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[Fastlane] Adventures in Ezra

Started by Lxndr, October 05, 2003, 12:23:58 AM

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We played Fastlane today in my in-person gaming group.  Used american dice instead of the wheel (the motorcycle is not an easy thing to carry a roulette wheel on).  I thought it went well.

The story you are about to read is true.  Only the names have been changed to protect the... wait a minute, we're GAMERS.  Nobody's innocent.  I'm leaving the names the way they are.

Ezra is the name of a planet in a science fiction setting of mine, one that I eventually plan on displaying on the TC site.  For now, all you need to know is this:  it's kinda a cross between Las Vegas, Tijuana, WWII Paris, and Casablanca during the time of the movie.  Sort of a "Sin Planet."

We decided for a sci-fi theme, and my two players (Wolfen, on here, and Sam, who's not on here) created the following characters:

* Wolfen made Gabriel, aka "Scratch", a street kid techie genius who managed to put his sister into a good home (adopted by a local cop, actually).

* Sam made Zahn, aka "Zahn," a smuggler who'd managed to come into town.

The NPCs that were created before the game started included Von Andolini, the military governor of Ezra; Gabriel's sister Sabrina, and her adopted father, Luke Quinzel; a married rigger-techie named Callum; the station manager Kent DuVall; and finally, Bobby Detroit, who owned a nightclub named Chicago and his two bouncers, the twin brothers Bruno and Guido.

Scratch/Gabriel owed Luke Quinzel a favor, and in return Callum owed him a favor.  Zahn was a bit more prolific, choosing to owe Von Andolini a huge favor, and in return both Bobby Detroit and Kent DuVall owed him favors.  Still less than I'd honestly like to see, which seems to be a trend.  Perhaps that's just the way first-timers play... close to the vest.

Anyway, with that finally out of the way, the game started:

I started with Gabriel in media res, up against a ganger who was out to hurt him.  I was hoping to challenge him a BIT more, but it still served as a good introduction to roulette bidding, et cetera.  There is a learning curve involved, but it's not a strong one.

Anyway, Gabriel managed to defeat the ganger through Guile, and forced a favor out of him.  Works for me :)  I then switched to Zahn and had Andolini call in a favor, although it started off looking like he was going to be arrested.

Andolini had his military guys dress like station security and escort Zahn out of the Chicago Nightclub and into a small, dark office, which was then locked.  Zahn was expecting Kent to talk to him about discovered items, but of course Von actually showed up.  Von asked Zahn to use his contacts to look into Callum and his wife.  See, there was some information on some secure databases that was erased, and Von wanted to find out who did it - was it Callum, or was it someone Callum paid?

Meanwhle, Gabriel managed to see Zahn get carted out of the place (he'd just talked to Guido the bouncer), and was irresponsible enough to follow.  The guards managed to rough him up and take away some of his toys (he failed a spin BADLY) after tossing Zahn into the room.  They kept him in "custody" until after Von and Zahn had their little talk.

Gabriel followed Zahn back to the Chicago, where Zahn talked to Bruno about Callum.  He was told that maybe "Crotch" would know where he was (actually Scratch) - and Guido would know where Crotch was.  Zahn went inside, got Guido drunk, and found out where Callum was (a mechanic shop called the Danube).

Gabriel was rather incensed at being called "Crotch" but realized that Callum was being looked for, probably because of him (he put the pieces together).  So he headed down the Danube while Zahn was still oiling Guido up, and asked Callum to not say anything about Gabe's involvement.  Leave a false trail, whatever, you know?

Callum, somewhat of a drunkard, takes this in stride, probably because of aforementioned drunkenness, but goes back to work.  He's got a very light touch on his work, and is rather skilled.  He's just not a software guy, which is why he had Gabe erase his files.

So Zahn finds Callum, who decides to turn himself in.  Long as he confesses all he knows, they got no legal right to do P&P (polygraph and pharmaeceuticals) or even worse, direct neural shunts.  Gabriel suspects Callum might do that, so he heads back to stop them.  He gets stopped by Kent along the way, but his Lucky Number came up, and he managed to infinitely tweak the situation to his advantage.  Very nice.

