scribbles and lies - FIASCO: Last Frontier: "What's in Kaku Inlet"

Apr. 27th, 2012

09:41 pm - FIASCO: Last Frontier: "What's in Kaku Inlet"

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Played at work on 3/29/12, two days before the previously-posted Seattle game.

"Last Frontier" is Jason Morningstar's Alaskan wilderness setting. Usually our work games are three players, but this one had four.

Relationships:
- old friends from Juneau
- ruthless social rivals
- siblings
- in Alcoholics Anonymous

Details:
- Object: Skiff with a fiddly outboard
- Need to get even with all the nosy small people
- Location: Houseboat
- Need to know the truth about the thing you saw in Kaku Inlet

SETUP

Former State Senator Chuck Penderhouse (Mike T)
Left office under a cloud of scandal. The usual stuff - oil industry bribery, that sort of thing. Maybe some rough-type-stuff. Now staying out of the public eye for an election cycle or so before forcing his way back into office. He has a houseboat way up in Skagway. Ought to be just the place to cool it a while. But he's finding he really hates the way small-town people are always getting up in your business. He's getting a little stir-crazy. Everyone in town calls him "the Senator" even though, strictly speaking, he currently isn't.

Leon Penderhouse (Jeff R)
Chuck's badly-behaved dumb-as-mud younger brother. He's been "keeping an eye on" Chuck's houseboat the last couple of years. It's not in great condition as a result. Leon is trying to lay off the drink these days.

Mike "Mikey Mac" MacKenzie (Dan J)
Mikey Mac used to roll pretty hard in the oil industry down in Juneau but the parties and the money and the drugs and the whores got a little out of control. He's been detoxing up here in Skagway for a couple of years now on what little savings he was able to hold onto. It's been good for him.

Gus "Guster" Carmichael (Dan P)
Worked with Mike a fair amount back in Juneau, and still likes to work big and play hard. But he's come up to Skagway for a couple of weeks, just some time away to do some fishing, and he's looked up his old buddy Mikey of course. He used to rub shoulders, in a socially competitive way, with the Senator not so long ago.

Mikey Mac has little skiff with a "fiddly" outboard motor. He takes folks out in it, mostly for fishing - mostly ol' buddy Gus lately. They strike out into the water for a few hours at a time with Gus' big tackle box of fishing gear… which is actually geological survey gear. See, Gus thinks he's got a lead on a major oil find, he just needs to sew it up before anyone else finds out. His buddy Mike is the only one he trusts with the secret 'cause he knows Mike is out of the game.

Mike's skiff also sees pretty regular use with Leon Penderhouse, who he is in AA with. Mike and Leon occasionally putter over to Kaku Inlet with a bottle - just one! - to share. When the bottle's gone, they ain't got no more, so they're done. That's how they keep their drinking under control. They believe.

But today, while they were drinking in the inlet, they saw something… Something strange. They don't agree on the details, but the basics were: Truck drove up to the edge of the lake. Guy and girl got out. Might have been arguing. Girl may have given the guy some money. Girl disrobed and swam, naked, out into the water. Guy got back in his truck and departed. Naked girl in the water suddenly went under… and never came back up.

It's summer. The days are really long. As day turns into "evening", the sun is still very much up.

ACT I

1: Leon

Sobering up when they're back on shore, sort of, Leon wants to call 911. He thinks something in the lake pulled the girl under. He wants it to be an anonymous call so he uses one of the pay phones instead of calling from home. "You gotta go out to the inlet, a girl drowned out there!" The operator recognizes his voice. Sympathetically: "Leon, have you been drinking again?" Leon tries to convince her to send a rescue team out to the inlet but instead she tells him to stay at home, she's sending a squad car out to interview him in more detail. Shit! He's nowhere near home and his brother, the Senator, is there and doesn't know about any of this yet! He starts to run home as fast as he can.

The sun crawls slowly toward the horizon.

