and Brenner team up to help bury the Native American, or the sword master has that duel that ends in the overconfident guy's death, etc.

I'll keep posting when I have time and will definitely recap things for you guys after the first session. Smiley
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« Reply #9 on: May 06, 2012, 03:03:41 PM »

Prelude
 
Sheriff Antonio Garcia is awakened at 5:30 AM by a call from Deputy Serrano alerting him to situation developing in Esperanza's park. He is joined by Deputy Regla on his way to the scene and sees that a body has been found by the tiny town's memorial statue. The bloody, battered corpse is that of Mayor Miguel Navarro, his throat slit in a mute warning to his town's citizenry. Serrano asks restauranteur Jorge Salas to get a tablecloth to cover Navarro's remains while Regla shoos some local kids away. Several other locals gather to view the grisly scene, contemplating the fate of Esperanza.
 
Realizing that the situation is only going to get worse, Sheriff Garcia decides that he can no longer rely on the corrupt government to protect himself, his family, or his town from the revenge of Ramon Castillo. He tells his deputies about the money he found in the room of Ramon's crazy brother, Luz (aka "El Caiman"), and explains a plan to use the funds to hire gunmen and mercenaries to help defend their homes.
 
After agreeing that he and his deputies should stay in town, Garcia looks for volunteers to search for hired guns in more populous areas. The brothers Juan and Emilio Valdez offer to go to Ciudad Juarez and see if they can find the soldiers-of-fortune that will suit the towns' needs. The young Sheriff gives them enough cash for a retainer and then buries the rest by himself to keep it relatively safe.
 
Part One - The Gunmen
 
Juan and Emilio take their battered old pickup up Highway 24 to the nearby brothel, site of El Caiman's death. Looking for prospective hires in the roughnecks who frequent the bordello, they are approached by the talkative and eccentric Norteamericano Danny Cooper. Cooper is from across the border, but he has come to look on the house of ill repute at his personal "paradise", and rumors of its destruction have given him a desire to make a stand for once in his life. Quickly realizing that the offbeat handyman doesn't quite fit the profile they're looking for, they turn down his offer to join them and continue on their way to Juarez. Unbenknownst to them, the persistent Cooper follows in his converted VW/Winebago mobile home.
 
While in Juarez, the Valdez siblings frequent several local bars and watering holes in search of tough hombres willing to stand up to the Castillo Cartel. They find none for several days, their lack of street smarts and the lethality of their prospective work doing little to help their cause. After speaking to some unhelpful members of a biker gang, they leave a bar one night to witness an American in a sweaty, dusty business suit coming to the aid of a woman assaulted by two street punks. The man soundly trounces both men, wielding a set of brass knuckles and then threatening the men with a gun when one of the two draws a switchblade.

Realizing that the man seems to fit the bill, Juan and his younger brother approach him and try to bring up the work they can offer. The man (who initially calls himself "Sam") listens but at first doesn't seem interested, clearly having other things weighing on his mind. Before they can finish their exchange, however, the Valdezes watch as the man guns shoots one of the two alley assailants when the punk returns with a gun retrieved from his nearby house. The would-be ambusher dies and the Juarez policia are alerted to shots fired.
 
Now offering a speedy getaway from the scene, the Valdez brothers drive "Sam" back to the dirty roadside Motel they have taken up as their lodgings during their search for gunfighters. In the privacy of their room, they explain the plight of Esperanza following the shooting death of Ramon's brother Luz. The mention of the Castillos gets the stranger's attention, and he somewhat pre-emptively agrees to do the job. He then says his real name is Sawyer Bishop, and he offers to help the two siblings find more triggermen. The trio begin searching the region for other likely candidates.
 
Some time later, Danny Cooper shows up to try and once more offer his dubious services to Juan and Emilio, having figured out which motel and room they were staying in. He is greeted by Bishop and his gun in a tense confrontation, but after a short chat the American enforcer realizes Cooper is not a threat. When Juan and Emilio return from dinner and find the handyman speaking with their first hire, they are equally surprised. Deciding that its best not to turn away help given their mutual situation - and knowing Cooper knows their plans too well already - they finally agree to hire the odd-jobber as well.

