Saturday, October 13, 2018

Ensemble Casts, & Proactive vs. Reactive in Solo RPG's

Ensemble Cast
Since it's October, and Halloween is just around the corner, my thoughts usually turn to Horror this time of year (not that they every really stray too far from it to begin with...).

When my thoughts turn to horror (gaming) I invariably get back around to pondering one of my favorite sub-gene's of horror: The Slasher Movie. I've pondered over how to run one of these as a successful Solo venture before, and have been doing so again as of late.

I'd come up with what I think may be a solution to some of the issues I've foreseen when I got side-tracked last night by Netflix's release of their new series "The Haunting of Hill House" which led me to one of the OTHER sub-genre's I brood over when this mood comes around: The Haunted House, which I'd also like to run.

The ensemble cast of 1963's "The Haunting", the great adaptation of "The Haunting of Hill House"

The solution I've come up with addresses some problems that I now realize BOTH have in common. One is Ensemble Casts. It's a subject I've discussed in the past when trying to figure out to run a "Star Trek" thing. I'll get that in a bit, as it's something I want to discuss at length, all on its own.

But the one that really hit me today when considering both sub-genres alongside each other is THIS: Proactive vs Reactive in Solo RPG's, which is what inspired me to post in the first place. In the past I've discussed a bit about how I thought "mission oriented" RPG's were much easier to run Solo. I realize now what I was struggling to articulate in that view is The Difference Between Proactive and Reactive in RPG's.

That is to say: Proactive would be the so-called "mission oriented" RPG's I mentioned earlier. They give you a goal, someplace to go, and something to do. On the other hand a Reactive one would be one where you wait for things to happen, then you respond accordingly.

The latter of the two are the ones I've struggled with. In order to make Reactive games work you have to have something to react TO. The only way I've ever solved this problem was content generators. Lots and lots of content generators.

It occurs to me as I write this that perhaps the main difference between Proactive and Reactive is the Proactive front-loads all your Random Content, whereas in Reactive you generate as you go, which means you need somewhere to go and something to do until then, since really PROACTIVE becomes REACTIVE to some extent once you start playing, as you roll new terrain, random encounters and so on.

All of this talk of Proactive vs. Reactive might be apropos of nothing, but I do think it is important, and somewhat instructive, to think about which structure the type of game or genre you're thinking of has, so as to look ahead to what some of your needs are going to be.

I think one of the things I've always struggled with in Reactive-type games is: Who is my character? Where am I going? What am I doing? I always likened it to wanting to have no more knowledge than the character. That is to say: the teens in a Slasher Movie don't KNOW they're in a Slasher Movie. The people that move into a Haunted House don't KNOW they're in a Haunted House Movie. Until all the fun starts. I'd like to be as surprised as they are.

I haven't solved that one. Without LOTS of purpose designed random tables (that STILL might produce results that didn't fit well together) the only option I can see right now is deciding what kind of "movie" you're making ahead of time and casting accordingly? At the least you might have to have some kind of random generation of "Who" and "Where" which might suggest (or let something like "Mythic" generate suggestions for you) of the "What" and "Why"?

ANYHOW, the idea that I have is on a way to handle Ensemble Casts, and deal with the Where They're Going and What They're Doing questions to some extent. At least until the "fun" begins.

The idea was inspired by the RPG "The Final Girl". In that game, 3+ players each create 2-4 characters or so, writing them up on index cards, which are put into a "pool". No one owns the characters, but each scene each player picks a character to play for that scene. There are a number of Introduction Scenes where we get to know these characters and establish Connections between them.

