SHC GM-free session 11: The new best friends

Summary so far

This is a game of urban fantasy/arcana based on d20 Modern, but using a number of Emulator tools to replace the lost GM.

The season began as a fifth season to cap off the four previous GM-moderated seasons, and with the hope of getting our Level 15 characters to Level 20.

After a short trial season where our group took the characters through to L16, I’ve moved to solo play. There’s no shortage of GMs for other games at present and so long as there is a GM the feeling is, a GM-free game does not rate.

The characters (all just hit L17):

  • Paul Birkby, technomage and Archmage;

  • Cliff, tough Daredevil and bodyguard;

  • Dan Hewstone, Witch-hunter and dedicated acolyte of the faith;

  • Joe Hitchcock, charismatic Arch-mage; and

  • Sandi Maclaine, infiltrating Gun Goddess.

These five, collectively known as the Chicago Peers in reference to their status in the Academy, have survived a lair raid into a key stronghold, bringing down a dangerous summoner; rescuing a mage that until then they had presumed their enemy; and capturing an enchantress or witch who may know a lot about what’s going on behind the scenes. The raid ended in a techno-magical laboratory where Ralph Hagen was being held in a strange device. The battle that brought down Liam Heaney shattered almost everything breakable.

But they have yet to escape!

Scene: the same Science Lab inner sanctum

PCs: the five characters

NPCs: Maria (if alive) and Ralph Hagen

Chaos check 4, Interrupt.

Focus 28, NPC action. Since Ralph Hagen is the only conscious NPC present, it involves him.

Meaning: 85/52, Negligence [of] dispute.

Ralph decides to set aside any dispute he may or may not have with the PCs.

It may be time to turn this over to party diplomacy. Dan is the key diplomat, but where the enemy have transgressed, he can be unforgiving. Furthermore, his attention is taken trying to find his comrades and locate the ‘other’ hostile mage.

Before going further it is time to discover a little more about the Remote Event that come up last scene. It was ‘bestow spiritual’.

Further detail? 64/58 Spy Stalemate. OK, that will relate to Homeland Security and the Rev Brown, so we can leave it at this stage.

So over to the recovery phase after the battle, then I can better judge how occupied everyone is. In brief so far:

  • Sandi is least hurt, mainly because Heaney’s Meteor Swarm didn’t target where she was. She has no special skills in getting along with people.
  • Cliff recovers fast and is at around half health. Given a couple of hours rest, he’ll be well on his way to full health. He’s an ex-bouncer, so like Sandi, not suited.
  • Birkby got hit hard but thanks partly to his layers of protection is at better than half health. He has a cold, self-involved charisma.
  • Dan also got hit hard but has healed himself at least part-way.
  • Hitch was dying but has stabilised, and is lying under some rubble (and probably invisible).
  • Maria was dying, and I have not made a stabilisation check for her.

Dan, assisted by Sandi and Cliff, makes a fine Search check for both Hitch and Maria. Having located their near-dead bodies under various debris, he pumps some minimal hp into them.

That leaves Birkby to be the diplomat. I’m going to say that because Birkby and Dan get on like water and Holy Oil, or Holy Water and lube oil (take your pick) Dan can’t help.

Birkby rolls a 16, and with his own inimitable ‘charm’ makes a reasonable foray into conversation with Ralph.

It’s a given that they set aside hostilities supposed or otherwise. What the Peers want is some more concrete assistance. Here’s what they have so far:

  • The Deep Ones will cooperate once things are lined up
  • Unit 14 will assist with the authorities
  • The Great Spirits clued them in to this location, so can be presumed to have wanted Ralph rescued, maybe.

Q: Does Ralph have concrete assistance to offer? (50-50 based on Birkby’s check) 05 Exceptional yes!

Further detail? 35/81 Fiercely remarkable. So a near-unique item, probably an attacking talisman. I can get more detail when needed later, in the same way Maxwell’s Silver Hammer was brought in last level.

Our heroes will not particularly want to climb stairs, what with mortally wounded people and a colossal toxyderm somewhere in the underground, but nor would they want to take an elevator considering Gremlins were encountered earlier (and Paul egged them on to do lots of damage)!

Teleportation is an option, if normal magical protections have been disrupted.

Q: Has the gremlin interference allowed outside teleportation? (Unlikely) 17 Yes.

Our heroes will, with Ralph’s help, bail out along with Maria.

Scene ends.

L17 Character progression

Birkby – Archmage L4. This level takes Paul to double the normal spell allocation. One more level left. What happens if the game goes on for 2 more levels, I don’t know.

Cliff – Daredevil L2. Cliff is the hardest because he is not well geared to prestige classes. Because the later levels of Bodyguard are not great, I have switched Cliff over to Daredevil, and now he’s L2 . (Another option is Street Warrior but like Dan’s Cleric option (below) that would need time in one place and Allegiance to an organization within the area.)

Hitch – Charismatic L1. To be frank this is partly to go over ground that Dan really ought to have covered, but Hitch can now be the ‘face’ character he always wants to be, using the fast-talk talent.

Dan – Witchhunter L3. This is a bonus feat level, and Cleric is tempting (it opens to an awesome feat tree) but requires more time in one place than Dan has available. So he takes Burning Belief.

Sandi – Gun Goddess L2. This is a bonus feat level, she takes Quick Reload.

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SHC GM-free session 10: What’s on the slab in the lab?

A preamble

“May as well try to record the progress of a ball…”

This scene, the big showdown, was extremely difficult to ‘run’ because it is impossible to fairly play multiple bad guys and good guys, the majority spell-casters, without resorting to some type of automation.

As a result I leaned heavily on my Mage Five Card Stud system. In future sessions I may alter the fourth card’s meaning, but this time around, the fourth card denotes number of combat rounds until next spell, with a face card meaning immediate. The exception is where the mage is under personal (one on one) attack where obviously they are free to throw counters or defenses or escapes.

It was also challenging and time-consuming to record. Where you do not see a character mentioned, assume they are quietly (and probably invisibly) working their way from cover around the room, trying to get a good line of sight and spell-combo against one or other of the major adversaries. The mages (sensibly I think) leave most of the aggro to Cliff and most of the actual damage-dealing to Sandi. At least, that’s how the cards deal.

Recap

Our heroes, the Level 16 Academy Peers Paul Birkby, Cliff, Dan Hewstone, Joe Hitchcock and Sandi Maclaine have penetrated the Olympians’ secret underground lair somewhere deep under the Sears Tower.

Initially their target was Ralph Hagen, renegade Olympian, but as their mission has progressed it has become reasonably clear that Ralph is being used by some other, possibly more dangerous, mage. He may even be a prisoner! In that case their mission may include saving him.

By one means or another our heroes have circumvented the inner cordon and have arrived at:

Scene: Science Lab

PCs: just the five characters.

NPCs: Ralph, who is bound in a techno-magical machine; Maria a disaffected crone, who (rightly) suspects that her master will sacrifice her; and her master, Liam Heaney, power behind much of the Bad Woogie and instigator behind Ralph Hagen’s treachery.

Chaos still stands at 7, since this relates directly to the previous session.

Mechanics – The inner sanctum

Interior of lab: ‘expected’ is benches with various items, many breakable to become hazards. There would not ordinarily be another exit, so only a Special should produce one.

Location crafter for interior description: 1/10 Abnormally Clean

More description: 38/13 Frantically Creepy

Action of those present: 30/51 Break jealousy

Using NPC emulator to find out about NPCs other than Hagen:

NPC description: 14/73 unsupportive crone

Power, bearing and focus of NPC: 34 comparable, 97/17 destruction of retainers.

