Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Ruralpunk 6: a funny thing happened on the way through the checkpoint (and more!)

Ruralpunk returns!


I've already had some great feedback in about 8 different places about Alienation. In a few days i'll put up a summary post with changes and ideas for change. Until then...

We've had places. We've had antagonists. What we don't have is an entire post about checkpoints (just because you didn't know you wanted one, doesn't mean you didn't...). Pictures from Far Cry 2, a game which was 20% about fun and 90% about checkpoints. I stand by the maths in that sentence.

Ten encounters at the checkpoint

1. Antisocial behaviour stop. The police are looking for speeding cars, drunk drivers, personafix racers, and so on. A real risk to the PC's carefully constructed, expensive, fake identities...

2. Arrests in progress! The police have caught someone. The truck is pulled over, and guns/drugs/illegal immigrants are being pulled out of the back. Why do the PCs care?
  • Because it's a smuggler contact of theirs
  • Because it's a smuggler antagonist of theirs and they have an opportunity to fuck with him
  • Because they suddenly have evidence of the BBEG's smuggling route
  • Because they can take photos of the smuggler and use them to trace the shipping network, so they can rob it later
  • Because they were waiting for that shipment!
  • Because their black market contact was waiting for that shipment, and will pay to get it back from the police lock-up
3. Hostile territory ahead! The checkpoint is ostensibly there to protect civilians from the rebels/go-gangers/volcanic eruption going on up ahead. How this plays depends entirely on how the PCs approach it - it may be possible to fast talk your way past the guards with comparative ease, or into a prison cell for "acting suspiciously."

4. Political roadblock! Local demonstrators block the road. They may simply want to pull you aside for a few minutes to tell you about the local struggle. This might be a picket line blocking access down a major road. At worst, it might be a rebel shakedown (see below).

5. Sweep! The police are searching for guns/drugs/illegal immigrants. They want to look inside every large vehicle. How this works depends on jurisdiction - in some places they won't ask, in others they'll hand you some kind of fabricated warrant, and in others they'll pull you over and wait so long in the cold that you'll ask them to search your vehicle. 

6. Shakedown! The army hasn't been paid again this month, and the soldiers want their cash. The troops will manufacture excuses to hold the PCs at gunpoint and extort them for cash, threatening them with "rendition" under the Counter-Rebellion Act if they refuse. They aren't necessarily very good at this - they can be shamed or fast-talked into letting people through.

If a firefight breaks out, the soldiers will call for back-up as if they were under a rebel attack. Look forward to attack helicopters and AFVs, eta 6-10 minutes...

7. Car bomb. A rebel group has chosen this moment of this day to get their disguised car bomb through the checkpoint. They've underestimated the amount of police sensor equipment arrayed at the checkpoint, and now have to find another way to get it across. Options include - divert the attention of the cops to the gun toting PCs, pay the PCs to get the bomb through using their l33t skills, have the covering team assault the checkpoint from a position behind the PCs, drawing them into the firefight taking place next to a giant bomb.

8. Car bomb! A car bomb detonates as the PCs are heading towards the checkpoint, showering them with debris (and possibly an EMP shockwave). Multiple cars and the entire police detachment possibly destroyed. Chaos - recon drones and helicopters arrive in minutes. Casualties stumble around. Armed PCs running from the scene will look very suspicious...

9. "A little chat." A mobile checkpoint specifically aimed at the PCs. The police may want to catch them in the act (of whatever), or simply want to remind them they exist! A police contact may use the opportunity to pass on some information or get some owed payment!

Alternatively, the police officer may use the opportunity to draw you into a coffee shop and have a deep and meaningful (tm) conversation around which the entire film campaign philosophically revolves. Maybe!

10. Raging gun battle! The guards are engaged in a firefight with rebel forces. As the players roll up, they can hear rattling gunfire in the near distance, beyond a row of stopped cars surrounded by cowering civilians. Either side might try to use those vehicles - and the PC's vehicle - for cover as they fall back. This is particularly likely to occur at chokepoints like bridges or gateways, dramatically delaying the PCs even if they avoid getting involved.

Accessorizing your checkpoint


1. A weighbridge across the road. Temporary or permanent. Possibly a sheet of memory-plastic linked to a computer system and some sensors.

2. Gunshields! A metal pavise-type shield with a vision slit on some wheels like a clothing stand. For Egyptian conscripts to hide behind, looking gawky.

3. A tethered drone: a light fandisk or balloon with cameras and a radar gun drawing power from a cable reaching down to a parked Humvee. 

4. A prepared killzone - anything from a heavy pipe pulled into the road to a memory foam barrier or a line of tire stingers, designed to force an oncoming vehicle to slow down or stop in an area exposed to lots of weapons. 

5. Covert RFID tagger: in the hands of a soldier stepping around the back of the vehicle while someone talks with the driver, or a scuttling under car drone. Might be a UBICAM spray can instead, tagging vehicles with betraying graffiti.

6. A raft of drug detection swab tests. "I've broken into corporate laboratories. I've gunned down mafiosi. I've taken the song "Fuck tha Police" as my personal anthem. And i'm getting arrested for a weed charge?"

7. A portaloo. Number one accessory forgotten by wannabe militiamen. They buy all the barbed wire they can afford, the floodlights, the oil drums full of concrete...

8. Potted plants. If, like the government of Thailand, you're worried that your big intimidating checkpoints scare off the tourists, dress up your checkpoint. Make it pretty and approachable.

9. Massive directional floodlights. You need lights to search vehicles. Also to avoid late night crashes. Adjust so as not to wildly inconvenience your NVGs.

10. Nervy teenage conscripts playing 1990s gangster rap from big speakers on their Humvee. A global classic, whether we're talking about local militias or big national armies. 

Ten reasons the police stop'n'searched you

Feel free to substitute "colour" with "metatype" "class" and "gender" as appropriate...

1. you were the wrong colour.
2. you were the wrong colour.
3. you were the wrong colour ...from a distance.
4. you were the right colour - but the police are filling a quota, to make their overall stats look less racist. *
5. you were "looking down that street" **
6. you "look like you might be carrying drugs" ***
7. you were the wrong ethnicity. ****
8. you were wearing the wrong clothing - i.e armour, or just a hoodie.*****
9. "is that a gun in your pocket or are you just pleased to see us?"
10. you look like the subject of an ongoing APB.

* i'm reliably informed this happened to me.
** this happened to me.
*** this happened to me.
**** this happened to me... in Austria!
***** this happened to me.