I was thinking about how to convert this game to Solo when I had the following idea, for handling scenes with ensemble casts.:

  • CHARACTERS: Write each Characters name on an index card. You are either going to play all the Characters, or have one Main Character and play one of the "NPC's" in scenes that this character is not in, etc. If you choose a Main Character you can then pick one of the NPC's to be your next Character if that one dies, etc.
  • LOCATIONS: Decide if the game is going to take place over a wide area or a isolated location. These are where your scenes are going to take place, and write them down on cards. For example: if you decide your Slasher Movie is going to take place at  Summer Camp, you might write up the main rooms of the Lodge on separate cards (or make a little sub-table of rooms on a card that just says "Lodge"?), Lake, Woods, Council Fire, Boat Dock, Garage, Barn, etc.
  • SITUATION: Write up a number of cards with "Situations" typical to whatever type of "movie" you're playing. Continuing with out Slasher example, let's say: Sex, Drugs, Music, Booze, Dancing, Pranks, Spooky Story, Teasing, Banter, Quarrel, whatever tropes you want.
  • NOW:  each scene draw (X) number of Characters (dice for it or decide, whatever), a Location and a Situation. Your Characters and Location are self explanatory. The "Situation" is something that you introduce during the scene. Choose which character(s) the Situation apply to, and feel free to be as liberal in your interpretation as you like (i.e. if you draw "Sex", maybe you chose two characters who run off somewhere to "do it", maybe it's just innocent flirting, or maybe a Character lusts after someone who isn't even aware of their existence).

So there's the idea in a nutshell. I see it as a way to decide at least who's in the scene, where it takes place, and what their motivation is, until your Game Master Emulator of choice kicks in and the session "gets some legs" and  takes on a life of its own, and things start happening.



Thursday, October 4, 2018

Emma Drake, Agent 008, in "Russian Hellfire" (pt. 6 - Just the Mechanics) FINAL, AND FINAL THOUGHTS



So there is is, the big finale! If you've stuck with me this far I hope you enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed playing, and writing. Thanks you for sharing the journey. I appreciate it.

There's really not a lot going on, mechanically, in this session, since it's so combat heavy, other than "Mythic" questions like "Do I know the layout of the base?", "Do I know where (X) is?" (for communications, armory, etc.) With the "Chaos Factor" maxed out, you're going to get lots of positive answers, as the GM Emulator is attempting to shepperd you toward the climax.

Annuska's final refusal to leave was the result of another Altered Scene for rolling under the CF when starting a new scene (which I thought was going to be a getaway, an extraction, and who-knows-what next.) Whatever the result was, it fit with everything until now, and showed me how I could wrap this up, as I was ready by now for a conclusion.

I had been spending "Grit" steadily, trying to finish these guys off and complete the adventure. I decided if we were going to go with some big final assault that I needed a way to leverage the rules to gain "Advantage". Using the "Outgunned" rule from "Magnum Fury" seemed like a good way to accomplish that. I thought of how I could "Outgun" them & the rest fell in place.

I was down to 2 "Grit" when making the final run on base security. I decided I needed another advantage, so I used the "Smoldering" Talent to freeze the guys in the hallway in place while I took myself an Action Hero moment, strutting close enough like a sexy bad-ass so that their cover didn't cancel my "Outgunned" Advantage.

After that is just a couple more "Mythic" questions to confirm I'd found the brother, and that the extraction team showed up without any further complications.

I had a lot of fun with this adventure. What kicked it off was a hypothetical set-up of a big Action Movie set piece of a gun battle in the street with seven armed opponents (I rolled a d4 for each car, got a 3 & a 4...go figure!).

I wanted to see which set of rules could HANDLE this kind of Action. That was when I settled on "Magnum Fury". It let me do these big "one-versus-many" battles without worrying about getting my PC drilled full of holes. "Dogs of W.A.R." was another STRONG contender, but I felt like "Magnum Fury" did it even better.

It became really clear to me VERY quickly that even though I set out to do a "James Bond" thing, what I really must have wanted deep in my heart was a big, explosive Action Movie, with lots of guns, fighting, and action.  The movie "Atomic Blonde" was a big motivating factor in doing a Spy thing. If see (or have seen) it, you'll know what I mean.

I was still hoping things would let me assume some of the typical Bond trappings, such as fast cars, posh surroundings, elegance, beautiful clothes, seduction, stunning locations, Villains, etc, etc.

