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Thus far in our sophomore adventure combat has been a major focus. Each scene has revolved around a big encounter as my runners make their perilous journey to the docks in downtown Seattle. I’ve attempted to give each battle a very different feel and situation, from a hostage crisis to a chase scene on a highway to a creepy ghoul infestation in some darkened tunnels.
This session began just as the ghouls began attacking my players after they’d cleared the blockage for their vehicles. I rolled Initiative for both the few ghouls that the players had discovered as well that ones still to come, hidden via the GM layer. I rolled sneak checks for each hidden ghoul and gave the players a chance to spot them. The idea was to give a sense of dread and foreboding as more and more of the creatures approached from the darkness. Unfortunately once combat began I couldn’t roll worth shit!
Seriously, I probably had my worst rolls ever as a GM during this lengthy combat encounter that lasted a good two hours (nearly the entire length of our session). Ghouls were my players’ first real encounter with a feral monster-type enemy. As a GM they’re pretty easy to control even with nearly a dozen of them, simply charging at the nearest foe with their claws. I’ve never seen so many ties in my life. So many Ghouls connected with the runners’ armor only to bounce off. It was becoming an ongoing joke!
The ghouls’ main strengths lie in their surprisingly high attack roll and their numbers, neither of which did much good with my rolling. My runners, meanwhile were able to almost completely slaughter them using teamwork and coordination, especially the Falkirk- Saran pair that was on the South (left) side of the tunnel. The players did have an edge with having their two NPC allies that I controlled, one of whom was completely worthless while the other got two one-hit-kills by herself – wow. Ironic that my best rolls were for the players’ ally.
The one nasty outcome was that Ursev, the troll shaman, was rendered unconscious thanks to continued spellcasting drain and the few hits I was able to get with the pack of ghouls on the North side. Mauta the street samurai was able to use her First Aid (and a point of Edge) to revive him back to consciousness, and I let the players heal a bit of stun damage as they continued their journey out of the tunnels and into the docks.
I was pleased to see that the tunnel combat didn’t take up the entirety of the session, though it came close. Combat can be fun in its own way, but as a GM I very much enjoyed the sudden drama that cropped up at the end as my players frantically deliberated on how to approach the heavily guarded entrance to the dockyard.
Mauta chose this opportunity to reveal more of her dangerous past with Ares, whom the players were attempting to sell the shipment to. At the same time Saran the decker impulsively leapt across the shipping containers, over the barbed wire fence and landing on the other side. That one is probably going to be saddled with some kind of ‘loose cannon’ Negative Quality very soon!
We ended it just as a plan was seemingly being put together, even though team leader Falkirk was wholly unaware of it! I absolutely love these unexpected moments of panic, drama, and deliberation – the kind of fantastic questioning and role-playing that can only be born from a live game in the middle of the action. Next week’s session should be very interesting, and should mark the end of our runners’ action-packed escort mission.