Two of the players couldn’t make it to our PTA game last night, and since they were our spotlight character and NEXT session’s spotlight character, it seemed a good idea to run something else. I settled on…
Danger Patrol is an action/adventure retro scifi game. The aim of the game is to (re)create the feel of episodes of a 50s-style TV show in the vein of the Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers serials (with a dash of the Venture Bros., Star Wars, and Indiana Jones). You play members of the elite Danger Patrol — special super-powered crime fighters who protect Rocket City from the evil Stygian Adepts of Pluto, the nefarious agents of Jupiter’s Crimson Republic, rampaging monsters set loose by mad scientists, and other crazy threats.
A while back, DP became a blazingly cool-kids thing to playtest (yes, playtest: the game only exists as an alpha playtest document at this time, albeit one that’s very well-done), but I was a bit leery of the excitement, simply because I’d gotten excited by such things in the past, and it had come to naught in the long run. The DP love seemed to be holding into the long-term, however, so I gave it a look a few months ago and enjoyed what I was seeing.
It wasn’t until Tim and I got to talking a month or so ago that I really gave DP a hard look. He was looking for a gaming experience where players who weren’t directly involved in a specific action in the game were still encouraged to participate, specifically by adding challenges to the current player’s actions — doing so in such a way as to both make the scene more interesting and also help out the player in some way. I heard that and thought “damn, I’ve SEEN that… where have I seen that?”
Well, you can guess where.
To make your Danger Patrol hero, you’re pick a Style and a Role. Your style tells us what kind of being you are: A Robot, a Mystic, an Atomic cyborg, or something else. Your role tells us what your job is on the team: an super-spy Agent, an elite Commando, a wiley Detective, etc.
In play, this is done via the entertaining simplicity of having each style and each role take up half of one sheet of paper. You pick your style, then your role, select which of the powers you’re going to start out with, tape the two halves together, and you have a finished character sheet, complete with a damage track that flows across the bottom of both halves.
This is what we ended up with:
Once character creation is complete, I drop the team into the action in media res — I wasn’t sure what I should do — there was an opening scene suggested in the text of the game, and a number of decent-sounding ideas on Story-Games, but when I wondered aloud about it on Twitter, I got this message:
Right. Giant undead ape. Good plan. We’ll go with that.
So the team was doing a milk-run patrol in the skies over Rocket City when the dashboard video screen of their Hawkwing 5000 lit up with the following wireless telegram:
Rocket City Rocketport under attack. *STOP* Building unstable, collapse imminent. *STOP* We need you, Danger Patrol.*STOP*
They flew straight to the Rocketport, and saw a horde of what appeared to be recently reanimated corpses swarming the sides of the slim rocketport tower, led by the massive form of a giant zombie gorilla. Zombie Kong.
Then the Danger Patrol logo flashed on the screen of our little serial drama and a deep voice said “Previously, on Danger Patrol…”
… at which point, each player is supposed to come up with a brief moment from the episode of Danger Patrol immediately preceding this one, including elements that foreshadowed things that the players want to see in THIS episode. We see:
Dr. Ramjet, in his lab, examining a vial of liquid. “My god… this virus would animate dead tissue!”
Cassie Colt, at the Rocket City zoo with her niece, in the section of the zoo labeled “animals of Earth”, and looking up, up, and up at an enormous gorilla in a too-small enclosure, and the neice asking why it isn’t white. (The primary sentient species on Mars is a race of white apes.)
… and I can’t remember what Randy did with his flashback, except to indicate that the Stygian Adepts were involved in whatever was going on.
Then we jumped back to the action, and I laid out the “battle board” (I think we were calling it something like the DANGER ROOM last night) with the various threats. I’d already written out markers for Zombie Kong and some packs of Zombies (one of whom was closing in on a little girl), but after everyone’s flashbacks, I created a “Stygian Adepts!” Danger to incorporate later in the fight, and changed “Zombies closing in on little girl” to “Zombies closing in on Cassie’s Niece” and attacked Dr. Ramjet with a very specific Danger all his own…
You’ll notice that there’s also a Danger that the Rocketport tower will collapse, and it has a “timer” on it: (4) — in four rounds, that’ll happen. Finally, WAY up in the corner, there’s a “Plan 8” Danger with a really long timer on it, ticking down from (8). This wasn’t really a danger that the Danger Patrol could ‘get to’ in this fight, but I wanted it up there, ticking down, all the same, because it meant that when I got results like “a danger becomes MORE DANGEROUS”, I could start accumulating additional Danger Dice on Plan 8.
Anyway, the heroes leapt into action. Cassie jumped out of the flying car, fired up her rocket pack, and blasted through the pack of zombies around her niece, guns blazing, swooped the girl up, and flew her to safety before blasting back into the fight. Sebastian leapt onto one of the observation decks below Zombie Kong, and was set on by some zombie minions. He dealt with them via a hail of bullets, but I was able to bring two dangers into play as a result – Stygian adepts appeared to stop him, and the spray of zombie fluids put a group of Innocent Bystanders at risk of infection with the zombie plaque (Dr. Ramjets Z1B1 Virus.)
