The third installment of our Atomic Robo game went off last night, and all of us seem much more comfortable with the rules set.
This “issue” was “Face of the Enemy” and saw our heroes chase a half-Japanese, half-English femme fatale from Philadelphia, where she had contracted some mobsters to steal the plans for a device the navy was testing that would render a ship invisible (yes, The Philadelphia Experiment.) The device was TeslaTech, recovered by the FBI after the inventor’s shop was destroyed in a fire, and the characters brainstormed that drew power from the Earth’s magnetic field and created an electromagnetic bubble that warped light…it also appeared to slow time. After losing the mobsters in a chase, save one they questioned, they managed to figure out the identity of the agent from her boarding room and ascertained she had hoped a TWA transcontinental flight for San Francisco.
I did a quick bit of research and, of course, they could have had the FBI or someone stop her at one of the points on the way to San Fran…but that wouldn’t make for a good story, now, would it? The characters manage to requisition an aircraft from Mustin Field to Crissy Field on the Presidio. The DC3, even with stops, was looking like a 15 hour flight, while the B-25 they hopped a ride in would get there, with a refuel stop in Kansas City, in 11 or so… With her head start, they arrive in San Fran roughly the same time she does.
There was a quick bit of exposition and scene setting: General DeWitt, the commander of the Western Military District is introduced as the paranoid, racist old man he was…but in this case, he’s right: there are Japanese spies up to no good! The FBI has a man on the case, but they could only spare one man between the clean up associated with Japanese internment and men lost to the war effort. The SFPD is in worse shape, operating mostly with retirees and 4Fs. So it’s no surprise when they get to the airport, that the enemy — Betsy Brant — has managed to escape by using some kind of knockout spray on one of the codgers that tried to arrest her. Fortunately, Agent Clive was able to get the license plate of the ’40 Oldsmobile 60 she hopped into and it is quickly located by a patrolman in the Tenderloin District.
Despite a war on, and a curfew in effect, the Tenderloin is lit up, active, and full of sailors and soldiers, civilian blacks and women. It was a place of swanky hotels and restaurants, surrounded by jazz clubs, strip joints, gambling halls, and they search the place and find Brant, now dressed to the nines, gambling in a hotel casino where she is winning heavily…the casino owner is paying her off, or facilitating her pay.
We had out first action sequence here and I really tried to use aspects on scenes well for this evening’s play. The casino was FILLED WITH HIGH ROLLERS that one PC used his Rhode Island Royalty aspect to help him fit in an not be noticed; while the Working Class Dame of the other PC I compelled against her. They find Brant, there’s a scuffle and foot chase in which Brant nearly escapes, but they capture her.
During her interrogation, the PCs used the COLD INTERROGATION ROOM aspect to their advantage, hit Brant with a WILLING TO COOPERATE aspect. While they were doing that, another PC cracked the code on her notebook, figuring out where the Japanese cell was operating…in the now abandoned Japantown off of Geary. They grab some MPs and hit the place one of a series of rowhomes (that no long exist…)
The house was broken into several “zones” — the living room, kitchen/dining area, hallway and stairs, and the upper bedrooms, each with aspects like DARKENED ROOM, CROWDED WITH FURNITURE, DARK STAIRWELL, etc… A fight sequence against a pair of Japanese agents with the aspects NINJA! and I Would Die For My Emperor ensued and saw all sorts of chop socky goodness: shuriken, katanas, fraternal fire (oops!), through which the characters persevered.
They find a photography lab with the Tesla plans, and figure out the spies made copies. Brant helps them decode the notebooks after their use of the US Army Intelligence Corps faction rolled spectacularly badly and had no Japanese speakers available to help them. They figure out the spies transferred the plans to a submarine, most likely, and that the destination is an island in the Bonin chain — Koro Jima — 1500 miles behind enemy lines!
DeWitt sends them out to the front lines…maybe, somehow, they can get ahead of this. They catch a military-chartered Boeing Clipper out to Hawaii, then from there fly with an old school chum of one of the PCs who is now piloting PBY Catalinas. At one point, the WAVE PC tunes up the Catalina with a new benie — LONG RANGE that allows the craft to have enough range for whatever the story requires. They island hop from Hawaii to Wake, where the Marines are still mopping up from their invasion.
And there ended the third installment.
Having played the game a few nights now, I feel we are starting to get the hang of the system, although we have a tendency to not use aspects and fate points as much as we should. This is most likely due to the nature of plot points in Cortex — the system we’ve been playing for so long. Plot points can be used to mitigate damage in combat and it’s natural that the players tend to hoard their fate points because of this. Also, fate points don’t get doled out as often for playing to your aspects, but also I might be concentrating on using other elements of the rules and could be giving the players short shrift on the fate points.
The game still seems to run fast, even with the longer fight sequence we had this night (A great, very cinematic one it was, too!) and I’m finding I need to slow it down a bit from time to time to allow for more player/character interaction and to fill time. Ordinarily, a game night for us is about three to 3.5 hours; we’re still running about 2.5 using Fate. It also could be I’ve been trying to break the action up more effectively into “issues” as the comic the game emulated does.
After talking with the players, we seem to be unanimous in thinking the mechanics of Fate are working very well for the pulp-style of the game, and also facilitate the multi-decade nature of the campaign I had envisioned. The five aspects, rather than 10, of normal Fate, and the more extensive use of Stunts and Mega-Stunts lends itself very well to multiple genres, we thought, and I suspect the Atomic Robo version of Fate will see more service for our gaming than we initially expected.