Post-Apocalyptic Blues

Chapter 12: The Central Business District

GM Note: We welcomed a new player to our playtest group who is testing the Mercenary class. Alas, his PC name escapes me, so for now we shall just call him Merc.

Lists of new quests in hand, the party rests up, gears up, and begins the journey to the CBD. Before leaving, Chevalier Bataille assigned one of his guards to serve as a guide for Ambassador Cross, since the party is not familiar with the city. Merc is given strict instructions to make sure nothing happens to the Ambassador.

On the way to the CBD, they come across Father Thomas, who has been looking for them. His people informed him that the party might be going into the area, and he asks a favor. While St. Katherine’s doesn’t have a lot of financial resources, his flock are good people who would be inclined to support Pineville’s efforts at diplomacy should it come to a city vote. To gain their favor, Father Thomas asks the party to attempt to retrieve an old relic from a cathedral in the CBD. Father Thomas believes that before the war, the Vatican had sent a crucifix blessed by the last Pope. He believes recovering the relic would help elevate the spirits of the people of Nola. The party agrees to try to retrieve the crucifix.

There is no safe way into the CBD due to all of the damage to the area. And that is probably a good thing, since if there was easy access in and out of the area the gangs would have overrun NOLA a long time ago. Merc knows one way into the area, an old parking garage that serves as a tunnel. The tunnel is guarded by a patrol and a steel fence. As the PCs approach, the guards give them a warning that once they cross the gate, they will be on their own.

Slowly navigating their jeep through the garage, Fox notices a sliver of a wire across the path between two pillars. He and Merc go over to the wire to investigate and disarm the trap while the rest of the PCs wait in the Jeep. As they are trying to disable to device, raiders from the Black Dart gang rush out of the shadows, throwing grenades and making a mess. The PC’s manage to survive and take one of the gang alive. Cross uses his newly acquired Hypnosis ritual to gain mental control over the gang member and convince him that they are all friends.

“Bob” the Black Dart member is able to tell his new “friends” about the immediate area. The Black Dart gang is one of two small gangs in the immediate vicinity. The other is the Scorpion Gang. The two groups are rivals. He also knows the location of the cathedral the party is looking for, but warns that a vampire lives there. After some curious questioning, the party learns of a number of gang members found dead and bloodless in the immediate area of the cathedral.

So the party continues to journey into the CBD and eventually comes across an overturned tractor-trailer blocking the intersection. They can’t move the trailer and they can’t drive the jeep around it. They are going to have to go on foot for the remainder. But by this time, it is getting dark, and they had been previously warned of the presence of cannibalistic zombies and, for lack of a better term, surface-dwelling CHUDs, that come out at night. The trailer, however, is still relatively intact. They drive the jeep into the back of the trailer, close and seal the doors, and assign watches to wait out the night.

Not long after dusk, they hear the commotion of CHUDs running through the streets. There is also some gunfire, as it seems various gang members got caught outdoors after sundown. A poor roll on the random encounter chart results in the appearance of the DEATHCLAW PATRIARCH that is in the area (which only appears if you drop 100 on the encounter chart…bad roll, boys. bad roll). As the creature attempted to rip its way into the trailer, the party decided (for the first time in their lives, I think) that discretion was the better part of valor. They jumped in the jeep, crashed out the doors, and fled back to the tunnel. The Deathclaw was chasing them, but couldn’t catch them. A few of the PCs decided to take shots at the thing as they fled. Poor Bob suffered a critical failure on an attack roll and fell out of the Jeep. The Deathclaw jumped on him, ripped his head off, and began eating his innards.

Needless to say, the PCs did not turn around to try to save him.

Returning the following day, they found what was left of Bob. For reasons only understood the player, Milton decided to keep Bob’s head. The PCs then decided to go investigate the cathedral.
Getting to the cathedral, the front doors were barricaded shut from the inside. So Cross knocked on the door. A couple of minutes later, a voice on the other side of the door asked what they wanted. Cross introduced himself and said he wished to discuss a trade for the crucifix. The person on the other side of the door agreed to discuss a trade, but only Cross could enter. The rest of the party had to stay outside. After some internal squabbling (particularly after the person inside insulted Katie by calling her a loud wench for not shutting up during the preliminary negotiations), the rest of the party backed away and Cross entered the Cathedral.

The “vampire” turned out to be an occultist who seemed to suffer from the Vampirism mutation. He was willing to speak with Cross because he recognized him as a fellow demonologist. He said he would be happy to allow the party to have the crucifix, if they would provide him with live “servants” to help protect his lair by day. The vampire seemed to be concerned that the local gangs were taking too much interest in him as of late, so he wanted needed servants to help protect him. Cross agrees to see what he can do, and the vampire makes it clear that, if Cross is successful, he could be a valuable ally in terms of magical training.

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Chapter 11: The Zombi Court

The Zombie Court opens with introductions and acknowledgement of Lord Ambassador Cross. Just as the introductions conclude, Lady Rae and her entourage enter the hall. She apologizes to “Herman” for being late and they take seats near the back of the hall. Each Chevalier of the Court then gives a report.

Chevalier Marcal informs the assembly that the Restoration Council is on pace to finish the rebuilding of the Treme district by the end of the year, and has determined that Mid_City will be the next sector to be restored. This brings complaints from various factions.

Lady Rae stands up and asserts that Maringy should be scheduled for restoration next. The Queen’s Circle defended NOLA before Samedi arrived, but set aside their needs and abided by the Court’s decisions to restore Algiers, the French Quarter, and Treme in that order. However, the Circle will not abide by the Court’s decision to attempt to restore the mostly flooded Mid-City before Maringy, which is mostly dry land. The only thing in Mid-City of value is the New Orleans Historical Society, which has already consumed enough of the city’s resources keeping the one building from being flooded.

