Actual Play - [Hot War] Indie Edinburgh

Posted by: Gregor Hutton On: Nov 12th 2010 edited

Hey, everybody.

Just a short note to say that we're starting a short-arc Hot War game in Edinburgh tonight. We're hoping for three or four sessions.

Anyway, Malcolm is running the show and we've got Per, Pooka, me and (newly in town) Ed Lynden-Bell up for playing it.

I'm looking forward to this one and we'll post how it goes here.

Posted by: Per Fischer On: Nov 13th 2010

Oh, yes! Pooka couldn't make it, so we were four of us.

The set-up was very promising - in about three hours we got three solid characters, a nice web of NPCs and opposition, and established some interesting stuff about "The Event".

Personally I didn't have a clue what kind of character I wanted to play, but ended up with the MI6 agent Sebastian Somerset (b 1923). Looking forward to that.

I'm sure Malcolm will chime in with the setup from his perspective, and then we can talk a bit about the different characters.

I re-read Hot War up to the game session - it's a great read, really inspiring!


Posted by: Gregor Hutton On: Nov 13th 2010

I think Malcolm is going to be dropping by with some notes.

I'll just say that we all failed our introduction scenes, so it was Negative Traits all round. I think it's set a suitably grim tone for the forthcoming game, and thrown in a lot of colour (shadow monsters, frozen train tracks, disappearing trains, interrogations of mysterious Russians).

We've got a pretty tight group of PCs, some meaty NPCs weaved into our Relationships and some interesting Agendas for kicking things into gear.

Posted by: Malcolm Craig On: Nov 14th 2010

It's great to start playing Hot War again, especially a game that's going to last more than one session. From the GM point of view, the characters and situation have given me lots of stuff to riff off and use to create and appropriately exciting game.

The characters are an interesting group: Captain Charles 'Snowy' White, an ex-paratrooper (Gregor); William 'Jack' Hitchin, a slightly sleazy spiv and black marketeer; and Sebastien Somerset, a mysterious intelligence agent. The character relationships and connections to the situation have thrown up an intriguing range of NPCs that promise to make things 'interesting'.

I won't give the full rundown on the characters at the moment, but here's what we came up with for situation creation:

Tone: British catastrophe, influenced by Day of the Triffids, Edge of Darkness, and Children of Men. A 'Keep Calm and Carry On' kind of feeling, people still queue politely for things. There will be no US cavalry riding to the rescue.

What are the characters doing?: Investigating the black market, missing items of twisted technology (involving time and space, weather alteration, etc): who sold them (perhaps traitors within the SSG, Government, and military?)

Who are the antagonists?: Gangsters/black marketeers (The Krays?); Traitors; The Devices (maybe the tech is somehow sentient?); The faction that is trying to buy stolen tech (French refugee groups?).

Who else is involved?: Sir Frank Symonds (seconded from the War Office, now in the SSG, senior to the characters); Marina Hitchin (Williams wife, disappeared); Ricky Scott (gangster, brother in law of Marina Hitchin); Lt. Col. Anthony Pierce (young officer, in charge of a refugee camp); Bernard Jones (union organiser, trying to buy something?).

Black & white photos:
Per: An Eastern European looking city, Orthodox religious building the background, young Sebastien in civilian clothes, kneeling on ground, Russian soldier pointing gun at his head.
Gregor: A pub, 'The Red Lion', glass hanging in the air, flames shooting out of windows and doors, group of people shielding themselves for explosion, figure jumping out of window, confusion.
Ed: A canal towpath leading into a pitch dark tunnel, peoples sitting around shivering.

I'll post up some further thoughts and notes on the experience scenes that took place later on.


Posted by: Per Fischer On: Nov 21st 2010

The first game session got well underway - I really enjoyed it.

Malcolm dropped us straight in at the deep end and set the first scene where the three of us were chasing someone outside the ruins of St Paul's. He then looked at me and said "Who is it?"

OK, that kind of game. I like it! I wasn't exactly prepared for that, but managed to come to my senses and come up with something vaguely interesting. We were chasing a young guy who beat it when we were asking him questions on the street, and we caught up with him to get some answers.
Malc kept us on our toes by simply omitting "empty" or pointless scenes, even though most scenes in Hot War are at the request of the players. I guess some people don't like games where scenes can escalate very quickly into conflicts, but I prefer that to be honest, and this was certainly the case here. All three player characters very quickly became embroiled in a web of stuff that was a mixture of job related and personal things.

The big drama scene of the night took place down at the SSG's HQ (in a disused tube station), where Somerset and Hitchin came by to hand in their daily reports. Suddenly the temperature outside and especially inside dropped radically and fast. Think instant frost and people dropping from hypothermia at the spot. Somerset and Hitchin managed to get sweeped away by the general panicking and went deeper into the tube station while everyone else were evacuating the HQ. They quickly managed to find the source of the temperature drop, namely a black and ominously looking machine in crate (was it a crate?). People were lying frozen and dead on the platform and it kept getting colder.

Somerset is perhaps the brains of our small unit (he's got a solid education and 20 years of experience in the military intelligence service) and I decided to try and let him disarm the machinery in a true "cut the blue wire - no! the red!" moment. My only good roll of the night happened to be this one, fortunately, and the machine got shut off.

And somehow "reset" time to minutes before the incident.

This could be good.

Posted by: Malcolm Craig On: Nov 21st 2010

From my point of view, it was actually quite unusual dropping back into a game that requires a strong GM role (especially a game of my own devising!) Most stuff I've played recently has been GM-free or very light touch GMing, so this is something a bit different.

There was a definite attempt on my part to bring in the relationships and issues of the character in a very direct way right at the start. Something that didn't come out of that was the use of hidden agendas. Which is an instructive experience. I guess the groundwork that has been set up in this session will facilitate the hidden agendas coming in in a very forceful manner over the upcoming sessions.

Of the list of bangs I had written down for the characters, I used four character-specific ones, which was less than expected. Maybe the frenetic pace might slacken a little over the next session as we move more deeply into the story. From a personal point of view, I enjoyed the gradual evolution of relationship and hierarchy between the characters. For example, White (Gregor) as a military man, always addressing Somerset (Per) a civilian, as 'sir'. An interesting little dynamic developing there.


Posted by: Gregor Hutton On: Jan 7th 2011

And we were playing again last night.

Some success for Ed and me early on, while Per seemed to fail more. In the end, though, Per had narrow success when it mattered while Ed and I got thumped by a 6-success loss to some twisted tech we were drunkenly meddling with. Ed's Jack Hitchin has reached an Insight Crisis Point while I've lost my +3 Relationship to Vera. Not to mention the hundreds of dead and frozen bodies we've inadvertently caused on the streets of London. Oh, we've also disappeared in time and space for a week leaving Per's Sebastian Somerset to cover for us with the boss.

Posted by: Malcolm Craig On: Jan 7th 2011

Hurrah and so forth. After quite a spell away from the table, we finally (as Gregor has already noted) managed to find a mutually agreeable time to start playing again.

The game began with an extended series of scenes - group and individual - at Victoria station, where coal is brought in to London from the Kent coalfields. Internees and refugees are the brute labour for this, overseen by Army and Paratroops under the command of Lt. Col. Pierce. It's a fairly harsh place, as might be imagined. The troops don't hesitate to shoot kids attempting to steal a few lumps of coal from the 'yard' in front of the station.

This type of situation - commonly seen on the streets of the London - coupled with the overall degradation and decay, was counterpointed by two scenes involving Somerset. One took place in a black market 'restaurant' round the corner from Down Street (HQ of the SSG) as Somerset attempted to 'romance' Miss Cornwell, secretary of senior SSG figure Sir Frank Symonds. The second such scene took place in an exclusive club (the former Reform Club on Pall Mall, actually) where senior government and military figures smoked, drank, and ate in an atmosphere that ignored the situation they were. Coming through the doors was to step back in time, to the pre-war period. Somerset at least had the decency to find it jarring and uncomfortable.

There seems to be a developing division (maybe?) within the team. Somerset has become very involved in the political machinations between high-ranking figures. White and Hitchin have taken on the role of investigating the mysterious technology.

As Gregor pointed out, these investigations had disastrous results. Drunken meddling with devices you don't really understand is probably not a good idea. And even worse idea when the GM rolls so well he ends up with six successes. Catastrophe! Oh, and while White and Hitchin were 'elsewhere' due to the effects of the machine, Somerset tried to find them. But his map simply didn't relate to the situation on the ground. Streets that should have been half a mile apart led straight in to each other. There was a gap in London where entire neighbourhoods should have been. All centered on the flat of Vera Drake.

There were some good uses of Hidden Agendas during the game and it's nice to see that start to ramp up a little.


Posted by: Per Fischer On: Jan 7th 2011

Nothing much to add - very enjoyable session indeed.

I do like the way Somerset, in a way by merely investigating the case combined with pursuing his two agendas, is getting drawn into a web of politics and stuff beyond his grasp. His backstory was that he was "dumped" into the SSG as a demotion, or at least because of problems with his boss in SIS, Sir MacAlphine, so it all makes sense that he's looking for some way to redeem himself, or even get back at MacAlphine.

Posted by: Gregor Hutton On: Jan 15th 2011

This week saw Somerset get himself more embroiled in the petty politics of the folks upstairs. He lost a critical roll with Frank Symonds' secretary (the enigmatic Ms Cornwell) and while she's given him the files he wanted, she's now got a relatioship with him (which means more dice when she wants him to do things for her).

Elsewhere Ed and I have been playing catch-up after our one-week time-rift experience. Ed had his crisis point scene and is now back up to 1Insight (having lost his black market contacts trait). I managed to recover Corporal Robinson from the brubby mitts of the Krays with a fantastic 3-success roll (against stiff opposition). We've now got the dots joined between the Lt Col at Victoria, the Krays (Reggie in particular) and the death of the SSG operative we're investigating.

The session ended with the Paras trying to take our star witness off us. The Lt Col was able to get past Sebastian's (Influence) bluffing but the follow-on (Action) chase was a victory for me and Ed, leading to the Lt Col losing his relationship over Sebastian and being Locked into "Inexperienced Leader".

Ed, me and the witness live to fight another day.

Oh and Sebastian rescued the Device from the mud flats. At the cost of shooting a young mudlark. All very grubby.

Sebastian's attitude (and those of the other people in power) make our low-life criminal types (Ed's Hitchin) and former-military murderers (my Snowy White) look saintly in comparison!

Things are coming to a head. Maybe I will have my revenge on the gangsters after all.

Posted by: Malcolm Craig On: Jan 15th 2011

Where to begin? There was a lot went on in this session. Murder, conspiracy, moments of black farce - for me this was the most enjoyable session yet.

Two of the characters became complicit in murder (or, all of them were complicit if you count the awful results of the machine tampering that were recounted last week) in different, but equally awful ways. As Gregpr commented, Somerset was attempting to find 'the machine' after Vera dragged it to the river and threw it in, just wanting it out of her flat. The casing was being battered by a bunch of scruffy mudlark kids and Somerset instructed Corporal Fairfax to retrieve the box. Fairfax delegated his only subordinate, Private Larkin, to wade out into the mud, shoo away the kids and drag the box back. The kids started battering Larkin, causing Somerset to fire his revolver in the air, to little effect. "That's not the way to do it...sir." commented Fairfax. Somerset turns his back, lights a fag, shots ring out, and a child is dead. They then have to wade out into the mud and rising tide to rescue Larkin and the box.

Gregor's 3-success conflict against two thugs beating up Robinson was a pretty remarkable episode. Fairly brutal as well.

I really should scan the character sheets and post them up here. They're an interesting commentary on the characters themselves. Ed and Gregor have filled their sheets with scribbles, little drawings, shadows, and lines. Per has left his blank, entirely appropriate for a cipher like Somerset. Maybe it's just because Ed and Gregor like sketching, but I thought it all somehow fitted.


Posted by: Gregor Hutton On: Mar 22nd 2011

For those keeping score we finished.

Ed, Per and I each completed one Agenda (a 5 for Per and Ed, a 3 for me).

Ed has gone back in time and saved his wife, I've gone forward in time and lost an arm. Per has killed his boss and gone back to SIS.

I think we could play with these characters again, and without the crutch of the SSG. We've now got intertwined stories. In fact, the SSG might be a foe if we played again...

Malcolm will have some analysis no doubt.

I have pics of the character sheets too. I will try and get them online.

Posted by: Per Fischer On: Mar 24th 2011

This was great, I really enjoyed it. One of the highlights was the big "AHA!" session where I got the chance to make some surprising connections (due to winning a conflict) between NPCs.

I really really liked my character as well - he was fucked from the outset and even more fucked afterwards - very fulfilling!

Posted by: Brian Ashford On: Mar 30th 2011

Sounds like an awesome game, if you are looking for another player next time give me a shout!

How many sessions did it run to in the end?

Posted by: Gregor Hutton On: Mar 31st 2011

I think it was 6 sessions (!) in the end, including character generation. I'm sure we finished over two sessions in March.

1: Char Gen + Intro Scenes (Nov 12)
2: Finding the device in the underground station locker (Nov 18)
3: Being drunkenly zapped Out-Of-Time (Jan 5/6)
4: Escaping the Paras (Jan 12/13)
5: Getting a mob together (Mar 9)
6: Short ending session with critical conflicts (Mar 16)

Your interest is noted!

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