Q: are the retainers present? (very likely) 20 yes.

Getting some stats on retainers with a card draw: Joker, yes this is a boss.

So I read this the other way round from what it seems initially – the boss is present, and the unsupportive crone is there at (his) bidding and worrying about being sacrificed.

Over the course of the entire current mission, it has emerged, and become evident, that Ralph Hagen is actually a victim. He may well be plugged into some kind of major techno-magical apparatus, that has a lot to do with either (a) the major summonings going on or (b) the arcane and electronic shield around Chicago.

The boss is therefore Liam Heaney, the other Olympian. I have a stat block ready for him.

Heaney’s Buffs: He can be presumed to have mage armor and shield at the ready, for AC25 total. He has 150 hp and Stoneskin which grants 10DR per round until its max of 150 is ablated. He will also have access to greater invisibility and possibly fly or levitate.

Maria’s Buffs: Not as certain, but Stoneskin and Invisibility for sure.

 

PC Buffs: PCs can be presumed to have already buffed with ‘normal’ buffs such as Stoneskin for Birkby, instant-invisibility ready for both Hitch and Birkby, protection from bullets for the same, and a Bless from Dan. Cliff and Sandi will have equipped the magical bullets they looted recently, but until they start throwing lead we won’t know how potent they are. Neither Birkby nor Hitch have had a chance to refresh spells so there are no repeats of things like Phantom Projectiles, nor any extra buffs such as Haste. Birkby has not needed to blast through his spells as much as Hitch so will have more ready to hand.

Initiatives

  • Maria
  • Heaney
  • Sandi (later resets to top)
  • Dan (later resets to top)
  • Cliff
  • Hitch
  • Birkby

Round 0:

Q: Can Maria be detected? (50-50) 24 yes. Can Heaney be detected? (50-50) 73 yes.

Sandi is not surprised and the team as a whole cannot be ambushed. Both teams detect one another with adequate rolls. But remember, most or all mages will be invisible immediately.

 

Round 1:

Maria hits everyone with Mass Hold. Since Hitch has been hit with this at Troll Bridge, I ask: Q: Does Hitch have Contingency? (Somewhat likely) 94 no. So on to the SV on Will:

Birkby OK, Cliff OK, Dan OK, Hitch OK, Sandi no. She is held.

Heaney summons at max, the creature summoned is a Colossal Advanced Garbage Toxyderm. It appears and immediately breathes its Hanta-virus breath attack over the entire team. Fort SV:

Everyone fails, their Strength decreases by 1-2. The virus will incubate for a day before fully manifesting.

Dan casts Prayer, surges and Enhances his Wisdom. He moves out of direct line of envelopment of the Toxyderm.

Cliff charges in Maria’s direction, since she was attacking at near range. He risks the Toxyderm’s AoO and closes, but rolls a 1 for attack so a Surge option is cancelled for now.

Hitch drops a Wall of Fire in circular form around the Toxyderm, drops into invisibility and departs the immediate area.

Birkby: I also check Contingency on Birkby, the answer is also no. Birkby throws twin powerful illusions of the party running around the science lab laying down convincing, noise-included attacks. He also moves away.

 

Round 2:

Maria backs off and drops Cliff into a Stone to Mud. Cliff makes a difficult (DC15) Reflex SV to allow him to use balance, and makes it. He spread-eagles himself and will be able to ease out of the mud.

The Toxyderm fails its SV against the illusions and turns on those more aggressive figures. Sandi is safe – for now!

Birkby has another attack ready, a lower-level illusion this time, designed to fool Hagen though in this case it may distract Heaney. He throws up Old Man Hagen rolling in through the doorway in his wheelchair. He himself keeps drifting around the lab trying to sort out who and where the mastermind is.

 

Round 3:

Maria attempts a Hold Person in order to properly smother Cliff, but it fails as he makes DC21, and she continues moving back to gain space.

Cliff kips up (natural 20), gun at the ready, and throws a burst of bullets into the Toxyderm. It’s time to check how potent they were, and the result is maximum, +5. Cliff moves to cover to avoid being further killed by either Maria or the Colossal monster.

Sandi makes her DC20 Will SV to shake off the Hold.

 

Round 4:

Q: Can Sandi see anything other that the Toxyderm? (50-50) 70 yes. Sandi scans for danger and key points in the vicinity, getting DC41.

Toxyderm: is still affected by the illusory attackers but I can presume its Engulf attack will leave it free from next round.

Sandi moves to free Ralph Hagen. Move in cover DC28. The task is DC25, since the machine he is in is already affected by Gremlin mischief, leaving an average security device.

Dan is now ready to act and casts Greater Command, maximized and powered by higher Wis, at the Toxyderm: ‘Flee!’. It makes DC 26, not enough! It will flee out of the scene next round.

Cliff charges to close on Maria’s distance and successfully hits but misses the surge-and-grapple (he is pretty sure even with Str-1d2 he is stronger).

 

Round 5:

Sandi finishes freeing Hagen with a DC30 check. They reset init.

Dan brings up Remove Disease but otherwise merely moves.

Cliff continues trying to bring the Hammer down onto Maria, but still only manages one attack.

 

Round 6:

Hagen and Sandi are now top of round. She assists Hagen to Hide with a natural 20. Q: Is Heaney able to notice Hagen’s escape? (50-50) 66 yes. He rolls a 4, and fails the check.

The double-number causes a Chaos Event since the 6 (of 66) is below the Chaos level. The Event Focus is 01, Remote Event. Looking for meaning I get 39/17, bestow spiritual. It could be Dan is about to get his Turning mojo on, but I leave it aside for now.

Heaney makes a devastating attack using maximised Meteor Swarm, aiming to cover all of the area of the Lab save for Ralph’s machine. (Remember, he is not aware Hagen has escaped!) Maria was right thinking she was disposable!

Reflex SV for half: Everyone misses. Moreover, anything vaguely destructible, except perhaps in the corners and the center of the lab, is now rubble.

Fort Mas SV: Birkby OK, Cliff OK, Dan OK (thanks to the Prayer!) Hitch no and Maria no. The latter two drop to -1 and need to make DC20 Fort checks each round to stabilize.

Cliff spots where the Meteor Swarm came from and runs that way, screaming an insight on defense, giving those conscious a +1 defense for 3 rounds.

Dan co-ordinates the party (another bonus) as he heals himself. He attempts to locate Hitch but cannot. Hitch cannot be seen.

 

Round 7:

Hagen uses his top-of-init position to summon a swarm of Jynx. They will swarm around Heaney, messing up his spell-casting chances even though none are likely to get past his DR10. They are naturally invisible so neither Sandi nor Cliff will be able to figure them into combat calculations.

Sandi easily (DC40+) spots Heany and Cliff’s respective positions and moves to intercept Heaney. She has her guns ready to counter Heaney’s next spell. Trouble is, she can’t see him directly.

Cliff attempts to close on Heaney and makes good ground charging round corners but misses the attack against the invisible mage. He has no more surges.

Dan fails to spot Heaney, having been occupied healing himself, but gains a rough idea from Cliff’s attack.

 

Round 8:

Jynx reduce Heaney’s Stoneskin to 130.

Q: Can Sandi spot Heaney? (50-50) 10 exceptional yes! She uses a flash-bang to try to stun him, and makes a great throw. But Heaney makes Fort DC15 so is OK. Sandi does get to point-blank range though.

Cliff has lost track of Heaney in ducking from the flash, [Q: can he spot Heaney: yes, rolls a 1 Spot] and lays area fire down, which Heaney avoids. Cliff is within point-blank range as well.