A day later, Bishop tracks down an old confederate of his named Tess, an American getaway driver who owes a large debt to the Sianola drug cartel. Tess is involved with some inept bank robbers cornered by the Mexican police when Bishop locates her, waiting in her idling custom Trans Am while the policia and robbers shout threats at one another. Bishop explains the job and suggests that she could be forgiven some of what she owes in exchange for helping to do some damage to Castillo's operation. When she agrees to join up, Bishop fires some shots off down the alley to set off a gunbattle between her former employers and the cops outside. The pair drives off to return to the cheap motel where the slowly forming team has gathered.
 
On the following night, Tess goes to visit a roadhouse across the border in search of one of her own associates, a veteran mercenary named Ignacio. She finds the elderly Chilean seated at the bar, separate from the rowdy American crowd as a country and western band wails on stage. Ignacio greets her and the two catch up on old times before Tess explains why she's come. She mentions that Bishop is involved, as the three have some shared history, and the old man eventually agrees to join the defense of Esperanza.

With Bishop, Cooper, Tess, and Ignacio on board for the stand against the Castillos, the Valdez brothers have almost finished getting the team they need together. Time is short, however, and they know that their enemy will soon be moving on their home.
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« Reply #10 on: May 15, 2012, 10:31:34 AM »

Part Two - Esperanza

The hired guns return to Esperanza with the Valdez brothers, arriving in the small border town before dawn. They briefly meet with Sheriff Garcia and discuss the situation with him, then head to bed in and around the Rancho Valdez.

The next morning, the "ranch hands" meet Dora Valdez as she serves them breakfast. Deputy Serrano takes them on a tour of the town to help get them acclimated. They begin to formulate plans as they observe the layout and disposition of the houses, stores, and other structures. Cooper finds two discarded vehicles at the junkyard - a truck and a tiller - which could be made operational once again given some work. Serrano makes some photocopies of a map for their benefit.

As the tour wraps up, Major Calar of the Army arrives with two humvees and several soldiers. He confronts Sheriff Garcia and his two deputies and warns him that at 5 PM he will be doing another one of his "inspections" of the town. The locals know that this is a sign that the cartel will be sweeping in later that night as well, using the information Calar's men find to help them continue terrorizing Esperanza. As Calar speaks, his men rough up both Cooper and Bishop, leading to further tension. Bishop tells Calar to send a taunting message to Rico, the lieutenant of the Castillo cartel, knowing that he will be recognized. The corrupt officer departs and the gunmen retire to the El Migra bar to discuss a plan for the night.

At the bar the mercenaries lay out a tactical plan designed to lure the expected late night cartel hit squad into an ambush. They concoct a false vigil to take place in the town park, with the Sheriff presiding and making an appealing target. This bluff will serve to draw the cartel's initial attack and allow them to flank and then trap the would be killers in a crossfire.

A stranger shows up during this planning meeting and introduces himself as Cesar, stating that he'd like to offer his services to Esperanza. The suspicious gunmen test his reflexes and learn that he's a Federale - and possibly a member of the brutal vigilante group composed of military and police officers acting outside of the law. They reluctantly allow him to stay, but Bishop is almost certain that he is a plant by the cartel.

The group departs the bar to begin doing the work necessary to execute their night time ambush plot, the clock ticking down toward Major Calar's announced return that evening.
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« Reply #11 on: May 15, 2012, 10:36:18 AM »

The second session featured our first actual die rolls and use of Action Dice. We got very close to an actual gunfight when Major Calar showed up, but aside from Bishop and Cooper getting roughed up (some subdual damage was taken), they avoided it. We've had precisely two gunshots fired thus far - one fired by Bishop to kill a nameless thug during his introductory vignette and a second fired by Ignacio to test Cesar's reflexes. I'm kind of proud of that, to be honest.

I'm curious to see how they respond to the combat system if/when we play out the planned ambush next session. I'm leaning toward making it fairly easy and let it mostly work out as they expect; this is the first brush with the cartel and should establish their competence. We can make later conflicts harder and more risky as the situation builds and the enemy responds to their tactics.
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« Reply #12 on: May 20, 2012, 12:56:51 PM »

Part Three - Finale

Three SUVs arrive at night in Esperanza, each carrying armed Castillo cartel gunmen intent on targeting the vigil supposedly taking place in the town plaza. They are instead ambushed by the waiting mercenaries, who quickly use explosives and gunfire to cut them down.

