Apr 25, 2012

Further Reflections on the Company and Openquest

I finished the rest of the book between the post last night and work this morning. I'm going to cover a brief grab-bag of quirks and complaints. Overall, I'm still very happy with the game, and this serves as much to keep my own mind straight about what I'm going to change / create for use in the game as anything else.

Rhapta is Burundi, as the poor editing reveals. Technically it's Burundi + a Kony knockoff where the tail end of World War 3 never truly ended. I don't think I would ever use it, simply because a game like this can run on "ripped from the headlines" plots and it's impossible to rip things from the headlines about fictional places. I appreciate the effort that went into getting the "feel" of it right, though.

While polonium and nerve agents are mentioned, the example poisons are fairly conventional. CS gas isn't even listed! The basic list of example poisons I would like to see are: Fentanyl-derivative gas / Kolokol-1, hydrogen cyanide (which is one of the two samples in the book), sarin, ricin and chlorine gas, all of which are either simple to make or in use / development by various militaries and terrorist groups around the world. I would have also liked to have seen polonium-210, cobalt-60 and cesium-137, which are the most common radioactive poisons private military contractors might encounter. The book includes pepper spray and CS gas in its less-lethal weapons section, and snake and spider venom in the animal section.

Diseases have a similarly short list. HIV should be on there, along with malaria, cholera, rotavirus, tuberculosis, dengue, Hepatitis A, and weaponised anthrax and botulism. Typhoid and weaponised glanders are the two actually listed.

While the book contains a section detailing the stats for dangerous animals, the only antagonist stats are to be found in the two adventures at the back. While these stats are highly reusable, I would have liked to have seen a sample foot soldier antagonist for each one of the enemy factions and threats written up in the book (or at the very least, the stats for a typical third-world guerilla, a religious terrorist, officers and foot soldiers of dictatorial armies and a member of an organised criminal cartel). This is probably the single biggest flaw of the book IMHO.

There are no specific details on rules of engagement or criminal liability for mercenary actions. Also, there are no specific compensation rules to determine how much your mercenary is paid, at least so far as I can tell. There's a huge variety in possible compensation, but the backstory of the Company leads me to believe you're probably erring on the high side of what a Google search reveals, around $100,000+ per annum.

I have decided I will allow people to dodge bullets, and that each person can fire their full complement of shots on their turn. The book remains ambiguous on the later point even on a reread.

I would have liked more information on military deployments, especially extended ones that would be the source of multiple missions. I found the book stinted a bit on this point, compared to the excellent section at the start laying out all the various kinds of missions the Company might possibly accept.

Finally, some mission ideas for the Company based on my first read-through:

Vice Magazine sends Shane Smith to Ciudad Juarez with a camera crew to make "The Vice Guide to Travel: Juarez", which features Smith trying to meet and pal around with Los Zetas members. The PCs are assigned to shadow Smith and his crew, and perform a HRU if he gets into hot water. The nature of the assignment means they have to lay low, as if the Zetas gets wind of them, they are likely to take out their displeasure on Smith.

Muhammed Yunus is kidnapped by Naxalites while visiting a Grameen Bank-funded organic jute farm in Banganpalli, Andhra Pradesh for a photo op. The Naxalites retreat into the Belum Caves. The Company is hired to extract him, safe and sound, by the personal order of Manmohan Singh.

A shipment of prototype of iPhone 5s are "lost" from Foxconn's factory in Longhua. Tom Moyer suspects that Foxconn staged the incident after a negative review from the Fair Labour Association of Foxconn's treatment of its workers led Apple Inc.'s board of directors to suggest finding alternate suppliers and hires the Company to investigate Foxconn's executives in Tucheng. Or perhaps it was one of those alternate suppliers seeking to embarass Foxconn and win the iPhone 5 contract for themselves.

Members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement have seized control of the Baikonur Cosmodrome shortly before the test launch of an Angara-5 rocket. A cellphone call by a base worker during the initial attack indicates that they plan to pack the rocket with Cobalt-60 and fire it to intercept the International Space Station. The Company is hired by Russia to recapture the base, deactivate the rocket, rescue the workers and recover the Cobalt-60.