But Dan has now deduced Heaney’s position and lays down a maximized Flaming Wrath! Heaney Reflex SV is only 19, not enough! He takes a big 28, and his Stoneskin ablates by 10 to 120.

[As a general rule, bosses don’t need to make Mas SV – otherwise why call them bosses? We presume Heaney has some type of damage-overclock device which burns out progressively.]

 

Round 9:

Jynx ablate the Stoneskin to 110.

Hagen buffs himself with a low-level spell and does nothing further.

Heaney makes a successful Concentration against the Jynx, and drops an enhanced Confusion over Cliff and Sandi. Cliff fails and Sandi makes the SV. Cliff gets a ‘do nothing’ this round. Sandi has no target.

Birkby rejoins the fray, dropping Glitterdust over Heaney’s area. Heaney easily resists the major blinding effect but is clearly outlined for all to see! The Jynx are all more or less out, having been blinded. They will fly clear and shelter as best they can.

 

Round 10:

Sandi has ‘the plan’ as co-ordinated by Dan and now she has a target, delays until Heaney begins casting. As he does so, she blasts him! He takes 47 damage, the Stoneskin ablates to 70.

Heaney’s attack was to be a maximized Cloudkill, but the damage causes him to fail his Concentration check.

Cliff continues doing nothing.

 

Round 11:

Heaney attempts to get distance, but Sandi is still advancing 5′ and continues shooting, taking another 47 damage off him and ablating the Stoneskin to 30. She has 9 rounds of bullets in each of her Glocks, and Heaney will be outside Point Blank next round.

Cliff continues doing nothing.

Hitch stabilizes! [He has endured a terrible run of SV but finally hits 20.]

 

Round 12:

Heaney attempts a much lower-level summoning, trying to avoid the high DC Concentration check: but Sandi counters, now outside point blank, removing the remaining 30 from Heaney’s Stoneskin and dealing 8 more damage, while advancing 5′. Her Glocks are now very near empty.

Heaney’s own L6 cast fails, a poor roll given his +20 concentration.

Cliff gets an ‘attack caster’ which pretty much snaps him out of the Confusion. He can’t get line of sight but re-sets initiative.

 

Round 13:

Heaney is now well clear of Sandi. She has only 3 rounds per gun. Time to decide! She reloads and takes a double-tap shot with one Glock. It is a good hit! 17 damage is not quite enough to kill him, and he gets a 39 on Concentration, summoning the Ash Wraith he has trying for.

The Ash Wraith misses Sandi.

Cliff’s Confusion result is same as last; he advances and throws a burst with his M3 but misses; but he is in charge range now.

 

Round 14:

Cliff gets a ‘do nothing’ result!

Sandi turns the near-full Glock on the Ash Wraith, dealing an enormous amount of damage and obliterating it. But not before it crits her with 16 burning damage! She makes her Mas SV OK.

She turns the near-empty Glock on Heaney and as he attempts to ‘bug out’ kills him with another good couple of shots. (He has 3hp left before being hit.)

 

The Scene ends as we switch to recovery mode.

Chaos is back up to 8.

Thread closed: Deal with the Summoning Mage.

All characters advance to L17.

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SH2.11 Hoist! Surplus heroes return to Lewis! (Death-trap phase)

Welcome back! The Surplus Heroes have just completed a successful charter with Stoll, the Fociline-born Junidi official. He has extended the charter to bring him to Lewis and fattened the offer with the prospect of getting back onto the lucrative Aramis-Lewis run. They have left Zykoca having lost no equipment worth mentioning and with a 1k bonus each.

It’s one hop to Arramanx and a double-hop to Lewis. Stoll has promised to smooth things over with the Junidi hierarchy. He is well pleased with his time on Zykoca though Widow wonders why he doesn’t need to head back to JTD central to file reports. Instead the Bad’n’Ruin is headed the other way. She assumes he files on the Arramanx station, since that’s run, in effect, by Junidi forces. By that stop, Stoll’s robo-secretary has become more of a robo-butler, bringing Stoll the various fine meals our steward Iceman prepares.

BJ is well through his work on the new drone, which he’s assembled out of the scrap two salvaged on Carsten.

[BJ aces his tech roll and it drops to an impressive 9, making him competent at any general tech task.]

The others continue training but in Pip’s case at least Bex is at the end of her tether. “Some people were never meant to handle admin tasks Pip!” she is heard to exclaim as she finds Pip needs everything explained for the umpteenth time.

[Pip is working on admin but has now failed four times.]

Widow is working on sculpting her already-strong body into even more output. Iceman, who is even stronger, feels left out so joins her in the makeshift gym.

[Athletics is very hard to move, being a prime attribute, and both miss the roll.]

 

Welcome back!

We drop out over Lewis and I pick up a mighty fine signal. They ain’t giving me no friendly hail but I hand comms over to Stoll and as the Fociline charm fair oozes over, they hand us good directions. Pip slams us down on a new hot pad they built a short ways out from the main compound. Fine new air rafts with the Jundy U logo zip out to meet Stoll as he walks off with his coat-holders Walker and Faber and his robo-butler.

 

Memory lane

You might recollect as how Jundy U fronted the expedition to set up on Lewis, notionally to study the local Klackons or Krabbies as we call them. In company with an old-timer Scout that’s now old bones* we four – myself, Pip, Iceman and BJ – and a doggie name of Ralph found an old ruin and a downed scout ship that pointed to some real potent alien tech in the Krabbies’ hands, or pincers.

More than that, I left with a log that didn’t match any official record. Checking it out took us all over the sector but we finally got the inside dirt from Sid the forger, who rewrote everything to cover up an even bigger pile of evidence about alien tech.

I just shrug at that point, since I don’t fancy myself up against a whole bunch of Krabbies with melta-beams. But I told off Pip to release the truth through her Rogers family contacts, on the black net. Only trouble is, we banged into about zero Rogers since that time so Pip ain’t got any traction on the task.

*Tone Wik – Widow doesn’t use his name directly. Not sure if it’s superstition or memory lapse. She also doesn’t recall the other dead man, Andy the researcher.

themeofdeathtrap

A familiar snout

We’re all standing on the apron, breathing in the great Lewis air. I’m picking out some familiar bird-calls – still a-plenty of them. I can see Pip’s eye caught by a fast, big-drive ex-Scout service ship nearby the Bad’n’Ruin. Yeah, gata’s getting wet thinking about that drive. Then she’s hailed by a cousin of hers, name of Phillie, pretty nigh same age as her. Phillie seems to work in Control. They allow to catch up later.

pipwetdream

And about that time an air raft with more ks on the clock shoves up. Ralph, the doggie as survived the last Lewis scrape with us, is there driving. I’m glad to see him but kinda spooked, seeing’s how he was in at least as much trouble as us.

Pip drives (a kindness Ralph regrets right away) and he catches me up. Seems as how Jonny Hook pleaded his case and got him a job back here. Ralph’s being building creds on outside-the-wire guard shifts. What they call, field guard.

By this time Pip’s whipped us over the main gate in the compound and set us down, more or less. She heads over to a media board and starts scanning for this and that.

[Pip is actually looking for short training courses to give her a chance to get that Admin proficiency, but she notices there has been an incident on a beach recently where a couple of researchers were killed by Klackons. An investigation seems to be going on.]

 

The bar

One way or another we most all end up in the main mess, a kind of bar and lounge-bar combined. Choi ain’t with us at this time though they ain’t no need to stay by the ship. Iceman and BJ they look scrubbed up a mite, though not so much as they got on Heguz. Bex, who wears nice clothes most days, is looking her usual self. I brung my ‘war bag’ – my spare clothes wig makeup and perfume – but Pip already changed for the evening. I suspicion she got her armor under her shirt.

