Previously, our heroes daringly commandeered an armored vehicle and took down the heavily armed security detail that came after them. Now, they race to the spaceport in an all-out bid to escape BIG-16...
Read the first part of this campaign log here.
Oberth swiftly queries the ATV’s computer and finds that there are still three shuttles docked at the spaceport: one outfitted for local distribution of goods; one for ferrying goods between larger spaceships and the asteroid; and one for the transport of maximum security prisoners.
Our heroes decide to go for the goods ferry. They drive their ATV to the bay door of the platform where it is docked. However, the airlock opens into a battle: several of the installation’s security forces are fighting off a steady stream of infected, flooding in through a door on the far side of the bay. The infected are clad in workmen’s or security officers’ attire, which means the Symbiont is already turning people on BIG-16 into the infected. Close to the door through which the infected are flooding in is an elevator that leads up to the landing platform above where the shuttle is waiting. The only way to reach it is to cut through the battle; our heroes join the fray.
This was the final battle of our session. However, the players had already spent significant amounts of resources in the earlier four battles; they were very close to empty (they even considered sleeping in the ATV for eight hours to reset their Stamina, Intellect, and Will points). However, they still had the ATV; it would be difficult to drive it around the hangar filled with crates and debris, but it had significant firepower.
There were seven soldiers to assist the players, but these had only 480 Character Points each, just a little more than the infected. They were prison guards, not professional soldiers. There were fifteen infected deployed in the field at the beginning of the battle and I rolled two dice to see how many came through the doors every turn. Of course, the battle could not be won without shutting the doors through which the infected entered.
The room filled up very quickly, with more infected joining every turn than the players and their allies could clear out. The players took longer than I had anticipated to close the bay doors; they did not prioritize this at the outset. It took them about three turns before they sealed the doors. By then, five guards lay dead, and the two surviving guards had fallen back to the ATV, entering it through the lowered ramp, and Liam (who had charged forward to engage in melee combat) found himself without support and dangerously exposed to the infected. He eventually made good use of his ability to parry attacks and the allotted movement after an Agility (dodge) skill check to fall back to the ATV.
They sealed up the ATV, and Oberth began to perform intricate donut roll maneuvers to shake off the infected that were climbing it, hopefully killing a few in the process, while Byzi spent every round gunning down infected with the board cannon, rationing ammo in hopes it would last just long enough to clear the room.
Oberth eventually failed his Operate (control) skill check twice in a row, which caused him to lose control (see Core Rulebook, page 54). The ATV crashed into a pile of crates and supplies and became stuck. However, with a masterful skill check, Oberth managed to not only pull it free, but he also backed it through all the obstacles and onto the elevator platform, allowing Liam to bolt out, operate the terminal, and bring them up to the shuttle.
Against all expectations, two soldiers even survived.
Our heroes make it to the elevator platform and, once up, abandon the ATV and make a run for the shuttle. The ramp closes behind them and the shuttle launches.
Our heroes have finally escaped BIG-16.
It was a very intense (and long) session, and I think everyone had a good time. The players received 100 Character Points, bringing them to a total of 680.
I also used a relatively rare approach for me as a GM: multiple combat encounters. I usually run no more than two battles in a single session, sometimes none. The average is about one battle per session, and our sessions typically last anywhere from six to eight hours. That means my players do not get a lot of combat action. The battles that I do run are usually long and feature many combatants. This results in high resource expenditure by the players. It also results in higher risk of player death.
This is different from the approach suggested in most game systems and published adventures. I think the consensus is that several smaller combat encounters over the course of a single session are useful to a) change the pace of the game; b) cater to those who mainly enjoy combat and action; and c) give the players an opportunity to test strategies and abilities in a situation where failure is not likely to result in immediate character death.
I think that, given the focus on teamwork and coordination on the Stage, the last argument is especially compelling to add more but smaller-scale combat to my sessions. Besides, running multiple combat encounters also increases the need for efficient resource management, which is another pivotal component of the Stage.
I ran this session with about five combat encounters, significantly more than I usually do. In the first two, the players ‘got to know’ the infected: they learned that they’re immune to Mind damage; that they fight in melee and with their bare hands; and that some have this nasty vomit attack that produces worms that must be removed immediately to avoid infection. In subsequent encounters, the players had a solid plan in place to distribute dice on their attacks and to optimize damage against the infected to significantly increase chances of one-shotting them. It was efficient and I could see the players enjoyed working on their strategy and experimenting with it. Also, since two players in this group are new to the Stage, the repetition that comes with multiple encounters familiarized them with the rules, which is useful in and of itself.
So, long story short: more combat encounters seem to work well both for playtesting purposes as for the good ‘ole ‘fun’ component, so I’ll probably try to include a bit more combat in the future where appropriate.
Apart from this, this was a very smooth session!