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THE ZONE - online campaign pitch


RosenMcStern

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Based on a vintage sci-fi short story by Jack Williamson, “The Zone” was planned as a BRP release for 2012-2013. After the 2013 insurgence and pro-Russian counter-insurgence transformed the area described in this scenario into a battlefield again, I gave up publishing this adventure to avoid parallels with real world events. However, nothing prevents running this scenario in a private form. After a first online run last year with the BGB ruleset, I now wish to have another go at it with the Revolution rules, to stress-test the equipment modification rules. The game will take place online, in real-time mode using Fantasy Grounds. Time and day of the wee

The Zone is a survival-style story, where the party must face the Unknown with means not designed for that goal, and take advantage of anything they find on their path. McGyver-esque attitude and skills are paramount.

Please read the pitch below and pick a character if interested. Character creation rules to follow.

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The lights in the room go off. Only a small, makeshift stage is still illuminated, highlighting a man on a wheelchair. The man starts speaking, his voice resonating from hidden loudspeakers around you.

"Ladies, gentlemen. You all know or suspect why you are here. Nevertheless, a short summary – let us avoid the word "briefing" – could be of use. So here we are.

About five years ago, our worst nightmares came true. Again. Something happened at a secret research center in Southwestern Ukraine. The site was not monitored by NATO intelligence, as it was not part of the obsolescent former-Soviet nuclear power programme that gave us Chernobyl, so the event was totally unexpected. Yet it was in no way inferior in gravity to the 1986 accident. In a few words, all territory for 120 km around the site, including large expanses of Moldovan, Rumanian, Hungarian and Slowakian territory, simply vanished from existence. They were not turned into a nuclear wasteland, as in science fiction novels and games – oh, no, it was not so simple. They were just covered by a thick, impenetrable mist that reflects or absorbs all radiations used by our best sensor equipments. In a word, we cannot "see" into that land expanse any longer.

The very few people who managed to exit the affected area on that fateful night did not – well, they did not manage to escape at all, in fact. When they reached the outer edge of the mist, their bodies had already suffered an unknown degenerative process that turned them into some sort of mummies. Their husks were often found still holding the steering wheel of their cars, which took them out of the Zone because of inertia. Yes, because the vehicles were damaged, too, affected by some sort of physical decay and contaminated by intense radiation.

With such warnings, all initial attempt at investigating what was going on in what we had started to call The Zone were very cautious. And fruitless. We were able to send cameras and other recording sensors into the zone by inserting long poles into the mist, but as soon as the devices had reached the area where the abnormal phenomena started to occur,  they stopped working. We tried to send in wheeled drones – as nothing airborne can fly in or over the mist – but the few of them we managed to bring back were ruined beyond usability, and their recording devices were destroyed. Several parties of volunteer explorers went in. None came back. For several times we tried to to put a man in a sealed vehicle and send it in, eventually recovering it by means of a chain. It only worked once, and what was left of the man was... well, I will not show you the pictures. Although the shape of a human body was still recognizable, the vehicle contained little more than ash.

In short, we know nothing about the Zone. Something dangerous is at work inside it, something powerful and unknown that destroys men and devices alike. Electrical devices and chemical engines do not work in the Zone, and we suspect that this includes firearms, too. The only vechicle we could send in and then get back on its own was propelled by a pneumatic engine. Anything more complex stops working once in the Zone. Why on Earth this happens we still do not know.

After such an antefact, you might expect more caution from us. And surely it would be sensible. But there is a detail that few know, a detail that forces us to forget caution and accelerate our research. The Zone has begun expanding. It is just a matter of a few metres per day, but the rate is increasing. It could soon engulf Kiev, so the Ukrainian government, which had been less than cooperative for the last years, has become scared and begun to work with EU and NATO to find a way to stop the expansion. The fall of Kiev under the Zone could throw Ukraine into chaos, and Krakow could be next. The ability of the zone radioactivity to propagate through water is unknown and impossible to determine beforehand. Should the Zone reach the Black Sea, we could be confronted with Armageddon.

