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Blockbuster - Cop Show Meets The Norfolk Broads

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A few years back, my Monday group found ourselves with a gap in our schedule. We'd temporarily finished General Tangent's Star Trek game, but John wasn't quite ready to resume the Orient Express campaign. So I thought I'd take the opportunity to run a game I've been wanting to run for some time, which was James Wallis's unpublished game, Cop Show. (If you're wondering how I managed to run an unpublished game, it was because James was nice enough to let me have a copy of the playtest files).

Note: It's still unpublished, but James has let me know that he's gone back to work on Cop Show and is planning on releasing it later this year. If you want to know more, check out his blog.

Now the thing about Cop Show is that it's not a roleplaying game where you play real policemen (or women) in a police setting. Instead, it's a game where you play police characters in a 70's or 80's tv show about policemen (or women). I love this sort of thing, as can be seen by the two Dream Park articles (Dream Park on a Budget and The Storm Planet Rescue Game) that I wrote for the first issue of Critical Miss. And I've always felt, very strongly, that where you have a game whose concept is of being something within something, the outer something needs to be obvious and visible or else you'll just forget that it's there and miss the whole point.

Which means that Cop Show won't be half as much fun if you set it in a very good, realistic TV show with no obvious, jarring, "exactly the sort of stupid thing they put into TV shows", elements. Too good, and it will work so seamlessly that you might as well be playing cops in a cop game (as opposed to tv cops in a cop show).

What you need is a really bad idea for a TV show. Cheesy, over the top, and an obvious attempt to cash-in and rip-off a current big name film. Add a recent hit song gratuitously chosen as the theme for three reasons only - it's popular, it supplies a snappy (if irrelevant) title, and you won't have to pay a composer to write something original - and you've got a winner... or a loser? Look, you know what I mean.

Anyway, I came up with something that I figured was very, very bad. Here's the email I sent out to the guys pitching the idea:

Hi guys,

I had an idea. I was thinking on the whole "in roleplaying you can't be subtle... you have to use broad strokes" idea, and what this means for a game where you're playing characters in a tv show based on real life as opposed to character in real life.

And I basically came to the conclusion that you need to put in enough elements that the TV thing will regularly come up, and that we won't just forget and slip into it being a game about real police. (Which would be a lot less fun and would miss half the point of the game).

In particular, I thought of two things:

a) you need an angle for the TV show beyond it simply being the generic "police/detectives in an urban British city"; and

b) it should be a *bad* TV show, because while a good TV show seamlessly maps real-life (and will thus disappear in our game) a bad TV show has lot of bits that don't quite work (i.e. "Yeah, I know that's not quite right, but look, it's a TV show, how much realism are you expecting?").

Also, having a strong angle gives a bit more inspiration when it comes to thinking up plot seeds.

Anyway, I came up with an idea...

Imagine the scene. It's 1973, and you're a TV executive looking for an idea for a police/cop show. You hear "Blockbuster" by Sweet, on the radio.

    BLOCKBUSTER - 27/01/1973
    5 weeks at #1 - 15 weeks on chart

    Ahh Ahhh, Ahh Ahhh
    You better beware, you better take care
    You better watch out if you've got long black hair
    He'll come from behind, you'll go out of your mind
    You better not go, you never know what you'll find
    Ahh Ahh, Ahh Ahhh

    Don't look into his eyes, you'll be surprised
    If don't know what going on behind his disguse
    Nobody knows where Buster goes
    He'll steal your woman out from under your nose

    Does anyone know the way, did we hear someone say
    (We just haven't got a clue what to do)
    Does anyone know the way, there's got to be a way
    To Blockbuster

    The cops are out, they're running about
    Don't know if they'll ever be able to blockbuster out
    He's gotta be caught, he's gotta be taught
    Cause he is more evil then anyone here ever thought

    Does anybody know the way, did we hear someone say
    (We just haven't got a aho)
    Does anybody know the way, there's got to be a way
    To Blockbuster

    Does anybody know the way, did we hear someone say
    (We just haven't got a clue what to do)
    Does anybody know the way, there's got to be a way
    To Blockbuster

    Ahh Ahh, Ahh Ahh
    Ahh Ahh, Ahh Ahh
    Buster buster blockbuster
    Buster buster blockbuster
    Buster buster blockbuster
    Buster buster blockbuster
    Buster buster blockbuster
    Buster buster blockbuster
    Buster buster blockbuster
    Buster buster blockbuster
    Buster buster blockbuster
    Buster buster blockbuster

The name makes no sense whatsoever, and neither do the lyrics, but the name's snappy and the lyrics mention cops and the song features a police siren in the background and it will save you having to commission an original piece.

