The Pyramids of Hertfordshire, episode 6

Anto­nia and Marsh play with real­ly big guns; Con­stan­ti­na takes a tumble.

Played

17th June 2010.

Dramatis Personae

  • Lady Anto­nia deVorea Heav­i­ly-armed Aris­to­crat.
  • Miss Con­stan­ti­na Spita Rebel­lious Debu­tante.
  • Cap­tain Ben­son Cur­ruthersa Mil­i­tary Police­man.
  • Jack Pren­tiss – a Dodgy Pedes­tri­an.
  • Miss April Sharpea Self-taught Inven­tor.
  • Rod­ney Marsha Par­tial­ly-reformed Thief.
  • Mr Eras­mus Rooke – the Boss.
  • Mr Chester – a For­eign Gen­tle­man of the Sci­en­tif­ic Per­sua­sion.
  • Jack­son – an old Asso­ciate of Cur­ruthers.
  • Two Anony­mous Sci­en­tists.
  • A Scep­ti­cal Com­man­dant.
  • A num­ber of Heav­i­ly-armed ‘Game­keep­ers’.
  • A large num­ber of Sham­bling Corpses.

Plot

Pren­tiss sprint­ed for the pow­er­house, burst­ing through the door, then duck­ing at the last moment to avoid los­ing his head to a shov­el wield­ed by a pan­ick­ing stok­er. Marsh arrived behind the zom­bie fight­ing Cur­ruthers, returned to human form and, near­ly decap­i­tat­ing it, fol­lowed up by bow­ing iron­i­cal­ly to his com­bat train­er. Lady Anto­nia decid­ed to try and help the guards while Miss Sharpe pow­ered up her weapon and aimed it at the top of the mast, soak­ing it in a stream of cor­ro­sive liq­uid. Miss Spit fol­lowed Pren­tiss into the pow­er­house, arriv­ing just in time to see him pull a thick cable out of the steam-pow­ered dynamo, caus­ing a mas­sive show­er of sparks which made up for the lights going out.

Pren­tiss stag­gered as the engi­neer whipped a huge span­ner across his throat from behind and attempt­ed to stran­gle him while the dynamo sped up, its whine rapid­ly ris­ing in pitch. He man­aged to turn his attack­er to take the full brunt of the blast as the build­ing explod­ed in a show­er of flames and shrapnel…

Miss Spit was still stand­ing in the door­way and was thrown in a spec­tac­u­lar arc across the square, land­ing with cat­like grace near the trans­mis­sion mast. Pren­tiss was appar­ent­ly buried in the rubble.

All around them, the zom­bies pressed their slow but relent­less attack; small groups of sol­diers des­per­ate­ly try­ing to hold the gaps between build­ings against up to twice their num­ber. As the remain­der of the team tried to decide what to do, sev­er­al of the sol­diers went down scream­ing and Cur­ruthers and Lady Anto­nia leapt to help shore up the defences, close­ly fol­lowed by Miss Sharpe and Miss Spit, each head­ing for a dif­fer­ent group. Marsh, spot­ting the col­lapsed guard tow­er, revert­ed to rat form and scur­ried out of the bat­tle zone.

Lady Anto­nia grabbed up one of the large rifles used by the sol­diers, a mag­a­zine-fed ele­phant gun, and put her marks­man­hip skills to good use, blow­ing sev­er­al zom­bies to pieces in quick suc­ces­sion. Miss Sharpe made sim­i­lar use of her ‘ectoray org­ona­tor’ while Miss Spit, using her deflec­tion spell to avoid dam­age, charged straight into bat­tle swing­ing a makeshift club. Cur­ruthers arrived just in time to see three men fall and found him­self hold­ing the defence togeth­er, using the bay­o­net on the end of his ele­phant rifle.

Pren­tiss pulled him­self out of the ruins of the pow­er­house and, grab­bing the huge span­ner as a club, looked around to take in the sit­u­a­tion. Spot­ting Marsh in the ruins of the tow­er, he burst through the line of zom­bies to join him, where he found the lit­tle thief attempt­ing to set up a Max­im machine gun. Between them, they got it braced and pro­ceed­ed to spray the near­est group of zom­bies with bul­lets, stop­ping fre­quent­ly to unjam the weapon.

