- The Pitch Session
The episode opens with a crowded concert venue in Honolulu, Hawaii. Vic Valiant is putting on a special concert this evening, and so the exterior is already packed with adoring fans. Inside the venue, we take a peek back stage. Behind closed doors, Scott Montgomery, AKA Vic Valiant, is talking chemistry with pop star Barbara Brooks, who is nowhere near as airheaded as her stage persona. Outside, we see an amazonian woman guarding the door, her arms crossed and her attitude stern. This is Dr. Rebecca Jones, noted wild animal veterinarian and a secret agent working with Phoenix Rescue. And like Vic Valiant, she holds a secret: Becca’s severe injuries were repaired using cutting edge bionics. She’s currently here as a favor to Barbara, her old college roommate.
Out in the coliseum floor, a sun bleached blond man wearing a Baja sweatshirt and huarache sandals is speaking with a confused concession manager. This is Ace, surfer, beach bum, and sometimes insightful detective. It seems that one of his friends said that he could get a gig working concessions, but this seems to be false. Just as Ace feels like he’s never going to earn enough money for beer this week, his intuition leads him over to the security manager, who is frustrated because two of his guys hadn’t shown up for work. Desperate, he turns to Ace and hires him to work backstage security. Which is how the bumbling bloodhound ended up guarding Vic Valiant’s door, right beside Becca.
Out in the ticket line, we see a handsome man having an argument with his fancy wrist watch. But unlike most people, David King’s watch can talk back. The feminine voice is pleading with David. For the A.I. K.A.T.T. would really like to see Vic Valiant in concert. And of course David bought tickets, right? When the chromed crusader answers in the negative, K.A.T.T. leads him to a brand new digital ticket terminal and has David plug in the watch. Suddenly two tickets pop out, and with a bit of sweet talking David manages to make his way inside for the concert.
+Digression: I’m what I think you’d call a lazy or “low preparation” GM. Most of the adventure this session was actually drummed up on my run earlier the same day. All I really had going into this adventure were the following notes:
- The Russian strikes at Vic’s rock concert.
- The attack is cover to kidnap the port authorities daughter.
- Smugglers want to use dock 42 for something bad.
- I need Ninjas and bombs.
Fortunately for me, I know 80’s action shows pretty well and I have a group of great players who are willing to go along with my ideas. But even so, I did compel each and every character to get them to the concert. As a Fate GM, I find that starting off the game with an easy compel creates a nice little fate point buffer for later down the line.
The lights in the stadium dimmed, the fog machines started up, and before long Vic Valiant and Barbara Brooks had hit the stage. They started right in on their first number, and for the first few songs it looked like this was going to be another smash performance. But then Vic heard a crackle in his earpiece, and the voice of his old nemesis whispered into his ear. “A shame this is going to be your last concert, Vic. For your sake, I hope you can dance lively! Proshchay navsegda.” Vic was able to spot the strangely glowing spotlight a little too late. One of the stage lights suddenly glowed a bright red and just as the light show started a deadly laser flashed toward Barbara! Vic only had time to hip check her out of the way, but he didn’t get away cleanly. The laser bored right through his keytar, shorting out all of the C keys!
+Digression: The keytar getting damaged is probably the best explanation for a stress hit I’ve ever seen in the game. I loved it.
Meanwhile, backstage, Becca suddenly became aware of a strange and rhythmic beeping sound. Her bionic ears started focusing and before long she was certain that it was coming from under the stage! The scent of explosive residue that Ace picked up only confirmed the thought. And so the two erstwhile security guards started tracking down the strangeness, which eventually led them to a trap door to underneath the stage. After a bit more searching, the two spotted the source of the disturbance – a massive bomb with a countdown timer right underneath the stage! Even worse, it was a good 15 feet above them! And the clock was quickly counting down!
Out in the crowd, the slightly bored David spotted a couple of big toughs in suits harassing a blue collar guy with a navy tattoo. Being driven to justice, David stepped over to try and defuse the situation. But this time his words fell on deaf ears, and before long he found himself tussling with a trio of thugs! His first swing didn’t do anything but annoy the mountain of criminal muscle. David knew that he was in for a rough fight!
+Digression: I’m going to admit right up front that I screwed up with the mooks in this session. I hadn’t really looked at what combat skills my characters had, and so I was tossing Good (+3) quality mooks and mobs at a group who had only Average (+1) or Fair (+2) fight. And to compound the problem, David King’s player couldn’t roll anything remotely good on his dice most of the night. His luck improved a bit when I loaned him my hot pink fate dice, but even then he was getting a lot of -2 and -3 results. But the big problem was that I hadn’t paid enough attention to the characters and wasn’t giving them an appropriate challenge. Fortunately my players were creative and found other ways around things, and I quickly dialed back the mook qualities or gave them really obvious troubles on the fly.
