It was in 1982 that Science Fiction became a passion for me. Sure, I had read some science fiction and fantasy novels before then, but before that year reading much of anything and any writing aspirations had pretty much died off. In 1982 Ridley Scott released “Blade Runner”. It was loosely based on Philip K. Dick’s “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” and Dick contributed a to the adaptation to film. For me, the film was a marriage between the detective found in pulp fiction and film noir to the genre of science fiction, a marriage made in heaven.
So I was pleased as punch when Ed sent me a draft of “New Hope City PI: A 5150: New Beginnings Supplement” to play test. A detective story has been percolating in the back of my mind for some time and here is a perfect opportunity to let the story play out in a game. You do need a copy of “5150: New Beginnings” to use this supplement, “New Hope City PI” is not a stand alone game. The optional “City Deck” can also be used to quickly lay out buildings or you can use the tables in the rules.
In “New Hope City PI”, your star is a private investigator, a gumshoe, an operative, a dick, and all of the other words to describe someone whose chosen career path is to get to the bottom of life’s unpleasant events or the bottom of a cheap bottle of booze. The first step is to create your star using NB. (From this point on, when I refer to the main ruleset “5150: New Beginnings”, I’ll just use the letters “NB” in italics, and when referring to rules in the supplement “New Hope City PI”, I’ll just use the letters “PI.”)
My star for this game is Gustavus “Gus” Gundarsson. He is a basic humanoid or “Basic”. Those of you who know me are probably shocked that my star isn’t a female this time. Being the “star”, Gus is REP 5. He’s a dropout (one would argue that only a dropout would become a PI) and is survival motivated. Usually when it comes to choosing the first attribute for a star, I choose “Ambidextrous” simply because I’m left-handed. This time I chose “Resilient” for Gus, and for the rolled attribute, Gus got “Lucky Bastard.” I assigned skills as follows: Fitness – 4; People – 3; Savvy – 5; Science – 0.
Gus is not a warrior. He doesn’t carry a weapon tucked into every pocket or strapped of taped to his body (unlike Pearl who feels naked if she is carrying less than 3 guns, 2 knives, & a few other lethal items). Gus has a single pistol. Gus does have a cell phone that serves as his Local Com-Link. The rest of Gus’ items will be filled in later as we now know enough about Gus to go to the next step.
In a regular NB game, the next step would be to form the star’s group. Most gumshoes work alone. Not by choice, often their partners get killed off in the first part of the movie. Yep, Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe went through partners faster than “red shirted crewmen” on Star Trek. Only Nick Charles seemed to buck the trend, but who would dare kill off Nora played by Myrna Loy? Anyway, like most detectives of the genre, Gus works alone.
So our next step will be to determine what kind of crime Gus is going to solve. In “New Hope City PI”, the crimes for your detective to solve are Kidnapping, Murder, Robbery, Stealing (Theft), and Case Building. Case Building is the most common tedious work that a private investigator does. It is where he or she is assigned to gather evidence in order to “build a case” for action on the part of the employer. It could be finding proof of a cheating spouse, or proving fraud in an insurance claim, or finding out if an employee is stealing – a myriad of tedious boring things that could turn ugly. I could roll on “The Crime” table, but I’ve already decided that Gus should investigate a kidnapping.
Once you determine the crime, it is time to determine the victim. In PI there are five broad groups of people the victim could belong to: Movers, Shakers, Ordinary Joes, Exotics, and the Criminal Element. My victim is an Ordinary Joe. You don’t have to generate a character for the victim, the victim can just be an object. But since I like to write a story based on my game, I return to NB and generate a character. He’s Harold Radvinski, a scientist, REP 3, FIT 2, PEP 1, SAV 0, SCI 3.
Ok, there’s been a kidnapping, a scientist. So who wants my star to crawl out of his gin bottle and find this guy? That’s the next step, to determine the employer. Out of the available employers, “Spouse” yells at me. I mean this story has been rattling around in my noggin for months now. There’s no need to use the Employer table in PI. I know the victim’s wife is the one who wants to hire Gus. Yes, you guessed it, she’s a Trophy Wife and without hubby, she may have to work for a living. She’s Valara Radvinski, REP 4, FIT 4, PEP 3, SAV 2, SCI 0. And she’s armed with her own small calibre pistol.
