Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Mecha: Introductory Arc

It's been awhile since an update. Long story short, things got busy. I am back in full swing with the fall semester for grad school and have been spending a lot of time focusing on some RPG related projects. Things might get a lot slower on here, but I still want to keep sharing my passion for roleplaying games. At worst, there will just be my weekly summaries for Encounters (new season starts this week, very excited). The store campaign of DCC has become a bit derailed. I had scheduled "People of the Pit" to run a few weeks ago, but a super low turn-out caused it to be delayed. I'll be trying to get back around to it sometime in September.

In any case, I ran a demo of Mecha two weekends ago at the FLGS because I knew a lot of our regulars either had other obligations or were at Gen-Con. I used the same scenario that I had developed for the short-lived play by post game I tried (expanded to some degree since then with more named NPC's). It's a Gaiden (side story) to the anime Gundam SEED Destiny. Anyone reading this that's familiar with the Gundam franchise might balk at that because Destiny was never well received. Call me some crazy super fan, but I tend to enjoy and find the good in every iteration of Gundam. I thought Destiny would be a fun setting to place a side-story in, however, because it has a wealth of MSV that come from model kits or various magazines/books. So I decided to place focus on mecha used there with a story that runs parallel to the actual anime moving away from its plot and focus.

It got started much later than planned so they only had time to get through two full episodes (further than the forum game got) after character creation and going over rules. I had three players:

1) Drax: A "Gearhead" who was a cadet in training that loved to tinker with mobile suits. His goal was to learn more about Gundams and eventually design his own.

2) Crim: A "Reformed Criminal" who had been arrested in one of the PLANTs for trying to rob an armored car. He claimed this was just to pay for expensive operations for his sick sister. Has been put into a special leave program where he acts as a MS Pilot in exchange for earning time off his sentence. He hopes to prove he's "changed his ways."

3) Takuya: An "Accidental Hero" who lives life peacefully as a high school student with little cares or worry about the war that has transpired or the potential for another. His parents are both important scientists working on the development of the "New Millennium" Initiative's Gundams. (To cater to the Archetype picked, I actually started this player not folded into the party at the start)

The previous weekend, I had the pleasure of playing in a demo of the game Obsidian: The Age of Judgement. It was interesting, reminded me a lot of the game series Fallout though with a more supernatural bent in focus. Afterwards, the three players for Mecha were present and I happened to have the material with me. So we had the one new person present create a character and join in to try it out as well. Crim's player wanted to make someone else (after the events of Episode 2, which you'll see below). I allowed him to do so in exchange for turning Crim over as a GM NPC. The two new characters appearing in Episode 3 are:

4) Zak: A "Spec Ops Commando" who is a member of the ZAFT Special Forces ready to seek honor among the battlefield, hoping to one day face off against another skilled pilot in a one on one duel.

5) Kanji: A "Jaded Veteran" who is an older ace mobile suit pilot who held an impressive record from the previous war. However, the horrors of war weighed heavily on this gruff old pilot's heart and he had taken to drinking quite frequently.

All in all I had a fun time at both sessions. Everyone loved the use of music in the game. Playing an opening before each episode as time to decide on your Character Scenes and having BGM themes for combat really got a great reception. We all got to going over Crim's use of the Assassin Configuration in the second battle to the point we couldn't stop laughing about it (and the player earned an Advancement Point for it).

I went a bit over the top narrating it, but it was funny despite being counter-productive to his concept. I also got cracked up by the pseudo-potential romance between Crim and Romary that had been running like a train wreck through Episode 1 and 2 and solely spawned by the roll of the dice. In Episode 3, with the exchange of Crim into a story NPC, this plotline took a much darker turn.

On the mechanics side, I was pretty impressed. Once you get the rules down the game plays incredibly fast. We never had any Cutscenes at either session, but Drax's player was wracking up the Overdrive through great successes. My only real slip up was that in the first session the GINN's were way too weak for the party. I bumped them up some in Episode 2, but it still wasn't there. Episode 3 was meant to be a very tough "boss fight" level ordeal and I was able to bring the pain. With the enemy now having three major antagonists (their leader, the Proto-Chaos and a certain new addition from the end of Episode 3) that are statted up like proper characters, I have a feeling battles would become even more interesting.