Rico, a Castillo lieutenant, escapes from a burning car but gets cornered in an alleyway. Bishop personally tracks him down, shoots him, and then cuts the wounded man's throat. Ignacio uses the church belltower as his sniper's roost and prevents the escape of the last SUV. Danny makes use of several homemade pipe bombs and comes under withering assault rifle fire from the last cluster of surviving gangsters. Tess, Cesar and Sheriff Garcia approach the building and help flush out the last of the thugs, whom Ignacio quickly eliminates with a well-placed rifle shot.

With the dozen or so would-be assassins eliminated, the mercenaries help the townsfolk clean up some of the damage and dispose of the bodies in unmarked desert graves. Garcia and the rest of Esperanza are relieved and grateful for their help, but they know they have more work ahead once Ramon Castillo learns of the incident.

They make plans at the church but are interrupted by a phone call Danny receives from the prostitute Ofelia. She tells him that Castillo is already gearing up for a morning raid and that the cartel has taken over the brothel as their base of operations. The "ranch hands" decide to raid the brothel before the cartel can return to Esperanza, hoping to save some of the staff and put an end to Ramon.

At the brothel, the mercenaries find Ramon has brought a small army of underlings while he meets with the bounty hunter Bolo and the corrupt Major Calar. Danny attempts to sneak up to the Major's humvees to plant a bomb underneath it, but he is spotted by one of the soldiers patrolling the grounds. He runs away and is almost shot, but Tess slams into the corrupt infantryman with her Trans Am.

Bishop, Sheriff Garcia, and Cesar burst into the first floor bar area and start an intense gun battle inside of the whorehouse. Ignacio once more plays sniper to keep them covered from a foxhole dug on a nearby hillside. Danny is determined to save Ofelia, taking a back door entrance to try and reach the second floor. Tess continues to circle the structure in her car.

Bolo and Bishop get into a fist-and-knife fight, but Danny is able to wound the big bounty hunter with a shot to his thigh. This leaves an opening for them to finish him off, but not before the other gunmen inside have cornered and then killed Garcia. Outside, Tess and Ignacio deal with a helicopter apparently in the employ of Ramon, carrying a well-dressed sniper who attempts to take out the wheel-girl's car. Ignacio manages to get a solid hit on the man, and the helicopter quickly retreats from the scene. Three SUVs carrying yet more cartel reinforcements approach from the highway, however, and Ramon and Calar escape to the second floor to await their arrival.

Bishop and Danny recklessly charge up the steps to find Ramon and Calar waiting for them with Ofelia held hostage. Both men are badly wounded by the cartel boss and the Mexican Army officer. Ignacio descends the hillside to join his comrades inside. Tess rams her car into the front of the bar and then hops out to also assist. While she helps Cesar hold off the reinforcements, Bishop trades shots with Ramon in close quarters. The American enforcer is killed by a barrage from Ramon's submachine gun, but Ignacio avenges his death with a single shot from his .30-06 which blows the boss' brains out.

Panicked and desperate, Calar backs away down a hallway with Ofelia as a human shield. Ignacio tries to snipe the Major, but only manages to shoot the beret off of his head. Despite his wounds and Ofelia's pleas to flee the scene, Danny points his .38 at Calar, closes his eyes, and then fires a lucky shot that kills the Major instantly.

The survivors escape the bloody carnage at the brothel in one of the SUVs which the cartel reinforcements arrived in, leaving behind the bodies of the lawman who hired them and the ex-cartel gangster. Since Garcia is dead and no one else in town knows precisely where he buried the remainder of their fee, they find little reward from the town of Esperanza beyond the gratitude of its people and a fiesta thrown in their honor.

The Castillos have been defeated.

Aftermath

Danny and Ofelia sneak across the border and start a life together in Texas. Danny returns to his modest life as a handyman and teaches Ofelia the wonders of American bowling alleys.

Ignacio joins the festivities in Esperanza, but the following morning he is found to have quietly, peacefully passed away while sitting on a park bench. He is eventually buried with honor in the town's overcrowded graveyard, alongside the recovered body of Sheriff Garcia.

Bishop's body is not found after the gunbattle at El Chingon's brothel, but his mother is surprised one day by a brown paper parcel sent from south of the border. She opens it and is horrified to find her son's hand inside.

