Tabletop Report – Session 3

It’s time for Tabletop Report! For the uninitiated, Tabletop Report is a new series chronicling the adventures of my DnD group as I run them through a custom campaign and ruleset based off of Microsoft’s Gears of War universe.

Disclaimer: I don’t own Gears of War, and I’m totally not claiming otherwise. I just really love the universe, and have wanted to run a campaign set in it for the longest time. The system I built is entirely my own, and this game is a test-run of its viability as a full tabletop system.

This is the report summary for session 3. Prior sessions will be listed before the break if you need to catch up. Some knowledge of Gears of War‘s greater universe may be required. Now, let’s see what happened to our players after last week!

Session Three – Act 1, Chapter 2

So, when we last left the party, they’d arrived at Bedel, and reached the surviving stranded left behind during the evacuation of Tyare and Bedel holed up in the evacuation hub (which was the local school). They’d been welcomed inside and sent to meet with Keela, the one-time school principal, and now de-facto head of the stranded camp. Not by force, but more by inertia and the fact that she’s pretty darn capable at it. They found the members of the camp smelly and dirty, but friendly. Oh, and walking on lots of carpet. Getting the idea that maybe things that lived under the ground could track where you were by vibrations, they’d covered all the ground in the building with multiple layers of carpet. Whether or not it was working, well … they didn’t know, but better safe than sorry, right?

So the party met with Keela, who was friendly with them, but not too impressed after a few party members said some foolish stuff. Despite that, she wasn’t hostile, pointing out to the group that they were welcome to stay at the camp for a few days, though if they stayed any longer than a two she’d need them to start pulling their own weight like everyone else. She mentioned that she’d seen a few other survivors pass through … some who just wanted to swap goods and move on, while others just wanted to make the several-hundred mile journey west to the Jacinto Plateau (and meet up with the remnants of the COG government holed up there).

The party, however, wanted to trade. First and foremost, for weapons (they were all quite unimpressed with the civil defense pistols they had in their survival packs … and to be fair, a 9mm equivalent isn’t going to do much to a Locust wretch, much less a drone), and then for food. The former was much more important, as the party saw it (despite only having a week’s worth of rations left).

Unfortunately, as Keela informed them, there were no weapons that they would be willing to part with save more of the Civil Defense Pistols. Simply put, every weapon they had they were using. Food, however, they had plenty of, even though they were already at work growing more food on the roof of the school.

However, she did let them know that Ray’s Scrapyard, some 10-15 miles north of town, had a lot of guns, and last they’d heard, the owner, Ray, was still alive and holed up in the place. The party resolved to meet him immediately … save Keela also mentioned that her camp would be willing to trade food for the group looking into their water problem.

Put simply, all water to the town had gone out almost a week earlier. After determining that the problem seemed to be with the main pumphouse for the town, three members of the camp had gone to check things out. That had been several days earlier, and they hadn’t come back. Keela wanted to get a larger party together to go look at things, but understandably the camp was shorthanded to be sending a lot of their armament out at once.

Even so, she offered the party one of the classrooms to sleep and store their gear in while they stayed, and was pretty friendly. I guess I may have overplayed it because the party were suspicious as anything of these stranded. They suspected that the pumphouse was a trap, that the group was going to ambush them in their sleep and take all their stuff. I’m not quite sure, honestly, how much of it was them being in character and them being used to being munchkin murder-hobos that expect everyone to betray them. Anyway, they were paranoid and suspicious of everyone, even the shell-shocked kids wandering around.

They were also suspicious of Jed (though that was just bad luck), the guard who’d wanted a gander at the dirty magazines they’d found in session 2. He came by to make a deal while the rest of the party debated what to do. Butch, the mechanic/survivalist of the group, wheeled and dealed with Jed, but the man refused to part with his Gnasher, instead offering a “favor” that Ray owed him that he’d been about to pick up when E-Day hit. He agreed to part with the favor for half the stash of magazines, and Butch agreed. Jed told him what to tell Ray so Ray would know that they were serious, and then went his way with his new acquisitions.

The group set a watch like normal, and I honestly think some of them expected something to happen, but despite their rolls the night passed without any incident. The next morning, the team geared up, locked their goods in a supply shed on the school grounds (they didn’t trust leaving them with the stranded; I know there are lousy ones out there, but these ones were nice on purpose) with a combination lock they’d found in the school (I didn’t bother pointing out that the school probably had a record of those combos if they really wanted to get the group’s stuff), and then raided the local hardware store for stuff. Mostly odds and ends, and some stuff had already been taken by Keela’s group.