Chancellor Vex, representing the Circle of Magi, agrees with Lady Rae that the flooded Mid-City is a poor choice, but reminds Lady Rae that the restoration of Treme was pushed forward because of the Voodoo Queen’s burial tomb in the district. The Queen’s Circle has gotten something out of the deal. Meanwhile, Bywater has been left relatively defenseless against raiding tribals from the east because of all of security’s focus on the center of the city. Bywater should be restored next, along with a contingent of security to help residents defend it.

Chairman Horton of the Historical Society defends rebuilding Mid-City next. He argues that restoring the region would open the old highways into the city, allowing for increased trade with other communities growing in the area.

After hearing the arguments, Baron Samedi addresses Ambassador Cross for his opinion.

“I am told by the esteemed Captain Harris of Pineville that you are a young man of exceptional wisdom and fair play. As an outsider with no personal ties to anyone in the assembly, perhaps you can share with us your insight. Which area do you believe most deserving of our restoration efforts.”

Being put on the spot, Cross considers the arguments and as Vex if he would be willing to delay reconstruction if more security forces were made available to Bywater. When Vex says that might be acceptable, he asked Lady Rae if the Queen’s Circle might be able to secure volunteers to help protect Bywater while Maringy was restored. Lady Rae says she and the Circle would be more than happy to recruit additional security from her followers to help Bywater, assuming “Herman” would do his part.

Samedi agrees then that, if the Queen’s Circle can provide adequate security support for Bywater, then the city will move to Maringy for the next part of the restoration.

The rest of the Chevaliers conduct their business, and when Court is done Samedi asks to have a private meeting with the Pineville delegates. Behind closed doors, Samedi spells out his position in no uncertain terms.

“Now let’s be clear. We all know Pineville is an ant hole of a community that needs NOLA more than NOLA needs Pineville. I only made a fuss over you in the assembly because none of these people been out of the city at all and it suits my purposes if they think you are more important than you actually are. I know Pineville is scared shitless on the RNT. I know you already had a close call with the RNT and it is only a matter of time before they send a bigger force to attack.
That said, I am inclined to provide you with an opportunity to prove me wrong. As you heard from my Chevaliers, we are up to our asses in our own problems. We’re low on resources, high on demands, and spread too thin. So this is what I propose. You all are going to make yourselves available to me Chevaliers and help them with their problems. You prove useful, we may be able to free up resources to actually give Pineville the protection it wants. But understand that my first loyalty is to Nola, and I will make sure her needs are settled before I worry about a whiny neighbor.

So the team went to each of the Chevalier’s and got their “quests.”

Chevalier Bataille is concerned about raiders and gang violence in the Central Business District that has been spilling into the settled areas of New Orleans. He doesn’t have the force to clear out all the gangs, and even when they do manage to get rid of one gang another one pops up. He suggests a neutral third party might be able to recruit the assistance of Leonitis and the Pride in Prideland. If Leonitis aligned with NOLA, it would provide a huge fighting force that could police the CBD and free up his men to take care of other problems.

There is also the matter of the tribal raiders to the east that has been troubling Bywater. Most of the fighting has been coming from two tribes, Fort Pike and Rivershark Village. Supporting one or the other, or figuring out how to end their fighting, could bring peace to the east.
Chevalier Goldtouch, meanwhile, is concerned with rumors of counterfeiters. He is concerned that this can undermind the fragile economy, but it is difficult for him to track down the culprits. Outsiders, however, may have better luck.

Chevalier du Os asks the players to locate needed electrical supplies to help restore the grid. The old electrical plant is in the CBD, and there may be a warehouse with inventory still salvageable.

Chevalier Cross is working on an edible anti flea repellant for humans to combat the plague. There have been a couple of isolated cases in the city, and he is worried that the lack of sanitation in the city can cause a full scale plague if they can’t get it under control. He’s been cultivating a specific type of brewer’s yeast from currant grapes that seems to work, but he needs a larger supply of the plant to mass produce the repellent. The only place he knows that has it is the Hopewell Plantation. He can’t send a formal city representative to Hopewell because they are a slaver settlement. But a neutral third party might be able to negotiate something for him.

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Chapter Ten: Welcome to NOLA!

This session actually required the players to keep their weapons holstered for most of the evening, relying on their social skills (or lack thereof) to get though the session. Heavy RP session with the PCs trying to gather information and develop a game plan for dealing with the Zombi Court.

After surviving the escape from the River Bend nuclear plant and a flock of mutant flamingos, our heroes continued their journey to New Orleans. Fortunately, the only significant threat they encountered before reaching the city was a roaming band of raiders that attacked their caravan during the night.

Upon reaching the city border, the party realized that the bridge into the city was destroyed and they had no means of crossing the Lake Pontchartrain. They then noticed a large barge on the lake and signaled to it. The bargemaster informed them that he could get them and their vehicles across for a fee. After some negotiations, the party traded a couple of extra weapons they had for transport and they made their way across the lake, through the flooded sections of the city, and arrived in at the dock at Algiers..

Upon arrival, they had to pay for parking ($20 a day, payable in New Orleans paper currency). They found a moneychanger that allowed them to trade some excess gear for money so that they could pay their parking fees. Remembering their contact who told them to look him up at the Rising Sun Caravan company if they were ever in NOLA, they made their way to the Rising Sun to get rooms.

Finding their contact, they settled in, cleaned up, and then got a briefing regarding the political structure of the city. They got summary explanations of the Zombi Court and The Queen’s Circle, and the animosity between the two groups. The contact said he would make the needed arrangements to get the party an audience with Baron Samedi, but in the meantime they should get themselves acquainted with the lay of the land.