Cesar stays in Esperanza and offers to become the town's new Sheriff, though his secret actual reason for taking the job is never fully revealed. He never fully confirms nor denies his connections to the Federales.

Tess is depressed by the loss of Ignacio, Bishop, and her car alike, not to mention the fact she never got her full payment for services rendered. Izek the gas station attendant attempts to make up for this by gifting her his father's prized classic car as a replacement for her customized Trans Am. She drives off in search of new means to pay her debts.

Decimated by the shoot out at the brothel, the Castillo cartel collapses and is eventually subsumed by another drug gang from Sinaloa. An investigation into Major Calar's murder and his rumored corruption stalls shortly after it begins, but he is remembered in a special tribute by the Mexican Army a week later.

As Esperanza settles back into a quiet routine following the violent past few days, Deputy Regla spends his off-hours searching the desert surrounding the sleepy little town, digging hole after hole, hoping to find the suitcase full of cash Garcia buried in the sandy wasteland...

The End
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« Reply #13 on: May 20, 2012, 02:14:37 PM »

Post Mortem

We wrapped up Deguello this weekend; in the end, we agreed to wrap up the game in our third session instead of going to a fourth. This was chiefly because one of our players had made an agreement with his wife that he'd only play 3 sessions, and we didn't want to be the source of martial strife. Smiley

All in all, I'd say the game worked; I had fun, the players had fun, and it didn't explode in our face. The rules - and house rules - seemed to support the play style, and they never got in the way of our fun. I didn't end up using as much detail or crunch as I'd initially intended, but the players never noticed the difference. We also managed to mostly avoid the sort of technical hiccups that often are a part of playing over the internet.

It wasn't without faults or issues, though, and I'm taking a look back to see what I can learn from our experience.

Characters

Getting together for a group character creation session was harder than anticipated. Of the five people who initially signed up, only three showed for that session; I ended up helping the remaining two players make characters separately. Nobody save one other player (one of the two that didn't show) had access to the book, but I had the PDF of the Thug preview which helped the guy who made one of those quite a bit. Explaining things to those without the book was a bit hard, and in the end I don't know if we got full mileage out of all the Spycraft 2.0 options anyways. More on that later.

We used the form-fillable PDF character sheet, but people still had some problems figuring out what went where. I'm glad I went with the Jack of All Trades Campaign Quality (not to be confused with the Specialty of the same name) since it eliminated the need to worry about cross-class skills and ranks. I did find it necessary to lay out which skills did what - knowing precisely what Manipulate means as opposed to Bluff is not something anybody picks up on first glance. We mostly went light on social skills given the focus of the game - these were hard edged hired guns, not counselors and negotiators.

The two biggest stumbling blocks for explanation online were Origin and Feats. There's just so many options and details for each, and if you don't already know what those crunchy bits mean in the scheme of things, you can quickly get lost in the wilderness. I emailed and posted some feat details online for everybody without the book - but I'm pretty sure only one of the players kept track of his. He used the Low Blow trick from Dirty Fighting 1 time (that's Once) and I reminded him about how to use Two Weapon Basics late in the game, and he also used that once. The Soldier, who had quite a few Feats, never referenced using any of them; I ended up granting him the benefit of Marksmanship Basics (which he had) whenever he described aiming. Another player got some mileage out of his Explosives Basics feat, but he entirely forgot one of his Chance feats until the last session was pretty much over.

Feats which added a bonus into skills or threat range got a bit more use, I suppose, but that's not because the players were aware of them - they just happened to already figure into the skill bonuses.

As far as Gear, I just gave players the option of one sidearm, one longarm, and one other bit of gear their PC would start with. They described what they wanted broadly, I picked something and gave the stats for it to them. I ended up doing the most work on the Wheelman's car, but most of that detail didn't come into play. Nobody chose armor; they picked up some after the first action scene, but it didn't factor in very much anyways. All in all, I'm quite glad we didn't look at or use the 2.0 gearing up rules at all.

In a general sense, I'd say the Thug, Soldier, and Pointman got the most mileage out of their characters in the game. Their class abilities and skills fit the theme and let them do what they set out to do. The Wheelman, though, fell right into the usual trap of being separate from the group by virtue of staying in her car, and thus did very little.

