It was a hot dry day when that band of Ego Drivers out of Niederdorf rolled up on the Jacko Gang.
There was that old miner driving a hundred tons of metal fed by diesel and hungry for vengeance.
Hi, I’m Ben, and I’m playing Jones Johnson IV.
There was the rag-wrapped exile, leaping out of a strange vehicle they got who knows where.
Hi, I’m Lucy, and I’m playing Vake.
There was the wanderer, more machine than man, weary of everything except death.
Hi, I’m Jim Ryan and I am playing Karloff Carradine.
And there was the one not much more than a kid who never got anything she didn’t make herself.
Hi, I’m Zoë, and I’m playing Comet “Baby Teeth” Sharps.
Would they all be able to survive the one they called Beat It? Would anyone live to tell the tale? And whose story would they tell?
Welcome to Tabletop Garden, an actual play podcast where we collaborate on short, self contained stories about interesting characters… and we do it with an agenda. I’m Gregory Avery-Weir and this is Ego Driver, a campaign using the Big Eyes, Small Mouth Third Edition rules. As always, our agenda is to honestly portray diverse characters, pursue healthy play practices, and craft story with social responsibility. Additionally, for this campaign, our agenda is to: save yourself, make it look good, and live like you’re dying.
I mentioned this last episode but in our first recording session we had some issues with Zoe’s recording and also some issues with my recording which will show up in this episode. But we have it cleared up for the future. So it gets a little rough in this episode. But, fingers crossed, this is the last of it.
If you’re interested in supporting Tabletop Garden, you can recommend us to your friends; you can leave reviews on iTunes or the podcasting environment of your choice; or, you can support my work on Patreon at patreon.com/gregoryaveryweir.
We now continue Tabletop Garden: Ego Driver.
And Beat It… let’s see, who’s who’s got the highest kill count here? Jones is pretty close. So we’ll have him go after Jones. And Beat It points at points at Jones and this gang member fires the missile.
All right. So he rolled a 17 to attack and you rolled a 16 to defend so that will do damage. Your armor is very high, but it penetrates 30 armor because it’s an armor piercing missile. So you will take 30 damage.
All right. And I will start, “Rass fraggin’ raggin’ hell waggin’…”
And Beat It is still continuing along doggedly. Any of you who who are close to him and kind of can read people decently well, he’s he’s got that look of like, “Well, if I’m going to go I’m going to take as many of them out with me as I can.” He’s not going to be making it through this.
And you have arrived at the interchange. Vake, you’re the first one here and it’s it’s one of those standard clover leaves. So you’re on a divided highway, but not particularly divided. Like there’s a little bit of dirt between the two sides. So you could go to the to the opposite, like oncoming side of the highway if you wanted and then there’s there’s an off ramp here that swirls around onto a bridge.
You could either end up going back the way you came or you could spend a little time like going onto an off ramp and then onto an onramp and then swirling around the clover leaf in a loop if you wanted.
Okay, well Vake and Beat It share a similar disposition in that I’m not expecting to be around that long either. So let’s see what happens. My idea for what I would like to do is basically try to swerve to the side so that… I think it’s Karloff? is no longer directly behind me, and then put the car in reverse and drive it backwards directly into the Beat It car.
Alright so you kind of pull the side and are like stomping on the brake, and then as soon as you’re going slowly, enough punching it into reverse and accelerating back towards Beat It.
Yes. I do plan to exit the vehicle before it crashes into the other car by means of my pole.
Okay. So, which way is your tank going?
Actually, I would love to get Jolissa on the line so that they could follow me backwards and give me a landing point.
All right. What does that conversation sound like?
It is in my mind, but it sounds like: “Jolissa, we’re going backwards. Like, now.”
“All right, going backwards, like, right now.”
So in a beautiful ballet the two vehicles act almost in sync. The tank is a much better vehicle than this ramshackle hot rod so it moves a little more gracefully, but the two of them work together quite well and they’re soon hurtling back, I think, immediately past Karloff faster than Karloff is really able to do much about it but Comet and Jones can can see this pretty clearly. Give me your drive check and I will do a drive check for Beat It.
So there’s a mechanic that Beat It may be using at this point where important NPCs and PCs can spend energy points in order to kind of try really hard at a thing. I think this is a circumstance in which he is going to be trying hard. We’ll see if it’s necessary because you can pick after you roll.
I have rolled a 17. My specialization is not relevant for my driving this jalopy.
You’re good at tanks. He rolls a 16, but he does have a specialty. So you are even, but since you’re the aggressor, you are winning for a moment. He’s kind of playing chicken with you for a while, holding the the wheel very tight. And then finally as you as you get closer and closer he goes, “Ahhhh!” and moves the wheel to one side and then just barely swerves out of the way as you climb out of that car and jump… on to the tank? Or are you jumping straight into it?
I’ll jump on to the top of it. It’s sort of prepared for exactly this thing so there’s probably lots of things for me to grab onto.
All right. The car that you jumped out of, now that you’re not steering it anymore, goes off the side of the road. Beat It has survived this immediate encounter and you are now way behind the rest of the group because you’re still moving in the opposite direction as them/
However, can can we agree that it was cinematic?
It was very cinematic. Jones, you can see this this interchange coming up. Vake has just zipped past you and not managed to take out Beat It. What do you do?
