Load Up On Guns, Bring Your Friends
A scenario for Violence, the roleplaying game of egregious and repulsive bloodshed.
By Jody Macgregor
The setting of this scenario can be any large North American city of the squalid kind. I'd give notes for adapting it to your own campaign, but who the hell plays a campaign of Violence? Let me rephrase that, who the hell plays Violence full stop? The entire game is designed to nauseate, to remind us that violence, murder, and torment are inherently bad things despite the fact that we get off on them if they're presented in a slick package full of witty one-liners.
On the other hand, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is a lot of fun.
I'm letting my thumbs recover from their fevered grip on the control pad right now, otherwise I'll wind up with calluses sticking out like a porn star's nipples. When I close my eyes I can still see the blood and hear the squealing tires so that's what you're getting from me, like it or not.
The first hurdle you, the GM, will have to cross is forcing the group of vicious psychopaths your players have undoubtedly created to hang out together -- but that's always the way in roleplaying games. This scenario presumes that our heroes are thugs at the bottom rung of a crime family called . . . oh why not, the Family. They've been known to send people to sleep with the fishes for forgetting to capitalise their name.
Mr Jones, head of the Family, calls the thugs around to his palatial suburban house to discuss business. If your players have created a bunch of sociopathic loners and serial rapists it may be hard to convince them that they work for a crime boss, but you can always start the game with the PCs being accidentally busted out of prison by agents of the Family in a bungled break-out and then having to work off their debt -- if you don't mind the cliché. At any rate, the scum are escorted through Mr Jones's house by his meek wife to stand awkwardly around the backyard swimming pool clutching beers or glasses of lemonade while a guy who could have them killed with a word suns his gigantic belly in an unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt.
In between scratching himself and fishing leaves out of his pool with a net, Mr Jones tells them about the job. Someone's decided to pull a heist on the Family's turf, see, but word leaked out. The diamond wholesaler these amateurs were targeting is a front the Family launder money through. The robbers plan to split up after the job, so they've hired multiple getaway drivers. One of these drivers is Eddie 'Wheels' Barton, a trailer park nobody known to the Family but not respected enough to be offered work. The scum are ordered to go around to his trailer, find out some details about the robbery, show up in his car and abduct one of the robbers so that Mr Jones can put the squeeze on him. Before they leave he tosses one of them an untraceable cell phone -- "Call me on this when you've got one of the bastards and I'll tell you where to take him."
Beating Up Barton
Eddie Barton resides at the Morning Star Caravan Park in trailer number five, with the inconspicuous brown Ford parked out front. To get to his door they'll have to get past his barking Doberman, a mistreated and chained-up son of a bitch named Ulysses. An Intimidation check on D12 should do it, as will simply carving the mutt into chunks. Violence lacks an animal charming skill, so make an Everything Else check on D20 if the characters try to empathise with Ulysses by feeding him a bit of whoever's in the boot of their car.
Threshold of Pain: 16
Everything Else: 8
Eddie Barton sits on the bed inside his trailer -- decorated in '70s style, with bright orange kitchen benches and hideous shades of brown everywhere else -- with his headphones on and Jimi Hendrix cranked up, lifting handweights. This means he won't hear what the players are getting up to with his dog or the lock on his door (Locksmithing D16) until it's too late. There's a .38 automatic in his bedside drawer along with his stash, three wraps of speed, but he won't use it (the gun, not the drugs) unless he's left with no other option.
Threshold of Pain: 8
Everything Else: 13
Drug Lore: 10
Music Lore (psychedelic rock): 15
Eddie is a loser being used by the guys he thinks are his friends, a small-time criminal on the lowest rung of a short ladder -- even the PCs are probably better respected than him. As such, he responds well to soft-arm tactics like pretending to be friends of his partners checking up on him, or interested individuals looking for a piece of the action. Like that's going to happen. Odds are, Eddie's going to be beaten and tortured, and with his low Threshold of Pain that works just as well. He spills the beans: the job's been moved forwards to this afternoon. He's supposed to be waiting on the corner of 9th Avenue and Hennepin Street in three quarters of an hour with the engine running. Give the PCs thirty minutes to trash the trailer (there's 200 bucks and a dodgy sound system in there, as well as the gun and the drugs), and pick up whatever supplies they need before doing the job.
9th And Hennepin
Your players might drive straight there without stocking up on ammo, then sit outside the diamond place with the radio on, or they might get hold of a second car and a small arsenal and a clue. That's going to effect how things go down in the next scene, but I'm not going to think of everything for you. Just because I'm writing this like it's the express train to plotsville, stopping all stations, doesn't mean you have to run it that way. Improvise boldly; trust me, in a game like this nobody cares if things don't make too much sense.