2. Senator Penderhouse

Sure enough, a black-n-white rolls up as the Senator, in his bathrobe, pours himself yet another cocktail. "No, actually, I'd rather not let you come aboard. What's Leon done this time, officers? Witness a girl drowning, you say? Where? … Oh, really, out in Kaku Inlet? Well, officers, I think Leon must have been drinking with Mikey Mac. What utter nonsense. They see things all the time. Those two, I swear… It's a shame when grown men can't handle their liquor. (He swirls his brandy.) No need to wait for Leon to get home. I'll make sure he doesn't waste any more department time with crank calls. Just leave this to me, officers. Thank you for your concern." Scowling, he watches the cops depart. Dammit, Leon, why do you always gotta give these rubes more excuses to come get in our grill?

3. Gus

Gus is scouting out some waterfront property when he's ambushed by Jan Eastman, a plucky reporter of the Skagway Gazette. Well, *the* plucky reporter, really; it's a tiny paper. Jan wants to know why a big-city oil money roller like Gus is up in Skagway. Fishing? Please. Jan knows a cover story when she hears one. Is he up here because of the Senator? Some kind of deal in the works? Is he involved in all the island and waterfront property that's being quietly scooped up through various blind fronts? Gus does not like being under the microscope, even from (especially from!) a small town twerp like this. He tries to dissemble, claiming nothing interesting is going on, but when that doesn't deter her he turns a sharper edge, trying to warn her off. When Jan brings up Senator Penderhouse as an implied threat, he threatens back, abouther job, implying that he knows her publisher. That doesn't seem to work either; she agrees to leave him alone for now but she's clearly going to be an ongoing problem. Gus is going to have to step up the heat.

4. Mikey Mac

After dropping Leon off, still not entirely sober himself yet, Mike heads back out into the water with his skiff, to head back to Kaku Inlet. He wants to poke around some more, for some evidence - preferably that helps support his own theory about what they saw, whatever that theory is. He doesn't know yet. When he gets out there, he finds the tire tracks of the truck… the footprints of the girl… but not her clothes. And certainly no body. But whatever it was they saw happen, it mostly did… right? After piling back into his skiff, he spots movement: a naked girl on the shore, walking among the trees. The same girl? It sort of looks like her but she's disappearing into the forest. He tries to fire up his outboard motor, to pursue her from the water, but it takes a few too many tries: pull, pull, pull, adjust, pull, dammit! By the time he has it running, she's gone.

5. Gus

The Guster really wants this Jan girl off his ass. He and Mikey Mac shook off more than one journalist, back in their hardest-core days. They used to blow shit up. Whatever it took. Gus looks up Jan's home address - she's in a regular old phone book! - and goes over there to blow up her Jeep. She lives more or less out in the sticks, edge of town, so witnesses shouldn't be a problem. Gus douses the car in gasoline, writes a vague (but should be apparent to Jan) message, lights it on fire… but it blows up prematurely. Gus' arm catches alight and burns for a minute before he can put it out, leaving him pretty seriously maimed and burned.

The sun touches the horizon as he runs from the scene, cursing.

6. Mikey Mac

Mike shows up at the houseboat. Leon has gotten home by now - too late for the cops, of course. Leon has been getting dressed down by his older brother for causing trouble. Mike wants Leon to calm down - the girl's still alive, he says. Whatever it was they saw, they didn't see her die. Senator Chuck is trying to help Mikey calm his brother down: "See? Mikey Mac has it covered. It's fine, Leon, let it go." An entirely innocent glance passes between the Senator and Mikey Mac… but Leon sees it and totally misinterprets it as collusion. Now he's *doubly* determined to make someone listen to him about the trouble out at Kaku Inlet, and he realizes he can't talk to either his best buddy Mike or his own brother about it, because whatever is going on, they're both part of the conspiracy! Leon acts like he's calming down, and convinces the other two that he's not going to go to the cops anymore or anything like that.

7. Senator Penderhouse

After Mikey Mac and Leon leave, the Senator gets a call from Ron Lawson, editor-in-chief of the Skagway Gazette… whose publisher is the Senator. Ron is calling the Senator to let him know that plucky reporter Jan is on the heels of big oil roller Gus. The Senator seems intrigued to hear what Gus is up to, but doesn't want Jan stirring things up too much. "Send her into the boondocks for a while," Chuck says. "I heard something strange about a missing girl, maybe drowned, out in Kaku Inlet. Maybe she should look into that." Ron agrees to take the pressure off Gus and send Jan out to the inlet. The Senator pours himself another double.

