We’re in it for the Money: The Wild Ones

At the start of the adventure, the players are all off separately doing their own things: Norm is killing time at a Café, Gorak is playing in a backroom poker game (and losing), Strauss is honing his skills at an indoor shooting range, and Maximillian Pegasi (the moniker that the thief has given himself this week) is up to something that’s probably illegal if you look in the right books.

GM Note: This is just a little something I like to do at the start of every adventure. It gives the players an opportunity to flesh out their characters outside of the regularly structured combat and investigation of a normal game. Admittedly, most of the players in a typical group will always say they’re doing the same thing 90% of the time, but there’s usually one guy who will go the extra mile and start to build a behind-the-scenes arc for whatever character they’re playing. It’s an opportunity to allow the players to add some flavor to the character they’re playing and hopefully gets them more invested in what they’re doing.

After a few minutes of establishing their off-duty routine, the players get called into work; they all carry a kind of beeper (a device which Gorak described as “kinda like those little things they give you at Olive Garden before you’re seated) that effectively allows them to be on call virtually any time. The players all head to Gillespie and Haggard and sit in a small waiting room until all of them arrive and a secretary buzzes them through into their boss’ office.

The owner of Gillespie & Haggard, Punwick Haggard, sits behind a too-large desk against the far wall. Punwick is a gnome, formerly a barbarian that comprised one half of the original Gillespie and Haggard adventuring team. Richard Gillespie, the other half of the team, was killed in a trap-infested dungeon shortly after the creation of the company over 20 years ago. Now with graying, close-cropped hair and a paunch for a stomach, Punwick’s adventuring days are long behind him and he spends his days managing his expanding business. However, he still keeps his battleaxe, Jessie, mounted on a plaque behind his desk as a memoir of his time in the field. The walls of the office are similarly lined with the mounted heads of mythical beasts he killed over the years.

Punwick cuts straight to the point and gives the players their first mission as a team: the Harmonium (one of the many factions of Sigil that serves as a kind of police force) has contracted out G&H to deal with a gang of goblin bikers called “The Sons of Limbo” that have been terrorizing small businesses in the Hive. The Harmonium doesn’t have the time or resources to go after every single disturbance in Sigil, especially in the Hive, so it’s not uncommon for them to contract out smaller agencies to solve problems on their behalf as long as they don’t cause more problems themselves. Apparently the players’ team is not the first to have been put on this case.

Punwick: “The Harmonium already tried to pawn this job off on some other private contractor from the Lower Wards. It… didn’t go well.”

Max: “How so?”

Punwick: “Let’s just say the goblins tied him behind one of their bikes and dragged him for two blocks before a Harmonium guard chopped the rider in half.”

Norm: “That seems pretty specific for a ‘let’s just say’.”

Punwick: “The point is, we’re on the job now. It’s up to you four to stop these punks from causing any more trouble. Show me what you can do and maybe I can scrounge up some more work for you in the future. Get out of here.”

The party goes to a local diner to plan out their first move. In between calls for more coffee and arguments over who should tip, a lot of ideas are thrown back and forth, most of which are the typical adventuring party “bordering on crimes against humanity” sort. Luckily, before they can begin a genocide in the Baltics to smoke out a few motorcycle thugs, a loud crash is heard from outside the diner. The party instinctively dives for cover, save for Norm who continues to ask for coffee while everyone else crawls around on the ground.

Cautiously peeking outside, Max sees four goblins standing outside an electronics shop, its façade ablaze. Four motorcycles sit nearby, and upon closer inspection Max notices that the jackets the goblins are wearing are inscribed with the name “Sons of Limbo”. They’ve found their first lead, in a manner of speaking.

Hastily conferring amongst themselves, Gorak says that he regularly plays cards with a group of goblins and might have run into these guys in the past.

GM Note: He didn’t.

