Actual Play - [Hot War] Victory Girls

Posted by: Malcolm Craig On: Jun 7th 2010

At Games Expo 2010 in Birmingham, I got to facilitate a session of Hot War, using situation and characters created by Scott Dorward. Scott has a formidable reputation for facilitating great sessions of convention play and had been a tirelessly loyal supporter of Hot War. I was therefore very excited to use one of his setups.

'Victory Girls' features the death of John Profumo (via the means of a disturbing, artificially created, and extremely nasty sexually transmitted bioweapon), internecine warfare between Special Branch and the SSG, prostitution, human trafficking, brutal experimentation, and genuine human drama. Before I get into this, I need to apologise to any of the players if they are reading this: I completely forgot to take a note of your names. If you are reading, please do let me know your name and which character you played!

The characters, a Frenchman now an officer in the British Army, an aristocratic lady determined to shut down the internment camps, a conflicted boffin from the British Experimental Rocket Group, and an ambitious police officer, all had huge numbers of hooks right from the start, which was great. Early on in play, the players really grabbed the power and story potential of the Hidden Agendas, which was great. Scott had written the characters with some of their HA boxes already filled, which made it eminently possible that agendas could be completed within the short session. And lo and behold, three agendas (from three different characters) were completed.

The completed agendas were:

Laurent Boutin (Frenchman, British Amy officer) completed his personal agenda to gain citizenship for his daughter, Sophie. When the player discovered that Boutin's daughter had been trafficked to work in the Caligula Club (a brothel), he played the character really well, morphing him from a quite modest, but suspicious, person, into a terribly angry, vengeful person. The final scene for this agenda also drew on a lot of the fiction that had been established during the session.

Virginia Carville-Hume (aristocratic lady) managed to disgrace and destroy the political career of her ex-husband Jeremy Hythe. The player really got into this, driving toward the completion of the agenda throughout play. Drawing on one of the character traits ('I know all the right people'), we had a scene where she brings Hythe's 'indiscretions' to the attention of the Prime Minister. Needless to say, the PM is not too happy. The resolution was narrated as Hythe's disgrace, dismissal from cabinet, and eventual suicide by drowning.

Finally, Nigel Pryce (the damaged boffin) completed his factional agenda, which was to cover up BERG involvement in the horrific experiments being conducted at Summerhill internment camp. This actually engendered a great discussion about how this would apply in the fiction, as the agenda was completed before the denouement of the game. The discussion was valuable and allowed me to emphasise that once a fictional truth had been established, other people shouldn't try to destroy that truth in future play. So, while the events at Summerhill were eventually exposed, and blame apportioned, BERG got away scot-free.

There were some standout scenes that really stick in my mind:

Through conflict, Detective Inspector Bland of Special Branch (who was portrayed from the start as a fairly nasty antagonist) was revealed to be a repressed homosexual. There was a brief chat about the situation homosexuals found themselves in during Britain of the early 1960s (with 'homosexual acts' only being decriminalised in 1967) and how the situation would likely have continued into the post-nuclear war environment. This led to a thread in the story that continued throughout the game, creating an interesting sub-theme.

The disgrace of Jeremy Hythe, which has already been discussed. As have the scenes relating to the transformation of Boutin when he discovered his daughter's situation.

Bert Lively (the ambitious copper) and his interactions with brothel Madame Annalise, whom he used to have a relationship with. There was some great characterisation here and a deepening of Lively's character, showing his dalliances on the wrong side of the law. This also led into a confrontation with Boutin, which had one of the few moments in the game where firearms were displayed.

The game also highlighted a few things that made me pause and reflect. First off was a situation where the opposition in a conflict (me) was reduced to a single die. On rolling, it came up a ten. The opposition (rolling about ten dice) also had a ten as their highest number, removing my die. Effectively, this meant that all of the remaining dice were successes. Now this is an extreme situation that I can't see coming up very often, but it was interesting and one that I had never encountered before. It also made me realise that the text does not explicitly say that the minimum number of dice you can roll is one. That needs to be in the text, otherwise people might assume you can have zero dice, handing the opposition an unrolled, massive victory. I'll add a line to the next printing of the game text to rectify this.