Zahn drinks beer with Callum and swaps war stories while waiting for Von to arrive.  He finalyl does, but not before Gabriel manages to "spring" Callum at gunpoint, dragging him into the alleyway and pretty much tossing him into a dumpster.  Zahn, of course, is all "what-EVER."

Andolini's already on the scene, though, with his two guards.  He sends his two guards around to the alleyway, where they only find Gabriel (Callum being in the aforementioned dumpster, or otherwise hidden).  These two run after him, shattering his nerve, but he still manages to kill them with shots from the gun he stole from Kent.

Andolini calls in back-up as he chases after the kid, and the scene ends with two MP cars and a helicopter arriving on the scene.



I mostly enjoyed this game.  Next time (2 weeks) we'll be adding a third player.  I'm convinced the game plays well, but still needs more exposition.  The need for descriptors/Styles/Etc is clearer to me, as is a stronger need for deciding when a life works FOR you, and when a life works AGAINST you.

So... I thought this was pretty darned fun.  :)  Just thought I'd share.
Alexander Cherry, Twisted Confessions Game Design
Maker of many fine story-games!
Moderator of Indie Netgaming

Lance D. Allen

Actually, Sam is here somewhere on the Forge. Just don't know what his ID is here.

Some notes on the game:

I somewhat agree with Sam's note that the fluidity of the stats make it hard to get an idea of what your character is good at. I think, when you figure out how you want the Styles to work, that they should be the primary descriptor, with the ratings assigned as a secondary descriptor. It will lend a sense of permanence to the facets that is currently lacking.

While GM fiat works in a lot of cases, I'd recommend an actual time-keeping device, such as a digital or face watch with a seconds display on the table, to give a visible reference to how much time is remaining. I'm not going to say the time limit shouldn't be imposed, as it does represent the amount of time that the wheel is spinning, but it should definitely be regulated.

A bit more specifics on the bid sheet might be good, because I barely even glanced at it after your initial explanation, because it was easier to try to go by memory for how much each bet is worth, rather than take the time to decipher the bid sheet, esp. when the "wheel is spinning", so to speak.

My biggest gripe, overall, was how difficult it was to overcome some of the conflicts. If my bets came out well, it was generally easy enough, so long as there was only 1, maybe 2 conflictors. But when it was two guards and a video camera, each with about a difficulty of 3, it was much more difficult, even with a relatively good turn out on my bets. It was compounded in situations where I didn't even manage to break even. I'm not sure if this is a problem with the game, or something that will come with experience, but it was my largest frustration during the session of play.

Overall, however, I liked the game, and despite some hiccups where rules were unexpectedly sprung on me, I think it went well and smoothly.
~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls


The fluidity of the statistics is, quite honestly, in the category of "it's not a bug, it's a feature."  What a character is good at is meant to be incredibly variable - it's supposed to reflect the free-wheeling, eternally shifting landscape of the lifestyles the characters are living, where what's available to you at that moment is more important than anything else.  In other words, what you should be asking isn't "what is my character good at?" so much as "what is my character good at RIGHT NOW?"

Styles are a nice way to ameliorate that effect, by giving the character certain things that he's... better at.  But I don't believe they should be primary. Quite honestly, I'm not sure if the sense of permanence that Sam's looking for is something I want in the game.

On to other points:

A timekeeping device would be useful when using dice.  I was fiatting because, well, we didn't have one, and also I wanted to give y'all a little extra time sometimes to get used to the bets.  Next time we'll use one, one way or another.  Anyone have any idea where to get a cheap 60-second timer?

What sorts of things are you hoping to be on the bid sheet, that aren't there now?  That sheet is meant to be one small part of the overall character sheet, once I finally complete that project.  Also, the final Fastlane book is going to have a graphical representation of a roulette spread, with example chips on them, for people who learn that way.  Besides, roulette ain't all that hard - you managed to go pretty well by memory, once you got a few spins under your belt.  I'm honestly hoping and expecting that, after the first session, most players won't need to glance at it more than once in a great while.

