07 May, 2011

The PATH to Freedom

Back in October I had my first game of The Price of Freedom (TPoF) with my group.  Present were Eric, Ryan, Geis and myself.  We decided to use the pre-generated characters and play the adventure as written (in NYC), putting off the avatar campaign until we are comfortable with the rules.  Actually we ended up playing a number of Savage Worlds powered games in the months that followed.
Anyway this is what happened back in October 2010:
Characters were chosen as follows:

Eric – Moishe Cohen
Ryan – Billy Bartsow
Geis – Jordan “Jordo” Miller

The initial adventure, “The Path of Freedom,” began with three PCs meeting in the apartment of Moische Cohen – 72 year-old former Polish freedom-fighter.  They discussed the imminent arrival of the Soviet occupation forces and quickly decided to get the hell out of the city.  On the way out they heard sobs from the next door apartment.  Moishe expressed sympathy for the widow within – a fine lady who had also escaped from behind the Iron Curtain – but he did not stop to comfort her.  As they piled into Billy’s pick-up, Moishe asked if they wouldn’t mind stopping by the 14th Street Armory to see if his friend, Westtree, was there, and if he would join them.  With the agreement of the others they started south on 7th Avenue, amid the looters in a city in panic.
South of 19th they came across a makeshift roadblock.  Four street gang members had blocked the road with burned out cars and other debris.  The gangers stopped beating the kid they had jumped and pulled firearms on the truck.  From behind, a gang-painted Cadillac blocked the avenue of retreat and gun muzzles protruded from its windows.  Boxed in, Billy decided to ram the weakest looking part of the barricade, while Moishe and Jordo fired on the gangers.  Between Jordo’s Uzi and Moishe’s pistol, two gangers were killed and another wounded.  The gangers shot the truck up pretty good – blowing out both tires on the passenger’s side – before scattering to find less dangerous prey.  Moishe grabbed the gangers victim and pushed him in the truck.  Then the vehicle moved slowly, on bare rims, toward the Armory.
14th Street Armory
Outside of the Armory was a military roadblock, errected by the loyalist National Guard soldiers.  The sergeant (a reversely-racist Hispanic NCO with stereotypically poor grammar) manning the barricade refused to recognize Jordo’s credentials or admit him.  Miller (as played by Geis) was much less of an ass than written to be so, when faced with Sgt. Morales and his insubordination, he called over the next highest ranking soldier and calmly relieved the sergeant of duty.
Inside the Armory the trio met Colonel Samadi, the unit’s commanding officer.  Rather than lay down arms, the Colonel has decided to shanghai weapons and light vehicles through the Port Authority Trans-Hudson tunnel beneath the Armory out to New Jersey.  From there, the men will disperse throughout rural PA and NY to attack the Soviets, guerrilla-style.  Our trio volunteers to help and is given a pair of CUCVs to repaint and load with weapons.  Stolen civilian plates are screwed on the bumpers and the vehicles are made ready.
The convoy rolls down a makeshift ramp, through passages dynamited by the engineers, into the subway and then the PATH tunnel.  The trip is slow and dark as they move under the river and under Jersey City.  Then a collision up front brings the column to a halt.  As the passage is cleared, word comes back that one of the NG saboteur teams failed to blow the “Communipaw Bridge” (aka Lincoln Highway Bridge), between Jersey City and Newark.  Miller, who has demolitions experience from his days in Vietam, is tapped to take out the bridge.  Doing so will hamper the movement of Soviet forces and buy time for the NG teams to escape and disperse.
The trio of men commandeer a vehicle from the front of the column and load it with the required supplies.  They then move out of the tunnel and through bumper-to-bumper traffic toward the Communipaw Bridge.  Once there they quickly set the charges and take up positions in a factory warehouse on the Jersey City side of the river.  The bridge is jammed with civilian traffic as panicked people try to escape the city.  Unwilling to harm the civilians the team decides to wait for the arrival of the first Soviet troops.  It is hoped that they will clear the bridge for their own uses, and once that is done – the destruction of the bridge will include a squad or two of Soviet forces.
“Communipaw” aka Lincoln Highway Bridge
The Soviets arrive in commandeered vehicles and begin sweeping the bridge.  However they begin to examine the bridge before it is completely free of civilian traffic.  In order to divert attention from demolition charges and expedite the evacuation of the civilians, Barstow snipes at the Soviet officer on the Newark side of the bridge.  He hits and wounds the man.  Most of the Soviets panic and are pinned, while their comrades search for the source of the fire.  In this way Barstow is able to loose a few more shots before taking any fire.  As the Soviet soldiers move to the edge of the bridge over the outlet, Jordo sprays them with AR fire, wounding several.  Barstow kills another before taking a wound that could have been very serious (hero point used to reduce wound to light).  As the last of the civilians clear the bridge – increasingly intense fire hits the factory building.  Moishe pushes the detonator and the bridge and 15 Soviet troops go into the water.
With the objective achieved the trio hightail it back to the Path tunnel, retrieve their vehicles, snag a few more goodies from a grateful Colonel, and disperse to continue the fight against the Soviets.
In all a great game.  Combat works well, with a believable level of lethality, and a smooth game mechanic.  The only thing we disliked was the widespread panic of the opposition.  Soviets must roll for nerve every round, which makes them a bunch of pussies.  The Soviet Union was a highly militarized society, with all children receiving weapons training.  While conscription was for two years, it was based on this preformed military knowledge.  Indeed the photos of back-flipping shovel throwing soldiers doesn’t jibe with the Keystone Cop feeling engendered by the panic rules.  They will have to be adjusted.
In all, we want to play the game as we envisioned it – a Red Dawn RPG.  The background provided in the game books is patently ridiculous, and sometimes offensive.  Soviet invasion of the US is a pretty far stretch to begin with, but I believe Red Dawn‘s chain of events is eminently more believable – or my own idea of a Soviet move to decapitate and secure America’s nuclear arsenal before it can be used against Russia (a preemptive defensive invasion ala Iraq 2003) – or the setup presented in the Freedom Fighters video game (it even allows for cool modern Russian toys!).  We intended to play a few more games with the pregen characters, in order to get comfortable with the rules before starting an Avatar campaign in one of those two settings – but real life and other games took over.

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