BUT, things just didn't seem to turn out that way. The narrative just didn't drive it so. Maybe next time. Or it could be that I'm just too "Murican" in my thinking. That I really don't have the right mindset or approach for the high class, super-spy genre. If that turns out to be the case, I'm ok with that too. Maybe the adventures of 008 end up more Bourne and less Bond than 007. I'm good with that too.

Part of it also most likely has to do with the fact that, by design, I started "in media res" with the action. Once I decided to continue and make this a "thing", and not just a hypothetical rules test, I was picturing it to be like the before credits cut scene of the Bond films. I didn't expect it to take on a life of its own and grow to become the whole adventure. But, again, so be it. I just followed where ever it led.

So in conclusion, once again I hope everyone enjoyed and/or found it instructional. Hopefully, 008 will return! 😊

Emma Drake, Agent 008 in "Russian Hellfire" (pt. 6) FINAL

Emma Drake took stock of her surroundings as they moved out. The place smelled of mildew and damp, and had an air of general disuse. Based on the construction style she recalled something Annuska said earlier and made a guess as to where they were. The abandoned airbase. She concentrated hard, trying to recall the details of various blueprints of enemy military installations she had studied as part of her training. When she had it, she overlaid the map in her consciousness like her own personal HUD and highlighted the area where the communications and radio equipment would be. "Come on, let's go" she said.

As they made their way through the corridors of the base, a red light began flashing and an alarm began a klaxon call, echoing through the empty corridors. "Come on. Hurry" she told the girl as they began moving faster.

She heard pounding feet ahead of her. She motioned Annuska down and flattened against the wall as a group of thugs came around the corner ahead. The pistol in her right hand began barking, deadly accurate fire punching them off their feet.

From behind the she heard another group running. She motioned the girl to get moving as the pistol in her left rose and began spitting hellfire, picking goons off as they came into view.

They rounded the corner and she motioned the girl to stay put as she kicked open a door inset in the wall of the corridor on the right. She rolled through the door as the startled radio operators began to rise. Some of them had been given just enough warning by the gunfire outside and had drawn weapons, but it didn't matter as she came up tracking left, both guns raised and issuing flame, making them into jerking and twitching puppets before they collapsed.

When the shots ended Annuska looked inside, and Drake motioned her in, "Watch the door." she told the pop star as she put on a set of headphones and began working the dials. Tuning into a certain frequency that she knew was monitored for agents in distress, she began repeating a specific set of code numbers and words, requesting a black-ops team and an evac ASAP. She knew there would be hell to pay, but there was no other option. This one had gotten too damn hot. Time to get out of the fire.

As she pulled the headphones off two gunmen suddenly popped through the door behind them. Annuska began firing wildly, keeping the gunmen moving as Emma dove out of her seat, rolling, coming up firing, blasting both of the thugs against the wall to slide down in a red smear.

Another appeared in the doorway as she tracked back, punching hot lead into him as well as she grabbed the girl and the ran out the door.

***

Calling again to mind her mental map, Emma backtracked a route through the base to the hanger where they would have parked on arrival. Her intention was to grab a vehicle and blast their way out to safety until the extraction team got there. But as they arrived, Tarasnova stopped running. Emma turned to look at her. "Mickhael," she said. Drake sighed, "Of course." Well, she had told the girl they would see to it. Maybe it had something to do with the fact she had nearly been the Tarasnova's executioner. That the Russians had almost used her as their unwitting pawn to do their dirty work. Whatever the case, she agreed.

Referring again to her mental blueprint, Emma realized that the room they had held them in was really just a converted storage room. Base security was on another part of the grounds. She had no way of knowing for sure, but it seemed likely they would use it for long term prisoner holding. Such an area was going to be, by design, harder to penetrate. They would need more firepower. Fortunately, 008 also knew where the armory was. Assuming it was still supplied. She had a feeling it would be.

***

If it had been a fully functional and staffed military installation it would have been much harder. Given that it was apparently being used covertly, and only manned by a skeleton crew, made it much more achievable. Shoot the locks off the door, clear the entrance, move, shoot, roll shoot, shoot, keep moving. Drake almost made it look effortless.

