At this month’s Oita Evil Spirts Konkon convention, I got a chance to play in a session of Double Cross 3 (DX3), which is the Japanese RPG I’ve been putting up information about here. This was my first (and only?!) chance to play this game, and so even though I was sorely tempted to join in a Japanese Old School D&D session, I took it. This proved to be a good plan, since it was in the DX 3 adventure where all the sandboxing was happening.
A few outline notes
We completed character creation and a full adventure in the single session, which lasted from 10:30 to 18:30. The game we played used Rule Book 1 (which I have), Rule Book 2 (which I don’t) and some additional information from the Advanced Rules in combination with a module book called “Public Enemies,” which is based on a mechanism the DX3 company, FEAR, appear to have pioneered, called Scenario Craft. There were 4 players – 2 women and 2 men – and the GM. We were playing characters with a little bit of experience, so we didn’t start entirely fresh-faced; but three of the players were beginners, and one very experienced. I will talk about Scenario Craft separately, but essentially it’s a way of introducing as much randomness as possible to the strict structure of a module format. We rolled up every aspect of this game except our characters (though we rolled up a lot of them too!)
The players and characters were:
- Handleless Mr. Mutabe, who played Rugaru, a High School student with the Chimaera power
- Ms. Furudera, with whom I’ve played a few times, who played Watermelon (that’s the codename), a High School student with the cross-breed Orcus/Salamandra powers
- Ms. Ryo, who played Doumeki Rin, a Housewife with combined powers of Orcus and Solaris
- Me, playing Kintaro “The Noble,” a Section Head in the UGN organisation whose cover is Robot Engineering (i.e., Mecha) and who is a purebreed Black Dog (electricity) user
I’ll put up the details of my character later. I had 3 Lois’s at the start of the game: My mother, the memory of a dead client from back in my Robot driving days, and Silk Spider, a UGN agent. I also had to choose an NPC as a Lois. There are 3 NPCs in this adventure, and I chose the NPC who cooperates with us as my Lois. Now that I’ve played, I understand the whole Lois/Titus thing better and will explain its effects in practice later.
The cooperative NPC, Kanamoto Saburota, my Lois, is a doctor within UGN who has failed to realise his true purpose in life, but loves collecting information and learning things. He aims to nurture and support the PCs, but his serious and gentle character is hidden behind a cheap, gaudy exterior – this is a doctor who wears Hawaiian shirts and cheap jewellery. He approached Kintaro, his Lois, to tell him that he thinks his underling, a UGN agent called Hasebe Kappei, has joined the False Hearts and is working as their agent in my area. Simultaneously, the Heroine of the story, Kano Kasumi, approached Rugaru to tell him she was afraid for Hasebe, who had gone missing. The characters convene at Kintaro’s mecha workshop, and decide to find Hasebe.
Kano Kasumi, the heroine, is also a High School student. She is a mere slip of a girl, described in the book as being “in every way like a fairy in appearance” (we rolled this randomly). I take this to mean she’s tiny, thin, birdlike, with elaborate and complex eye makeup, fake eyelashes, nails, and glitter and colour wherever she can put it. Definitely thick white knee-socks and lots of cellphone straps. I didn’t write down the details of her relationship with Rugaru, but I think it might have been brotherly love. Kasumi is in every way ordinary – but she’s guessed that Rugaru is not ordinary (must be the Wolverine-style claws and powerful physique that gave it away; or maybe it was his 21 Jump Street style not-really-high-school-age look?)
Saburota Kappei is another High School student, described in the book as being “so gigantic in physique as to be almost entirely unusual,” and having a relationship to Watermelon that I also failed to write down (along with Watermelon’s proper name). Anyway, he’s going to be our enemy, so his personality matters not a whit.
So, having identified the threat (the big guy) and the goal (protect the chick), we move into the “middle phase” of scenario craft, which is primarily the “Research Event.” Every day we went information-gathering to find out where Kappei might be, and rolled up random events. Kintaro mostly worked his UGN contacts, Watermelon and Domeki did the whole computer intel thing, and our wolverine-y Rugaru did the streetwise gossip thing. The GM was keeping some kind of progress tracker a la Warhammer 3, with a certain number of successful checks required for us to meet our goal. There was a lot of incentive for us to get these successes early, because every day spent researching increased the risk of an encounter with False Heart agents, and every day we researched we also had to add 1d10 to our corruption level. Corruption level determines the risk that you’ll go native, turn into a Germ, and become an NPC on a rampage. You finish an adventure on a certain level of corruption, and there’s only so much you can recover, so efficient resolution of scenes is important if you want your character to last a long time and not have to be hunted down by your mates and put down like a dog.
