Posted in Gaming Advice, Set Piece

Set Piece: Market Terror

“You got any power cells for a Model 44?” Caleb asked the Toydarian vendor, as he perused the creature’s stall.

“Bolwola ticati” came the reply.

“Ohh, good.  How much….” 

“Caleb…” Renda called as she tapped on Caleb’s shoulder. 

“Hold on.. I’m doing business…   15 credits a pop?  These things are 15 credits mint in the Core and I know what you have isn…”

“Caleb.” Renda tapped more insistently.

Caleb looked over his shoulders toward the Rodian, she made a gesture toward the center of the market.  Caleb followed the gesture and saw a trio of Stormtroopers conversing near the market’s gaudy imperial statue. 

“Yeah Stormtroopers, I see them.  Be cool they’re not on to us.”

“Not the Stormtroopers, looks closer.”

Caleb scanned the crowd and found what had Renda spooked.  Four armed men were posted throughout the market.  They were anxious, Caleb could see the one closest to him was fingering his blaster’s trigger.  They kept glancing at the Stormtroopers in the center and they were also keeping an eye on the few on patrol.

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” whispered Renda. “Somethings about to go down.”

“If it does, our mission gets a whole lot harder.”

Caleb watched as the man with the blaster gripped it firmly and started walking purposely toward the nearest trooper.

“Hux and Niner,” Caleb said into his com. “abort.  I repeat abort.”  The man with the blaster walked right up to the Imperial Trooper and shot him in the back.  A few people in the crowd screamed.  Then the statue in the center of the square exploded.

Introduction:

The following scene is about an attack that occurs in a crowded public space.  Given the state of things in the real world, this scene may not be suitable for some tables.   I originally wrote this scene a few years ago for the GamerNation Holocron. I have run this scene quite a few times in a star wars game, with warring Hutt factions, rebel vs Imperial faction, even Hutt vs Zann Consortium factions, each time the player took completely different routes.  I have also run this is a Numenara game and it turned out quite interesting.

Scene:

Players are walking through or shopping at a busy open-air market, when a local gang, or resistance fighters, or rebel cell decided to attack the place. Their attack should be against another local faction or authority but could be against the PC’s directly if desired.

Mood:

The mood of this scene should be chaos, confusion, and damage mitigation.  This scene should have one force that is not concerned with civilian lives, and the PCs trying to protect them.     If the PCs aren’t the target of the attack, then they may not get directly involved in the fighting, this is where the civilians come into play. Have a couple ideas for the personal civilian drama to pull the players in;  a child separated from his parents huddled under a stall in the line of fire, a women trying her best to save a few people trapped under debris, a particularly loathsome thug using a bystander as a human shield.  Don’t force them to fight, but do push them to make some heroic decisions.

If the PCs are the target of the attack it puts and extra burden on them, for any stray shot could hit a civilian.

Threats:

This is where things can get interesting.  I like to have this attack be against the campaign’s already established villain faction on their home turf.  The perpetrators could be a gang, a lesser villain faction, or more interesting a faction loosely associated with the PCs. (One whose goals line up with the PC’s but whose methods do not.)  But the people fighting aren’t the only threat.  A bomb is a good threat to throw into a scene like this. Usually attached to a ‘symbol’ of the controlling faction.  If a bomb does go off , debris and fire are good threats to deal with as well.  The civilians can be threats as well if the PCs are not careful.

Mechanics:

Before the attack begins, give your PCs a chance to see it unfolding.  Let them make perception type checks to spot the aggressors and any explosives if they are in play.  If there is a bomb, let them have a precious turn or two to do something about it.  This turn usually happened before any fighting has even started or as it starts.

The first few turns of the encounter the crowd should play a big factor in movement and combat.  Players have to shove past people going the opposite direction and have no clear lines of fire.  But remember the civilians should be running FROM the scene so the crowd shouldn’t be a factor for long.   After that there are is only a few huddled in their stalls to scared to leave or those injured or trapped that remain.

Player action plays a big role in how a scene like this plays out.  Do they help the attackers or the defenders or go after them both.   Do they get in the fighting at all?

Tips:

Describe the horrific scene, but don’t overdue, most of us play games like this to escape the horrors or the real world not be reminded of them.

Player action in a scene like this should matter in the future.  If they try to help a lot of people, make sure they get a round of ale on the house because they saved the bartenders wife or similar thing.  If they are seen helping the attackers they may be branded terrorist.  If they are seen helping fight off the attackers… well, things could get interesting.

Throw this scene in when the players are in the middle of doing something else.  The PCs aren’t the only factions in play. Having this occur while they are protecting a client, meeting an asset, or trailing a target can put a wrinkle in their plans in a good way, and it can make the campaign world feel bigger than just what the PC’s are doing.

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