Saturday, July 2, 2011

3:16 Solo Play

I bought 3:16 Carnage Amongst the Stars and fell in love with the system. It has a very competently designed "light" rules set, and allows play ranging from mindless alien slaughter to deep character development. In my opinion, it's not the kind of game well suited for solo play, as any other RPG that builds tension based on the creative uses that players make of the authorial power granted to them, like Fiasco for instance.

Anyway, I wanted to try the game and I'm still not sure when I'll be able to find a group willing to play it, so I thought I'd use good ol' Mythic GME along with a couple of house rules and see what happens. My main inspiration regarding solo Mythic stuff, by the way, is the Solo RPG Gamer blog, which has a lot of interesting posts on the subject.

To start the game, I created four "player" characters in the following manner: first, I used the Mythic random description tables to get inspiration for each character's reputation. Then I rolled one six-sided die, adding one for their Fighting Ability, re-rolling on a repeated result. From that, it's possible to figure the rest of each characters' information. I rolled for the weapons and on the names table for each character. Thus were born:

Sergeant Hicks - reputation: Lunatic
Corporal Miller - reputation: Pushover
Trooper Abe - reputation: Sleazy
Trooper Sims - reputation: Righteous

I randomly generated the planet and alien attributes, using the game rules. Since I had 20 threat tokens to use in alien encounters, I decided to roll one six-sided die, adding 1 for each encounter after the first, to figure how many I'd allocate to each encounter. Once I had eight tokens or less left, I would go to the final encounter of the mission. Lastly, I rolled for the NPC who would brief the team. Lieutenant Goodman got a result of "oficially odd" on the Mythic description table. I asked "is he seen as too informal for an officer?" on the fate chart, getting an Exceptional Yes answer. Then I was ready to start...

The Mission
Lieutenant Goodman entered the room in his usual long stride, boot heels clanging against the ship's floor. "So, who's up for some barbecue?," he asked with an irritatingly posed smile. Trooper Sims always felt unsettled by the way Goodman talked to the company. "Right now," Goodman continued, "we're entering orbit of the Titian planet. As you can see," and he pointed to a holo-projection of the planet, "it's nothing but a huge ball of sand and dust with some primitive wildlife, but High Command wants it burned. We have picked up a strange signal coming from a cave complex but we can't find out what it is from up here, so your mission will be to drop a sensor array deep inside those caves."

First Contact
Getting down to planet surface was the usual bumpy, shaky affair that was riding a drop ship. The squad of troopers jumped down and landed on the soft and warm sands as soon as the ship stopped. A moment later and it was flying back to orbit, lifting a swirling cloud of dust and sand. From the surface, the planet's sky had a purple-blue hue. According to the automatic orientation system, the caves should be less than a mile away, past some tall sand dunes.
[At this point I rolled four threat tokens for the first encounter. The troopers won the dominance check, setting the range to Near.]
The trooper squad organized in tight formation and started moving out. As they climbed the dune, they found to their surprise a swarm of large, insect-like creatures on the other side. Then they noticed a flock of vulture-like creatures circling overhead. As the creatures approached them, sergeant Hicks shouted, "What are you waiting for? Fire!" Trooper Abe opened fire against the swarm of bugs, destroying seven of them and causing many others to scatter. Sims followed suit and hit other five of the bugs. Then, the flock of birdlike creatures started diving sharply from the skies, aiming straight at the soldiers' helmets. Most of the creatures killed themselves with the impact, but some of them managed to drive their beaks through the MandelBrite armor in the process, and several troopers fell screaming in pain. Hicks and Miller fired their weapons towards the sky, but too late. Sergeant Hicks turned his heavy machine gun towards the bugs and fired again, this time mowing down another nine insectoids. Other troopers were also firing at the stragglers and soon there were no living beings around beyond them.