Speaking of Dr. Ramjet, he spent the first round goading himself into action (dealing with the Danger of his own self-doubt) and was just about to leap into action when Zombie Kong grabbed the front end of the Hawkwing and started swing it around like a club.
Cassie started buzzing around Zombie Kong, unloading a veritable blaze of blaster fire at the big undead ape. Kong managed to clip her with the Hawkwing-club, but she regained control of her jetpack a few blocks away and came zooming back… and Ramjet was able to pull the car free from the thing’s grasp.
Sebastian coated the Bystanders with the cold foam from a fire extinguisher to combat the zombie goo, ignoring the Stygians for the moment. Meanwhile, Dr. Ramjet told his body to charge the Hawkwing straight at Zombie Kong’s face, then he DETACHED HIS OWN HEAD, which flew off to help Sebastian, flying over the bystanders and urging them to retreat inside and douse themselves with sparkling soda water from the bar.
The car rammed itself right into Zombie Kong’s mouth, finally finishing off the creature, and Sebastian summoned up the Black Mists of something-or-other which, when combined with his training and various esoteric fighting arts, made short work of the hapless Stygians.
The body of the ape tumbled down the side of the tower, doing yet more damage, and Ramjet flew down to the corpse, where Cassie was already pulling his body from the wreckage of the car. He reattached himself and they both turned at the ominous cracking all along the tower’s height.
Ramjet: I’ve got just the thing. (Player checks off Experimental Device #1 from his sheet.) I just need to get up there…
Cassie: Then hold on. *grabs him around the chest and fires off the jetpack*
Ramjet fires off his Stabilizing Ray (or maybe it was actually a “Rocketport Stabilizing Ray”) and the building is saved!
… and their jetpacks give out and they plummet to the ground below. Oof.
Okay, we then did interludes scenes in which Cassie’s sister came and picked up Cassie’s niece (blaming both Cassie and Ramjet for the whole thing), and Sebastian interrogated one of the Stygian Cultists. (Not even a REAL Stygian!) During this, he learned that the whole attack on the Rocket City Rocketport was just a diversion for a theft at the Rocket City Museum, and that the Cultists were getting their orders via strange crystals they had at their secret base in some martian ruins outside the city.
Once the interludes were done, the Patrol had three question to answer:
Sebastian went out to the Ruins to check out the Stygian Cultist base and see about these odd crystals. Dr. Ramjet investigated the control mechanism for the ape, and Cassie checked out the Museum burglary. Everyone got the answers they were looking for, and Sebastian actually made off with the Stygian Crystals, but he was followed back to the City by more Cultists.
Back at the professor’s university lab, the heroes exchanged notes, realized they needed to get to a Danger Jet to get to Pluto as fast as possible, and were then attacked by Cultists. During the fight, one of the Dangers was “The Pulsing Crystals will suck you into the 5th Dimension!”
Sebastian was able to pull them out of the 5th Dimension, using the crystals’ psychic link to the Stygian Adepts to pull them out AT PLUTO. From there, they were able to start the final Show Down with a bunch of Stygian Adepts, a Stygian Master, the Planet X Liaison and Planet X Assassin, and the ticking-down Plan 8 (which, by this point, had accumulated 5 danger dice to drop on the first person who tried to stop it, and which was down to (2) on the counter).
Sebastian distracted the Stygians, giving Cassie time to get a shot at the Stygian Master, but it wasn’t enough to stop him from creating a new Disaster: “All of Rocket City Zombified!”, via a massive gate from planet to planet, via the fifth dimension. Sebastian leapt in to stop that from happening, and intercepted the energy of the gate with his own Mists of something-or-other, putting him in a head-to-head contest of wills with the unstable gate itself, which was now going to “Suck Pluto Into The Fifth Dimension!”
Ramjet again detached his head, and sent his body to charge the last clump of Stygian mooks while his head jetted toward the ancient ruins that housed the device that would bring Plan 8 to fruition — a vast, intricate, crystal and glass matrix that would bring all the planets under the control of Planet X, ultimately blotting out the Sun.
Ramjet nodded (easy to do when you’re all head), and flew straight into the matrix, smashing it (and knocking himself out).
Sebastian did all he could to the close the gate (5 successes out of the 6 he needed), before collapsing (KO’d).
Which left Cassie, a dark portal to the 5th dimension, and two Planet X agents, fleeing to their ship and stranding them all on Pluto.
She pulled out a frag grenade, and saved the planet. (Did some kind of Commando thing that let her split her attack between multiple targets, got EIGHT SUCCESSES on NINE dice. The explosion took out both agents AND destabilized the gate just enough to take it down.)
Victory! The Danger Patrol saved the Solar System!
All in all, a pretty awesome game. More thoughts as I have em.