I recently purchased 5150 Working Grave from Two Hour Games, A.K.A. Two Hour Wargames, and am eager to try it out. I usually play a game to build a story and then write the story as a blog post. This time I’ve had people ask me to show how I play the game dice roll by dice roll and how that influences the story I want to tell.
5150 Working Grave is a rule set which allows players to play the part of law enforcement officers or those who confront law enforcement officers in a science fiction setting.
The premise is that you are a cop, most likely a rookie, assigned to what is commonly called the “graveyard shift.” This is the shift which occurs over night. In some areas the shift is from midnight to 8:00 o’clock in the morning. Increasingly, in many cities, this shift is a 12 hour shift from 8:00 PM to 8:00 AM.
“The police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.”– Sir Robert Peel, who created the Metropolitan Police Service and is regarded as the father of modern policing. The use of the term “Bobbies” for police officers comes from his name.
First Things First
The first thing to get out of the way is to read the rules. Pay attention to the gray “Stop!” boxes, they contain information, exercises and examples which will help you learn the game faster.
I will be using miniatures and table top terrain. When game play is inside of a building, I will use a battle board.
By nature, role playing games are character driven and whether it is Dungeons and Dragons or Working Grave, one of the first things a player does is to create a character. If you are playing solo or are a game master, you will create more than one character. But the first character you create is your Star character – the character representing you, the protagonist of your own story.
I won’t go into a lot of detail on how to build your character. It’s an easy process and explained well in the book.
Seulgi Moon — 스월기 문
- Star or Grunt? Star
- Race? Basic Humanoid
- Profession? Exotics – Police Officer
- Attributes? Smooth; Quick Reflexes
- Reputation? 5
- People Skills? 4
- Savvy Skills? 5
- Weapon? Auto-Pistol (A-3)
- Enhancements? None
I know what you’re thinking and I admit I’ve been watching a lot of K-Pop and Korean Period Dramas. But, in my vision of the far future, most humans will have some Asian ancestry and browner skin.
For my stories, I usually develop a back story for my character. I like to use the character building tools found in Cyberpunk 2020, especially the method for building a character’s past. Without going into detail, Seulgi Moon is not a native of New Hope. She is from a heavily populated world, Jundu, where she was a member of a corporate police force. Though most rookies are assigned to work the City Hall District or the Financial District, Seulgi Moon has been assigned to Lower Hope, the infamous “Little Hisha.”
Ethnicity and racial attributes will follow us into the future to some degree. This is hard as a science fiction writer because the nations and geographic areas we currently know will no longer exist as a reference in the future. If this were a near future story, it would be obvious Seulgi Moon would be of Korean descent. In another galaxy, and a time far distant in the future, all we can reliably say is that Seulgi has physical features which denote a large amount of Asian ancestry. She has dark coarse hair, almond shaped eyes and high cheek bones.
Seulgi never knew her parents. The arcology is her family, the subsidiaries and companies owned by Utopian Bio-Chem. Her personnel records state her most prominent personality trait is that she is “stable and serious.” She values knowledge and longs for a sense of wisdom. She believes everyone has value.
For this project, where I will concentrate on how game mechanics influence story building, I will play a single chosen encounter instead of starting a campaign. I have chosen the Patrol Encounter, it seems to be most representative of what a street cop does. The encounter objective is to resolve all of the encounter’s PEFs (Possible Enemy Forces) and there will be a minimum of three PEFs and a maximum of five PEFs. The engine which drives this encounter is the Disturbance Table. This table has eight possible disturbances with each one being an encounter. Playing the Patrol Encounter means that you will actually be playing 3 to 5 encounters.
It’s obvious the day part will be “nighttime,” it’s when Officer Moon is on duty and patrolling her beat.
Officer Moon will be alone. In the more affluent parts of New Hope City, an officer is assigned a police cruiser and often, a partner. An officer patrolling Lower Hope rides an electric scooter and in absence of a partner, is aided by fly-bys from one of the precinct’s drone pilots and an officer monitoring the traffic cameras. But Officer Moon shouldn’t worry, if she needs assistance, it is only a radio call away – if she’s lucky.
Her beat is the part of Lower Hope bordering the Star Port District and the New Hope Cemetery. In this part of town, the residents have used discarded shipping containers to build homes and businesses.