They decide to use Gorak as a distraction, hoping to catch the goblins flat-footed. Gorak exits the diner through the back, circling around and approaching the goblins from down the street while the rest of the party stacks up at the front door to the diner, prepared to attack when Gorak has the goblins suitably distracted.

Gorak: “Hey! Don’t I owe you guys money?”

Goblins: (Confused) “Who the hell are you?”

Gorak: “… Crap.”

Taking that as a sign that talking is a lost cause, the party bursts into the street and attacks.

Max wins initiative and fires off a round from his .44 that takes one of the goblins in the chest, killing him. Strauss takes aim at the goblin furthest to the left but his shot goes wide, impacting the store front. The goblins retaliate, drawing 9mm pistols and opening fire on the party. Most of the shots miss and pepper the front of the diner, shattering a few windows. One goblin gets lucky, however, and manages to land a hit on Norm. It should be noted at this point that Norm decided to make constitution his dump stat, so an abundance of hitpoints is not one of his defining character traits. With one hit, he drops down to 1 hp, barely managing to stay on his feet.

Gorak retaliates and drops the goblin that shot Norm with a saber cut, leaving two goblins standing. Norm makes a cursory stab with his rapier at the nearest goblin before running for cover, valuing his one remaining hitpoint over any kind of artificial glory in battle. At the top of the order Max barely misses with his second shot while Strauss has a bit more luck and wings one of the remaining goblins, who then frantically fires over the heads of the party. The second goblin, not wanting to risk an attack of opportunity from a heavily-armed dwarf in melee range, drops his pistol and draws a switchblade from his belt, thrusting the blade forward. Gorak manages to deflect the blow with his saber and deliver a solid cut in return. Max manages to finish off the first goblin with his third round, and Strauss polishes off the last opponent with a shot that sends the goblin staggering backwards into the burning storefront.

Of course, it’s at this point that the party realizes it probably would have been a good idea to take one of them alive for questioning.

Resignedly walking back into the diner and ordering up more coffee from a still shell-shocked staff, the party attempts once again to piece together a plan. Eventually they settle on an idea: they’ll attempt to instigate a gang war, taking out or at least weakening the Sons of Limbo while hopefully doing the same to another problem gang in the area. A quick streetwise check reveals that the next most powerful gang is a group called the Chaos Paladins*. They operate out of a run-down bar near the Ditch in the Hive. The party decides that they will go and try to convince the Chaos Paladins to take on the Sons of Limbo, presenting it as a viable power play.

*GM Note: The Chaos Paladins are a fun throwback I included to a character most of this group had played with over the previous few months. Duck Mursbane, Racist Paladin of Chaos was a human supremacist paladin of a god of chaos, with a penchant for desecrating the bodies of his slain enemies and murdering the mothers of various forest creatures. This just struck me as a pretty solid influence for a biker gang so I decided to run with it.

Also, expect quite a few of these kind of notes in the future. I always try to include references to past games in whatever campaign I’m running. It gives a sense of continuity and connectivity to the game world (provided you can make reasonable connections between the settings) and it’s always fun for players who were in those past games to see those connections carried over.

It doesn’t take long before the group realizes that they don’t have a single member with a decent diplomacy skill. All told, there isn’t even anybody with a charisma stat above 12. Nonetheless, Max decides to try and make a go of it anyway. He heads to the bar and is halted by a guard posted out front.

Max: “I’m here to talk to your boss.”

Guard: “Piss off.”

Max: “I’ve got a business proposition for him.”

Guard: “You and a hundred other losers. We get along fine without your dumbass ideas.”

Max: “Listen, you guys are #2 to the Sons of Limbo, right? Well we’ve got a plan that’ll let you guys take ‘em down. Ask your boss if he’s interested in holding the top spot in Sigil, then you can tell me to piss off.”

Guard: (Pause) “Wait here.”

The Guard disappears inside for a few minutes before re-emerging, though still alone.

Guard: “Okay, now you can piss off.”

