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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Breaking Murphy

As I've been running a monthly game of Savage Worlds at a local game store for almost a year now, I think it's time to start posting some play reports, reviews, thoughts, and pictures from these sessions.  I'll start the wrong way and begin with the last one, and work my way backwards.  At least until I find a reasonable stopping point. Or I get bored, which is more likely.

This month we visited Wellstone City, a modern urban crime setting from Silver Gryphon Games.  Wellstone City is an island in the state of Louisiana, with a long, rich history.  But right now, it's full of crime.  Three major organizations, several smaller organizations, street gangs, SWAT, and police make for a rich environment in which to play.  SGG has quite a few adventures ready-to-run for a reasonable price.  RPGNow seems to have a better selection right now for their Wellstone City adventures for sale.  I ran "Breaking Murphy".  It's a bank heist of the Murphy Savings and Loan.  I also had on hand a printed map of the bank from Fabled Environments.  This I got printed in large format at a local copy shop for $9.  RPGNow has a Breaking Murphy bundle with the adventure and the map.  Okay, enough talk of product and sales; on to the game!

Some more preamble: I love crime fiction.  Pulp Fiction, Sin City, Leverage, White Collar and more.  Thieves' World (a 70s fantasy short story collection, my long time love) fits in pretty well, too.  I don't necessarily want to run a game of bad guys being bad guys, but bad guys taking out badder guys for a good reason is different.  Or a bad guy trying to be good, but it's just not in the cards for him, so he's constantly in trouble or struggling against a boss or something.  I don't really have a vision for a perfect game, but I do have a vision for good games.  This game, "Breaking Murphy",  really struck true for a good time, and it keeps everyone on their feet and thinking.

To restate, the adventure is a bank heist of a bank called Murphy Savings and Loan.  It's a pretty straight set-up; a call comes in and the characters have a day to plan a heist.  There's some hand waving about how this heist has been hinted at, so the characters have done some preliminary research, but not enough for "go" time.  Now it IS "go" time, and the characters need to have the contents of a safe deposit box in under 24 hours.  The adventure is written to make the call to the characters early in the morning, and the heist happens that day, usually in the afternoon. So, I botched that; the players figured out that they could go when the bank opens (or rather, before) and get the goods before it got busy.  That was their plan.

Now, a bank heist is done in the movies quite a bit, and there are always the random elements of heroes, a pregnant lady, a parade or other events that mess up the best of plans.  "Breaking Murphy" uses a random event generator that has 52 events that can happen.  This, of course, uses a deck of cards to determine which events occur.  The adventure has 4 card pulls to toss a jumble of shit at the players.  I actually had 4 sets of 4 events each; we randomly picked one before the game started.

Meet the Players / Characters

Paul Green, Cracker - Played by Brian (Code name John Kennedy)
Marcus Wellington, Sniper - Played by Kevin (Code name Billy Clinton)
Nick Sparks, Demolitions - Played by Andy (Code name George Washington)
Ivan Gormanski, Enforcer - Played by Aaron (Code name Teddy Roosevelt)
Petrov Gormanski, Enforcer - Played by Chris (Code name Dick Nixon)
Greg "Buzz" Danzer, Wheelman - Played by GM as an NPC (Code name George Bush)
The code names were used instead of their real names. Duh.

Planning and Scouting

The group started with a planning phase, continued with a scout phase, another planning session, and finally, the execution phase.  The first planning phase was to decide how to do some scouting before they have to pull the job on the following day.  The scouting goes fairly well; Ivan and Petrov go in to open an account, an investment CD.  They get the layout of the bank and a run of the employees.  Paul goes in (he's the cracker) under the guise of renting a safe deposit box.  During the conversation, the bank manager Marcos, thinks he can upsell to the vault safe deposit box over the standard ones.  This is exactly what Paul wants.  They go into the vault for a look around.  This pretty much ends the scouting session, and the next planning session evolves to a 'just before the bank opens' strong arm heist.  They'll grab the bank manager as he arrives at the bank, go in and take care of it with minimal witnesses or additional people who could bungle up the job.

Images not taken during the actual game; I mocked them up in my game room.  They do accurately reflect the minis during the game.  In my game room, we added trees, but otherwise it is the same.

Job Execution

A crisp summer morning and the crew finds themselves across the street in a diner's parking lot.  The bank is nestled on the edge of a business park; around the business park are several restaurants and coffee shops.  Sharp eyes fall upon a van down the street; it's got a logo of some celebrity reality show and there are plenty of cameras around, not yet rolling but the crew is checking and prepping their equipment.  Paul's curious nature gets the better of him and he goes to check out the van and camera crew.  They tell him they're there to film "a day in the life" of a famous musician, Harry Connick, Jr.  He's a Louisiana native, didn't you know?  Some idle chit chat and Paul's back at the car.  (This is one of the random events I pulled - a reality show filming.  They are supposed to enter the bank during the job, but... I had to improvise a bit.)

