Saturday, January 29, 2011

Meet the wasteland 1: Boulder Jack

The first installment in a hopefully long running series where we take a look at some of the more memorable NPCs that populate post-apocalyptic California. Potential foe or ally, that's up to the players. Also I'd like to stat some of the characters that made an appearance in Fallout 2 which my players might run into at some point. I'll kick off with an outlaw by the name of Boulder Jack.

As you walk into the room, you notice the man sitting at the corner table, tall and lean from the looks of it, not the youngest anymore, with a short, closely cropped beard, ear-length dark matted hair and steel grey eyes that give you a penetrating glance as he looks up from his drink, grins, and gets up. All dressed in black, you catch a glimpse of the silver .44 Magnum on his hip as his duster falls open. He doffs his rawhide cowboy hat and affects a little mock bow. "Business or pleasure?" he asks, still the same grin on his face as he sits down again, "or did I kill anyone you know and now you're here to reckon with me?" In one casual motion he takes his gun from its holster and puts it down on the table in front of him, within easy reach, all the while looking straight at you, defiantly. "Sixteen men have tried to best me and as many men are dead." he smirks, as you notice the notches on the gun.

Jack is an outlaw from Boulder, Colorado who recently cut a swath through Nevada and made an enemy of the desert rangers after gunning two of them down. Moving out west to lay low in the border region with California, he's trying to shake off the ranger who's hunting him down.

Boulder Jack (veteran Wild Card)

Parry 6/7 - Toughness 6 - Rad Resistance 0 - Pace 6 - Run die d6

Strength d8 - Agility d12 - Vigor d8 - Smarts d6 - Spirit d6 - Charisma 0
Fighting d8 - Small Guns d12 - Explosives d6 - Intimidation d10 - Taunt d10 - Notice d8 - Stealth d6 - Lockpick d6 - Climbing d6 - Survival d6 - Repair d4 - Medicine d4 - Persuasion d6 - Streetwise d6 - Barter d6

H: Arrogant - Vengeful - Wanted
E: Quick, Quick Draw, Marksman, Quick Reload, Gunslinger

.44 Magnum, Black Canvas Duster: +1 vs hand weapons, Black Rawhide Cowboy Hat

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Session 5 summary

Our heroes enjoy some much needed R & R after completing their charge of delivering six Brahmin bulls to the Longhorn Ranch in southeastern California and make grand plans for the future, while meeting a new companion along the way.


- Dexx: Young but experienced thief and pickpocket, schooled by life on the streets of the Boneyard, looking for lucrative scavenging opportunities;

- Rhiannon Adare: Vault 21 outcast, expert in all things mechanical and technological, adjusting to life on the outside;

- Paul: Wandering wasteland tough and jack of all trades, taking whichever job he can get by on before hitting the trail again;