The next day, the players explored much of the Algiers district and French Quarter, gathering information about various situations in the city and getting a feel for how citizens viewed things. Later that day, their contact notified them that he had made the arrangements for them to be presented to the Zombi Court the following evening and that they should make sure they are ready.

They got themselves dressed in their best clothes and went to the Old Courthouse that evening. Apparently the Court is also a weird High Society event, with citizens dressing up for the occasion like people would dress up to go to the opera. The PCs mingled a little with some of the locals to try and get an idea of who was who. Finally, everyone was summoned to the main courtroom and told to find their seats so that the Court could commence.

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Chapter Nine: Beware of Pilgrims and Flamingos

Upon Cross’s promotion to “Lord Ambassador” of Pineville, the players began the long trek to New Orleans. Do to careful route planning (and lucky rolls on the random encounter chart) they managed to reach a small town populated by members of the Followers of Armageddon. The townfolk were friendly enough and the players were able to engage in some trade and find rooms for the evening without blowing anything up or shooting at anyone. The only oddity was that several members of the group kept encouraging the players to make a pilgrimage to the Great Temple in order to “bask in the glow” of God’s glory. The players eventually realized that the Followers were talking about the old River Bend Nuclear plant nearby.

They deciding basking in irradiated glow was not a good plan and left the town in the morning.
However, their path took them passed the old power plant. As they approached, they noticed someone on the top floor of a building near the defunct reactor signally them. Looking through their binoculars, they saw the person holding up a sign asking to be rescued.

Unsure what to do, Milton starting surfing channels on his radio to see if he could pick up a frequency. The captive was able to then communicate with them, keeping it short to avoid anyone eavesdropping on the conversation. His name was Fox, and he was an engineer originally hired by the Followers to help rebuild the power plant. Unfortunately, Fox discovered that their plan was not to rebuild the plant, but get it operational enough to force a complete meltdown of the reactor. Apparently the Followers felt this was needed to “cleanse” the region of the Devil’s influence (nearby New Orleans!)

The players then hatched a plan. Milton would distract the Followers inside the reactor by pretending to make a pilgrimage, while the others distracted the guards outside long enough to give their zombie friends time to scale the building and help Fox escape. At which point, the game became part slapstick comedy/part Mission Impossible. Fox was able to repel down the wall and managed to sneak into the garage where the Followers were “protecting” his Winnebago while he was…um…under their protection. Not having a lot of time to play with locks, he floored it and rammed the Winnegbago through the garage door and the caravan of mayhem raced down the highway away from the reactor.

After traveling most of the day, the party set up camp for the evening and spent some time getting to know their newest traveling companion. With no contacts in the area and nowhere else to go, Fox agreed to join the players on their journey to New Orleans.

During the night, Milton thought it would be a good idea to train his baby mutant alligators how to hunt for themselves. A nearby flock of flamingos seemed like a good idea at the time. So as Milton approached the flamingos in an effort to show the babies how it is done. Alas, these flamingos, like most things in the swamp, were mutated and rather aggressive and the whole flock ended up attacking Milton. This led to the rest of the party having to come to the hunter’s rescue before he was eaten alive by a flock of flamingos.

Yeah, death by flamingos. Don’t read about that every day.

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Chapter Eight: Payback's a Bitch...er...redneck?

After the events at the Home Depot, the party returned to their base at the old bus depot. The zombies informed the PCs that they were going to be leaving for a few days because they needed to go back to their old base and pack up. Since they had agreed to stay on and work on the tour bus, they figured they should go get the rest of their supplies and make the bus depot their permanent home base. The PCs told the zombies that they would be gone a couple of days themselves since they had to go back to the settlement to deliver the metal and maintenance supplies to Snake. Because the Jeep could only hold the PCs, the goth girls decided to stay at the depot and keep working on refurbishing the interior of the bus with the fabric and materials they had acquired from the craft store. After making sure they had enough supplies to last them a couple of days, everyone went off on their own way.

Upon returning to the settlement, Snake was very impressed with the size of the haul the PCs had acquired. Cross meanwhile took the two surviving toddlers with him to Mortimer to inform his master about what had transpired. The others went to go check in with Captain Harris to let him know they had successfully completed their tasks and see what else needed to be done.

Mortimer was disappointed in the turn of events regarding the cannibals, because a clan of dumb but sociable cannibals could have been extremely useful down the road. He then used the opportunity to teach Cross his first Major Ritual, Hypnotism, in order to rewrite the toddler’s memories of the event. Mortimer explained that because their minds are still developing, it would be easy to teach Cross the ritual and allow him to practice a little bit to get the hang of it.

In Captain Harris’ office, Harris expressed his gratitude to the PCs for getting the supplies for the settlement. While in his office, they noticed a strange envelop on his desk. It was brightly colored and had what looked like a Mardi Gras mask on it. Dalton pointed at the envelope and noted that it was interesting, but Harris only replied “Yes, it is” and offered no further information. He then told them he had a Council meeting to prepare for and asked the PCs to leave.

Curious about the envelope, Milton and Dalton decided to stake out Harris’ office and wait for him to leave for his meeting. After he left, they picked the lock to his room and entered. They found the envelope and opened it. It was a letter from Baron Samedi acknowledging receive of Harris’ previous correspondence and extending an invitation for the settlement to send an emissary to New Orleans to discuss cooperation against the RNT. They put the envelope back and snuck out of the office.