There’s some some jerkwad leaning out of Beat It’s car with a some kind of launcher of rockets. I’m not approving of this. I would like to to hand them a rocket back…
…in the form of a stick of TNT. And this may be a called shot, because you’ve given me a sunroof.
Yeah, I think that if you want to chuck it and get it right in the sunroof, since he’s standing in the sunroof at the moment, I think that’s going to be a minus six ,the equivalent to, like, a head shot.
Well I do have skills against that. I have I have Dead Eye.
That drops it one stage, so drops it to a three, a minus three.
Okay, yeah, I’m feeling this is this is important enough. So I’m going to actually pull a little bit closer, just so that I can lean out. “You dropped this, ya bastard!” And then toss the explosives at him.
And I’ll roll Beat It’s defense. He’s moving the car around, which is more important than than what…
…the gunner is doing. So you rolled a 13 which turned into a 10. Beat It rolled an 11…
I’m going to use one of my rerolls.
So you have something called divine relationship which lets you just be lucky.
Yep, I feel this is something I’m lucky on. It’s bouncing on the hood and then…
…drops right into the sunroof.
So let’s pause for a moment as this explosive is sitting in the floorboards of Beat It’s car and I will ask Karloff, how are you dealing with this interchange coming up this cloverleaf that you’re very quickly approaching, it can’t go straight on?
Well, funny thing. When I did the last retool on this character I was able to buy back jumping for my vehicle. So I’m wondering if I have a sufficient amount of it to be able to clear this intersection.
Quite possibly. You’ve got, what, jumping three? That’s pretty high. What does your car do that lets it jump?
This is one of those weird physics defying things that one sometimes sees in media of this kind. I’m imagining it as being not unlike the Knight Rider turbo boost, basically. Where there is a point where rockets that have been concealed in the undercarriage will suddenly burst forth and fire, lifting the vehicle, this clunky Humvee thing, up and over the terrain.
Excellent. Are you looking to land on the other side of that of the rubble or like up on the overpass?
I think that… well we need to deal with Beat It. I have a feeling that we’re about to with the forthcoming explosion but just in case I think I want to be in a position where I can have the high ground on them. If I can get from the overpass down to the other side fairly quickly afterward I think I’m gonna go for the overpass.
Okay. Give me… I guess this is a drive roll?
This is probably tricky This is probably a TN 12.
Okay, let’s see what happens.
You only live once.
But you can jump often.
Oh yeah. Oh yeah.
That would be a 23.
Your rockets fire and you launch into the air. Comet, what what are you doing with this interchange as he is doing this?
If I see that a stick of dynamite has just been thrown into the car, I’ll probably just take the safe route and go up an exit ramp. One so that I can turn back around and go in the opposite direction unless there’s enough clearance for me to do like an e-brake, like power slide turn before the rocks happen, so I can drive by the explosion and get a good look at it.
You can definitely do an e-brake if you want to.
I would like to do that, then. That seems, again, the most cinematic and I would also… if, well, if I’m successful… let’s find out first. That’s a 16.
More than enough.
This makeshift ambulance spins and does an e-brake turn, immediately heading back the the other direction on this highway as Karloff’s vehicle flies majestically through the air…
Can his card jump over my car while I turn backwards?
Yes. He sails directly over your head, hits angled so that he’s like landing on one of the ramp so he can turn as he lands and be on the overpass and not go over the other side. Vake is still kind of vanishing into the distance from their attempt and Jones… Are you gonna bother stopping?
I’m just going to turn on the the forward drill.
All right. Jones just probably kind of casually looks forward and turns on the the giant spinning drill on the front of his vehicle. Comet zooms past Beat It’s car as there’s an enormous explosion and Jones’s vehicle just plunges straight through the rubble leaving a relatively tidy hole in his wake that… the rubble’s short enough that it’s not like a perfect tunnel but there is like just a break in the rubble now and Jones is continuing just fine on the other side and Beat It’s car slowly rolls to a stop.
As the explosion is happening. I’m making a explosion sound into my loudspeaker to complement the actual explosions.
Excellent. So we will jump forward to your return to town.
Most of this world that you’re in is wasteland. It’s empty dust, it’s dry rocks, it’s dead plants. There’s there are things living but they’re… even the the plants that are living in this space look dead because they’ve changed and evolved as quick as they can to deal with the radiation and other strange effects of of the disaster that happened just a generation or two ago.
But there are a few bright points and one of them is the town of Niederdorf. As you’re approaching it, with some of you with more damage on your on your vehicles than others, you see the outer barrier first. And around this city is a bunch of like concrete bollards and wrecked cars stood upright in a very, very large circle that’s not… It’s not a solid wall, but it is tight enough that it’s very hard to drive through. And there’s a checkpoint on the road that has just a whole lot of guards with weapons. And they’re all wearing these gray uniforms that are the guards of Niederdorf.
They wave you on through and within that barrier, you see a whole lot of fields. The color of green on these fields is shocking, because out in the wasteland, you’re seeing grays, and dusky greens, and tans, and beiges. But the the color of the plants here is impossible anywhere else because at the center of the city, beyond the fields, beyond the rather impressive looking wall that is their their final defense against raiders, beyond the buildings that have been restored and are actually rather nice for this world, there’s a large facility that surrounds the wreckage of the Terror Engine that that fell to Earth. And it generates the energy that allows this environment to stay hospitable, to grow plants, to have clean air, to reduce radiation, and is a very striking contrast to the world outside.