The players asked for more, but I don't know when that will be. To be honest, I really loved playing Mecha. I am ridiculously biased by my love for mecha anime, but the game really is unique and incredibly fun to play. I wouldn't mind going from the end of Episode 3 into a full on regular campaign continuing the story of the Galileo and its crew. Who knows. But enough commentary from me, here's what went down:

Episode 01: The Ghost of ZAFT
Cosmic Era 73

Two years have passed since the end of the Bloody Valentine War. The peace treaty signed after the Battle of Yachin Due ushered in an era of tense peace. However, the threat of extreme philosophies like that of Blue Cosmos and former Supreme Council Chairman Patrick Zala remains ever present. Safe to say little has actually changed.

During a launch ceremony at ZAFT's Armory One PLANT for the new battleship Minerva an attack was launched by an unknown force. Elite special forces ambushed the mobile suit facility. During this raid new experimental Gundam-type mobile suits the Chaos, Gaia and Abyss were stolen. The suits escaped aboard a mirage-colloid cloaked Earth Alliance warship hidden outside Armory One. Amid tense confusion about the situation, the Minerva was launched to pursue and reclaim the stolen mobile suits.

However, ZAFT's problems are only beginning. Numerous reports have been filing in regarding military transports between the PLANT's and ZAFT's various space-located bases being raided and having their supplies stolen. Fearing this might be a new declaration of war, council chairman Gilbert Durandal orders a squad to be formed to investigate the situation and gather more information so the proper course may be taken.

Assigned to the Nazca-class ship Galileo, an experimental test-type squad was ordered to depart from Armory One tasked with escorting a transport ship delivering supplies to the asteroid fortress Boaz. An ongoing secondary goal of this squad was to test new or experimental mobile suit technology so that data could be gathered and sent back to help bolster ZAFT's research. Crim and Drax were joining the crew of the Galileo for this purpose. Both had acted as test pilots for ZAFT's newest line of mobile suits. The higher ups intended for Crim to use this mission as a chance to earn time off his sentence for good behavior.  Meanwhile, Takuya was aboard the transport along with his parents because they were being transferred to Boaz to over see some projects.

While navigating the Galileo and learning where everything was, Crim bumped into Cadet Romary Regal; the Galileo's Operator. Romary seemed nervous because this was her first official assignment after graduating from military academy. Crim responded by insulting her about her pink hair and asking why she thought it looked nice. Romary was insulted at the gesture and stormed off feeling upset.

Next, Drax was feeling uneasy about the chance for combat and his first real sortie outside of simulation. So he decided to run more simulations and go over the specs for their Zaku Warriors. After some study, he was able to understand a great deal about how the Zaku performed in combat and how they could be use formations to their advantage.

Finally,  Takuya was killing time aboard the transport. He decided to leave their private cabin while his parents were on the bridge with the Captain and headed to explore the ship. Along the way, he literally bumped into a mysterious guy about his age wearing civilian clothes and who had half his face covered by messy black hair. After apologizing and introducing themselves the two got to talking. The boy's name was apparently Seiji. He seemed oddly nervous and urged Takuya to go back to his room because it was dangerous for normal people to be wandering around like this. He then mentioned he had heard rumors about transport attacks circling among the ship's crew.

Worried about the ominous rumor, Takuya parted ways on friendly terms and moved to peek a look at the MS being transported on the mobile suit deck. No sooner had this happened, the ship lurched as an explosion rocketed its frame. The sole path back had become engulfed in flames. Meanwhile, the Galileo went into a scramble to launch its mobile suits as hostiles had been sighted. Crim and Drax met Lt. Hiro Tsukasa; their squad leader. After launching, Hiro departed to deal with the one who seemed to be the leader and charged Crim and Drax to defend the transport. The enemy mobile suits were utilizing old ZAFT models: the GINN. However, their leader was piloting a more advanced upgrade: the GINN High Mobility Type II.

Inside the transport, Takuya used a nearby panel to radio the bridge. Realizing the situation was dire, the Captain ordered Takuya to commandeer one of the Zaku and use it to fly directly to the Galileo and let them guide him through docking. Worried, Takuya asked about his parents and the Captain gave them a moment to speak before mentioning he would ensure they made their way to escape vessels. Nervous, Takuya boarded the Zaku and departed.

The battle was very short lived. Crim and Drax were easily overpowering the attacking GINNs thanks to superior technology. While they held in the fight, Drax ended up taking a position near the transport and managed to fend off the attacking squad. Then, just as Takuya had gotten near the Galileo, explosions tore apart the transport as a mysterious mobile armor cut its way out. Lt. Tsukasa identified it as the Proto-Chaos: an experimental test-type for developing the mechanics and weaponry of the Chaos Gundam's mobile armor mode. Releasing its mobile weapon pods, the Proto-Chaos unleashed a full on beam spam utterly destroying the transport and killing everyone aboard.

Takuya went into shock from seeing his parents perish right before his eyes and as they pulled back, Crim and Drax were ordered to retrieve his Zaku and bring it aboard. Without his parents, Takuya was forced aboard the Galileo while said ship came to a halt at the edge of the nearby asteroid field through which the escaping MS team and Proto-Chaos had retreated into.

In the aftermath, one pilot had been captured but he refused to talk only telling those aboard to kill him. Drax also went out afterwards and salvaged parts from the MS wreckage. Who were these mysterious foes that raided ZAFT transports using ZAFT weaponry? And what would Takuya do now without his parents and stranded aboard a warship?

Episode 02: Pursuit into the Asteroid Field
A day had passed. The Galileo remained stuck at the edge of the asteroid field while the ship's Captain conferred back to Armory One for directions on how to proceed with their investigative survey. Takuya spent his time brooding alone in his room. He had asked Drax for a copy of the combat footage of the previous battle. In a dead stupor, he continually watched the fight and ensuing explosion that killed his parents. Though he did not have the emotive thoughts to process it, he began to understand a bit more about the enemy squad and their standard formations.

Drax had spent much of the last day in the mobile suit hangar going over everyone's machine and making sure they were in top working order. As he worked, Lt. Tsukasa approached desiring to talk. Drax immediately led the conversation asking why the Squad Leader's Zaku was so different looking and Tsukasa explained that he piloted a Zaku Phantom; a command-type variant for squad-leaders and higher ranking officers. Excitedly, Drax requested to see the specs and Tsukasa agreed to ensure he'd get access to the files aboard the Galileo's computer.

Laughing, Tsukasa remarked that Drax seemed very at home working with mobile suits. This sent Drax into a rampaging rant about various aspects of mobile suit design and his goals clearly showing his nigh-otaku level interest. Changing subjects, Tsukasa wanted to discuss the potential motives of the enemy pilots. He remarked that it was odd they were using outdated GINN's. If it had been the Alliance trying to stir war, it was clear that they had stronger forces based on the Armory One attack. Still, the pilots seemed quite skilled.

Drax apologized stating he had little knowledge of combat tactics or understanding such motivations. Unable to understand the deeper conversation Tsukasa wished to have, Drax bid his Squad Leader goodbye and returned to his work. Disappointed, Lt. Tsukasa wandered off shaking his head slowly.

Finally, Crim happened upon Romary again while leaving the ship's mess hall. Initially he apologized for insulting her hair and it was clear the girl was still apprehensive about him. Coming forward herself, she remarked that she had been frightened during the last battle, but that she was glad the pilots all got back okay. She went on to add she was glad Crim returned too despite what she had learned; it seemed the ship's computer detailed Crim's criminal past. Crim tried to vaguely explain how he didn't have a choice and that sometimes people were forced to do desperate things. However, his musing were too vague and Romary wasn't able to really understand his true feelings. Still unsure around him, Romary excused herself.