While that's at least partially due to the player's strange insistence that she wouldn't want to leave the vehicle - she would have been effective even outside of it - it ties into the old problem I have with Wheelmen and Hackers. The class name and abilities lead to people isolating themselves from the action, and that sucks big time. In the end, the Wheelman really only had one or two notable moments, and both times those were defined by them driving around on their own, away from the real crisis.

The Scout's player simply didn't show up for play, so that wasn't a factor. I did make and use abbreviated versions of an Intruder and Lawman for two NPCs who joined the rest of the party in the shootouts. Those worked pretty well, though I didn't use any of their special abilities or feats; I might have been better off letting one of the players run them as backup/companion characters.

From a roleplaying standpoint, I've got few complaints. The Thug, Soldier, and Pointman players all brought their A game and created interesting and compelling protagonists. The Drives ended up being very helpful for getting them quickly into the game and motivated throughout. Their contribution elevated what could have been a routine run-and-gun scenario.

The Wheelman though...well, the player is a bit of a contrarian with a habit of self-sabotage - he showed up late and mostly used his Debt Drive as an excuse to not get involved with anything too dangerous ("She wouldn't want to risk her life" is a pretty piss poor choice in a game based on the Seven Samurai). Kind of reached a nadir when his character spent most of the final confrontation doing donuts in the parking lot while the Sheriff got gunned down and the rest were struggling to deal with a shit ton of enemies - the other players weren't well pleased with him, and neither was I. It ended up working out okay since his lack of investment meant he just got to do less cool stuff, but it still makes me consider what we could have done differently. I REALLY don't like the Wheelman class now, either.

Setting, NPCs, Story

The game was intended to be pretty simple and spare, but having a lot of time on my hands meant I created a whole lot more detail than I probably needed. We had numerous Non Player Characters, a relatively detailed fictional town and map, and a lot of optional subplots. Most of the NPCs and subplots didn't figure into the game, but I'm still glad I had them around. If we spent another session focused on the PCs interactions with the town - we really only had 1 session for that - I imagine there would have been more mileage out of those details.

As it turned out, though, we still got enough connections with the setting and supporting cast to raise the stakes in the final action-oriented session. That session had to shoe horn in a lot of development and forced decision making, however; we all agreed it would have been better to go four sessions to build up to a less ridiculous finale, but circumstances OOC just weren't going to allow for it.

My biggest regret is that the finale felt (to me) kinda stupid. Not bad stupid, necessarily, but in comparison to the more tactical and tension filled ambush before it, it was loud and messy and full of the sorts of lazy cliches that modern games tend to fall into. I even had the cartel boss making evil mastermind speeches and a car running into the front of a bar! Not really what I was going for, but whatever; the players mostly seemed to enjoy it and those that died went out in a blaze of glory.

System/Combat

The system worked good, even better than expected. I did NOT use every bit of crunch in the book, but I used enough of it to make the tactical choices matter and have real impact on the outcome. Action Dice were a big hit (no surprise there), but Fluid Initiative, errors/threat, cover, etc. seemed to click as well. I house ruled Damage Saves and Damage rolls to speed things up, too, and without tooting my own horn too much, it saved us a lot of time and annoyance.

In brief, for Damage I had all PCs and NPCs assume they rolled the highest possible result on dice and tell me the final result. For Damage Saves, I had the relevant standard NPCs "take 10" and figured out what the threshold was for them to fail their given save. In other words, if a guy had Damage Save +7, he'd ALWAYS get 17, which meant he could take up to 14 damage of any kind before he'd fail and drop. The maximized damage meant every gunshot counted and would reliably drop most NPCs in one or two hits. It also made activated critical hits to Special characters good and nasty. It may have skewed some of the curve built into the system, but the shootouts went fast and had a nice feel to them - in fact, I may use those house rules with Spy/Fantasy Craft in the future to cut down on the amount of rolling.

Things I didn't use? I didn't pay very close attention to rules for explosions, special damage types, stress damage, or morale saves. I definitely abbreviated the rules for vehicle damage/hit locations, too, since it didn't feel like something we wanted to focus on. I might have benefited from using the rules for targeting passengers and tires etc., but in truth I'm not sorry I didn't stop to look them up. I also probably glossed over some of the weapon qualities, but we did use Dependable, Takedown, and one or two others.

