Sunday, December 4, 2011

Hollowpoint: Review & Actual Play report

One of the great benefits of G+ is the connection with so many different gamers from all over the world. This allows you to both play and run all sorts of different games using the Hangout feature. The Hangout feature lacks a bit of the interaction you get from face-to-face gaming but the advantages are numerous. There are games going on at all hours of the day or night, in a huge variety of systems. It also allows people to run games that they might not otherwise be able to run.

This brings me to the point of today's post. I picked up a copy of Hollowpoint some time ago and have been able to run it and play in it several times. My face-to-face group would not be interested in such a game, but the power of the internets allows me to run a game for people from all over the world. Last night I ran a session set in the world of Larry Correia's Monster Hunter International series.

Hollowpoint is a cinematic, action game published by VSCA publishing and created by Brad Murray and C.W. Marshall. The idea of the game is that you are a team of highly dedicated, highly skilled, and unscrupulous agents of The Organization. What the organization is doesn't matter--no requirements are given in the book, other than that there should be a mission statement (that may or may not have anything to do with the name of the organization) and an Enemy. The team is given the mission briefing and given a Primary and a Secondary objective.

Character generation is easy, taking about 5 minutes yet still giving detailed characters. Your character has 6 skills and 5 "traits". The traits can be "burned" during combat to allow extra dice to be added to the player's pool of dice. Both the skills and traits are easily adjustable, depending on the type of game you wanted to run.

The traits by question method given in the book starts out with these five questions. I modified them slightly to fit the world of the game.

1. You wear a black suit over a clean white shirt and a skinny black tie. No hat and well groomed. Nothing to make you stand out, except “this”.
1a. The MHI uniform is black fatigues, black t-shirt and black combat jacket. You have "this" as a memento of your first monster encounter. What is it?

2. You don’t have a lot of scruples, but you would “never do this”.
3. That one time in Utah you took a souvenir; it was “this”.
4. This is a hard job, but you love it because “you get to do this”.
5. You’re a pro and you know you’re a pro because you always “do this”.

Determining your character's skills is even easier. There are 6 of them. They are:

• KILL — killing people by shooting them, stabbing them, or driving them over with a tank.
• TAKE — stealing things that do not belong to you.
• TERROR — causing terror and making people afraid of you by acting very badly indeed.
• CON — tricking people into giving you what you want.
• DIG — finding out things that others do not want you to know, or otherwise investigating or getting information.
• COOL — being just that awesome. This is what you roll to lead a team, to smile in the face of danger, or disarm a bomb on pure instinct and grit.

These are also customizable depending on the genre you're playing. Are you playing in an urban fantasy game and you're a team of wizards? Perhaps you replace CON with Magic. Skills are rated from 5 to 0, with 5 being your best skill.

That's it. You're done with character creation. Now it's on to the action.

In my game last night the Primary Objective of the mission was to retrieve or destroy "The Nameless Book", an ancient tome that opens the doors to eldritch horrors and which was stolen from Monster Hunter International's vaults a couple of weeks ago. The Secondary Objective was to neutralize Jim Brown, aka "The Scorpion", a former MHI agent who had gone freelance and who was suspected of taking the book.

The characters were Lucinda Mach, Nathan Ellis, Grant Stone, and Joe Black. After doing some cursory hacking the team discovered that Jim Brown had received two payments in the last week, one of $200,000 and the second of $300,000. One payment was made about 3 days before the book was stolen, the second was made about 3 days after the book went missing. The payments were made from the account of one Hyrum Williams, the pastor of a church called "The Church of the Golden Cross", which had it's business address listed in a small town in upstate New York.

The team headed up to New York to do some further investigating and kicking of asses. They spend two days gathering information, including a memorable scene between the married secretary of the church's lawyer and Grant Stone, and another memorable scene between Lucinda Mach, and Lucille (Lucy) Stone the daughter of one of the members of the congregation. Lucinda was invited to the Wednesday night Bible Study, and agreed to come with her "husband" Grant Stone.

The Bible Study started off weirdly as they congregation filed into the chapel, and then separated, men on one side and women on the other.  When the pastor stood up to talk things got even weirder. The pastor was a huge man, 6'4 or 6'5 and weighing well over 300 lbs. Red headed he had a beard that would do a mountain man proud. As he started to preach in a deep, raspy voice, a cross came up from the floor and started to glow. The preacher's eyes started to turn green, which freaked out Grant and Lucinda, who were the only ones in the church.

