GenCon 2002 was a blitz of Science Fiction based demos for me and this was no exception. The setting was a gritty, post apocalyptic world with pockets of intense radiation scattered throughout the city. The imagery was very Judge Dredd. The situation was to be one of rival gangs battling for control of the city. In an interesting twist, 2 Rules Gimmicks came up right in the preparation phase. First each player (there were 4 of us) would be responsible for detailing 1 gang during set-up. Second, each gang was to have a leader, and the leaders were to be former friends, who were unable to confront each other directly but only through agents like the gangs they controlled. The sense was that these leaders were somehow larger than life and the gangs themselves were just tools they used to strike at each other. A very cool concept. Unfortunately being a demo it was one we didn’t get to explore in detail and only 1 of the 4 leaders even got created.
The last gang to get created wound up being the focal point for the session so I’ll detail it first. They were the Post-Messianics. A religious cult who believed the second coming of Christ had already occurred and those who were to be saved in the Rapture had already departed. They believed they were truly living in apocalyptic times and that the people who were left were those that got left behind to suffer. They blamed technology heralding in the end times, destroying peoples faith and opening the door for the antichrist. They were essentially militant, hyper violent Luddites, destroying technology wherever it was found.
Their headquarters was in the middle of a radiation zone. They, having repudiated all science and knowledge, had no concept of this, but knew that in certain areas they got sick (from the radiation). Their headquarters housed a holy idol which protects the cultists from the sickness as long as they are near its vicinity. They believed it to be a divinely powered artifact, but in reality it was a high tech detoxifier and radiation dampening device. In other words…technology.
The next most important gang to the session was an Akira-style biker gang of mercenaries and bounty hunters. Part of this gang was a group of Juicer Ninjas, assassin/infiltrators hyped up on reflex stimulants and combat drugs. They were designed as a Master Component with the Traits of: Stealthed Bikes, Drug Enhanced Reflexes, Laser Edged Weapons, Built in Radio Chips, and Chameleon Suit. As part of a challenge over how powerful these guys were it was decided that they had limited irreplaceable numbers (100). However, the high tech components that made them up were recyclable and if recovered could be implanted in a new ninja.
The first gang created were an organization of serial killers and murderers. They had fully renounced God. Not that they didn’t believe in him, their attitude was “screw-him” and they were dedicated to opposing all facets of Christian morality. They had no role in the session we played, but their leader was the enigmatic, and mysterious, Red Dragon. He was later revealed to be the secret leader of the Juicer Ninjas.
The gang I created was “The Law”. A group of heavily armored and equipped, very Judge Dredd-like law enforcement officers who patrolled the twisted streets of the city as best as they are able.
The first scene of the game had the bikers out stirring up trouble with random acts of violence as a distraction while a team of Juicer Ninjas infiltrated the cultists headquarters to steal their holy idol (leaving them at the mercy of the radiation). They had timed the raid perfectly, to a time when virtually all of the cultists were away, and so the HQ was virtually empty. What they did not know (because another player introduced it) was that the reason the cultists were absent is because they were out raiding the various supplies of juicer drugs cached around the city, destroying most of them and replacing select amounts with caustic acid.
They also did not know that the holy idol had been booby trapped. While trying to remove the central icon (a small key component of the device) one of the juicers fell into a pit of fire, where he was vaporized by his own flammable chemicals. The last two juicers used their acrobatic reflexes to leap over the pit and take the icon, but alarms were sounding and both the cultists and the law were on the way.
In the second scene the cultists returned to discover the icon missing. The Law was already on location, and the cultists blamed them for the theft. The Law Troopers were unaware of the cultists closing in as they patrolled the neighborhood in their armored squad car. Their infrared sensors detected the stealthed ninjas leaping from roof top to roof top. With a warrant to kill all juicers on sight the troopers opened fire; one manning a mini gun mounted on the roof and the other with an assault rifle behind an open squad car door. With automatic shells chewing up the roof tops the ninjas resorted to amazing feats of aerobatics to dodge the bullets. Ultimately they were cut down dropping the icon into a dark crevice…but not before one of the ninjas managed to radio back the precise location of both the icon and their bodies. Meanwhile the cultists, armed only with knives and pipes had encircled the occupied troopers and proceeded to bludgeon them to death destroying the squad car and all gear. They never knew the ninjas had the icon to begin with and, since they were stealthed, hadn’t seen them on the roof; and so fanned out to look for the icon. The only other witness to the location of the icon was a strange feral child, known as Wolf Boy, who hung around the neighborhood and had been hitching a ride on the back of the squad car.
At this point we called the demo. The Ninjas were sending reinforcements to get the icon, the cultists were out in force trying to recover it and The Law had a full assault team on the way as back-up. Ultimately though, we felt it was probably the secretive and, as yet unheard from, Red Scorpion who would probably wind up claiming the prize…but to what end.
Featured Element, Challenges:
This demo saw more Challenges than any other I ran at GenCon. This excited me because the players had pretty much figured out how Challenges would work before I’d even fully explained them. That speaks well for the intuitiveness of the mechanic.
The first thing to get Challenged was the Juicer Ninjas who were turning into an incredibly powerful force before anyone else had even begun to define such things. The Challenge involved their strength and if we really wanted to embark in what would amount to a Coin spending arms race between the gangs. In the end, this Challenge never went to bidding. A solution was negotiated whereby there was only a limited number of Ninja, & they were depended upon vulnerable supplies of drugs for much of their abilities. To mitigate these weaknesses somewhat, they were replaceable if the bodies could be recovered to recycle the technology.
The second Challenge involved the Red Scorpion as secret leader of the Ninjas. A player proclaimed the leader of one gang was the real power behind a large segment of another gang, this got Challenged quickly. This Challenge did go to bidding, and the Red Scorpion player won after Coins had been spent all around. The other two of us figured that not only would that be a great plot hook to introduce at some future time, but having a conflict like that could only result in a lot of dead ninjas.
The third Challenge involved me in control of the Law Troopers having just killed the two escaping ninjas. I spent Coins to describe how the mini gun had turned the ninjas to hamburger eliminating any possibility of them being recycled. This Challenge would have gone to bidding, but a straw poll indicated that all other players preferred to see the corpses left intact so they could be the focus of a rescue attempt. Faced with such a coalition, I withdrew my Challenge before wasting Coins on one I couldn’t win.