Finally, the bank manager's car comes into view; the gang's car gets fired up and ready for action.  As soon as the bank manager, Marcos, parks, the gang's car is immediately driven up to and stopped behind it. They jump out.  Marcos immediately locks his car doors and waits for the inevitable.  Ivan rushes the car, punching and smashing out the window.  He grabs for Marcos and cannot quite reach him.  He reflexively opens the car door and grabs Marcos, dragging him to his feet on the parking lot pavement. Petrov searches Marcos and strips him of keys, phone and anything else he finds.

Keys are tossed to Paul and they all make their way to the front door.  Using the keys, Paul opens the door and together they enter the empty bank, with the sound of the entry alarm beeping for attention.  Nick convinces Marcos that if he does everything they say, he'll be safe and unhurt.  Ivan threatens Marcos with much harm if he doesn't comply.  Marcos steps over, enters a code and the alarm stops beeping.  The gang leads Marcos to the door for the hall that leads to the vault.  Buzz contacts the team saying he's monitoring the police scanner and that a bomb threat has been called in for the area, for one of the buildings in the business park.  Cops are coming in, and soon.  Lots of cops. (Random event #2, BTW.)  Nick casually pulls out a burner phone, dials a number and says, "Someone will have to go check THAT out, too."  A few miles away, an explosion blows a wall out of an abandoned restaurant building, causing several calls to the police.

The gang get to the secure hallway door, which is locked with a badge reader.  Marcos says his badge is in his desk in his office.  Paul still has the keys, so he goes and retrieves it.  While Paul is leaving Marcos' office with the security badge, a car pulls into the parking lot. 

Stationed by the front door, Marcus tells the gang about the well-dressed Italian man, who stepped out of the vintage muscle car he had pulled up in. He is now walking up to the bank.

"Who the hell is that?" presses Ivan.

"Um, C-C-Carlo, I-I-I have an appointment w-w-w-with him before the bank opens; he's on the b-b-board of trustees", stutters Marcos. (Random Event #3.)

Carlo slows down, and is staring hard into the bank.  He stops, reaches into his coat for something, and steps behind a corner for cover, showing that he's noticed them.  He keeps his eye on the inside of the bank as he dials a number on his cell phone, puts it up to his ear, and pulls out a pistol.

Inside the bank, Marcus backs away from the door, away from Carlo's viewline, and heads towards the rest of the folks who have made it to the vault.  It takes little convincing to get Marcos to do the combination on the vault. It only takes him one try.  The vault opens; Petrov and Ivan pull Marcos to the side, while Nick and Paul enter the vault, locate box #42, and get to work.  Paul has one of the two keys, and has to pick the other lock.  It takes him less than a minute.  The box is pulled out and opened on a table in the vault.  Paul opens it, and they are staring at a metal briefcase with a black LED screen attached to the side of it.  The screen flashes a few times and the number "00:48" pops up on the screen.  It changes to "00:47"; then "00:46".  Nick looks at it, quickly determines the case is booby trapped with a bomb, rolls up his sleeves, and gets to work. 

Paul announces, "There is a bomb."

Marcos freaks out, breaks away from Ivan, and starts running into the bank lobby.  Ivan gets a quick punch in, knocking Marcos out.  Pissed off, Ivan draws his knife, kneels down and cuts Marcos across the throat, ending the poor man's life in an instant.  Petrov laughs, Paul and Nick are aghast with the sudden action, but soldier on.

After a tense 30 seconds or so, Nick manages to defuse the detonation. Nick takes the briefcase, complete with contents and the defused bomb, and the gang heads towards the back fire exit. Paul calls Buzz for a pick up at the door. 

Buzz pulls into the parking lot, heading around the building towards the back door, when Carlo (remember Carlo?) aims and fires at Buzz. The driver's window glass drops in a cascade of chunks and Buzz takes a wound in the shoulder, impairing his driving a bit. He gets to the emergency fire door, which bursts open, with Paul, Marcus and Nick rushing out, getting into the car.  Behind them, the fire alarm starts screeching. Petrov and Ivan reach the front door, unlock it and engage Carlos in a fire fight.

The camera crew hasn't been able to resist all this brouhaha and has been filming the action for sometime now. The crew is driving closer for a better view of the scene. 

After several exchanges of gunfire, Carlos goes down in a bloody heap.  Ivan opens up with his submachine gun on the van full of the production crew to try to scare them off.  It works pretty well.  Buzz attempts a fancy maneuver to get the gang's car around quickly, the bullet in his shoulder preventing a successful "bootlegger".  Buzz limps the car around, making it over to Ivan and Petrov, who pile into the car.  Peeling out, Buzz drives into traffic and threads his way through the streets to get out of the area as quickly as possible.  A chase ensues with three cop cars.  Bullets are fired from both sides, with one from Marcus in the engine block of one of the cop cars, not enough to stop it cold, but definitely enough to drop him from the chase.  A few turns later and Buzz manages an escape from the other two cars.

That's the end.  It was good to use the Savage Worlds chase rules at the end - something I hadn't planned on, but it worked out pretty well.  Have I mentioned that I love the Savage Worlds system?