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Old 09-21-2014, 12:08 AM   #51
Icelander
 
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Default First session recap: Ms. Weiss' story and the Men of Misfortune

Col. Irmintraut is occupied with sharing his incisive religio-political analysis of the Middle East with Jon Maxwell and the rest of the table, in a loud and assertive voice. Mostly it seems to involve 'these people' shaping up, buying American and voting Republican. Nouri al-Maliki might be tough on some things, the Colonel acknowledges, but George Washington had to do some tough things too, for example in the Whiskey Rebellion. The United States may have occasion for frank discussions with allies in private, but the American media should not give aid and comfort to enemies of freedom by exaggerating divisions between those who oppose terrorism.

Irmintraut does mention how much he admires Iraqi patriots like the interpreters, who bravely take a stand against the forces of Ba'athist reaction and sectarian medievalism. Naji and Yusuf appear uncomfortable with so much praise. Notably, however, it no one seems too eager to contradict Irmintraut on any of his opinions, perhaps because 250 lbs. of bald, bearded glowering tends to discourage opposition.

Or maybe Ms. Weiss just doesn't hear a word that Irmintraut is bellowing, absorbed as she is in the sweet nothings that Akeem is mumbling at her in charmingly accented English. He thinks Philadelphia sounds marvellous, agrees with her that ex-husband was an immature jerk who couldn't handle an independent and intelligent woman and makes her laugh with stories of his superstitious grandmother's flatulent dog.

They start sharing stories about scary situations and narrow escapes. Finally, the conversation moves again to the dangers Akeem Nassir can expect to face as he goes with these State Department contractors to the Dhi Qar province. Evelyn tells Akeem that a local photographer who used to work with her, Abdul al-Yuni, lives down in al-Muthanna, around an hour's drive north of Nasiriyah. She gives him Abdul's number, in case he wants to hit him up and hear recent news or meet up with him.

After a few drinks, she also relaxes enough to share with Akeem a story that she'll never submit to any newspaper. Apparently, she has an Iraqi journalist friend, Lutfi al-Jaleela, who has been down to the provinces along the middle Euphrates and he has been shopping a conspiracy theory. Apparently, he thinks that the order of magnitude increase in crime rates in Dhi Qar and almost the same in Muthanna province are underselling the true situation. He thinks that a lot of disappearances in the area are going unreported, with people just disappearing and no police reports being filed, no one complaining to any authorities.

Evelyn explains that even though no evidence has turned up of any new militia or insurgent group working in the area, the locals are pretty consistently afraid of someone. Not that anyone will admit to it, but the speculation is that someone is extorting protection money from shops, demanding a share of any illegal profits and even forcing government employees to kick back a share of their wages in exchange for not being harassed. Those few people who have said anything, which they absolutely won't be quoted on, call them alerjal men sew' hez (الرجال من سوء حظ)) or 'Men of Misfortune'.

Apparently, her friend, Lutfi al-Jaleela, believes that a lot of the Internally Displaced Person (IDP) in Dhi Qar and Muthanna are disappearing. He cites abseenism rates for police and army units in the provinces and says that they have been steadily going up. He also points out that no matter what sector of the economy you check, you find out that a lot of absenteeism is going on. Yeah, sure, a lot of the IDPs are going to be leaving there because there is no work, but a significant part of them are leaving paying jobs and not even bothering to quit.

In most cases, no one knows anything about the IDP who isn't showing up any more, but Lutfi has personally talked to several people who admit that they either heard noises from the place where the person was living or they flat out saw masked men abduct them. He thinks that the very absence of evidene, the very lack of any official response, is pointing at a massive conspiracy where the security forces are complicit in thousands of disappearances. He admits, however, that all he has is interprentation of demographic figures and a few shaky eyewitnesses, none of whom is prepared to be quoted.

