Hostage Negotiator Crime Wave – Part Three: Renesha Sharp

Hey, you heard of the Wind Rattlers? They’re an all-girl gang led by one Renesha Sharp. She’s young but managed to outwit the police and evade capture for a good couple of years now. Kowalski and LaRoux were staking out the lair of the Fuzzy Dice Gang when they saw she was in there with them. She’d got the drop on the Fuzzy Dice and was torturing some of them for any intel. Kowalski freaked out and now she’s got them in there, looking to use them as leverage. She’s not planning on going anywhere and she’s calm for now. See if you can take advantage of that.

We’re at the end of the core campaign for Crime Wave. Where Lijah started us off by just wanting out of a bad situation, Renesha is fine staying there. She’s got no escape demands and as I found out later, that’s with good reason.
Looking at her abductor card, she gets angrier the better your dice pool is. I think this is to reflect her ability to see through me if I talk too much or try to overthink what I’m doing. The more off the cuff I am, the better I am, unless you count having dice and higher odds of success as ‘better’.

The board and cards set up for the game.

Renesha Sharp: Attempt One

The first thing, like most games of Hostage Negotiator, is to find out her demands. If the mechanics of the abductor aren’t clear from their main card, they will be once you’ve revealed their demand. Of course, this also makes her angry, so it’s a tricky first play. With only a partial success I didn’t generate conversation points but found out she wanted her gang to be left alone. This also put some little markers on the conversation point scale. These are new to this expansion and help point out something important. The demand she had meant that if I generated too high or low an amount of conversation points then things would get worse. This is where an amount of cat and mouse came in, as I had to work in more and more constraints. Oh, and put another demand in play. Much like Lijah’s constant stream of new escape methods, Renesha had more major demands to make. To prove who was in control here, she killed a hostage. A great start.

Renesha’s next demand was more of a boast, which triggered if it was the only demand left, followed by another demand showing up with it. I calmed her down temporarily, just enough to know she’d blow up with the next roll. Making a roll with five dice (three from her disposition and two from the previous roll) really paid off! It was for some conversation point generation and I decided to trigger The Rock in order to double my points. I was still using The Rock as she’s just such a good character for an early game boost. I will change her up sometime soon.

A bunch of Hostage Negotiator dice

This did trigger her first demand of ‘leave the others alone’, but that only lost me one card. I took ‘little compromises’, which I’ve noticed does tend to be the key of so many plays of Hostage Negotiator. With that and a ‘tight spot’, I had a risky round, but a rewarding one, leading out some of the hostages. To close things out, one hostage managed to flee of their own accord and then Renesha killed another, while this was the fate of the cards, it also felt like a dramatic retort to my success.

I managed to calm things down a little bit, using a lot of cards to chill Renesha out to mitigate the inevitable increase she had. As I’d been rolling a lot of ‘roll some extra dice’ results, I was also inadvertently pissing her off. ‘Keep cool’ was a pivotal card for these plays. She calmed down a little and just wanted to be understood. She also wanted water, which was a bit more tangible. I admit I’m a bit hard on the demands, but sometimes the minor ones like water can just about be conceded.

I tried another ‘keep cool’ and she did a little. Another quick bit of escorting and now three people were left, five were out and only one new person was dead.
Now I just needed to keep her calm enough to get the last of them out and surrender. This wasn’t going to be easy. With one partial success and one failure I was able to buy ‘take a breather’ but that was it.

The pretty sweet Renesha meeple

She’d barely calmed down and guess what happened? She’d captured ANOTHER hostage? Where the hell did this one come from? The bastard! I think a paramedic or someone got too close trying to recover the wounded. I asked about her demands for the final one and that angered her again. Still, it gave me +2 dice to the next roll which again would piss her off but allow me to try escorting someone out. Two got out, one died and it triggered ‘I just want to be understood’, which in turn triggered, ‘good game, sucka’, which put an end to my good game.

I was at the end of the Terror deck, the pivotal event. She had one last hostage to get out and no more major demands. I hadn’t come through for her on the water though, which was the last straw.

Bang. The last hostage was killed.

I managed to stop her in the end, but that was it. Three dead, seven saved and Renesha behind bars.

This one was interesting, stressful and a good example of how you wild a game gets when you’ve no idea what the scenario will bring. Next up I have the first of the Abductor packs, which is really exciting as it’s all hidden inside a booster pack.

Posted in General | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Hostage Negotiator Crime Wave – Part Two: Barrett Mullins

Witnesses heard gunshots in the petrol station half an hour ago and called the police. They ID’d the man as one Barrett Mullins. He’s armed, has at least one fatality under his belt that we know of and seven people left in there with him. We don’t know what he wants, he’s been uncooperative, volatile and keeps yelling about showing ‘them’. We had a look at his social media to see if he’s any clearer there but it’s all frankly incomprehensible. Sorry to say, but you’re going in blind for this one.