(And it means that *we* can play the Blockbuster single each session after our teaser section).

Then you watch the James Bond film Live and Let Die, and in particular, the epic speedboat chase through the Mississippi Delta, and you think... The Norfolk Broads!

http://www.broadsnet.co.uk/html/introduction.htm

That's your idea! Faced with an epidemic of crime (smuggling, illegal spirits distilling, bank robbers escaping by boat, inbred locals all of whom are armed with shotguns) the East Anglian police have set up an elite river police unit based in Norwich, with a powerful 50 foot long speedboat called - of course - Blockbuster.

Yes, people will scoff, and point out that a) Norfolk is not a crime hellhole, and b) a speedboat on the broads would be an incredibly dangerous ecological menace, but who cares, it's only a TV show.

And besides, it will all be filmed at Shepperton Studios, Staines, a pub by the Thames, and a couple of flooded gravel pits just off the M3.

We could also modify some of the cards to make them more appropriate, such as:

"Drive car through boxes" would become "Drive car through boxes *or* "swerve boat towards bank to produce gratuitous bow wave on shore"

(Basically, anything that mentions cars should have a boat alternative added).

What do you think?

Well they went for it. I wrote on my blog what I was planning to do, ending the post with a mock page from a TV listings magazine:


THE ROLEPLAYING TIMES: JULY 1973

7:30 Chat
Topical and sometimes amusing lifestyle, news and current affairs discussion with Jonny Nexus, General Tangent, TAFKAC and John.
Producer Various
Subtitles... 888
8:00 Blockbuster (NEW SERIES)
This opening episode introduces us to the men of the Norfolk Constabulary's Elite River Division, and their sleek powerboat, Blockbuster. Their mission: to patrol the wild and lawless expanses of the Norfolk Broads bringing smugglers, crooks, and international terrorists to justice.
Producer Jonny Nexus
Subtitles... 888
10:00 Close
The National Anthem.

So we agreed that at the next Monday's session we'd have a go at creating characters. And any of you who know anything about Cop Show will know that Cop Show character creation can be very fun and just a tad warped.

Character Creation

One of the coolest aspects of Cop Show is the method of character creation, which is designed to create the classic miss-matched pairs of cops you see in film and TV. Each player takes it in turn to say something that their character is good or cool at; the person to their left is then bad/uncool at that. So it might go something like:

Player One: I'm really good at driving cars.

Player Two: Okay, I can't drive. But I'm good with guns.

Player Three: Right. So I can't shoot for shit. But I'm good at charming people.

You go round the circle four times, at the end of which each character has four positive aspects and four negative aspects. Of course, with most roleplayers it typically goes like:

Player One: I'm an incredibly fluent and charismatic speaker who can speak dozens of languages!

Player Two: Oh great, what am I supposed to be then, mute? Well maybe I've got absolutely incredible eyesight!

Player Three: Thanks. I always wanted to play a blind guy. Oh well, maybe I've got incredible hearing in return.

Player One: So I'm deaf?

I seem to recall that in the rules, James comes up with a couple of brilliant jokes along the lines of Ironside clearly having been screwed during character creation and Randall and Hopkirk, Deceased being an example of what happens when one player picks "I'm alive!" as an aspect.

As an irrelevant but entertaining aside, a couple of years after we played Cop Show there was an evening where I couldn't make it and they guys played some board games instead. Apparently, they got talking about either Cop Show or Star Trek and it occurred to them that the makeup of the characters in Original Series Star Trek could be easily explained had this sort of character creation been followed.

The next day, John emailed me with what they'd come up with. I thought it was so good I asked him if he'd mind me putting it up on the blog, and he very kindly said yes.

Apparently, he had consumed quite a few squares of Green & Black's Expresso chocolate when this idea was conceived...

Here it is:

The Captain: [smarmy smile] I'm the Captain. I'm charming, friendly and get on well with everyone I meet, especially the ladies (wink, wink).