So, they're waiting on the corner. If anybody thinks to take a walk up and down the street they notice another getaway car, obvious because of the half a dozen cigarette butts the nervously chain-smoking driver has chucked out the window while he sits there. Thinking to write down the license plate for Mr Jones is worthy of an experience point or some extra chips or whatever you like to use for rewards. Before anyone can approach the driver, or as soon as you get bored of waiting for someone to look, the alarms ring and two ski-masked gents who are carrying sports bags and Uzis sprint out. One makes for the chain smoker's car, and the other jumps in with our heroes, possibly swearing and saying "Why are there three of you?" Quick responses like, "It looks less suspicious," or "My homies never leave my side, fool," may calm him down, but in any case there are sirens in the distance and all Jo-Jo wants to do is get out of there.
Threshold of Pain: 7
Everything Else: 13
Machine Weapons: 12
Underworld Lore: 15
Jo-Jo is carrying an Uzi, a spare clip in his jacket, and a sports bag full of cleverly cut glass. You didn't think the Family would risk letting anyone steal their real diamonds, did you? Jo-Jo doesn't know this, and since the players don't either there's a chance they might think to skim a little off the top. Wait till you see the looks on their faces when they find out how worthless the 'diamonds' are, and then again when the fence rats on them to the Family. Anyway, Jo-Jo is buzzing on the thrill of armed robbery, talking a mile a minute, "And then this bitch was giving me lip so bam! I knocked her teeth in and wham! Kicked her face while she was down. Not so pretty now, huh? Then this security guy tried to pull something, so bam!" and so on and so forth, unlikely to notice any suspicious behaviour. Assuming, that is, that the PCs didn't just cold-cock him or pull a hood over his head straight away.
At this point one of the characters should call Mr Jones. He's ecstatic that they succeeded and tells them to take the little bastard around to Fat Tony's to be sorted out. Then the phone goes dead -- flat batteries. Uh, where does Fat Tony live? Anybody?
Who Said The Union Forever?
At an appropriate moment during the journey, a tan station wagon pulls up alongside and one of two middle-aged guys in daggy suits leans out the window and shouts, "Scabs!" Then he pulls a piece and fires.
Bobby Hawke and Pauly Keating
Threshold of Pain: 11
Everything Else: 7
Machine Weapon: 14
Repair Car: 15
Bobby and Pauly are members of the Getaway Driver's Union. Make a 1D20 check against Underworld Lore to recognise them, or have Jo-Jo explain what their deal is if he's conscious. You see, when you're pulling a heist the last thing you want is to haul ass out of there with a sack full of loot and a screaming hostage only to find your getaway car has gotten away without you. Sitting out there alone while all the action goes on inside, a driver has ample time to think about his chosen lifestyle and the decisions that have led him to this point and how he doesn't really want to wind up sharing a cell with Mad Billy Shabadoo for the next few years. What you need is a driver with nerve and professionalism and a union behind him. The Getaway Driver's Union induct promising young car thieves and train them to be all-purpose mechanics, carjackers, and stunt drivers in return for a cut of the takings. And they really hate scabs.
Things could get chaotic right about now. If the PCs have multiple cars and heavy artillery they've got an advantage, but even if they don't you shouldn't let them get killed. Bobby and Pauly only want to send a message, shoot up the car a bit and take out its tires then drive away laughing. If a stray bullet happens to paint the interior with a little of somebody's guts, well these things can't be helped.
At the worst the scum will be wounded and stranded with a bullet-ridden blood-soaked nonfunctional car and an unhappy captive. This, then, would be the ideal point at which to remind any drug addicts in the party when the last time they had a fix was. They might head for somebody's house to lay low while the sirens pass by, get their fix, make a phone call, steal a car, dispose of a corpse, and terrorise some innocent civilians. This is the time when you get to use all those random tables so thoughtfully provided in the rulebook to distance yourself from whatever degraded things are about to happen to people who don't deserve them. After all, they're just a bunch of numbers you rolled up, not real people. In fact, if you can distance yourself, so can I. Why don't you wing this bit so I can get back to my second-rate impersonation of Uncle Greg filtered through Playstation-induced fever dreams?
Calling Mr Jones from a pay phone or a civilian's house or a backup cell phone gets no response. Mr Jones has caller ID and only answers the phone if he knows it's perfectly safe, ever since that incident with the phone tap, the kilo of smack, and the dead Narc. Anyway, Mr Jones is out of the house and Mrs Jones is so zoned out on Quaaludes she thinks that ringing noise is a secret message from the Venusian space janitors. So there for trying to get off the plot train, smartass.
Conceivably, the scum could come out of their little run-in with Bobby and Pauly smelling of roses. Fine. Play that way. See if I care. They're still going to have to find Fat Tony.