Meanwhile, Cross had already been summoned to the Council meeting. Apparently Mortimer’s plans were coming to fruition, and the Council had nominated Cross to serve as Ambassador to New Orleans . Because of the influence of various Occult factions in NOLA, the council felt Cross would be best suited to navigate the social terrain. Of course, he would need to select an entourage to travel with him because the trip to Nola would be too dangerous to do alone. Cross agreed to the position and went to go find the rest of the party to tell them the news.

After congratulations were offered they spent a couple of days at the settlement resting up and making whatever arrangements they needed to make before they officially left for NOLA. After that, they headed back to the ruins to see if the zombies were back and check in on the status of the bus.

As they approached the bus, they realized the zombies had not returned yet. Dalton went up to the depot door and opened it, triggering an explosive trap someone had left for the PCs. Due to an unfortunate combination of events, the entire depot burst into flames rather quickly. They tried valiantly to brave the fire to see if the girls survived, but upon entering the burning tour bus they discovered one of the girl’s decapitated bodies and realized they had all been murdered.

Escaping the burning building, they merely watched in horror for a few minutes as their dreams burned up. Milton finally began tracking around the area and discovered a trail going back in the direction of the Home Depot.

Though they attempted to approach the Home Depot in stealth, the killer was waiting for them and began sniping at them from cover. The party spent several rounds essentially dodging bullets by moving between burned out cars in the parking lot. Dalton managed to stealth up to the building without being detected to try and sneak behind the killer.

Once he managed to get within range and have line of sight, Cross grabbed the killer’s attention long enough to employ a Confusion spell that left the killer babbling like an idiot helplessly. This gave Dalton the chance to come up behind him and crack him in the skull with his BFP (Big F’ing Pipe), sending the killer out the window and falling to his death.

They found the girls’ severed heads on pikes inside the Home Depot. After surveying the carnage, they returned back to the bus depot to find the zombies driving up. Sam jumped out of the camper and rushed toward the still smoldering bus depot in horror. After relaying what had transpired, the party invited the zombies to go with them to NOLA.

The zombies agree under the condition that the party makes sure nobody at the settlement shoots at them when they stop there to pick up additional supplies. They all returned to the settlement and the party made introductions between Captain Harris and the zombies. Harris was shocked at first, but softened up when he discovered the zombies were all engineers. Since he had heard rumors that Baron Samedi and many of the Zombi Court were also zombies, it seemed like an act of goodwill to welcome the zombies into the settlement. Snake in particular was happy to meet them. Sam and Joseph decided to stay at the settlement and help upgrade the settlement’s various systems. The other zombies would accompany the PCs to NOLA.

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Chapter Seven: Massacre at the Home Depot

After the deaths of Tristan (Ean2) and Ryan, the survivors and their new companions made their way home to inform Captain Harris of the news. Though saddened at the loss of two promising young people, he was relieved that their deaths had not been in vain and that the party had successfully recovered several trailers full of school supplies. After a brief interview with the new recruits to see what their skills were, Captain Harris welcomed them into the settlement.

After a few days of rest, Snake informed the party that he was in need of scrap metal and miscellaneous other parts to repair the heating and cooling system. After fitting the Jeep with a salvaged U-Haul trailer and filling the tank with ethanol, he sends the party back to the ruins to hunt down the materials he needs.

Of course, they still have the matter of needing cloth and other items to reupholster the bus, and so they go off first to see if they can find an old craft store that might still have material salvageable. They do manage to find an old craft supply store and begin going through the building looking for anything that can be used. While exploring the ruins, they have a run in with a gargantuan boa constrictor that thinks Mike looks rather tasty. After surviving almost being swallowed alive, he and the others finish looting the craft shop and return to their new base of operations at the old bus terminal.

Upon returning to the base, Milton’s eggs start to hatch. He is now the proud…er…father of three adorable baby mutant fire-breathing alligators. It occurs to them that they have no idea what they are actually going to DO with them when they are fully grown, but they decide they will worry about that later.

Next up, off to some of the old home improvement stores to see if there is anything salvageable. The Lowe’s they found was wiped out and damaged beyond the point where anything could be saved. When the got to the Home Depot, however, they noticed what appear to be two tribal casually patrolling the entrance to the building. Dalton and Cross decide to cautiously approach while the rest of the party stays hidden at rifle range in case they need cover.

The tribals seem cautious, but friendly enough. They engage in some chitchat with the pair as Dalton asks them if they have any duct tape or electrical tape to trade for some snake meat (which they have ample of from their previous encounter.) One of them goes in and gets “Jethro’s Paw” who is the apparent leader of the group. Cross successfully diagnoses the appearance of the tribals to realize they are most likely cannibals. But “Jethro’s Paw” seems hospitable enough to agree to trade and he trades them a cardboard box full of duct tape and electrical tape for the meat.

Jethro’s Paw tells them that if they ever want to trade some more to come on back anytime. Apparently there is still all sorts of stuff inside the Home Depot that they weren’t particularly putting to use.

This causes a bit of a riff in the party. After they all regroup and Cross shares his suspicions, the rest of the party adopts an “Us before Them” mindset and decides they should just wipe them all out. Cross doesn’t see the point if they are willing to trade and figures even if they are cannibals, they aren’t stark raving mad and might prove useful in the future. Dalton decides to go spy on the cannibals and sneaks into the Home Depot through a back entrants. He counts about a dozen potential hostiles and another dozen “non-combatants” (children and elderly).

After an intense debate between the party members, the majority decide to try poisoning the cannibals in order to claim the Home Depot for themselves. They poison the remainder of the snake meat they have and return to the Home Depot to trade some more. They then leave and wait to see what happens.