Evelyn can't provide any more detail, because she's repeating third-hand rumours that she might not have credited herself, but Jerome Book, who has been listening while quietly sipping a beer thinks that her description sounds more like that of an ethnic group terrified of a group of traditional criminals than anything associated with political terrorism or religious militancy. Allowing for linguistic and cultural differences, it sounds like those 'Men of Misfortune' would fit quite well in in Highland Park, Detroit.

As the party breaks up, Book keeps thinking about these 'Men of Misfortune' and if maybe the oddities in Dhi Qar can all be traced to a single powerful criminal organisation that has infiltrated the government and police. Sure, maybe they have Iranian-backing and maybe they recruit from the Wild Sunni West of Iraq, but Book would place money on the fact that Ms. Weiss third-hand rumours of Dhi Qar are not describing religio-political terrorism, they are describing a traditional criminal organisation.

Our heroes consider taking a post-bar meeting and writing down the relevant information (well, actually, Col. Irmintraut suggests it), but most of them are too tired and drunk for it. Taz Walker goes home to call his wife on Skype, now that its morning in Queensland, and falls asleep mumbling drunkenly affectionate terms.

Jerome Book does stay up to write down notes from the trip to the Al-Rashid and he gets more and more convinced that Ms. Weiss story could be important. He goes and wakes up SSG Akeem Nassir and asks for Ms. Weiss' phone number. "Now?" inquires Nassir, already asleep, and is informed that now is indeed the time for it, as they'll be out of Baghdad tomorrow. Reluctantly, Akeem gives Book Ms. Weiss' phone number and goes back to sleep.

Book wakes up Ms. Weiss without a scruple and asks her how one would reach Lutfi al-Jaleela. She's obviously confused at waking up and just as obviously disappointed it wasn't someone else calling, but she does give Book Lutfi's number when Book expresses interest in buying the article she was talking about from him.

Next, Book calls Lutfi. He negotiates with him about buying the article, reaching an agreement at $100, which is low for something that took several weeks to research, but high for something that everyone has already passed on. Lutfi wonders if Book can pay him with a bottle of Johnny Walker Black Label, but Book explain that he'll be leaving Baghdad at dawn, so they need to finish this now. Lutfi, however, does not live within the Green Zone and so cannot see Book before the morning anyway. At this, Book asks if he has the article on electronic form, if he can get him the money tonight. Lutfi says sure.

Book calls Ms. Weiss again and arranges for her to give Lutfi either a bottle of Johnny Walker Black Label or $100 at her convenience and transfers the appropriate funds to her account in the US. Then Weiss calls Lutfi and he agrees to send Book his article and all his notes, as long as Ms. Weiss guarantees that he'll receive a bottle of scotch the next day.

Satisfied with his work, Book receives plenty of Arabic text that he has no way of reading. He goes to sleep, planning to get young Nassir to translate it once they get to Nasiriyah. Darkness gathers and the PCs are all asleep in preparation for an 0600 departure date for their Dhi Qar assignment.
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Old 09-21-2014, 06:04 AM   #52
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Default Re: First session recap: Ms. Weiss' story and the Men of Misfortune

Quote:
Originally Posted by Icelander View Post
Col. Irmintraut ... "... Practice mimicking their accent and mannerisms, it will help put them at ease."
Quote:
Originally Posted by Icelander View Post
Col. Irmintraut is occupied with sharing his incisive religio-political analysis of the Middle East with Jon Maxwell and the rest of the table, in a loud and assertive voice. Mostly it seems to involve 'these people' shaping up, buying American and voting Republican.
I can't tell if this guy is operating a cover personality above and beyond the call of duty, or if he really is this na´ve and foolish.
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Old 09-21-2014, 11:56 AM   #53
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Default Re: First session recap: Ms. Weiss' story and the Men of Misfortune

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Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
I can't tell if this guy is operating a cover personality above and beyond the call of duty, or if he really is this na´ve and foolish.
Ah, but then no one else can either!