Max: “You guys really don’t wanna-“

Guard: “We’re not interested in getting mixed up with those guys. Leave. Now.”

Accepting that he isn’t going to get much of anywhere talking to them directly, Max backs off and the party tries to re-assess their options. It’s clear that they’re not going to get the Chaos Paladins to enter into a gang war with the Sons of Limbo willingly, and why would they? The Sons of Limbo are significantly larger than they are and would almost certainly wipe the floor with them in a stand-up fight. Ultimately then, they decide that if they can’t convince them to fight, they’ll have to incite the gang war themselves.

Going back to the site where they fought the four goblins earlier, they collect their bodies from the street (Sigil doesn’t exactly have the strongest public health laws) and store them in a storage locker that Max owns. Their plan consists of finding likely targets of the gang, and then posing the bodies of the goblins outside these locations with notes implicating the Chaos Paladins in their deaths.

They manage to procure a record of the stores hit by the gang fairly easily, and they split up to go and talk to each shop owner individually. All of them tell the same story: they’re small electronics shops operating as independent retailers for a major tech conglomerate: Arcane Technologies Ltd. None of them have any idea why the goblins attacked them, and they didn’t receive any warnings or demands: the goblins just showed up and burned their stores down.

With a bit more research, they’re able to locate the other stores in the Hive that are owned by Arcane Tech. They pick one, grab one of the goblin corpses, and head off to set up their lure. They get about halfway through tying a goblin to a pole outside the store before the shopkeeper runs outside in obvious distress.

Shopkeeper: “What the hell are you doing?!”

Max: “Don’t worry about it, we’re here to save your store.”

Shopkeeper: “Save my- you’re putting up a corpse for display outside my store! You’re going to drive away all my customers!”

Max: “Sir, this is for your own good. Go back inside.”

Shopkeeper: “You’re damn right I’ll go back inside! And then I’m gonna call the Harmonium!”

Strauss: (After the shopkeeper has walked away) “We’re working for them, so we should be okay, right?”

Max: “I think so…”

(Inside, the shopkeeper has started dialing)

Norm: “Yeah, y’know what: let’s get the hell out of here.”

Beating a hasty retreat, the party decides to try a different approach. Or rather, they attempt the same approach, but through slightly more legitimate means. Max heads to the city barracks to speak to a member of the Harmonium. After a brief waiting period, he is directed to an office down the hall where a young officer named Alan works. Alan is a member of the new breed of Harmonium officers, more in line with conventional cops as opposed to the old elite guard. He wears a uniform instead of armor and carries a Beretta instead of a battleaxe. He’s a modern, by the book officer, and is probably not the best person to try to get on their side for this particular plan.

Max: “So we’ve got a little something we wanna run past you.”

Alan: “Alright. What is it, exactly?”

Max: “Okay, so listen to this…”

Max then proceeds to lay out their slightly disturbing corpse-trap idea in detail. There is a long, awkward pause as Alan tries to sort through all the information he was just given. When he finally begins to respond, he kicks off a long back-and-forth as Max continues to try and convince Alan of the benefits of his plan and Alan continues to list all the reasons why he can’t allow it. Finally he says that he’ll be back in a moment as he gets up to get his boss, Joe.

Joe is one of the old guard, a veritable behemoth of a man dressed head to toe in crimson armor and carrying a greataxe slung across his back. He and Alan step inside the office and Max recounts his entire plan again, and once again there is a moment of silence as Joe mulls over what’s just been said. Finally he bursts out laughing. Amazingly, he’s overjoyed with the idea of potentially being able to take out two problem gangs in one blow, and if he has to string up a few goblins in public areas to do so then he sees that as being worth it. Alan stands by, incredulous at this exchange but ultimately needing to defer to his boss.