Before Valara Radvinski approaches Gus with the job offer to find her missing husband, we need to generate four more pieces of information. Three pieces of information give us the crime setting: Where did it happen?; How hard will it be to solve?; How many clues will be available? When we have these three pieces of information, we can determine the wages Gus will be paid if he succeeds in solving the crime. Rolling on the charts, the crime scene is the victim’s high end condo in the middle income part of New Hope City. The case has a difficulty level of five and will have six to ten clues. We can now use this information to calculate the number that is dear to Gus’ heart, how much is he going to get paid? It turns out that Mrs. Radvinski is willing to pay five items plus expenses, which is in keeping with most trophy wives I know in the real world – cheap and greedy.
Now, without further ado, is the prologue to “The Case of the Rejuv Blues”:
Alan Clayton pinched the bridge of his nose and muttered a curse. He hated receiving memos from upper management, especially memos questioning his abilities. Management often went into a bizarre panic when there was a security issue. This time a top scientist walked out with sensitive research material. To say that management was in a tizzy and behaving like petulant children, was very large understatement. And as head of security, Alan Clayton was the target of the tantrum.
It would only be a matter of time before the scientist was found dead or alive. One of the benefits of locating a research facility on a back water planet like New Hope, there were very few ways off of the planet and all of them could be watched. New Hope City itself was the only population center on the planet. Beyond New Hope City the planet was an arid barren wasteland. There was no place the scientist could run. There was no long term hiding place. Eventually, he would be found.
Alan Clayton’s problem was that upper management wanted the traitorous scientist found now. The traitor had to be brought back and punished to make an impression on any other employee contemplating leaving the company. He knew that to expedite the capture of the scientist, he would have to hire some outside help.
Frank’s Blue Parrot was a decent enough watering hole. On weekends, a jazz trio called “Melancholy” performed and during the week, Marian played the piano. She mostly played the blues, which was fine with Gus. Gus liked stopping at the Blue Parrot after an evening of gambling for a nightcap or two. The place was across the street from the metro rail station and just two stops from the downtown casinos. Gus never won or lost much at the casinos. The casinos were prime places to meet potential clients and drum up a little business. Casinos often attracted troubled people, some who were willing to hire a private detective to resolve their troubles.
Gus was ready to unwind. He removed his coat and nodded a greeting to Frank. “The usual?” Frank asked. Gus held up two fingers signifying “make it a double.” Frank smiled, nodded, and reached for a bottle. The patrons spoke in hushed voices as Marian sang a “somebody did somebody wrong kind of song.” Gus picked up the drink from the bar and looked for his favorite table. Someone was sitting at his table, someone familiar. Gus looked back at Frank. Frank shrugged. Gus looked at the man at the table. He smiled at Gus. It was Mr. Jones, the deal broker. “And if Jonesie is here,” thought Gus, “then so is…” He looked around the bar and there in the back to the left he spotted her, Ms. Anderson. Ms. Anderson was wearing her trademark black suit, dark glasses, and platinum blonde hair pulled back into a tight pony tail. When they made eye contact, she gave him that sadistic “make a wrong move and you’re dead” grin of hers. Gus walked over to the table.
“Gus Gundarsson, how have you been?” said Mr. Jones rising and extending his hand. The two men clasped hands and embraced like long lost buddies. “Please, sit down, Gus.”
“I think I will, since this is my table. It’s been a long time, Jonesie.” said Gus taking the seat across from Mr. Jones.
Mr. Jones smiled. “Are you sure you want to sit there? The old Gus would never have sat down with his back to the door.”
Gus chuckled. “I figure Alice will watch my back as well as yours while we parlay. By the way, she looks as ravishing as ever.”
“If I remember correctly, the last time you made advances toward her, she threatened to shoot you.” said Mr. Jones.
“Threaten? She did shoot at me! The fact she missed is evidence she likes me.” replied Gus with a wink of the eye.
Mr. Jones leaned back and laughed. “I’m sure Ms. Anderson will watch over both of us during our discussion.” Mr. Jones took a sip of coffee and then leaned forward. “Tell me Gus, what do you know about rejuvenation?”
“Rejuvenation? You mean those treatments that are supposed to double your lifespan? I know they’re expensive and only the very wealthy can afford them. Why do you ask?”
“Someone has discovered or is about to discover a breakthrough in the rejuvenation process.”
“So?” asked Gus.
“So, that someone has disappeared.”
“Ahh.” interrupted Gus, “And that has ‘what’ to do with me?”
“I have a client that would like for you to find him.” replied Mr. Jones.
