Redacted 3, Part 4b, GM Debrief


GM Confidence: 3/5. Saying it was better than its predecessor isn’t very telling. Despite the apparent relative improvement, I walked away from it feeling less than enthusiastic. As usual, it took some downtime to nail down what the problem might have been, but it turned out to be pretty obvious (to me).

The Recovery

As stated previously, after a long night’s sleep and a long shower, I had already mostly figured out how to fix last week’s long list of problems, and I continued to improve it throughout the week. I was able to find images to clarify the situation outside the flying bridge. I had better images of the combat area, and a much better understanding of the geography and how to communicate it. I had places to relocate the ambushers so it worked better, and still made sense. I rewired elements of the immediate narrative to flow better. At game-time, I actually felt pretty good about it all.

We decided to splice the video together at the intermission so we didn’t end up with two short videos broken in a weird spot. As we started, I was able to catch up, make the necessary clarifications, and explain the landscape sufficiently—or better, anyway. No problems there.

The Paranoia Puzzle

That’s what I’m calling it, for now, anyway. Here’s the idea: The PCs find themselves before a wide-open space with a locked chest in the middle. Empty or full of treasure? Doesn’t matter—they don’t know. Unless there’s a proper Leeroy Jenkins in the party, the players will inevitably take hours of real-time looking for eleven-foot-poles and rubber gloves, poking every floor tile, throwing grappling lines, leaping about, tapping or pulling on anything sticking out, plugging holes, and otherwise beclowning themselves, in an attempt to cover every possible perceived vulnerability before they finally, actually, open the damned chest. Sure, it can be entertaining as GM to watch the antics unfold, but if you’re trying to keep things moving—and this is supposed to be an Action game, so it must keep moving—it reduces momentum to an aggravating crawl. That’s not what I intended here, but it’s what we ended up with.

(Side note: If you really want to see them squirm, very seriously ask them things like, “So, are you touching that with your bare hands?” 😛 )

In this case, we have the hostages: seated in the center of a wide-open space, the pool area, secured to what appeared to be a bomb. PCs are the Big Damn Heroes™, but with some of the hostages being family, there was no question they would attempt a rescue—so motivation wouldn’t be a problem. Behind-the-scenes, the bad guys were attempting to get the PCs to call Dr. Dalavi, the explosives engineer, so he would reveal his location, so they could go grab him. The bomb was a fake, but the PCs weren’t built for Explosives Ordnance Disposal, so logically, they would defer to the expert (the bad guys didn’t have any reason to know that, but it’s a reasonable guess). Simple enough. What happened was a bit of a mess, that took way too long, and totally killed the momentum.

  • They suspected an ambush from the start—that’s fine. I knew, from last week, that Zoltar would scout forward, and Mayhem would ascend to Deck 12 and poke around—also fine.
  • For starters, they held back a bit more than I expected, trying to get a look at the bomb from as far away as possible. I didn’t expect that level of caution, or scrutiny of the bomb itself—I said it was “obviously a bomb.” Was that not enough? 😛 They talked about needing to call the expert, but they didn’t actually do it.
  • I introduced the drones, and they spent time trying to figure out how to bring them down, but eventually kinda “forgot about them.” To be fair, the drones weren’t meant to loiter, watching, while the PCs deliberated, but the PCs had yet to pull the trigger.
  • I forgot to tell the players the video was playing on the movie screen, so that didn’t factor in like it should have. It was specifically intended to lampshade the “camera” fiasco from last week. Meh.
  • After some head-scratching over the attempt to sneak up through this wide-open space, it looked like Zoltar might actually attempt to defuse the bomb. I hadn’t even considered that. Meanwhile, they still hadn’t called the expert. The ambushers—through the GM—were getting impatient.
  • The rest of the PCs continued to shift positions, doing what they could to stay behind cover (except Ness, who was running around as a distraction). At one point, Ness tried the backstage door, behind which were several heavily-armed jihadis—I was really afraid she was going to force the ambush early. Saved by BAD penalties.
  • Meanwhile, Zoltar continued to examine the bomb and prevaricate. They mentioned calling the expert, again, and did not actually say “we’re calling him now,” again. I asked the player after the game, and he said he was concerned the enemy would be listening to the radio, but he failed to vocalize that—it was worse than that, but nevermind. 😛

Then the PCs decided to pull back, and it looked like they were actually going to go back downstairs and fetch the expert directly. I just wasn’t prepared for that at all. By this point, it was getting close to the two-hour mark, and there wouldn’t be enough time to run the actual fight the whole session was built around, and I nearly called it off there. It might have been better if I had. But I decided the bad guys would switch to “Plan B,” and trigger the ambush before the PCs either disappeared entirely or dispersed enough to make the RPG shot(s) mostly-useless.

The Ambush, Take-Two

  • It was a really short fight, in combat-time…can’t decide if that’s amazing or underwhelming.
  • I completely forgot the ambushers were wearing body armor.
  • The RPGs did their job, if only briefly. I finally got to do legit injury to a couple of PCs.
  • I tallied up the ranged modifiers for the ambushers well beforehand, but I didn’t actually look to see where that left the riflemen—a 4 to hit. Well, it’s “realistic,” I guess.
  • There was a sniper, well-hidden, but the PCs stayed under the cover of the Deck 12 walkaround, and he never got a clear shot—completely negated. PCs’ paranoia paid off, sorta.
  • The drones never reached the battle area before all the jihadis were dead, so they got left hanging. I really needed a better plan for those.
  • Mayhem went from no achievements to besting everyone else (I think) in one sitting. 😛 This really was his element, to be fair, and I’m realizing I need a bit more “close-quarters” action coming up to get everyone else involved.
  • While I had considered the inappropriateness of RPGs near what was meant to be seen as a bomb—the major plot-hole I discovered at the last minute last week—I hadn’t actually considered how nearby, raging, explosive combat would affect those attached to it. Oops.

This session was supposed to be just the combat, and the wrap-up afterward. I got more, and less than I bargained for. We had to go long to get the combat in, and didn’t end up having time for the wrap-up. And I buggered the wrap-up a little, realizing afterward that by showing them the video of jihadis breaking into their room to snatch Dalavi, I couldn’t do “something else” instead. That’s GMing for you.


  • This is my longest recorded session, at ~4:50, though it doesn’t really count, since it’s actually two short ones, crimped together. Longest is still ~4:30.
  • The last two fights have demonstrated how close-quarter-focused all the PCs but Mayhem are, and I realize I should have steered the character development a little better, one way or the other.
  • I did have a glitch in my explosion spreadsheet, which I have now fixed. That said, it was definitely helpful here.
  • I was excited to see the “ricochet” rule from Tactical Shooting: Extreme Conditions actually come up in game, but when it did, I immediately realized it was problematic—a Critical Failure shouldn’t result in what could be considered an equal-or-better outcome than if the roll had succeeded (in this case, hitting an adjacent PC, with no chance of defense). Have to go back to the drawing board on that one.
  • I screwed up the odds on Ronnke’s wager that Mel would not roll a Crit Fail all night—I got it backwards; should probably have been 2:1, if not disallowed altogether as “negligible.” Well, what’s done is done.

Leave a Reply