Dusting off the Borderlands

Last Sunday we discussed what campaigns to run going forward, now that Russell is back in San Diego until next September.

The consensus was that we’d continue with the alternating week campaigns (so that Mike would consistently be in a particular campaign), with Dan running his Warhammer 40K Inquisition campaign (does it have a name?) and me running another…and filling in when there wasn’t a quorum with Basic D&D and one-shots.

For my campaign, while there was some enthusiasm for returning to Neng, the upshot was that we’d give Borderlands another go, although I forgot to mention reviving the Midnight Special Weird West game as a possibility. I know Wendy really liked that setting….

Anyway, in prepping to run Borderlands again I’ve been thinking about switching the system to Savage Worlds.

Savage Worlds is from the designers of Deadlands (which we used for our first Weird West campaign, Clock-Stoppers). It’s a bit like a simplified Deadlands, and a bit like the home-brew system I’ve been using. You can download a “Test Drive”

version of the system here.

Basically it’s a stat or skill vs. target number system, much like what we’ve been using, though instead of rating the tasks at various difficulties it tends to use a single Target Number of 4, applying pluses and minuses to the roll for harder or easier tasks. The advantage over what we’ve been doing that I see with it is it has a simpler way of tracking wounds, treats most npcs as “mooks” who can be taken out by a single wound, and has some nice rules for allowing not-particularly combat-skilled PCs make a significant contribution to combat by taunting or intimidating opponents, distracting them at strategic moments. Even if we don’t adopt the rules wholesale, I plan on stealing that bit.

Even if we do switch over, I plan on keeping the setting-specific rules about accumulating and spending Mojo (the reward for doing cool, cinematic stuff) and the Mundane Tricks (the plot-tricks that non-powered PCs can do to influence the scene without supernatural powers).

I’m going to see if I can get together with Doug and maybe Paul before I really try running Borderlands under Savage Worlds and run through a couple of test combats to see if it’s as fast and smooth in practice as it appears to be in the rules. Anybody who wants to download that pdf and take a look and weigh in with comments is encouraged to do so.

The Unicorn Tapestry: Gaming Summary, May 1, 2005

Last night was the fullest house I've ever seen at Josh's, and possibly the fullest on record. Every current member was present, and we even had a guest! You might imagine that most of the evening was lost in idle chatter with no role-playing at all, but you'd be WRONG. Even deprived of the dining-room table, seated on the far-too-comfy couches, there was role-playing, in-character banter, and even advancement of the plot. Hang on, kids, this one could get rough.

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Conversations with Vinny

Bless me father ‘cause I have sinned…
It’s been a long time since my last confession and I gotta admit I ain’t been the nicest of persons, ya know? I don’t always respect my parents dat much and I probably use the lords name in vain more than I should but the serious stuff, I’s done my time and I’m a reformed man and I try not to get involved in that kinda stuff as much anymore.
Anyways, I’s seen lotsa weird shit, beggin yer pardon, I’s seen lotsa weird stuff in this city but I always figured it was just people being weird or stupid or mean or sumptin. So yesterday I tink I saws something different. I tink it was the real deal, pure evil and not just people acting evil but like ya know real biblical type evil stuff.
Whats I’m trying to say is, is it possible for the devil to be real and such. Not like real and if you die and you ain’t been good you go to hell real, but real like first there is a lawyer standin there in a crappy French suit and the next moment he’s seven feet tall with scales and horns and glowing red eyes throwing fire around at people?
‘Cause like a lotta weird shit happened, beggin yer pardon, a lotta weird stuff happened yesterday. Dis one little girl is claimin she be seein da ghost of Little Jimmy Two Shoes and then this lawyer dude shows up and turns into the devil and starts trowing fire around so I go out the back door and it gets even weirder from there and then the lawyer devil is gone and people is talking about vampires and werewolves and all sorts a late night move junk. ‘Cept they ain’t talking about it like it was a movie but like it was as real as traffic at rush-hour.
I swear father, I ain’t been hittin the sauce or nuttin least not as should be causin that sorta stuff. ‘tho anodder day like that and I’ll wanna.
But I gotta ask ya father. If evil IS real, if real evil can just walk through the front door and start trowin fire around and tryin ta kill people, then we’d haf-ta do sumptin about it right? We couldn’t just stand there and say ‘not my problem’ or waits fer da cops to show up right? ‘cause I’m tinkin I may already be involved and I don’t think I can just walk away but I wants to know that I’m doin da right thing.
Can ya help me father?

A Phone call later:

Hey, Mickey. Its me, Vinnie.

Nah, Vinnie Fratony.

Anyways, ya remember dat vest ya was wearin a year or two back when the Carlone kid got outta da joint? Well dats all cleared up now right? You ain’t needin da vest no more? Ya think I could maybe borrow it for like a couple a days?

Nah I ain’t in any trouble. ‘Least not like that sortta trouble. It’s kinda complicated. It involves this dame I’m interested in and she’s kinda got some trouble following her.

Heh, Yeah all dames is trouble but this one is kinda different.

Hey! I know better den gettin involved wit a married woman! Least if I did I might be getting some. Look I had a slow night last night and I need to pick up some fares. Gas ain’t cheep in dis city. Hows about I swing by the place and yer wife can gimme da vest?

Tanks! I owes ya one.

Heh. Yeah, I owes ya anodder one. Call me when you needs a lift someplace.

Hostile Takeover: Gaming Summary, March 20, 2005

We had two new players join us: Liz and Sean. Welcome to the group, hope you survive the experience!