Yeah, conflicts against multiple opponents was somewhat occasionally difficult, and a large part of that falls on my shoulders - as croupier, I'm still learning what makes a good difficulty, both singularly and in mix - and deciding that difficulty is entirely on the croupier's shoulders.  Heck, I underestimated your character the first time around, and that first ganger I threw at you was defeated surprisingly easily (I notice you're not complaining about the ones that, as croupier, I felt you defeated too easily).  

It's something that'll just come with experience, on both our parts, and once I get a feel for what might be a "good" idea of difficulties, I'll add it to the croupier's section.
Alexander Cherry, Twisted Confessions Game Design
Maker of many fine story-games!
Moderator of Indie Netgaming

Lance D. Allen

That first ganger was a difficulty of two, and when I asked you what would be a good bid, you recommended that I bid max (6). Considering that my bid was 3 times the difficulty, it shouldn't have been surprising that I beat him so easily, despite the fact that I didn't break even.

'sides.. He was a mook. It wasn't supposed to be a difficult contest, was it?

As for what's on the bid sheet... I think I mispoke. It wasn't so much a matter of what, as how it's arranged and named. I know you want to use authentic roulette terms for flavor, but every time I looked at the sheet, I saw a bunch of terms which did not mean anything to me, and I didn't feel I had the time to remember what each thing meant.

You'll definitely need a graphical section to explain what each term means, how it looks when it's bid, and what it's worth. Perhaps if we'd not been so pressed for time, we could have gone into further detail on the bidding procedure, and I'd not have felt it was quite so opaque.
~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls


There goes my art budget.  *heh*

Anyway, if I manage to get the Styles stuff done by weekend after next, I'll retroactively incorporate them into your characters.
Alexander Cherry, Twisted Confessions Game Design
Maker of many fine story-games!
Moderator of Indie Netgaming


I should have posted this earlier.  Oh well.

The 2nd Fastlane: Ezra game went off with only a minor hitch Saturday before last, the 18th.  I incorporated the new Styles rules into the game, along with a few other minor tweaks and quirks.  In addition, I was supposed to have a new player, which I did get, but only in exchange for losing one who was otherwise going to make it.  That's the hitch.

Unlike the first game, the 2nd one actually used my roulette wheel, which Lance was kind enough to pick up and bring over to his house when he bought my printer (transporting a 16" wheel on a motorcycle is not really all that easy, and he saved me the trouble of figuring out how I'd do that).

I think the wheel added a lot to the game - it sped up bids because time was being kept, rather than just haphazardly tossed about.  Multiple-protagonist conflicts are still where this game really shines, in my opinion, and I'm hoping once I get all three players together, I'll be able to maneuver them together.

Story?  OH yeah.  We kept kibbitzing about non-game stuff, as Zahn was missing, so not too much happened.

The new guy, Fritz, played a somewhat-crooked cop whose name totally escapes me right now, who was leading the team of cops chasing the kid, Gabriel/Scratch/Crotch - Wolfen's character.  Zahn was missing.

Our unnamed cop character "caught" the kid, but wound up "losing" him (and getting Gabriel to owe him bigtime in the process).  This majorly pissed Andolini off - and the military governor of a planet is not someone you want to get pissed off at you.

An APB was put out on Gabriel, but he used his new Hacking style to change the face and description and other vital details, without being all that noticeable.  Meanwhile, Fritz's cop went home, sat on his bed, and heard a "click."  He immediately got up off the bed, it exploded, yet he managed to fly out the window with barely a scratch on him (a little shaken by his nerves).  Unfortunately, later investigation showed that he'd lost most of his worldly possessions.

While Gabriel slept with a gang on the street (for protection, mind you, and keeping out of sight of the cops), Fritz went home with Callum's wife (Callum from above; his wife, Kiffany, was established to be a police armorer).  It was left up in the air whether or not anything happened, but she gave him new cop gear and some cash before he left the next morning.  