8. Leon

Since they're not going to the cops, Leon wants to keep investigating himself - he wants to find that pickup truck that they saw on the shore. Mikey Mac agrees to come along to humor him, more than anything. They are walking around town with no luck for quite some time until eventually, Mike needs to go to the bathroom. He steps into a gas station toilet… and just then, across the street in a diner parking lot, Leon spots the pickup truck. And the dude. Walking out of the diner with another girl. Another girl! They get in the truck and start to back out. Where's Mikey Mac, dammit? Leon has to take action, quickly. He runs across the street, jumps onto the side of the moving truck as it backs out, and tries to pull the girl out of it. "Don't go with him! He's going to try to kill you!" The guy swerves the truck, shakes Leon off, throwing him hard onto the asphalt… but in swerving, the truck heads into oncoming traffic and is plowed at an angle by a logging truck. The pickup flips over, shredding, bouncing, coming apart just as Mikey steps out of the toilet.

THE TILT

"Paranoia: Someone is watching, waiting for their moment"

As the old man and the girl head out to the truck, start backing away, get jumped by Leon… we pan back inside the diner, where we see Ron Lawson, editor of the Gazette, taking in the whole spectacle. When the truck crashes, Ron decides he should slip away without being seen, and goes out the diner's back door. (Mike T later points out this somehow must have been Ron demonstrating his veteran journalist instincts, but we never quite got it back into play to really develop.)

"Innocents: Collateral damage"

Flashback: Ron Lawson on the phone to Senator Penderhouse, in his office at the Gazette. Jan Eastman is in her own office, but she can't help herself: she hears Ron on the phone, sneaks over, presses her ear against the door, and listens to his whole conversation where he takes his orders from the Senator. Jan realizes she's all alone on this one - that even Ron is selling out. She slips out of the office before he's off the phone… and a few minutes later, she arrives home to find her second car, the Jeep, all blown up.

ACT II

9. Leon

Leon approaches the twisted wreckage of the truck, Mikey Mac not far behind. The old man, the driver, is completely dead… but the girl was thrown from the truck, because Leon had been trying to pull her out when they swerved, and she's landed off the side of the road, down a slight slope, out of sight from the witnesses who are beginning to respond. Leon skitters down the slope to her; Mikey comes down after. She's alive, unconscious but alive, and Leon gets a dumb-as-mud idea: Take her back to the houseboat, to find out from her whatever she knows about the truck and the dude who is now dead. Great idea. He talks Mikey into helping and they sneak the girl away without being spotted, get her into Mikey's car, and get her all the way to the houseboat. But the Senator hears them roll up and - seeing what is *clearly* Trouble with a Capital T being dragged onto the gangplank - blocks their approach. "No," he says. Leon wants to push past him. Are they going to fight? Wait: the girl is waking up. Leon immediately wants to interrogate her right there on the gangplank. There is some confusion as the girl becomes conscious and - much like the girl who disappeared into the lake last night - it's not clear exactly what happens next, except that Leon and the girl fall from the gangplank into the cold water. Mikey looks at the Senator. They both understand that neither of them is going to jump into that icy wet to save either of them. (Senator: "We can't go in there. It would be suicide.") Mikey shrugs and leaves; the Senator continues to look down into the water, swirling his brandy.

The sun vanishes behind the hills in the west and the sky finally begins to dim.

10. Gus

Gus needs to deal with his burned arm and, in his confusion, can only remember that Mikey Mac had a pretty complete first aid kit in his skiff. He goes to Mikey's tie-up and starts tossing the boat until he finds the kit. As he sets to bandaging up his burn, who shows up at the skiff…? Why, it's Jan Eastman, plucky reporter, coming to talk to Mikey Mac about Kaku Inlet, trying to understand what it is she thinks she's being set up for. But she gets there and sees Gus - with his burned arm - and everything clicks. Gus makes for a moment like, okay, you got me, I'll explain everything… But instead he whips the first aid kit up and hits her across the face. Jan falls down and The Guster follows up with more blunt violence until Jan is finished. Then he rolls her body into the skiff, pulls the tricky starter until it kicks into life eventually, and heads out into the water, heading for Kaku Inlet.