Skills were a bit eyeballed, as well, but that didn't negate their utility. They definitely benefited from getting a Critical Success on their Tactics check before the ambush in the last session - and people got some opportunities to use non-combat abilities like Search, Sense Motive, and Knowledge checks.

Oh, and maps; I had to throw together one for the last fight at the brothel; I hadn't intended for their to be action there. While I had a bunch prepared from various sources, its surprisingly hard to find the "right" one on the fly. Once I got one that worked, though, it helped lots.

Lessons Learned

* Characters should probably be pregens unless all participants have access to the book or its an ongoing game. Even then, though, any and all PDFs and sheets and summaries you can offer will help. Maybe pick Origins and Feats for people based on concept?

* Drives are a good idea, especially if you want a quick and easy way to tie a character to a one shot scenario.

* Gear detail you gloss over is not missed - it just isn't. Gearing Up is pretty much not wanted at my table.

* Feats and other abilities are quickly and easily forgotten, so maybe make sure people get the deets down somewhere.

* Wheelman class is not my friend. If we'd had car chases and road warrior mayhem - maybe? But otherwise, I'm avoiding it like the plague unless the player truly appreciates that they are not going to stay in their damn car.

* Having bitched about the Wheelman -> Concept trumps rules, every time. A good roleplayer can make anything sing.

* Internet players be flaky and unreliable.

* Give PCs time and room to get to know the people they're supposed to care about. That groundwork may not be thrilling, but it makes the action matter so much more.

* Don't overload players with information and NPCs etc. They will only remember the bits that interest them and their objectives. Having fallbacks is good, but they can be sketchy.

* Dumb action cliche can be fun, but if you aim higher and are prepared, you can do better.

* Spycraft 2.0 isn't that hard to play and can even be fairly fast, provided you have one or more players who are already well-versed in it and the GM is okay with only using pieces of the toolkit that matter to you.

* Action Dice are always (always) a good idea.

* Fluid initiative and combat actions aren't that much of a burden, provided you have references people can use (see GM handout).

* "Taking 10" with Damage Saves, Passive checks, etc. can speed things up and simplifies GM workload a lot.

* Always have more maps than you think you'll need.

Hope you all find this useful and interesting! I'm going to check with the players to see if they want to add anything.



 
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Iron Tom
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« Reply #14 on: May 21, 2012, 07:43:54 PM »

This is mathey's thug, Bishop.  Evil

With the focused mission and setting that was planned for this scenario, the Drives were a great help in forming my space in the game. I knew why I was getting involved, and didn't have to go through that "let me figure out an in-character reason why my PC would join your quest" shenanigans that sometimes happens in session one. It also gave me some fuel for dramatic character scenes or actions later on and helped shape the character build.

I don't have the Spycraft 2.0 book, but mathey has been awesome about shouldering the overhead to make it approachable, and honestly if not for that, I don't think spycraft is a game I'd WANT to learn through my own trials.

The assumed rolls (taking 10, assumed max damage) helped a great deal in keeping the game moving forward without grinding to a crawl over crunch. If you have a regular campaign with knowledgeable players, by all means, break out the parade of tables and charts, otherwise it's a tool to keep handy for casual games. The assumed max damage also helped reinforce the lethality of the campaign qualities on both sides. I'd done a good job of keeping Bishop out of the direct line of fire, while still taking my share of kills; the moment I got sloppy and exposed myself to uncovered gunfire, he went down in two rounds - as he should have  Wink

The scenario overall was great! The premise was somewhat familiar, the environment fairly rich and plausible, and our goal clearly outlined. The first big battle was fairly dramatic and eventful, and almost without a hitch on our side. The follow up assault on the brothel - not so much. We'd neither the time or the limited resources at our disposal compared to the first ambush, and the entire scene felt shaky. Part of that is due to the fact that we elected to rush to the close so we could wrap up that night; we'd also been kind of rushed into the scene without much preamble or planning. On top of that, it was late for all but one of us, we were tired and ready to see a conclusion, so our RP degraded into haphazard descriptions, and frankly the reluctant wheel-girl was pissing us off with what amounted to donuts in the parking lot while we were taking bullets and blows inside. (I believe the shared sentiment was "so...she crashes her car through the front door and takes pot-shots at the ceiling? Really?!")

Anyway, overall I think it was great play. But yeah, mathey has waaay too much time on his hands for game prep, but I'll not complain Wink
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