And so, with the blessing of the Harmonium, the party is able to move forward with their plan. They take three goblin corpses and string them up outside the remaining three electronics stores, attaching a note to each that imitates the Chaos Paladins taking credit for the kills. The shopkeepers object once again, but this time the party simply waves the appropriate paperwork from the Harmonium at them, and they have to sit by in brooding anger while goblin corpses fester outside their stores. Needless to say, foot traffic is somewhat diminished over the next several days as they wait for the Sons of Limbo to come investigate.

Finally, several of the bikers show up and can’t help but take notice of their former comrade hanging outside the storefront. From an observation point on the roof of a building across the street, the party watches as one of the goblins takes the note off the body and reads it. After a moment he folds the note and puts it in his pocket, then whistles and motions for the other bikers to move out. They leave without bothering to vandalize the store.

With the Sons of Limbo appearing to have taken the bait, the party goes to set up outside the Chaos Paladin’s bar, waiting for the inevitable assault. It takes a while, but later that evening the party is rewarded with the telltale sound of an approaching swarm of motorcycles. Rounding a corner and approaching the bar is a veritable fleet of motorcycles, approximately 20 in all, ridden by a large raiding party of the Sons of Limbo. They pull up outside the bar and dismount their bikes, walking briskly toward the entrance. The guard outside holds up a hand but the leader of the raiding party draws a sawn-off shotgun from a holster on his back and blows the guard’s head off, never breaking stride.

As the goblins funnel inside the bar and the sounds of gunfire begin to drift across to the party’s hiding spot, they realize that they have a rather unique opportunity to take a more direct hand in eliminating both of these gangs instead of passively letting them wipe each other out. They quickly discuss how to approach the situation when Strauss comes up with this little gem:

Strauss: “Guys. Let’s burn this place to the ground.”

GM Note: Here you can see some of my inexperience as a GM leaking through. As I now know, giving your players access to the all-consuming power of fire is akin to giving cavemen a nuclear bomb: they will find a way to abuse the hell out of it and destroy everything. As valid a plan as this was at the time, it wasn’t long after this that they tried to use fire to solve all of their problems. I had to compensate by being a little more restrictive with my environments: concrete buildings, pressurized spaceships, igloos made out of fire-retardant foam, anything to keep the players from making all my combat encounters go up in literal flames.

I encountered the same problem with grenades and other explosives in a previous campaign and this is one of the problems I have with the D20 modern system: the purpose of modern weapons is to unbalance combat in favor of the wielder. With the availability of these weapons in this system (and with the nebulous wealth rules one can use to acquire them) it’s all too easy for players to gear up with just about everything short of an Abrams tank and try to steamroll their way through everything.

Needless to say, this idea is met with overwhelming enthusiasm from the other party members and before I can even drop my face into my hands, they’re setting up to torch the place like it’s a Burning Man festival. Norm pushes one of the many motorcycles in front of the doors to block the most obvious exit to the building and the rest of the party sets up in firing positions that cover the other points of exit from the building. When everyone signals ready, Norm stuffs a rag into the gas tank of the motorcycle and lights it up before retreating to a safe distance. Before long, the gunfire from inside the building begins to taper off only to be replaced with panicked shouts.

Max: “Kill everything that’s not a goblin.”

To call what happens next a fight would be far too generous: “slaughter” would be a far more accurate term. The first person to exit the building does so through the window. At high velocity. And on fire. The goblin flies through the air with a high-pitched screech and lands on his back, dead when he hits the ground. A human, one of the Chaos Paladins attempts to clamber over the burning bike in front of the entrance, but Strauss drops him with a single shot, leaving his body cooking on top of the charred frame of the motorcycle.

A second Chaos Paladin vaults out of the broken window and takes two wounds in quick succession from Strauss and Max. With one arm crippled, and blood pouring from a wound to his abdomen, the man throws down his weapon and surrenders, hoping submission will earn him his life. Norm moves in to secure him while the rest of the party scans for more targets.

