|"Yes? " by Errold, CC-ND-SA
I played this game in an extremely low-tech style l: I told my players to grab their physical dice and stuck with Discord voice. Character sheets were just static images I photoshopped from the original character sheet.
Thanks to random generation, we ended up with PCs that were well suited to the story, and true to form, they took them in wild directions.the player running Dr. Tom Mangle, the surgeon, played him as the Medic from Team Fortress 2, and constantly offered creative surgical upgrades. The Jazz artist, Dr. Momboozo way played like Doc Holiday from "Tombstone", both done to the hilt.
Once the premise was pitched, as this was a one-shot, both players decided that it was their intention to steal the Indulgence for themselves.
I run a high-trust group. We can play a game where PCs stab each other in the back and still laugh and have good feelings about it. Partially because we all understand that this is a team game, and we need to set a goal. In a campaign, the goal is to triumph together, so PvP is not on.
For a one-shot, the goal is to have a lark.
In Media Res
My players had never run a Powered by the Apocalypse game before. But they both did the math after I described the rules, and decided a direct confrontation with the coppers was going to be a bad idea.
The randomly generated PCs were well-prepared for this: Dr. Momboozo used his magic to create a wall of vines and swamp roots to block the way, letting the surving members of the team hide in a nearby shop.
They spent a great deal of time riffing off of each other as they messed with the zombie shopkeeper.
Momboozo: "Do you carry devil Rats?"
Clerk: "uhh... No Rats!..."
Mangle: "Good! That would be be unsanitary!"
Momboozo: "You pass! Congratulations!"
Mangle: "But we have our eye on you..."
Lonnie Wants to Go to Heaven
The scene where they got the plan from Lonnie was played fun and fast... We wanted to keep the game popping. But, I got caught out on the fact that part of the plot was borrowed from "Dogma"... Although they didn't spot that the rest was straight out of "Reservoir Dogs."
They got a laugh out of me retroactively playing Harley as a lovesick shmoe after already killing him off, but to a degree it was an inside joke.
This was mostly made as a chance to play the characters for laughs and see if they can spot the traitor. I like to offer role-playing opportunities later in a first session or a one-shot, so that players who enjoy chatacter acting get to develop the PC then, after thay have had a chance to get a feel for what they can do, and what they will choose in a life or death situation. It lets the character emerge rather than be invented for a more organic experience.
Using a mix of In Media Res and flashback lets you promise that the action will be coming back immediately. The players don't feel pressured to do more play-acting than they are comfortable with.
The Big Kaboom!
The shootout that got the cops riled up and the explosion were handled in less than five minutes. It had to happen to make the start make sense... And to establish how the Voodoo Glow Skulls work.
To a degree, this whole scenario was a dig at Momboozo's player, whose previous character in Mothership, Mathilde "Megadamage" Helming, TPK'd the party by mishandling explosives. They got the gag. In fact, when the player botched a roll to set explosives, he said "Damn, I just nearly took some Megadamage there." Tis will be our new running gang.
Back into the Action
All the "How did we get here" stuff took less than ten minutes. Then I dropped them right back in with two decisions "do you steal from the shopkeeper?" and then do you take Karl's suggested direct route, even though the cops are still looking for you?, or do you take a circuitous route proposed by Myron to get help from his "Friends." (Or, do you ditch them and find your own way?))
Either choice could have created a different story, and this is where the rubber met the road, RPG-wise. It let them choose something their character would do. From here, all roads might lead to Scaramanga's Vault, but there is a lot that they can do between here and there.
As it was, they chose to follow Karl's lead, and walked right into the guards.
I have mixed feelings about The Powered by the Apocalypse engine. Most of which is down more to the culture of GMing that goes with it (an article for another time) than the engine. One thing ong I like about Down and Out in Dredgeburg's way of expressing the engine is that the "fail" and "partial success" are wide open, and time us willy-nilly. That freedom meant that I could judge that their "partial success" in running from the cops meant they got away clean, but their allies got shot. It saves me from having to roll dice for NPCs. A failed roll would have meant the PCs caught lead instead.
In a one-shot the less rolling I do, the better.
And the combination made for great black humor. When Karl, lost a horn during the escape, Dr. Mangle made a deal of grabbing it, handing it back to Karl, and telling him.
"Hold onto this, ve vill put it back on later."
Then a second hit on Karl was rolled, as suddenly Mangle was looking through Karl's torso.
"Ah, never mind zen..."
Myron also lost one of his skeletal hands before they successfully got away.
"Zat, I might haff trouble with. But, you know, it doesn't haff to be YOUR hand ve replace it vith... "
Once they finally gave the cops the slip, Myron pitches his double-cross to the PCs, but they decline and insist they continue the mission.
My players were hungry for action, so I decided to keep this part simple, by explaining the poison and potion in less than two minutes, after giving my players the perfect fodder for humor: "What the Hell Kept ya'?!"
Hearing your plot repeated back to you in character with an appropriate amount of euphemism and cussing is truly rewarding to the GM.
One-shots need to be played furiously... Ultimately you want:
- An action-packed start.
- A chance to establish character.
- Action to build tension and make the danger feel real.
- One stop to catch your breath and plan your next move
- An intense, scary, probably lethal finale.
This was time for action, not a ton of rolls for stealth. The poison worked, the map ofScaramanga's compound correct... I only had one chance to end with a bang, why waste it? We picked the action back up when we were setting the charges.
The characters decided to use more stone magic to weaken the Vault walls before setting skulls. A qualified success, I decided, meant that the whole building was destabilized. I started a secret randomized countdown until the building went down.
A qualified success on setting the magic bombs nearly killed Dr. Momboozo, but he was Lucky on the dice towards the end.
The Vault cracked, the PCs rushed in and grabbed the Indulgence... And an angry Demon Lord showed up on cue. Momboozo used his magic to create an escape chute, but the qualified success got his familiar crushed by the Demon... As only things touching the magic bottle they brought in were invisible to him.
And that's where the rapid-fire treachery began.
Myron shot Lonnie in the head, but Lonnie survived... Barely.
Mangle shoved Myron away from the bottle... He had intentionally left the hook shoddy to make that possible.
While the Demon crushed Myron, they slid back down to the foyer.
Lonnie was staggering around, and this is when Momboozo tried to take the Indulgence. He managed to steal it, too. But Lonnie fired off his Blunderbuss and ran with the potion, Mangle in tow.
All the remaining characters ran for the exit, but Momboozo ended up blocked from escape by the Demon, so he pulled out his last skull to threaten the Demon.
As the Demon tried taking control of Momboozo, Mangle let go of the bottle and let Lonnie keep running. He pulled the "Ol' Shady Sands shuffle..." he slipped two armed glow skulls into the Demon's suit jacket then took cover.
The blast vaporized the Demon, and finally triggered the collapse of the townhouse, burying Momboozo under rubble.
As Momboozo tried digging his way out, Mangle figured out where he was, and started digging, just to free the Indulgence.
Realizing what was up just as Mangle freed his hand, Momboozo decided to try to use the Indulgence before it could be taken from him. Mangle grabbed his hand and tried to beat him.
Rather than roll, the players (without prompting) raced to see who could recite The Lord's Prayer the fastest.
It was a tie.
Ending on a Laugh
|"Ophanim" by GravityGlitch, CC-NC-ND
"Look, If I had my way, I'd drop you two assholes back into the swamp. But the Church in its infinite wisdom, thought they should be allowed to sell Salvation. So here we are."
And so the two PCs rose upwards into a blinding light.
Mangle: "You know, sis could be ze shtart of somezing beautiful, und a vondurful freundship..."
Momboozo: "Nah, screw you! Heaven means never seeing you again."
Fade to white...