Blowing the Gaff


So we just finished up the Infiltration Phase of our game. Things seem to be going well…for the Vaylen anyway. However, I’m worried that I’m not being flexible enough and that I’m taking the Phase sequence too literally.

One of the players is a Psychologist and another is essentially, the head of the planet. The other PCs are equally powerful, but I feel like these two are the key to my problem. Which is simply this: If the Psychologist discovers that an NPC is a Vaylen, he tells the Govenor who simply proceeds to wipe out the NPC and his ships. It doesn’t matter what the Disposition is or what the Phase is – as soon as the Psychologist (or any of the PCs for that matter) discovers that a major NPC is hulled – that’s it, the game immediately moves to Invasion do not pass go, do not collect $200. In fact, it may not even move to Invasion, the Vaylen have a fleet of ships, but not much in the way of firepower. The PCs easily have the Hammer to smash the Vaylen. So it’d be pretty lopsided.

I don’t want to stymie clever plans by the PCs, but the game is going to be real short if the PCs get lucky and it seems dumb to say “well, yeah, they’re slavering monsters, but their Dispo is higher than yours so you can’t stop them”. No, the PCs burnt up all-powerful honchos and they should get to play them. But I feel like it’ll ruin the game if it can’t run its course.

So what am I not understanding here?


A number of thoughts.

  1. How is the Psychologist finding the NPC’s? It seems quit reasonable to require a Circles test to get close to an NPC, and then it seems non-trivial to get to the guy. Say a building scene to track down the person, plus a conflict to get close enough to the person to read it.

  2. I don’t think the rules state the distance that someone has to be to use psychology, but my assumption has been that one has to be face to face to use the mighty woo-woo unless a connection has been established. When the Bright Mark flares, so should somebody’s SCrEW.

  3. Who decided the Vaylen shouldn’t have that many Hammer resources? The GM’s characters can buy them on the fly, you know. For instance, if you’ve got a character with resources 6, and the players attack, as a GM character you can right then and there at the start of combat to spend the 6 rps to get 5 attack ships + a commander.

  4. Don’t forget the Infection rolls. It’s perfectly possible to do great in the tactical part then get pantsed on the Infection roll. There is a lot going on in the world besides the names characters.

  5. And of course, talk to your players. Say “You know, guys, this isn’t a lot of fun for me” and work something out.


Have you taken some of the Factions? These give you tool, and allow you to broaden your army. Take over the government, then the governer, will be bogged down by buerocrats who will not allow him to take out the fleet. Take over the Army and they work fort the Vaylen for a turn.

Come up for a good reason that the Govenor can’t just hand wave the Vaylen away! Havew the Vaylen attack the Psy-guy with a treasonous charge, he is working for another Empire, or another faction. How can he prove that the guy is Vaylen?

Have the Vaylen threaten their Families if they out them to the Govenor.

The characters knowing who is “trouble” is only half the solution. They should have to work hard to get anything done about it.

and in the end, it is possible to go right to Invasion Phase from Infiltration, if your Vaylen forces are not prepared to take over the government then they have to invade! Even if they win the Infiltration Phase.

Yeah – if the Psychologist and the Governor are just wiping out prominent and powerful people left and right, they should be up to their necks in blood feuds with the survivors (“I don’t care if he was a worm or not! He was my wealthy, I mean beloved, uncle!”) and in the cross-hairs of at least one Inquisitorial or secret police investigation (“Yes, well, maybe they were all hulled, but you have to realize the political trouble you’re causing us at court… You don’t? Well, how about at THIS voltage? Am I getting through?”).

Hey Tom,

I recognize your dilemna, but give us a little backstory. What was the intent of the last phase? What was the compromise? What was the epilogue? What are the intents for the new phase? What are your plans for the prequel?


Sure, I’ll also batch-respond to some of the other stuff above…

Ed – the Psychologist had a Connection to the Cotar Fomas, who went along with his Archcotare when said Archcotare got invited to visit the Vaylen honcho. This prompted my first big game mistake (psi-blocking tech), which we’ve since rectified (no psi-blocking tech, but the Vaylen has a bunch of Human body doubles who stand in for him when visiting). Still, the psychologist has the instinct and the ability to scan everyone he sees. So at some point, he’ll definitely see a Vaylen. And again, the Psychologist isn’t a problem in and of himself, but how I, as a GM, react to the way in which Psychology makes keeping secrets from the PCs hard.

And yes, the Vaylen can (and will) buy warships if and when they need them.

Jason – No one has control over any Factions – we just weren’t sure how they were useful. Now that we’ve hashed it out over the Forums, I suspect we’ll be doing more of that in the future.