After their encounter with the Rattlesnakes in the ravine leading through the hills, where their companion Pyal met his end at the hands of one of the raiders, the group pressed on for a while, putting as much distance between the raiders and themselves as possible. Shortly before they would reach the ranch, they decided to stop and prepare a funeral pyre for the late tribesman, as Rhiannon had learned of this custom during her brief stay in Pyal's village and knew this would be his wish, and Dexx, ever the voice of down to earth reason, stating that showing up with a corpse would probably leave a poor first impression on the ranchers. They gathered some firewood and after a quick improvised ceremony Pyal's earthly remains were burned, along with his treasured hunting spear. Some further discussion arose as Dexx did not cherish the idea of taking Styg, the legless old Ghoul the party found unconscious in the desert the day before, along with them to the ranch either. Florian eventually agreed to stay behind to watch over Styg while the others would go and conclude their business at the ranch, and the group would reunite on the morning. Jacob, Dexx and Rhiannon then gathered the five remaining Brahmin bulls and started on the last mile of their journey, which had proved to be a lot more dangerous than any of them had anticipated.
Not much later, around dusk, they spotted in the distance a small Brahmin herd, two armed men standing nearby. The men, hired hands working for the Stanleys over at the Longhorn Ranch, hailed the fresh arrivals and walked out to meet them. After making their introductions and a cursory inspection of the bulls, the guards gathered the cattle and escorted the threesome to the ranch proper.
The party arrived at the impressive ranch, spotting many heads of cattle along the way before arriving at the large ranch house amid the numerous barns and stables. Along the way they had learned from the ranchers that their boss, mr. Stanley, had passed away several months earlier and the daily management of the Longhorn Ranch was now in the capable hands of his daughter Sarah. When the group approached the main building, they were greeted and ushered in by an elderly majordomo. They entered the lobby, where two tough looking men stood guard, and were subsequently led through the house and shown to ms. Stanley's office, from which raised voices could be overheard. After a moment all three of them were asked in, together with one of the guards. In the elegant looking office they were greeted by a young, attractive woman who introduced herself as Sarah Stanley, and a tall, slightly emactiated looking man of similar age sitting in the corner of the room, her brother Chase, who kept quiet for the remainder of the conversation. After some pleasantries they turned to the business at hand, the payment for the delivery of the Brahmin bulls. Having only managed to deliver five of six, with two of them badly injured, ms. Stanley confirmed her reputation of shrewd businesswoman and renegotiated the payment stipulated in the contract down from seven to five thousand dollars. Jacob, seeing no real alternative, had to grudgingly agree to these conditions. Their business concluded and the nearest settlement being almost a day's travel away, they were offered food and lodging for the night, as well as an armed escort for their journey tomorrow if they so wished. The group gladly accepted ms. Stanley's hospitality and were shown to the guest rooms, two of which were put at their disposal.

After a small supper was brought to their rooms, Jacob, Dexx and Rhiannon gathered to discuss the matter of the owed wages. Jacob proved unwilling to pay the full sum, seeing as his employer had already lost quite a bit of money on the contract, and offered them about half the amount owed, which Dexx with some persuasion managed to up to a hundred dollars each. Soon after they all retired for the night, planning to leave early the next morning for the nearby settlement of Landfill. Some hours later, in the dead of night, Dexx awoke to the sound of a knock on the door. The elderly majordomo quietly came in and informed Dexx that mr. Stanley requested his presence in his study. Puzzled, Dexx dressed and followed the steward through the dark, empty hallways to Chase Stanley's quarters. Stanley invited him to sit down and hear him out about a business proposal of sorts. It quickly became clear to Dexx that Stanley was greatly frustrated by living in his older sister's shadow, whom he resented being put in charge of the ranch, claiming that as the male heir that should have been his prerogative. Sensing an opportunity in the outsider's arrival, he offered Dexx a sizeable cash sum to take care of this "problem" for him. While the money was tempting, Dexx, though a thief and scoundrel, proved that he was not a cold-blooded killer and politely declined the offer, and after ensuring Stanley of his secrecy, was led back to his room. Once there however he did not go back to sleep. Figuring Stanley would not handle his disappointment well, Dexx thought it better to act first and disappear from the ranch. Quietly he gathered his belongings and went over to Rhiannon's room, telling her only to meet him again the next morning outside the ranch. He then snuck out of the house through the window. Realizing he wouldn't find his way back to Florian and Styg in the dark, he looked for a suitable hiding place and climbed in one of the stables, spending the rest of the night among the Brahmin.
The next morning Jacob and Rhiannon made ready to leave for Landfill. Dexx's disappearance raised some questions, but Rhiannon reassured them, saying he preferred sleeping outside to the comforts of a real bed. Earlier Dexx had risen at the crack of dawn and set out to reunite with the companions they had left behind. The ranchers saw the rest of the group off, sending one of the hired hands, a brawny man clad in leather armour by the name of Paul, along to show them the way to Landfill. The three of them first went to meet up with Florian and Styg and found Dexx waiting there for them as well. Guided by Paul the party started on the way to Landfill, Florian carrying the Ghoul on his back.

