I recently ran the 1980s Judge Dredd scenario Slaughter Margin as part of a (very) long weekend of gaming. It ran over three sessions and this is a writeup as the play was experienced by the players. It contains plenty of spoilers but also has elements which were heavily changed. We used the Godlike superhero rpg mechanics, with one psi judge and one muscle judge – Judge Dregg and Judge Keg. There was a duel theme of 80s music and nuclear war, with the two linked together in ways which was intended to tip off the players to what was going on.
Prog one: It’s Cruftz for you, disgraced judges
The two PCs have just returned from a six month suspension for leniency, having unwisely chosen not to arrest super-surfer Chopper whilst he was engaged in dangerous sporting activity. By way of punishment their first patrol is guarding a robodog show being held in the Vox Museum of the 1980s (on the 124-127th floor of Andy Macluskey Block). They are greeted by the animatronic curator: “Hi, I’m Craig the Bassist from Dros, an early innovator in the leading art movement of the late 20th Century, Boy Bands.” Playlist: Sigue Sigue Sputnik ‘Love Missile F1-11
The judges start checking permits, starting with minor celebrity Otto Sump who is hoping to win ugliest dog category. As the competition begins, a overwhelming sonic attack screams through the judges’ earpieces, deafening Keg before he can pull off his helmet. Two of the smaller dogs start to go crazy and one rips out the throat of his owner. The two judges take them down with well-aimed shots before one of the megahounds joins the fray. The crowd scatters before Dregg disables it with a shot to the right front leg and back left leg – its a megahound roundandround!
Prog two: One last job for an aging mobster
Chaos is still generally ensuing when an explosion from the floor below rocks them. Hold on, the sonic attack seems to have knocked out all alarms in the vicinity and what’s under the museum – a bank you say! Keg uses his Reckless power to leap to the pedway below, followed by the more sedate Dregg.
The bank below has a smoking hole where its vault used to be and a getaway vehicle outside. What’s this on the floor – a banana skin. That can only mean the earlier mention of Joe Bananas planning a heist has come to pass (playlist “The Banana Splits theme’ by punk band The Dickies). As Keg takes up a position, an ape in a baggy Italian suit carrying two tommyguns emerges – it’s Mikey ‘Bubbles’ Jackson, Joe’s idiot nephew. He sprays the immediate area with bullets with no discernible effect before Kegg drops a stumgas grenade on him and Dregg roars in on his Lawmaster. Uncle Joe stumbles out: “I’m too old for this kinda swing – take me to the isocubes, judges!”
All a little easy – and they are are made suspicious by Joe’s explanation that he was turned on to the heist by an anonymous tipoff (“dey said there was enough credits here to keep a monkey in bananas for life…”) who told him that if he hit the bank at exactly the given time, there would be no alarm. Suspecting that the real heist is upstairs, Dregg roars back up to the Vox Museum and is warned by Craig the Bassist that there are intruders on the top floor (the one dedicated to the Cold War – playlist: The Scorpions’ “Winds of Change”).
Prog three: ‘They’ve killed Ronnie!”
Creeping up the stairs, Dregg peeks round the corner and sees that half a dozen men in elaborate samurai costumes and Kabuki masks are in the process of exiting through a hole cut in the glass dome of the roof – sky sleds hover outside. (playlist: “Battle without Honor or Humanity” by Hotei from Kill Bill soundtrack). An animatronic Margaret Thatcher is wandering the floor aimlessly, shouting: “They’ve killed Ronnie. They’ve killed Ronnie.” An animatronic Ronald Reagan lies headless against a replica of the Berlin Wall, tendered to by a concerned Gorbachev.
Amongst the samurai is a man in a business suit carrying a case – whatever has been stolen is clearly in it and he becomes the focus of the judges’ fire as Keg joins Dregg. at the top of the stairs. Rounds are exchanged and a couple more hidden assailants attempts to engage in hand to hand combat with light-katanas. The guy with the case is mortally wounded but the case is taken by one of the robbers and although the judges manage to damage their skysleds, most of the robbers escape. The wounded man crawls to the edge of the hole cut in the glass dome, shouts “Fat Man is coming and we will all become death!” and jumps.
Prog four: A judge death
The two judges work up the crime scene until the resyk squad turn up. Both of the dead robbers are of Japanese heritage and have Black Dragon tattoos. The man who jumped is scraped off a pedway 60 floors below and taken to Forensics at the Hall of Justice. Some top notch ‘object memory’ from Psi Judge Dregg reveals that one of the Bannerman missiles hanging from the ceiling has been tampered with – subsequent forensics (which as it happens the judges forget to pick up so they never know this) show that the electronic circuitry from the missile has been expertly removed (useless of course unless you have a very old nuclear missile…).
