GURPS After The End #13: “Breakdown in the Diplomatic Process”

by mshrm

We got dogs in the alleys and dogs in the streets

Dogs that can walk with only two feet

– K-9 Corps, “Dog Talk”

The final showdown with Big Rex, the leader of the arks, in the Mangled Puppy bar.

Who’s Who

  • Doc Rizzo Von Frankenstein Van Helsing, Hardy Doc.
    • “Roachy”, “Ricky the Roach”, etc, half-tamed bombardier bug
    • Timmy, juvenile goat-person (“kid-kid”)
  • Francisco, Fast Nomad.
    • Nabisco, his horse.
  • James Robert “Jimbob” Eternity, Blessed Trader.
    • Spud, feral kid.
  • Liberty Vargas, Pure Strain Human Tech.
    • The van, refurbished ground vehicle of the Ancients
    • “Buddy”, a mysterious voice in her head
  • Rufus the Dog, Mutated Dog Hulk.
    • Buck and Otto, big dogs.
  • Vine, Sentient Plant Scavenger.
    • Vacu-bot 1000, a Roomba of the Ancients

What Happened

We left our band of protagonists contemplating a siege, outside Mt Hope’s only bar, the Mangled Puppy: “Oh, that place,” Vine commented. “They won’t let me in there.” They refused to elaborate further.

The robots explained to Liberty that they wouldn’t be able to attack the Mangled Puppy. According to ancient regulations laid down by the Hue-Nighted Nations, the building was a civilian shelter, marked off-limits for “nuclear weapons, robotic combat, and extreme sports”. If they wanted the arks’ leadership out of the building, the wastelanders would need to do it themselves.

Our protagonists dithered for a bit; none of them have any particular skill in tactics, so they weren’t really sure how to proceed. As they pondered, they could hear sporadic gunfire in the distance, and at one point, a loud explosion to the northwest. Francisco rode around the building, finding that there were two entrances: a pair of large double doors in the front, and a smaller back door, presumably leading to the bar’s kitchen area. All the windows had long since been boarded up.

An ark showed itself on the bar’s roof, peeking out from behind the bar’s sign. “Ark, ark!” it cried defiantly. “We have your mayor. Come and take her, if you’ve got the guts!” Shaking a fist, it retreated out of sight.

From this, our protagonists deduced that there must be at least one other entrance, on the roof. They resolved to split into three groups: Vine would climb up and look for the roof access, Rufus and the dogs would circle around to the back door, and the remainder of the group would approach the front door. The front door group would attempt to find a diplomatic solution. If that fell through, they would be position for a three-way pincer maneuver. They shared out grenades to everyone who wanted them (as one does before a diplomatic missions), wished each other luck, and split up.

Vine made their way to the side of the building, shimmied up a drain pipe, and discovered a caved-in hole in the roof that had been converted into an egress by the addition of a knotted rope, firmly tied and hanging down to the interior floor. Silently sliding down the rope, they found an empty, largely-abandoned floor with no interior walls to speak off, but a stairway leading down. Taking those stairs, they found themselves standing behind the ark who had taunted everyone earlier. Vine was struck by comedic inspiration. They lit the fuze of a black powder grenade and silently lobbed it into the ark’s dangling hood, unobserved, then fell back to the top of the stairs to watch the fun unfold.

Meanwhile, seeing everyone was in position, Doc walked up and knocked on the front door, claiming to be a doctor on a mission of mercy, come to provide medical care to those within. One of the arks – one of the more dim-witted ones – opened the door, and found himself looking down the barrels of everyone’s guns. It went for its club, and they sent it off to glory. Diplomacy, wastelander style.

Inside, they found arks scattered all around the large front room. Some lower-ranking ones were clustered around the front door. A group of sergeants, with a rhino-dog, were on the left, while another group, with no rhino-dog, lurked on the right side of the room. A human waitress, much the worse for wear, was just bringing a tray of drinks to the right-hand group. Another human sat at an upright piano. Finally, behind the bar, they could see the Mayor, standing with her hands held up to shoulder height, with a particularly robust chihuahua-headed ark behind her. Clearly, Big Rex.

Hearing the commotion, Rufus identified the familiar sound of a breakdown in the diplomatic process. He charged the door, hitting it full force and breaking the latch so that the door swung freely open. Inside, he found an ark on guard with its pet rhino-dog. The rhino-dog lunged at Rufus’ throat. For the next several seconds, the two disputed over ownership of the door. Rufus made it several yards inside the room when he burst in, but was forced to retreat to avoid the rhino-dog’s jaws and to get room to use his katana. The rhino-dog was nimble enough to avoid the worst of Rufus’ attacks, especially with the ark evaluating and darting in occasionally to strike at Rufus.

One would think that Buck and Otto would have been some help, but it was not to be. They weren’t receptive to commands, didn’t provide much backup, and in the end, wandered off to chase a squirrel.

Vine’s grenade exploded in the ark’s clothes, blowing it down the stairs, unconscious. Just as amusing as they had hoped! Meanwhile, Vine lowered themself over the railing to the ground floor below, behind the bar, around the corner from the Mayor and Big Rex.