11. Mikey Mac

Mike gets back to his skiff tie-up, sees that the boat is gone. What the hell…? He immediately suspects Gus, that Gus has gone out boating solo for some reason. What's he going to do about it? Just then, up rolls Ron Lawson, who's trying to find Jan - he stopped by her house to tell her about the Kaku Inlet assignment, saw the burned Jeep, figured maybe Gus was more dangerous than expected - and who knows Gus better than ol' Mikey Mac, right? So here he is. They put two and two together and more or less come to the right conclusion: Gus has the skiff, and Jan, and is heading to Kaku Inlet. They pile into Ron's car and take the shoreline road at blistering speed. They pull up to the shore just in time to see Gus putter the skiff into the center of the skiff… and push Jan's body over the side, weighted with the first aid kit. What can they do? Nothing. Nothing. They pull the car back out of sight before Gus spots them. They need to get back to town and try to catch Gus when he returns…

12. Senator Penderhouse

Once he's pretty sure Leon's not coming back up, the Senator looks up from the water… and sees that nosy old retired neighbor on his boat down at the other end of the marina, watching through a pair of binoculars. Oh, shit. These nosy f'ing people… These… The old man's binocs go down and his hand slowly reaches for the phone, clearly to call the police. Something snaps in Chuck. Fuck this whole town and everyone in it. He waves to get the guy's attention, gestures to indicate that he's going to come up, all friendly like. He just needs to keep the guy from calling the cops for a few minutes. It seems to work. Chuck ducks down into boat for a moment to grab something quickly, then he strolls down the dock to the neighbor's boat. "Hi, how's it going?" he says, all friendly like. "I'm sure we can come to some sort of quiet arrangement about what you think you just saw." He reaches into his bathrobe as though he's going to come out with a checkbook, which seems entirely reasonable to the old man. But the Senator instead draws out a flare gun, which he quickly jams into the man's mouth and fires… then follows up by grabbing the man's binoculars and turning the neck strap into a garrote. He can't help it. He's done with putting up with all of this. He needs another drink.

13. Gus

The fiddly outboard motor on the skiff is giving Gus some real trouble out in the middle of Kaku Inlet, which is merely an annoyance at first… but then something thumps against the underside of the skiff. Something big bangs into the hull from down in the water. Gus scowls… then the boat gets hit again. And again. Gus suddenly starts to worry, pulls harder on the starter, works it harder… but really, only Mikey Mac knows how to reliably coax the engine into life. Gus pulls and pulls even as something large in the water grabs hold of the skiff, starts dragging it on the water faster and faster… then, in one sudden move, pulls both boat and Gus under the icy surface.

Light twilight begins to become deep dusk.

14. Mikey Mac

Mike and Ron Lawson are tearing back into town on the forest road as the dim begins to close in. They're driving too fast - and suddenly, something moves into the road. Naked girl! Mike grabs at the wheel to swerve them and, just like the old man in the pickup truck before, they crash and flip. When the car comes to a rest, Ron is looking pretty dead, and Mikey is blacking out… but before unconscious takes him, he sees the naked girl approach their wreck. She leans over to look into the trashed, bloody cabin interior… then takes a picture with a camera and walks away into the dark woods.

15. Leon

Leon has survived the icy water. He pulls himself back onto the houseboat on the opposite side from his brother and the gangplank - the side that leads into his brother's half of the boat, his brother's room. There, dripping water on everything, he finds charts and maps everywhere… paperwork about property purchases, couriered letters… Survey information about Kaku Inlet. Exactly as he suspected: his brother knows something about the inlet. He looks out the window and maybe sees, down the marina, as Chuck murders the old neighbor, then comes strolling back up to the houseboat. Chuck sees Leon, dripping but alive. "I thought we agreed that you don't come into my room," the Senator intones. Leon points at all the charts and papers: "Just tell me the truth, Chuck. Just tell me… what's going on with Kaku Inlet?" Chuck narrows his eyes: "You want the truth?" He ponders for a minute. "Actually, you can easily handle the truth. There's oil, Leon. Kaku Inlet is full of oil. But I had to concoct a cover story to keep my rivals looking in the wrong place - rivals like old Gus Carmichael, out there 'fishing' every day with Mikey Mac, looking for oil based on fake leaks and false information. Mikey's in on it, of course. He's been working for me. Everyone's been working for me." Leon's jaw drops: his every paranoid suspicion confirmed… and yet somehow, the whole thing is so mundane as to be almost uninteresting. But what about the guy with the truck, and the drowned naked girl? "I have no idea, Leon," the Senator says. "That's not part of the plan."