During the research phase, we discovered rumours that if we stick around near Kasumi, something’s bound to happen; and we also worked out pretty fast that Kappei is a False Heart. Then, suddenly, Kasumi manifested as an Overed (infected with the virus we have), and had to be hospitalized. At this point we moved on to the climax.
In fact, before we could finally work out where kappei was, we ran into an area that had been warded by False Hearts thugs, and when Watermelon worked out that they were doing this, we had to have a fight with them.
False Hearts Encounter: My first DX3 Fight
So, there were four of them, two who attacked with darts formed from their own hair, and had bodies covered with spikes; and two who were using some sort of disruptive light-flash attack. I charged straight into battle using my patented Thunder Arm combination, and Rugaru sprouted talons like scimitars and leapt to join me using his Child of the Supreme Wolf combination (that’s a lyrical interpretation – there was a word I couldn’t read in the combo name, but it was something about a wolf-child, so bugger it, there you go). Combat was slow because we were learning, but in essence everything was over fast. The sequence of events was something like this:
- Round 1: thorny guys attack with a flurry of darts, everyone takes half their HPs in damage
- Round 1: the two girls in our group cast disruptive attacks on the False Heart light-wave kids, knocking them into a dazed bad status effect, and keeping them out of the battle
- Round 1: I charge into the first thorny guy, turn him into a human battery with a powerful smash in the face and blast of lightning, and he nearly dies
- Round 1: Rugaru charges into the other thorny guy, and tears him nearly limb-from-limb (both thorn guys are nearly dead)
- Round 2: Thorny guy 1 hits me, killing me. I use my resurrect power to regain 8 hps at the expense of 8 corruption, and come roaring back from the dead
- Round 2: Thorny guy 2 hits Rugaru, nearly killing him
- Round 2: Domeki heals me for another 13 or so hit points, so I’m back just past halfway
- Round 2: Watermelon destroys one of the dazzly-light kids
- Round 2: I fry my guy while punching his face out the back of his head
- Round 2: Rugaru dismembers his thorny guy
- Round 3: I turn the remaining dazzly-light guy into a flesh-based capacitor, fight over
So, 3 rounds, 4 people vs. 4 people, one of us died once but used the DX3 version of a healing surge, and now we’re all up near 70 or 80 corruption risk. This becomes significant soon.
So we visited Kasumi in hospital and Watermelon identified that Kappei was watching us using a scrying power, and traced it back to its source – his favourite bar. We paid him a visit. Moving to the final scene cost us all a lot of corruption points, and by the time we arrived there Kintaro and Watermelon were up above 100 corruption. This, you will see, causes significant problems, as well as making your powers much more powerful, and leads to some interesting character decisions, as you’ll see. I imagined my character crackling constantly with undischarged static.
We had a short chat with Kappei, during which I helped myself to shots from his Keep Bottle (High School Students shouldn’t drink anyway!) He revealed that Kasumi had manifested a power which causes normal people near her to manifest their virus too (recall that 80% of humans are infected with this virus but most never manifest), and the False Hearts – who happen to have a remedy for this power – want to take her as a way of using her to spread the number of manifestations of the virus. Having established motive, we went to work killing him. The fight went like this:
- Round 1: Kappei wins initative by a long shot (he’s fast) and blasts us all with a massive ball of lightning that does 28 damage and dazzles us. Me and Watermelon die instantly.
- Round 1: I’m above 100 corruption, so I can’t use my healing surges anymore. Instead I have to “burn a Lois,” meaning I have to permanently sever all ties with a Lois, render them outcast from my life, and then I get to regain 16 hps. I chose Mum, and came screaming back from death (see my next post on Lois/Titus/Corruption for my interpretation of what this means)
- Round 1: Watermelon is just below 100, so she uses a healing surge to recover, and this tipped her past 100, so no going back for her either
- Round 1: Domeki casts some kind of awesome combination of powers which adds 6 to all our dice pools, reduces the number we need for criticals by 2 (see here for the task resolution system), and adds 6 to all our ability scores
- Round 1: Rugaru charges in, thorns out, Child of the Supreme Wolf in every way, rolls a 22 dice pool for a total of 77, does 62 damage, but Kappei is still up and running
- Round 2: Kappei attacks Rugaru for quite a large amount of damage, knocking him down, but Rugaru does a healing surge and hauls himself out of a pile of his own fried entrails to reenter combat
- Round 2: Domeki heals everyone for 2d10 of hps, very timely. I think now everyone was over 100 corruption
- Round 2: I attack, rolling an 18 die pool for a total of about 50 damage with my Thunder Arm combo; Kappei shrugs it off.