A half a dozen bodies later, she found what she was looking for. Racks of AK-47's. Crates of magazines. Ammunition. She even found crates of F1 hand grenades.

She took one of the AK's. Stacks of loaded magazines. A bandoleer to hold them. She cross slung a satchel opposite, resting on her left hip. This she filled with grenades. She told Annuska, "Start running. Count three, then hit the ground and cover your ears. I will be right behind you. I'll take the lead. You stay low, behind me, and to my left. You match my pace. If we take any return fire, you hit the ground. Got it?" the girl swallowed hard and nodded. "GO!" she told her, and the girl bolted.

Drake pulled the pins on two grenades and dropped them in the crate with the rest, then ran like hell. Four seconds later, as she dove into the dirt right behind Tarasnova a tremendous explosion shook the earth as fire and debris skyrocketed into the air and rained all around them.

008 sprang to her feet, pulling the girl up. They ran for cover. Time to put some distance between them and their distraction, while they went to find Annuska's brother.

***

They moved carefully. Methodically. Taking cover where possible. Moving quickly when in the open. There had been any number of men who had ran past them on the way to the conflagration that had erupted. None took notice as they hid. When they got close to base security they encountered their first armed patrol. Emma Drake made quick work of them, stitching them with a figure-eight of 7.62mm manglers. From there she moved in a low crouch and advanced on the building, sweeping left to to right and back again, firing short, efficient bursts whenever opposition showed itself. Kneeling, firing, crouching, advancing, dropping spent clips on the move, slamming fresh ones into position as she advanced.

A grenade took out the front door. Another tossed through for good measure took out any opposition.
They entered the blackened, smoking ruin of the front desk area. She rolled another grenade against the door leading back to processing, blasting it to splinters. A quick look was met by a fusillade of gunfire and Drake ducked back. She saw several goons. She didn't see anyone that wasn't armed. Another grenade rolled into the room cleared it of resistance.

The door at the opposite end of the room led back to interrogation rooms, and finally the holding cells. It was blown partially off its hinges by the last grenade blast. 008 and the girl flattened against the wall and she yanked it clear of the door frame. Multiple bursts of fire swarmed through the opening. She waited for a lull in the shooting, then fired a burst of suppression fire as she risked a quick glance around the door frame.

A long hallway with doors on both sides that opened into the interrogation rooms led back to the next door, which in turn led to holding. Men occupied positions of cover on both sides at intervals down the length of the corridor, who began returning fire again.

Drake had yet to see a sign of anyone who looked like civilian. She believed they would have Mickhael in one of the holding cells behind the next set of doors at the end of the corridor, so she felt safe in risking another grenade. She didn't believe it would take them out. They were too scattered, and had some measure of shelter, but it would cover her advance and provide a good shock-and-awe factor.

She fired a long burst of covering fire from the AK-47 until empty. She pulled the pin and rolled the grenade through the open door frame, hearing a hoarse yell and men scrambling for deeper cover.

After the detonation she reloaded and waited two beats, then stepped boldly into the open. Still recovering from the blast, their jaws dropped and eyes bugged, stunned, at the tall blonde who wielded the assault rifle with such deadly precision. She advanced methodically, firing short, controlled bursts into each doorway. Left, right, left, right. glancing into each doorway as she passed to make sure the rooms were clear.

As the last defender fell she placed another grenade against heavy door that usually required one to be buzzed through. The exploding grenade sufficed just as well. A small chamber lie on the other side, with a second security door beyond. Her last grenade took care of it. She peered through the acrid smoke to see what opposition was on the other side.

A small room, a couple of heavy desks, a row of four holding cells behind them waited in the other side. The last two hardmen had split up, each crouching behind a desk for cover. As she ducked back from the fusillade they unleashed through the door she caught a glimpse of a young man with dark hair in one of the holding cells at the far end, holding the bars and straining to see what was happening.

Closing her eyes for a moment and taking a deep breath, 008 dove through the door, tucking into a roll and coming up firing on the hard guy to the left. The one on the right tracked her firing a ragged burst that went wild as she spun and emptied the remainder of the clip into him.