The Scientist: [groans as he realises the other player has just shafted him] So I'm not charming, not friendly and don't get on well with people, especially not with the ladies. But I'm a great scientist, sober, precise and know what I'm talking about.

The Engineer: So I'm never sober, my estimates are way off, and I don't know I'm talking about. But that's okay, I'm not a scientist, I'm an engineer. I can fix the engines and build things.

The Doctor: [In character already] Damn it, I'm a doctor not a brick-layer. But remember that what I do keeps the crew alive.

The Captain: Erm.. Does that mean that what I do results in a lot of the crew dying?

The GM weeps.

Anyhow, here are the three characters we produced.

John's PC

He's a streetwise "hardnut" from South London ("South of the River"), who won an under-16 boxing championship in his youth, can drive the hell out of anything that's got wheels, and can drink anyone under the table.

He's just arrived in Norfolk and possesses absolutely no knowledge whatsoever of its people, its culture, its geography, its politics, its history and so on - to the extent that he'll probably have to spend an action point just to ask for directions. He's useless with any kind of archaic weapon (i.e. knives, swords, bows etc), can't spot a barn door when standing in front of the barn, and has zero mechanical aptitude.

Tafkac's PC

He's a country boy, raised in the country, and skilled and knowledgeable in its ways (hunting, trapping, tracking etc.). He's an expert with guns, spent most of his boyhood messing around with boats of all kinds, and is the sort of chap that everyone finds instantly likeable.

He's also very unstreetwise (i.e. naive in an urban environment) without any of the toughness that a city upbringing would have given him. He can't punch someone to save his life (too nice), can't drive, and is anyone's after two sips of shandy.

General Tangent's PC

When it comes to local knowledge, of Norfolk and the Broads, his upbringing in the area has made him a walking encyclopedia. He has an interest (or possibly an unhealthy obsession) with archaic weapons of all types (swords, clubs, bows, darts) and is expert with all of them. He is very observant (brilliant at spotting clues), and is a genius with all things mechanical.

However, he also is a countryphobe to the point where he is pretty much unable to function when in a rural environment. He can't shoot a gun to save his life, is totally useless with anything boat related, and generally comes across as pretty unlikable.

My Post-Character Creation Thoughts

I thought it'd worked pretty well. We certainly had a good few laughs, and the "no-one take I'm an expert swimmer!" truce somehow held through all four rounds of skill picking.

It was very apparent that this is not a game where you're likely to end up with what you wanted. Of all three characters, General T's was probably closest to the traditional Cop Show shafting. However, his character did fit together into a recognisable archetype (think Tackleberry from the Police Academy films), albeit one that would be *ahem* challenging to play. (Though still very useful: first he can find the clues, then he can do a MacGuyver bit by making something).

Basically, if he knew Norfolk deeply on account of being raised there, but hated/feared/was useless in the countryside, then - given that Norfolk is almost entirely rural - the implication was that he pretty much hated everything about his upbringing and his home. Which is pretty dysfunctional, but fitted if there was something about him that people found unlikeable.

I put down the interest in archaic weapons as possibly unhealthy because there wasn't an obvious reason for it. John's PC was bought up on the mean streets of South London and boxed as a boy - which is why he could box. TAFKAC's PC was raised a country boy, and as was demonstrated in Hot Fuzz, in the countryside, everyone and their mother owns a gun.

But why would General T's PC have been into archaic weapons? It could have be an interest in things historical, Sealed Knot perhaps? But it did occur to us that it might be more fun to say that he was just the sort of bloke who sits alone in a flat entirely decorated with knives, swords, bows, and skulls.

Or as TAFKAC put it during a discussion on said PC's personality:

"He's got knives!"

So, characters created, we then moved on to the Blockbuster's first episode.

Episode 1

When GMing previous campaigns, I'd found myself getting bogged down in preparation, feeling a need to dot every "i" of the setting and cross every "t". With this Cop Show campaign, I consciously tried to keep my preparation fast and loose by restricting each adventure to a simple one-page email to myself, knocked up on the train to work and bashed about a bit at lunchtime.

With episode 1, I seem to recall that I wanted something nice-and-simple, even at the risk of being linear, so that we could simply introduce the characters and the setting and - more importantly - get to grips with the rules. What made this task easier is that the core mechanic of Cop Show is actually designed to enable and encourage a plot structure based around an hour long police action drama.

