I was putting dinner together for my players when The Wife asked, “Sandwiches?  Again?  Aren’t you worried they’re going to get tired of this?  Don’t you want some variety in your menu for game night?”

I blinked in confusion.  What? Not want sandwiches?  No am make sense.

Of course, The Wife is the same person who in order to determine what we should have for dinner will ask me what I had for lunch.  As if it is somehow relevant!  If I had tacos for lunch, I’m still good for tacos at dinner!  Same with Thai food, pizza, or… yes… even sandwiches.

To be on the safe side, I asked the guys about this.

They blinked their confusion as well.

Sandwiches remain on the menu.

The boys needed the nourishment.  They had a long night ahead of them.

We started session three of the “Dirty Dungeon” phase of  our This Empire  Earth game with the characters having completed two of the three levels.  They had exhausted all but one of their bonus dice, had sustained serious injuries including a deeply unconscious player character – who would remain so for the entire game – and still had one level to get through in order to complete their mission.

Meanwhile, I had all of the complication chips remaining to me.

James’ character, Jacob Killraven, was unconscious for most of the game.  Fortunately an NPC, Sheriff Jinks the uplifted chimpanzee, was on hand.  James played him for much of the night.

At the end of the second session Rej, the Duarn Mister Fix-it, captured a robot walker with the look of a steel, headless bulldog about the size of a VW Beetle.  The robot was a banded, silvery metallic machine that walked about on all fours. It possessed an Artificial Intelligence, but by design it was only marginally smarter than a dog.  The robot’s cockpit accommodated one small pilot.  It was a roomy fit for Josh’s character, Rej.

I dubbed the robot a Walk-a-Bout.  Probably should have gone with Walk-a-Bot.

In the setting, Walk-a-Bouts are utilized primarily as forklifts in the civilian trade, as crowd control by coreward security forces  and by the Imperial Infantry  as well.   The one Rej captured had machine guns mounted on each shoulder.

Also at the end of the second game, our unit of hapless Rangers had captured their man, Waylon Hamish, Pirate of the Frontier.  They strapped him like a hood ornament to the front of the Walk-a-Bout, leading their way through the remainder of Hamish’s den of thieves.

Using the Savage Worlds system to drive our Science Fiction setting, I continue to marvel at how quickly combat can end badly.  I’ve seen it a lot on my side of the table.  The guys tend to make quick work my bad guys with lots of lucky-assed rolls.  Our last session saw the tables turned on the players.  It was a blood bath.  All of them ended the prior session with wounds they carried over to  the next session.  Those negative modifiers stemming from the wounds affected all the player’s rolls.

It also had an impact on their choices.

Gary plays the role of Roger Wilco, Robot Ranger Pilot! Gary also likes his gin.

The players were reluctant to opt for any path that didn’t lead out of the outlaw’s lair.  Bits they had contributed to the Dirty Dungeon were left largely unexplored as they eye-balled my untouched complication chips.  With no bonus dice remaining to them and as wounded as they were, they were unwilling to take a chance.  In fact, they had a reasonably reliable lead on the  nearby location of medical facilities in the compound and chose not to pursue it (cough, pussies, cough!).

Josh plays the bacon-eating Rej Nacob, Duarn Repair-man Ranger!

They skulked and avoided every encounter they could until I forced the issue.  They reached the hangar bay of Hamer’s Hideout where they were attacked by an Ambriidan assassin, a ninja badass with a fearsome reputation.

Terror, you see, has a name.  And he answers to… Gerald.

Gerald got the drop on the guys as they entered the hangar.  Attempting a kill-shot on Rej, he missed it.  He never got the chance to fire again.  In a spectacular round of dice rolling, the Rangers rallied and made Gerald into thick green paste.  Pwned by exploding dice!

James' character is the unconscious Jacob Kilraven. Zzzzzzzzzzzzz!

Of course, this all drew attention from the evacuating outlaws.  Otto Matton, renowned Robo-Terrorist, and his henchmen descended on the Rangers.  This is where I figured the total party kill would occur.

Otto was a violent radical in the movement for Robo-Rights. His original design  was the Kilraven Technology’s RoboValet Model IX. The difference was that Otto had peeled off his GenuineFlesh face in favor of the gleaming skeletal structure of his robot skull.  Otto and his boys would be rough customers to manage on any day.  But with the player characters as battered as they were?

No fighting chance.

Bastard. Evil Bastard.

“One step closer,” Sheriff Jinks called out pointing his gun at the Hamer hood ornament, “And your boss gets it!”

“My boss?” Otto questioned, skidding to a stop with his men.  With a nod to his people, they shot Hamer in the head.

Clearly, there’s a new outlaw boss in town.

Then, my players did something I’ve never seen them do.  They talked their way out of the fight with Otto using reason and logic.

I know, right?

Not sure where that came from.  Otto would not share any of his craft with the Rangers and directed them back to the way they came in as the hangar door hovers some 500 feet over the canyon below.

“You’ll want to hurry,” He urged them, “We’ve set the base to self-destruct.”

They made a rapid exit through back through the two levels they had already been through.  Rej sated his curiosity, detouring to the Jetpack Research Lab to take one for himself.  In a spectacular explosion of fire and stone, the Duarn guided Walk-a-Bout narrowly escaped the dying complex.

I should probably mention that since our first game Forbin, the Empusan played by Rodger, has had overwhelming waves of perceived doom washing over him.  The only other time he’s felt that way was when he and the others fought the giant spider aliens in the prologue game.  Exiting Hamer’s burning complex, they were set upon by one of these giant spider aliens.  Rej was able to blast thing the over the rock cliff with the Walk-a-Bout’s machine guns.

The boys returned to their RV, the Chuck Wagon, and made the long drive back to town.  They were afforded time to minister to their ailments and rest up a bit.  Getting into town, they’d need to get word back to Frontier HQ about Hamer and Otto.  There’d be time for bacon sandwiches at the bar and perhaps a visit with that pretty school marm? And Wilco could do whatever it is robots do when they’re not being helfpful!

Coming over the last ridge, they were greeted with a disturbing sight that would serve as the cliffhanger for this session… Giant spider aliens had seized the town and space port while Robo-Theists had surrounded the Rangers’ base of operations.

Dirty Dungeon was a great success.  I never used a single complication chip.  Never needed to.  The threat of them motivated the players, more I think than had I actually used them.

Feedback from the players has been extremely positive for the Dirty Dungeon technique.  I’m certainly sold.

We are on deck to wrap our first season at our August session.

Can’t wait to see how the guys handle this one.  Perhaps something like…