16. Senator Penderhouse

Just then, there is the sound of car wheels rolling to a stop on the gravel above the dock. More visitors? Senator Chuck peeks slightly through the window… and sees the worst trouble yet: Russians. Oh shit. Maybe it wasn't just political scandal that the Senator was hiding out from. They're packing serious hardware: guns, and a rocket launcher. They waste no time in locking and loading. The Senator turns back to Leon: "We have to get off the boat RIGHT NOW. Back in the water!" Leon shakes his head: "Man, I ain't getting back in that water for *nothing*." Chuck grabs Leon and forcibly pushes him off the backside of the boat, then jumps in after him, as the Russians open fire and the houseboat is rapidly reduced to splinters…

AFTERMATH

1. Mikey Mac is found in the wrecked car. No sign of Ron's body. He spills his guts to the cops about everything. "Ask the Senator. The Senator knows. He'll tell you." But, strangely, the Senator is not answering his phone at the houseboat…

2. Jan Eastman's body washes ashore and becomes a national story. A whole lot of law enforcement interest in little Skagway, Alaska all of a sudden.

3. It turns out yet another nosy neighbor saw the Senator kill the previous nosy neighbor. He's not out of the water long before he is picked up on suspicion of murder.

4. At the Senator's murder trial, Leon is unable to explain how he was on the houseboat and yet saw nothing of his brother murdering their neighbor. Leon might be telling the truth. He might really not remember.

5. Mikey Mac saves his own skin by turning hostile witness as well. Lays out the whole oil deception angle. Everyone knows, but nobody can prove, that a fat envelope of cash, perhaps from the Russians, helped make this inevitable.

6. TV news in the jail: The dead guy in the truck turns out to have had a healthcare scam involving gullible women with terminal conditions, convincing them the Inlet had magical restorative powers.

7. A manhunt is on for Gus Carmichael and the skiff, but neither turn up.

8. A newspaper article about new Russian oil exploration in the area around Skagway - but one of their boats went missing in Kaku Inlet.

9. A Russian oil/mob goon in his hotel room. A dark shadow emerges from the bathroom to strike, breaks the goon's neck. Holy shit: it's a reanimated Gus!

10. The naked chicks talking amongst themselves in an undisclosed location about "dealing with" the Americans, the Russians, and whoever else gets involved. "The Purity" must be maintained.

11. The Senator is executed without appeal for murder with special circumstances. Irony: the Penderhouse Bill, which he sponsored and eagerly signed before leaving office, expedites the execution.

12. Mikey Mac can't get anymore work in Skagway. Everyone knows he sold out everyone to the Senator, and then sold out the Senator. And he doesn't have a boat anymore, even. What good is he?

13. Through a rather clever bit of last will & testament finagling, the Senator's funeral works around a loophole in the environmental laws and his body is tipped into Kaku Inlet.

14. Mikey Mac is back in Juneau, a junkie and a dealer, selling coke to his old oil industry buddies. They don't even acknowledge that they know him.

15. Some months later, Leon is looking for a new place to live still when his brother, the Senator, shows up very much alive. "Okay," he admits, "maybe there was a little more to Kaku Inlet than just the oil."

16. Years later, Gus is a frightening legend. "The Guster" is a terrible revenant bogeyman that Alaskan parents use to scare their kids into behaving themselves...

SONG: "Senator Penderhouse"

Mike, player of Senator Chuck Penderhouse, wrote a happy little pop song about our game a couple of weeks later. Lyrics and music are copyright 2012 by Michael Trent.