Finding Fat Tony
A decent Underworld Lore roll, interrogating Jo-Jo (if he yet lives), a phone call to some contacts, or even dropping around the Jones's house and talking to Mrs Jones through the drug haze (d10 Drug Lore test to guess what she's taken), all leads to the same information: Fat Tony's is a pizzeria in Greek Heights. It's a small place, and when the boys arrive there are no customers. The owner is an elderly Vietnamese guy named Cum Sing who doesn't speak English too well. He named his business Fat Tony's because nobody would buy pizza from a place called Cum Sing's. When a crowd of menacing, gun-toting roundeyes start asking questions about where Fat Tony and Mr Jones are, he's going to get confused, frightened, and even more incoherent than usual.
Threshold of Pain: 7
Everything Else: 5
Gabble Incomprehensibly in Vietnamese: 20
Prepare Pizza: 15
If you want to let the character's torture Sing for information, go ahead. It doesn't matter what they roll, he doesn't know a damn thing. When you start to feel queasy, or they're about to give up, Malcolm the delivery boy walks in.
Threshold of Pain: 11
Everything Else: 12
Drug Lore: 13
Malcolm's a pimply white boy who smells like cats have peed on him. A Drugs Lore test on D20 will suggest that the smell isn't cat urine -- it's the smell of somebody who spends too much time in a meth lab. Pizza money doesn't cover all of Malcolm's expenses, so he works in the lab on the side. A Torture roll on . . . oh D20 again, whatever, will force him to reveal the lab's location so the scum can head around looking to score, find employment, or if they're really stupid, rob the joint. Back to the matter at hand, if the PCs don't think to ask Malcolm about Fat Tony, Cum Sing wails in his broken English, "They looking for Fat Tony! Not know he not real!"
"I know who you're looking for, I deliver to him all the time. He always makes lame jokes about how he should get free stuff 'cause we stole his name." Malcolm gives up the address, very little stress.
Hear that whistle? That's the plot train pulling into the station.
Odds are there's been a string of violent crimes occurring across the city over the course of this adventure, and eventually that kind of thing tends to catch up with you. Eventually is now. As the PCs prepare to leave, somebody else walks through the door of Fat Tony's: Officer Willy McMahon, age 33, married, a daughter he loves with all his heart who's five years old and has cerebral palsy, coming close to the end of another shift of the job he's grown to hate. If he walks into a scene out of Hellraiser, he's going to draw his gun, call for backup, and generally react badly. If any unpleasantness took place in a back room all he sees are a group of shady characters. This is where the Police Harassment Number rules (page seven of the rulebook, doofus) come in handy. Officer McMahon's at the end of his shift, picking up a pizza for himself and his partner waiting in the car outside, so that's -2. What with all the criminal activity in the area of late, there's at least a +5 for that, +10 if at some point somebody got a good look at the scum and lived to tell of it. Add all the other modifiers for clothing and race and stuff. If the PCs are smart, they'll walk straight past the pig and out the door, so roll a D100 to see if McMahon reacts. And if you feel it's time for some cathartic release, ignore the roll and make up your own mind.
Malcolm's directions lead to a warehouse near the docks. After a knock, the door is opened by Fat Tony Fadden, an ironically named skinny Australian thug with a bent nose and cauliflower ears. He invites the players in to a neon-lit meat locker, empty but for the rows of hooks hanging from the ceiling and the chainsaw gently humming to itself in a corner. If conscious, Jo-Jo starts screaming hysterically until Fat Tony knocks his lights out. "Thanks fellers," says Fat Tony. "Mr Jones is out back with a wad of the folding stuff for you. Doesn't do to keep him waiting." As the characters walk towards the back door, Fat Tony picks up the chainsaw and says over his shoulder, "Wanna come back later and watch? We could order a couple of pizzas, make a night of it."
Keeping Up With The Jones's
Mr Jones pays as much for a successful delivery as you think the scum should get. If this is a one-shot, make it a huge amount to show how generous you are, but if you intend to keep playing this game (God forbid), be stingy with the rewards. Future scenarios might involve tracking down the second robber based on whatever Fat Tony extracts from Jo-Jo besides his liver, investigating the meth lab Malcolm works at, or fencing what looks like quality diamonds.
I'm not going to give you any experience point certificates. For starters, this is the Web, you'd be able to print out as many as you wanted and go around to tournaments with super characters and it'd be my fault. On the other hand, nobody plays tournaments of Violence -- or at least, I hope they don't -- and Hogshead Publishing is under new management. So who's to complain if you just tell your players to write the damn things down? Give out one for surviving, a bonus one for getting Jo-Jo to Fat Tony alive, and another bonus for any players who were especially funny, generous with the snack food, sexually attractive, or a direct relative of someone you fancy.
And don't tell anyone you played this, whatever you do.
Copyright © 2006 Jody Macgregor