Dalton sneaks back later that night to find one of the women washing sheets behind the building. She recognizes him as one of the people who traded with the clan and warns him that “everybody done got sick” inside and not to go in because it might be contagious. He pretends to be concerned and asks how many people are ill. She says a lot of folks died from a stomach bug and the others are real sick. Her and a few others seem OK and haven’t caught anything yet.

He then proceeds to make a sneak attack on the prone woman with a club, cracking her skull and killing her. He then drags the body off to hide it and radios to the others that the clan seems ripe for the picking.

The other party members (minus Cross) go to the Home Depot and open fire on the survivors, who are in little condition to defend themselves. Two toddlers survive the carnage, and Cross decides to take responsibility for them as his future apprentices. Once inside the Home Depot, they realize that there is a lot of sheet metal, useable plumbing material, and all sorts of things that would be valuable to the settlement. But first, they have to dispose of all of the corpses and get the place cleaned up. Then they will go back to the settlement to inform Snake to bring a team in to empty the building.

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Chapter Six: Don't Taunt the Mutants

Upon returning to their base, Sam informs the party that he and the rest of the zombies will need a couple of months to retrofit the bus with the tread. In the meantime, they decide to go complete the task Captain Harris gave them about finding some school supplies for the settlement. After the excitement of their previous adventure, they felt they could use the break and decided to do something simple.

Yes…simple…right

But first, Milton leaves instructions for the ladies to remember to turn his alligator eggs every few hours and make sure they stay warm. Though confused by the fact that they are being asked to play nursemaids to three eggs the size of a small cat, they agree.

The players easily navigate the ruins and come across an old high school. The decide to go in through a side entrance instead of trying the front door, as they aren’t sure if there is anything living inside or not.

Yes, you read that correctly. They actually were thinking about their safety! I know. Shocking.

They enter through the cafeteria door and begin to scavenge around. It looks as if the school served as a shelter right after the war due to the number of rotted out sleeping bags and skeletons they find. Otherwise they find nothing of use. They do hear some strange skittering noise coming from behind the cafeteria counters. Ryan and Milton sneak over, weapons drawn. to see what is there. They are confronted by a giant cockroach (like, small dog size). The thing hisses and attacks. Of course, nobody noticed the cockroachs skittering across the ceiling. So as Ryan shoots the one on the floor, a second one drops from the ceiling and just misses him and instead lands on the counter. The third lands right on Milton’s back.

ewwwwwwww

But they are only oversize roaches, after all. The party handles them fairly quickly and they continue on.

As they head down the hallway toward the library, they hear a voice coming down one of the halls saying “Heeelllloooo? Anyone there? Heeeeeellllloooo?”

Fallout gamers, stop snickering. I know you all know what these are.

But the players didn’t realize that just because someone says “Hello” does not mean they are friendly and they shout down the hall that they want to talk.

They are greeted by a grenade thrown down the hall at them.

So a Super Mutant wielding three steel pipes duct-taped together comes charging down the hallway after them. Milton gets clocked by the pipes and sent careening backwards. After a harried combat in closed quarters, they finally manage to kill the thing. They go down the hall and see the mutant’s room full of half chewed body parts and realize there may be more of these things in the school. So they are going to be careful.

Yes. Careful.

As they continue exploring the school, they hear the tell-tale “Heeeelllloo? Anyone there?” echoing down a different hall. This time, they take defensive positions in the main hall, using doors and trash cans for cover, before calling out to the creature. Unfortunately for them, they hadn’t really paid attention to the layout of the school and didn’t realize until too late that a second mutant was coming up behind them.

But before the second mutant came out of hiding to attack, the first came around the corner firing a heavy machine gun. Now as d20 Modern players know, these weapons are full auto only, and have a damage area of ten feet. The players have initiate for the most part and manage to do a lot of damage to it with their weapons before it has a chance to fire. Alas, on Tristan’s turn, instead of firing her attempted to use a spell to go invisible so the creature wouldn’t see him (in his defense, he didn’t know the weapon was an area of effect and he wanted to hide to make it easier to heal people if they became injured).

Ryan and Tristan fail the Reflex save and eat all the weapon damage (which, for the first time, was not cursed with a case of the ones) and DIE outright. Cross and Milton made their saving throws and managed to avoid the damage.

Cross and Milton manage to finish off the first mutant before it can fire again, but the second one has come around the corner with a large pipe club ready to send Milton into next Thursday. Cross successfully uses a Confusion spell on it to turn it into a babbling idiot (OK, it was already sort of a babbling idiot, but it was now a babbling idiot that was not swinging a pipe club). This gave them the upper hand to finish the monster off with a Called Shot to the head.

With half the party dead, Cross and Milton decide they have an obligation to at least find the supplies so that their deaths weren’t in vain. As they continue exploring, they discover two people in a cage in one of the rooms the mutants were using (Ryan and Tristan’s new characters!).

After Milton has something of a nervous breakdown over whether or not to let them out of the cages (He’d lost almost all of his friends in a rather short period of time), they decide to let the two out of their cage and invite them to join them. They then locate the library, which is surprisingly in good shape (let’s be honest. NOBODY loots a library during a crisis. They all looted the electronics stores). With the exception of books on bottom shelves that suffered water damage from flooding, they find plenty of books to bring back to the settlement.

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Chapter Five: Dragon Slayers!

Well, after rescuing Abigal from…whatever the Goths were planning to do with her, the triumphant heroes traveled back to the bus station in the ruins to regroup and introduce their new lady friends to the zombie family. After some indiscreet “assignments” insofar as which girls would…um…support which of the heroes, they got to developing a long term game plan.