Just then, the pilots along with Takuya were ordered to report to the briefing room. There they found Tsukasa and also met Captain Meyers who oversaw the Galileo. Meyers apologized for not making a formal introduction sooner. Displaying a map of the asteroid field, Tsukasa began to go over the current situation. They had unknown enemies using ZAFT mobile suits to attack and steal supplies off transports. This time they had made their biggest heist yet: the Proto-Chaos.

Armory One had upgraded the Galileo's task to be top priority on identifying these terrorists; particularly if they were in league with the Alliance or such rogue groups as the Blue Cosmos. Second to this, the group was to retrieve (or failing all possible means of doing so destroy) the Proto-Chaos. After going over some other data for the area, Tsukasa put forth that the squad had to have a ship they were launching from due to the lack of activity in the area.

Noting that the asteroid field saw little traffic because it was usually easier and faster to cut around, he suggested that hiding the ship within seemed the most likely possibility. Thus, the Captain ordered the MS Squad be sent in to investigate. Tsukasa then added that he would like it if Takuya would join them.

Takuya instantly opposed this suggestion bringing up the fact that he was a civilian. The Captain confirmed that they were short-handed, especially in the face of their current situation, so even one more pilot would help. However, he didn't feel right asking a high school kid to become a pilot. Takuya added to this stating that he had no formal training. However, Tsukasa countered saying that he had seen him flying the Zaku in their previous battle just as well, if not better, than some cadets he had trained.

With a malicious grin, Tsukasa reminded Takuya that the people they were after also happened to be responsible for killing the boy's parents. However, this brought only brooding silence. Not wanting to belabor the point, Tsukasa ordered everyone to suit up and meet at the hangar leaving Takuya behind. As he left, the Captain put a comforting hand on Takuya's shoulder and assured him that if he didn't want to fight, he did not have to. However, there was no way currently to send him back to the PLANTs. Until the opportune time came, the Galileo would be his home. He added that it was clear Takuya had a knack for piloting; if something happened to their three pilots he might be the only one they could rely on like it or not. As this truth sank in, Takuya decided to fight on the agreement that Lt. Tsukasa would watch his back and make sure to have him pull out in time if things got too rough.

Later, the MS team launched with Takuya in tow. As they explored the asteroid field they eventually came upon another Nazca-class ship. They had but a moment to signal the Galileo before the mysterious vessel began to launch its own squad of five GINN's (outnumbering the Galileo crew) led by the High Mobility Type II. Lt. Tsukasa broke away again to tie up their leader and urged the three pilots to try and secure the ship, if possible.

The battle was harsh, a single GINN singled out Takuya and he quickly discovered surprising talent at piloting as he dodged attacks time and again eventually ramming the GINN so hard some of the shoulder armor broke apart. As they continued to clash virtually hand to hand, despite the inefficient nature of the combat, the pilot hailed Takuya. It seemed to be a younger man's voice and he questioned why someone who seemed to pilot like they had no training was on the battlefield. Takuya asked back who he was speaking to and they commented that someone like him had no place on a battlefield. Takuya pushed for the pilot to identify himself, however, he then broke away from combat and vanished into the asteroid field. Drax rushed the Nazca-class but then quickly got overwhelmed as three GINN ganged up on him blowing off one leg despite his expert dodging. His counter-fire managed to drop two units.

Crim's actions, however, shocked the party. Charging past one GINN, Crim leveled his beam tomahawk to cleave apart the mobile suit at its cockpit granting him his first sound from these mysterious terrorists: screams of terror before instant death. Then, moving to another GINN, Crim slammed his Zaku's hand into the cockpit gravely wounding the pilot as he began hear screams and pleading for mercy. Without falter, Crim had the Zaku clench its fist brutally murdering the pilot before kicking away the GINN to explode in defeat.

