(Note: Blowback is a game of spies and relationships.)
At GenCon Games on Demand, I ran two games of Blowback, both with the “New Orleans” job dossier. The first game was imperfect, since I was still reading through the rules. After some time to reread and asking some questions of the author, I felt more prepared for the second game. I was also inspired to give the group a taste of the long-term mechanics that happen when you run through multiple jobs. My plan: sprint through the three phases of a previous job – Analysis, Operation, Blowback – to give them a basic feel for how that structure works, and to set up some forward momentum for the main job.
It turns out that the original botched job – the one that stranded the spies in the city – was a good fit for this. I began with a few Analysis rolls: “this is how you do it Without Incident, now you’re Going For Broke, and notice that you’re using up your Nerve”. I then fast-forwarded to some choice Operation rolls: “See how we’re using the prep dice? [boom] See how we’re improvising a new plan now, without said dice?”
I then suggested some extra stress that the group would have taken on in the course of a job, taking us right into Blowback where the group’s previous stresses turn into changed relationships. In about 15 minutes time, this was a good bit of improvisational warmup and set up some basic relationships to play upon in the job proper.
And so, we entered the Analysis phase for a new job: a Justice Seeker taking on a corrupt cop, and of course this wasn’t the whole story. I immediately ensnared a Civilian with a sympathetic approach from the Client, and made sure to keep up the personal pressure on the character.
The title of the post comes from a great scene from the Analsyis phase. A Provocateur specialist set up a meeting with a crooked cop, posing as a very Southern, very aristocratic mobster. “And sir, with my business interests being what they are, I thought it would be to my advantage to speak with a member of the constablery.”
We laughed, but this was also a great setup for the character. Later, under interrogation, this character “broke down” and revealed his “real accent” (which we knew was just another faked accent). Moments later, once he was rescued and the tables were turned, he was now speaking in his own, real accent, spoken with the urgency of a professional spy with no further time to waste on pleasantries.
Other events from our game: a driven reporter actually participates in bugging a cop’s office, and likes getting in over her head; a young child listens in on a planted bug as her brother reveals his crimes; the operatives rescue each other a few times over; a mafia mook is more or less kicked through a Starbucks window in order to “send a message”; a corrupt cop turns the gun on himself, with the reporters live cameras rolling nearby; and justice is further deferred in the city of New Orleans. A local District Attorney’s political ambitions are nearly crushed, but she still has power – and now, a grudge against the Professionals. (And certainly: the vulnerable Civilian reporter.)
I also used the “Red Herring” move on the Push Pyramid to get the group needlessly entangled with the (actual) mob. (See also: the broken Starbucks window.) This is another neat thing from speeding through a cycle of Analysis/Operation/Blowback: I got a chance to play with Push Pyramid moves (specific ways the Agency can earn the chance to mess with the players).