Cop Show's core mechanic discards the usual dice in favour of a set of custom cards, each of which has two things printed on it, one an action that could be performed, and one a line that could be said. Each player starts with a hand of cards.

To play a card, you either have your character do the action on a card, or have him say the line on the card (it must be an appropriate thing for him to do or say at that time). Playing a card earns you an action point.

This means that you earn action points for doing cliched cop things (e.g. driving your car through a pile of boxes) and for coming out with cliched cop sayings (e.g. "We are the police you stupid bint!"). You can then spend the action points doing cool things, typically to defeat the bad guys.

Given that you start off with no action points, this then forces the game into the classic three-part one hour cop show (as explained in the game's Designer's Notes section).

First, the cop protagonists fail to stop the bad guys doing whatever it is they've done (a bank robbery say) because they have no action points.

Then, they charge around doing cliched cop things (being chewed out by "the chief", leaning on informers, beating up low-life scum etc.), thus earning action points, and hopefully finding out who/where the bad guys are.

Finally, they charge in and nab/stop the bad guys, and this time they succeed because they have the action points.

Once the episode's finished, you work out its "appreciation ratings" based on action points earned and action points spent, the basic gist of which is that you want to have spent more action points than were left unspent.

Why? Well if you earned loads of action points but then didn't get / need to spend them, then it means that the episode contained lots of cop cliches, but not much actual action. And if you get three episodes in a row with negative ratings, the series is cancelled.

Anyhow, here's the email I knocked up.

SYNOPSIS

The Regional Crime Squad have uncovered evidence that the Midland Bank in Little Skippingham (a fictional town on "the river") is going to be robbed. They are waiting to ambush the robbers.

The Bank is on the High Street and backs onto the river. Blockbuster has been called in to help ferry observers into place, but the unit has been told to otherwise stay out as this is not a water-related matter.

John's PC has not yet arrived. He is now some hours late, although this is not a problem as he is not needed to operate the boat. The reason he has not yet arrived is that his car broke down on the way and had to be repaired.

START

John's PC is driving along beside the river when he observes two crashed cars, with an argument in full flow. It is next to a large field beside a house, where a wedding reception is in full flow. (It turns out to be the Chief Constable's daughter). He presumably stops...

Meanwhile, the robbers go into the bank (Regional Crime Squad want to grab them on the way out) but out of no-where a powerboat appears and takes them away from the back, with the loot.

Blockbuster presumably gives chase...

CHASE

The boat will attempt to give Blockbuster the slip by driving across a neck of land between the river and a broad to save time. This is the land where the wedding reception is taking place.

They will then do further stunts to jump back into the river.

AFTERMATH

They will all be called into the chief's office to be bollocked. He will tell them that Regional Crime Squad are trying to blame the entire cock-up on them and perhaps even gain control of the unit.

INVESTIGATION

The bank robbers stole the speedboat from a marina on the river. It was an inside job because the brother of the head bank robber works as the main boat-handling bloke in the marina (both he and his brother are excellent boat-drivers).

The brother is Jason Grissom.

The head-robber is Pete Grissom.

The robbers are currently holed up (with the speedboat) on a reed-covered island in the river which has a small boathouse and a small cottage. It is a holiday home (which they know is currently unoccupied) not accessible except by boat.

Including Grissom, there are four robbers. They will be playing Game of Life with real money.

Given a chance, Grissom will try to make it away in the speedboat.

Now you have to remember that I'm writing this up around four years later, taking the emails and blog entries I wrote then, and stitching them together into one hopefully coherent whole. And the thing is this.

I have no recollection of this session at all.

Here's what I wrote in a blog entry the next day:

Gene "Strange Gene" Le Strange (General T): I can't believe the Chief Constable didn't invite us to his daughter's wedding. I've known Mandy for ever!

Nathan Warrington (TAFKAC): The Chief Constable's... called Mandy?

Gene "Strange Gene" Le Strange (General T): What? No, his daughter's called Mandy!

...plus innumerable other great lines, now sadly lost like tears in the rain. While things were a bit rough - not least of which due to me still getting to grips with both a new system, and a new style of GMing - I'd like to think we had a seriously good laugh. And the guys were great, especially considering that I'd neglected to tell them that they had to wrap it all up in a single session.