[This came up later on. Is it fair to allow one character to be the ‘babe’ and get some leeway on Interaction rolls, if she’s always wearing a concealable vest? On the one hand, an FBI concealable is definitely not showing cleavage. On the other hand, Black Canary.

I wrote concealable vest on my character sheet, so it counts!

I wrote concealable vest on my character sheet, so it counts!

I enounced both these arguments, and said I thought Pip is trading more on the Black Canary look than Clarice Starling’s, though physically she’s not even as fit as Agent Starling.]

The bar’s filling with the same post-grad types we shipped over. There ain’t much for entertainment, only a game of throwing little metal darts at a board, and a pool table standing unused. I’m with Ralph at first as he stands a couple rounds, then I drift over to where Phillie is playing host to her cousins Bex and Pip. I lay out my needs and we take a trip to powder our noses and get my war kit on. As they chat and laugh about my prospects I gather as how Pip has primed Phillie about the secret log. They talking about this or that cousin. Seems as how that cousin Scopie over to Phelan is busier, the port expanded some.

[Pip does successfully prime Phillie with a good Interaction check but that is not to say the plan is in motion. She gets some specifics on where other family members are: Aramis Prime, Psyadi, Fociline, and even Corfu.]

Then we head out, me looking over the beef on show. BJ has started playing with those dart things, Iceman is hanging around the pool table looking at his drink. Well that ain’t getting no-one play, says I.

 

Cards, luck and love

Ralph been talking up a card game, so me and Pip and Bex allow to join. He introduces us to Pico, ex-Navy, and Dorsey, same tech as I shut in the icebox for a time on the leg in. She seems to have a chip on her shoulder about it but I don’t pay no never mind to that.

About here I should say as how I was wrong, BJ does get play. He picks up a drunk chick and heads off to her dorm.

BJ_leaveanote

Iceman though, gets to lose some money over pool.

Me, I get lucky twice. First I ain’t lost anything on cards, which same will tell you Bex has a bad night, and as the evening gets late some workers come in and I strike up with a well set-up gato and head off.

I hear about the game later. Dorsey cleans up good, and Pip persuades Bex she had enough schooling.

[Card games are geared to open rolls using Gambling proficiency as bonuses. Growing pots don’t force poorer players to fold. One round of chance rolls marks an hour’s play.]

Hour 1: Bex does best, then Dorsey. Widow gains. Pip loses her initial stake, Pico and Ralph lose a little.

Hour 2: Bex loses ground, Dorsey holds ground, Pip regains some money, Widow loses her initial gain, cashes out (and heads over to the construction crew that just arrived), Pico and Ralph lose a little more.

Hours 3-4: Pico gets cleaned out, Ralph folds having lost heavily.

Hour 5: Pip is up substantially, Bex is down but not out, Dorsey is up very substantially.

Hour 6: Pip loses almost all her gains, Bex is up again mainly at Pip’s expense, Dorsey has at least held ground. Pip convinces (+5 on Persuade-Interaction) Bex to fold and leave.

Iceman’s money has also come to an end, he is back at the Bad’n’Ruin about the time Bex and Pip get back.

 

Amidst the orange blossoms, a covert offer

Jonny Hook never looked better, Sauce, the tech he just got hitched to, looks hot as a sun in a dress mostly sprayed on.

hookmarried

 

While everyone’s drinking their health and what now, we four slide quietly aside and listen to what Mr. Walker got to say.

The way it happens, Ralph clues me in to Jonny getting hitched, so I strike him off my bang-list and ask Ralph to invite me as his plus-one. The others make shift to come along and gets seats in back.

I pick the wedding, seeing as how most all of the base going to be here and Walker wants a quiet talk. Ain’t nothing more private than a few people chatting quietly near a crowd.

Walker allows as how he bringing an offer of an offer. We got to meet up outside the fence over to some outside place, and there’s 2k apiece to go fetch and listen.

Well, by this time we bored and shot our training rounds out. So 2k seems mighty fine and we all glance around kinda skeery and nod OK.

It’s tomorrow at dawn so we don’t linger to dance with the groom or kiss the bride.

 

First light we all fetching heavy loadout, save maybe for Pip who ain’t built for it though she packing the Gauss pistol. Ralph is our pilot it turns out, and again I’m right pleased he’s with us but it’s a mite ghostly. Seems as though I could look back and see a dead man riding with us. Though you’ll be saying that’s hindsight when you hear what come next.

 

The cross-up

We head out at sun-up towards the sea. Birdsong fills the air and bright wings liven up the canopy we crossing. We all know they’s big mother sloths and terror birds such as Ralph bragged up, underneath, but it’s a pretty sight. Flying over that is.

At the beach they’s a strange-looking ruin at one end. We step down out the raft, leaving most canteens and the med kit aboard. Stoll’s secretary drone drops down out the canopy, and beams up Stoll in 3-D.

Stoll points up towards the ruin, then allows as how he crossed us up and means to leave us out here to be chopped up by Krabbies. Seems as how he can’t afford us to be drifting about knowing what we know. Oh, and he aims to take all the Krabby land, as if we care less. But seems as he we handy as scapegoats for the war that’s a-coming.

stoll_reveal

Well, Iceman and Pip both put a Gauss round through the drone, and we shuffling back towards the raft by the time Stoll finished. Only thing, the raft blows up too. Loud enough for Krabbies to note, even if they ain’t been told to expect us.

 

And a bug-out

By the time we done cursing, stripping surplus weight, stripdownmarines and picking up the med kit and enough canteens – by luck they intact – Krabbies are drumming in the tree-line. I set Iceman to point and we other four flank him. We pretty much stripped off by this time, sure as hell ain’t gonna make no run back to base in full armor.

Look, I'll die before I part with my HUD

Look, I’ll die before I part with my HUD

Then we head for the trees!

Round 1: The surplus heroes refuse to react to drumming and head at reasonable pace over soft sand to trees. Iceman and BJ are detailed to scan forward, the other three back.

Round 2: A single large Klackon demonstrates from the surf. The three so detailed shoot, ablating the Klackon armor a little and forcing it to scuttle back.

KrabbyArmor

Round 3: The heroes head onward, Ralph detailed for walking backward covering back. Iceman and BJ both catch sight of a reasonably concealed Klackon and let fly! Both target well, and Iceman’s Gauss burst drills through, dropping the Klackon! Behind the group the Klackon charges and Ralph’s burst kills it outright!

I get my bearings, tell the others to take a long drink each, remind them we crew and crew sticks together and we set out at best pace.

runforthetrees

[Widow spent at least two tours on a water world and has +2 proficiency in Aquatic survival. It came in handy on Roysion II and in this setting a fairly good check allows her to set a course and estimate travel time of around 10 hours.]

 

Next week is an off week as our GM has a family commitment so expect the Surplus Heroes season 2 to be either concluded unpleasantly or continued, the week after next. Stay tuned!

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SHC GM-free session 9: An affinity/Perchance to dream

This session was set up before I bailed (see last ep.) at which point the Chaos level stood at 6, and the first Chaos check below reflects that, as do the various Emulator results. All through, I have tried not to ‘re-do’ dice rolls even if they got out of order.

Scene: Computer room

The five Academy Peers steal in to what is clearly a server room. Cold, and full of LED lights and co-ax cabling.

To Sandi and Cliff this is all background distraction, but Paul Birkby has a weird affinity for technology, and to his twisted brain, there are signs of some unusual activity.