Gabriel learned about the explosion and did some digging.  He eventually traced what he thinks is the explosion's source back to... the military base (he narrated that, not me - YAY!).  He informed the cop about this in a meeting where he learned that another cop friend of his was missing, along with his wife and adopted daughter.

The daughter, of course, being Gabriel's blood-sister.  And that's where the session ended.
Alexander Cherry, Twisted Confessions Game Design
Maker of many fine story-games!
Moderator of Indie Netgaming


The third session of Fastlane: Adventures in Ezra came and went with a bang.

For once, we had all three players there.  One player forgot his character sheet, and another couldn't find his at all, so they recreated them from memory as best they could.  Nonetheless, they had the same characters.

We started with Gabriel, having learned that Luke was missing (as was his sister) last session.  He was, shall we say, quite perturbed, and marched on over to Luke's house, where the cops were busy combing the place.  His first conflict was an "avoid the cops" conflict, which he succeeded, slipping into Luke's bedroom.

Next, Officer Meon Blarp started beating the streets, and wound up in a conflict with the Skulls, a street gang.  I handled the leader and his gang as two separate entities, and after some burning Meon managed to tie with the bang, and beat the leader by one - choosing to take a one point favor.  This was narrated as a second gun that he pulled out of his ankle, followed by a smooth move that got him right in the leader's face, with one gun pointed at him, and the other pointed at his bike.  A mexican standoff, if you will.

Zahn came back from his smuggling run with a hold full of cargo - not what he wanted, the guy who was supposed to pick up the cargo from him never showed.  Sam decided Zahn wanted to have his ship upgraded, and he had the liquid cash to do so, so that's what he did, a successful Assets roll.

Back to Gabriel, he searched for biosignatures, and after a conflict found one tuft of hair and two fingerprints, but missed bloodspots on the sheets.  He then booked it before the cops noticed.

Meon Blarp (aka Fritz) called in his 1 point favor he just collected, and had "Voodoo" the gang leader send off his buddies so they could handle things mano-a-mano.  In the end, Meon beat up Voodoo, but the rest of the gang descended on him and beat him into a bloody pulp.  As they ran off, Meon saw a grenade tumble into the alleyway.

Zahn went to the Chicago nightclub, hoping to talk to Bobby Detroit, but was accosted by a drunk, and due to a horrible failure allowed the drunk to carry him off.  This drunk turned out to be Callum, who hoisted him down the street, put him on a table in his workroom, and started up his electric torch.  Zahn got the impression Callum was less than happy with him.

Gabriel hacked into a dna database to find the information he was looking for.  He discarded the hair sample as one of the cops, and found that the two fingerprints belonged to Kiffany Blue, Callums wife, and someone closely related to Von Andolini, whose initials were A. Andolini.  No information about A. Andolini was uncovered, but the fixed-files had the same signature as the hacker he found last session.  He decided to go find Callum, because of the fingerprint.

Meon barely managed to get out of the explosion alive, and wound up being picked up by his Captain, who was driving by at that exact moment.  The Captain got really pissed off at him, took him to the hospital, and took him off the case.  Gave him an unpaid holiday, more or less.

Gabriel shows up at Callum's in time to participate in the Callum/Zahn conflict.  But his help wasn't needed - Zahn easily flipped Callum onto the ground, forcing Gabriel to try to save Callum from Zahn.

Meon was yelled at by Von Andolini, until Von discovered he was taken off the case.  No conflict.

Gabriel winds up shooting Zahn with a homemade stungun, more or less, knocking Zahn into unconsciousness (10 to 0).  Zahn's Nerve and Sobriety were both reduced to zero, and he was shackled to a chair.  Callum, unfortunately, was also knocked out, but luckily, he was drunk.

We ended with an interrogation scene between Gabriel and Zahn which was really well played out.  Gabriel believes Zahn is a friend of Andolini, since he saw them "chumming it up."  Zahn is, of course, denying it.

I'm really interested to see how it will play out in the next two weeks.
Alexander Cherry, Twisted Confessions Game Design
Maker of many fine story-games!
Moderator of Indie Netgaming