And in the absence of any Faction control, the Governor-General was burned up to be in charge of the Planet. He’s got the biggest army and the local fleet. If he gives an order, he has every reason to expect that it will be carried out. And yes, he has to answer to the Empire back home, but aside from yelling at him, it will take time to send someone out to replace him during which he can blow the crap out of just about anything.

The problem that I see is that I want to reward the players for doing clever things and I want them to be able to bring the full power of their characters to bear on whatever they want. However, I feel constrained by the Disposition system so that no matter what they do or how well they do it, I have to step in and say “yeah, that’s really great, but it doesn’t actually make that much of a difference because of X”. In effect, I feel like I’m letting them do what they want and then negating whatever the results are.

Luke – In the last phase, my intent was to drop the Quarantine level from Strict to Standard. Their intent was to remove the Vaylen Figure of Note (so he’d be gone for the Usurpation Phase). The compromise that we worked out was that Quarantine dropped 1 level not 2 (but at that level, they don’t specifically check for Vaylen so I was happy with that).

The epilogue was basically that the overall ad campaign by the Vaylen, combined with the pressing need to increase output by local merchants, meant that the government relaxed it’s Quarantine level. Now the Vaylen have ready (or ready-er) access to the planet and its industries.

For the next phase, I haven’t quite decided my intention but I’m leaning towards changing the dominant government or military from the Empire to the Church. The Vaylen honcho is the FoN and the prequel will probably be something along the lines of how his company is providing all sorts of technical help to the companies that agree to work with him and how business who work within the Church’s zone of control are especially benefiting from this cooperation. Also, during the last phase, my Figure of Note (the Surgeon General) got his brain re-wired thanks to the Psychologist (who feels very bad about it and turned himself in and who will definitely be suffering some grief over it next phase). Since the Surgeon General got sent on a long “vacation”, I’m planning on burning up a new NPC and introducing him next Phase as well.


It sounds like you’ve got all of the pieces right in front of you, but maybe you’re too close to the problem.

First, you absolutely can reward your players for being clever and whatnot, but in addition to being smarty-pants at the table, they must be clever with the game. You’re right, it’s not enough for them to just off an FoN and then dance a little gig. You can give them the slow clap and say, “Great, but there’s still a hulled Dregutai council to deal with (or whatever)”. The game is about more than just screaming something cool and rolling the dice. There’s a strategy to it. If the players REALLY want to win, then they’ve got to win the Infection. That’s the game they signed on to play. The reward being clever is winning. That’s built into the game. You don’t need to worry about that! You need to worry about keeping your FoN intact and foiling their plans.

And you’re up against an aggressive Psychologist who’s out to get you, eh? No problem! Vaylen are tricksy! Starting hulling his friends and family. Immediately. First maneuver, first scene. Circles up his daughter. Hull her. “I didn’t know I had a daughter!” “Apparently you’re a bad dad.” Circles up his Chief of Security. Hull him. Mr Psychologist will then want to take a swipe at the Vaylen FoN. And you know what you do? Give him the body. Hell give him a body with a worm in it. Give him what he wants. You know where the Vaylen FoN ends up? In other body, on the beach on the Riviera sipping a martini watching the knews about how they “got the bastard.” Then he makes a call to planetary security, “Oh, by the way, you might want to scan the Psychologist dude’s family.” Back that up with some subtle propaganda about how the Psychologist is a zealot in public, but he’s actually the mastermind of the Vaylen threat and you have one very unhappy filthy worm lover.

Then, once you’ve destroyed his life, undermined his power and ruined his reputation. You find him and hull him.

Does that help?

Also, if they ousted your FoN with a psychic duel in Infilitration by changing one of his Beliefs, he’s free to return in the next phase or whatever so long as the players didn’t win a phase intent to remove him. You can always just change the Belief!


Well, yes a bit.

I think this is also running hard up against my problem with the disconnect between maneuver rolls and what happens within a maneuver. On the instinctual level I feel like I get it – the former is what’s important, the latter is the fun stuff that makes it more than just a die rolling contest.

But it doesn’t sit very well with my gut – which is that player success within the maneuver should translate directly into success (or improved odds of success) at the maneuver level itself. It still feels to me like there’s never any real success for what the characters do within a maneuver, I always get to say “yes, but not really”.

Then, once you’ve destroyed his life, undermined his power and ruined his reputation. You find him and hull him.

But this works the opposite way too right? If I destroy the factories of a PC, he still has an industrial base, just not that particular one. There’s no real change to his stats or his effectiveness, he just has another grudge against me. As long as we’re not directly attacking things we’ve paid real points for, it’s all just color and it’s all there to be exploited as we see fit.

Actually killing/hulling a PC requires all the effort that it would take for them to get a FoN (so they’d basically have to devote a Phase goal to it).

Circles up his daughter. Hull her.