Annuska ran to the youth in the back cell crying "Mickhael!" as Emma Drake searched the fallen gunmen, securing a set of keys that released the teenager from his cell, allowing the two siblings to tearfully embrace.

008 cocked her head, hearing the faint sound of helicopter blades in the distance. She motioned for the brother and sister to follow her. Carefully, they made their way through the wreckage of what had been base security. Drake watched  from the shadows inside the building as a pair of black helicopters with no markings descended quickly on to the lawn. Black uniformed soldiers rapidly fanned out, securing the area.

Emma motioned for the duo to follow, and exited slowly, hands raised. They were quickly secured by the black garbed soldiers, and taken on board the lead chopper. Drake recognized the commander of the extraction team, a tough ex-SAS officer by the name of Dorsey. "Bloody Hell, Em. What'd you do, declare war on Russia?" he queried incredulously, motioning out of the chopper at the burning armory, the bodies scattered on the lawn.

"No. War's over. I won." 008 said tiredly, with a hint of a smile, as she regarded Annuska and Mickhael Tarasnova and the chopper lifted off.


Emma Drake, Agent 008 in "Russian Hellfire" (pt. 5 - Just the Mechanics)


*WHEW!* That was a close one! So, let's see how it went down:

The airfield was also suggested by the "Covetous Poet's" add on "Spy Genre Pack" as a Secret Base.

We were in a bad spot here. I had no firm idea how we were going to get out of it. I asked "Mythic" if when we arrived if I saw any possibility for escape. I set the odds almost as high as they'd go and STILL got a "Yes"!  I had raised the "Chaos Factor" a couple of times now, I think to about an "8", so wild, improbable things were going to be more likely by this point.

HOWEVER, on my "Fists" I rolled a "Failure"! a "2" on 2d6. So I ruled that this meant the escape attempt failed and the "Getting Screwed" continued. 😉

So the next logical step was confinement. I had to think how I was going to get them out of this. I was tempted to spend a point of "Grit" to say that I had an appropriate spy gadget or device, one of the other uses you can put "Grit" to in "Magnum Fury". It would have been a very Bond thing to do. But, A) I wanted to save the "Grit". I felt like we were hurtling toward a final showdown, and I felt I'd really need it to ensure as much Success without Complication as possible, and B) it just didn't feel right.

Looking at her character sheet, the "Talents" caught my eye. This would be a GREAT time to start bringing them into play!

The "Sexy" Talent reads: "People attracted to your gender do little things for you all the time, without you even trying. If you spend 1 Grit you can get complete strangers to go out of their way, inconvenience themselves, or even get themselves in a bit of hot water just to please or impress you."

Sounded good to me, so 1 "Grit" spent to get him close enough to take him out. From there it was a couple more "Fists" rolls, I believe spending "Grit" to ensure complete Success, so I think I ended the scene with 6 Grit & the CF all the way up to 9 if I'm not mistaken!



Emma Drake, Agent 008 in "Russian Hellfire" (pt. 5)


As soon as they had Emma Drake they zip tied her hands behind her back and thrust a burlap sack over her head. Rough hands seized her arms, guiding her to one of the waiting cars, shoving her head down hard to duck as she was thrust unceremoniously into the back seat, Hard figures also entered on either side, pinning her in the middle, and the car took off.

The car ride lasted what seemed like a long time. There were many turns, no doubt to throw off her sense of direction. It worked, as she had no idea which direction they were headed when they finally settled into a straight route. At some point she assumed they exited the city and entered the country, as the faint noise of city life outside the car disappeared.  No one spoke inside the auto. The only sound to be heard was the steady hum of the engine.

Eventually the car slowed, made a turn and drove a stretch before stopping again. Drake could hear the window power down, feel the breeze blow in from the outside, smell fresh air even through the sack on her head. She believed they were in the country somewhere outside Moscow. She heard the driver exchange a few words with someone outside, but couldn't make out what they were saying. She heard a faint rattle of metal-on-metal like a length of chain, then a slow squealing rattle, perhaps a gate being opened, and the car moved forward.