“Hold on!” Paul calls: he’s never bothered to learn the quasi-military lingo Cliff and Sandi picked up. The rest of the team wait. Paul fishes around in a server rack, clips something into his PDA, and begins querying something.

Nothing happens for a few seconds, then Sandi springs back as her CS guns begin leaking gas, Cliff’s heavy bag unstraps itself, and Dan’s armored vest unsnaps, setting off his taser, which shoots him in the butt.

“Oh! Now I see! Gremlins!” Paul babbles, rapidly throwing a string sequence in.

“Gremlins?!” Sandi shrieks, fanning her guns in short, panicky arcs. She had a bad experience in one of the team’s earliest missions.

“Don’t shoot anything!!!” Hitch and Paul yell in near-unison.

“I’m just distracting them,” Paul continues in a more reasoned tone. “Cliff, can you do anything about big twitchy there?”

“Uh, not much, I  can try though,” Cliff returns, kicking the taser’s barbs out of Dan’s butt and allowing the man’s outraged nervous system to start calming. Meanwhile Hitch applies his best efforts at calming a skittish girl armed with lethal weapons.

Some minutes later, the Gremlins (according to Paul, anyway) are enjoying a kind of Pac-Man style arcade experience, and Dan attempts to strike some rapport. Paul is tinkering with spare parts and bits of hardware, while a few Gremlins peek shyly out of nooks and crannies.

“They don’t seem hostile,” Dan reports with a note of importance in his voice.

“Yes, and?” Paul rejoins waspishly.

“Well, they’re watching what you’re doing…”

“Tell them they should copy this, lots of times. I name it the Minion. Fun for all.”

Paul has built a vaguely humanoid robot, which seems to be tasked to find cabling and fiddle with it.

The five pack up and leave quietly. Hitch lifts an eyebrow.

“Multiple small robots doing what?”

“I believe that if the Olympians are shall we say, distracted, by something going wrong with their servers, we’ll have a much better chance of getting past security.”

Mechanics

I roll an Interrupt on this scene and it points to an encounter. The encounter is the lowest of the low, a CR 1 mob. I roll Gremlins.

Q: can they be detected? (50-50) 64 yes. But Paul rolls a 4, so does not pick them up. I’m using Paul as the measure, since this computer environment is very much his specialty.

Surprise round: non-magical items are affected, on the ‘murphy’s law’ principle.

Round 1: Paul detects them.

Q: Will he think of a distraction? (Likely) 82 yes. He makes DC14 on machine tech and has technical affinity. The gremlins get a positive reaction to this.

Dan attempts diplomacy at -2 and gets DC25. This moves the gremlins away form hostility to neutrality.

Paul makes a follow-up with Take10 and that is enough to create something simple in the way of tech.

Chaos rises to 7.

Sandi cannot use her CS guns again until repaired and reloaded. Dan’s taser has been used.

Scene: A dormitory

Making their way down and around a landing, the team find they are in a new level. It smells stale and looks less well-maintained. Investigating a well-used door, Sandi finds a dormitory, lined with bunks.

As she progresses, she becomes aware there is an inhabitant. A youth, dressed in a severe uniform, is seated on one of the bunks. He doesn’t seem particularly surprised or alarmed, more resigned.

As Sandi attempts to speak to him, and Hitch finds a passing resemblance to pictures he’s studied of the Hagen family, the youth faces a blank wall, seeming to look through it, then fades away.

Speculating that it could be a strong psychokinetic projection, Hitch decides that on balance there’s nothing to be gained here, and they try the next door down.

Mechanics

The chaos check throws up an Alteration: move away from a thread. The event meaning comes up 92/84: vengeance [of/regarding] the status quo. I try for more description and get 73/50 mysteriously juvenile. And the thread is number one, the current one. So we are not going to get revenge on Ralph Hagen then? Trying for more description on this line of thought  I get 28/98, separate fame. What we believe Ralph to be is not the same as reality.

Chaos rises to 8.

Scene: a Rec room

“This is working out well. Everyone’s out guarding, no-one’s in shooting pool,” Cliff remarks, being down to check the nap on a table.

“Still smells kinda funky,” Sandi grumbles, checking light-footed around the perimeter. “Dan, can you check this area? Looks fake, like, things are arranged to screen it.”

Dan Hewstone, though far from a man of action, is acknowledged as the best searcher. It takes him less than a minute to find a concealed panel.

After a careful check Sandi disables a switch and the panel swings open, revealing steps downward.

“We could be about to steal a march,” Hitch triumphs.

“Or find ourselves sliding into the local version of a bottomless pit – which come to think of it, being Olympian, could literally be a bottomless pit,” Paul warns.

“Well, I’m gonna keep checking then, and Dan maybe give me a hand?” Sandi assures them cheerfully.

“I can do better than that,” Dan replies, “for a time, you will be smarter!”

After due diligence, some more items along the wall prove to be switches and a quick foray down, attached to Cliff’s rappelling rope, assures the girl the steps are safe.

Later, in the security of the steps, Dan also restores Hitch’s intelligence, though not Cliff’s. There’s no noticeable difference.

Mechanics

I’ve rolled two scenes into one. The rec room is absent of events and Chaos drops to 7. But the secret tunnel comes next, so it made sense, narratively, to embed it into the rec room. The secret steps are also drawn for the physical traps, and Sandi covers this aspect along with Dan’s excellent search skill. Dan enhances Sandi’s Int allowing her to Take10 to speed up a Disable Device check. Chaos rises back to 8.

Scene: a fabulous Workshop

“This is like, historic!” Sandi gasps, opening yet another ammo chest.

“I do not think that word means what you think it means,” Hitch jests. He’s feeling a little side-lined, since he doesn’t need large amounts of ammunition. Apparently he’s now the ‘yes it’s magic’ guy. But he’s tucked away a few interesting items for later use or research.

“Time to drift on…” he coaxes.

“Epic!” Sandi tries, nods as though satisfied, casts a look back at various unexplored cases, and takes the lead again.

Mechanics

Chaos check is Alteration, Event focus is 43 Move towards a thread. Meaning 72/7 arrive/allies. I get quite excited wondering if the Gremlins have decided to fight side by side with the team, but an exceptional no on this question quashes that thought. Needing more description is get 39/5 bestow inside. Q: is this gear? (50-50) 27 yes. Q: is this magical? (somewhat likely) 70 yes.

Basically, fresh equipment. The team can ‘tag’ equipment they would have picked up, in future scenes.

Chaos drops to 7.

Scene: a Storage Room

Each of the team feel that it’s quite natural that some daylight is showing under the door opposite. The room they are in started out looking like a store room or stock room of a  more mundane type, but now reminds them all of a large pantry. They can even smell stored food and herbs.

Mechanics

Alteration is rolled, focus 48, Move away from a thread. The meaning rolled is 8/2 oppose dreams. Conscious that the magical traps may still be active, I check my spell descriptions around dreams, and find that Dreamscape is CR29, the correct level for magical traps.

Into the land of dreams!

Chaos rises to 8.

Scene: Lil’ Raphie’s dining room

“My decision is final Ralph. It’s for your own good. These are top people in our field, you need the discipline and structure they will provide,” a younger-looking Old Man Hagen is telling an immature Raphie.

Raphie sadly collects his bag and heads off to the Olympian equivalent of military academy.

Mechanics

I get a 4: Interrupt. The focus is 39, move towards a thread. Meaning 53/82 adversity dispute.

Based on the previous ‘lingering image’ I make the call that in dreamscape the team are seeing Ralph Hagen’s sorrow. Looking for more description I get 14/53 abandon home.