The low-ranking arks were no match for the wastelanders’ firepower. Francisco and Nabisco forced their way through, into the room, where they got bogged down handling a couple of ark sergeants. One shouted a battle cry and started glowing with a sickly purple aura. Francisco and Nabisco could feel the life energy being drained from them.

The sergeants’ rhino-dog charged the front door, snapping at Jimbob before moving on to chasing Liberty around outside. Like Rufus and his rhino-dog foe, Liberty and her opponent also ended up deadlocked in a series of retreating dodges.

Doc entered the bar shouting and waving his black doctor’s bag, trying to maintain the charade of being on a mission of healing, but then dropped the act once he got close enough. He pulled out a rag soaked in his homebrew chloroform and, taking a whiff himself, offered it to one of the ark soldiers, claiming it was for recreational purposes. The ark hesitated just long enough to get a good breath of the fumes and reeled back, starting to feel the effects of the drug. Doc advanced and forced the rag to the ark’s face until it passed out and slid down the wall, snoring.

Jimbob advanced into the room, aiming at Big Rex and shouting instructions. He methodically aimed and fired at Big Rex, but wasn’t able to hit the ark.

Spud followed, but when they spotted the Mayor, they gasped “Old Boss!” and took off sprinting towards the bar, waving around a sharpened screwdriver. They climbed up on a table to evade two arks, but were blocked. In the end, tired of this, Spud turned and lept, screaming, into the face of one of the arks. It was so surprised by the ferocity of Spud’s attack that it fell back, unable to mount an effective defense. Shortly, it went down with a punctured lung, and Spud howled a victory cry to the sky.

As for Big Rex, he had a real streak of bad luck. He threatened the Mayor’s life, but of course, this didn’t dissuade any of our protagonists. He went to shoot the Mayor in the back of the head with a derringer, but it misfired. With a curse, he dropped it, drew his rifle, and went to spray the room with lead… only to have a second misfire. His rifle jammed.

Vine walked around behind the bar and advanced towards Big Rex and the Mayor. At Jimbob’s shouted urging, the Mayor slid across the bar and began running across the room towards the melee at the front door. Vine pelted Big Rex with explosive berries, doing no damage with the first, but badly jostling him with the second. He took this personally, and approached Vine, raising his jammed rifle with the clear intent of finishing the sentient plant with a series of blows from the rifle butt.

Seeing Big Rex approaching Vine from the nearby kitchen, the ark that had been guarding the back door turned to help him, trusting to the rhino-dog to hold the line while he assisted the boss. Simultaneously, from the other direction, one of the ark sergeants had spotted Vine and gone towards him, jumping up on the bar to get the height advantage. It looked like Vine was going to be attacked from three directions.

Francisco and Nabisco had been somewhat bogged down in the middle of the barroom floor. Aside from the life being leeched from them, one of the arks got in a lucky shot and cracked a couple of Francisco’s ribs with a blow from his club. Francisco shot down several of the arks and was finally able to break free. As soon as he had line of sight on Rex, he brought his Liberty-enhanced rifle to his shoulder and fired a single bullet…

… directly into the back of Big Rex’s skull.

Vine and the two arks were showered with Rex’s blood as the big ark’s head was blown completely off. Being fanatics in a cult of personality that was now literally headless, the fight went out of the surviving arks in a hurry. Vine took a moment to lick their eyeballs clean like a lizard.

Liberty and Rufus were able to wind up their respective dog-fights. Liberty eventually shot hers, while Rufus’ foe remained untouched and eventually ran off, possibly to return for a revenge-fueled rematch someday.

Jimbob milked the opportunity for all it was worth with the Mayor, who was quite receptive. Our protagonists were declared heroes and invited to stay with the Mayor until they got on their feet. (She started by offering them rooms at her house, but Purvis the sheriff eventually showed up reporting that the house would need some work after the long ark occupation.) For tonight, drinks were on the house!

Shortly, the piano player slipped up to Vine and reminded them that they were banned from the bar. Vine went outside and rooted themself next to the door, blending in with the local foliage and hoping nobody tried to chase them away with a broom.

As they night went on, reports from around the valley came in. The robots had gone in to Newtown looking for “dog-based humanoids that walk on two legs”, and had made some unfortunate mistakes. Their last mistake had been deciding Cordozar, Joan the Fox’s bodyguard and right-hand man, was an ark. They had attacked him, leading to escalating violence that had culminated in the explosion they had heard earlier. The robot army was now a couple of robots smaller.

To be continued…

GM Notes

It’s a good thing Herbert Walker stayed back at Mindkeep. Our protagonists kinda did a war crime, there, using the story of being medical personnel to cover up an ambush. Good thing nobody’s keeping track of things like that, in the wasteland.

Big Rex’s first misfire was a “wouldn’t it be lucky if” use of Serendipity by Jimbob. The second was a natural-rolled 18. Not Big Rex’s day at all.


The end of the first arc, so standard award was 7 points, including a bonus point for keeping the Mayor alive against all dss. MVP Cool Point went to Jimbob for that first serendipitous misfire that kept the Mayor alive!