Col. Irmintraut is actually very intelligent and has amassed a wealth of information on the Middle East and Iraq in particular. He is a very effective interrogator and speaks fluent Arabic.

He is, however, not a natural diplomat. And he tends to assume that deviations from American constitutional democracy and even from American cultural values are social illnesses, not legitimate differences.

This doesn't stop him from analysing such cultural memeplexes and even being able to fake them to the extent that he can pretent convincingly to be a big Kurd from up north, but since he's supposed to be a State Department contractor being sent to show Iraqi police how to police, he allows his natural views to shine through in order to show the journalists exactly what they probably expect to see.
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Old 09-21-2014, 01:21 PM   #54
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Default Re: First session recap: Ms. Weiss' story and the Men of Misfortune

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Originally Posted by Icelander View Post
He is, however, not a natural diplomat. And he tends to assume that deviations from American constitutional democracy and even from American cultural values are social illnesses, not legitimate differences.
I can see why Archie doesn't feel like going out with him for the evening.
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Old 09-21-2014, 02:15 PM   #55
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Default Re: First session recap: Ms. Weiss' story and the Men of Misfortune

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I can see why Archie doesn't feel like going out with him for the evening.
Sir Archibald is not alone in his view there, but Col. Irmintraut could not care less. He never experiences the slightest desire to attend social functions for fun, anyway. He will only take time out from his work schedule to socialise if the function has a clear purpose that relates to his current mission, somehow.

In the case of going out to a bar with his new team, he was able to observe their behaviour in a non-work environment, which allows him to more efficiently command, coordinate and motivate them. He can also estimate their familiarity with the local culture, ability to converse with strangers of various ethnicities and screen them for any signs of adverse political views.

So far, oddly, he has taken a liking to the outspoken Australian. Yes, his political views are a muddled mess and he wears his bleeding heart on his sleeve, but Irmintraut immediately sensed that Mr. Walker had a gift for 'people stuff'. In fact, he seems to positively revel in the company of others, quickly ingratiating himself into their confidence until they almost believe he's an old friend.

As Col. Irmintraut is aware of his own lack of innate ability in this area, for all that he has mastered the academic side of what makes people tick, he is pleased to discover that one of his team can handle all that messy stuff, leaving him free to concentrate on the important business of the mission. Granted, Mr. Walker will need careful managing, but he is just an enlisted man, surely he can't give a full-bird Colonel of the United States Army too much trouble.

SSG Nassir appears to be a clear example of what these people can achieve, given proper motivation and an American upbringing. A solid, salt-of-the-earth enlisted man, patriotic, simple and willing. Good bearing, clean-cut, no apparent vices, always quick to jump to obey an order. Of course, with his clearence, the Colonel knows that he's Delta, and he's checked his service files, which back up his view entirely. Not a flaw anywhere; SSG Nassir is a credit to his race and worthy of his adopted country. Almost enough to bring a tear to Col. Irmintraut's eye, it is. Gunga Din and all that.

Sameer Gupta Singh, despite the name, is not a better man. He appears to lack all the simple boyish virtues that a proper native* enlisted** man ought to have. Of course, his college education is to be commended and it is wonderful to see how good he is at intricate technical tasks like setting up team communications, but he'll need a firm hand if he's to grow into any sort of soldier. He's already getting chubby from his indifferent diet, which is a sure sign of lack of self-displine, and he's worryingly diffident and shy.

Lieutenant Book of the Detroit Police Service is an enigma to the Colonel so far, however. Irmintraut gets the impression that he is intelligent, and his resume and list of publications certainly back that up, but whether he is a reliable subordinate is not clear. Colonel Irmintraut has a firm view of the qualities necessary in a subordinate and one of the most important ones is the absolute conviction that whatever the Colonel says, goes. He fears that Lt. Book might not be the right sort of subordinate.