Probably you’re allowed into the guard garage to do whatever maintenance you need to do on your vehicles. You’re seeing all these cops keeping the peace among a bunch of civilians, which… civilians don’t really exist out the outside world, even in the even in Jones’s mine, like everyone kind of knew how to protect themselves. But there are people here who don’t have to worry about that.
You’ve got a little bit before you have to report in for your job, and you’re welcome to spend it in town however you like. I’m going to ask each of you real quickly what you do in the small amount of time you have in this oasis before you are learning when you have to head out again.
So, Ben, what is Jones doing?
So Jones has two things he needs to do. In my brain a rocket launcher probably tore off one of his… one or two of his armor panels he added to this vehicle. So he’s probably got to do a little bit of work to fix that and get some new steel plating to bolt back into place. But the one thing that he definitely does whenever he comes into the nice towns is he goes to try and get himself a can of tobacco. That’s definitely one of the pleasures of city life that he he goes and looks for whenever he’s in town.
All right, you’re able to get the necessary supplies and repairs to your vehicle and you head into town and you walk into a store. Like, this is not this is not the the the you know supply depot. This is a place where there’s a counter and there is a man behind it who looks at you kind of appraisingly and disapprovingly as you enter and says, “How can I help you?”
Well, sir, I’m looking for some some nice cigarette tobacco so I can roll some up myself.
Are you looking for the nice tobacco or the affordable tobacco?
I suppose if you’re asking the question I’m going to say affordable.
I thought that that might be what you meant.
And he goes back to like a little box back behind his counter and he takes out a scale and shovels, with a scoop, some tobacco onto a little paper that he’s got lined out on on where the pans of the scale and is sort of looking at you to see guidance on how much weight of it you want. And you can… with how much you’re getting paid for this job, you can afford a decent amount of the affordable tobacco.
Well, I’ve probably got a pouch that I’ll pull out, look at it, kind of weigh the pouch in my hand, and then just kind of look at them and like, gesture for a little more, then say, “Ah, it’s probably about right.”
He kind of sniffs and folds up the packet and then kind of holds it and waits for you to…
Are we still a currencied economy?
Yeah. I think you’ve got coins that are minted here in Niederdorf.
Their technology is is pretty good.
I figured paper might might be to destructible in this world.
Yeah, they’re dealing with metal currency.
All right. I’ll take the bag and kind of shuffle it into the pouch. And I’m sure he’ll love this. I kind of hand him back to the piece of paper or just put it on the table and then put a few coins.
When you put the paper back, he crumbles it up into a ball and throws it away.
“Ah, thank you very much. Always do appreciate some of the nicer leaf you guys have here. Can’t quite grow the good stuff out where I’m at.” And I’ll just kind of make my way out. “Well, have a good ‘un!”
“Have a good day yourself.” So, Lucy. How is Vake spending their time?
Vake is going to put in earplugs and firmly affix their goggles and then they will make their way to whatever sort of medical facility this place has.
There’s a pretty decent clinic that’s real near that central facility where the Terror Engine is. You enter and everything is very clean, clearly been scrubbed, there’s the smell of bleach in the air…
sigh So nice…
There are a lot of bright lamps shining on exam tables and well lit X ray light boxes. And a woman in blue scrubs kind of looks you over as if she knows that clearly you cannot possibly be as injured as your bandages all over you would suggest. And she says are you you one of those Ego Drivers?
Yes, I’m damaged. I need medical care.
What’s the problem? You’re going to need to… you want to take some of those rags off? You can step in back here if you want privacy.
“I don’t particularly care about privacy.” I’ll start unwinding some of the bandages. “I got shot by a shotgun. That’s all. It was a lot of shotgun.”
She says, “We don’t normally deal with many people who survived a shotgun blast.” She kind of lays you out on a…
I have an exciting learning opportunity available for you.
“So it seems…” She takes out some tools and several of them are are not a sort of technology that is very common. She’s got like a weird little caulk gun. It’s like a little thing to spray a material from a vial, and it’s this strange blue goo that’s in a vial that she’s…
I’m sorry, I’m not sure that goo is going to work for me.
She says, “Oh, you don’t want to heal it the old fashioned way, do you? I mean we’ve got the Engine here. We can heal you up much faster than you’d be able to get healed out there.
But is it sticky?
I’m not sure why that matters but it’s more it’s more slick? It’s suspended in a neutral lubricant.
Slick sounds acceptable; sticky is not. I don’t need to impress upon you the importance of this adjective choice. Is it slick or is it sticky?
We won’t spill any of it…
Slick, sticky? Slick, sticky? Which one is it?
I’ll stick with “slick.”
All right, then. Proceed.
She gives you… do you take anesthetic and she digs pieces out of you?
She actually looks a little pale as you turn down the anesthetic but she picks bits of shot out of you and and injects this goo into your wounds and very very carefully, like, wipes off any that gets outside of your body with a piece of bandage with alcohol on it.
And was she right? Is it slick and not sticky?
It’s slick. You you are very suspicious that when it dries, it will be sticky, but none of it seems to have gotten on your skin.
It’s all gone inside your skin.
All right. This seems like we can manage.
Jim. What is Karloff doing to spend their brief time here?
Well, Karloff is pretty much the definition of anti social as he’s internally sneering at all of these soft civilians. What he’s primarily going to do is just for practical stuff, I assume we’ve been paid already, yes?