Answering a call, they are sent to Debbie Harry Block where an agent from New Tokyo City, Hina Takaro, has been found murdered. Despite his strength (he is the equivalent of a Judge) his neck has been broken during a struggle – his body found by a downstairs neighbour who heard a commotion and kicked down the door. A sweep of his habicube turns up a ticket to a Zuumo bout at the Jockey Wilson Arena in Sector 451 – Zuumo is a form of Sumo, bastardised for the Mega City mob, with fatties in antigrav suits fighting each other inside a flexible bubble of Boing. Cultural appropriation protests and because it is really purile mean it is often picketted by Japanese nationalists, and also attended by MC1 residents of Japanese heritage. They also find a business card for a martial arts club called Black Dragon.
The fatman reference and Japanese motif is enough to tip off our historically educated players to the nuclear war theme and Barney the Justice Computer confirms both that Fat Man was the bomb dropped on Nagasaki and Black Dragon was an ultranationalist secret society in Japan that failed in a coup attempt in the 1970s.
They get a call from Barney – the jumper is Yoshi Nyudo, the head of research at Sunny Electronics – a New Tokyo corporate with a major base in Mega City One. He also tests for low levels of radiation suggesting he has been out in the Cursed Earth at some point.
Hold on, the neighbour…kicking down a door is a private property violation – six months in the isocubes citizen.
Prog five: Life Can be Cruel, Life in Tokyo
Our heroes visit Mick Kahn Block where the corporate headquarters of Sunny Electronics is housed (playlist Japan’s ‘Life in Tokyo’) and request an interview with CEO Chimatsu Kawasi. She is accompanied by her head of HR Kristi Watano. Knowing that “all HR are snakes” Dregg uses his psi abilities to confirm that she is untrustworthy in some unspecified way. Kawasi calls in Asahi Chuhoi who runs the lab and confirms that there was suspicion about
Kawasi explains that Nyudo has been under suspicion for a number of weeks for possibly leaking company secrets. This suspicion was raised by his colleague Rohan Sprull (an Anglo employee) who was tipped off by Hyudo’s activities. He seemed to be researching electronic override mechanisms for antiquated security mechanisms. Kawasi explains that the company has a perfectly legit contract from MC1 to set up microwave relay stations [whatever those are …] between Mega City One and Mega City Two. Nyudo was perfectly legitimately involved.
No Sprull has not reported for work today. That is unusual.
And what does Sunny Electronics produce. “Well everything from weapons systems to vacubots. We even have contacts with the Justice Department…”
On their way out to investigate Sprull’s apartment, Chuhoi sneaks a private audience. He says that he believes Chuhoi was working to find a mythical piece of code created in the 1980s by Japanese electronics companies. Who knows who he was working for.
Just tryin’ to help the Judges, you understand…
Prog six: Dye-son, judges! Attack of the Killer Vacubots
The judges get another call from Barney – a couple hand rang in saying their dodgy teenage son is apparently dead on the floor of their habi-apt. Block security have established that he has been both strangled and seemingly disembowelled himself with a Katana. Nikki Djano is a MC1 resident of Japanese descent.
Arriving on the scene they discover the body in the hall in front of the vidiphone, dressed as a Ronin. A Katana protrudes from his stomach and there is heavy bruising round his neck. A large stylised black dragon is spraypainted on one wall. A basic forensics checks suggests that the ritual suicide was only half completed and the strangling killed Djano. A check on the apartment reveals a ticket for the Zuumo arena the following night.
Waaaaaaaait a minute – Sunny Electronics make “everything from weapons systems to…vacubots”. Could an innocent domestic appliance be behind….
Suddenly a vacubot quietly lurking in the corner lashes out, its hose looping round Dregg’s neck. A struggle ensues with Kegg (very eventually) managing to get a bullet in the droid and disabling it, saving the life of his relatively grateful colleague. The mystery of the Locked Door Stranger has been solved – it was the reprogrammed Sunny hoover all along.
A return to Sunny Electronics suggests that a number of staff are now AWOL (Chuhoi and HR Snake Woman included) and an excursion to the Black Dragon martial arts club shows it is shut up and shut down but with electronic bits and pieces scattered in a back room. Clearly someone has been building something. They conclude that there is some kind of encounter planned at the Zuumo Arena that the dead New Tokyo Judge is not in a position to fulfill. On the way that they get word that a number of Black Dragon members seem to have booked transit out of MC1 over the past 24 hours.