Side question: Can we use a circles test to find someone and then move right into a linked action (like hulling them, killing them, bribing them, or whatever) all in one action? The way we’ve been playing it so far, there’s one action to find the guy and then follow-on actions to interact with them, but you’re implying (and it seems like a better model) that you can find someone and then do something with/to them in one go. It will certainly make life easier for our Governor-General who needs a few specialist NPCs to help bulk up his fire teams.

Also, if they ousted your FoN with a psychic duel in Infilitration by changing one of his Beliefs, he’s free to return in the next phase or whatever so long as the players didn’t win a phase intent to remove him. You can always just change the Belief!

Oh! That’s right. Oh that’s good to know. It makes psychic mind-reaming a bit less heinous than we thought. And since the Psychologist is now a Codebreaker anyway – might as well brain-burn 'em all. :slight_smile:

Circles up his Chief of Security. Hull him.

Oh, you mean Lemmy? His metal-head Kern bodyguard who’s always with him and has a connection die? Yeah, I got some special plans for him.

But if PCs have relationships with NPCs that they paid for and burned up during character creation, how badly can I screw with them? Most of them have some sort of inimical relationship to a Vaylen-side FoN, but those are “my guys” so that’s a given. And one PC has a son who hates him and I’ve been proactive about using him to put the screws to the PC, but what about Lemmy or another friendly NPC? Can I just up and say “he’s hulled/killed/maimed horribly”? I don’t have any problem kidnapping them or putting them into some sort of jeapordy, but can I just up and declare them dead/hulled if I didn’t make any effort bringing them into being? Again, this seems to be an area where the PCs paid for something good and if I want to take it away from them, I have to go to the mat and corner them and stab them in the face.

Anyway, I think I feel better about how this is works. I need to let them do their worst and not worry about the consequences. I also need to hammer on them a lot and make they can realize that most of the time it’s only something to play off of and not a de-protagonization.



You’re on the right track. You do not have a free hand with things that the players paid for. If they paid for it, you’ve got to attack it with builders or conflict scenes. And you should! Everything on their character sheets is in jeopardy. You can’t just whisk it away, but you can fight them for it – you can make their possessions and relationships even more meaningful by thrusting them into the conflict.

In my BE game on Sunday, I got into a DoW with the PC Psychologist FoN. My statement of purpose was that he was to execute his staff, including his beloved relationship with his smoking hot grad student. The player balked, “No way! Uh uh, I can’t accept those stakes!” And I was like, “What? Are you kidding me? What the hell did you write that relationship on your character sheet for if not to put it in jeopardy?” He agreed, and we went to war! (I lost, btw).

Also, you certainly don’t need a phase intent just to ice a PC. You can kill one in a freaking building scene if you can corner him and stab him in the face. That’ll put the fear of god into them!

Re building scenes: You get three tests in a building scene, so you can absolutely circles someone up (1), subdue them in Close Combat (2), Hull them with Surgery (3). Badabing, new Vaylen in one building scene.

Re Infection mechanics: You do not get to say “Yes, but not really!” If the players win an Infection roll, they get to describe the results in a sequel. That’s hugely powerful – they get to establish a host of new facts about the world!



I think I’ve got a better handle on this now.


Luke, just to be absolutely clear on this (please don’t bang your head on the wall in frustration):[ul]
[li]The players can’t stop this because by Circling someone up, you’re inventing a new character, so you have the authority over what that person’s doing and how easy it is to get into Close Combat with them - it’s part of the Circles roll.[/li][li]But if you were trying to do this to a PC or one of the PC’s relationships, they could add a roll by saying “you need to roll Infiltration to sneak up on me, or Speed to catch me cause I’ll run”, right? Then it might be Circles(1), Infiltration(2), Close Combat(3), with no room for hulling unless you use a conflict scene. Or does the character need an Instinct (always run from danger) to be able to say this?[/ul]Cheers,[/li]Mike Lucas

There is no way to “stop” a Circles test. They are never Versus tests. You may track a character down via the Moving in the Cirlces rules, though.

You have authority here because you’re the GM and you’re creating adversity for the players. You do this explicitly using the scene framing 1) to make it fair, 2) because it’s downright horrorfying to watch! The players will squirm or shout or protest or vow revenge. Trust me.

If you’re attacking a PC (or a PC second in command relationship), you’re damn right that the player can oppose you. You initiate the scene, but they’ve got complete control over their character. So yes, they might be able to prevent you from hulling them in a single scene. And you know what? That’s GOOD! That gives the chance for a rescue – which is a follow on conflict, which is a good thing.

You want to know another secret? As the GM, you can just use your color scenes to describe the hulling. You don’t even have to roll. Evil, eh? Of course, if they players manage to track down that character you color-hulled, then they can discover your evil perfidy without a roll, too. Which would be terrible, right? I mean, the players would have discovered information established in the game that they will then use to initiate conflicts. We wouldn’t want that, right?