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  • Play Summary - ESPER

    So I've done some mild tweaking of the setting. Project Utopia and the like are in existence, but largely focussed in the Americas, and the taskforce is partially a reaction to prevent American influence of European policy, loosely modelled on the EU's history of wanting to keep America well out of it.

    Also, my knowledge of European history is sporadic at best. I've done my research, but, well, there's a lot of it, and it's complicated.


    The characters are Novas working for the European Special Projects, Exploration and Resources taskforce, or ESPER. Created in part to the military and political tensions following the increasingly frequent eruptions of novas, ESPER is intended to prevent the tensions overflowing into outright war, as well as to harness the potential of novas for the benefit of all of Europe. At time of writing, it has only been in existence for three months, and is still very much finding its feet.

    The characters are a team of novas, supported by ESPER in exchange for allowing them rights to any creations or breakthroughs the novas may have, and accepting tasks/missions that serve ESPERs agenda. These missions are chosen by the group of representatives from the various member states called the Oversight Committee (usually just 'the Committee'), and delivered to team deemed most capable of addressing the issue. Of course, political concerns being what they are, which teem is deemed the best doesn't always mean they are the best. The team in question is under Larisa Gaglona Orlova, the Russian representative, a no-nonsense former Major in the Russian Ground Forces.

    The team is made up of:

    Joseph Sanquest/Hyde - a tall, red-skinned doctor from Australia, he came to Europe under less than glorious conditions and joined ESPER in exchange for them hushing up his past. He spends much of his time performing impossible surgeries impossibly quickly in local hospitals.

    Radoslav - a consummate firebug and self-described 'rabid dog', little is known about him except he has a tie to Zoya and participated in several conflicts in eastern Europe. Fond of a flamethrower, his powers largely revolve around the manipulation of fire.

    Wolfgang Cross/Invictus - A British/German SES operative with more illegal operations under his belt than you can shake a heavily armoured stick at, Wolfgangs two main identifying characteristics is an endless thirst for combat, and near-invulnerability to both physical and energy-based sources. Short of a surface-to-air missile or an anti-tank cannon-scale attack, he is near-immune to all attacks.

    Zoya Dimitrievua - an extremely manipulative previous member of the Bratva, later recruited by the Federal Security Bureau. Main 'job' on the taskforce is to control Radoslav, as well as tactical use of her ability to see into the future or past.

    Approximately six months ago, a radical isolationist called Kwasi Aguda marched on the Presidential Palace of a small but resource-rich African country called Iprelia. After splitting off from Algeria as a result of the civil war in the early 90's, Iprelia has been under the helm of Kato Ihejirika. a voice for peace during the civil war, who has done a commendable job in building up the countries infrastructure and ensuring relative peace. After approximately a year of building support amongst the people through viciously killing - often with his bare hands - the most resourceful and well-organised of the rebel groups within the country, Aguda marched on the Palace and demanded Iherjirika resign and call elections, which Aguda won by a landslide. Iherijirika soon fled the country to Morocco, and Aguda has been building his platform against "foreign exploiters" ever since, and approximately one month ago cut all diplomatic and trade relations to external powers.

    Aguda is a powerful nova, who is strongly resistant to damage, and possessive of a strong flame attack capable of destroying vehicles with ease. It is rumoured that he has a great many other powers, including the ability to read minds, control over darkness, and control over the weather, but these have not yet been documented.

    Given Iprelia's richness in certain minerals that have become important to certain recent nova-discovered technologies, ESPER has deemed this team the most suitable to be transported to the country and restore trade while maintaining the deteriorating stability of the country. Given thin covers as members of UNICEF, the team is alone in a mostly-black country hostile to all foreigners, lead by a powerful nova who may or may not be a madman.

    Oh, yeah. This is gonna go great.
    Last edited by Allan53; 09-18-2015, 10:42 PM. Reason: Updating character information based on more information from player from POV of ESPER


    My Commandments for GMs My Commandments for Players

  • #2
    Sounds like fun, the party seems balanced, with a tendency towards wet-works or black-ops. Their backing has been suitably ingrained to keep them from too much sand-box play in the greater setting, but the mercenary work seems to make up for that with broad strategic over-play. What year are you playing in relation to the overall timeline, specifically - how many novas are there worldwide during this scenario? Any notions on where you see it going at this stage or are you happy to let the players sand-box about in Iprelia for a bit to get their footing?
    Why is ESPER operating in Iprelia? Is this an internationally sanctioned operation and, if so, by what right/mechanism?
    Since Iprelia is (presumably) a fictional nation, would you care to expand on it a bit? What are it's neighbours, exports, geography, ecology and people like? Just for a deeper sense of setting, Africa is a place of many extremes after all. Algeria might be loosely spread between Mediterranean, Saharan and Atlantic climates, where-abouts might you locate Iprelia?
    I look forward to hearing more.

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    • #3
      Iprelia is indeed a fictional country. It's located in the southern edge of Algeria, bordered by Niger and Mali, extending not quite up to the Hoggar Mountain range. It's mostly desert, with some rocky parts, and the occasional field of green near the odd river. mostly in the south. The capital city, which is where the players have been transported, is Tamanrasset and is located roughly 100 miles south of the northern border. A medium-sized town prior, it has been expanded and now has a population of roughly 120,000 people.

      Its main resources are crude oil and several mineral deposits such as iron, gold and certain crystalline minerals that have been found to be invaluable in the creation of particularly durable and efficient fiber optics, as well as certain other nova-created technologies. (Yes, I have deliberately left that vague. My field is psychology and criminology, not physics, engineering or geology.)

      Its people are mostly of the Geruma tribe, with a minority of the Kamba, Mbugu and Bimoa tribes represented. There is also an extreme minority of white residents. Religion-wise, the most common religion is Islam by a huge margin, with over 90% of its residents identifying as Muslim. Other religions are represented, with the most common alternative being various tribal religions, and the odd Christian.Given the overwhelming popularity of Islam in its parent state, along with its origins in the civil war, this is more or less as expected.