The group travelled south east for most of the day through the flat, empty countryside that bordered the Mojave desert, without anything eventful happening. From the late afternoon on they could see in the distance three small hills looming ahead, and as the wind turned, an unpleasant smell wafted in their direction. As they drew nearer the hills on the horizon grew ever larger, and they could now clearly see the enormous refuse heap at the foot of which lay the shanty town of Landfill. They made their way to the northern entrance of the settlement, passing by the edges of the waste yard, around which they noticed a sturdy chain-link fence had been erected. They passed by several wooden buildings which seemed to serve as bunkhouses or barracks and a large water tank, all closely located next to the main entrance to the waste yard. A small empty space separated these from the rest of the settlement, consisting solely of ramshackle cabins and shacks out of sheets of plastic and corrugated iron, a warren of twisting alleys and pathways spreading out in every direction. In the distance, on the western edge of the town, they spied a two-storey building, partially out of brick with the second storey seemingly out of wood, sticking out above the multitude of shacks. Rhiannon assumed this to be town hall, but Paul, who was familiar with the town from previous drinking and gambling trips, informed them it was the town's watering hole, known as The Hill. Jacob immediately proposed to hit the bar, an idea which went down well with the rest of the company. So they made their way through the narrow streets, ignoring chem dealers and beggars alike. At a certain point a haggard woman accosted them, relating the story of her husband Bill who went into the waste yard tunnels some days earlier and never returned. Though not planning on trying their luck and making a scavenging trip down the tunnels themselves, the group promised to keep an eye out for any signs concerning Bill's fate. Eventually they arrived at The Hill. The bar was full of smoke, noise and the raucous laughter of the many drunks and gamblers seated at the tables in the main room. Two stairs, at either side of the bar against the far wall from the entrance, led to the rooms on the second floor, patrons and girls to be seen moving about on the gallery. The party sat down at one of the unoccupied tables, while Jacob and Paul went to the bar and bought a round of beers. As the evening progressed more beer was ordered and everyone's tongues got loosened. The group engaged in some lively conversation, discussing previously unmentioned pasts and making plans for the future. Rhiannon's tale about her exile from Vault 21 [NB: this is not the Vault 21 that is featured in Fallout: New Vegas; the story for this campaign was written before F:NV came out] caught the others imagination, and they decided to head back north later and try and gain entry to the Vault. Their talk drew the attention of some men sitting at the next table, who seemed quite interested in the topic. One of them, a decrepit looking Ghoul, revealed he once came from a Vault as well, located under what was now known as Necropolis. Jacob meanwhile had disappeared to one of the upstairs rooms. As it grew later the rest of the group retired for the night as well, but as half of them had no money for a room, they left The Hill to spend the night on the street, among the bums and junkies. Styg, not wanting to overstay his welcome, took his leave from them then and remained in the bar by himself. The others went out on the streets and settled for a quiet alleyway, one by one taking turns staying awake to watch out for any sign of trouble.
The night went by troublefree, and come morning the four of them rose and, having decided on leaving the town and heading north through The Hub, started looking for supplies and any information on the possibility of joining a caravan. They first headed back to The Hill, mostly deserted at this time of day, where they met with the proprietor and self-proclaimed mayor of Landfill, Shane Donaldson. Donaldson could only provide some general information about the town, but told them to go see Harlan Clint over at the compound at the northern edge of town near the waste yard. Donaldson informed them Clint controlled most of the trade going in and out of town and would know about any caravans passing through. The party followed his advice and headed over to the wooden buildings they had spotted on entering town. One of the guards there pointed them over to a small wooden cabin which served as Clint's office. The group was shown in and greeted by Clint, a middle aged man with short grayish hair and glasses, hunched over various large ledgers, exploiter of the waste yard and local strongman. Somewhat impatiently he heard the group out and informed them that there would likely be a caravan heading west passing by in a week or so. When Dexx expressed his interested in prospecting the waste yard tunnels, he became more friendly and showed them several of the rarer finds to come out of the trash heap, among them a working plasma pistol and several high tech devices. This seemed incentive enough for them to decide to pay the tunnels a visit, since they were going to stay put for a while in Landfill anyhow. When asked if Clint had some work that needed doing, he mentioned that he had been trying to clean up Landfill to get it in line with NCR rule of law, in the hopes of gaining membership. His attempts to rid the streets of drugs and prostitution had however proven fruitless so far. He asked them to check by again in a few days. With that the group took their leave and went to prepare for their foray into the waste yard tunnels.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