But at last, stocked up with useful odds and ends, they decided to set off for the pumphouse. STILL suspicious that it was going to be an ambush to kill them all and take their stuff, when they arrived on the other side of town and beheld the squat, square entrance that descended down into the ground, they took plenty of time making stealth rolls, observational rolls … even using the binoculars they’d found at the hardware store (which took said rolls from a d20 to a d12 under the system).

Nothing. Just open gravel and a heavy, cement pumphouse that led underground. At this point the party was theorizing. Some wanted to see what was past the slightly ajar door at the top. The others still thought it was a trap, and that they should leave immediately. Or that they should chalk it up to a busted water main and leave.

But the curious party members went ahead anyway, and opened the door after thoroughly checking for traps. They found a set of stairs going down … and at the bottom, water covering the bottom three and a half feet. This was enough for several party members to say “well, we can’t fix it,” and try to leave, but the more curious members prevailed and made their way down the steps into the water. It was clear, but the door it was coming through was ajar, and through it they could hear more water running.

They opened the door the rest of the way to find a spray of water arcing across a large room from an opened valve on a large pipe on the far wall, keeping the room full to the height it was in the hallway and draining through a grill in the floor. Oh, and a body. After managing to make some tough rolls to close the valve (on a d8), they got the water shut off and determined that the cause of death for the body (one of the missing stranded, they assumed) had actually been the water pressure. He’d opened the valve for some reason, the arc of water shooting out had slammed his head into the wall far harder than would have kept him awake, and he’d subsequently drowned in the flood that followed.

With the water gone, the group was able to open one of the two doors out of the room and make their way through the pumphouse proper (the other door went to the control room, but it was locked and reinforced). They determined that everything was still working, but the main water flow was off, and the pumphouse had gone into standby mode.

This examination took some time, as half the party members, still sure it was an ambush, had stayed topside to guard the door.

When they found the control room (after looping around through the facility), they discovered why. Someone had holed up in the pumphouse and shut off the water to Bedel to “keep it for themselves.” Nevermind that it was pumped from elsewhere. They’d gone a little mad. They had also killed the other two members of Keela’s camp that had wanted the water back on, before succumbing to their own wounds and dying. The group, relieved, set about getting the water turned back on, which involved turning on the main pump and then bringing several additional secondary pumps online in the right sequence (the equipment was so old the numbers had rubbed off of the bronze, and it would automatically shut down to avoid damaging anything if the sequence wasn’t right; good old COG overengineering).

They’d made it partway through identifying the correct sequence when a wretch none of them had made good enough rolls to hear dropped out of the piping on the ceiling and attacked them.

As I’d hoped, this created instant panic. Especially as half of the team was still outside, guarding the entrance against stranded. The whole team had a starting bonus action thanks to the prior session, but even that was blown for one of them when the wretch screamed, succeeded in incredible fashion on the roll, and the defending player’s roll to weather it was horrible, costing them their first four actions as they recovered.

On a good note for the team, the wretch’s scream failed to summon additional wretches, and they themselves managed some quick thinking to turn the tables on the beast. One player shouted a warning and then hit the fire alarm, the loud alert costing the wretch one action. Another player (the stunned one, actually), recovered and retaliated by letting loose with the fire extinguisher they’d been holding (in case the pumps had gone wrong), stunning the wretch even further. As a result, the group was able to surround the wretch and cut it down with an array of pistol shots … because all their heavier weaponry was back at the entrance defending the door and couldn’t get there in time!

Still, it was one wretch, and though there was some injury, the wretch was eventually killed by continuous pistol fire. With it dead, the group quickly got the water on and returned to Keela, who was saddened by the loss of three of her camp (and who had done it), but very thankful for the water. The group was treated to showers, a month’s supply of rations (30 days total, but really only enough for 4-5 days as a group), and some ammo for their better weapons.

They rested for the night, without a watch, at last convinced of the camp’s honesty, and then gathered their gear (noting with anger that something—a wild ticker, not that they know this—broke into the shed through the back wall and ate two boxes of their ammo, the result of two lucky rolls on my part) before running off, and made ready to leave Bedel for Ray’s Scrapyard.

We ended the session there, with the players still quite enjoying the game, the universe, the suspense … and really begging for better weapons now that they see how badly a 9mm matches up against a wretch.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll keep you posted!

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