Having written those quotes and summarised my feelings, I then continued with a review of the session as it might have appeared in the papers:

THE ROLEPLAYING TIMES: JULY 1973

Blockbuster

ITV's new series opened with a bang last night - literally - as cars exploded, and speedboats flew through the air and across manicured lawns (one doesn't have to think too hard to realise where they got that idea from).

But as soon as Michael Caine strolled onto the screen, playing exiled London policeman DS Hopkins, it was clear where the budget had gone, and it certainly wasn't on the script.

I'm afraid that while this opening episode was long on snappy one-liners ("I know he's been here luv, I can smell his aftershave") and tired cliches (do real-life policeman feel the urge to poke their fingers into every vaguely white powder they come across?) it was regrettably short on action, winding down to slow plodding investigation before we'd even made it to the second commercial break.

And whilst ending the first episode on a challenging note, with the bank robbers escaping due to our "heroes" over-cautious approach might, in certain quarters, be hailed as ground-breaking, I prefer to call it as I see it.

Fun, frothy, but ultimately dissatisfying.

Score: ♥♥♥♥♥ 2 out of 5

I finished off by saying:

Next week, I think perhaps a spot of international intrigue.

...and that was that.

The next day I did a further post that explained how the action point system worked, finishing off with an explanation of "appreciation ratings" before concluding:

In the case of BlockBuster... Well there's still two more episodes to turn things around!

i.e. The guys must (apparently) have had more action points left over at the end of the session than they'd spent, meaning that their TV show was now a third of the way towards cancellation. (Guess it was a good job it wasn't a pilot).

In an effort to solve the mystery of what actually happened in episode one, I contacted the guys to see if they could remember anything.

General Tangent:

I'd forgotten what fun we had with that short game and reading the recap brought tears to my eyes.

Anyway, a couple of points:

You mention that John's PC was played by Michael Cain, I remember that mine was played by Brian Blessed which added to the whole Strange Gene thing.

I'd love to be able to remember the boat-hooking incident but aside from it happening in the second episode's teaser, I'm fuzzy on the specifics.

John:

1) General Tangent's PC "archaic weapons" skill was defined very broadly, to the point where he was talking about building a trebuchet.

2) We had finished a long (2 year?) Cthulhu campaign and were used to poking *very* carefully at every possible clue. Before that was an even longer Warhammer campaign, another game where you end up dead if you rush in too quickly.

3) The fun of playing the cliche cards was very hard to resist, and we never really got to the action sections so could not spend them.

4) Someone didn't pilot the boat quite right and it plowed through the centre of the wedding. I think bilge water or bow waves may have been involved.

5) There was a boatyard with an uncoperative worker. We (I?) was about to deck him when someone turned up and we had to leave.

6) (could be another episode) There might have been a scene in a night club or music bar where we tried to question the dodgy fat owner and there was some white powder found. To get the door Wayne's character said something outragous (and funny) to the doorman.

7) (could be another episode) I think there might have been somewhere in the marsh were we tried to follow some track. Which Steve's PC could do except that he didn't like being in the countryside alone.

Episode Two

As with Episode One, the adventure consisted of a rough email:

SYNOPSIS

The USAF are testing the XF-27 an advanced hypersonic reconnaisance aircraft in Norfolk, at Upper Hadding USAF base. They will be obstructive to any questioning.

A group calling themselves the People's Liberation Front (Norfolk Brigade) are trying to break into Upper Hadding to damage "imperialist infrastructure."

On the night in question, they attempted to break in (not knowing the whole base was on alert), but triggered an alarm. The guards opened fire, wounding one of the PLF(NB) members. They dragged their wounded man (Pete Saunders) back to their base - a couple of VW vans parked in the Wildwood Forest, a few miles from Upper Hadding.

A little-known glam rock band ("Starshine") were visiting the base at the time to play at the Officers club. One of them, Zakk Zacheria Zackson the Zack (a.k.a. Geoffrey Fossington), nipped out shortly before they were due to go on to have a cigarette. Unbeknownst to anyone, he got caught in the crossfire, fell into the broad, and died.

INTRO

It's the early hours of the morning. The characters are off-duty (find out where they are). They should be contactable.

If they are outside (or near people) then they might here people saying they can see a UFO.

A set of lights will streak silently at high speed across the sky, then make a sharp turn and streak back again. Then they will simply disappear.