      As to whether this is a sanctioned operation or not, the answer is... sort of. The European Parliament has cleared it, but it's something in the nature of a 'black bag' operation; they haven't made noise about it, and it remains highly classified. Deploying novas into other countries has precedent, but only during active military campaigns, and then only in support roles, and never against enemy novas, at least not directly. ESPER has clearance from Parliament to conduct military and espionage operations, but an operation of this kind represents a significant escalation in how novas are used, since their mission is, essentially, to interfere with an external, nova-run state. Of course, there never has been a nova-run state previous to this. As a result, the team has been instructed to maintain as low a profile as possible. Doing so is not strictly forbidden by the UN or various conventions, any more so than any other similar action would be, since the teams goal is strictly to stabilise the region, rather than the reverse, but if discovered this could easily end badly, politically speaking.

      In a more meta-sense, the purpose of this mission is really for the players to get a feel for the system, the world and their characters, as well as for me to observe how they approach the situations they find themselves in, which I can take into account in the future. This will play into the main plot, but only in a way that frankly I very much doubt they'll link even when they do discover the main plot (it's kind of side-swipey, and not at all important to understand for them to proceed). Although of course it depends on the players, I expect this mission to take two, maybe three sessions to be 'resolved', however that is. Hell, maybe they'll decide to join Aguda and think he's a pretty OK guy. *shrug* I've had players throw me bigger curveballs, and if that's the way they want to go, I'm prepared to roll with it.

      The game is set, at least at the beginning, in the second half of 2000. So novas are around, people have realised their potential, but their impact so far as been fairly minimal, at least relatively speaking. Personally, I found the default setting to be kind of limiting, seemed like all the good stories are in this transition period, so that's when I set it


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      • #4

        Apologies for the delay.


        Originally posted by Allan53 View Post
        Iprelia is indeed a fictional country. It's located in the southern edge of Algeria, bordered by Niger and Mali, extending not quite up to the Hoggar Mountain range. It's mostly desert, with some rocky parts, and the occasional field of green near the odd river. mostly in the south. The capital city, which is where the players have been transported, is Tamanrasset and is located roughly 100 miles south of the northern border. A medium-sized town prior, it has been expanded and now has a population of roughly 120,000 people.

        Its main resources are crude oil and several mineral deposits such as iron, gold and certain crystalline minerals that have been found to be invaluable in the creation of particularly durable and efficient fiber optics, as well as certain other nova-created technologies. (Yes, I have deliberately left that vague. My field is psychology and criminology, not physics, engineering or geology.)
        While i've never visited, i now have a better image of the locale. Lots of open space there, are you planning on making use of vehicles and travel powers in that medium? Or are you going to be sticking to urban areas for now? Different storytelling challenges, is all. Who actually knows about these 'new' minerals in Iprelia? It seems well within the grasp of Mega-Mental logic (take the expected chemical formula and use known geological surveys to narrow down the potential occurance sites), but i don't think you've explained how that information relates to the players yet.
        Do you have long term plans for these new minerals? Because i might ask why newly discovered crystalline structures are important and/or necessary here? Novas will do things with copper that we've never imagined and while it's not prohibited in any way, silver-age comic technology tropes are often averted with decent (for the period) science in the setting. I'm happy to adapt to your version of things, but you'll have to explain your intent or i may trample all over it.

        Its people are mostly of the Geruma tribe, with a minority of the Kamba, Mbugu and Bimoa tribes represented. There is also an extreme minority of white residents. Religion-wise, the most common religion is Islam by a huge margin, with over 90% of its residents identifying as Muslim. Other religions are represented, with the most common alternative being various tribal religions, and the odd Christian.Given the overwhelming popularity of Islam in its parent state, along with its origins in the civil war, this is more or less as expected.
        Ok.
        That's pretty dry, but it's a start. How are you characterizing the tribes and people of the area? I gather Kwasi Aguda has the charismatic and nova appeals going on, but no population base the size you're describing is entirely unified. At least, not without social specific powers. Even under the cosmic yoke of mega-social, i feel it would be a bit of a cop out to not visit with humanity in this combustible setting - in a political sense.
        Bah, ignore me if you wish, i just enjoy a 'set-up camp' sequence in a modern world setting.

        As to whether this is a sanctioned operation or not, the answer is... sort of. The European Parliament has cleared it, but it's something in the nature of a 'black bag' operation; they haven't made noise about it, and it remains highly classified. Deploying novas into other countries has precedent, but only during active military campaigns, and then only in support roles, and never against enemy novas, at least not directly. ESPER has clearance from Parliament to conduct military and espionage operations, but an operation of this kind represents a significant escalation in how novas are used, since their mission is, essentially, to interfere with an external, nova-run state. Of course, there never has been a nova-run state previous to this. As a result, the team has been instructed to maintain as low a profile as possible. Doing so is not strictly forbidden by the UN or various conventions, any more so than any other similar action would be, since the teams goal is strictly to stabilise the region, rather than the reverse, but if discovered this could easily end badly, politically speaking.
        The shift from soft to hard-power encounters may be on the record books after this one. Nice. That's a good hook, perhaps a fictional similar situation somewhere else in the world would serve as good background - there might even be something out there in the Directive or Elites that you can use straight out of the book. Someone who knows the books better than i might be able to offer some assistance.
        -shrug-

        In a more meta-sense, the purpose of this mission is really for the players to get a feel for the system, the world and their characters, as well as for me to observe how they approach the situations they find themselves in, which I can take into account in the future. This will play into the main plot, but only in a way that frankly I very much doubt they'll link even when they do discover the main plot (it's kind of side-swipey, and not at all important to understand for them to proceed). Although of course it depends on the players, I expect this mission to take two, maybe three sessions to be 'resolved', however that is. Hell, maybe they'll decide to join Aguda and think he's a pretty OK guy. *shrug* I've had players throw me bigger curveballs, and if that's the way they want to go, I'm prepared to roll with it.