She could feel more than anything when the pulled into some kind of large cavernous structure, and could tell by the change in lighting when they pulled out of the sun outside and into cool darkness.

The car stopped. Doors opened and men got out. The rear doors of her car both opened and the bulky shapes on either side of her were suddenly gone, then her arm was grabbed roughly and she was pulled out of the car.

She stumbled, trying to find her footing, off balance. Vice-like hands grabbed her on either side to steady her. She could feel someone standing before her. They grabbed the sack and yanked it roughly off her head. She couldn't see well after having it on her head for so long, but she didn't wait. This might be her only chance at escape.

She immediately pistoned a knee up into the groin of the figure in front of her, causing their breath to explode outward in a massive "whoof!". She stomped down on the foot of the one to her right, sending him hopping, swung the knee around again, ramming it into the gut of the one on her left.

Someone else stepped up, and she heard the crack and sizzle of a stun gun a split-second before it touched the side of her neck and she felt the voltage flow through her, then she knew no more.

***

Sometime later, consciousness slowly returned. As her eyes opened, and focus blearily came, she could see she was in a room made of concrete block. It was mostly dark, the only illumination being provided by what seemed like a lone bulb overhead. The chair she sat in felt like wood. It was hard. She tried to raise her hands. They rattled and jerked short. Her wrists were fastened to each arm of the chair by a pair of handcuffs. As she began to stir she could feel someone behind her, sitting back-to-back. She heard Annuska tentatively say her name, then a harsh male voice barked out from the shadows for silence. Looking about she could see two large shapes in opposite corners, one by the door and the other in the corner nearest them. Guards.

She sat for a long while, breathing deeply, flexing each of her muscles in turn, trying assess if there was any damage, getting her blood flowing, letting the cobwebs clear from her brain. Preparing. She tested the chair slightly, tipping the front and back legs just a little, seeing if it was bolted down. It wasn't. Good. Her feet were not bound either. Even better. Very sloppy, but she wasn't about to complain.

Other than an occasional slight rustle from the guards as they shifted and moved, her own deep breathing, and the shallow, rapid breaths of Annuska behind her there was no other sound.

When she felt as ready as she ever would she spoke to the closest guard. "Do you have a cigarette comrade?" she asked in a throaty voice, assuming a facade of casual sensuality "No smoking in here." he answered gruffly. "I won't tell if you won't." she drawled, adopting just a hint of a smile and arching one eyebrow. He swallowed. "Please? You wouldn't deny me any last...pleasures, would you?" she teased "Give it to her Yuri. A cigarette, that is," the second guard said from behind her with a smirk in his voice.

She gripped the arms of the chair as he approached, drawing a pack of smokes. He stood in front of her and put it between her lips as she gazed up at him, never breaking eye contact. He produced a lighter and bent slightly to light it for her.

Emma Drake surged out of the chair, headbutting Yuri hard on the bridge of the nose. Cartilage smashed and flattened and blood sprayed as he cried out and flailed awkwardly backward. She whirled, swinging the heavy wooden chair as hard as she could, and it smashed into splinters over his back as he crouched clutching his destroyed nose.

The other guard lunged forward pulling his gun as 008 moved, gripping the two arms of the chair. She swung the right in a vicious arc, connecting in an audible CRACK, like a home-run hit. Then the left crossed back over, making contact as he slumped that direction, knocking him the opposite way.

As he dropped to the ground the door sprang open and two armed gunmen tried to enter. Before they could clear the door, Drake hit it with a kick, smashing it on the arm of the lead gunman as he entered with his pistol thrust out in front of him. He howled and dropped the gun as she grabbed his wrist and pulled him sprawling into the room and then jumped and grabbed the door frame, swinging feet first into the second gunman, sending him flying into the opposite wall of the hallway outside the door.

Emma crouched and quickly searched the guards, procuring a pair of keys. She undid the cuffs on herself and Annuska then snatched up the pistols of all four goons. She gave one to Annuska, stuck one in her waistband, and carried the other two. Together the two women exited into the hallway.