Sam, a zombie who was a civil engineer before the war, tried to explain to the party that the tour bus would be pretty useless getting around Louisiana unless it could go off road. After some discussion of alternatives, they figured that with the right equipment they could modify the bus to use a tread instead of wheels. Of course, they would need to find a tread big enough to fit a bus since they had no means of manufacturing one. Say…a tank tread would work, right? And there is an old abandoned National Guard armory not far away.

So they decided to go to the armory and see about acquiring a tank tread.

A sidebar to my gentle readers What transpires throughout the rest of this story has no basis in engineering reality. The physics at work are those of an appropriate B-grade “Mad Max” style movie. If you are hoping for anything that follows to bear a remote appearance to the realm of reality, I suggest you stop reading.

So they travel to the Nation Guard armory, along the way having some issues with the local mutant wildlife but nothing they couldn’t handle. As they approach the armory, they find a barricaded settlement of tribals along the road. The tribals are friendly and actually happy to see such heavily armed individuals. Seems they have had a problem with dragons attacking their settlement. The tribals describe the dragons as large reptiles the size of a pick-up truck that breath fire. The tribal leader tells the party that if they kill the dragons nearby, he will give them the “Magic Eyeball” they found in the ruins of the armory.

The “Magic eyeball” appears to be a small mechanical droid shaped like a basketball, but currently inoperable. It does make a slight humming noise when approached.

Since the party needs to go into the armory anyway, they agree to kill the so-called dragons.

As they near the site, they see a large alligator sneaking up on a mutant deer. The alligator opens its mouth and breaths fire on the deer, killing and roasting it simultaneously. They also notice additional tracks that resemble an alligator, but are too large to be the one they saw. Apparently there is a larger one in the area.

So they decide to set a trap for the “king” dragon using explosive and bait. of course, they need to go find some bait. So after rigging the explosives, they go off into the swamp to hunt some bait. Alas, they themselves are being hunted by a pair of fire-breathing alligators. After a close fight, they defeat the alligators.

But then they hear the explosives go off and rush back to the scene to find a giant albino alligator the length of a Ford F150. Another frantic combat ensues, but ultimately the heroes manage to defeat the beast. After doing a sweep of the armory, they finish off the last of the gators.

The hunter, however, also discovered a nest and decided to take the eggs back with him to raise. He successfully figured out how to make a portable nest to safely transport the eggs.

Once the gators were dealt with, the party found a pair of tanks still on the property. That was the good news. The bad news is that they had no means of removing the tank tread from the tank while the tank was standing up. They noticed however that because of the way the ground had settled that the tank was leaning slightly. Maybe they could tip it over?
Of course, the only thing nearby strong enough to tip a tank would be another tank. So Ryan and Tristan (Ean2) get into the other tank to see what they can do. The other party members, suddenly seeing the potential for disaster, move out of harm’s way instead of trying to talk their companions out of what they are about to do. A failed Mechanics check followed by a Failed Drive check leaves the pair thinking the best way to tip the tank would be to FIRE at it. They figure out how to get the tank powered on and move the tank 20 feet back to prepare to fire.

Sidebar Yes, I know. Technically they shouldn’t have even found any fuel for it. But you know, when people are determined to get themselves killed, it is the GM’s job to simply stay out of the way.

So they fire the weapon at the other tank, causing a huge explosion. Miraculously, they actually survived (damn one’s on damage dice grumble grumble). And what is left of the other tank flips over onto its side. They spend the rest of the day getting the tread off the remains of the tank.

Of course, they only have their military Jeep and I ask them how they intend to get a tank trend back to the ruins. They jury-rig a trailer to drag the tread behind them.

Unfortunately, this trailer does not hold up well and they have to stop every few hours to fix it. During one of these stops, a DEATHCLAW attacked the party.

With Ryan almost dead from the Deathclaw, Tristan rushes to heal him. His declared action is that he is going to jump OVER the Deathclaw to heal Ryan.

Me: OK, you have a clear path around the trailer. You can just go around and make your check.

Tristan: But it will be cooler if I jump over it.

Me: You realize that you have to make an Acrobatic check, and if you fail you will be face first in the mud? You don’t need to make a check to just go around.

Tristan: Yeah, I know. (rolls die) Um, what was the difficulty?

Suffice it to say, he failed miserable and landed face first in the mud, becoming a lovely doormat for the Deathclaw to step on as he continued to rip into Ryan.

By the grace of the dice gods, the rest of the party got their act together long enough to kill the thing before it finished ripping off Ryan’s head.

Eventually they will figure out that there is no auto-save in this game…or not.

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Chapter Four: Cleaning House

Because of the holidays, I am a little backed up on the story status, but the game did run the last two weeks. So this will be a summary of the last two sessions.

With the death of Ean and the near death of most of the party, the players had the inevitable task of returning to Pineville and explaining to Dr. Redmond what happened to his son. On the trek back to the settlement, the party came across a ransacked caravan that had been attacked by a pair of Deathclaws (again, there will be no Deathclaws in the actual product. This is an ongoing joke with the players and my primary tool for keeping them in line). Surveying the carnage, they found a survivor trapped beneath an overturned wagon.

*Sidebar: After Ean’s death, we discussed the Doctor class and made some significant changes to it. In order to test the new rules, Brandon rolled a 1st level Occultist, 2nd level Doctor to play with the multiclass mix and see how it would work. He also decided to give the new character the same mutations and follow the same Nordic pantheon. (In the post-apocalyptic world, people just worship whatever they want including long-forgotten pantheons).

The survivor had amnesia and only remembered that he had bought passage wit the caravan to head to New Orleans. The other player’s noticed that he looked strangely like Ean and hatched a plot to pass him off as Dr. Redmond’s son. Though he refused to believe he was Ean, the survivor had nowhere else to go so decided to follow the party.