“Sorry, Jonesie, I don’t take jobs from middle men, even long time friends.” said Gus. “I only deal with principals.”
“I know that.” said Mr. Jones taking another sip of coffee.
“If you knew that, why did you come?” asked Gus with a bit of surprise in his voice.
“The client insisted that we go ahead with the meeting.”
“Then that means…” began Gus.
“That the client or agents of the client may have followed us.” said Mr. Jones setting down his coffee cup.
“Why?” asked Gus.
“Hopefully, to gauge your suitability for the job and make you an offer.” answered Mr. Jones. “Other than that, I have no idea why the client wanted us to go through with the meeting.”
Gus began looking around the bar. There seemed to be more people than usual for a weeknight.
The next day, Gus was relaxing in the gym’s sunken hot tub after his work out. The massage jets worked wonders on his low back, particularly on the scar tissue above the right hip. The door behind him slid open and he heard the unmistakable sound of high heels clicking on the tiled floor.
“Mind if I join you?” inquired a sultry voice.
“Sure, lady,” responded Gus, “but, I warn you, I’m not wearing anything.”
The footsteps continued to click to the edge of the hot tub. “That’s Ok,” said the voice “neither am I.” He heard her slip out of the shoes, and as he turned his head, he saw a white robe flutter to the floor. He watched in amazement as a pair of beautifully sculpted legs stepped down into the hot tub followed by curvaceous hips. She sat on the seat next to him. His eyes were transfixed on perfect breasts buoyed in the bubbling water. “Like what you see?” she asked.
Gus felt a little embarrassed that he had not been able to raise his gaze to her face. When he looked into her face, he saw a smile which conveyed more than with words she was pleased her sexuality had reduced him to putty. She had dark brown hair stylishly piled on top of her head and seductive green eyes. Gus also noticed a towel on the floor behind her with an interesting bulge. “Sorry, for staring.” said Gus. “But, yes, I do like what I see.”
She giggled and splashed water toward Gus. She leaned back in her seat, closed her eyes, and said “Oh, this water feels divine.” Gus took the opportunity to lift the corner of the towel and discovered a small calibre pistol. The lady was not as naked as she appeared.
“Yeah, it’s really good for aches and pains.” said Gus leaning back into his own seat. “What brings you to the gym?” he asked.
“Why, you, of course, Mr. Gundarsson.” she replied.
“Me?” he asked.
“Yes, I want to know why you won’t work for me. Mr. Jones said you would not even entertain an offer from him.”
Gus chuckled. He explained to her that he only dealt with principal parties and not with brokers or middle men. Too often middle men didn’t deliver the full details of the work to be done and way too often they skimmed additional money off of the deal. She asked if he thought that of Mr. Jones. Gus replied that he trusted Jonesie with his life, but he would make no exceptions in his business practices. “So, would you work for me?” she asked.
Gus laughed. “Lady, as beautiful as you are, I don’t know who are, what you want me to do, or how much you will pay. I won’t work for anyone without some basic information.”
She blushed. “I’m Valara Radvinski. My husband, Harold Radvinski, is missing and I’m afraid he’s in some sort of trouble. I need help to find him.”
“If he’s missing, why not file a missing persons report with the police?” asked Gus.
“I can’t. The company Harold works for, HuGen, has accused him of stealing valuable documents. There are warrants out for his arrest.”
“Well, if the police are looking for him, then he hasn’t turned up at the morgue… yet. What did he steal?”
“He didn’t steal anything that wasn’t his!” she snapped. “Sorry, my husband is a brilliant man. He’s made a discovery that will revolutionize rejuvenation. Current rejuvenation techniques increases the basic human lifespan to two hundred years. But, the recipients continue to age. My husband has found a way to drastically slow the aging process. How would you like to be one hundred and have the body of a thirty-year-old?”
“So why did he disappear?”
“The process is worth billions, perhaps trillions. HuGen wouldn’t even consider paying Harold anything above his current salary. My husband was angry. He threatened to leave the company and take his work with him.”
“And then he disappeared?” asked Gus.
“Yes, four nights ago. I’ve got to find him before HuGen does. Won’t you help me?”
“I can help you find him, but it won’t be cheap. Being gone for nearly five days, he may already be dead.”
“Dead or alive, I’ve got to find him.” she said. “I’ll pay 5K.”
“5K plus expenses; all creds no New Hope currency.”
“Ok, on one condition.” she said. Gus looked at her and raised an eyebrow. “I go with you. I want to be there when you find Harold.”