It’s been longer than I intended with this campaign, but here we are with part two!

I’ve played through the original Hostage Negotiator a few times (once I’ve done the new abductors I’ll return to the originals as I have bonus cards for them) and expected these three to be pretty similar. So far they’ve not, with Lijah not having a plan but wanting to escape. That was a good way of easing us into the game. Now we’re in pretty deep with a character who’s already at the end of the threat scale, having just killed a hostage. This is going to be tricky. I selected The Rock as my negotiator as she’s a great person to gain a sudden boost of conversation points when you hit crunch time. I’ll change up who I’m using at some point. Just not today.

Barrett Mullins: Attempt One
My gaming table is currently the kitchen table, so I washed up the dirty dishes which were already there, set everything up and then the washing machine broke. The game would have to wait, so I packed everything away in a couple of baggies in the box. Another good aspect of the larger box.

Barrett Mullins: Attempt Two
A couple of weeks and a new washing machine later, I was able to unpack Barrett and finally figure out what the hell he wants.

The biggest problem to start us off was less that Barrett’s motives were unclear; most abductors start that way. It was that he was maxed out on anger and going to kill again if I wasn’t careful. With Barrett’s anger so high, I was only rolling one die to start off with. I’d need to get him to cool his jets before finding out what he wanted or getting some of the good conversation cards.

He initially chilled out a little, at the cost of some conversation points which brought me down to -2. Then a terror card immediately shot him back up to, “K”. The next turn had me low on cards as I couldn’t buy anything. I tried to ask for his demands, failed and he killed another hostage, shouting that I wasn’t listening to him.

After such an abysmal start, the moment I got a good amount of conversation points I immediately used The Rock’s ability, doubling them. I bought some Little Compromises. My victory was short-lived as he got angry and killed again. There was no half-measure with this guy, put a foot wrong and he was back to murder.

The compromises went well and I got him to have a bit of a rest, but the terror deck seemed to be both self aware and hateful of me, with two impatience cards and a show of weakness. While two people had been freed now, the clock had sped up considerably. Three people were dead and things weren’t looking good.

Another breath and my rolling skills went the way of my role-playing group. You would think there are only 1-3’s printed on the dice sometimes. Maybe they’re in cahoots with the Dead of Winter die?

I managed to get more Little Compromises and Keep Cools, bringing him down to a 1 anger. He’d chilled and revealed that I needed to speak to his lawyer. He was having a bit of a problem with his parents’ divorce. Apparently his mum drove away his dad and took him to the cleaners. He couldn’t cope with this and lost all his chill in the most extreme way.

It hit the point where I had one hostage left to scrape a bare minimum victory. I bought back the Little Compromises card and still had the reroll cards from a previous turn. I was ready to get through by the skin of my teeth.

Then one of the hostages escaped! The brave little soldier! He fled and Barrett noticed a moment too late, spraying bullets at the door. I confidently went into the final conversation and Barrett handed over his final hostage before surrendering!

I breathed a sigh of relief. It’s incredible how a game involving flinging some dice can get you so tense. It wasn’t a great victory though, not with those three bodies Barrett left behind. I was totally shocked that I managed to turn the game around and luck certainly played a helping hand with the fleeing hostage.

Next time, I’ll be dealing with the leader of a gang who has many demands, but doesn’t care about escaping. Hopefully I’ll be even half as lucky as I was here.

Posted in General | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

RPG a Day 2018 – Day Thirty-One – Share why you take part in RPG-A-DAY

Share why you take part in RPG-A-DAY

I take part in RPG a Day because it allows me to talk about some cherished memories and revisit them myself.

I’d not thought about some of the things I’ve talked about for years until I mentioned them here. The love triangle in Buffy, the CCG style cards I made for characters. My mention of using Obsidian Portal reminded me to get it set up for Night Witches as it’s a useful resource when you’ve got a ton of NPCs floating around and access to character images from the Nachthexen cards.

A player of mine reminded me that he’s also been reading the articles, which have given a bit of a glimpse behind the curtain about the origins of some things going on in games. I’m generally pretty open with most things in games, but aspects like my RPG metaverse tend to be quietly sowed into a story rather than overtly stated.

I get to see other people’s answers and enjoy those, too. The last couple of years have had some questions which felt a bit like an opportunity to moan about things, but this year’s been more of a celebration. It’s been nice seeing what people like in the community, especially given how some bad actors can make the wider gaming environment seem.

Personally, I want to take everyone’s NPCs they mentioned in the first week, adopt them and give them cameos in my games. Sometimes there are extra challenges set by other people in September, so I’ll be keeping an eye out in case there are any which take my interest.

Posted in General, rpg | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

RPG a Day 2018 – Day Thirty – Share something you learned about playing your character

Share something you learned about playing your character

It’s going to sound odd, but go two-dimensional.