This is also the point where I did something I really liked. Once I had introduced each of the characters, I turned to each one of them and asked “what’s the opening credits of your show look like?” I found that this was a fantastic way to introduce the characters to the group and to get some flavor of each of the characters. The players really got into it and in the end I gave them each one free invoke on an Opening Credits aspect. This is something I really hope gets a mention in the final book.
Up on the stage, Vic had managed to keep playing and rocking even while noticing that several more of the lights were starting to glow with that evil laser light! Thinking quickly, Vic managed to combine his mic stand, a bit of duck tape, and the mirror from an outfit into a laser bouncing device. And so when the deadly light show started in earnest, Vic’s singing was accompanied by him frantically running around the stage, bouncing laser lights back at their source and doing his best to protect Barbara and her band! It was fortunate that he was such an epic performer, as anyone else it would have looked strange. But to Vic’s fans it will be known as one of the greatest concerts of all time!
+Digression: JC was rolling like gangbusters most of the night. And his opening Persuade (the skill we’re using for his performance) roll was EPIC (+7)! I decided that was good enough that he could both deal with the lasers and keep performing. Because it’s awesome, that’s why!
Under the stage, Becca was trying to remember everything Scott Montgomery had taught her about disarming bombs. She was confident that she could walk ace through most of it – it had to be that way, as Rebecca had to lift Ace up so he could deal with the bomb! Fortunately for the concert, Becca was much much stronger than she looked! With barely any effort she managed lifted Ace up and the beach bum was confronted with the wicked bomb. He started cutting wires in sequence, but Becca’s advice was suddenly interrupted by an errant laser lancing through the floor! It cut right through a nearby support beam, and so now Becca had to hold Ace up with one hand and keep the pillar together with her other! It was fortunate that Ace was good at balancing and Becca was very strong.
The sudden interruption had cleared Becca’s mind. She suddenly couldn’t remember if he had to cut the green wire, the red wire, or the blue wire! With the timer ticking down, Ace suddenly closed his eyes and let his instincts take over. He reached out with fumbling hands and just snipped the wire that seemed right. And luckily for everyone, his intuition (or luck) paid off – the timer stopped!
+Digression: This is how things went down. JAZ wanted to see if Becca could create an advantage to state that Becca had learned how to disarm this type of bomb from Scott. Only her roll was a success at minor cost – I ruled that she could remember most of the sequence. She took the deal and things proceeded. When it came time for MJ to make a Gadgetry roll for Ace, he instead told me that he was closing his eyes and trusting his instincts. Which played right into the fact that one of his gonzo skills was Insight. And so I let him roll Insight to disarm the bomb, which worked. As for holding up ace, it was a great combination of two stunts: Becca has a stunt that lets her auto succeed on strength related Athletics rolls, and Ace has a stunt that lets him auto succeed on balance rolls. Which meant that this whole setup worked really well!
Out in the crowd, David was getting a bit bruised. But he was eventually able to drive off the thugs, saving the poor man had been assaulted. But the man, Jeffry Gibson, was still frantic. He kept shouting about his daughter, and before long David had realized that the thugs hadn’t been after Jeff – they’d been after his daughter! Who had now been kidnapped!
The immediate dangers over, the rest of the concert passed rather quickly. David had brought Jeff to security and before long Becca, Ace, and Vic Valiant were in on the search too. The father, frantic about a ransom note, asked the newly formed group of heroes to accompany him back to his house to listen to his messages. And Jeff was right – he did have a package. The kidnappers would return his daughter only if he guarunteed that Pier 42 would be empty that night. The heroes told Jeff to go along with things. They had a plan to set an ambush!
Out on the pier, the heroes set themselves up for the ambush. Ace was set up on the beach, planning to disguise himself as a wandering surfer. David was out in his car, ready to crash through the building. And Vic was near the warehouse, ready to spring into action. The heroes didn’t have that long to wait, as shortly before midnight four speedboats and a larger ship pulled up to the pier. Men in rough shirts and bandanas started unloading large wooden crates from the ship and into the warehouse. Meanwhile, the men in speedboats kept the mounted machine guns trained on the exterior.
Ace tried his bumbling beach guy routine and somehow managed to slip inside the warehouse building. Vic disappeared and suddenly reappeared dressed as one of the bandana guys. He took a moment to check out the crates and discovered that most of them were filled with bags of heroin! But of real interest were the larger crates that were being taken into a strange back room. Curious, both Vic and Ace managed to sneak into the back room. And it looked like nothing so much as a very strange antique shop. Shelves were filled with all manner of strange things. One thing in particular caught Ace’s eye – a strange rune carved shark tooth club. On an impulse he grabbed it up while Vic worked on unlocking the door after it had been closed.