Lil’ Raphie is leaving, the bitterness against Old Man Hagen is building.

Chaos rises to 9.

Scene: Lil’ Raphie’s dorm room

They feel like they are seeing the earlier scene again, slightly differently. The bunks are now quite clearly institutional bunks and the scene out the window is New England or Near West. Raphie, dressed in severe academic uniform, rises to look out the window.

“You can get out,” Hitch suggests.

Mechanics

I roll a 10, no change. But the team are still in dreamscape, so the ‘normal’ scene progresses inside a bedroom as drawn. Seeking more description I get 18/25 combatively dull, which confirms it is the military academy-style institution suggested earlier.

Chaos drops to 8.

Scene: Computer Room

Arcs of electrical current flash from server to server and the room is noticeably hotter. ‘Minion’ bots arrange various wires, to the accompaniment of Gremlin cheering and on-the-fly engineering.

Meanwhile, somewhere further in, Ralph Hagen begins to stir. He feels as though he has slept for a long time…

Mechanics

It’s a 4: Interrupt. Focus is NPC positive. Q: Is Ralph unlocked? (50-50) 67 yes.

The best way to interpret this is that the Dreamscape is over, because the tech binding Ralph has been messed up by the Gremlins.

The PCs could be anywhere but the next card along is the big scene: the Science Lab. It’s where the objective lies!

Chaos drops to 7.

 

Note: although the next scene begins at a new post, it is part of the same arc and chaos will not be re-set for it.

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SHC GM-free session 8: Deeper… or is it?

Scene: Access to underground levels

The five Academy Peers progress smoothly into the Olympians’ underground. Hitch suspects they are somewhere below the Sears Tower. He, Birkby and Dan are all on the alert for strange magical effects or defenses. But undetected by any of them, Dan’s power to drive off unnatural forces has been neutralized!

Mechanics

This is a Special, and the roll is 54, exit here.

Chaos check is 5, alteration. Event focus 61 PC negative. Meaning 88/9, Control evil. D5 for which PC gets #3, Dan. Dan+ control evil certainly pushes us into the realm of Turn [type] which is his high-level Acolyte power. Tentatively I’m going to read this is something that strips Dan’s ‘command’ power away, and possibly all rebuke power.

Q: is this a magic defence? (50-50) 17 yes.

Turning to the magic defense rating, I note it would take a DC46 check to detect. Dan’s own spellcraft is a humble 10 and Paul and Hitch are not vastly greater. They combine checks (two helping) and get to 38. Not good enough!

The power of the trap was CR29 so easily high enough to alter any of Dan’s powers. Let’s just note that Dan will not be able to rebuke any summoned monster.

Chaos rises to 6.

Scene: A Basement

It’s a few turns and stages later. The five pause: this seems a reasonably private basement, where voices won’t reverberate. They crouch together, check strategies and ammo, and a few spells are rolled out as general protections and enhancements. Dan says a short prayer for the peace of the city to be restored. Then with renewed purpose they take their accustomed places in the order and head out!

Mechanics

Two ‘expected’ cards have intervened and now the team has entered a basement.

Chaos check 3, alteration. Event focus 42, move towards a thread. That’s pretty easy, more or less “look – the lair is through here!” or “I feel a draft this way” so the party need not spend much time here. Checking I get 87/96, work hard [for] the public.

Mid-term buffs (10 mins/level, say) are put up here. Silencer patches are slapped on guns.

Chaos drops to 5 since this alteration was favorable.

Scene: Main Hall

“This is really like, huge,” Sandi mutters, wary of her voice carrying too far. This huge hall looks like all the Olympians in the world could assemble for a conference with room to spare.

“Too big, don’t you think?” Birkby mutters in turn, glancing uneasily at Hitch.

“If it’s an illusion it’s too strong for me. So far so good, but keep a weather eye open,” Hitch replies.

“It does feel a bit… ‘off’ though,” Dan agrees. He stretches out a hand into seemingly open air and strikes a wall.

“It is an illusion! Pull back, let’s take this a step at a time!” Hitch snaps. Sandi and Cliff do so, guns ready.

But nothing jumps them, and the richly appointed illusory furniture does not try to eat them, so they push on, finding an exit and pushing deeper.

Mechanics

Chaos check 2, Interrupt. Event focus 82, ambiguous event. Meaning 76/9, mistrust evil. Something feels a bit ‘off’ to our heroes. The location is ‘great hall.’

Q: Is this an illusion? (50-50) 48 yes. Once again the inability to detect the powerful magic at work is the weakness. But there is no encounter drawn so on they go.

Chaos rises to 6.

Scene: Plant room

Generators, cabling and such like apparatus crowd the room and make detecting danger tricky. Sandi leads off as usual, poised for anything. But it’s clear, and she signals the others on.

Mechanics

Chaos check 6, Interrupt. Event focus 05, remote event. Meaning 09/41, malice advice. Not something that will have immediate impact but it does signal that this could be the time to roll for enemy deployment.

1st d6: 6. This signals ‘home’ which means enemy have chosen to condense defenses around the ultimate goal.

2nd d6: 4. This signals neutrality for encounter draws, neither up nor down.

Chaos rises to 7 as this is negative for PCs, on the whole.

Scene: Dormitory

The team progress through the deserted room, checking bunks and trying not to cough at the rank unwashed-sock-and-jock smell. Perhaps the party upstairs has every hand busy, or perhaps they are guarding Ralph below. Either way, they see no evidence of occupation.

Mechanics

Even evil minions need their bunk time, there is nothing exceptional about this room.

Chaos check 10, no problem. It does not count as closer to the base, so encounter checks are neutral. No encounter.

Chaos drops to 6.

Scene: the great stair

Fire safety requires stair access as well as elevators, and stairs are much harder to jack than an elevator. So our heroes are cautiously exploring down, bearing in mind they have once been swoggled by a stair-loop (Season 4, below Laredo).

Sandi swings round, and calls a warning: only just in time!

Then flickers of movement are caught by the eyes of the other four, and small, near-translucent creatures, part birdlike, part catlike, are all over them! Each time the small things make contact, the victim feels their brainpower being dimmed! Hitch screams with horror as his mighty brain reverts to merely normal. Whenever a return blow is struck, the things blink into an incorporeal state!

It would go ill with them indeed, but for the phantom bullets Sandi and Cliff have in reserve. These cut into the ethereal realm and deal damage. Sandi’s blazing silenced weapons drop the things  like flies, and before too long the stairs are clear.

“When I have time, I can call on God’s power to restore you,” Dan assures Hitch. “But for now, have faith!”

“Oh fine then,” Hitch mutters.

Mechanics

Chaos check 6: interrupt. Event focus 13, NPC action. Time for an encounter!

Thought Eater: A thought eater is a 3-foot-long creature with flesh of wispy protomatter, through which its skeleton is visible. It has the body shape of a predatory feline and the skull and claws of a cruel bird of prey. It attacks out of incorporeal form and swiftly retreats into the same. Touch attacks drain an Intelligence point!

The key question is whether the thought eater’s attack is blocked or partially blocked by Dan’s bitter little pills. This is not a Dominate style attack.

Q: do the pills completely block the attack? (no way!) 43 no.

The thought eaters certainly can’t affect PCs with powers of daze or psionic attack. So the key is alertness, init and melee attack.

Q: can Sandi spot them? (50-50) exceptional yes!

Combat begins

Sandi’s sweep includes them in her line of sight, she easily spots them, so no surprise attack.

Inits: Thought eaters 19 Birkby 5 Cliff 8 Dan 14 Hitch 10 Sandi 15.