You’ve been allowed to use whatever facilities around. You got an advance before you headed out and you’ll get the rest of your payment when you meet with the Mayor.
Alright, so I’m going to leave my death junker in the the the motor pool area wherever is sort of securely… wherever we plug it into harvest the energies or whatever it is that we do and sort of getting out of the vehicle, put on my black Stetson and just pull up the little dust around me. Grab grab my blade slinger which looks a lot like a crossbow but it fires circular saw blades…
And you know sort of sling that over the my shoulder. Securely lock the vehicle and go ahead and head out to grab a couple of supplies. Make sure I have enough mines and harpoons. I want to make sure I’ve… I’m well supplied with those since I used a couple.
The stuff you’re doing is probably in among the guard supplies just inside the gate on the main wall of the city. One of the guards in gray who’s working at the quarter masters place, you put in your request, and as someone’s fetching it, he sort of gets chummy in that way of like, “Hey, we’re both people who risk our lives every day.”
He says, “So. How is it out there? Did you run into any trouble putting down those punks?”
No. They went down a little too easy if you ask.
Well, easy is good, right? I mean, it’s good to have an easy day once in a while. You know what I mean?
Well, sometimes. A lot of times that heralds worst days coming, we got to keep an eye out.
Well, with you you Ego Drivers out there, I bet the the fine folks of Niederdorf don’t have anything to worry about.
I just sort of narrow my eyes behind my sunglasses so he can’t really see it just sort of at this guy. This is a guard, though, right?
So this is someone who at least appears to be fairly handy when it comes to such things. I just sort of look over my shoulder and just sort of shake my head. “Hmph. I don’t think any of them would last five seconds against what’s out there.”
He shakes his head as if sympathizing with you. But also it kind of seems like maybe actually thinking about what the citizens would do out in the wasteland just kind of bummed him out.
He steps away and finishes the paperwork. I think you’re getting like metal that you can bend and hammer into shape, as well as, like they’re they’re perfectly willing to help you with with that. But they they probably got like spikes that are used for repairing fences and and that sort of thing that that you’re adapting to your purposes.
Cool. So I’m gonna just get a hold of that stuff and start heading back to the vehicle to work on it a little bit until it’s time to go and see the mayor.
Zoë, what is Comet doing?
I think Comet probably takes stock of the mobile lab in the back of the Volvo. Upon getting back to town and noticing some shotgun holes in a few different, you know, jars and bottles. Nothing, nothing too toxic. That’s that’s puncture proof. But she’s probably going to go to probably a seedier part of town. If there’s like a warehouse district or something I’d imagine she has contacts where she gets that like non medical grade chemicals and you know stuff to sythesize her own medications and stuff like that.
So she’s got a bud out there to make a stop by. He’s probably also help her work on the car and give her a space for that to for some of the less savory purposes.
Alright, have you lived, like… if you know this person have you lived around Niederdorf for a while now?
Yeah, I would I would imagine that Niederdorf is where I’m where I’m sort of semi from.
Before I joined the Ego Drivers.
Ego Driver is generally used as kind of a generic name for people who can operate the sort of technology that is part of your vehicles. For some reason, that technology that comes from the from the Terror Engines doesn’t work for everyone. Not everyone has the knack to get it to function properly. And the further away it is from the engines, the more it tends to act up and break and you’ve got the knack for keeping it running.
That that clears some things up. I would I would guess that I know a guy.
He says, “Car’s more beat up than usual. Everything go all right out there?”
I took a few bad hits. I made some… I made some adjustments last time and I think I, well I really really put a lot of time into, you know, offenseive tactics and I really… these guys hit a little harder, you know, and i think i think i’m going to try to… if you want to buy some of this stuff off me… I made some powerful shit, my friend… but but that’s not that’s not why I’m here. Do you have any HM5-37 in like a like a liquid? Or a powder would actually be better. You guys have any of that around?
Boy, uh, we don’t have much call for for that in the store houses but I can probably synthesize some up and have it for you when you’re done with your meeting. I mean, I, I know i don’t have to tell you how to keep it like safely contained…
Yeah this one, thankfully, wasn’t one of the ones that got blown up but I’m running a little bit low and I… well let me just let me just show you a couple of these other things I might need you know just like some better…. like a nice little safe or something like that that maybe maybe is machine gun proof? Maybe a machine machine gun proof safe for some of the stuff because I’m… you know, I thought the mobile lab thing was a good idea for a while and then… I don’t know, I might be a little over my head.
Well, I don’t… I don’t have much cause to deal with machine guns in my day to day but we can see what we got.
And you head off to look at stuff.
Just a just a just a pretty pretty sturdy sturdy box? You know, just see what you can do for me.
So after a couple hours you all reconvene, waiting outside of the office of Mayor Leopold. His office is very near the facility where they keep the Engine. You’re in a dark room with fancy leather chairs that are as well maintained as any furniture you have seen from the old world. He’s got a good looking secretary. She is deliberately ignoring you as you wait for your appointment time. And finally, she looks up and she says, “All right, the mayor will see you now.”
Well, thank you, darling.
You stepped into his office which is full of bookshelves with intact books. He has a large wooden desk. You can’t tell whether that’s recent build or old build, but this is this a very nice room. He is a man in a well cut gray suit. He’s a little heavy set and he has a very thick white beard that goes halfway down his chest. And you can see that on his desk he has piles and piles of folders that are currently all closed and they have different colors of material that they’re made out of.