Sir Archibald Forsyth-Sykes seems to be a typically effete time-serving British Civil Servant. At least he's good at his job, it appears, and it is to his credit that he evidently does not approve of strong drink and going to bars during deployment. Of course, the use of aristocratic titles is the worst sort of barbarity and his strange insistence on being addressed as Sir Archibald is hideously vain, but these Brits cannot help themselves, they didn't have the wit to chuck their King back in the day.

*Sammy, of course, would be fairly mystified as to what that meant, as he was born in LA.
**Sammy is about as likely to consider a career in the armed forces as he is to become a Catholic nun. And he's an atheist who is really attached to those body parts which he'd have to shed for such a career change.
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Old 12-14-2014, 09:55 PM   #56
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Default Interlude

The first session did not actually end there, our heroes got to Nasiryah and had a range of adventures there. I will endeavour to finish writing up the recap over the holiday season.

The second session is now coming up and the PCs have already stirred up potential trouble by placing a bug in the Governor's office* and then following some IP officers who appeared, in turn, to be following the PCs, to the headquarters of the local ISCI faction, a Shi'a political party with strong ties to Iran.

Now I just need to nail down all the widely diverging plot ideas and conflicting schemes I have come up with for various nefarious foes and turn them into something gamable.

An important part of that will be coming up with some 40-50 NPCs that are prepared to use armed force on the behalf of a secular-if-mystical organisation that promises them wealth and power; not to mention statting and arming these people.

Does anyone have ideas for Iraqi NPCs who have been pulled into the orbit of a sorcerous secret society and are prepared to shoot it out with police and commandos in the service of a nefarious agenda?

How does someone go from belonging, perhaps, to an ostensibly religiously-motivated militia to becoming a recruit to a group which violates pretty much every major tenet of every major religion?

*And it is very much beginning to look as if the Governor is aware that they have done so.
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Old 12-16-2014, 09:25 PM   #57
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Default Interlude the Second

Ok, so before the first session ended, the PCs had managed to install an illegal bug in the offices of the Governor of Dhi Qar and have a car chase through the streets of Nasiriyah*.

The second session needed to have something special to top that. So we had a PC manhandle and punch a US Army Private First Class, before forcing him to dive into a latrine tank to recover a lost object. While they were on a US base and nothing except the Intimidation skill of the PC** kept the US soldier from calling for help.

Not to be outdone, one PC kidnapped an Iraqi Police cop at gunpoint inside a police station. And ordered his fellow PC, who was clueless about the reason for this, to kidnap another cop and bring him to their car in the police parking lot.

Also featuring: An Ugandan ex-child-soldier-cum-warlord working as a security contractor***; Allāhu Akbar! B-ismi-llāhi r-raḥmāni r-raḥīmi; a sandstorm of the century; Nazir amulets and rumours of the evil eye, a shot to the leg which only escaped tearing open the femoral artery because of Luck; the worst liar in the Middle East; approximately six hundred recitations of the Shahada; total blackout of all communications and navigation gear; a use for nearly a third of the massive range of just-in-case equipment brought by Col. Irmintraut; a suicide bombing within 10 meters of a PC; a rescue column of Ugandans and Nepalis in SUVs; a Mad Minute**** firefight which saw two cars burst into flame and 8-9 people dead; tales of witches and bad spirits; and a perfect lights-out punch to the jaw.

*Involving two PCs pitted against each other, one on a scooter and the other in a car, because they got competative as they were trying to reach home base before curfew and finally went full-on Hollywood; taking turns on smoking tires and jumping obstacles in a construction area because it was a shortcut.
**And his social engineering in getting fellow soldiers who understood the situation to assist and cover for him, not to mention causing the US soldier to seriously doubt that his fellow soldiers would be on his side if the matter came to light.
***Naturally, he's an ally, not a foe.
****Actually, more like ten seconds or thirty if you include the tense moments of scanning for more threats while reloading and moving from cover to the vehicle in order to extract.
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Last edited by Icelander; 12-16-2014 at 10:02 PM.
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