GM confidence: 3.75/5. I did not feel any more ready for this session than its predecessor. Despite that, I had just enough going to make it work, though it could certainly have done with a bit more polish, in my opinion. But the twist, and the ACS test made it better.
For the first half-or-so of the session, I asked the players questions about their PCs’ future plans, going back to work, etc., to get them thinking about settling in at Cody for the long-term. This was an intentional deception. Then I yanked the rug out from under them with the invasion, and started blowing up the city. It should be pretty obvious to them now that this will not be their “home.” I think that got the reaction I wanted.
Action Challenge System™ (Alpha test)
This was the first real test of the Action Challenge System (ACS), a concept I’ve been working on for some time now. It was, for me, the centerpiece of the session.
There are a lot of Action™ situations that I feel are inadequately covered by GURPS rules-as-written. I’ve found the Chase rules in Action 2 to be the most satisfying, so my intention has been to modify that concept to fit other situations, like mass combat, disaster survival, etc. We did something like this before in ConsOps when we used the Chase rules to do a “running gunfight”—with some lessons learned. Briefly, here are some ways the4 current iteration of ACS differs from Action 2 Chases:
- Chase pursuit/flight contest is expanded to include tactical and survival contests
- Chase maneuvers are expanded to include tactical or survival effects, depending on context, with consideration for multiple types in the same round (FREX “Move and Attack” is both movement and tactical)
- Makes use of a proper map divided into “zones”—not always hexes—with (loosely) defined movement rates between zones
- Passing into or out of a “threat” zone results in an “attack,” either martial or environmental (crumbling buildings, flowing lava, screaming bystanders, etc.); threat level determines the opposing Contest roll (I used the Frequency levels as a guideline)
- Contest results can give a tactical advantage/disadvantage, allow/halt transit (by getting pinned down under fire, held up by a crowd, cut off by debris, etc.), instead of or in addition to closing/opening pursuit distance
- I moved the skill/attack phase to the end of the round—it just works better there
- Attacks are from/against an “aggregate” enemy rather than individuals, as the situation requires; damage is applied to the whole, and individuals are lost as enough damage is taken
The system needs a lot of work still, but I think it delivered the “look and feel” I was going for. I will discuss it at length in its own post sometime when it’s more fully-formed. Even though I know I missed a lot of little things in the process, I definitely consider it a successful test. We will see this again.
- Introducing: the Alien Menace™—these guys have a long history in the background of the Daniverse. I really tried to get that War of the Worlds Tripod-intro feel.
- I did have to do a lot of improvising in this one, as the PCs kept making choices I hadn’t anticipated. People survived that weren’t meant to as a result. It may make things more difficult in the future. But that’s just the GM-life.
- I randomly determined the order and placement of the explosions/sinkholes in town well before the game started—the fact that the PCs kept running into them was entirely coincidental—really, it was.
- Related to the above: The explosion at the ranch was “on a timer” and the PCs didn’t get clear in time—so now I have to improvise a way out 😛
- I realize afterward that, of the PCs’ written Objectives, only one of them is actually “actionable” right now, which entirely defeats the purpose of having them in the first place (that being: having multiple choices, rather than one obvious choice for what to do next). Good news: that means I have a pretty good idea where they’ll go next, even though that isn’t what I wanted.