[NOTHING HAPPENS - FAST FORWARD]

They get a call to say that a thin hairless white body dressed in a silver jumpsuit has been found floating dead in the river. (People will of course jump to conclusions).

ONGOING

Because the body was found in the river, it is the the preserve of the Elite River Unit.

If they examine the body they will find that it has been shot several times. Forensics will find that it is a NATO issue 5.56mm round, as fired (for example) from an M-16.

Upper Hadding is a located near Hadding Broad, and has a cut to it, allowing barges to carry heavy cargo in. The locals speculate that nuclear bombs are sometimes moved this way.

It is a huge base, with more than 5000 personnel.

The base commander is Colonel Paul T. Richardson. He is almost never available. His deputy is Lieutenant-Colonel Brandon Rackovski. The head of press and public relations is Captain Shelley Duprey. Duprey will be relentlessly cheerful, but will stonewall on practically everything.

They are under orders to keep the XF-27 totally secret. They do not want to admit to anything.

All that Starshine know is that Zakk didn't come back. They thought he got stoned, or stage fright, or met someone, or something. They are pretty pissed off. They went back to their hotel (small pub b&b in the village of Upper Hadding), got very drunk and stoned, and will be asleep for quite a while.

A white Ford Transit decorated (badly) with the caption "Starshine" and their logo is parked outside the pub.

The PLF(NB) will lie low in the forest, while they argue about what to do next (they have unfortunately chosen against "patriarcal" heirarchical structures, like ranks, and leaders). They have been spotted by some of the local children in Upper Hadding as well as an old biddy (Patricia Dickson) who is the local botonist and local historian. (And does the flowers in the church).

Pete Saunders went off to hospital, accompanied by his girlfriend (Suzy Palmer). (They flagged down a car on the road that runs through the forest. The driver, a bloke from Glasgow, drove them to hospital, and then headed home.)

The PLF(NB) have seven members remaining (minus Pete and Suzy), three of whom work for various branches of Special Branch and a fourth who works for MI5. (They don't know each other). They are:

Peter Smith (a.k.a. Richard Smyth, MI5). The closest thing the group has to a leader. The operation was his idea. Tall, handsome, and charismatic.

Mike Hanson (a.k.a. Mike Hammond, Special Branch). Sandy haired and stocky.

Judy Poulson (a.k.a. Sally Griffiths, Special Branch). Is having a relationship with Mike Hanson. Blond and good looking, in a hippy kind of way.

Ivan Komanov (a.k.a. Ian Fletcher, Special Branch). Is posing as the deputy cultural attache of the Soviet Embassy (i.e. a KGB agent).

Fred Bates. A slightly simple earnest bloke with glasses.

Pauline Jones. A jolly hockey sticks type of posh girl.

PUSH FACTORS

Pete Saunders is in the Norwich General Hospital, being treated for gun wounds. He is stable, but is sticking to a story that they were walking through Norwich and an unknown person shot at them). The doctors there contact the police in Norwich (against his wishes).

The police in Norwich interview him, and circulate the details.

WHAT THEY CAN DO

Go to the village of Upper Hadding. Ask around.

They first need to identify the dead bloke. They then need to find out from the PLF(NB) that the gun fight took place. They can then confront the base and get them to admit that the firefight took place and where, and they can then demonstrate that he was killed in the crossfire.

At which point, MI5 will arrive to hush the entire thing up.

So how did it go?

Well here's the (somewhat more informative than the previous) blog entry I write the next day:

Here's what might have been published in the next few days:

UFO Spotted Over Norfolk

Witnesses across Norfolk claimed last night to have seen an unidentified flying object. Mike Fallon, publican of the Horse and Crown at Upper Haddon, said: "I saw a set of lights flying across the night sky far faster than any plane I've ever seen or heard of; it made no noise, and turned on a six-pence to fly back across us.

Ministry of Defence spokesman said that the lights were probably caused by the effect of moonlight shining through marsh gas. A representative at the near-by USAF Upper Haddon airbase said that they had picked no objects up on radar but that they could not release the radar data due to reasons of "operational security".

Daily Mirror

Extra-Terrestrial Body Found In Norfolk

The Society has received news from reliable sources that the security forces retrieved the body of an alien humanoid from a river in Norfolk, shortly after the sighting in the area of an unidentified flying object.