New Vegas

Some months after the fact I finally delved into Bethesda's latest release in the franchise, New Vegas, and I must say I'm pleasantly surprised by the game so far! While I enjoyed Fallout 3, and applaud the developers for taking a gamble and moving the story to a whole new location, the east coast locale never really conveyed the classic Fallout feeling. New Vegas is in a way more conservative, moving the action once again to the Mojave area, but it's expertly done and really does feel like a modern day reimagining of the old games. Interesting characters, factions and plotlines and more "realistic" locations with a proper look to them, adult themes without going overboard like Fallout 2 did, rewarding exploration with a survival mode thrown in, great stuff. The main storyline is something different from the usual "save the world" hook, though I'm not sure yet how it's going to pan out in the end. All in all a very well realized, different from the norm post apocalyptical atmosphere that I'd like to recreate in my pen & paper campaign.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Session 4 summary

The final leg of the cattle drive the party started in the first session, where our heroes (almost) make it to their final destination. This week we welcomed a new player, which was a lucky thing as two of our regulars unfortunately couldn’t make it due to scholarly pursuits.


- Dexx: Young but experienced thief and pickpocket, schooled by life on the streets of the Boneyard. Self-professed hater of Ghouls and honest/less lucrative work;

- Florian: Skilled physician travelling the wasteland after only recently having left behind the safety of his home, Vault 10;

Not too long after their encounter with the travelling salesman Stan and his companions, the caravan, counting four men and five Brahmin bulls strong, spotted another figure approaching in their direction, coming from the east and about to cross their path. It wouldn’t prove to be their prodigal friend Craig however, but the stranger didn’t turn out entirely unfamiliar either. A tall, rather young man, sporting glasses, a hat and a blue jumpsuit that the group had come to know quite well, neared and greeted them warmly. Florian, as he introduced himself, too, like Rhiannon, was a newcomer to the wastes, a vault dweller no more than a few weeks out of Vault 10, having left to explore and share his medical expertise with the wretched souls of the wasteland, who would no doubt have need of it. Both parties were glad to meet a friendly face out in the desert. All those in the caravan were enthusiastic about having Florian accompany them on the rest of their journey, as their friend Craig, who had seen to the needs of both man and cow alike with his knowledge of herbal remedies, was still nowhere to be found. Florian from his side was equally pleased about the prospect of travelling alongside some companions more savvy in the ways of the wastes, even more so as they were quite forthcoming with water and some excellent Brahmin steaks as well. Together the group set out again, ever continuing their way south east to the Longhorn Ranch, now not more than a day and a half away. Despite their ill fortune on the road so far, Jacob’s spirits seemed to recover, not in the least because of the thought that soon he’d be enjoying the various seedy attractions of the shanty town of Landfill, before starting the return trip north.

