(Continued from Part 2.)
Through all this, I was still feeling a bit "whatever" about the proceedings. We took a break for dinner during the middle of the combat, which wasn't really a big deal. I asked Vickie, Simon and Cristel how they were feeling about it so far, and they reckoned the slow pace was good for the air of suspense. We got back to the game after pizza, and our three troopers polished off the rest of the Mites. They decided that, rather than wait for four hours until pickup, they'd decamp to the station's comms room to contact their orbiting troopship and get evac ASAP.
As the control console was frozen over, Simon's engineer character cobbled together a working uplink with their communications kit and the station's antenna. They were signalling the ship when Cristel had the idea of listening for any movement outside the comms room. She and Vickie rolled well, so I told them they could hear sounds of claws on metal. "As a matter of fact," I said, "WHAM!" And Cristel nearly jumped out of her seat. Yes, I shouted that last word at my players, and I was glad to see it had worked.
Suddenly, at this point, I started feeling mor einterested and involved in what was going on than previous. I dunno exactly why I started to pick up then and not before. Maybe it's because a Warrior Bug is serious oppoisition for a team of troopers, maybe because including the - I dunno how I can put this without coming off like a hippie theorist, but here goes - the energy and aggressiveness of a Warrior Bug into the shared imaginary space couldn't help but increase the tempo of the game, or maybe I just got over some kind of hump right about then. Regardless, I was from that point on actually feeling positive about the game. I know it's a harsh thing to write, especially as there were three other people at the table who were having fun in spite of whatever the hell was up with me, but there it is.
Anyway, as a Warrior Bug crashed through one of the comms room doors, Will saves were rolled again, this time versus a more intimidating sixteen. From memory, Simon and Vickie were frozen, leaving Cristel to open fire with her Morita rifle at point blank range. She managed some impressive damage, with the Warrior Bug trapped just inches away from her by the human-size door. The next turn, Vickie recovered from her shaken state, but Simon failed his test again, turning terrified. As the only other exit to the comms room was locked (he had secured it himself earlier), Simon said his trooper was hiding under the comm console and yelling into the communications rig about "Thousands of Bugs!" Like I said, great sense of humour!
Anyway, Vickie and Cristel finished the Warrior Bug off with three-round bursts from their rifles. I've just had a re-read of the rulebook, because something about Simon's Burst Fire Feat confused me. It looks as though I was handling three-round bursts incorrectly; although the cap trooper rifle is capable of a three-round burst, players can only use it if they have the Burst Fire Feat, which only Simon's trooper had. I blame the book, which isn't exactly clear about this, or at least, not as clear as I think it ought to be.
Anyway, the troopship says evac is on the way, ETA ten minutes. The troopers (after slapping Simon's character about a bit) decide to recce as much of the rest of the base as they can for survivors. I'd already decided to stick with the adventure text's statement that everyone in the base was dead, and while I contemplated throwing in a survivor or two, we'd had several hours' gaming during a humid evening, so I decided to take it easy on my baking brainpan and not come up with one on the fly.
The players checked the basement and the underground corridor to the power generator. They tried to get out via the generator's door - the one Simon has broken his pick in earlier - and once again, Simon rolled a one. So, back down the steps, through the tunnel, up to the top of the steps - where they paused, and had a fairly lengthy tactical discussion about whether there might be any more survivors, where they hadn't checked yet and how the Bugs had got inside the base. I should have sicced another Warrior on them just to keep the pace, but again, the baked brainpan got the better of me; instead, I told them they had just seconds before the shuttle arrived. Eventually, the players went out the front door, where they came in.
This, of course, is where they met the Tanker Bug and a pair of Warriors near the garage entrance. About this time, though, the dropship came into the area, and Cristel immediately said, "It's armed, right? They shoudl take it out." I was a bit "O-kaaaaay..." about it at the time, but in retrospect, Cristel's suggestion was perfect. The Tanker Bug is basically a plot device to keep the players inside the outpost anyway, and it had done its job, so why not let the shuttle bomb it to hell? Which it did, but I also asked for some Reflex saves. Simon, amazingly considering his run of luck thus far, got his, but Vickie and Cristel weren't as lucky; they were blasted forward twenty feet or so and took some hit point damage. Then I hit them with a pair of Warrior Bugs that came charging out of the entrance. Will saves were made by Vickie and Cristel, but - you guessed it - Simon was once more reduced to a gibbering wreck.
The final fight was quick and brutal, with Vickie's and Cristel's characters taking serious hit point damage. I was gracious - which I really shouldn't have been, considering this was the last fight of a playtest with disposable characters - and forgot about the Bugs' Damage Reduction score, allowing the pair to take care of the monsters with some well-placed three-round bursts (which, also, they shouldn't have been able to do). They dragged Simon's character aboard the shuttle, which then hightailed it for orbit.
(Analysis and Recommendations)