        The game is set, at least at the beginning, in the second half of 2000. So novas are around, people have realised their potential, but their impact so far as been fairly minimal, at least relatively speaking. Personally, I found the default setting to be kind of limiting, seemed like all the good stories are in this transition period, so that's when I set it
        I support your open ended approach, that's how i like to do it myself. Especially with a new system of after a break in gaming, just as a warm up and to get a sense of what the players will enjoy this time out. The setting sounds like a fun way to get it all rolling, i don't know what you are changing from the core apart from Utopia no longer being an international organization - so maybe you can explain why you've done that and what you envisage filling the niche?

        Thanks for the details.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Nihilist View Post
          While i've never visited, i now have a better image of the locale. Lots of open space there, are you planning on making use of vehicles and travel powers in that medium? Or are you going to be sticking to urban areas for now? Different storytelling challenges, is all. Who actually knows about these 'new' minerals in Iprelia? It seems well within the grasp of Mega-Mental logic (take the expected chemical formula and use known geological surveys to narrow down the potential occurance sites), but i don't think you've explained how that information relates to the players yet.
          Do you have long term plans for these new minerals? Because i might ask why newly discovered crystalline structures are important and/or necessary here? Novas will do things with copper that we've never imagined and while it's not prohibited in any way, silver-age comic technology tropes are often averted with decent (for the period) science in the setting. I'm happy to adapt to your version of things, but you'll have to explain your intent or i may trample all over it.
          I see it as being primarily set in the city, although of course players will affect that.

          The minerals are pretty well-known, it's mostly that some newer technologies utilise them, creating new demand; like if quartz was suddenly found to be instrumental in creating hard-core radiation shielding for nuclear reactors or something: it has other uses, and it's not exactly rare, but has recently experienced a bit of a resurgence in interest. They're found in several locations around the world, Iprelia is only really noteworthy because while it doesn't have the most by a long shot, it has a fair chunk. Plus its relative proximity to Europe, and its comparative cheapness due to the former administration charging less to encourage foreign investment, and the fact that it's a country that was recently taken over by a nova is the main reason ESPER is interested.

          In meta-terms, it's really mostly an excuse as to why ESPER cares. I don't see it playing a large role in the unfolding story.

          Ok.
          That's pretty dry, but it's a start. How are you characterizing the tribes and people of the area? I gather Kwasi Aguda has the charismatic and nova appeals going on, but no population base the size you're describing is entirely unified. At least, not without social specific powers. Even under the cosmic yoke of mega-social, i feel it would be a bit of a cop out to not visit with humanity in this combustible setting - in a political sense.
          Bah, ignore me if you wish, i just enjoy a 'set-up camp' sequence in a modern world setting.
          Hah, dry. In a desert. Which is dry.

          And yes, that is kind of odd, isn't it?

          But in actual answer to your question, there are many human figures who are crucial to how the story in this area will unfold. There's still a few (small) rebel groups, the governments immediately surrounding Iprelia have their own agendas, and there are several politically significant figures the characters really should engage with, not to mention the regular people of the country. ESPER is focussed on Aguda, but that's really their blindness rather than a comprehensive analysis of the area.

          The shift from soft to hard-power encounters may be on the record books after this one. Nice. That's a good hook, perhaps a fictional similar situation somewhere else in the world would serve as good background - there might even be something out there in the Directive or Elites that you can use straight out of the book. Someone who knows the books better than i might be able to offer some assistance.
          -shrug-
          I'll check those, thanks. Never know if there's an idea in there that is better than what I've considered

          I support your open ended approach, that's how i like to do it myself. Especially with a new system of after a break in gaming, just as a warm up and to get a sense of what the players will enjoy this time out. The setting sounds like a fun way to get it all rolling, i don't know what you are changing from the core apart from Utopia no longer being an international organization - so maybe you can explain why you've done that and what you envisage filling the niche?

          Thanks for the details.
          The changes to the setting are largely dialling back the impact of PU and the like. In my personal view, the books tend to make them the agents driving of change, and their Novas tend to be presented as way too powerful to meaningfully oppose, which is dull as dishwater to me, both as an ST and a player: Divis Mal, anyone? So really the main differences are they're less important, with ESPER and the PCs being the main drivers of change in this broad region.

          I see most areas coming up with ESPER/PU-like organisations. China specifically has one, with some participation from other Asian countries (not Japan), although very little is known about it. Australia sort-of does, but their equivalent is almost entirely focussed on internal matters and research. South America is pretty much pure chaos, with most novas being renegades, government troops or working for the cartels.


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          • #6
            So, our, well, protagonists arrived in Tamanrasset, and immediately set up shop at the sole remaining UNICEF outpost: most foreign aid or the equivalent organisations were booted out, Aguda allowed two UNICEF workers to remain as observers of the legitimacy of his administration. However, they are strictly watched, and they know full well they have zero slack, and they are, at best, unwanted guests.

            The two UNICEF workers, Edward Clark and Clara King, immediately knew these gun-toting, disturbingly fit individuals were not, as they claimed, support from the UN. But after Zoya had a word, with Radoslav standing aside looking threatening, they accepted it grudgingly.

            Zoya, using information gleaned from her bratva contacts, made contact with the local operators of the international, illegal arms trade, and discovered that the illegal trade, which had been languishing somewhat under Ihejirika's control, has recently started to grow again. Mostly small arms; handguns and cheap assault rifles, but what was intriguing was the speculations by the contact that the ultimate customer was the government itself. Smelling a potential contact with the government, as well as profit, Zoya immediately set about ingratiating herself among the local arms trade, with the intent of eventually taking over.

            Hyde, in the meantime, was looking to contact the common man, and get a more grass-roots understanding. This was a struggle, being white and obviously foreign, but by being comparatively generous in buying drinks at one of the local watering holes, he made some progress in discovering that Aguda, at least among his not-overly-representative sample, is supported, and his isolationist policies are seen as a clever gambit to force foreign governments to pay a ‘fair price’ for the minerals they crave so badly. His direct action in dealing with violent rebels has also gained some traction and support from the common people.

            Wolfgang and Radoslav spent most of the first couple of days fortifying the house UNICEF was set up in as much as possible. Concerns raised about how this might look to the suspicious residents or government were ignored with a glare from Radoslav. Subsequent to this, Wolfgang made the trek up to their northern border, their extraction point, to track patrols and find routes out of the country, should it become needed.

            After a few days, word began to be passed by word-of-mouth and radio that Aguda was holding a public rally about the troubles that beset their nation. Out of curiosity, the characters attended, along with roughly 500 local residents, all of whom gave suspicious looks and a wide berth to the characters. During this rally, the local residents seemed to react surprisingly strongly to Aguda’s words of strength against oppression and demands of being treated fairly, despite Aguda not being an overly skilled speaker, and his phrasing often being cliché. The climax of the event came when three prisoners – allegedly rebels – were dragged on stage in heavy chains, and brutally killed in a display of Aguda’s power, to the approval of both the crowd, and Radoslav and Wolfgang, however there was some thoughtful critique of his technique.

            The next day, General Attah, Aguda’s right-hand man, visited the UNICEF headquarters, ostensibly to drop off reports as to military action in the outlying regions of the country chasing down rebels, civilian casualties, and the like. It was quickly clear that the actual intent of his visit was to speak to the characters, who were seen at the rally. Zoya quickly disarmed his suspicions, and even somehow convinced him that the reports of there only being two UNICEF workers were in error. During the conversation, she came to the impression that he was an honourable man who was totally loyal to Aguda, although more moderate in his approach. During this, Wolfgang and Radoslav were staring down accompanying soldiers in their usual approach to subtlety and remaining below the radar.

            The next day, several of the characters heard what was unmistakably a footstep in an empty room, with further investigation revealing bare footprints leading out of the house and down the street into town. Zoya looked into the shifting sands of the future, and found that there was a good chance a sniper would attempt to kill one or more of the players the next morning. She reported this to the more militant members of the group, with Wolfgang resolving to set up an ambush for the would-be sniper.

            The ambush, depending on who you ask, went swimmingly or was a colossal failure. Wolfgang opened with shooting the sniper through the lung, and then dropping his knee onto the snipers spine, with only the timely interference of Hyde saving the sniper for interrogation. Radoslav opened this interrogation by slicing off the snipers ear, in order to gain the now-tied-up-and-surrounded snipers attention.

            During the interrogation, during which productivity was somewhat frequently interrupted by Radoslav threatening the prisoner and Hyde keeping the prisoner alive so they could ask questions, it became clear that the original order for the characters assassination came down from Aguda himself, with the intent that they would either all be killed, or enough to chase the rest out. Before any more could be elicited, a grenade flew out of the shadows, which Zoya co-incidentally caught in her hand.

            Hyde threw himself over the prisoner, trusting in his quantum-energy armour to protect the both of them. Radoslav and Wolfgang slapped the grenade away and jumped in front of Zoya, then after the blast had cleared, began spraying the area the grenade had come from with automatic fire. A brief exchange later, and a naked woman shimmered into visibility, collapsed on the ground with several serious wounds, obviously dying. Hyde, true to form, stepped up and began attempting to save her life. Radoslav was having none of it, and continued shooting, convinced the woman was too dangerous to interrogate, despite a fairly large and only semi-armoured ally crouching next to her, until she was very clearly beyond even a nova doctors skills to save.

            The characters finally gathered up the body and their prisoner, and fled the scene, to the noise of, at least, police sirens, suspiciously late. Radoslav and Wolfgang have resolved to take the most violent route to removing Aguda, and Hyde is having serious doubts about the basic sanity of his team-mates…
            Last edited by Allan53; 09-16-2015, 05:26 AM.


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            • #7
              Originally posted by Allan53 View Post
              I see it as being primarily set in the city, although of course players will affect that.
              Eventually, even the planet of Mars wasn't big enough to contain some Aberrant vs. Aberrant maneuvering i ended up with - i spent more time adjudicating orbital mechanics for aberrant fights than i ever did for Trinity era space vessels. Just to share my sense of scale when it comes to an aberrant 'battle-map' as time goes on. There may be ways to avert this in 2008, but i thought i'd mention it.


              The minerals are pretty well-known, it's mostly that some newer technologies utilise them, creating new demand; like if quartz was suddenly found to be instrumental in creating hard-core radiation shielding for nuclear reactors or something: it has other uses, and it's not exactly rare, but has recently experienced a bit of a resurgence in interest. They're found in several locations around the world, Iprelia is only really noteworthy because while it doesn't have the most by a long shot, it has a fair chunk. Plus its relative proximity to Europe, and its comparative cheapness due to the former administration charging less to encourage foreign investment, and the fact that it's a country that was recently taken over by a nova is the main reason ESPER is interested.

              In meta-terms, it's really mostly an excuse as to why ESPER cares. I don't see it playing a large role in the unfolding story.
              [/quartz]
              Oh.
              -dunce smile-
              ok, that's much easier to run with, long term. You can safely ignore whatever i was throwing a wobbly over. I consider myself a fan of hard science, but i'm awfully willing to toss physics aside for super-science on the slightest whim...


              Hah, dry. In a desert. Which is dry.

              And yes, that is kind of odd, isn't it?

              But in actual answer to your question, there are many human figures who are crucial to how the story in this area will unfold. There's still a few (small) rebel groups, the governments immediately surrounding Iprelia have their own agendas, and there are several politically significant figures the characters really should engage with, not to mention the regular people of the country. ESPER is focussed on Aguda, but that's really their blindness rather than a comprehensive analysis of the area.
              You could have felt free to deride me openly, i dropped that pun without even realizing.
              -smile-
              As long as Iherjirika's support wasn't forcefully disbanded, it seems like some level of opposition may still exist, even if in name only. I expect some of these political forces may be initially aligned with the party goals, making the PC's stink a bit more offensive to Aguda.
              Election politics can be very slippery - you have to follow your popular support - wherever it takes you. So, unless elections are already off the table, you may have to be prepared for that, depending on PC actions.
              -shrug-
              Elections tend to produce paper-tigers in Algeria anyway from what little i know - the real power lies elsewhere, away from popular intervention. Which makes it interesting that a powerful Nova like Aguda chose to submit himself to election - if he isn't using Mega-Social, then i'd love to hear more about this democratic 'tyrant's motives.


              The changes to the setting are largely dialling back the impact of PU and the like. In my personal view, the books tend to make them the agents driving of change, and their Novas tend to be presented as way too powerful to meaningfully oppose, which is dull as dishwater to me, both as an ST and a player: Divis Mal, anyone? So really the main differences are they're less important, with ESPER and the PCs being the main drivers of change in this broad region.

              I see most areas coming up with ESPER/PU-like organisations. China specifically has one, with some participation from other Asian countries (not Japan), although very little is known about it. Australia sort-of does, but their equivalent is almost entirely focussed on internal matters and research. South America is pretty much pure chaos, with most novas being renegades, government troops or working for the cartels.

              I think a decade or so deeper into the era, Mal too would have a healthy fear of tactical engagement with specialist elites. Beating Pax & T2M? Any day of the week - those guys are PR avatars and diplomats with fancy uniforms. Totentanz would eat them for breakfast.
              But, that's just why i don't worry about Utopia being global - not that i've ever run in the setting - so my opinion is kind of base-less. Taking your approach certainly leaves more responsibility in the player's hands - which goes to the 'power-player of the era' approach you've outlined. But, as time goes on - rather than see them as too powerful, i can't help but think of T2M as very stupid (or corrupt) novas - since Proteus is going on right under their noses.
              They're novas, supermen, few of them can believably claim ignorance.

              I think there are things from the Directive and Elites books that could be good background for you to peruse, i don't know those books well enough.

              ...

              Originally posted by Allan53 View Post
              So, our, well, protagonists arrived in Tamanrasset, and immediately set up shop at the sole remaining UNICEF outpost: most foreign aid or the equivalent organisations were booted out, Aguda allowed two UNICEF workers to remain as observers of the legitimacy of his administration. However, they are strictly watched, and they know full well they have zero slack, and they are, at best, unwanted guests.
              How discreet are they meant to be, concerning media leaking out? Are any of them obviously Novas, based on appearance? Can any of the party be identified by informed observers?

              The two UNICEF workers, Edward Clark and Clara King, immediately knew these gun-toting, disturbingly fit individuals were not, as they claimed, support from the UN. But after Zoya had a word, with Radoslav standing aside looking threatening, they accepted it grudgingly.

              Zoya, using information gleaned from her bratva contacts, made contact with the local operators of the international, illegal arms trade, and discovered that the illegal trade, which had been languishing somewhat under Ihejirika's control, has recently started to grow again. Mostly small arms; handguns and cheap assault rifles, but what was intriguing was the speculations by the contact that the ultimate customer was the government itself. Smelling a potential contact with the government, as well as profit, Zoya immediately set about ingratiating herself among the local arms trade, with the intent of eventually taking over.
              I like that. Sequences like that will take you to the political game you seem to be aiming at. But, i hope that Zoya's player is including the other players - a bit of cross-party mistrust can be a fun part of the political game - but it also divides the ST's attention unless the players take on some inter-party dialogue.

              Hyde, in the meantime, was looking to contact the common man, and get a more grass-roots understanding. This was a struggle, being white and obviously foreign, but by being comparatively generous in buying drinks at one of the local watering holes, he made some progress in discovering that Aguda, at least among his not-overly-representative sample, is supported, and his isolationist policies are seen as a clever gambit to force foreign governments to pay a ‘fair price’ for the minerals they crave so badly. His direct action in dealing with violent rebels has also gained some traction and support from the common people.
              Local colour, just what i wanted to hear. I love to milk a setting.
              -smile-
              Aguda might need a bit more greyness, he seems like a pretty good guy from what i get. Are you hoping the party will flip allegiances? Or are you just encouraging exploration of motives and incentives? Do you imagine that ESPER will be willing to let the PC's make the ultimate call on how to deal with this civilly elected nova, or are they looking for a particular result?

              Wolfgang and Radoslav spent most of the first couple of days fortifying the house UNICEF was set up in as much as possible. Concerns raised about how this might look to the suspicious residents or government were ignored with a glare from Radoslav. Subsequent to this, Wolfgang made the trek up to their northern border, their extraction point, to track patrols and find routes out of the country, should it become needed.
              These sound like professional Elite actions. Should you maintain a balance between political geo-strategy and the threat of facing off against a national military (with occasional spill-outs) - i have high hopes for you maintaining both your political mood without betraying the parties expectation of conflict. But, in time, Elite balance will likely get difficult to manage - in my limited experience.
              If you aren't using the T2M faces and names, then devise a few faces and names of your own for the players to know when shit is hitting the fan. Elite names/identities/masks have gun-fighter value, even developing cult-like fan-bases later on.

              After a few days, word began to be passed by word-of-mouth and radio that Aguda was holding a public rally about the troubles that beset their nation. Out of curiosity, the characters attended, along with roughly 500 local residents, all of whom gave suspicious looks and a wide berth to the characters. During this rally, the local residents seemed to react surprisingly strongly to Aguda’s words of strength against oppression and demands of being treated fairly, despite Aguda not being an overly skilled speaker, and his phrasing often being cliché. The climax of the event came when three prisoners – allegedly rebels – were dragged on stage in heavy chains, and brutally killed in a display of Aguda’s power, to the approval of both the crowd, and Radoslav and Wolfgang, however there was some thoughtful critique of his technique.
              Are you running Mega-Social as invisible or is Aguda void of quantum-control over these people? Why do the crowd react "surprisingly", isn't Aguda their popularly elected champion? Why so few residents, isn't this in the city?
              Again, while the public execution is suspect - without further investigation, we can't discount the claim that they were in fact guilty of treason - which prior to 2012 still called for execution in Algeria. It's distasteful, sure, but it's a faux pas or misdemeanour at worst that will be forgotten by the next news cycle.
              While we're here, what kind of control does Aguda have over the local tv station, is this rally covered on state television, potentially getting out to the wider world?


              The next day, General Attah, Aguda’s right-hand man, visited the UNICEF headquarters, ostensibly to drop off reports as to military action in the outlying regions of the country chasing down rebels, civilian casualties, and the like. It was quickly clear that the actual intent of his visit was to speak to the characters, who were seen at the rally. Zoya quickly disarmed his suspicions, and even somehow convinced him that the reports of there only being two UNICEF workers were in error. During the conversation, she came to the impression that he was an honourable man who was totally loyal to Aguda, although more moderate in his approach. During this, Wolfgang and Radoslav were staring down accompanying soldiers in their usual approach to subtlety and remaining below the radar.
              It satisfies me on some level that they were discovered there, that wasn't very discreet of them.
              -smile-
              The good general would probably be able to read Wolfgang and Radoslav's minds in that moment - unless you had them roll to keep subtle, i wouldn't be surprised if the general didn't start formulating worst-case scenarios. There is probably a pretty clear distinction between the average UNICEF guard and alert mercenary veterans, detectable by those who earn the rank of general.

              The next day, several of the characters heard what was unmistakably a footstep in an empty room, with further investigation revealing bare footprints leading out of the house and down the street into town. Zoya looked into the shifting sands of the future, and found that there was a good chance a sniper would attempt to kill one or more of the players the next morning. She reported this to the more militant members of the group, with Wolfgang resolving to set up an ambush for the would-be sniper.

              The ambush, depending on who you ask, went swimmingly or was a colossal failure. Wolfgang opened with shooting the sniper through the lung, and then dropping his knee onto the snipers spine, with only the timely interference of Hyde saving the sniper for interrogation. Radoslav opened this interrogation by slicing off the snipers ear, in order to gain the now-tied-up-and-surrounded snipers attention.

              During the interrogation, during which productivity was somewhat frequently interrupted by Radoslav threatening the prisoner and Hyde keeping the prisoner alive so they could ask questions, it became clear that the original order for the characters assassination came down from Aguda himself, with the intent that they would either all be killed, or enough to chase the rest out. Before any more could be elicited, a grenade flew out of the shadows, which Zoya co-incidentally caught in her hand.

              Hyde threw himself over the prisoner, trusting in his quantum-energy armour to protect the both of them. Radoslav and Wolfgang slapped the grenade away and jumped in front of Zoya, then after the blast had cleared, began spraying the area the grenade had come from with automatic fire. A brief exchange later, and a naked woman shimmered into visibility, collapsed on the ground with several serious wounds, obviously dying. Hyde, true to form, stepped up and began attempting to save her life. Radoslav was having none of it, and continued shooting, convinced the woman was too dangerous to interrogate, despite a fairly large and only semi-armoured ally crouching next to her, until she was very clearly beyond even a nova doctors skills to save.

              The characters finally gathered up the body and their prisoner, and fled the scene, to the noise of, at least, police sirens, suspiciously late. Radoslav and Wolfgang have resolved to take the most violent route to removing Aguda, and Hyde is having serious doubts about the basic sanity of his team-mates…
              Wow.
              -applause-
              Now that's something you can spin a whole campaign out of. It's walking the very edge of control and leaning in - now you have to respond. Love to hear where you take it, if you aren't comfortable posting spoilers here, visible to the public.
              While entirely situated within the ESPER structure as you've described, the lack of discretion shown by the party militants (Radoslav and Wolfgang) has been alarming. But considering Aguda had snipers on them after his first confirmation they were there - the softer approach of the party diplomats (Zoya and Hyde) may seem perilously slow and even pointless. I wonder how Aguda might have responded to a more direct approach in the first place?
              As i see it, two things can happen now, the party can rally and put their talents together to rise, baptised by fire in response. This could be entirely out of your hands, Player fiat - so, you'll probably have to accept their decision either way. But, they could also choose to pursue separate plans, which would give you heaps of room to manipulate things, but would also split your attention. Both of which have their pros and cons, but knowing players, they will find a third option.
              -smile-
              Thanks for taking the time to post this Allan53, i hope you have occasion to post more when you can - i'll reply as often as i have the time to properly respond. But if you are hearing nothing back from me, trust it's out of quiet approval.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Nihilist View Post
                You could have felt free to deride me openly, i dropped that pun without even realizing.
                -smile-
                As long as Iherjirika's support wasn't forcefully disbanded, it seems like some level of opposition may still exist, even if in name only. I expect some of these political forces may be initially aligned with the party goals, making the PC's stink a bit more offensive to Aguda.
                Election politics can be very slippery - you have to follow your popular support - wherever it takes you. So, unless elections are already off the table, you may have to be prepared for that, depending on PC actions.
                -shrug-
                Elections tend to produce paper-tigers in Algeria anyway from what little i know - the real power lies elsewhere, away from popular intervention. Which makes it interesting that a powerful Nova like Aguda chose to submit himself to election - if he isn't using Mega-Social, then i'd love to hear more about this democratic 'tyrant's motives.
                There is a degree of support for Iherijirika still, but it has been much reduced/quieted from what it was. Aguda's administration has been very careful to play up the 'violent rebels' aspect in its media, which makes support for the comparatively peaceful Iherijirka look foolish. Combined with Aguda's noise about 'foreign exploiters', and the civil side of the support has learned to shut its mouth. He was never one to garner much in the way of more militant support, so that's also a non-factor. However, that doesn't mean that Aguda has a 100% approval rating (not that he does polls like that), and it's extremely possible to build up social opposition... in theory.

                How discreet are they meant to be, concerning media leaking out? Are any of them obviously Novas, based on appearance? Can any of the party be identified by informed observers?
                The characters are supposed to be reasonably discreet. Hyde has a tendency to resemble, well, a demon (red skin, big, tendency to radiate low levels of heat), but he can suppress that side, along with his powers. The rest, well, they look different, in that they have the really-healthy-and-fit look novas tend to have, so they kind of attract attention walking down the street, but nothing freakish. Apart from non-dormed Hyde.

                Aguda might need a bit more greyness, he seems like a pretty good guy from what i get. Are you hoping the party will flip allegiances? Or are you just encouraging exploration of motives and incentives? Do you imagine that ESPER will be willing to let the PC's make the ultimate call on how to deal with this civilly elected nova, or are they looking for a particular result?
                Pretty much the second one. He's not supposed to be totally unrepentently evil, and most of ESPER's concerns come from what he might do. However, the characters have been charged with restoring trade while maintaining the country's stability, so if that involves leaving Aguda in charge, so be it. If it involves 'removing' him, well, they better have a plan to dealing with the consequences.

                Are you running Mega-Social as invisible or is Aguda void of quantum-control over these people? Why do the crowd react "surprisingly", isn't Aguda their popularly elected champion? Why so few residents, isn't this in the city?
                Again, while the public execution is suspect - without further investigation, we can't discount the claim that they were in fact guilty of treason - which prior to 2012 still called for execution in Algeria. It's distasteful, sure, but it's a faux pas or misdemeanour at worst that will be forgotten by the next news cycle.
                While we're here, what kind of control does Aguda have over the local tv station, is this rally covered on state television, potentially getting out to the wider world?
                Aguda does not seem to have any kind of Mega-Social - that would be manifest as him being a really good speaker. And by surprisingly, I mean that their emotions seemed too easily and predictably elicited, even when he does things like misspeaks, or his metaphors are laboured. A certain amount of strong support is to be expected, given his popularity, but this was more the crowd showing a greater reaction than they should have, given his speaking.

                The crowd only was about 500, largely because it is in a city, where people have to work and suchforth, plus the area is limited in size. Honestly, I really pulled that number out of the air after some crude people-density calculations.

                Aguda does have a pretty good hold on local news and suchforth. It was covered by them, but he is very careful about what he broadcasts to the outside world. So, in short, the whole thing was videoed, and broadcast, so yes, in theory people in neighboring countries could have picked it up.

                The prisoners yes, could easily have been treasonous rebels. *shrug* It's impossible to know without pretty in-depth investigation. Interpretation of that act really falls into what assumptions you want to make about Aguda. The act served a few purposes in the game; among others it showed the players some of his power, as well as a reminder that he can be brutal when he needs to be. There's a couple others, but they get towards spoiler territory, and I try to post just what happened, and what background information the players already know or what they could easily find out/reason out. Apart from controlling information, this actually helps me go over my own plans and events to see holes and such - there's always going to be situations where things go different than you might expect for situations because of reasons only I know, but that can easily tip into "ah-HAH! Aguda was actually a great humanitarian because by killing those three he cured cancer everywhere!"-type situations. Which we can agree are kind of bullshit. So review = good.

                Wow.
                -applause-
                Now that's something you can spin a whole campaign out of. It's walking the very edge of control and leaning in - now you have to respond. Love to hear where you take it, if you aren't comfortable posting spoilers here, visible to the public.
                While entirely situated within the ESPER structure as you've described, the lack of discretion shown by the party militants (Radoslav and Wolfgang) has been alarming. But considering Aguda had snipers on them after his first confirmation they were there - the softer approach of the party diplomats (Zoya and Hyde) may seem perilously slow and even pointless. I wonder how Aguda might have responded to a more direct approach in the first place?
                As i see it, two things can happen now, the party can rally and put their talents together to rise, baptised by fire in response. This could be entirely out of your hands, Player fiat - so, you'll probably have to accept their decision either way. But, they could also choose to pursue separate plans, which would give you heaps of room to manipulate things, but would also split your attention. Both of which have their pros and cons, but knowing players, they will find a third option.
                -smile-
                Thanks for taking the time to post this Allan53, i hope you have occasion to post more when you can - i'll reply as often as i have the time to properly respond. But if you are hearing nothing back from me, trust it's out of quiet approval.
                I'm glad you liked it, but this part was really purely down to the players; I can't take any credit for it. Really, at this point, I'm just falling back on my usual plan of knowing the major figures, knowing their agenda and knowledges, and having them react appropriately. So, all the awesomeness is totally down to them.

                Sure, I'll keep posting. I'm doing this session-by-session, so should be roughly weekly.


                My Commandments for GMs My Commandments for Players

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                • #9
                  After our protagonists fled the scene of their latest battle, it did not take them long before they began arguing amongst themselves. The main point of contention was Hydes desire to examine the body of the female nova, to try to understand the physiology of novas (still something not well understood), and interrogate the prisoner more closely. Zoya, having taken some damage from the grenade, and wanting to accompany Radoslav and Wolfgang to storm the Presidential Palace have a pleasant and civil conversation with Aguda, asked Hyde to heal her. Hyde declined, citing not wanting to expend the amount of energy required to heal her while in a hostile area. Zoya indicated that if she was not healed, Hyde could not do his examination/interrogation. After some brief - and largely non-productive - arguing Zoya ordered Radoslav to burn the body and prisoner, an order with which he complied - Radoslav never needed much incentive to burn anything. In doing so, Hyde, attempting to pick up the bodies, was burned. Interpreting this as a hostile act, Hyde lashed out at the holder of Radoslav's leash, Zoya, tearing her throat out. In response, Wolfgang and Radoslav attacked Hyde with flame and shotgun, and after a brief scuffle, Hyde was put down by the two.

                  After this, Wolfgang contacted headquarters, and reported the latest happenings, claiming Hyde 'went insane' and had to be put down. When asked if the mission could still be accomplished with their current manpower, Wolfgang replied "Probably, but you wouldn't like the result". They were ordered to withdraw to the extraction point.

                  Radoslav, out of a desire to take revenge on Aguda, was raring to burn the whole country to the ground, but Wolfgang convinced him to 'merely' destroy the local military base, with a combination of flammable gas grenades and Radoslavs flames. After this was completed, they withdrew and were extracted.

                  Soon after, video of the team attacking and torturing the sniper was released; worse, it included their faces and the fact that they were clearly wearing UNICEF uniforms, resulting in the worst possible outcome for the mission: Aguda has now lost a major tool in stabilising the region, is aware - and has proof - of foreign military involvement, and has made this public. Clearly, sending a baseline sniper to kill a group of novas was not as foolish a decision as it appeared; the whole situation was a set-up.

