This was my first game of “5150: Back Alleys, Bright Lights” from Two Hour Wargames. It is a stand alone supplement in the 5150 series of games. This means that you can use characters, items, even rule mechanics found in other 5150 games in this game and vice versa. You can also play this game just as it is written with no modifications at all or input from other games.
The flexibility in the rules certainly got a test. My characters did not fit any of the professions, but it was easy to equate the Joes Blue Service Wait Staff profession to that of my characters. I also have an alien that doesn’t appear in the list of alien races, but the game has a good “build your own alien” section that allowed me to quickly develop stats for my “Todalhan.” There were other minor things. There are no human gangers on the ganger NPC chart, but again it was easy to add them.
Perhaps this is a woman’s perspective, but the city tiles do not have enough shops – shops like boutiques, hair salons, etc. So rather willy-nilly, I decided that some of the drugstores and houses would become shops as needed. Oh, and since I like to photograph miniatures during game play, I expanded the 12″x12″ battle board to 24″x24″ so I could place a small amount of terrain. The combat and other interactions still take place in the 12″x12″ area, I just added some extra space for background terrain (in an attempt to make the pictures more interesting).
So without further babbling, here’s the story:
Before First Period…
“You can’t go, Green Bean, you’re too young,” said the Zuhh-Zuhh.
“No, I’m not, Mikey. That’s a load of crap and you know it,” said Jun. The young Xeog furrowed her brows and pursed her lips. She was more than ready for an argument.
“You’re only fifteen for heaven’s sake, and don’t call me Mikey. It’s just me and a couple of my bros’ on the wrestling team.”
“Then, stop calling me ‘Green Bean,’ Michael. Janie is going and she’s not on the wrestling team.”
Michael Zuhh-Durvek closed his eyes and thought hard. He was going to lose the argument if he didn’t come up with something. “Well, we’re seniors and Janie is Jack’s girlfriend.”
“Ha! I’m a senior, too. Remember?”
“Yeah, but you skipped a bunch of grades. We’re all eighteen.”
“Yo, Big Mike! You coming?” asked Jack Crenshaw, a tall blonde jock with chiseled features.
“Yeah, I’m telling Jun she can’t come. I’ll be with you guys in a second.”
Janie flipped her long blonde hair and looked over her shoulder at Jun. The two locked eyes, Janie flashed a malevolent grin and then turned her attention back to Jack. She whispered something in Jack’s ear and nibbled on his ear lobe.
“Hey, Mike, the green nerd can come with us. But if she gets carded, she’s on her own.”
Jun grinned in triumph. She was getting to cut classes and seek adventure in Little Hisha. Michael frowned, “You might as well come, you’d probably rat on us if you didn’t.”
“No, I wouldn’t, Mikey.”
“Stop calling me Mikey – Green Bean!”
At the Transit Station…
There were five in her little group, Jun, Michael, Janie, Jack, and Robert Gamboa. Jun and Michael were the two aliens, the others were basic humanoids. Robert commented that it was actually a good thing that Jun was coming along. Lower Hope was known as “Little Hisha” because of the large number of aliens living in the area, particularly Hishens.
They found a bustling transit station when they got off of the train. It was near the end of the morning rush hour. Reaching the stairs at the end of the platform, a Geenx plowed into them. He was profusely sorry. He was a fabricator and late to work at the Star Port. New Hope had no heavy industry, the Geenx worked at a plant where they recycled and rebuilt starship parts.
As they passed the freight area, they met a Vangore delivery driver on his way to pick up a delivery and Munjar pushing a loaded cart to his delivery van. They both exchanged pleasantries with the teens, but hurried about their business.
In the station’s foyer, they encountered two ladies, “escorts” was the polite term for their profession. The boys swelled with pride and swaggered as the two women fawned over them. A hand lightly touched Jun’s hip. She grabbed its wrist before it found her hip pocket. “Not today.” Jun hissed under her breath. The woman blushed and apologized. She introduced herself as Jo Beth and begged Jun not to turn her in. It turned out that Jo Beth was a thief who mingled with escorts to get closer to easy scores. Jun let her go and Jo Beth promised she would return the favor someday.
At the transit station’s entrance, they met two amiable Hishen cab drivers. Jack asked for directions to “Buardeem House,” the restaurant where Janie wanted to dine. Jun and Michael struck up a conversation about the area with one of the cabbies, Sammy Haa. He said there were many restaurants better than “Buardeem House.” He suggested another restaurant, a noodle house, run by a different Buardeem family called “Pho-Get-Me-Not.” Janie insisted on “Buardeem House,” which was in walking distance to transit station.
