Monday, August 18, 2014

GenCon GM report 1: Dread

Thank you to everyone who came by and bought a copy of Bunny Money Gunny at GenCon! The game got a lot of positive feedback, and I'll be announcing its future soon.

The President tries to start a nuclear war ...

In between hustling my own game, I ran a few RPGs for Games on Demand. The first was on Saturday, when we played a round of Dread: Cold War edition. My notes are a bit sketchy, but I'll try to give game mechanics in [brackets] to the best of my memory. A "pull" is to remove one block from the tower, a "no pull" is a choice to give up rather than risking having to make a pull.

Our cast of characters was:

  • The President: Harrison Ford, an actor-turned politician with secret Communist sympathies
  • The General: Isaac Westin, an ex-hippie who moved up the ranks by exploiting his contacts on the enemy side to which he was feeding classified information
  • The Journalist: Levar Burton, who witnessed the president kill a man in cold blood years ago
  • The CIA Agent: Nathan Malcolm Reynolds, a double agent protecting these great United States of America
  • The Groundskeeper: Joe Young, who gave the family fortune to his disabled sister
  • The Hippie: Wall Flower, a member of the peace movement with a "nuts not nukes" agenda

The story began with the Hippie protesting outside the gates of Camp David. When some mechanical noises interrupt the chirping of birds and rustling of leaves, she goes to investigate [pull]. She finds that several armored military vehicles painted with a hammer and sickle had driven up the access road to Camp David. She goes back to warn the guards at the gate that the communists were coming -- to which the guard dismissively replies "you're already here."

... and the Journalist tries to stop it.

The CIA Agent happens by at this moment, and since the Hippie had been a reliable informant in the past, he instructs the guards to let the hippies inside [pull], and goes to find the President.

Meanwhile, the Journalist had been waiting outside the command center bunker for hours for a scheduled interview with the President. A panicked staffer bursts out of the command center and asks the Journalist to help her find the President, because there was an emergency phone call. The Journalist, CIA Agent, and staffer all discover the President [pull] out walking his dog (a big shaggy dog named Chewie). They return to the bunker, where the President is told by the top Admiral back in Washington that Soviet nuclear submarines had slipped through the US's defenses and appeared outside five major cities -- New York, Los Angeles, Baltimore, -- and the line goes dead. The President takes a big swig from his father's lucky silver flask, but not an incapacitating one [pull].

The Groundskeeper catches sight of a helicopter painted with a hammer and sickle descending over one of the fields, where the General was relaxing. The Groundskeeper turns on the sprinklers just in time for the helicopter door to open [pull]. Six Soviet soldiers and a man in a suit with a giant briefcase emerge and immediately get soaked. The Hippie sees the helicopter as well, and slips away from the detention cell at the guard station [pull] to come to the field.

When the President, CIA Agent, and Journalist arrive, they are addressed by the man in the suit. He says he has come to make a deal. If the US agrees to immediately withdraw all of its troops from abroad and dismantle its nuclear arsenal, he will call the submarine captains on his giant Cold-War-era satellite phone and give them the secret code to call off their attack. But if the submarines don't receive the code from him in one hour, they will nuke five American cities.

The President turns to the General and asks "We can spare five cities, right?" The CIA Agent sounds the alarm [pull], calling all support staff to hide in the command bunker. The Hippie comes out of the woods (not wanting to be shot by jittery Soviet soldiers [no pull]), and is hustled of to the bunker by the Secret Service [no pull].

Meanwhile, the Groundskeeper sneaks around back of the helicopter [pull] and gets in through the door on the far side. Finding the controls similar to his riding mower [pull], he takes off and hovers several yards in the air above the Soviets.

The President and the General initially decide to threaten a nuclear counterstrike. The General finds the Big Red Button [pull], which is attached to its own satellite phone connection. The CIA Agent quickly talks them into an alternative plan. His files show [pull] that the Soviet leader who is here is Alexei Dmitrovich, a dedicated Party man who has two adult sons and an estranged wife living in Leningrad. If they can get the phones reconnected, he can have his agents in Russia kidnap the Soviet leader's family to use as leverage.

The Journalist volunteers to help, as he has extensive skills with electronics and computers. He and the CIA Agent manage to sneak out of Camp David [pull] and find the cut telephone wires right under the noses of the troops in the armored vehicles, who are distracted doing the crossword puzzle in the back of Pravda [pull]. They reconnect the phones [pull].

Returning to Camp David, the CIA Agent calls his contacts [pull], and in 15 minutes they have Dmitrovich's three family members [three pulls] in custody.

Meanwhile, the support staff in the security bunker is rife with rumors about what's going on. The emerging consensus is that the President is a Communist agent, and that he's meeting with a Soviet leader to sell out the USA. They whip themselves into a frenzy and find an unlocked weapons cabinet to arm themselves [pull]. The Hippie makes her case to the army Private [pull] and Secret Service agent [pull] guarding the bunker, the latter of whom recalls that he did see a book by a "Marx" on the President's bedside table. They all march toward the field. The secret service agent convinces his counterpart guarding the President to join the rebellion as well {pull].

The General decides he wants to cut a deal with the Soviets while they wait for confirmation of the CIA's capture of the Soviet leader's family. He approaches the Soviets, carrying the Big Red Button. He gives them the password he used to use in his days feeding intel to the enemy [failed pull -- tower collapses]. Unfortunately the Soviets mis-hear him, and so they shoot him dead.

The Soviet leader announces that he has changed the terms of the deal. Because the General tried to assault them and a team of crack commandos has apparently stolen their helicopter, they demand that the US give up Alaska as well in order to call off the nuclear attack. The CIA Agent makes a counter-offer: Call off the attack, or we will execute your family. The Soviet leader decides that while he could spare his ex-wife, his sons have promising careers ahead of them [pull]. So he agrees to call off the attacks -- if he can get through in time, as the hour is nearly up.

He calls the sub in New York in time [pull]. He calls the sub in Los Angeles in time [pull]. He calls the sub Baltimore in time [pull]. He calls the sub in New Orleans in time [pull].

At this moment, the Groundskeeper decides to try to land the helicopter [failed pull -- tower collapses]. Unfortunately for him, landing is harder than taking off. While swerving to try to avoid landing on the Soviet soldiers, the helicopter unbalances and crashes into the ground, killing him. The main rotor breaks off and comes tumbling toward the Soviet leader, who is dialing the last sub, outside Houston. The CIA Agent sacrifices himself [deliberately knocking over the tower] to push the Soviet leader to safety, and he makes the call in time [pull].

The President now decides he doesn't trust the Soviets, and that he should launch a preemptive nuclear strike anyway. He slips away from the staff mob [pull] and grabs the Big Red Button from the General's corpse. The Journalist spots him and dives in to stop him. [Because the tower had just been reset and this was the climactic moment, I had the President and Journalist simply play Jenga until one of them toppled the tower.] In the end, the Journalist seized control of the Big Red Button and removed the President and General's activation keys, averting nuclear war. The President's malfeasance had now been amply documented, and he was sure to be impeached.

No comments:

Post a Comment