They made good time the rest of the day, enjoying favourable weather and no more distractions along the way, and kept going well past dusk in order to make up for lost time some days earlier. Without any light, having decided to keep their last torch for emergencies, they continued to the increasingly rocky and sloping terrain, a dangerous course of action indeed in the Mojave desert, teeming with nocturnal predators and mutated creatures of all kind. It didn't take long for the Radscorpions that inhabit this part of the desert to make a new appearance, sensing an easy target in the slow moving caravan. Despite a sudden noise which alerted the group of their arrival, the giant arachnids managed to slip by the defenders under the cloak of darkness and go straight for the more coveted prey, the Brahmins, which the heroes had wisely tried to lead away from the rest of the group. As the frenzied lowing gave away the attackers' position, Florian lighted their last torch and they all ran towards the cattle, hoping to dispatch the Radscorpions before any more harm befell the bulls. Once again the tribal hunter Pyal proved a great asset to group, impaling one of the creatures on his spear. While the first assailant was being dealt with, the second Radscorpion however managed to catch one of the bulls in its mighty pincers and drive its stinger into the Brahmin's flank, sending it reeling to the ground almost immediately. Before it could feast on its paralyzed prey lying motionlessly on the ground, its tongues sagging out of its heads, the heroes managed to kill the second Radscorpion as well. Florian immediately set to work trying to clean the wound to the best of his abilities, with apparent success, as the thoroughbred pulled through the next hour, which often proves fatal as the Radscorpion's venom courses through its victim's veins. Though the Brahmin seemed to recover admirably, the group decided to halt the march for the rest of the night and make camp there and then, perhaps not the wisest decision in the middle of Radscorpion territory. As a precaution they posted two sentries instead of the usual one, with Florian and Dexx taking first watch. Their caution proved to be warranted, as soon after they once again heard sounds coming from the hillside from which the first two Radscorpions had also emerged. The twosome took up defensive positions to try and see what the cause of the noise was, but without much success, until Dexx noticed a shape moving past in the darkness. While he shouted in alarm, Florian ran to wake up their sleeping comrades. Suddenly loomed out of the darkness in front of Dexx a huge Radscorpion, black as the night itself, snapping its pincers, its tail poised to strike. It immediately caught one of Dexx' arms in its claw, and while his companions hurried towards him for help, Dexx struggled with the creature alone for some time, trying to escape its grasp. Being especially limber he soon enough managed to extricate his arm from the vice grip of Radscorpion and dodged the powerful but slow attacks the creature made. The others had meanwhile caught up, and they proceeded to surround the creature which proved a formidable opponent, their bullets ricocheting of its chitinous shell, their blows not able to inflict any serious harm on the creature. At one point losing his balance in the dark, Florian fell onto the mutated scorpion's back, noticing in surprise that half a dozen translucent white baby scorpions were crawling over it as well. eventually Dexx realized a less conventional tactic was needed and tried to distract the Radscorpion by kicking up dirt in its eyes. This distracted the creature enough to once more turn its attention on Dexx, which gave Pyal the opportunity to strike, plunging his spear in a slit between two plates of armor, killing it instantly. Pyal and Dexx then continued to kill off the baby scorpions as well, after Florian contemplated the possibility of raising and taming them. As with the other Radscorpions they also harvested the venom sacs, in the hope of later distilling an antidote from it. The rest of the night went by peacefully, and the group set out once more at the break of dawn.

The caravan continued along the trail snaking through the increasingly rough terrain. Not too far from the location where they made camp, a bit away from the path, they suddenly spotted a thin trail of smoke, as from a dying fire. Forewarned about the presence of raiders in the area, Dexx voiced his concern and suggested to best leave the matter uninvestigated. Curiosity got the better of Florian however, who proceeded to climb up the nearest incline in order to get a better view of the source of the fire. From up the small hill he could see clearly a seemingly abandoned campsite, with a tent fit for one, the fire petering out and three figures, all lying next to the fire, motionless. After Florian related these findings to his comrades, Dexx reconsidered and decided to check out the site from up-close. Quietly he made his way over, to discover a quite gruesome sight. First he passed the bodies of two animals, resembling large, wild coyotes, dead in puddles of dried blood, next to them two legs as from a human corpse. He then spotted the human figure perched against the tent, unconscious, who was in fact a very decrepit looking Ghoul. Both his legs had most likely been ripped off by the creatures, and a blackened iron rod seemed to indicate the Ghoul himself had subsequently cauterized the wounds to survive. Dexx noticed the hunting rifle lying at the Ghoul’s side, picked it up and, nurturing nothing but hatred for Ghouls, made to leave again. Luckily for the unfortunate Ghoul, at that moment Florian had decided to wander over to the campsite as well, who was quite appalled when he found out that Dexx was planning on leaving the Ghoul out there to die, without offering help. Dexx took no notice and returned to the caravan, while Florian fulfilled his Hippocratic Oath on the first Ghoul he ever encountered. Skilfully he cleaned and bandaged the wounds and managed to revive the Ghoul. Styg, as his name turned out to be, proved grateful for this unselfish act of compassion and not at all like a feral mindless creature which Dexx had warned him about. Unable to take care of himself, Styg asked to join the group until they reached the nearest town. Dexx adamantly refused, but Jacob was swayed to Florian’s point of view. The two of them made an improvised stretcher and carried Styg back to the caravan, where they placed him in one of the large wicker baskets on the Brahmin’s back. Having meanwhile noticed that his “Annabelle” was missing, Styg demanded his rifle returned to him, but Dexx continued to ignore the Ghoul and the matter was left unsettled for the time being.