Directly across the street from the transit station was a small three story shopping center. It was too small to be called a “mall,” but it housed several shops. It was too early for lunch, even though Michael and Robert had both spotted a taco truck down the street. Janie wanted to go into the shopping center, so that was where they went. The boys may have been oblivious to the fact, but Jun realized that Janie was the one leading their expedition.
They entered a clothing store on the first floor, “Maarji’s Boutique.” Janie immediately hooked Jack’s arm and dragged him to a rack of the latest fashions. Michael and Robert stood around looking helpless. Jun smiled at them and turned her attention to a table of tank tops and tees. The store had a good crowd, mostly women of course.
“Hello, there!” Jun jerked her head up and stiffened. She didn’t hear the voice, the voice materialized in her head.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you,” said the voice. “Have you ever been contacted by another Psi?”
“No,” Jun blurted out loud. Michael turned and looked at her. She shook her head and covered her mouth as if to say “sorry.”
“You can just think what you want to say and I’ll receive it. You don’t know how to send thoughts – did you know you were Psi?”
“We knew I was gifted, but we didn’t know to what extent. I’ve never met anyone gifted with psionic power,” thought Jun. She began looking about the boutique to see if she could attach a face to the mysterious voice. A reddish brown alien woman smiled at her and waved.
“My name is Teynah and I’m from Todalhas. When you say ‘we’, who do you mean?”
“I mean myself and my two mothers. I was never tested.”
“Oh, I see now. You have a secret. Basics, humans, are tested and if found to have psionic powers they are taken from their homes and become wards of the state. You would be in double jeopardy, since you are only half human and half Xeog. While Gaea Prime likes to enslave human Psi, they tend to terminate aliens with psionic powers.”
“Yeah, that’s why we’ve kept so much of who and what I am a ‘secret’ as you say. My mom is really paranoid about the government.”
“Well, I’m part of a delegation here to do some ‘business’. My people often employ Psi such as myself to monitor negotiations to determine the truthfulness of the parties involved. I’ll be here for another week if you would like to discover your gifts and if nothing else, learn to hide your thoughts from other Psi.”
“I, I’ll think about it. I’m a little shaken by it at the moment.”
“Sure, I understand, Jun. Like I said, I’ll be here for a week.”
Jun was shaken. She hadn’t said or thought a word and Teynah knew her name, knew she was Psi, and knew that she was half human as well as being Xeog. Could Teynah be trusted?
“Hey, Green Bean, snap out of it,” said Michael. “Are you ready to go eat?”
Jun looked up at Michael and then back down to the twisted tee in her hands. She’d forgotten she was holding it. “Yeah, I’m ready Michael. Let’s get out of here.”
On her way out the door, Teynah’s voice appeared in her head one last time. “Watch out for Janie, she’s up to something.” Jun smiled, of course she was.
At Buardeem House…
The Buardeem House was across the street and on the corner of an intersection. The food was ok, Janie had wanted to eat there because it was posh, popular, and it was Jack’s money. One by one, Jun’s dining companions went to the restroom and never returned – the classic dine and dash, only they left Jun holding the bag. “Forewarned is forearmed” goes the ancient saying. Jun had had the foresight to put her meal on a separate check.
“You need to pay for your friends,” demanded the waitress.
“Excuse, me?” asked Jun. “I paid for my meal and left a generous tip on top of it.”
The waitress blushed. “I know honey, but those other kids were sitting with you and the maître d’ is insisting.”
“Let me speak to your manager,” said Jun. The waitress left and returned with the manager and the maître d’ in tow.
“I understand we have a problem, miss,” began the manager.
“I’m sorry, but the problem is yours and I have no part of it,” said Jun. “As you can plainly see, I paid for my meal and left a gratuity. It is no fault of mine that your maître d’ and hostess allowed other diners to leave without paying.”
“This is outrageous!” said the maître d’, “Someone has got to pay.”
“Calm down, Sergeiv. The young lady is correct. She is not to blame,” said the manager.
“Well, I’m going to call the cops!” exclaimed the maître d’ stomping off.
“You should be leaving,” the manager said to Jun. “And tell your friends, if they are your friends, they are not welcome here at Buardeem House.”
Jun joined the group outside of the restaurant. They all laughed at her, except for Michael who looked at the ground and wouldn’t make eye contact with Jun. “Why are you laughing?” Jun asked. “They called the cops on you.”
“Over a few meals? Get real, nerd. The cops have better things to do.” said Janie as they walked down the street.
Next door to the Buardeem House was a tavern. Janie stopped and asked “Who’s daring enough to go in with me and buy a drink?” Her question caused some excitement among the boys and prompted a debate about going inside.
“I hope you young people are not thinking about going inside.”
Startled, the teens turned to see a woman with long blue hair and a man in a rumpled suit approaching them. “Mind your own business, lady.” said Jack.