I try to play most games as written, but there are times when I have to tweak a table or two to provide a more satisfying game. All Two Hour Games play better if you take a little time before playing an encounter to “load the PEFs.” In the scenario books and the newest games, the authors do much of that work for you.
However, being stubborn, I don’t want to play in the City Hall District or the Financial District. New Hope City is comprised of eleven districts and I’ve always liked the districts surrounding the Star Port, which includes Lower Hope, a.k.a. Little Hisha. The people you meet in each district are different. The Financial District will have more “white collar” workers, more Shakers and Movers, whereas low income areas will have more “ordinary joes,” more Laborers and Service Workers. The crimes will also be slightly different. Petty crimes, which are more abundant in low income areas, are the low hanging fruit, easier to arrest and prosecute than the crimes committed by the powerful and their corporations hidden behind layers of bureaucracy.
In addition, Lower Hope has a larger number of aliens, so I need a Who Are They Table with a different distribution of Professions and Races.
2 Who Are They – Lower Hope
|5||Joe Blue Service||B||OA||OA||H||OA||Z|
|10||Joe Blue Service||B||OA||OA||H||OA||Z|
The “OA” in the Who Are They Table is for “Other Alien.” I don’t have any Smoggers and the aliens I could use as Spugs are in the massive unpainted pile. The Other Alien category covers all of the aliens introduced in earlier 5150 rules and a few that I just happen to have in my collection. If a NPC of PEF turns out to be an OA, I’ll list the stats.
The first thing to do is to roll 1/2d6 and add 2 to determine the number of PEFs for this encounter. I rolled a 1, so there will be 3 PEFs to resolve.
Next step is to roll on the Disturbance Table. The result is 3, a Distubance of the Peace, so I play a Confrontation Encounter with Officer Moon having the advantage.
Here is where I find a small omission in the rules. When playing the Confrontation Encounter, the Forces section states “The Opposition will be generated by the Special Instructions.” However, the Special Instructions section has nothing on generating the Opposition. I look back at the Patrol Encounter and discover the same problem – a bullet point stating the Opposition will be generated by the Special Instructions, only to find there is nothing in the Special Instructions to generate the Opposition. Looking at other Encounters, I discover that the Confrontation Encounter and the Patrol Encounter are missing the bullet point “Generate the appropriate NPCs (page 31).”
This is where I roll on my Who Are They – Lower Hope Table. I roll a 4, a Shaker, and rolling an additional d6, I discover my Shaker is a Xeog. I then roll on the Shaker Profession table and my Xeog Shaker is an attorney.
Now, I need to see how many I’m dealing with, so I apply the How Many of Them formula and discover Officer Moon will be confronting a single Xeog. I roll on the Who Are They – Xeogs table to determine the “leader” of this group of one and discover the Xeog is a Rep 4 with a People Skill of 5, Savvy Skill of 3, and she has the Smooth attribute.
The last thing to do before going to the Action Table is to determine if the Confrontation will be non-lethal or lethal. I rolled a 5, so it will be a non-lethal confrontation.
As I set up the battle board, I turn my attention briefly to the story I’m building. Why would a Xeog attorney be in Lower Hope disturbing the peace? Based on the attorneys I’ve met in my life and seen on television – the attorney could be trying to collect legal fees she’s owed; many attorneys have side businesses in real estate, maybe she’s angry at her building superintendent for not collecting all of the rent she’s owed; maybe she’s an attorney for a mob boss (or an orange skinned impeached politician) and is on an errand to deliver a message. Things to keep in the back of my mind for when it comes time to write the story.
Rolling on the Action Table, both Officer Moon and the Xeog pass 2d6, but Officer Moon has the advantage. Officer Moon Charges into Melee. Officer Moon passes 1d6 more than the Xeog on the Melee chart. The Xeog’s Rep goes down to a 3 and they fight another round of melee. In the second round, Officer Moon passes 2d6 more than the Xeog – the Xeog goes Out of the Fight. Officer Seulgi Moon gains 1 Increasing d6.
There are a couple of ways to incorporate this into a story. One is that the Xeog had become violent and needed to be restrained resulting in an assault on an officer and the Xeog is arrested. The second is that after the altercation, Seulgi decides the exchange of slaps isn’t enough to warrant arrest, so she writes the Xeog a citation for disturbing the peace and orders the Xeog to leave the neighborhood.