What's this commotion?
My brother's in a fight with his friend
It's not the end
What did they see there?
They need to know the hows and whens
And what happened then
I turned to my brother, and said
Mikey Mac's got it covered
You can just leave it to me
I'm looking out for you

Senator Penderhouse
Man about the houseboat
Tell me now, Penderhouse
Senator Penderhouse
What's at Kaku Inlet?
Tell me now, Penderhouse

All the small people
They need to know the things I do
Oh yes they do
He's always watching
Well he can watch me take his time
Oh is it a crime?
I buy the man's silence
With a smile and some violence
Just me and my flare gun
We're looking out for you

Senator Penderhouse
Man about the houseboat
Tell me now, Penderhouse
Senator Penderhouse
Oh, what's at Kaku Inlet?
Tell me now, Penderhouse

Do I hear Russian oil me?
I knew this business had to end.
Submachines and RPGs
All of this for just one houseboat? Please…
But I won't let them
No I won't let them
I won't let them hurt my brother!

Here at my trial
That Mikey Mac done sold me out
Ungrateful lout
Death, no appeal
And that is such a bitter pill
I signed that bill
With no further objection
I feel the final injection
I turn to my brother and say
I'm looking out for you

Senator Penderhouse
Man about the houseboat
Tell me now, Penderhouse
Senator Penderhouse
What's at Kaku Inlet?
Tell me now, Penderhouse
Senator Penderhouse
There's oil at Kaku Inlet
Tell me now, Penderhouse
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
There's oil at Kaku Inlet
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
That's all there is…

------
For consideration: one of the nice things about four-player Fiasco is that you can end up with characters only indirectly screwing each other, but never directly meeting, as they are diagonal opposites across the table. Gus Carmichael and Leon Penderhouse pretty much never even knew each other existed...

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Comments:

[User Picture]
From:ikkyu2
Date:April 29th, 2012 08:08 pm (UTC)
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Love where you left the naked chicks. Greenpeace splinter group? Traditionalist Catholic cloister where naked is the new habit? Subspecies? Aliens among us?

No telling.
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[User Picture]
From:crisper
Date:April 29th, 2012 09:06 pm (UTC)
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I am generally amazed at how reliably these stories wrap up during the Aftermath - I consider it a true triumph of minimalist game mechanics - but sometimes you get the odd thread here or there that sort of dangles. The Purity Chicks and whatever actually lived in the Inlet are tantalizingly unresolved, but if history has taught us anything about storytelling, it's that the unanswered question is often more satisfying than the answered one.
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[User Picture]
From:exorre
Date:April 30th, 2012 06:21 pm (UTC)

Naked Chicks, Story, and Thanks

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As a player, I wanted to see more from the naked chicks. On the other hand, I got to spend nearly every moment of the game on my houseboat. So these are the tradeoffs we make.

As a player, also, I'll point out we had many opportunities to push the story even stronger into the paranormal. But somehow the story kept resisting. It felt like pushing into a Cthulhu or Steven King direction was "the easy thing to do," so we opted for alternatives. In the end, the story held together really well as a straight-up fiasco.

Thanks to Crisper for getting this up!
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[User Picture]
From:crisper
Date:April 30th, 2012 06:23 pm (UTC)

Re: Naked Chicks, Story, and Thanks

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In contrast to "The Ice", where nothing really interesting happened until we shoved it hard into the Cthulhu/Who Goes There direction, at which point it went pretty wild. (Write-up yet to be posted.)
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[User Picture]
From:bittercupojoe
Date:May 1st, 2012 02:42 pm (UTC)

Re: Naked Chicks, Story, and Thanks

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I love how varied the game can be. Our "The Ice" game ended up being about extremist Greenpeace activists, angry whalers, and graft.
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[User Picture]
From:crisper
Date:May 1st, 2012 04:03 pm (UTC)

Re: Naked Chicks, Story, and Thanks

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We also had eco-extremism in our game, but the character in question ended up becoming somewhat flawed during setup in that she was trying to remain academically respected, so had a patsy sidekick NPC doing all the real dirty work. Consequently, the NPC ended up having more and better scenes than the PC. Lesson learned: FIASCO never really benefits from characters who avoid the hands-on.
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