Finally, a goblin that isn’t engulfed in flame jumps through the window and attempts to fight his way through the firing squad outside. Instead of risking losing another lead to gunfire, Max grabs the Taser on his belt and tosses it to Norm, who then fires at the goblin. Both electrodes connect and the goblin’s muscles spasm uncontrollably, incapacitating him for the next five rounds.

After tying down the goblin and placing him with their other Chaos Paladin prisoner, the flow of people attempting to escape the burning tavern stops. The shouts from inside gradually descend into agonized screams and then the scene falls silent, save for the cracking of timbers as the burning tavern collapses in on itself.

By this point, the sound of sirens is steadily approaching and it isn’t long before Alan arrives in a squad car with his partner, a towering half-ogre named Grimmel who wields an M249 SAW in lieu of a more conventional weapon. Shortly behind them is the fire department; they’re really more of an ad-hoc body of volunteers than any kind of official force, but fires in an enclosed city like Sigil can be extraordinarily dangerous and need to be handled by somebody.

Shaking his head at the mess in front of him, Alan nonetheless goes about procedure and establishes a perimeter around the tavern. In addressing the party, he tells them that the Harmonium will handle processing of their two prisoners, but since they’re technically tied to the party’s investigation, they’ll need to handle interrogation themselves. The party takes a moment to secure their loot from the battle (that loot being the sale of a small fleet of custom motorcycles) before retiring for the day and agreeing to handle interrogation of their new prisoner in the morning.

The following day, the party arrives at the Harmonium Barracks and Alan directs them to interview room 3, a windowless concrete box where the goblin they captured looks to have been stewing for hours on end. They decide to skip the good cop/bad cop routine and go straight for the threats of violence if the goblin is not forthcoming with information.

Actually, they skip the threats as well and jump feet first into the violence itself.

Gorak puts the goblin in a full nelson while Strauss works him over. By the third punch, the goblin is willing to cooperate. Norm, however, wants to ensure that he’ll tell the whole truth and delivers some extra incentive in the form of two knives driven through the goblin’s knees; one a switchblade he acquired from one of the Sons of Limbo and the other a simple butter knife he stole from the diner.

The goblin screams in pain and admits that he doesn’t know the main base the Sons of Limbo operate from: he was a member of a smaller gang that got folded into the larger group a while ago, and as such he is only trusted with smaller matters. He takes orders from Rtug, a Lieutenant in the Sons of Limbo core gang. He says Rtug can usually be found at Glug’s Tavern, a goblin bar in the Hive.

Leaving the goblin in Harmonium custody, the party moves out and cases Glug’s Tavern from a safe distance. Ultimately, they decide that they don’t particularly want to walk straight into a bar that is heavily patronized by goblins and start demanding uncomfortable questions from one of the most prominent goblins in the joint. Instead, Max opts to pay off a young street urchin to go in and ask around on their behalf.

The boy returns several minutes later without much good news. He says that the people he asked denied knowing anyone named Rtug before kicking him out. Sighing resignedly, Max decides to enter the establishment alone. He disguises himself (very well) and enters the bar while the party circles around and covers the back entrance, just in case.

The bar is occupied primarily by goblins, with a few various other races scattered about here and there. All look up when Max enters the bar, but turn back to their business soon enough when it’s obvious that he’s not there to shoot the place up or arrest anyone. Max casually walks up to the bar and signals the bartender over for a chat.

Max: “I’m here for Rtug.”

Bartender: “No one here by that name, pal. Get ya something?”

(Max slides a roll of bills across the bar)

Bartender: “Oh, Rtug? Yeah, he comes in here. Sometimes.”

Max: “Where can I find him?”

Bartender: “What am I, his mother?”

(Max forks over a few more bills)

Bartender: “Follow me”

The Bartender leaves Max into a hallway, back into the kitchens and to a trapdoor that opens onto a set of stairs that descend into a basement alcove with two doors: one leads to a maintenance area on the left and the one on the right is covered in red vinyl with a single circular window set in the middle.“He’s in there” the bartender says before turning and heading back up the stairs.