The players then snuck “Ean” to Mortimer’s lab and explained their predicament. Mortimer sent the players off to go find Captain Harris and file a report with him and Vance while he talked to “Ean.” Mortimer plainly explained to the survivor that he had two choices: he could go along with the charade so as not to mess up Mortimer’s own plans or he could leave the settlement…alone…with only the clothes on his back. As Mortimer explained, the settlement has finite resources, and none of them are used for charity cases.

So “Ean 2” finally agreed to go along with the ruse, for now, until he got his own memory back and could figure out why he was going to New Orleans. Mortimer then employed some of his rituals on Dr. Redmond to cement the lie. The doctor now believes simply that his son has temporary amnesia.

Thankfully, despite the epic failure of the premature explosion, most of the RNT was either killed, trapped, or chased off from the ruins. Vance organized teams to go into the ruins and root out any remaining RNT soldiers to make sure they were gone for good. The party then went back to the ruins to help with the clean up, with an additional mission from Dr. Redmond to see if they could swing by the ruins of the clinic or hospital and see if there was any medical equipment salvageable.

Once in the ruins, the party came across the first couple of RNT soldiers driving a military vehicle out of the ruins. Everyone but Ean2 successfully hid. Stuck in the middle of the street, Ean waved down the vehicle, pretending to be a survivor. As the vehicle slowed down to meet him, the rest of the party sniped the driver and passenger from behind cover and killed them. They then commandeered the vehicle and used it to engage in some Grant Theft Auto style silliness by trying to run down any soldiers they came across.

They came across the hospital, which was partially collapsed. Cross had some difficulty navigating the collapsed building and one of his legs went through a floorboard. As his friends pulled him out, he felt something grab at his leg. Upon regaining his balancing and looking down into the hole he almost fell through, he saw a zombie trying to climb up after him.

After dispensing of the zombie in the hole, the party moved more cautiously through the building. They found a couple of more feral zombies in the remains of the emergency room and dealt with them. In the empty pharmacy, they found a “friendly” zombie who claimed to just be scavenging supplies. The party decided NOT to shoot first and ask questions later, and learned that the zombie was actually from New Orleans and was in the area spying on the RNT for the Zombie Court. Clyde then told the party if they ever make their way to Nola to look him up at the Rising Sun Merchant’s Guild and he might be able to help them out.

After the successful clearing out of the RNT troops, the party had a couple weeks of downtime and resumed their normal activities at the settlement. They decided they should work on their newly acquired military vehicle and maybe reinforce it with some armor plating and such in case they need it in the future. But the settlement lacks those sort of resources, so they requested time off from work to go back into the ruins and see if they could find some stuff.

Captain Harris granted the time off, under the condition that they try to search the old schools for any books or supplies that might be useable. The settlement’s existing supplies are sorely lacking, so anything they can bring back would be a big help.

So they go back into the ruins and decide to look for the old bus terminal because there might be equipment and stuff there. As they arrive, they notice zombies scavenging about, but through observing them realize they aren’t feral zombies so decide to approach and talk to them.

The zombies are none too excited to see them. One of the female zombies runs off in fear of being shot at. The exchange begins a little tense, but eventually the two sides agree to leave each other alone.

The zombies leave to go look for their friend, and the players continue to scout around the bus terminal. The garage door is crushed shut and the other half of the garage is collapsed in, but they manage to squeeze in through the rubble and discover a tour bus in functional condition inside the garage if they can get the door open. After digging up some welding equipment, they cut open the door and get a look at the bus. The interior is a wreck thanks to a family of dire rats that had been living in it, but the mechanics are all in working order. The party gets the idea that the bus would be a great mobile base for themselves and get to work on cleaning it up.

That night, one of the zombies approaches the party and asks for their help. Sarah, the female that ran off, was captured by a group of Goths who think they are necromancers. The rest of her group is worried as to what they might do to her but are outnumbered four to one against the group. Since it was sort of the party’s fault she ran off to begin with, they ask the party to help them stage a rescue mission. In exchange, they offer to help them fix up the bus as one of their members, Sam, was a civil engineer before the war.

So they all go to the old apartment building the gang is holed up in. After some preliminary scouting, Cross and Ean2 determine the Goths are just a bunch of wannabe punks who have no clue about magic. Cross and Ean hatch a plan to infiltrate the group by pretending to be representatives of the Ordo Temples in New Orleans who are seeking out new apprentices.

Cross walks up to the office door and knocks, acting appropriately “mysterious” and saying that the coven’s actions have been “noticed” and that he was sent to provide guidance. The leaders of the group are excited that their rituals have finally been noticed and after a brief exchange show Cross where the “sacrifice” is being kept.

Cross then acts disgusted, claiming the sacrifice was not sufficiently pure for the ritual they were attempting to conduct. He convinces the leaders to release Sarah to his custody, and he would take her to Ordo Temples for purification.

As they prepare to leave, the leaders get on the walkie talkies and inform the rest of the coven that masters from the Ordo Temples had graced them with a visit, and that everyone should get into the courtyard to pay proper respects. Meanwhile, the rest of the party has positioned themselves in locations to provide cover if it was needed.

As Mike and Ean lead Sarah out of the courtyard, the rest of the party decides to just open fire on the coven. The female members flee into the various rooms, while the men try to get their weapons and fight back. But it is pretty much a slaughter.

Then, being proper post-apocalyptic heroes cough, cough the party decides to rescue cough, cough the surviving females who no doubt need someone to protect them cough, cough. The ladies, upon realizing they are no longer in immediate danger and somewhat amused that their leaders were so easily tricked by Cross (and the women were not influenced at ALL by the fact that some of the males in the party had high charisma scores. Nope, played no part whatsoever in their decisions) decided to go with the guys back to the tour bus.