Around late afternoon the caravan reached a point where the hills became impassable for any beast of burden, and as going around them would take up much more time than their agreed on time-schedule permitted, the only way open to them was a narrow ravine, twisting for about half a mile through the hills, its steep sides about twelve feet high. Suspecting this to be a very advantageous spot for an ambush by the raiders said to have been spotted around these hills, Dexx and Pyal decided to scout ahead along the edges of the cliff sides, while the others waited at the mouth of the ravine. With Dexx gone, Styg managed to convince Florian to return his hunting rifle to him in case of an attack, which Florian found together with the other rifle Dexx found earlier in one of the other Brahmin baskets. Dexx and Pyal tried their best scouting ahead quietly and cautiously, but before long disaster struck, as a gun was heard being fired and Dexx saw his friend Pyal take a bullet in the chest and fall to the ground. Diving for cover himself, Dexx was subsequently fired on but managed to stay out of harm’s way. The others, alerted by the sound of gunfire, rushed after their friends, through the ravine. Eventually the firing ceased, and a rough voice informed Dexx that they were trespassing on Rattlesnake territory, and that they would have to pay a toll of $50 each, while another raider dragged Pyal away. More raiders appeared, including a few brawny men and a tough looking woman wearing make-shift metal armor. Dexx dropped down from the cliff side and rejoined the caravan, but finding themselves hopelessly outnumbered, they saw no way out except for bartering for their safe passage and the return of their friend. Having no cash and not wanting to give up any of the Brahmin, they offered their only remaining rifle, which was acceptable for the raiders. True to their word, the raiders stepped back and allowed the caravan to pass and also returned Pyal to them, who by this time had lost a lot of blood, so that even Florian’s medical skills were of no avail. After whispering his final goodbyes to Rhiannon, Pyal, far from his native village, wife and children their friend, whose skill with the spear had often been of great use, passed on the hunting grounds in the sky. Carefully the group laid his body on one of the Brahmin, to be cremated as soon as possibly as is the custom of his tribe. With this great loss the caravan emerged from the ravine, now not more than a few hours away from their destination.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Setting rules

Some optional rules for use with your savage Fallout game, to recreate the atmosphere of the crpgs that little bit more:

- Big Spender: Characters start with $750-$1000 starting money.

-> Some extra starting money will allow players earlier access to guns or a variety of support items.

- Fearless: Characters make a Spirit check instead of using the Guts skill when prompted to do so by a Fear effect.

-> Fear is not a big part of the Fallout games, so a Spirit check instead of Guts makes for much "braver" heroes.

- Overburdened: Characters who carry equipment over their Encumbrance limit gain a penalty to Pace. This penalty is of the same magnitude as the Emcumbrance penalty.

-> An oddity about SW in my opinion has always been that Encumbrance doesn't affect your walking speed, seems very unlogical. With this rule for every level of Encumbrance, your Pace drops 1 level.