Taking a deep breath and trying not to think about the fact that he could be walking into a room full of people that would kill him at first sight, Max pushes open the door and strides with deceptive confidence into a dimly lit room with a circular, felt-topped table situated in the middle. Two goblins, a human and a halfling are all seated around the table, several bets into a game of poker. Cutting straight to the point, Max speaks up.

Max: “I’m looking for Rtug”

The younger goblin tenses but the older one puts up a hand.

Old Goblin: “Who wants to know? More importantly, how the hell you get in here?”

Max: “That isn’t your concern. What is your concern is that I have information about the gang war that went on last night”

Young Goblin: “Just what do you know about that?”

Max ignores him, and continues speaking to the older goblin. Amusingly, he seems to have jumped to conclusions and not bothered to clarify which of the goblins is the one he is looking for. Rtug is actually the younger goblin, while the older one is Glug, the owner of the bar.

Max: “I know a lot of things. Some people want to meet with you. There’s a warehouse in the Madhouse District, it should be abandoned. Be there at midnight tomorrow and perhaps you’ll gain a better understanding of events”

Jumping to his feet, Rtug slams Max against the wall and pulls a Desert Eagle from his waistband, shoving the barrel against Max’s forehead.

Rtug: “How about this: you cut the crap and tell me what you know, or I paint the walls with the inside of your head?”

Now understanding that his lack of conversational skill isn’t going to get him anywhere with this somewhat excitable goblin, Max gives up on the conversation and focuses on getting away. He rolls a successful escape artist check and just barely manages to slip out of Rtug’s grasp. He immediately turns and books it up the stairs. A shot whizzes past his ear before he rounds the corner and blasts out the back door past the rest of the party who have been lying in wait should anything go wrong.

“It didn’t go well!” Max shouts, never slowing down, before disappearing around the corner.

Rtug exits the bar through the same door a moment later, coming face to face with the three other more combat-focused members of the party. Wasting no time, Gorak slashes at Rtug with his saber, driving him towards Strauss who lashes out with the butt of his rifle and strikes the goblin in the side of the head.

Cornered and panicked, Rtug attempts to fire his Desert Eagle at Norm, who takes advantage of the opening provided when Rtug attempted to fire a gun in melee range. Unfortunately, he didn’t consider that Rtug had already taken damage and the attack manages to kill the goblin outright.

There is an awkward moment of silence as the party realizes they just murdered their best lead.

Again.

They then hear frantic voices coming from inside and conclude that they need to move. They quickly search Rtug’s pockets, relieving the corpse of his wallet (and his sidearm) and then split up, running for safety. Max and Strauss get away clean as pursuers pour out of the bar, and Norm manages to stick out a poor endurance roll to outpace the angry goblins following him. Gorak, however, somehow botches his fortitude roll and needs to stop to take a breath. His hide skill is awful so his only option is to duck into one of the buildings off the alleyway he’s in or risk entering solo combat with several goblins. He ditches his saber, which is covered in blood, in a nearby dumpster and then walks through the closest doorway. He comes face to face with a very confused looking man carrying a basket full of apples.

Apple Man: “Who are you?”

Gorak: “I’m Gorak”

Apple Man: “What are you doing here?”

Gorak: “I live here”

Apple Man: “This… this is a grocery.”

Gorak: “Yeah, I live upstairs.”

Apple Man: “…”

Gorak: “Anyway, gotta go!”

Gorak exits out the front door, leaving a very suspicious grocer in his wake. A short time later, the party meets up outside of the G&H building to ponder their next move.

They sort through Rtug’s belongings and discover his driver’s license (amazingly, he did have one). Guessing that someone like Rtug would have at least a few priors on file, Max calls up the Harmonium and requests a check on known addresses of Rtug. His address is listed as an apartment on Hiverunner’s Road. The party goes to check it out, picking up Gorak’s saber on the way. Luckily, it wasn’t garbage day.