I learnt this more from NPCs than player characters, just because that’s what I’m mostly playing. Still, I think this holds true for both.

What I mean by this is that we’re playing a role-playing game. This is drama. You can make an incredibly nuanced character, but you and maybe the GM will know all of the multitudes you contain. I had one player who made amazingly long backstories, filled with secrets, mysteries and plot hooks. He rarely interacted with other players’ characters as he was busy keeping to himself and interacting with NPCs. When his secrets came to light… nothing. Absolutely nothing. No one cared or knew what it meant.

If you keep your character’s secrets and personalities open and fairly simple, you’ll make a lasting impression. We’re after bold, distinctive characters who people will remember and will have fun interacting with.

You can have more aspects to your character, you can have some nuance, but we’re not playing with a massive tome of prose. We’re playing with a character you’ll see for a few hours every week or month for a little while. That’s a small space to get a lot of story done. Be bold and be fine with having that encompass some flaws.

Characters from each clan in L5R

Legend of the Five Rings was a game where I struck on this, mainly because there was a large cast of what is basically paladins. The samurai of L5R are all supposed to be honourable warriors who adhere to strict codes. I like to think that most people can’t keep all of bushido in their heads at all times, especially the younger samurai. They’re going to have blind spots, they’re going to mess up. My brother’s Bayushi Denbe was very shy, hiding a cunning mind. His friend Matt’s Hida character was boorish and fine with bullying people if he was keeping honourable. Alex’s Shiba Majushi was quick to anger and flustered at having to look after a bunch of students. With the NPCs, I kept things in broad strokes. Akodo Satai was a Lion Clan berserker prone to panic attacks and huge amounts of anxiety. Ide Kanekana referred to himself in the third person and was exceptionally vain. There were no half measures with the player characters or NPCs. They were all notable and all my darlings, even if they belonged to other players and even if they ended up dying horribly or getting forced into life as a ronin. PbtA games are good for helping you jump to conclusions about your characters by filling in the ‘look’ sections, which I find is often good narrative shorthand for statements about your character. If they wear a ‘rakish’ uniform instead of a pristine one, this tells us something from the start. You can use these to build a broad picture and construct the rest from there. Your Monsterhearts Chosen with radiant eyes is going to be different from one with unwavering or wounded eyes. Look at those traits, leap to conclusions, run with them and have some fun.

The Chosen’s Identity section

Posted in rpg | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

RPG a Day 2018 – Day Twenty-Nine – Share a friendship you have because of RPGs

Share a friendship you have because of RPGs

I’ve already mentioned Steve and Alex in a previous post. Those are definitely friendships I wouldn’t have without RPGs, just like most of my non-work, non-writing relationships.

Today I’ll drill down on a couple of those relationships I’ve had over the years, my first two long-term GMs. You see, I’m almost always the GM of a group. I like it, but it’s nice to get to be a player.

I met Graham through playing cards with a friend of his, Gary. Gary heard my woes about the Gen I In-Fighers, who were taxing, to put it generously. My brother and his friend Matt had a firm grip on the group and everything was done in an old school D&D (read – confrontational) way. We didn’t know much better and it was pretty taxing. Gary offered me a spot in his and Graham’s group. They both ran games for it from time to time. Graham was this ultra host of RPGs. People came round and he’d cook a meal, we’d chat and catch up like grown ups, even if we were mainly talking about nerd things. It felt very humanising. It also felt a little like an affair at first. I kept my Cyberpunk 2020 and AD&D character sheets hidden in my jeans pocket so none of the In-Fighters saw them. I got to play a weird jacket kid who had a weird cannon bolted onto his arm in Cyberpunk. In AD&D I played a well-meaning if idiotic paladin. We only played a few games before MMOs sucked in a couple of the group. Despite that, Graham and I kept in regular contact, often conspiring to meet at conventions. My first ever GenCon UK had the two of us playing a demo version of the Spycraft RPG where we met the wonderful Pat Kapera and joined together my love of spies with Graham’s love of firearms. We volunteered to run and host Spycraft games for a few years after that point. He’s been my ‘gun guy’ for both my writing and RPGs, as it’s a field I just don’t know about. I’ve been schooling him on narrative-based RPGs like Dungeon World, where he taught me how RPGs were supposed to work back in the day.

I couldn’t find a photo of Graham, so instead here’s UK Games Expo, which I’ve attended with him for the last two years.

I mentioned Andy yesterday and he’s a friendship I’ve had mainly through RPGs. He was one of my most prolific RPG customers at the comic shop when I tried to get them stocking role-playing games. It was a modest success, basically replacing the shelves of ‘adult’ comics, then expanding from there. Andy and I were both massive World of Darkness fans before and after the change from Old WoD to New WoD. That change fascinated us both and he went from the person who’d turn up shortly after the delivery of new stock to hanging out and chatting about the implications of Gehenna, the existence of the Exalted game and more. He was the ‘cool’ GM, into those kinds of RPGs. We’d drink coffee and chat about new television shows as well as the edgy, continuity-heavy White Wolf games.