In fictional terms, the game didn't dwell overmuch on the detail of the post-apocalyptic environment. In fact, it was one of the least post-apocalyptic games of Hot War I've played. And this was no bad thing. It allowed the juxtaposition of government attempting to carry on as normal with the horrors of what had happened. We also saw an idyllic English country cottage contrasted with a brutal internment camp regime. The game was very much focused on the situation and characters, rather than the fictional setting. The setting was valuable, and drove stuff in play, but it wasn't front and centre.

Overall, I had great fun with Victory Girls. The players were really invested in the game and brought huge amounts of enthusiasm and inventiveness to the table. There were elements in the play notes that weren't used, elements that were superseded by the evolving fiction. This is another great thing about the game creation process in Hot War: you get good starting situation that really gives individual groups the freedom to make their own individual mark on the story.

If any of the players are reading this: I'd really love to hear from you and get your own thought on the game. I'm sure there will be some stuff that differs greatly from what I've said above. Any thoughts, comments, questions or opinions from anyone reading this, would be great.


Posted by: Gregor Hutton On: Jun 8th 2010 edited

Hey, quick question: is there any thought to making this a couple of dollars PDF on RPGnow or something?

I liked the Demo Pack (and for free!) but I would pay a couple of bucks for this adventure if it looked as nice as the Demo Pack.

Posted by: Malcolm Craig On: Jun 8th 2010

The same questions seem to be asked on the UKRPG forums as well!

Scott's pre-generated game situations and characters do ave real punch, everyone who has played in his games have lauded the drive and energy that his ideas bring to the table. Luckily, we've reached an agreement with Scott that allows us to publish four of his excellent conventions games.

Next month see's the release of Issue 1 of the Hot War Transmission, a quarterly micro-supplement for Hot War. The first issue is, appropriately enough, dedicated to the works of NIgel Kneale, the late, great creator of such classics as the Quatermass series and The Stone Tape.

Each issue is going to feature a selection of articles, useful game ideas, and a complete pre-created game situation with characters by Scott. The first issue will contain the Nigel Kneale inspired 'The New Covenant', with future issues featuring 'Things Fall Apart', 'Kitchen Sink Drama', and, of course, 'Victory Girls'.

Issue 1 will be free to download, while subsequent issues will be $3 in PDF format from Indie Press Revolution, Drive Through RPG, and RPGnow.

So, I hope this meets the need for access to the great stuff that Scott has written. I think The Transmission will be really useful to people looking for further inspiration for games of Hot War. Not only will it have Scott's stuff, each issue will also be packed with other things.


Posted by: David On: Jun 8th 2010

Picked up a copy of Hot War at the Games EXPO, was too tired to read it Sunday after the long drive back to Scotland but have been reading it today and really cannot wait to either play or run it as GM. I love the whole premise of story and character driven elements for an RPG this is absolutely what I want. Looking forward to the quarterly for it.

Many thanks

Posted by: KWales On: Jun 8th 2010 edited

Gregor Hutton:Hey, quick question: is there any thought to making this a couple of dollars PDF on RPGnow or something?

I liked the Demo Pack (and for free!) but I would pay a couple of bucks for this adventure if it looked as nice as the Demo Pack.

That's exactly what I was hoping, I would quite happily pay for this I'm certainly interested. Also annoyed I missed out as I couldn't make the expo.

Posted by: Malcolm Craig On: Jun 10th 2010

I'm as keen as anyone to see Scott's stuff out there, which is exactly why I asked if he would let us use his con game stuff in the Transmission. Paul is currently working on some of the graphical elements for the first issue: posters, memos, reports, and all that good in-game stuff that you'll be familiar with from the Hot War book. Hopefully the first issue will show the quality that can be expected and give people the reassurance that future issues will be worth paying money for.


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