And he says, “Well, well done out there. You seem to have demonstrated your usefulness very well. The city of Niederdorf thanks you.”
Is the city of Niederdorf also paying us?
“Yes, well, of course.” And he takes four lock boxes off of his desk and I guess lines them up on the front side of his desk and each of them has like a key in its lock. And he says, “I think you’ll find that it’s all there. Feel free to look it through. Let me know if there’s anything missing. We want to do right by you folks.”
I will immediately go to my box and open it.
It’s full of coins. It will take a while to count them all but they are all there. And he says, “Now, now, listen. I want to give you folks time to repair and recuperate but I’ve received reports on shortwave that there’s, there’s an encampment about four hours travel out where one of the Jacko Gang lieutenants is holding court. Their assaults on us have become more insistent lately. We’ve had some some caravans hit and they’re enough of a problem that I think it’s time to definitely take the fight to them. As soon as you all are ready you people should head out and go take out that encampment.”
You’re using some words there that I’m not sure you understand the complete value of. When you say “take a fight to them,” say more about what you mean. Do you mean us four drive our vehicles there?
Mayor Leopold looks at Vake and says, “Forgive me. I know that we tend to use more flowery language here in town. What I mean is that you should drive to this encampment and kill them all.”
How many are there?
It’d vary on when you show up and how they’re… our information is a little sketchy but seems like this is a small group that tends to travel out from this this site. Sounds like our report says maybe 20 of them in total but they’re likely not all there at the same time.
So maybe they have like a barbecue on Tuesdays so we should probably you know hit them while they’re all there? Or, I mean what’s the idea here? Just to drive off a couple of them? Are we trying to… I mean do we need to stake it out?
Stake it out?!
I’m not going to a barbecue of any kind
The important thing is that you take out the lieutenant. Whoever’s in charge of that group needs to die.
Oh, do we got ourselves a name? I always love putting those on my checklist.
Our code name for him is Smooth Criminal.
That’lI work for me!
And at that…
I’m sensing a theme.
Jones will actually pick up the box, because he hasn’t touched his chest yet, grab the key, and just put them straight in his pocket.
I’m just going to step forward and look down at the mayor and say, “Hits costs double.”
He sucks his teeth and says, “Well, I reckon this is pretty important and will be working with you on an ongoing basis. So if that’s amenable to the rest of you, we’re, we’re willing to pay.”
Twist my arm.
Yeah. Sounds like a plan.
So what day’d we say we wanted to do this? Tuesday. Catch him on the barbecue?
It was a metaphor.
No, absolutely not. No barbecue.
Oh, come on. I can give them a couple explosives look like hot dogs. It’ll be a ton of fun.
Ooo, I like the sound of that.
Oh, just the thought of it makes me feel like I’m gonna vomit.
Okay, okay. Why don’t we head out on Monday, then, and we’ll shoot them up before they have the barbecue.
That sounds ideal.
We should hang out and do recon on them as soon as we can.
I’m all for that soon as I get my car fixed up. You guys just shrugged off all that damage like it was nothing! Gotta give me some pointers.
I sought medical care.
You want, I can strap some more armor plating on yours. Just got to put the bolts in there tighten them you know once every week or so.
I think I can handle it.
So, we’re using Big Eyes Small Mouth and it is a very old fashioned system. Most of you have been roleplaying for a long time so you’re familiar with what roleplaying systems used to be like. Zoë, I think you’ve played Pathfinder?
Yeah,a couple years now. Lots of math.
So you you know like, yeah, that old school lots of math thing. The whole, like, point buy character construction, whole lot of numbers attitude of BESM.
Once I set up an Excel spreadsheet that calculated and recalculated and tallied everything for me, it was way less daunting. But, like, going into it, never having looked at the Player’s Handbook before and like never having done a character build like that….
It was like… there was a big barrier to entry, I think. Whereas creating a character in, like, D&D 5e takes like 15 minutes practically. Like it is, it is easy. And even if you were, you know, creating custom classes and stuff, it’s still… I think would be way faster. Now that I have a better idea of like, how everyone else is set up, I could very easily make some small adjustments and level things out and be much happier and fit in better with the general vibe of damage and armor and whatnot.
May I just speak the wonders of Zoë’s spreadsheet? It’s very good.
Well, I do spend all day at work making spreadsheets, basically.
But modern systems don’t tend to require spreadsheets anymore.
I think Jim probably expressed the most frustration during character creation.
Character creation filled me with so much rage. I have to tell you. I think I was about ready to… I didn’t have a physical book. But I was getting ready to define some way to just print out the PDFs and scatter them on the road and drive over them.
I was consumed with so much rage at that point. I was reminded somewhat of Champions, a little bit, in the character creation. And even as I as I’m playing. I played Champions back in the day. And it was always having had other folks put the characters together for me, because it involved needing to know so much already to do it, that you can’t just casually look through the book and build a character. This was a thing where, back in the day, back in the 90s, I had some time to actually read through an entire rule book. But ones that had this many layers of detail it just was it was not a thing that I could get to, even back then, let alone now when I’m distracted all over the place with social media and what have you and doing various things that I do. So just having that in front of me, I realized this is one of those things where I’d have to have read the entire book and memorized the entire book in order to actually make a character correctly. Or at least that was the impression that I got from it on the second or third attempt that I took at rebuilding this guy.
There are many things that I miss about the 90s. This is not one of them.