“It is my business,” she said flashing a badge. “I’m Detective Sergeant Sally Blue and this is my partner, Detective Sergeant Sam Richardson. Sam and I were having lunch at the taqueria the next block over when we got a call from an upset maître d’ about some young people skipping out without paying. You wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?”
The group remained silent. Most looked at their shoes. “Well, we’ll have to get to the bottom of this. Now, I’m not prejudiced, but let’s start with the two aliens,” she said looking at Michael and Jun. Then, she pointed at Jun. “Let’s start with you, sweetheart, what’s your name?”
“Joanie Cunningham,” replied Jun.
Sergeant Blue laughed. “Did you hear that, Sam? Xeog’s have ancient Irish ancestors. Listen up, boys and girls! You can tell me the truth here, or we can all go down to the station where you can tell the truth in front of your parents. So, one more time, young lady, what’s your name?”
“It’s Jun,” she said. Sergeant Blue nodded. “Jun Lemay.”
“Jun Lemay?” asked a surprised Sergeant Blue. “Pearl Lemay’s daughter?”
“Why, we were there when she was born, remember, boss?” asked Sam.
“Shush, Sam. You’re really Pearl’s daughter?”
“Ok, I don’t know if you’ve ever done this or not, but put your hands on the wall and spread your feet.” Jun turned to the wall and spread her feet. She felt humiliated as Sergeant Blue began patting her down.
“Hey, you can’t do that!” exclaimed Janie. “You have to have probable cause before you can search someone.”
“I do have probable cause,” said Sergeant Blue. “I know her mother.” She paused at the back of the waistband of Jun’s jeans. She reached into Jun’s pants and removed a small pistol.
Sam whistled. The teens’ eyes grew wide, Janie gasped. “What is that, boss, a 4.5mm?”
“Yeah, looks like her back up. Where’s the 9mm, Jun?”
Jun blushed. “I left it at home. I didn’t think I’d need it today.”
Detective Blue finished patting her down and then said “Take off your boots. Did you notice the others are wearing sneakers and Jun is wearing boots, Sam?”
“Yeah, it makes sense since she’s Pearl’s and Nina’s daughter. She probably has some wicked kick ass kung fu moves.”
Janie asked “What are you going to do, arrest her?”
“Oh, I’m going to do much worse than that. I’m going to send her home to her mother.” Sergeant Blue gave the officers Pearl’s office address as Jun put her boots back on. When Jun stood up, Sergeant Blue told her to turn around and put her hands behind her back. Jun had never been handcuffed before. “Sorry, kid. It’s protocol. You have to be cuffed when riding in the back of the patrol car. It’s for your ‘safety.'” She helped Jun into the car, closed the door, and tapped the roof. The patrol car pulled away from the curb.
“What about the others?” asked Sam.
“Take them back to the restaurant and have them pay their bill. Maybe if they tip enough, the restaurant won’t press charges.”
Sally Blue took her phone out of her pocket and scrolled to a familiar number and dialed. “Hello, Nina? Nina, this is Sally, Sally Blue. Is Pearl there? Put her on, please, and you may want to hear this as well… Pearl? Pearl, this is Sally. I’ve got a black and white going your way with a passenger… No, she’s ok. She just skipped school today with some friends. Just thought I’d send her home before she got into trouble… You know she would have gotten into trouble, apples don’t fall far from the tree… She looks like a fine young lady.” After a few pleasantries, she ended the call. Sally Blue had a feeling she hadn’t seen the last of Jun Lemay.
The scenario was the Chillin’ encounter and was used as a learning experience for the rules. So, I worked hard to keep the gun play out of this game. I’m used to filling the table with terrain and moving the figures about, so this was a different experience for me. I like the use of the city tiles and the combat board. The PEF resolution table seems a bit wonky. If you have a large group, you will never run into just one or two possible enemies. And you need to be a bit creative with the Who Are They tables. For example, in the transit station I rolled “two more than your group” on the PEF resolution table for a total number of 7 NPCs who might be potential enemies. Then I went to the Who Are They – NPCs Inside Buildings chart and rolled a 6 for Delivery Driver. I can’t imagine running into 7 delivery drivers in one place. So I decided to roll on the table for each NPC. I still ended up with 4 delivery drivers, but decided two of them would be cabbies.
You might think that is a flaw in the rules, but I don’t. Some people like to play games where every single thing is accounted for in the rules. Just look at the math heavy character generation process of GURPS and the old versions of Traveler where your character can die before you play a single game. I think the Two Hour Wargames approach encouraging game masters and players to tweak the rules to fit their game is a good thing as long as the tweaking is done for balance and playability.
I hope you enjoyed the story. I’m still going to do stories about Pearl, but being a grandmother, I also like to take a peak into the future and see how the kids turn out. So there will be some stories about Jun as well. I just hope I don’t confuse the timeline too much.