Arriving at Rtug’s apartment it’s fairly obvious that this isn’t the kind of place where people bother calling the cops for something as trivial as a break in so they bust down the door and go about ransacking the place for possible clues. The place is a mess, as is to be expected. They search around a bit, finding not much more than empty beer bottles and goblin porn. Eventually, though, they do find a notebook between the cushions of the couch. It appears to be some kind of calendar for illegal activities; on it are listed various events such as “raid on AT next week”, “pay Glug back from last month” (this is crossed out), and finally “meeting at Sigil Petroleum tonight”.

A quick internet search reveals Sigil Petroleum to have been a medium-sized fuel company located solely in Sigil. Import costs eventually proved to be too great considering the typically limited automobile presence in Sigil and the company shut down about a decade ago. In Sigil, most of the Sigil Petroleum land has since been bought and rebuilt on. Only two filling stations remain; one in the Lady’s Ward and one in the Madhouse District of the Hive. Reasonably enough, the party checks out the one in the Hive first.

They set  up shop on the second level of a parking garage across the street and sure enough, there are two goblins armed with Mac-11s standing guard at the front door. The windows are blacked out with spray paint and they can’t see inside. Further scouting from a distance reveals there to be a back entrance with one guard stationed there. Goblins occasionally come and go.

As the party debates what to do, one goblin leaves the station with about five others in tow. They get on their bikes and ride off, the party assumes for another raid.

Taking advantage of the lighter enemy presence, Max and Norm move in from the side and scale the wall to reach the roof while Gorak distracts the two guards out front by pretending to be a wandering drunk, which is never too difficult an act for a dwarf to put on. On the building’s roof, Max uses his fiber-optic camera to look through a vent and survey the interior. Inside, the gas station is strewn with trash, fading Van Halen posters haphazardly plastering the walls. Four goblins are spread out throughout the room, and near the back, there sits an unusually large goblin on a throne made of auto parts. He wears a studded leather biker vest and is adorned with metal chains and spikes. A goblet of something that’s almost certainly dangerously alcoholic is grasped in his left hand and a Colt Python revolver dangles from his right. His face is heavily tattooed to resemble a goblin skull, and his arms are similarly tattooed to be representative of goblin bone structure. Three scantily-clad goblin women are sprawled out at his feet.

Using their cell phones to communicate, the party agrees to take advantage of the relatively small guard posting and attack. Norm and Max leap off the roof onto the guard at the rear door. Norm comes out of it just fine, and while Max manages to knock out the guard, he takes a lot of damage from the fall.

Out front, Gorak suddenly lurches to his feet and draws his shotgun while Strauss puts a round through one of the submachinegun wielding guards.

Norm and Max seek out something to block the rear exit, hoping to trap everyone inside for a redux of their “burn it down” strategy. They find some old tires and stack them in front of the rear door, forming a makeshift barricade of heavy rubber. Norm rounds the corner on his way to help with the fight out front while Max takes cover and nurses his remaining hitpoints.

Inside, the goblins have obviously heard the commotion and one bursts through the front door. His eyes widen as he takes in the scene and shouts to alert his boss, drawing another SMG as the rest of the goblins run outside to help, flooding around Gorak.

Ironically, this mob ends up saving his life. As one goblin charges him with a lead pipe, he beats him down with a blow from the butt of his shotgun. He then shifts into the space he occupied, putting himself in the thick of the fight where the goblins can’t effectively use their guns. Strauss, making extensive use of the precise shot feat, can continue to snipe at the goblins with impunity while the goblins are taking penalties for firing into melee.