The alien, possibly the pilot of the aforementioned UFO, was described as thin (to the point of being skeletal) with white skin and purple hair, and was apparently dressed in a form-fitting one-piece silver suit.

MOD spokesman have declined to offer any comment to the Journal.

The Journal of the Society of Hidden Truths

Glam Rock Bass Player Found Dead

Confusion exists over the fate of Starshine bassist Zakk Zacheria Zackson the Zack (a.k.a. Geoffrey Fossington) who apparently disappeared last night shortly before a gig at a USAF airbase in Norfolk.

His shocked and confused bandmates told Sound & Vibe that he: "nipped out for a smoke and never came back, we thought he'd had enough and walked off... then a bunch of police came into our room and said that he was dead!"

The Norfolk police were not able to give any further information about the case except to confirm the fact of Fossington's death. They said that reports of his being shot multiple times were dangerous and uninformed speculation.

In a comment to our reporter, his mother, Lady Sheila Fossington, said: "He was such a lovely boy... but he needed to eat more and get some sun. He was all skin and bones. I blame the drugs." Bandmates report that Fossington, famous for his purple-dyed hair, was wearing his trademark silver catsuit at the time he disappeared.

Sound & Vibe Magazine

Trespassers Arrested In Wildwood Forest

Local police have reported the arrest of a group of trespassers who were camping illegally in the nearby Wildwood Forest. The trespassers, who were staying in two VW Vans, and who were apparently dressed mostly in German Army army-surplus uniforms, were described by police as "peaceful hippies".

Upper Haddon Police Constable Joe Phillips said, "They might talk a good fight, but when I turned up with a few of my boys they were as meek as lambs!"

Phillips later added that he had received some assistance from the Elite River Unit.

Upper Haddon Parish Gazatte

What Actually Happened?

The episode started (after a background piece where they saw the "UFO") with the discovery of an alien body floating in the river (cue Blockbuster credits sequence). Post-credits, they discovered it was actually a thin and very human with a terrible dress sense, who was now dead due to the four bullet holes in his chest.

They had the bullets analysed and found out that they were 5.56mm rounds of the sort fired by an M16. Heading upstream from the site where the body was, they found (after pumping the local postmistress for information) Starshine's decorated Ford Transit van parked outside a pub, and after some questioning of first landlord and then band established that the dead body was one Geoffrey Fossington who'd disappeared shortly before they were due to play a gig at the base's Officer's Club.

They then went to the base, but got polite and friendly non-cooperation. The base seemed jumpy. They guessed (correctly) that perhaps they were testing some kind of secret advanced aircraft. They found a bloodstain and came up with a (correct) hypothesis that Fossington had been caught up in some kind of cross-fire while standing on the base's private wharf, and had toppled into the adjacent broad (which led to the river) but that still left one question:

Crossfire with whom?

The missing piece of the puzzle came when they heard about a shot man who'd been taken into Norfolk General hospital. He turned out to be from the People's Liberation Front (Norfolk Brigade) who were hiding out in Wildwood Forest after an attempted sabotage raid on the Upper Haddon base ran straight into trigger-happy guards who'd opened fire.

The Blockbuster team then arrested the PLF(NB) finding the remaining seven members to consist of three sheep-like followers and four gung-ho hard-liners (one of whom turned out to be from MI5 with the remaining three being Special Branch, with all four totally unaware of the others' similarly undercover status).

The team then returned to their base to be greated by three high-ranking Special Branch commanders and one gentleman who claimed to be "from the Home Office" who distributed copies of the Official Secrets Act all-round saying, "This never happened... okay?"

Conclusion & Recollections

And that was that for the Cop Show campaign. I'm not quite sure why. While researching this piece, I found two further scenarios that I'd knocked up, but this was around the time that I got married, so I'm thinking that this (organising the wedding, having the wedding and then going on honeymoon - not actually getting married itself!) might have interrupted the campaign and caused me to lose momentum.

I think I was also having some difficulties getting to grips with the system. I think in many ways Cop Show was quite ahead of its time when James first conceived it, with its freewheeling core mechanic being very reminiscent of many modern indie games. These sorts of "roll your own aspect" systems are very flexible, but they do perhaps require the GM to adjudicate more. Perhaps I'm a bit old-fashioned in that I like the security of a more rigid system.

But it was fun, and reading this I'm thinking maybe I should give it another go.