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Chapter Three
Death Be Not Proud

Youth and pride has a tendency to catch up with you after a time. In this case, during the third session.

So after the debacle last week, Scoutmaster West and Captain Harris decided it was time to launch a preemptive strike against the RNT before they could establish a foothold. West was going to distract the RNT with an overt assault to draw their attention. The party was recruited to use the sewer tunnels below the ruins to plant eight explosive charges that Snake would activate remotely once they were all set. Bomber stayed behind to assist Snake with the remote controls (player was not available due to family commitments…damn holidays). And Drake stayed behind to help reinforce the settlement defenses while the main force went with Vance (player home sick…damn flu season). So this left Ryan, Cross, Vance, and Milton to handle the situation.

They were specifically told that, after what happened last time, to expect possible patrols or alarms to be in place. “The RNT isn’t stupid,” Harris reminded them. “You slipped by them before because they weren’t expecting you. They might be expecting you now.” Avoid combat if possible, plant the charges, and then radio in to Snake when you are at a safe distance. Don’t use the radio unless absolutely necessary, because the RNT might have means of intercepting the transmissions. Harris was reluctant to send green soldiers into this situation, but the more skilled fighters were needed on the surface to avoid taking heavy casualties during the faux assault. Ryan is given the explosives and specific instructions on how to plant them. The explosives are high-power and volatile, so it is important to be very careful with them. If one goes off accidentally, all the charges that have been set will go off as well. Ean is given the radio to communicate with Snake. Mortimer reluctantly provides each member of the stealth team with one healing potion and informs Cross that, according to his scrying, if the explosives can be detonated as close to 3 pm as possible, that will achieve maximum destruction to the RNT. When pressed as to how he knows this, he simply reminds Cross of his skill in employing numerological talismans to discern information.

3 PM = maximum boom.

They reach the ruins just before noon without incident and spot another patrol robot. This time, they thankfully evade detection from the robot and enter the sewers. After moving toward the first detonation location, they fail to detect a trap and set off an alarm. Ryan successfully plants the explosive and the party tries to evade detection. A loan patrol finds them, sneaks up on them, and snipes them from the shadows. After a drawn-out firefight, the patrols gun jams (critical failure, damn dice!) and he turns and runs to get reinforcements. They manage to catch the guy before he reaches help, and take his gear. If you remember the events of Chapter One, you can safely consider this foreshadowing.

They plant the second device without incident, and move to the location for the third device when they hear a second patrol nearby. The successfully sneak up on the patrol, a lone gunman, who is speaking into his Walkie Talkie “Sector 6 Clear. Over.” The voice on the radio comes across saying “Sector 7, Report in. Over.” Fortunately, Milton had turned down the volume of the walkie talkie they acquired from the previous patrol. Unfortunately, he felt it a good idea to fake a report in by responding “Sector 7 Cear. Over.” Which might have worked were it not for the fact that they were within EARSHOT of the patrol. The patrol hears this from around the corner, realizes something is wrong, and says into his radio “Code 5. Need backup.”

And thus a second firefight begins.

They plant the fourth device, but now they are evading three-man patrols through the sewers. As they round a corner, everyone hears the sound of a patrol coming down the tunnel. Everyone, that is, accept Ean, who obliviously walks around the corner ahead of his allies and walks right into the patrol.

They don’t fire first, but instead two of the patrols aim their weapons at him while the third demands that he identify himself. It is at this point Ean’s player regrets not putting any ranks in Bluff.

“My name is John. I’m a doctor. Um, just walking around,” he responds. While the rest of the party hangs back out of site trying to figure out what to do.

The patrol leader tells him that he has to come with them so the captain can question him. To which Ean decides to shot the patrol leader. The rest of the party almost abandons him at this point to let him take the fall and be a martyr so that they can complete their mission. But then they remembered that Ean had the damn radio to talk to Snake.

So they sigh, come out of hiding, and engage the enemy.

They miraculously survive THAT encounter by the skin of their teeth (and few hit points to spare). They get themselves healed up, regroup, and continue on.

So they get to the point to plant the sixth device, and Ryan suffers a critical failure on his attempt to safely plant the device. Being a kind and benevolent GM, I give him a Reflex Save to catch the device before it hits the ground. He fails dismally. And so everyone gets a Reflex Save to get out of the blast radius of the explosion.

Milton survives with six hit points. Ean is reduced to -9 hit points. Cross is at -3 hit points. And Ryan is at -6.

They still have a couple of the healing potions left, so Milton says he is going to force feed the potions to his fallen comrades to get them on their feet. Unfortunately, he lacks the medical training to determine who is the closest to death (failed the Heal check) and goes to Cross first. Since this takes a round, Ean is reduced to -10 and dies.

Now we can argue that Milton also failed the common sense check, as he saved the demonologist before saving the DOCTOR, but in his defense it is easy to forget Ean was the doctor when he was walking out in front of bullets…

Of course, the other charges that had been planted also explode, collapsing half the city and cutting off their way out. They amazingly get their acts together and manage to escape the tunnels using alternate routes.

Game Mechanic issues:

Made some changes to the Doctor class to make it more functional at lower levels (and, perhaps, discourage players from walking out in front of bullets).

Added an Ambidextrous feat. After seeing the Called Shot effects in play, decided it made sense that a character that suffered a called shot to one arm should still have the option of using his other arm for wielding a weapon.

Need to think through some tweeks with the Occultist class. Overall it works fine but I’ve noticed a couple of minor issues that need to be resolved before the players hit higher levels where things might get problematic with certain abilities.

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