- Round 2: Watermelon does some kind of supporty thing
- Round 3: Kappei attacks me and kills me. Again. I’m past having any healing surges, so I have to burn another Lois. This time it’s the good memories of my dead customer from my mecha days, he’s out the window and I’m back on 16 hps.
- Round 3: Domeki does another round of healing
- Round 3: Rugaru attacks Kappei, doing negligible amounts of damage
- Round 3: Watermelon does a beam attack on Kappei. To boost it, she decides to burn a Lois, and add 10 dice to her pool. I didn’t realise I could do this. Furudera san, a mild-mannered and soft-spoken young lady who blinks a lot, yells “Sayonara, Mother!” checks her mother off the Lois list, and picks up a veritable handbag-load of dice. Kappei shrugs off the resulting attack, and that’s it
- Round 4: Kappei kills Watermelon again
- Round 4: Watermelon says, “Bye bye, Kintaro Sensei” and crosses me off her Lois list, back from the dead (again)
- Round 4: Domeki gives everyone the die pool boost effect again
- Round 4: Me and Rugaru give Kappei everything we’ve got (but I don’t burn a Lois – had I done so I would have had a total dice pool of 29!)
- Round 4: Watermelon scratches a third Lois (I think Furudera san was enjoying the tabula rasa approach to family history) and rolls another massive dice pool. This time whatever beam attack she was using manages to finally smash through Kappei’s armour, and he goes down like the oversized sack of overripe DNA that he is.
Now that the battle is over, we get to regain 2d10 corruption points for killing the boss guy, and then we do “Flashback,” in which memories of our ordinary lives draw us back from the brink of corruption. This is represented in game terms as a reduction in our corruption risk of 1d10 per remaining Lois. I started the game with 4, picked up 1 during the middle phase (that 1 being Domeki) and burnt two staying alive, which leaves me 3. I remove 3d10 from my corruption, leaving me with a grand total of 77. I started this game with 35 corruption and end up 32 further along, having made a conscious decision to abandon all the memories and attachments of my pre-UGN days. I have been cast adrift from the mortal world, and only my UGN associates (not all of whom do I trust or feel affection for) are keeping me tethered. I need to make some new connections to the real world fast, or I’m going to be a germ before my 3rd adventure is out…
That’s it for the day’s slaughter.
- this game is deadly. Once we’re used to the rules and the dice pools, this system will churn through battles very fast. Also, a conservative approach to combat is needed – 4 rounds of combat using my Thunder Arm increase my corruption by 24, and I only have 3 Lois to get that back with. So two or three combats in a session and I’m already tipping over the edge into becoming a reckless will-o-wisp on a mission from hell.
- this game really encourages you to think about the relationships you have with your other PCs and the world in general, and represents the importance of those relationships in terms of their ability to keep you from becoming inhuman. I like that a lot, and I think it would be a really interesting thing to explore in a campaign setting.
- with the correct descriptive passages and attention to character detail, this game really encourages a lot of role-playing.
- the Scenario Craft idea is kind of cool, and means that the adventure was collaborative and interesting. Unfortunately, our GM was indecisive, weak and a little shy, so every time he was presented with a random choice he would say “oo, this is tough,” and um and ah, and Ms. Ryo had to help him through quite a bit, which made gameplay slow and meant we lost a lot of the opportunities the randomness offered. This is a problem with these types of approach to gaming, they rely on a certain robustness that not every GM has.
- the dice pools are fiddly, but they are also fun.
Once again the world is safe from the corrupting influence of the secret evil superhero, so you can rest safe in your bed, dear reader. And I will be playing DX3 again if I get the chance.
fn1: DX3 is definitely set up so that these kind of “just gimme the fight” sentiments don’t really work.