When I left the shop, Andy took over, so our lunchtime hangouts kept going. We were in a group for a few years before it dissolved after a falling out between Andy and another GM. When I bailed on my role-playing group (The Gen II In-Fighters), he helped start a new group up. Like Graham, he was someone who I could spend hours talking to about games an acted like a lightning rod for ideas.

Andy at a con.

Both Andy and Graham have left Brighton. Graham has a job which keeps him on the road at all hours, so I often hear from him while he’s driving. I was terrible at keeping in touch with Andy but have been trying to get in contact with him more often. We’ve spoken a few times this year and hopefully will do again soon.

Posted in rpg | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

RPG a Day 2018 – Day Twenty-Eight – Share whose inspiring gaming excellence you’re grateful for

Share whose inspiring gaming excellence you’re grateful for

I’ve not been entirely sure how to tackle this one. There are a lot of people who have been inspiring in their gaming.

In my groups past and present, there have been moments of sheer genius from players where they’ve done things which completely wowed me. Just recently in Night Witches, Lee in my group made a celebrity NPC part of a rival ballet company to one of the player characters. That player has started some incredibly Machiavellian plans to use their NKVD girlfriend to bring about their rival’s ruin. He’s done this before in Apocalypse World when his Hoarder started doing increasingly horrid things and I asked him if he realised he was the villain for this story. He said he’d figured and wanted to play to see what happens. That character saw the business end of another player’s shotgun and everyone at the table thought it was deserved. It was a great ending to a gloriously terrible character, although they’d sold the location of the group’s home to the bad guys, haunting them all the way to the finale. For the one of my players who’s quite shy, he can end up like Charlie from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia when he’s got a plan. Surprisingly cunning, thorough and brutal. In PbtA games where you play characters to the hilt, it’s great.

Lee from my role-playing group, basically.

As far as my GMs, I still remember my old GM Andy who was able to get players so in the moment they’d actually get up and move. In a game of Vampire: The Requiem it got to the point where Evil Stuart (a lovely guy… just really evil in RPGs) was feigning hiding behind a bush by hiding under a table. Taking cover from our enemies among crates of drug-filled plush pigs who said, “I Wub You”, showing a hostage situation on Shaun… Andy was very good at getting people riled up and in the moment. He could make initiative rounds feel like they took little time and get people ‘in state’.

Honey Heist

I didn’t realise I wanted to make RPGs, I just liked reading their lore, making stories, engaging with the mechanics and talking about them. I’ve since had a few RPG ideas which I’m hoping to put into practice. I’ve taken place in the 200 Word RPG Contest and want to do more in the field. There are too many influences I have. I love the daft whimsy of Grant Howitt and all his creations, as shown in my endless chatter on Who Dares Rolls about his work. Avery Alder makes some of the neatest, clearest uses of mechanics and has a great amount of honesty and emotion in her work. People like Jackson Tegu and Aura Belle are the people who make games which talk about things I wish I was emotionally mature enough to handle. But also weird and fun things at the same time.

Aura Belle and Josh Jordan’s transhuman dating TV show
Posted in rpg | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

RPG a Day 2018 – Day Twenty-Seven – Share a great stream/actual play

Share a great stream/actual play

I’ve mentioned two things a lot in this year’s RPG a Day; Monsterhearts and the Gauntlet. While I know I’ve been pretty heavy on them both, there’s one more mention of them I have to bring up.

The Pocket-Sized Play podcast is a really good actual play series. It’s split into short episodes which I love as a lot of AP podcasts go on way too long. The Monsterhearts seasons they’ve done are short, entertaining and don’t overstay their welcome. Their host, Jason Cordova, gives a little bit of commentary at the start of each episode; something to look out for or something he particularly enjoyed about the excerpt. It’s something I was surprised not to have heard in other podcasts and found really useful in my own play.

Pocket-Sized Play can be found here.

If you’re sick of me raving about The Gauntlet, you could also try out You Don’t Meet in an Inn. Their podcast has had several great campaigns. Engine Hearts, Microscope, Magister Lor and of course, Monsterhearts. They run long and short campaigns, generally sticking at okay lengths and with a group who have a fun chemistry. The most recent episode of theirs I heard was One Missed Call, a two-player game which had the most infectious laughter between the hosts Austin and Christine, then dived right into the serious drama of the game. They’re found here.

As far as streams go, I basically don’t want to watch a four hour video all at once and I don’t really understand Twitch (nor have bothered yet) so I don’t have recommendations there yet.

Posted in rpg | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment