The Sprawl Campaign Diary #5 + GM insights

in tabletop-rpg •  8 months ago

Welcome to the last part of my The Sprawl Campaign Diary. Last time the group split up, dealt with the Men of the Machine and Pixel. This is my last The Sprawl Campaign Diary because the campaign ended with this session, the reasons to why/my problems with The Sprawl will be addressed in another blog post.

heisenberg.jpg
This video is 1. super awesome, and 2. my inspiration for the chess subplot I introduced. The image is sort-of Heisenberg.

The original plan

At the beginning the group was, yet again, uncertain, what to do.
Paladin received a mission, to kill a high ranking employee of Mieux Vivre, but he needed some change in his life, so he did not accept another assassination mission.
Jinx received a mission to acquire a key-exchange scheme from AID, which sounded interesting enough to Paladin, but Jinx was not interested in this mission, just doing her Fixer work with Paladin. Doing the mission alone seemed unfitting for Paladin, since it would require tailing people, etc. – not one of Paladin's strengths.
Laughing Lady on the other Hand did not see any use in any of these missions for her agenda, running admin tasks for The Pulse, so she was not in on the jobs either.

Just then, when there was no job to do, Paladin received a message on his old (Nokia 3310 style) phone from an unknown contact named Heisenberg:

Hey smartass, tell your friends I have money for them. All of you, please join this server, so I can communicate with you.

Change of plans

The job payed well; this immediately seemed fishy to the group. To start, only Paladin joined the chat-server, and asked for details, forwarding the information to Laughing Lady and Jinx.

There was a data leak from a collaboration between RoboTech and Mnemotronics. Your job would be to remove this leak as fast as possible from the internet, making contacts, hacking into servers, etc.
You will be working with a team of other operatives in a safe-house. You, Paladin, and one of my contacts, Napoleon, will be security.
The actual work will be done by a primarily socially able team, but some people capable in hacking will also be present.
What the leak is about will be told to you, when you are at the safe-house, for security reasons.

Paladin insisted on getting a list of other operatives, to see how high the risk was, and got the list.

The group wasn't very interested in actually doing this contract though, but rather in the leaked data, and selling/keeping it for themselves. There was some discussion, whether to

  1. Accept the job, do the job, but keep the data
  2. Accept the job, find out what the leak was, and leave (Paladin gunning down the other security: Napoleon)
  3. Decline the job, but find out anyways where the safe-house was, and what the leak was about.
  4. Ignore the job completely.

In the end they decided for option 3. Jinx's professionalism prohibited her from betraying her employer (unless they betrayed them first – while this seemed fishy, there wasn't any clear evidence of this yet).

After some weirdness in the chat-server (another Paladin joining, and immediately leaving), Paladin received a message from her old friend White Knight:

Hey Paladin,

  1. Your old phone is horribly insecure. You should really change it.
  2. The chat-server you're on is being super-monitored. Whatever you're doing seems super fishy, be careful!

Paladin acknowledged this, and left the communication with Heisenberg, telling them, he was not interested.

Afterwards Paladin thought about the list of operatives on Heisenbergs mission: Whether he knew where some of them would be found. He indeed was able to track down, and follow Toxic, a fixer with some hacking knowledge, to the safe-house in upper Neo-Shanghai. The other security, Napoleon, was already there though, and saw Paladin, shouting

Hey Paladin, stop!

Paladin ran off, hiding around a corner (surprised why Napoleon knew his name), but then Napoleon talked again, this time without his helmet, and Paladin recognized his voice: Jean-Paul Williams! (He was the leader of a group called the Protectors of Gaia, of which Paladin was a member, he briefly appeared before in Session 3.5) He was Napoleon?

They had a chat for some time, until one of the operatives nervously came running out of the safe-house. Jean-Paul stopped him (fulfilling his job: Let no one in and no one out, until the mission is done), asking what was the matter:

It was a setup, the leak doesn't exist, Heisenberg doesn't answer us, something is horribly wrong!

A minute of confusion later 2 Elite RoboTech guards and a Titan Pacifications suppression fire drone showed up, opening fire at the group.