Entering the caves
The bodies of the two troopers killed by the suicidal birds were arranged side by side and marked with a beacon for retrieval. This was standard field procedure in locations accessible from orbit. The remaining soldiers patched their wounds and marched on. Soon, the mouth of the cave complex was in sight.
[I rolled on the Mythic fate chart for the question "do they get attacked right at the mouth of the cave?" getting a Yes for an answer. I then rolled three threat tokens for the encounter. Once again, sergeant Hicks won the dominance roll, setting the range to Near.]
One of the troopers shouted, "Sergeant, incoming!" and a swarm of giant wasp-like creatures came flying from behind the dunes. Trooper Sims turned around with his trusty rifle in position and blasted half a dozen creatures from the skies. Some of them launched foot-long spikes that struck many soldiers, including Hicks, Miller and Abe. Corporal Miller disintegrated nearly twenty wasps with his energy cannon. The remaining wasps flew straight at the soldiers, thrusting their stingers at them. The troopers simply ripped the creatures away from their MandelBrite armor suits, but not without taking damage. In the end, a few more troopers lay dead on the sand, and everyone was wounded. Miller and Abe still had blood on their suits, and sergeant Hicks was limping noticeably, but they moved on. The caves were there and, as soon as the sensor array's lights went on, the mission would be over.

Tunnel lizards
Only a few steps in, the temperature in the cave dropped noticeably. The troopers turned on their helmet flashlights as none of them wanted to rely solely on the auxiliary sensors of their suits as darkness embraced them. Sergeant Hicks was worried; they had walked over three hundred yards into that rocky cave and the sensor array still didn't show any signal of activation.
[Rolling for the next encounter, I got seven tokens! Corporal Miller won the dominance roll, setting the range to Near.]
The silence on the tunnel was broken by a stampede of leathery feet against rock. A horde of blue and purple lizards, some over a yard long, was rushing towards the troopers. Some of them even clinged to the walls and to the ceiling. The troopers opened fire and created a cloud of vaporized flesh and blood in the cave. The lizards' movement and the troopers' fire caused the cave to tremble, and large rocks fell from the ceiling, smashing lizards and troopers.
[Since trooper Sims' reputation is "Righteous" and his squadmates were all in bad shape, I rolled on the Mythic fate chart asking "Does he use a Strength flashback to save them?" with a Very Likely expectation, getting a No. Surprisingly, I also got negatives from all other characters... so I went on to check the most hurt characters for weaknesses, starting with Abe. Since I got a Yes this time, I used the Event Meaning chart to get inspiration for his flashback, getting "Malice Art."]
All the smashed lizards took Trooper Abe back to his early teens. He intended to play a prank on the girls doing the interpretive dance class and sneaked a bunch of small geckos into their clothes bags. This led to a lot of squished geckos on the floor and young girls crying. He was put into juvenile rehabilitation for a month after that, the first time of many he would be called "inconsiderate." Back to the present, Abe saw himself surrounded by troopers bleeding and covered in debris. Rather than helping, he pulled a nearby trooper's helmet to replace his own, which had been damaged, and retrieved another one's medipack. Then he turned off his flashlight and proceeded to slowly crawl away from the fight. Corporal Miller and trooper Sims kept firing against the lizards but more of them kept coming. The cave rumbled again and this time, a large portion of the ceiling fell on Hicks and Miller, killing them.
When the dust settled, trooper Sims called back lieutenant Goodman to inform him of their troubles and ask for orders. Goodman sounded surprised to hear of Hicks' death, although Sims couldn't be sure if the loud man was angered or glad for that. He instructed them to follow with the mission and, since corporal Miller was also dead, promoted Sims to sergeant, tasked with leading the survivors. Sims promoted trooper Storm to corporal, just as Abe slinked back to the group. "I thought you were dead," Sims said right away, "and why are you carrying trooper Newton's medipack?"
[Using the rules from the game, I created two replacements for Hicks and Miller, troopers Storm and Malan.]
Abe shrugged, "What, this? Mine stopped working" and tossed it to the side. Other troopers glared at him and Sims said, "you know you will be reported."