Taking advantage of Crim's rampage, Drax managed to sneak around and ambush the bridge of the Nazca-class. Pointing his beam rifle directly at the bridge, Drax hailed the Captain demanding they surrender. Moments later, terms of surrender had been granted. This prompted their Squad Leader and remaining mobile suit to break away and retreat in varying directions. The Proto-Chaos, unless it rested on board, was nowhere to be seen.

As the Galileo moved in, work began to secure the captured Nazca-class and explorations were launched while its crew was gathered to be taken to the Galileo's brig for holding and questioning. Though shaken, Takuya survived. Tsukasa complimented the boy stating that he knew from the first second he saw him escape the transport that he would be a natural at piloting. Crim, haunted by the ghosts of his past having lost himself to bloodlust in the battle, retreated to be alone in his private quarters. Drax, meanwhile, salvaged the battlefield once more collecting more mobile suit parts.

What would be learned from the mystery ship? Who was behind these thefts and attacks? And what would become of Takuya; forced to fight against his will for survival?

Episode 03: Counterattack
As the Galileo took time to begin exploring the enemy Nazca-Class ship and question its crew, a supply transport made a rendezvous with them as well. Captain Meyers had sent back a request for additional support when he contacted Armory One after seeing that the enemy had stolen the Proto-Chaos. Along with this transport came two new pilots: Zak (a ZAFT Special Forces member) and Kanji (one of the earliest mobile suit pilots and a decorated veteran of the Bloody Valentine War).

Aside from their Zaku Warriors, the transport also brought along a complete compliment of Wizard Packs; much needed strength if they were to continue pursuit of the Proto-Chaos. As things were being transferred and machine repaired, Takuya made his way to the mess hall still carrying heavy doubts about the idea of piloting a mobile suit. There, he bumped into Romary who seemed to be cooking at a large pot. She remarked that she was happy Takuya had come back from the battle unharmed. When questioning what she was doing, Romary explained that before being deployed her older sister was teaching her how to cook. They hadn't progressed very far and she didn't know when they would return so she was hoping to practice on her own.

Gazing into the pot, Takuya noted a foul purple ooze that seemed to have a deathly stench raise off of it. Romary asked Takuya to try out her cooking and reluctantly, not wanting to upset her feelings, the boy agreed. However, one taste was more than enough for the poisonous food to take effect. Holding back the urge to hurl, a very sick Takuya stumbled out and began to limp towards his room as Romary sighed with frustration.

As Takuya left, he passed by Zak who was currently exploring the ship. Zak wondered what was wrong with the kid but thought it best not to bother him. Wandering into the mess hall, Zak met and made friends with Romary. Ultimately, she offered Zak a chance to try her cooking as well. Not wanting to be rude at first meeting, Zak agreed and also sampled her terrible cooking. Falling prey to the same effects as Takuya, Zak began to stumble out and seek the medical bay. Romary shed an upset tear wondering why neither had enjoyed the cooking she poured her heart and soul into.

Elsewhere, Drax wasin the mobile suit hangar. Drax was working away as hard as possible repairing the damage made on his Zaku in the previous battle. With hard work and determination, along with his natural talent for mobile suit repair, Drax managed to get his machine back in tip top shape. Amid the chaos and hustle of the hangar, Drax couldn't help but feel right at home. As he studied the design plans of the Wizard Packs, his mind wandered to that of the Gundam-type mobile suits. He recounted once more, to several of the mechanics, how it was his dream to one day build his own Gundam.

Crim, after his murderous rampage last battle, remained an unknown presence on the ship having locked himself away inside his room. The crew of the Galileo couldn't be sure, but it seemed the former criminal was hiding something. He claimed innocence, but the brutality displayed in battle seemed to suggest otherwise. Finally, Kanji had made his way to the mess hall looking for a chance to drink. When entering, he noted a young girl (Romary) dumping out a large cooking pot. Moving on, he found a small side chamber where a rack of various wines were held. There, he met Captain Meyers who was having a quite drink alone.