One of the more kind of more modern natural choices for a campaign like this would be Apocalypse World, which is like…
…here’s a sheet, pick one of four choices a few different times, and you’re set and ready to go. And I think that I definitely prefer that experience. I think that one thing that I was looking for with using BESM is that feeling of detail to how your vehicle works, right?
Like, the fact that you all could make weird off the wall pieces of equipment that were supported by rules feels like simulationy and, yes, very 90s-y. That grittiness and chunkiness… I don’t know, I’m using very aesthetic terms to describe these rules. But I think that that’s the thing that I was really reluctant to give up.
I mean we could have like used… is it Fate that has the thing where you can be like, “Okay I’ll just put tags on these abilities to kind of narratively simulate that?”
Yeah, usually you can tag someone with an Aspect.
But for some reason that felt like numbers were what what I wanted to see in this system.
Well, you got your wish!
I suppose I’ll be the person taking the other side of the coin. I haven’t played BESM 3 but I used to play a little bit of BESM 2, and speaking of Champions, I’m actually still in a Champions game right now, running Champions 6.
One of the things I may have commented about when we were first creating characters is: these are kind of systems where I’m used to a firm hand on how do we handle the wideness of the powers? How do we… All right, here’s a rough power level cap, defense cap. And one of the things I know I forgot on version one of this, which is that this is… BESM is one of the systems where attacks are four times more effective than defenses, typically. You think, “I put 20 points in defense and 20 points in attack,” and then you realize your attack will blow through your defenses and all your hit points and have 20 points to spare. And you’re like, oh, oops,
I did that.
Yeah, and I kind of just said, “Hey, here’s the number of points you have, here are a few tips, make a thing and we’ll take a look at it and see if we need to adjust stuff!” And I think that that did not improve the complexities of the system.
Both Champions and BESM, pretty much all the crunchy point buys, are pretty difficult. I mean, I will say BESM is a step down from Champions, which makes you do multiplication and division rather than addition and subtraction. So it is a little easier on that aspect. But it’s still a hard system for people without exposure and someone hand holding them through their first or second or even third character.
I have a very vivid memory of the one time I played champions, somebody making my character while I dozed on the couch. So this kind of system is not what I’m used to. And I thought it had a very steep learning curve. Like at first I thought it was extremely overwhelming. But then once you learn a few of the larger designs about the way it works, like once I understood the way items operated, sort of as things within things, it made a lot of it make more sense. So I do think some of it is the way it’s presented in the book. I think maybe it’s presented in an overly complicated way.
Yeah, I think one thing that’s that modern role playing games do, both in how they present the information and what rules they’re presenting, is just make stuff accessible. Like make it so that you don’t need to be inducted into this secret society of roleplayers where someone has to be like, “Oh, well, remember to take Awkward Size on your vehicle to make it bigger and get that extra number of points.” Or, or “Oh, no. Well, you see the alternate attack on your vehicle gets divided in two because it is an alternate attack. And then it gets divided into at the end because it’s on your vehicle.” Like all that stuff… I think that people are wisely moving away from in the sort of Zeitgeist of games.
I just want to also mention that first, I think if it had been just like a separate list, that you know, unattached to the rest of the math for doing vehicles, I probably would have had an easier time with it.
That list can be as long as it wants as long as it’s just that and I know that that’s the only thing I have to look at.
BESM, like, uses the same rules for vehicles and for people. You just are buying things for each.
And I mean, I understand the utility of that. But getting into that, I think that also did have a barrier to entry. Like my experiences with Champions, I had fun playing.
Once we actually get rolling, I’m fine with it. And I enjoy it. The system’s not that big a deal to me to try to use in play, especially since we’ve got roll20 in front of us and everything’s kind of calculated and I just hit a button. That’s very nice.
Yes. That was awesome.
Yeah, that’s a lot easier.
Oh, man, that was so great. Thank you, Gregory for putting that in there. That made my life so much better.
Sure thing. But do you think that the fact that it’s easy to use an experience of playing it justifies that level of complexity with character creation?
No, I do not think it does.
I’m going to say yes, but I think it’s fair to say no, I think most gamers I’ve gamed with would say no.
There’s, I think a certain personality and approach enjoys that grittiness and enjoys having that level of control over the details and minutiae of your character. And I think that some players don’t.
It’s weird, like having played role playing games that are less complicated and just as fun. It seems like you can, I don’t know. If you’re not as creative and you don’t want as much of a story based game and you like doing all that math. And that’s part of the fun for you, then super awesome.
And I don’t know that it’s that it’s a matter of how creative you are, and more like, from where do you want the creativity to arise?
Like, do you want to be creative about the numbers that you’re putting out, or do you want to just be pulling them from thin air?
That is a much better way of putting what I was trying to say. Yeah, so I think it was… the gameplay was very fun. And it made me feel very accomplished after putting everything together to see it in action, which was part of the fun. And now after one session. I feel like it wouldn’t be as hard in the future. Like it’s not unreasonably complicated. I don’t know how this Champions thing is, but y’all are making it sound pretty scary.
It’s real complicated.
So I would I would do I would do it again but I wouldn’t choose it over an Apocalypse World or Fate or 5e or something like that.
This is one of those games that I’d be happy to play again just like I’d be happy to play Champions again. But I would require other people to make my characters for me.
Well, thank you so much for spending the time to make them because I know that it was a matter of weeks that we were putting these together before recording so I appreciate you all taking the time for it.