***


Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Emma Drake, Agent 008 in "Russian Hellfire (pt. 4 - Just the Mechanics)



Here we are, back with another mechanics summary of session 4 of my "James Bond" (powered by "Magnum Fury") spy-RPG thing! Or at least as much as I can remember, since I didn't take in notes, as I originally had no plans to share this online. It's only because I think it turned out so well, and that I had so much fun with it that I decided to. 😊

The session started off at a ("Mythic") Chaos Factor of 5, since everything has settled back down. I believe I was at a (current) max of 9 Grit.

The guys waiting outside MAY have been the result of a Mythic Question. Or rolling under the CF to start the scene. Not sure.

I'm going to say I probably scored a full Success on the attack on the carload of goons.

The additional pursuers were a Mythic follow up question. The bus was my idea, I asked Mythic, and it agreed. I was trying to go for any kind of distraction or obstacle I could find. Pretty sure I rolled "Costly Success" and took "Less Effective Than Hoped For" on my Moves roll, thus enabling one of them to make it on the bus, which seemed very appropriate and cinematic.

I may have spent a couple of points of "Grit" to ensure full Success during this whole scene.

The Cemetery was suggested by the "Spy Genre Charts" add on for the "Covetous Poet's Adventure Creator and Solo GM Guide". At first it threw me (a Numbers Station in a Cemetery?), but then it clicked and I fell in love with the idea. Fun fact, when I Goggled up cemeteries in Moscow, I picked Kuntsevo because I liked the picture of the gate. Upon reading up on it, among other famous residents interred there are American spies Morris and Lorna Cohen, infamous British double agent Kim Philby, and the assassin of Leon Trotsky, Ramon Mercader. How very fitting. 😄

The little scene that unfolded in front of the cemetery was courtesy of rolling doubles under the Chaos Factor in "Mythic", generating what turned out to be a Scene Interrupt. I can't remember the exact Event Focus or Action/Subject rolled, but it was something to do with an NPC and was suggestive or some kind of argument, dispute, or refusal. Given the story we'd built thus far, Annuska throwing a tantrum and refusing to co-operate because of her brother seemed very natural. It seems like something you'd see in an Action movie. I could see myself sitting on my couch screaming at my TV "You stupid! Get in the cemetery!"

I believe I rolled a "Success at a Cost" on my Mouth roll to persuade her, took a "Takes Longer Than Expected" (which seemed appropriate), and when I asked "Mythic" if anyone arrived, it was only too happy to oblige, fittingly enough. Now I picture myself sitting on the couch screaming "See?!?! I told you so!"

At this point, I was stumped. How were we going to get out of this one? When I considered, one thought occurred to me: "Magnum Fury" has a mechanic, "Getting Screwed", where once per session the GM can automatically defeat, capture, or otherwise drop the hammer on the hero. It's a heavy handed plot device that serves the genre well, lets the GM have SOME effect on otherwise nigh-impervious Action Heroes (at least vs Mooks), and lets the hero recover one "Grit".

This seemed like a perfect place for one of one of those. If I was GM-ing this for a player, it's where I'd drop one, so I put on my GM hat and did just that!😉

So, now we're captured! The Chaos Factor was probably up to about a 7 by now, and I'm going to say my expenditure of "Grit"  versus how much I recovered equalled out. I may have been down a couple point s at least.

Tune in next time to see how 008 escapes, and what I believe will be the finale!

Emma Drake, Agent 008 in "Russian Hellfire" (pt. 4)


The next morning, 008 again studied the street as carefully as possible from the window, looking for anyone watching. When satisfied that she could see no one, she and Annuska Tarasnova prepared to depart. The tattoo parlor wasn't open yet, so Emma Drake made sure to disable the alarm with a code that was known to her for safe houses, then they let themselves out the side door, locking it behind them.

On the street, 008 again scanned intently, looking for any signs of surveillance. She locked eyes immediately with a carload of hardmen on the opposite side of the street, just far enough down the block to be out of the field of view from the window above. The safe house had been blown.