Norm charges at the crowded group of goblins and gets a solid hit in but another one sprays him with a burst from a Mac-11, taking him down to near death. Max, realizing that everyone is now focused at the front of the store, moves the tires and opens the back door, sneaking inside to flank the head goblin. Taking cover behind a shelf, he leans out and fires a round that goes just wide, shattering the window and succeeding only in drawing the attention of the goblin. Gorak and Strauss continue to hack and shoot their way through the front of the mob, taking down two more goblins in short order. The goblin with the SMG stays on his feet, however, and fires another burst at Norm. This time he misses but Norm decides to get out while he’s still alive and retreats around the corner of the gas station. Max draws back the hammer on his revolver and fires another round at the leader. This time, he lands a critical hit.

Normally, a hit from a .44 magnum is enough to seriously ruin your day even without a critical. But in a feat of astounding bad luck, Max manages to roll below average damage on all four of his damage die. He wings the leader, but doesn’t manage to bring him down.

Outside, the goblins are starting to do some damage to Gorak, as he takes a blast from a shotgun and a glancing hit from a .380. The goblins have also managed to determine Strauss’ sniper position and have begun lobbing rounds across the street. Gorak works his way into some open space and drops a goblin with a round from his shotgun, but Strauss decides he’s had enough fooling around. For the whole fight, the leader has been just inside the threshold of the front door. This provides him with some degree of cover from Strauss, who is ten feet above the ground on the second level of the parking garage, giving him a higher angle of attack than the other party members. But he decides to just say to hell with it and take a shot at the big guy. He lets out a breath to steady his aim and squeezes the trigger on his G3-SG1. And as luck would have it he rolls and confirms the second critical hit of the encounter.

Strauss is rewarded with a much better damage roll than Max. With 4d10 worth of good rolls, Strauss could have done enough damage to one-shot the leader at the beginning of the fight. Fortunately, he had other targets to worry about so my fight wasn’t completely derailed.

At any rate, the round flies true, penetrating the overhang of the doorway and continuing on through the drywall and then through the head of the goblin. A faint gurgling is heard from where the goblin’s mouth used to be and he topples to the ground, the goblin hookers at the base of the makeshift throne screaming in terror.

With their boss dead, the remaining goblins take a serious hit to morale. Strauss and Gorak polish off two more and the last goblin drops his weapon and retreats to his bike, hoping to escape. Norm suddenly finds himself to be the closest player character to the fleeing goblin and decides to take a chance with his fragile hitpoint pool and rush the remaining enemy before he can escape. While the goblin struggles to turn the key in the motorcycle’s ignition, Norm leaps up on the handlebars and runs him through with a thrust from his rapier, polishing off the last of the goblin bikers.

Quickly scanning the inside of the gas station before the goblins who left earlier return from their raid, the party scavenges a few trinkets from the dead: Max pockets the Colt Python that the leader was carrying and Norm picks up a crowbar with a faint magical aura that the leader never got to use thanks to Strauss’ display of marksmanship. Strauss also makes sure to snag a picture for verification of the goblin leader’s death, to ensure that they’ll get paid in full for their work. Finally, Max gives the former leader’s improvised throne a cursory examination and discovers a small hidden compartment built into the base. He pries it open and discovers a briefcase full of money with a note sitting on top: it reads “keep up the good work”.

GM Note: No matter how much you as a GM might want to create intricate foreshadowing events and mysteries for the players to ponder over, they will always be far more interested in whatever loot they’ve just acquired. In this instance I only exacerbated the issue by presenting the foreshadowing quite literally right on top of the loot itself. That’s my bad.

At this point, things have pretty much reached the “wrapping up” point of the session: the final battle has been fought and won, the loot distributed, and it’s nearly three in the morning. The players head back to Gillespie and Haggard, turn in their evidence of a job well done, and grouch about how the pay from their employer isn’t enough to raise their respective wealth scores. After taking an appropriate amount of time debating what level up path they want to take, the game officially ends for the evening, bringing a close to the first session of this campaign.

 

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