I ended up enjoying making it a lot more than I thought I was going to.
How much time has passed between last session and now?
You probably spent a day or two in town.
Modifying your vehicles so that they met with the game better?
Quite possibly, yes. Let’s chat about modifications that you’ve done.
I have depowered a couple of my weapons. Including the lance, which I massively depowered and the machine gun which I slightly depowered… no, pretty significantly. Nevermind. I have more armor now and I have some more hit points. I messed with my combat enhancing drug cocktail and I am now slightly tougher. I put a lot of armor on my car. Someone offered to help me last week.
Yeah, Jones is…
Thanks. Thanks, Jones.
You and Jones are both going around wearing jean jackets. So, you know…
It’s a natural kinship.
Natural kinship right there.
You’re in the denim club.
Was it Jones who wanted to add a harpoon gun to his car?
Jones needed to find stats for the backhoe’s grapple mechanic.
And I did some looking up of the rules and I basically gave my vehicle proficiency in unarmed combat.
That seems like the correct way to represent that.
So the vehicle has the ability to exert its weight a little more effectively. So in crashes, I now do more damage than I take myself and that also gives stats for the grapple attack. So when he uses the claw to like grab at people or vehicles it’s now got actual stats instead of just a random check.
All of your vehicles have been repaired, you’ve gotten patched up at the medical center and I don’t know if any of you spent energy points but you’ve got those back as well.
Oh, we have energy points?
So you’ve got energy points that are based on your… it’s your Mind plus your Soul times five. And you can spend 10 of those to get a plus one on a roll.
I was hoping to add some armor to myself.
You can jockey around character points or just spend some you have unspent and…
Okay, I had some unspent, so I’ll just do it.
Okay. So you’ve been given this location of this encampment. There’s some pretty decent maps of the area. Most of them are pre disaster that have been updated over the years. They’ve been copied from, like, government maps or road atlases. But marks have been made on what’s changed due to time or due to some of the strange effects of this apocalypse.
Your general site for this area: the camp is near the top of a mountain in an open area that used to be some sort of parking lot for some sort of tourist trap. And there are a few different approaches. You can take a rather direct one over the the ridge of these mountains and kind of end up above this encampment or you can come up a windy road from below. In order to go up this windy road, you would have to go through a space that’s marked “anomalous” on the map.
And you all know that when the Subaltern ships came down they broke certain parts of the planet in a strange way. Their technology was very odd. And so anomalous areas can be rather weird.
Are there like road signs up with images of people drifting into the void? Because that would be awesome.
In some places yes. You’ll see signs of… kind of people have made where they’ve taken an old road sign, usually a big highway sign so it’s easy to see, and they painted like a story rift on it or…
Okay, okay, I know this is probably the wrong tactical idea, but I so want to go the anomaly route now.
I don’t think we can go anywhere else now.
It sounds faster. It’s a shortcut.
It’s it’s certainly more direct.
It should be just fine. What could go wrong?
Alright, so you approach this encampment and when you get near this area that’s marked “anomalous” on your map, you can see that the roads themselves start lifting off of the ground. They ramp up into the air and twist around. And in some places, you can see some side pathways do a full 360 degree loop in midair before continuing. You can tell by the way that the wind is blowing dust, or the way that scrub and trees are growing on the roads, that it’s not that something has picked up these roads. But that space itself has been twisted around to create loops where you’re, as long as you’re going, you’d say decently fast, you’d be able to stick to these loops and traverse them.
You’re traveling through this anomaly in order to get to the encampment?
Oh, heck yeah.
If it’s more direct, as you said, then I mean it… it’s only logical.
Nobody expects anyone to come up the anomaly path.
Also a great point.
Who would be crazy enough to go up the anomaly path?
Everybody give me drive checks, please.
Oh, this went downhill fast. I think.
I’m so excited.
Probably a 12 to get through unsullied. All right, everybody got at least a 17. So you did just fine. You’re… You’re zipping around. In places these roads are like splitting in two and drifting apart so you’re looking up or down at each other as you’re driving in a rough convoy. You probably, given the dust, don’t tend to travel in single file unless you’re in a particularly sketchy area just because you don’t… you want to be able to see better without having the exhaust and dust blowing your faces.
Jones, you’re probably, I’m guessing, the one for whom this is most troublesome because your vehicle is designed to be able to burrow through things. And these roads are rather thin. And so with your experience in both digging and in driving your vehicle, you know that, like, if something goes wrong, there’s not much ground between you and unknown gravitational situations.
Yeah, don’t exactly have parachutes on this thing either.
So eventually, you end up on the other side of this anomalous area. And you’re looking at this winding road that’s going up the mountain. Now, does anyone have the thing on their car where their engine is audible?
Okay, so any of you who have an audible engine, you’re going to be limited in your ability to sneak up on this area.
Am I the only one that’s loud? Because if so, I do have a cheat for that.
I have ocean sounds playing inside of my vehicle, so I’m not going to know about it. If you want to do something.
That will cancel everything out. I think it’ll be fine.
I considered putting some experimental jazz on my loudspeaker to go with the strange environment, but I decided against it because of the stealth effort.
I dunno, Baby Teeth, can you be like static, caw! Caw caw!
Just make ambient sounds!
I just want to be clear. These ocean sounds are on my character sheet. I paid for those.
If you guys are wishing to be quieter, I do have the ability to dampen my sounds a bit as long as we can keep the velocity to a reasonable number.