Realizing that Kanji was a fellow old-soul, Meyers invited the pilot to sit and have a drink with him. They passed quite some time knocking back drinks and trading war stories. As the bottle became empty, Kanji realized he had found a kindred spirit in the Captain and Meyers remarked that he was glad to have someone like Kanji aboard the Galileo's MS team. He asked him to watch over the other pilots; particularly the younger ones like Drax. Kanji departed back to the hangar to see how his Zaku Warrior was doing, while Captain Meyers made his way to reassume command at the ship's bridge.

An hour or so later, alarms began to go off. Captain Meyers reported across the ship for the MS Team to launch; the Galileo was under attack. It seemed their mysterious enemy desired to attack the ship in retaliation for capturing their comrades. The Wizard Packs were still being unloaded so it was impossible to make use of them in this conflict. As everybody scrambled to launch Takuya stayed behind in his room, much to Lt. Tsukasa's disappointment, brooding about the recent loss of his parents and the experience of the previous battle. Once the team was fully deployed, orders were laid out. Lt. Tsukasa and Crim would hang back to defend the Galileo. The rest of the team was to head forward and engage the enemy trying their best to draw fire away from the ship.

The enemy squad of GINN's was once more led by the mysterious High Mobility Type II; though Proto-Chaos was nowhere to be seen. As the pilots flew into battle, they were quickly overwhelmed. It seemed these new pilots were much more skilled than the previous forces. To make matters worse, without Lt. Tsukasa locking up their leader, the GINN High Mobility Type II was a force to be reckoned with. No matter how they tried, none of the pilots could land a single shot on his machine; earning the GINN worthy of its title.

Realizing they were overwhelmed, Drax contacted the Galileo asking for any kind of support at all. However, Captain Meyers revealed that the bridge crew was dealing with their own problem. Romary had mysteriously vanished. She never turned up at the bridge when the alarms sounded and nobody could find her despite crewmen going all over the ship and searching every room. Despite worrying for her safety, Drax did his best to keep fighting as is.

The battle became even more grim over time. Though several GINN's were downed, everybody fighting had taken heavy damage. It took everything Kanji had just to fend off the enemy leader from getting close to the Galileo; even with support fire from Crim and Lt. Tsukasa. The enemy leader contacted Kanji stressing that amateurs had no place on the battlefield. Though curious about who was speaking, Kanji remained silent refusing to let himself be toyed with by the enemy's words.

Eventually, fighting tooth and nail, the Galileo's team managed to scale the enemy force down to its leader and two GINN's. With victory in sight, a cruel twist occurred. Crim, who had remained silent most of the battle, suddenly hailed the Galileo and its MS team. The video screen held a horrifying sight. Within the cockpit of his Zaku Warrior, Crim had Romary gagged and bound with a pistol placed against the side of her head.

Crim demanded that the Galileo's team stand down and allow the enemy mobile suits to escape combat. Laughing maniacally, Crim apologized to the Galileo noting that he had simply been given a better offer than ZAFT's probationary piloting agreement. He went on to add that "this foolish girl" wouldn't leave him alone, so he intended to use her a collateral for the time being. Romary's eyes were filled with tears of fear causing deep frustration in the pilots as they realized how scared she must be.

Accepting defeat, Captain Meyers ordered everyone to stand down and return to the Galileo. Laughing at his accomplishment, Crim joined the enemy suits and departed with them; taking Romary along. In the MS hangar, the team's frustration was apparent. As soon as he exited his Zaku Phantom, Lt. Tsukasa removed his helmet and chucked it full force against one of the walls as he screamed in rage. Likewise, Drax punched the nearest wall angered that he couldn't do anything to save the innocent Romary.

Crim had betrayed the Galileo and now the ship's cheerful operator Romary Regal had been kidnapped. Still, the crew of the Galileo were unsure exactly who their enemy was and what their goal happened to be. What would become of their mission?

And what of Romary?

No comments:

Post a Comment