Meanwhile, outside, David waited for his time to strike. And Becca was dealing with a problem of her own. A strange looking ninja with a white tiger had spotted her and the two were now battling it out. The strange ninja moved much like her, and punched with incredible force! It was clear that he had also been augmented somehow, though perhaps it wasn’t bionics that did it! As the rest of the heroes dealt with the warehouse, Becca tangled with this terrible foe.
+Digression: My poor wife wasn’t feeling well at all and had to leave the table early. And so we all decided that Becca had to have a duel with her evil opposite. Who had a tiger, because Becca had been injured by a tiger before she became all bionic.
Vic and Ace managed to get out of the back room, but were spotted by the ninjas in the process! A fight quickly broke out, which David took as his cue to ram his car right through the side of the warehouse! This caught the attention of the speedboat machine gunners, and soon the place was awash in bullets and ninjas! The heroes fought well, but they were all pretty beat up by the time they drove off the remainder of the ninjas. Even worse, there was no sign at all of the kidnapped girl! But there were a few left over speedboats, and K.A.T.T. was able to figure out that the ninjas had come from a hidden cove on the island.
+Digression: This fight was harder than it should have been. Turns out that giving Good (+3) quality mooks a +1 gang up bonus makes them really hard to defend against if you only have a +2 Fight. The Machine Gunners were especially deadly. And so I abruptly decided that they had Poor Maneuverability (-2). This let David shoot them down with some success. But not before poor David soaked up a Minor and Moderate consequence.
The heroes knew what they had to do. They needed to sneak onto the island, and the best thing for that would be loading one of the speedboats with armor and explosives, then slipping off the boat in wetsuits and proceeding on foot! And so Vic started welding on the armor while Davivd found some camouflaged wetsuits and Ace did some Tai Chi down by the beach. A short while later, and David was plugging K.A.T.T. into the boat and the heroes were on their way to rescue the girl!
+Digression: This was the montage scene for the players. They decided on a Rescue Mission and chose Gadgetry, Stealth, and Fight as their skills. Things were a little shaky, but we eventually figured things out. Though there was some confusion on one of the stunts that added invokes to the montage aspect (turns out it was some legacy wording).
The trip to the island was uneventful and before long the heroes were slipping off the boat and into the water. A few quick modifications later and the boat kept going toward the island, the bomb in its prow counting down. The heroes made landfall shortly before the boat hit the docks in a fiery explosion! This gave them the cover they needed to sneak into the secret drug camp. It didn’t take them long to find the shack that the poor girl had been locked in. It only took a few moments for Vic to disarm the alarm on the door and get inside. But the heroes saw that the girl had been strapped into a bomb vest! And pinned on her chest was a note from the Russian, detailing a few vulnerabilities of the drug runners and stating that “you need to do some jobs for the money, comrade.” But Vic was a clever man, and soon he had the vest off the girl and rigged up to explode when the door was opened again. A little more work and Vic had rigged the alarm to go off a short while after the heroes were gone.
This had the predictable effect of drawing a bunch of the drug smugglers, who promptly opened the door and created another explosion. This gave the group cover to rush over to the big trucks, one of which they managed to steal. And so the heroes and the young girl bounced through the heroin fields, while Ace pulled up the indentured workers into the truck, rescuing them in the process. Some fancy driving by David helped the heroes to avoid more guards and before long the truck had slammed into the last few guards down by the docks, freeing the heroes to jump in a boat and make their escape!
Digression: Time was running short, and so what I had thought would be a big final fight instead turned into a stealth mission. Which actually turned out more fun anyway, so I’m glad it happened. My players were very clever, and so things went pretty smoothly. Having a bunch of fate points to toss around at the end didn’t hurt, either.
Once back on dry land, the heroes went their their separate ways. But before long David was approached by a strange man in a suit, who told him that W.A.V.E. could use his help. Rebecca and Scott Montgomery found themselves in a Phoenix Rescue office. It seemed that both of them were going to be assigned as liaisons of Phoenix Rescue for this new organization, W.A.V.E. And Ace? Well, it turned out that Detective Drake Falconsteele was blaming him for the ruckus at the docks. So when a man in a suit turned up to bail him out and talk about maybe getting a paycheck, Ace was all ears.
And that’s how W.A.V.E. managed to recruit four new agents.
+Final Thoughts: For being a playtest, this game ran pretty darn smooth. It helps that it’s based on a system I know well, but I’m still impressed by the polish in these rules. Aside from the few hiccups with a couple of rules questions, the evening was great otherwise. Though I noticed that MJ and JE were both a bit shaky on invoking aspects and some of the other points of fate. Which is something I’ll be putting more focus on. Stacking invocations can be a powerful tool. Anyway, I felt that this was a great start to a new mini campaign!