In character, Vake will always strongly encourage you to make your vehicle as quiet as possible.
I think we wanted to try to do the thing where we were going to get close enough to do recon before we struck them. Is that right?
I definitely agree with that after several close calls in other roleplaying scenarios. I’m big fan of recon.
Make sure they’re not all getting ready for the picnic? No, it was a barbecue!
Yeah, it’s a barbecue. Monday barbecue. No, it’s… the barbecue’s on Tuesday.
We’re not going to the barbecue. We decided.
We’re crashing the barbecue the day before.
We wanted to make sure that how many of them were coming to the BBQ.
Well they would have RSVPed, but…
We are ruining the BBQ by showing up prior to it and…
Alright, I’m back in then. We’re ruining the barbecue. Yes.
It really doesn’t matter if we take these people out or not like we’ve been paid to do. The real important goal is ruining the barbecue.
So, Jones. How do you plan on getting close enough to ruin the barbecue without tipping them off?
Well, my logic is, since we’re through the anomaly, there’s ground again and if I go underground that will dampen the sound.
It may delay me a round if like we get jumped, it may delay me around so I can get back to the surface but all of my sonar scans work underground. So I can still do my range finding and things like that and detecting, you know, how many people are moving around and stuff like that from underground, but we do have to slow down because I can’t go at 200 kph underground.
I can go at about 100 kph. But…
So he gives you the numbers. And I assume, yeah, all of you would have reasonably functioning speedometers. So you’d be able to stick to that. You get to the base of this mountain. You’re kind of coming out of this valley where all this anomalous terrain is living. Most of you turn on to this winding switch back road that goes up the side of the mountain whereas Jones just turns directly into the rock wall and turns on the drill that’s at the front of his vehicle, and it starts spinning very fast.
And there’s an enormous echoing boom as it impacts the stone. But you know, it’s far enough away that it could be just something falling in the anomalous area if you’re at a distance. And he disappears unsettlingly fast into the ground. It’s clear that whatever is letting him do this is not human technology entirely.
He’s taking the direct route.
So the rest of you keep your speed low enough and take the corners slowly. And you soon are able to spot where you’re going to emerge out onto this flat area where the encampment was reported to be. You’re able to stop kind of at the last curve. And peer over the rise. Are you all staying in your cars? Are you like sneaking out and getting into the underbrush?
Before they clear the ridge, can I do a, basically, one of my sonar pings just to see if there’s, like, people driving around, like right across on the other side of the ridge, so they don’t pop their head up like a shooting gallery?
Yes. Although I will ask, do any of you have radios?
I have enough points to have had a radio, and it would make sense narratively. If we were working together.
I do not have a radio and I am opposed to the idea.
I think I’m fine with you just saying whether or not you’d have one
I would have a radio.
I will say that if you don’t have it on your sheet, you probably can’t, like, have a secure channel. You can have like a CB radio sitting around your car. But other folks could listen in unless you did something to make it so that couldn’t happen.
I probably have one that I have broken in rage and repaired several times.
Okay, so Karloff has a bad radio, baby teeth has a decent radio, and Jones has an actual, like radio suitable for a miner to use.
I’m assuming we may have discussed this prior to now. Although if we think not, that’s okay, too.
I think we would have had at least one point said, Hey, if we have to talk, we can use CB channel seven or whatever.
Jolissa can be on the ham or whatever.
Oh, does Jolissa have the ability to listen in?
That seems like that’s in the realm of their capability.
Okay, so Jones, you send out a sonar pulse and you can see the three other vehicles of your companions on that road just before that final rise. And you can also see a decent number of vehicle sized objects out on this flat area. And you’re good enough at using this that you can tell kind of which ones seem dense enough and structured to be intact vehicles, as opposed to just like rusting heaps that are in this parking lot. It looks like there are nine vehicles and you’re getting shadows of roughly 9, 10 people. It’s harder to detect them as well, but you’d say if you were to guess you’d say 10 but two of them are kind of staying close together.
They are not moving around much; they are outside of their vehicles at the moment and like out in a rough circle near the center. Your thing’s sonar based, right?
Uh, yeah, that makes the most sense to me.
Then you’re also getting this like low level like weird rumble and pop. This is probably a sound that you’d know how to recognize as a miner. It’s, it’s a fire. And it’s evening, late afternoon. Kind of sunset is starting to turn the sky a bit orange and so that makes sense for them to have a fire running.
But they’re all kind of in the one collection in that area. None of them are like driving around circles or whatnot or anything crazy like that.
Correct. All the cars are stopped and the engines are off.
I will pipe back something along the lines of: “Nine turkeys getting ready for barbecue.”
You’re getting a lot of noise on Karloff’s line for some reason.
Next time on Tabletop Garden: Ego Driver.
It is bright white and is like no car you’ve ever seen.
In mid air I will release the mines.
As part of my gear shift, I think right past “reverse” is “flames.”
Yes, this is all within the realm of expectation, and yet entirely unacceptable.
I am going to attempt to have two objects occupy the same space.
And she aims that big fuck off rifle that she’s been carrying on her back directly into the front of the Vake’s car.
Big Eyes, Small Mouth Third Edition was created by Guardians of Order.
The theme music for this campaign is “Wasteland” by Phantom Elite, available under a Creative Commons Attribution non commercial no derivatives license.
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Transcribed by https://otter.ai