Laughing Lady

While Paladin was dealing with his problems, The Pulse also had it coming.
In front of the lower, main door, Titan Pacifications arrived, in order to investigate terrorism around this area (aka, destroying The Pulse).
Laughing Lady locked the main door, and activated the silent alarm for everyone to evacuate out of the upper, secondary door.
At the upper door it was just as bad though: Hannah Komarov was already waiting for them, wired into her heart she had a dead man switch, in one hand she had a revolver, and her other arm was missing. Reluctantly Laughing Lady let her in.

Thanks for the cake, Laughing Lady. Let me make this clear: This device is linked to my heartbeat. You might have already noticed some of your fellow members being on vacation today. I bribed them to leave some C4 packages in their rooms. If my heart stops this place blows up. Now, lead me to Steel Cannibal.

Laughing Lady tried killing time, which did not work well (and ended with Laughing Lady getting shot in the foot). However, in the right moment she was able to disarm Hannah Komarov, and with Steel Cannibal's and some technology's help they managed to pacify Hannah Komarov, and were able to leave the Pulse HQ afterwards, before Titan Pacifications was able to breach the lower door.

Jinx

For Jinx it was relatively easy, even though she was hit right where it hurts: Her contacts.
Ruby Poole (one of Jinx's contacts who was working with the Men of the Machine, because of this Jinx blamed the aftermath of the extraction from Session 3 and 3.5 on them) finally found out what happened, and warned Jinx's other contacts about her betrayal, seriously jeopardizing Jinx's business in Neo-Shanghai.
With her contacts turning their back on Jinx she decided to leave Neo-Shanghai, buying a bus, in order to take the Hounds of Ulster with her.

Paladin

Paladin and Jean-Paul Williams managed to successfully get away from their pursuers, for now. They managed to get into a driverless cab, and left the safe-house behind. Paladin called his driver contact Manuel Override, to safely get him out of the city, but he also received another message from White Knight:

There is a backdoor installed in your phone, probably from the chat-server. This Heisenberg has some good stuff … Should I try removing it? Your phone might reset to factory settings …

While waiting for Manuel Override to arrive White Knight did her job, and also offered to turn the tables: She could try to track Heisenberg, for Paladin to get revenge.
Paladin agreed, also offering one of Paladins known contacts, Faceless Screamer, to help her.
Together they managed to find out who Heisenberg was: Oliver Cordova, Marketing Manager at the Entertainment Alliance. He was also responsible for the game of chess Paladin was playing before, as we would later find out.

Paladin thanked him the only way he knew: C4.


In this section I will talk a bit about my GMing experiences with The Sprawl.

That's it from The Sprawl!

On a last session I always feel like going out with a bang, but in trying so I planned too much ahead. Originally I had the idea of the group going into the mission together, then realizing: "Oh, it's a setup!", and then being followed.
Well … they didn't go on a mission together in the last two sessions, I should've known they wouldn't in this one either.
But I was also too focused on: I'll have to punish the group in some way! Chaos! Go out with a bang! Which didn't work out at all with Jinx who went out of her way to avoid all kinds of chaos and bang.

JP (Jinx's Player): "I need a bus for my Hounds of Ulster to escape with me."
GM (Me): "Alright, Hit the Street with the contact Ultimate William."
JP: "9 – I only have to take one drawback, because of one of my moves. It costs extra. I send the Hounds of Ulster to get the bus. They should not take any risk, if something seems fishy."
GM: "Okay … So, your Hounds of Ulster go there, but Mnemotronics guards are already there, doing a search of the place, and your gang, can't get the bus right now. You get a message from Ultimate William apologizing, and offering you to either give you the bus later, or pay back your credits. He was surprised by Mnemotronics, too."
JP: "So you're ignoring my partial success?"
GM: "Well no … You can get your money back or wait a bit"
JP: "Bullshit? I didn't pick any 'Extra attention' or 'Extra time' stuff?"
GM: "Weeeell … I can still make a move when the fiction demands it …"
JP: "Yeah, I get it, you want to introduce chaos, punish all of us, blahblah …"
GM: "Actuallyyeahyou'rerighthere'syourbus…"

Railroading is bad. Especially in PbtA. I made this mistake in session 1 already.

In the end though I still got all the characters out of Neo-Shanghai. Sometimes more, sometimes less forcefully.

In another blog entry I will explain, independently from this campaign, what exactly I dislike about The Sprawl, so stay tuned for that one.

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