With no hesitation, Drake launched into action, running directly toward the car full of goons. She could have pulled the Glock-19 and made quick work of them, but she wanted to avoid causing another panic. Gunfire, even silenced, was going to bring the police that much faster. Corpses tended to do that.

The thugs on the far side of the vehicle had been quickest to respond, throwing open the doors and starting to exit first. Without breaking stride, Emma threw herself headlong into the air, tucking into a roll on the roof of the car, lashing out with both feet at hard cases', smashing them both in the face.

As she dropped to the street on the opposite side of the car, the other two thugs on the side facing the tattoo parlor had just gotten out.. Now as they tried to whirl around, one of them talking into a radio and the other opening his jacket to go for his pistol, 008 grabbed the edge of the door frame and swung herself feet first into the car. She thrust both feet through to the opposite side, catching the hard guy up front and blasting him sprawling into the street.

The fourth guy had managed to claw out some hardware as Emma grabbed his wrist and pulled it into the car, pulling the door shut hard to slam on his wrist, breaking it with an audible snap. He howled in pain and dropped the gun as she threw the door open again and launched a high roundhouse kick, catching him in the temple and dropping him in a heap.

She sprinted back to Annuska, grabbing her arm and pulling her along in a run as a second group of thugs came around the corner behind them. Emma saw a city bus on the corner and they jumped aboard. The doors started to close when the fastest of the KGB agents thrust himself through and tried to board. Drake nailed him with a straight front kick, sending him flying backwards as the doors closed.

"Drive!" she commanded the bus driver, and the bus pulled away from the curb. He looked at her with a mix of astonishment and curiosity. Apparently he expected an explanation. "Her boyfriend," 008 said, indicating her companion "He beats her." The driver grunted, apparently satisfied.

When the bus made its next stop around the corner and a few blocks away, the two women did their best to blend into the flow of passengers getting off and on. Drake pulled Tarasnova along as they ran to the opposite side of the street and hailed a taxi.

Emma told the driver to just drive around for a while. She scrutinized the flow of traffic behind them intently, looking for signs of pursuit. When satisfied, she gave the driver a destination, "Kutsevo Cemetery, please."

Annuska looked at her with undisguised confusion. "We have a numbers station there in the caretakers cottage" 008 murmured in a low voice. The blank look the pop star gave her told Emma that she had no clue what that was. "A short-wave radio transmitter, where we can broadcast coded messages to my people" she muttered, keeping her eyes fixed on the driver. He gave no sign that he was aware of the conversation.

Shortly, they pulled to a stop in front of the large iron gate to the cemetery. They paid the fare and stood in front of the gate watching as the cab drove away. "Come on, let's go." Drake said as she moved toward the cemetery gate. "No." Tarasnova said, not moving from where she stood,

"No? What the bloody hell do you mean?" Emma snarled, "We don't have time for this." Annuska stood her ground, refusing to be cowed "Not without Mickael." she said stubbornly. Drake frowned. "I told you we'd see to your brother." She did her best to stay calm and keep her voice level. "But, we have to contact MI-6. I need to appraise them of our situation. Of what's changed."

Tarasnova shook her head. "If you contact them, you'll have to leave. They'll want you out of Russia after all the trouble that has happened. Mickael comes first." 008's scowl deepened "Damn it, we don't have time to argue about this. We aren't safe out in the open like this." Annuska stubbornly shook her head "We find Mickael first. Then we call your people."

The argument was rendered moot by the screeching of tires. Two cars appeared from opposite corners, skidding to a stop at angles on each side, bottling them in. Emma grabbed Tarasnova by the arm and made a break for the cemetery gates, Locked. It was too early. The cemetery wasn't open yet.

Armed gunmen emptied from both vehicles, taking cover behind their cars, covering them and yelling for them to drop their weapons and get down on the ground.

008 knew she had no choice. Alone, she might have been able to shoot her way out of this. But with the girl at her side, she couldn't. There's no way Annuska could avoid getting hit in the cross fire. Carefully removing her pistol from the shoulder holster with two fingers from her left hand. she lay it on the ground and sank to her knees, hands behind her head, as the enemy closed in on them.