Grant turned to the man next to him and asked if this was normal and saw glowing green eyes, at which point he snapped the man's neck. Lucinda stood up speaking gibberish, but really calling for help from the backup in the van. As they did this the pastor turned and glared at her and in a deep voice declaimed "There are impostors among us!", at which point things got really hairy. After some truly epic violence, which included a fantastic scene involving the team van crashing through the side of the church and running over the cultists, the team managed to take both the golden cross and the book. As they were recovering from their wounds (all of them but Joe had been seriously hurt during the fight), the team heard the screeching of tires, and then a rocket propelled grenade came crashing through the stained glass window. Luckily it went completely through the church missing them all.

The team dashed out to take on this new conflict.

The last scene of the session ended with Lucinda Mach driving the van while being pursued by three black SUV's full of hired mercenaries. Joe Grant opened up the back doors of the van and filled the first SUV's engine full of lead, causing it to flip and go off the road. The passenger in the second SUV put two bullets into him, one in his left shoulder and the other square into his torso, knocking Joe back into the van. Grant Stone was busily making explosive devices out of C4. The first one he threw hit the second SUV's windshield and got stuck between the windshield and the hood. When it blew it shattered the window and caused the hood to crumple. The second explosve landed with deadly accuracy in the driver's lap. When it went off that was that for the occupants of the SUV and the vehicle.

After that explosion Lucinda Mach spun the van around so it was going in reverse. John fired several shots at the passenger of the last SUV who was trying to line up another shot with his RPG launcher. This caused him to dodge, then Lucinda Mach threw the car into drive, causing the gears to grind horribly and smoke to come from the engine. She drove at ramming speed, and just before hitting the last SUV she slammed on the breaks. The glowing cross came hurtling forward, smashing through the windows of the van as well as the windows of the last SUV. When it impacted the last SUV the bars of the cross snapped the necks of the passenger and driver causing the vehicle to flip and explode in a ball of flame.

The last thing that Lucinda saw before the van exploded was a tattoo of a scorpion on the rocket shooting passenger's neck, which positively identified him as the object of their secondary mission.

The scene faded to black with Lucinda Mach dealing with a wrenching shoulder injury from a possessed cultist, Joe Grant wounded (perhaps dead), on the floor of the van, and Grant suffering from a serious stomach wound. Nathan Ellis was no longer with the party.

As a player I love the simplicity of the set up and the fact that I can be hyper competent and completely bad ass. As a GM I love being able to set up conflicts for my players and as they succeed I end up with more dice in my pool to use later.

The biggest difficulty I have as a GM is getting the players to realize that the preliminary stuff really isn't important in the game. Last night's group spent  an hour doing investigatory stuff, with each character doing their own thing. I think it's hard for players to get out of the mindset of needing to do all that preliminary work to avoid having it come around and bite them later on. That was probably my fault as a GM for not making it clearer, though I'm not sure what I could've done differently.


  1. First and foremost, it was a great game! Nice review & report too.

    It was both both my first hangout in G+ and experience with Hollowpoint. I liked the simplicity of character creation (skills+traits) that allowed to jump right into the action.

    SInce I'm used more to D&D-style games I felt a little awkward with the narative style when burning the traits.

    It's not your fault things were slow at first. I guess every party (and more if the players doesn't know each other) take things slow and try to gather the more intel possible.

    Perhaps a little more emphasis on the fact that the players are bad people who do bad thigs to badder people, they hurt and get hurt. Players tend to take care of their characters but this is not the game for that I guess.


    P.S. It's Joe Black instead of Joe Grant
    P.S2. Nathan Ellis stayed all the way. It was Grant Stone who left early. ;)

  2. The characters are bad people not the players! LOL

  3. "Perhaps a little more emphasis on the fact that the players are bad people who do bad thigs to badder people, they hurt and get hurt. Players tend to take care of their characters but this is not the game for that I guess."

    Good point Gabriel. I should probably emphasize that a bit more, as well as the idea that "moving on" is a perfectly acceptable outcome for a player's character.