Round 1: There are 17 thought eaters and they all swarm to attack. Luckily their attacks, even against flat-footed opponents, are not great! Cliff and Hitch each lose 1 IQ.

Sandi activates her phantom bullets and brings down four. Dan throws up a Prayer and acts defensively. Hitch hastes Sandi (giving her another pair of shots) and acts defensively. Cliff also activates phantom bullets and brings down a fifth. Birkby throws an old fave, glitterdust, but the target has to be corporeal – the thought eaters will simply phase out of it.

Round 2: Of the 12 left only two take effect, both on Hitch unfortunately! Sandi kills five more, Cliff another.

Round 3: All remaining thought eaters make poor attacks, and all six are dispatched.

Sandi is out of her phantom clips.

Chaos rises to 7.

Scene: Garage

“A garage? This far underground? Is this another illusion?”

A fair question, but seemingly not, as the bulletproof limos and accompanying maintenance gear are reassuringly solid.

Then from over behind the limos, at least ten or twelve weird manlike creatures with enormous cricket-like legs bound over around and among the Peers and gout flame from their grinning mouths!

Mechanics

Here, the more unique of the Olympian vehicles are hidden and maintained. Description: 10/32, bravely fat. Probably a zeppelin then.

Q: is this a zeppelin? (50-50) 94 no. Leave it at garage with brave (i.e. capable of withstanding attack) fat (perhaps streeetch Humvee!) vehicles.

Chaos check 10, no problem. However an early blind draw for monsters has this for the next encounter. We are going deeper now, so 36 says yes, this is an encounter.

Blood fiend:
Once every 1d4 rounds, the jumping jack or bloodfiend can breathe a 15-foot cone of fire. A jumping jack also ignores the first 10 points of damage dealt by any unsilvered weapon and is immune to fire and poison. It can leap 20 feet from a standing start and at least twice that if running.

Q: can they be detected? (50-50) 96 no.

Combat begins

Surprise round: all 15 bloodfiends leap over the intervening vehicles and flame the area!

DC12 Reflex SV to avoid being flamed: Birkby Dan and Hitch take half damage, Sandi takes none and Cliff wears everything. 14d6 for him (it is impossible for all 15 cones to overlap over all five characters), and half that for the others. Cliff takes 40 after DR and the others take 21 though in Birkby’s case part comes off Stoneskin). Mas SV OK for all!

Inits: Bloodfiends 13, Birkby 7, Cliff 9, Dan 3, Hitch 14, Sandi 6.

Round 1: Hitch can’t do anything fancy with Wall spells since the bloodfiends are right among his comrades, but he distributes his maximized Magic Missile and drops four. He also warns the others that these things can only be harmed by silver or magic.

The remaining 11 leap away. [4 rounds to their next breath]

Cliff draws Maxwell’s Silver Hammer (acquired from Old Man Hagen) and charges around corners at the nearest pair, killing one. Birkby throws the same type of MM but has worse luck, only downing two. Sandi’s got nothing to help – though she does have a silver knife for those up-close-and-personal encounters with weres – and sticks by Dan, drawing her CS guns. Dan delays, waiting for them to jump in again. Eight bloodfiends remain.

Round 2: Hitch moves to where he can cover Cliff and delivers another round of MM, dropping two.

The six remaining boodfiends leap away again, concealing themselves amongst the vehicles. [3 rounds to next breath]

Dan heals himself, and invites Cliff and Hitch to fall back for healing. Sandi scans for an exit. But these critters would raise the alarm so they can’t just bug out.

Round 5: As the six bloodfiends leap in, the now-healed mages open up, slaying five. Dan completely misses with Searing Light. Birkby makes his SV away from flame and his stoneskin easily soaks the flame damage. Cliff thumps the lone bloodfiend with the Hammer, and the fight is over.

Combat ends

Chaos rises to 8

Scene: the same

Dan proposes that they rest two hours. He’s been studying under the Judges over the last couple of years, and can renew his energy quickly.

Birkby is agin it but the others agree. And so safe inside a bulletproof limo they rest.

Mechanics

Q: Will this be a safe haven for two hours? (Unlikely) 11 exceptional yes!

Mid-term spells now halt. Long-term spells are reduced two hours.

Chaos drops back to 7.

Scene: Storage room

Sandi signals that the room is occupied, by one man. He seems relatively harmless, just making inventory or some such.

Dan checks around that no-one will stop him, and, adopting a confident bearing, wanders in to engage the man in conversation.

To those waiting outside it seems a long one. But they learn a great revelation: they have been teleported up above the great stair again, to the basement level! And Dan manages to trick the man into revealing the code key to it too – now they can really get somewhere!

Mechanics

Chaos check 7, alteration. Event focus 33, introduce a new NPC. After some NPC rolls I find the area is occupied by an Olympian researcher, who may be under the impression these are just normal passers-by. Dan chats to him, scoring DC26 on diplomacy, and the expert reveals even more of the underground than he intended – including that they have been looped back above the basement, by some mechanism on the great stair. Dan soft-hacks the control mechanism out of him and they bid farewell.

Chaos drops to 6.

We’re about halfway through the long list of location cards drawn, and this took a long time. Let’s leave it there for now, and see how our heroes survive next session!

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SH2.10: V3-i bug hunt! Surplus heroes on Zykoca! (survival phase)

The core surplus heroes – Widow the medic and comms specialist who is generally boss in ground actions, Pip the air raft pilot and backup engineer, Iceman the gunner with his Gauss rifle, and BJ the engineer with his retractable mono-blade – have successfully opened Platform 68 in company with a small squad of local militia commanded by Capitano Zaier. Outside the plant are found the thoroughly-decayed remains of revolutionaries, and inside, four equally decayed corpses found so far. There is no power at all, and at least one airlock-size hole in the platform’s shell.

 

Mission: get the biochem plant known as Platform 68 back on stream

Finishing the sweeps

I allow as how we secured the living and command quarters and el Capitano comes back there with us to see the lay of the land. We ain’t none of us comfy in the dry-suits, drysuit but with the atmo open it’s over to the engineers what’s the next step.

Zaier: So, over to ze brains trust

Iceman: If that’s the brains trust…

Widow: Shoot me now, just shoot me now!

BJ’s starting to note down some need-be’s but Pip allows as how we ain’t finished the sweep outside let alone an inside circuit, so that’s what we do, right after BJ and me switch our loadout out to a lighter one. Seems to me it’s dead here, and I ain’t no kind of hand with a Gauss pistol, so I hide it back away on the raft and strap with my SMG. BJ does likewise.

Once we made an end of the outside circuit – and I got to tell you about these here drones – BJ gives us some engineer jaw about how the pressure valve is bleeding off from the biochem tanks. I see some petrochem residue on the ground is what.

Then we get the corpses bagged – finding the fourth corpse was likely Gordon himself – then we’re good to go for the inside circuit.

Circuit one: living quarters – passage 1 – refinery loop – power plant – life support – power plant – refinery loop – emergency override shed – passage 2 – biochem tanks – check up atop – passage 2 – passage 3 – living quarters again.

On this first sweep we find the life support unit and the power plant are good to go as soon as we can jump the juice. There’s another old corpse in the power plant and another in the emergency shed. Both look as how they might have been cut down by a beam weapon whilst trying to shut things down. Almost all the switching is pushed off in the shed. The wall there been lasered open, about the size of an airlock, as we figured in our ground sweep. It fell in, so I figure the cutter was outside, up in an air raft or some such.