The voice from the deep
Sergeant Sims picked up the battered sensor array and led the few remaining men deeper into the cave. They walked about two hundred yards and the device started blinking. "Good, we are in range of the alien signal, let's leave this here and get back," he said.
[At this point, the final encounter with six threat tokens began. Corporal Storm won the dominance roll, once more starting the encounter at Near range.]
Sims felt a ringing in his head. It was as if the rocks were vibrating, humming softly and talking to him. He wondered if the other troopers were feeling the same.
"WHAT HAVE I DONE?" asked the rasping voice in his head. Sims could feel a deep sadness; it was hard to determine if it was his or the voice's. Then it dawned on him: whatever this alien was, it was trying to manipulate him. He opened the communication channel to all troopers, shouting "DON'T LISTEN TO THE VOICE!" and then switched on his holo-show, playing some loud, angry music.
The other troopers snapped from the trance and all of them noticed that, not far away, a glowing orb of light floated amid a swarm of huge beetles. Sims didn't need to order them to open fire.
Sergeant Sims and trooper Malan shot down several of the insect-like aliens. Still, some of them got near the soldiers and literally ripped themselves open, spraying some sort of acid substance on their foes. Sims screamed in pain as the acid burned through his armor.
[At this point, all PCs would die on the next round from an alien attack and another suicide. I rolled on the Mythic fate chart to see if someone would use a Strength with very likely odds, getting a Yes for Sims right away, with "Expose War" as inspiration for his flashback.]
Despite the loud music, sergeant Sims could not forget the voice talking in his head, or the corpses of so many troopers killed in this mission. Then his mind drifted back to his first mission, months ago, when they were also killing innocent aliens in another planet. There was something wrong with his captain, or maybe another officer, ordering them to do these sadistic missions under the guise of war. When he came back to Terra, he would expose them all, take them to justice. But for that, he had to survive. Sims squeezed the trigger of his heavy machinegun hard, disintegrating the swarm of beetles before they could get close enough to cause any more damage. "Move out," he said after the last beetle stopped twitching, and all the remaining troopers marched in silence out of the dead cave.

After the mission
The four PCs won a Wound Badge. Sims and Abe also got a Campaign Medal, and Sims was awarded a Crimson Sword. Sims gained a level, raising his NFA to 5 and spent his development roll on rank, gaining a promotion to Lieutenant. He also improved the Far damage of his HMG to 1. Corporal Storm also gained a level.

A note on the Suicide Alien Ability
Since I found the phrasing on the Suicide alien ability a little confusing, here's how I interpreted it (I searched for FAQs and discussions but found nothing): At the beginning of a combat round, when players state what their characters will do, the GM may reserve a token from the encounter to the suicide ability. If there are additional encounter tokens left, he may roll for an alien attack too. If, at the time that the alien attack should be resolved, there are no tokens left except for the one reserved for the suicide, then that attack is ignored and does not cause a kill. When the success resolution countdown reaches 1, the suicide is resolved with every PC taking a kill and the reserved token is removed from the encounter. Note that if the players score enough successes to remove all threat tokens before the suicide takes place, then the automatic kill does not happen. However, suicides are not cancelled by a player cancelling a success.

Even though this session was just a straight-up series of encounters, it allowed me to experiment with the rules of 3:16 and to better understand them. As expected, the game does allow a lot of narration -- I can only imagine the results with a motivated group of players. Also, I had forgotten how much fun the Mythic GM Emulator can be for solo play.


Aleksandar Šaranac said...

Great stuff! It was real fun reading it...
You just have to love Mythic :)
Makes me also add 3:16 to the list of my next purchases.

Ricardo said...

Thanks for the comment! 3:16 can be dark and depressing if one pauses to think about what their characters are really doing but the way the game deals with choice (and sometimes the lack of) makes it worth.

Dreamer said...

Thanks for the mention. :)

I actually picked up a Cyberpunk game from the designer of "3:16", which is called "Remember Tomorrow". It looks pretty slick, and I will give it a try once I'm finished with my freeform story.

I'll be referencing this post of yours for ideas. :)

Anonymous said...

Probably one of the best roleplaying experiences ive had in the past few years. 3:16 is made of amazing and with the right players, its an unforgettable campaign.