Japanese ‘make-up’ for Dregg and a fattie-suit for Kegg – what could go wrong?
Prog seven: “Are you ready to Zuumo!”
The judges arrives at the arena (playlist: Turning Japanese, The Vapours) and scope the place out. For obvious and logical reasons, it will help the investigation if Kegg crashes the Zuumo bout as the mysterious ‘Melton Mowbray, the masked fattie” while Dregg scputs the crowd for suspicious suicide bombers.
Each bout takes place inside a huge Boinggg-bubble surrounded by high ranks of seats, the two fatties collides off the inner surfaces and attempting to bounce their opponent into submission. The excited crowd throw balls at the opposing fattie as they collide with the stretchy walls, attempting to put them off. It’s the sport of kings.
As the bout begins (Two Tribes (12 inch remix), Frankie Goes to Hollywood) realises he is up against Arnold Stodgeman, the grand old man, who has come out of retirement to defend his heavyweight belt . He immediately starts getting pummelled from one side of the Boingggdome to the other. The crowd start booing and throwing balls – this is too easy.
Meanwhile Dregg spots HR Snake Woman in the crowd wearing a bulky coat. She spots him back and attempts to evade him, scattering Zuumo fans. Dregg shoots and she shoots back, puncturing the walls of the Boingggdome. With a sickening crunch Stodgeman falls though the deflating walls and squashes half a dozen rows.
Another shot brings HR down, her coat falling open to reveal an explosive device. Laughing she hisses: “Fool judges think you track us down. We tracked you! Fat Man has landed!” Up close it’s obvious the bomb is a fake.
A tremendous explosion lights the sky over MegaCity One and turning the judges can see an entire cityblock (Debbie Harry Block, home to tens of thousands of people) engulfed in a gigantic wall of flame. The geigercounters on their belts immediately start to bleep.
Prog eight: The assassination of Chief Judge Goodman
Realising the ZuumoDome ‘bomb’ was a decoy, the two judges can only watch as Debbie Harry block collapses under the impact of what was some kind of mini-nuke. The crowd panic.
Over their radios, they get a sense of the chaos engulfing the city. Almost immediately rumours of an New Tokyo attack start to spread and anti-Japanese riots break out. The Justice Department is starting to be overwhelmed – the two judges are ordered to the closest spaceports to provide security and stop suspects escaping.
As they roar up on their Lawmasters towards the fence that surrounds the spaceport, two vehicles sweep down an airway and shoot their way through and onto the runway, heading for two stratbats which look readied for take-off. The judges pursue, with a shoot out ensuing. Some good shooting takes down several perps (all Japanese males), before one detonates a beltbomb, blowing Kegg off his feet. As they subdue the perps, one of the stratbats start to take off and despite some lawgiver explosive round action, makes it into the air.
The two judges comandeer the other stratbat and take off in pursuit. As they rise above MC1, already tracking their quarry heading off into Cursed Earth, their radios crackle and the voice of Judge Goodman booms in their ears: “Judges – I hope you can hear me. Judge Cal has betrayed us and used the bombing and riots as a cover to take control. I am being besieged by his henchman and the honest judges are all pinned down with the riots. I don’t know if I can fight them off much longer. But the city is under threat from outside as well – the group behind the dirty bomb have discovered an old nuclear missile silo out in Cursed Earth – surely they plan to bring down even more fire on our citizens. I have succeeded in recalibrating the anti-nuke defences and we will have bunker busting missiles in the air in about an hour but I fear it will be too late – if Toshi gets his birds in the air before we hit him, the city is defenceless. If you can stop Toshi, broadcast back to the city before launch, and pray that it’s not too late. Otherwise, I have no choice, thank you for your”—-[laser shots]
The judges are now against the clock – either they can stop Toshi’s missile launch and signal back before the city fires its missiles – or they better find themselves some cover….
Prog nine: Into the Cursed Earth: 90 minutes to launch!
The stratbat soars above the poisoned skies of the Cursed Earth in pursuit of Toshi. Thirty minutes later, they detect the target ship as dropped back through the dustcloud and landed. Descending themselves, they can see the stratbat crashlanded and smoking on a hilltop with a collection of 21st century homes on the top. Landing and investigating their realize the buildings are the kind of fake settlement used to disguise nuclear missile silos in the old world before the world war in 2070.