Grad­u­al­ly, the tide of bat­tle turned, although by the time the zom­bies were all destroyed, so were all but four of the soldiers.

As a result of run­ning out of time, the fol­low­ing was not actu­al­ly played through.

Once the bat­tle was over, the sur­vivors picked through the bod­ies, sep­a­rat­ing the wound­ed from the dead and the undead. With his remain­ing troops secur­ing the perime­ter, the Com­man­dant gath­ered the team togeth­er in the mess to thank them for their help in fight­ing off the zom­bies. Over­com­ing his pride, he admit­ted that they had been right and that there was obvi­ous­ly a link between the exper­i­ments and the zom­bies. Turn­ing to the sci­en­tist, Mr Chester, he informed him that the exper­i­ments were over until they had been thor­ough­ly exam­ined by oth­er mil­i­tary sci­en­tists. Chester, his tem­per flar­ing, stalked out of the room, swear­ing to take his ideas to the Amer­i­c­as where they would “appre­ci­ate the genius!”

The team were escort­ed back to Lon­don by the Com­man­dant him­self, where reports were made to Mr Rooke, and mat­ters between the Min­istry and the Roy­al Eso­teric Guards were tak­en ‘upstairs’. The team were con­grat­u­lat­ed on their han­dling of the affair and Cur­ruthers, Marsh and Lady Anto­nia were final­ly pro­mot­ed to full Field Agent status. 

Notes

The Roy­al Eso­teric Guards are the mil­i­tary equiv­a­lent to the Min­istry and form the sixth of the elite Guards reg­i­ments. As well as reg­u­lar sol­diers of the line, trained in com­bat­ting super­nat­ur­al as well as mun­dane foes, their organ­i­sa­tion includes a num­ber of autonomous research and intel­li­gence teams, enabling them to deal with most prob­lems with­out help from oth­er mil­i­tary units that might not be able to cope with the same kind of con­di­tions. If Cur­ruthers had remained in the Army, he may well have joined them. Obvi­ous­ly, they are still capa­ble of mak­ing mistakes.

As mass bat­tles go, this one actu­al­ly went quite quick­ly, it just did­n’t seem like it.

Sav­age Worlds is def­i­nite­ly quite good at han­dling large num­bers of bat­tling char­ac­ters; the “two hits and you’re down” approach to Extras is much eas­i­er to track than hit points, just requir­ing mark­ers for Shak­en fig­ures. The play­ers quick­ly realised that gang­ing up on oppo­nents is the key to suc­cess, both for the +1 mul­ti­ple attack­ers bonus and for the guar­an­teed kill on a Shak­en Extra. I was also able to hand groups of five sol­diers to indi­vid­ual play­ers to man­age, tak­ing some of the pres­sure off me.

The prob­lem was basi­cal­ly with the num­ber of play­ers. We had an extra play­er this week, tak­ing us to sev­en, which slowed things down enough to get in the way. The play­ing card ini­tia­tive sys­tem can also cause delays, as play­ers fre­quent­ly for­get to hand them back after their action or at the end of the round. Even hand­ing the whole ini­tia­tive sys­tem to a play­er did­n’t work as well as I’d have liked. Chat­ter amongst the play­ers is always a dis­trac­tion and the only way I can see around this would be to reduce the num­bers – or start delib­er­ate­ly killing off characters!

One ele­ment that did­n’t get to play out was that Pren­tiss and Miss Sharpe’s two-pronged attack on the elec­tri­cal trans­mis­sion sys­tem was suc­cess­ful: the zom­bies were about to col­lapse of their own accord when the bat­tle end­ed for the evening. In ret­ro­spect, I prob­a­bly should have upped the num­ber of zom­bies to increase the appar­ent dan­ger then had them col­lapse at a suit­able dra­mat­ic moment, but I’m try­ing to avoid too much GM’s fiat – even for effect.

We did­n’t quite fin­ish in the main ses­sion, although the bat­tle was vir­tu­al­ly over, so the wrap-up was kind of assumed.

The game is now on hold until the autumn.