After another longish hiatus, we returned to the Borderlands. Upon their return to the city following the events at Hill College, Tamsin realized that she would have to have the werewolf damage to her employer's van repaired, preferably before her employer found out about it. After dropping Chucky, Fitz (who promptly remembered a previous engagement on the other side of the world and left without a forwarding address), and Obediah off at the theater, she consulted the rolodex at the detective agency and found the name of a body shop, the Fratoni Bros., annotated in Victoria Savage's neat handwriting “doesn't ask questions.” Deciding that this was just the ticket, she took the van there, dropped it off, and took the Fratoni's up on the offer of a cab ride back (chargable to the agency, natch). Her driver was the loquacious and colorful Vinny Fratoni [Sean], just back from a deuce up-river.

Meanwhile, art-student and reluctant seer Veronica Snooty-Mc-Snoot-Snoot (did we ever get a last name?) [Liz] was soaking up the ambience of Chinatown when she noticed two things: 1) Obediah, sweeping out in front of the Chinese Theater, whose aura told her that he was her Knight in Shining Armor. It didn't explain further, auras being tricksy that way. 2) the grungy theater itself, which was clearly being haunted…by the theater as it existed in the forties. She'd seen plenty of ghosts before, but never the ghost of a building. Bemused, she offered Obediah a twenty and a date to get something to eat. He led her inside and offered her popcorn and a swig of “butter.”

Upon their arrival outside the theater, Vinny's cab died completely and mysteriously. Tamsin led him into the theater to use the pay phone to call his cousins at the shop, and then dashed across the street to leave a note for Victoria Savage. Fortunately or unfortunately, Victoria was already back from her trip, but had a message for Tamsin: a tall, dark, handsome young man had left a letter for her, on nice heavy stationery with a big monogrammed M. Inside was a dinner invitation for that evening to Le Petite Chi-Chi, signed “Bobby.” After some brain-wracking, Tamsin managed to remember having met the mysterious Bobby M, adventurer and raconteur. She hurried back across the street to check in with Chucky and Obadiah and ask their opinion on the propriety (and perhaps safety) of meeting with him given the peculiar circumstances of their first encounter in the Borderlands.

There was some byplay in which Obediah attempted to buy Vinny's cab from him for the twenty that Veronica had given him, and was informed that would get him four lug-nuts worth of cab, which triggered in his befuddled brain the singular desire to own a cab and prompted a side-trip to a chop-shop down the street to buy a bumper.

In the theater, Veronica explored a bit, finding the ghostly regulars in the balcony watching the double-bill: Seven Deadly Venoms and Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (Two Two-Star Movies! That makes Four Stars!). Meanwhile, Vinny was explaining to his cousins that a) they fucked up his ride, and they needed to send out the tow-truck toot sweet and b) he was “parked” outside the very theater in which legend had it Little Joey Two-Shoes, the hitman's hitman, was last seen on this Earth. Veronica could have told him Little Joey was watching the women sobbin', but nobody asked. Unfortunately for Vinny, the wrecker was out on a call, and the Eurotrash Lawyer, M. Lucerne chose that moment to make his dramatic entrance.

Announcing that since they had tried the easy way and gotten nowhere, his Consortium was now going to do it the hard way, he gestured and all the doors slammed and the shades pulled themselves down. He then removed his swanky sunglasses and revealed his glowing red eyes. Combat ensued.

Fireballs were thrown, arts were martialed, .38 Saturday Night Specials were emptied unsuccessfully except to ruin a nice French suit and cause Lucerne to reveal his game-face: that of a 7' tall yellow and red, horned, leathery-winged demon. Chucky conveyed the notion to Victoria that it would be helpful for her to use her artistic talents to copy one of the plaques from underneath the counter onto a piece of paper, while he lured the creature upstairs. Tamsin ran around putting out the fires, while Obediah used his special talent with doors to open the emergency exits in the rear of the theater and let out the panicked ghosts. Vinny attempted to drag Veronica to safety, but received a short sharp shock to the family jewels for his troubles, and she went back to her calligraphy.

Chucky managed to lure Lucerne to in front of the Closet of the Vortex (don't ask) and Tamsin, exclaiming “You forgot about me, Huh?” slapped Veronica's finished work on Lucerne's back. Lucerne lunged, Chucky powered up the Paralysis Character while performing a sacrifice-throw, and Lucerne took a short trip and a long fall to nobody-knows-where.

While this was going on, Vinny recovered, and exited the building through the doors that Obediah had opened. There in the alley, he found a giant rat in a Zoot Suit, being noisily sick. Hurrying the other way, he came out into a typical evening in the Borderlands, i.e. Film Noir New York by night, circa 1940, casting by way of Midsummer Night's Fever Dream. Noting the presence of a mounted policeman (and on second take, that the mount and the policeman were one and the same: a centaur), he quickly pocketed his gat (cause John Law is John Law, no matter where you go), and made his way back to the alley and back into the theater. Once back inside, and finding himself able to exit by the front doors into normal New York, he went to the nearest liquor store and got himself some scotch, then returned to the theater to demand an explanation of the goings on. Tamsin rushed home to change for her date, while Chucky tried to explain the advantages of taking the blue pill, but Vinny was made of sterner stuff. Obediah went outside, popped the hood of Vinny's cab (another of O's skills), and discovered a gremlin chewing vigorously on the wiring. He chased it off with a broom, and the cab was once again operational.

Vinny ended up driving Tamsin to her date, now that his cab was back in service, and hanging around a bit off the meter in case she needed any help, but the date was largely uneventful. Bobby M. was just back from doing a favor to a friend, by preventing the moon from being consumed by nanites, and seemed genuinely interested in dating Tamsin for the usual boy-girl reasons, with no obvious ulterior motive. She did find out from the waitstaff that Bobby was, as claimed, a regular at Le Petite Chi-chi, and that his last name was Munchausen. She also found out, from Bobby, that Lucerne and his Consortium were famously bad news and legendarily not folks that you got the better of business deals with. Bobby drove her home, and kissed her good night.