The Patrol Encounter continues by rolling on the Disturbance Table to resolve the second PEF. The result is an Interaction with someone. The Disturbance Table doesn’t specify whether to use the Interaction section on page 22 or the Interaction – On Duty Encounter on page 43. In this case, since your character is on duty, both the Interaction section and the Interaction – On Duty are the same, so you can play either one. I chose to play the Interaction – On Duty Encounter simply because there was a little less page flipping.
Start by rolling on my Who Are They – Lower Hope Table and the result is Joe Labor – Basics. I roll on the Joe Labor Profession table and the profession is Spaceship Crew. I use the How Many of them formula and determine there are two of them.
The leader is Rep 5, Pep 5, Sav 4, Unarmed, and has the Smooth attribute.
The other crew member is Rep 4, Pep 4, Sav 3, Armed B-2, and has the Crack Shot attribute.
Rolling on the Interaction – On Duty Table, Officer Moon rolls 3d6 since she is interacting with a non-Cop. She passes 2d6, but since she has the Smooth attribute, she rerolls 1d6 and ends up passing all 3d6. The Spaceship Crew leader rolls and passes 2d6. Officer Moon has passed more d6, so they have a nice chat and part on good terms. Officer Moon gains another Increasing d6.
Now when it comes to writing the story, when I rolled two spaceship crewmen and the outcome was a nice chat, I couldn’t help but plug my scenario book, The Cool Coolie. The two Basics of course are Gus Jones and Kynesha Tart on their way to meet up with the rest of their crew at a bar in Lower Hope.
To resolve the last PEF for the Patrol Encounter, I once again roll on the Disturbance Table. This time it is a Pursuit. Pursuit? Officer Moon is either on foot or on an electric scooter, the moped of the future. Luckily, there are few vehicles in her part of town, so she’ll be chasing someone on foot or on some sort of bike, but if the pursued is in a vehicle, it will take a small miracle for Officer Moon to make the stop.
The Deployment “gap” is 3. Officer Moon must close this gap to zero to catch the fugitive. If the fugitive increases the gap to six, he gets away.
Rolling on my Who Are They – Lower Hope Table, the fugitive is Criminal Element and a Basic. The profession chart reveals the fugitive is a Net Runner. The Who Are They – Basics table indicates the Net Runner is Rep 4, Pep 4, Sav 3, Armed A-3, and has the Logical attribute.
The Chase Begins!
- First round, Net Runner increases gap to 4
- Second round, Net Runner increases gap to 5
- Third round, gap remains the same
- Fourth round, Officer Moon decreases gap to 4
- Fifth round, Officer Moon decreases gap to 2
- Sixth round, Officer Moon decreases gap to 1
Seulgi failed to stop the fugitive Net Runner. She receives 1 Decreasing d6 and has to roll on the Look Away Table. This results in a Street Cred of -2. Her first night on the job and her Cred has taken a hit.
The Encounter Results
With the three PEFs resolved, Officer Seulgi Moon has completed her first Patrol Encounter. She receives one Increasing d6 for surviving the encounter. If this were a campaign and the end of the month, Officer Moon would have two Increasing d6 she could spend them in the Black Market for an advantage in her next encounter, or she could roll them to see if she can raise her Rep to the next level.
For creating a story, I have a fleshed out main character, some background material, stats for antagonists and other characters and three action scenes to write about a rookie cop’s first night on patrol. So everything you’ve seen in this post would not directly appear in a finished story.
Playing an encounter lets me exercise and direct my creativity. It allows me to see things in my mind, hear snippets of dialogue and set the stage for a story I hope will be entertaining.
The Corner of Miscellany
Recently, the senior senator from my state, John Cornyn, complained the senate minority leader was blocking his “bi-partisan” bill from being passed. I was shocked and surprised. I had no idea John Cornyn had ever written a piece of legislation, but evidently he has written 3 other bills since being in the U.S. Senate for nearly twenty years. If you can’t recognize sarcasm, I’m being sarcastic. The two senators from Texas are examples of do-nothing politicians who place their allegiance to party and corporate donors above the needs of the people they were elected to represent. Of course this is my opinion and I hope it is shared by others who will vote politicians out of office who tolerate the increasing attacks on our democracy. I’ll climb off of my soapbox now, as the stones start flying.
As usual, your comments, suggestions, criticisms, buckets of cash, and admiration are always appreciated.