                  Radoslav and Wolfgang have suffered loss of privileges, and remain under a strong cloud of suspicion. Radoslav especially, given his actions after being ordered to withdraw. They have been transferred to another unit within ESPER, with the leader of the unit having been made aware of their tendencies, and great care will be taken when deploying them in the future. Novas are a precious resource, and ESPER does not lightly discard them, but being uncontrollable makes them a liability, and ESPER has ways to control wayward novas...
                  Last edited by Allan53; 09-22-2015, 05:46 AM.


                  My Commandments for GMs My Commandments for Players

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                  • #10
                    I don't know how the players are getting by with it, but the sessions have made for interesting reading so far. I assume the party will be lifted out of Iprelia and the next session will begin elsewhere (if you don't choose to detail the extraction), so i'll curtail any further questions i have about that setting until it comes up again. I fully endorse the lethality of the play - but i hope the players who were put down weren't too frustrated. I've had parties fall into warring camps over much more petty divisions, so where you and your players go from here could be telling.
                    I still don't think you've given us a specific year this is occuring in, so can i assume this is the first state-sponsored Elite action to really make the news (if it isn't deftly intercepted) in your setting? I may be overlooking a canon event - i'm not confident enough on my Aberrant lore to say for certain.
                    Again, thanks for posting this and keep up the good work.

                    P.S. If you have the time and inclination - a simple cheat-sheet for your players by character would be helpful. An idea of their play-style and preferences would be illustrative, if the deaths keep coming this might be the better way to keep track of dynamics.
                    -shrug-

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                    • #11
                      I really don't like PC-on-PC violence or control, so I'm going to hold off on much detail here in the interests of maintaining ST neutrality, as I may find it difficult to describe things without even implicitly 'taking sides'. Suffice to say that the players of Radoslav and Wolfgang have a history of PC-killing or trying to control them in other games we've played in, and the player of Hyde has expressed frustration with this kind of playstyle previously. I say or imply nothing about their motivations or what their perspective is.

                      I'd be reluctant to do up the kind of cheat-sheet you describe for much the same reasons; it'd probably say more about my perceptions and biases than their actual styles or perceptions. Plus, I'm kind of enjoying the 'keeping it mostly in universe' thing; the odd meta-comment aside.

                      And yes, this video was the first of its kind to really get public notice, and the specifics of it did not make ESPER look good. I don't know how that runs with Aberrant lore either, but it will impact similar operations in the future. It's nominally set in 2000, however.

                      Radoslav and Wolfgang were transported out once they reached the extraction point over the northern border, so ask away.


                      My Commandments for GMs My Commandments for Players

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                      • #12
                        Fair enough, i'm not looking for gossip, just a framework to interpret player tension thresholds. But even that's a bit more than is prudent - in my defense, i've learned that the full story of a game can sometimes borrow from the players themselves.
                        -shrug-
                        I agree your narrative is better presented in-universe, ST anecdotes have their place, but don't present the story as cleanly.
                        Wow, 2000 is early. I played in an early years campaign once - there still aren't too many Novas out there at this point - the ESPER actions are going to be a big thing for geopolitics. Maybe big enough to spawn an international Project Utopia (or similar) even, but even the UN wasn't left clean in this clusterfuck.
                        What did you have prepared/in-place for a diplomatic approach to Iprelia? Who would the antagonists have been if Aguda was willing to sit down and talk rationally? Was the sniper an inevitable plot device or was it a reaction from Aguda to the PC behaviour? Who loses the most from Aguda's unhalted rise, are the funders of ESPER more imperiled than the nation of Algeria for instance? In other terms, where does Aguda go from here? His (frankly) simple strategy have served him surprisingly well in these early days post-N-Day, but without greater military power his options in north Africa are going to be limited. But, his paranoia has been confirmed in a most public display and he may become a strange symbol against unilateral state-nova actions in the world - if he can adapt to the role.
                        Will there be any further civil unrest in Iprelia if left alone by external forces? Will China or Russia be stepping in to take over mining rights, or will Iprelia attempt to keep it's crystal riches for it's own exploitation? Is Aguda smart enough to grow out of his back-water tyrant origins and remain a recurring threat to Wolfgang and Radoslav in games to come? How does ESPER come out of this excursion, do they lose authority, backing or just respect over these events? Were those executions legal, because that may be the only outright illegal action Aguda performed in the scenario (apart from the sniper)?
                        Surely ESPER wan't the only agency interested in this flashpoint - what kind of details might show up in well researched reports that you omitted here for various purposes? Just for a bigger picture. This event could potentially be a very important development for your world - the space is there for some interesting follow through. I'm not certain about state-funded nova armed forces in the core material - private Elites do most of the fighting and do so for extraordinairy paychecks as far as i remember. Government Militaries just don't budget for Elites in the early years at least - but i too could use support for my vague memory on the details. I seem to remember the Kashmir conflict doesn't begin for a couple more years in canon, but one-sided conflicts (with only one nova on one side) are occurring in the early 2000s here and there (i think Aguda fits right in).
                        -shrug-
                        One of us may have to read something.
                        -smile-

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                        • #13
                          Even presented neutrally, a lot of this comes off as red flags for me. I'm reasonable impressed you seem to have kept it in a cohesive narrative.

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                          • #14
                            Red flags make for the best narratives. Tough games, but good stories. I can still see a number of ways to balance things out - but Wolfgar is also right in some ways - some of this is very reminiscent of games that have fallen apart from player disagreements. Although i have been further over the edge and still rescued some semblance of party cohesion (some of my older gamers like a bit of PvP, i've found - probably because of the drama it helps create in the party - but they all know that it's a team game these days).
                            Anyway, while you're here Wolfgar, can you remember the first canon use of state sponsored elites in the lore? Since you seem to know the setting better than i, i've gathered.

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                            • #15
                              It's not a matter of knowing it better; it's a matter of having an extensive RPG collection that I literally sleep a foot away from.

                              Assuming you mean "elites" as in mercenaries, the very first appear to be the suppression of riots in DeBeers diamond mining interests in Namibia and Angola. Assuming you mean the first novas to work directly for a nation, that's trickier.

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