You may have understood why you are here now. Our time might be over. We need to have someone enter the Zone, discover what happens in there, and come back. Now. And we do not have any time left to conduct further preliminary investigations: the 13th Team – it is not even a lucky number, as the Apollo program showed –  that we send into the Zone must succeed. And survive. No other result is acceptable. This means that we can no longer afford to keep our best people in reserve and send the expendables forward. We must select the best people we have, men and women alike, and send them in. People like Gagarin or Armstrong, who are not afraid of the unknown or the untried, able to face any challenge and cope with any unpredictable situation. And above all, people who do not just try, but succeed.

So here you are: the best of the scientific elite under 30 years of age, and the most trustworthy member of NATO special forces. Your nerves are stable, your health is perfect, your training in your personal field is flawless, and you have received training in at least two extra fields of expertise beyond your own. You are the men and women for the job. A quick final test will now be conducted to pick those of you who are currently in their best physical and mental condition, and then Team 13 will be formed and sent in.

To those of you who will be picked, I have little to say that I have not already said. Except these few words: Europe, no, sorry, humanity is looking at you now, and depends on you. Do not fail. Get the key to this mistery. And above all, come back.

The lights directed at the stage go off, hiding the figure that you have all identified as Professor Aristopoulos of the CERN, and the doors leading out of the room all open. Each entryway is occupied by a team of people in white garbs, who start calling out names for the final test. One by one, your colleagues leave the room and head for the most significant test in their lives. You cannot determine if the "lucky ones" are those who are picked or those who are not, but you have a creepy feeling that, should the ones who go in screw up, the others would soon find themselves in a very uncomfortable situation, too. Together with several billion other people.

Here is the list of candidates who are being examined:

  • Romano Balzaretti, Italy, "Incursori" scuba commando

  • Albert DenBoer, Nederlands, special forces agent

  • Matt Erdinger, UK, SAS operative

  • Jānis Liepiņš Latvia, physicist

  • Inés Alvarado, Spain, biologist

  • Günther Blaumann, Germany, physicist

  • Vivienne Delacroix, France, physician

  • Erzsébeth Tüköry, Hungary, radiotherapy specialist

Four people who have been invited at the last moment are not on the list. You can tell this because they have a green suit instead of the regular azure uniform of EU personnel. Are they qualified enough for the job? Well, you will find the answer to this  question only inside the Zone.

 

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With the rules for character creation made public, I can now post the few informations needed for character creation.

Characters may have one latent Psi power at game start, so Concentration is a valid skill choice for free skill percentiles.

Background

Traits (and applicable skills)

Human

[pick any one non-combat Trait]

Close Combat [Brawl]

Communication [Own Language, English*, Russian*]

Knowledge [Home culture, Literacy*]

Operate [Electronics]

Ranged Combat [Pistol]

[*] Literacy and languages are in addition to the other Trait(s), not alternative to it.

Profession

Skill Bonuses

Traits

Scientist

 

Knowledge +20%

Craft or Operate +10%

Two Knowledge Traits

Pick six

Any number of Craft, Operate or Knowledge Traits, Insight, Teach, Willpower.

Soldier

 

Close Combat +10%

Ranged Combat +10%

 

(add 10% more to one of the above, or to Drive, player's choice)

Dodge, Brawl, Take Cover

Pick two: 1H Sword, Dagger, [Firearm], Martial Arts, [weapon stunt]

Pick three: Camouflage, Command, Insight, [Vehicle], First Aid, Law Enforcement, Streetwise, Throw, Weaponsmith

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Revolution addresses specifically the problems I had while running this campaign with the BGB. Most challenges the players faced were extremely intriguing but non-violent, and the one-roll model used by classic D100 rulesets shows its limit in these cases. Basically, I had to improvise big time, and the unpredictability of the procedures made the players wary of using many interesting options.

 I suppose you are not the best candidate because of timezone issues, but does "I am looking forward" mean that you are interested in playing :)

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I am interested but the time zone is but one of many limitations preventing me from committing at this stage unfortunately.

Despite such I will keep an eye on this with great interest, as I have liked the majority of the things you have posted with Revolution, and it really shows alot of thought is going into revising this variant of the BRP rules. Also the premise you set up for 'The Zone' is fascinating, it will be quite the page turner

Good luck with it all :)

Edited by Mankcam

" Sure it's fun, but it is also well known that a D20 roll and an AC is no match against a hefty swing of a D100% and a D20 Hit Location Table!"

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