On out to the chem tanks there’s another corpse, Goossen. BJ clambers up through an access hatch and checks the bleed-off valve, and allows it’s OK.

Circuit two: a short one – just along passage 4, around to the original entry point at the transport loader unit, then returning to living quarters. With seven corpses already accounted for and bagged up.

 

We also tally three defense drones all up, though I’m a mite ahead of myself saying that. Two, we find set down on charge hot points, though out of juice now of course. The third we find back when we sweep the outside, lying in the mud under the entry stair. BJ and Pip make sure the two on hot points ain’t left on them – we been burned before. And shot, in my case.

 

Time for me to set back, and let BJ have his head.

 

Getting on line

BJ is told off to inventory; in the emergency shed he assesses the power breakers then begins worrying – nothing is identifiable any longer. He throws any remaining ‘on’ switches off. He and Pip hit the stores (ground level, accessed from outside) pick a spare starter block and holler for some militia to fetch and carry metal plates for the repair work needed in the shed.

With help from Pip and the Zykocans, BJ [Engineering+7] gets the power plant going – at min output since he’s not planning on refining chem yet! Lights are now working on the emergency setting, and hatches are now annoyingly flashing with chem warnings. The coffee machine in the living quarters is on, a small step towards making Widow happy. He calls for another circuit, just to be sure nothing is running that ought not to be, and we do his bidding though Widow [-3] probably wouldn’t notice either way.

Back at the now corpse-free override shed, with emergency lighting working, BJ notices the third drone mentioned above, and hauls that off its hot point. Now to work out what can be risked! [Another +5 on Engineering]

Much time passes.

Eventually BJ works his way through the smaller circuits. Widow is able to boot Comms. The hole in the shed is welded shut, and BJ powers up Life Support.

Later, Pip finds or entry hatch is still open and closes it. Atmo is still thick, and doing some calculations, BJ estimates a full eight hours for Life Support to make it breathable.

 

A good host

I aim to be hospitable to our militia friends, and Capitano Zaier ain’t bad looking. But I ain’t shy of taking measures neither. I invite el Capitano to stand his men down in here two at a time, and he’s glad of my company his ownself.

But whilst out of earshot of Zaier, I detail Iceman off to mount atop using the chem tank hatch, and check LUPs and ZOFs.

IcemanDrySuit

[Iceman’s little mission turns into quite a long spell away, because once he’s up there sighting in on militia he doesn’t want to leave! He makes a couple of good Athletics check, as the top has several different levels and clambering in damp, in an unwieldy dry-suit and with a Gauss rifle, is no easy task.]

 

Password insights

Around about then, with me fretting to peel off the damn suit, BJ works out he can shut pressure doors and get the living quarters and comms bay atmo-fresh in an hour.

I been locked out of comms since I moved off boot to respond, and nothing easy comes to mind for a password.

Widow: Say Jorgé, you any good with computers?

Jorgé 1: Uh… yeah… sure, I can use a computer

Jorgé 2: Yeah, me too

Widow (skeptically): OK… so what would you use for a password?

Jorgé 1: I use ‘boobies’

Jorgé 2: Yeah, boobies

Widow: Hmmm… (types ‘b88bies’) Hey, whaddya know, I guess one of the locals was on comms

 

Mission Creep?

With air pumping and scrubbing I finally get to peel the goggles and face-mask off, and peel right down to the waist as soon as I can. I work through the daily log looking for any record of trouble, but other than the occasional drill and such there ain’t nothing there until day zero, the day we had to flee Zykoca. And that’s blank.

I don’t find no record other than that, so anyone’s guess who or what took a beam weapon to the crew and the revolutionaries.

About then, Zaier decides his boys are looking too happy, and details the first two, the ones I call the Jorges,  off to re-patrol the circuits. I figure it’s just officer make-work and besides, aim to keep him happy, so don’t offer no advice.

Zaier: Now, is ze engineer giving estimate on full refine mode?

Widow: Say, we only aim to get this place functional, ain’t planning no shipment

Zaier: Oh, but you are paid by the day, it makes no difference whether you work here or not, no?

Widow: Paid by the day… (open comms) ola Pip, do you recollect us having a daily rate on this job gata?

Pip: We on some kind charter no?

Iceman (still up top): We get paid?

BJ: I take what Bex says I get paid and that’s monthly but I can get this bitch up and running

Widow: OK Capitano I read you, we see what BJ says. Have some more Café-blast? It ain’t coffee… but it’s OK

Pip: The sales slogan for eternity

 

V3-i

Working on schematics now the computer controls are accessible, BJ works out the key elements to activate. It will take a full team – probably including militia – to supervise the refinery loop as it powers up.

Iceman: Pip you there?

Pip: Pip here over?

Iceman: I need (chokes, grits teeth) to be picked up

Pip: Yeah? Where are you?

Iceman: Up top just below the chem tanks, I can’t get back up to the hatch

 

While Pip is away getting her air raft up to Iceman [no rolls required, luckily for both] BJ locates the defense protocol in the computer menus. Widow manages the password – it seems clear that Gordon, the platform chief, operated the protocol, so the password relates to Mrs Gordon.

The defense log says it has been up and down sporadically. Its system is referred to as ‘V3-i’. And on the final day concerned, it has been left on.

Pip and Iceman arrive back in the living quarters about this time. They join four militia (the two Jorgés and two freshly-relieved ones) there. Widow, Capitano Zaier and BJ are in or near the control bay nearby, slurping down Café-blast.

BJsweeps

After some thought, BJ heads out from the control bay, back to the drone he left unplugged at our original entrance, the loader bay. He plans to check if it has the system mark ‘V3-i’. It is now on the hot point and charging! He attempts to unplug it but a small probe shoots out of it and jacks him.

[BJ has the result ‘floored’ and will not know what his real condition is until he can be checked.]

 

Recrimination

At Widow’s suggestion, while Pip and Iceman are checking loads and readying Gauss weapons, Zaier details the two fresh militia off to evac BJ back to the living quarters. Widow opens her medic kit and goes to work, finding the big guy has an electrical burn across his chest.

[His wound now rolls out at ‘Moderate’ and Widow’s medic check lifts his condition to ‘battered’ which is reasonably mobile.]

Widow: How the hell did that drone get back on charge?

Jorgé 1: El Capitano, he say to stay busy, we put him back

Jorgé 2: Yeah, put him back

Widow: Temè! Konno yarrraa! You want me pull you’ stupid head off an’ ram it up you’ ass?

verycross

[The Jorgés go for their SMGs and Widow head-butts one, very violently, flooring him]

Guns are drawn all round!

Zaier: Hola! Hola! Stand down! Stand down! Order on deck!

 

Drone hunt 1

While Widow sets Jorgé’s nose, and BJ rests, Pip and Iceman seal up and go hunting the drone. The passages are wide and offer little cover. They track round from passage 4, hoping to surprise the drone, but Iceman’s gear is too heavy to allow silent movement. In the initial flurry of fire, the drone clips Iceman with its laser, though his armor stops any damage. In the second flurry of fire Pip is hit squarely as the drone is put down by Gauss rounds.

By this time Widow is suited up again and rushes the med kit out to Pip. Pip’s wound is ‘serious’; Widow moves her condition to ‘beat up’ which does not allow much activity. Leaving the drone lying shot through, Iceman and Widow move Pip back to living quarters.

 

Drone hunt 2 – incoming!

Widow: You boys happen to put any other drone back on charge?

Jorgé: Yeah, the other one

Widow: Well Capitano, seems to me as how you boys mess up, they the ones to fix it

Over the next few minutes Zaier dispatches all four of his team to locate and unplug the remaining known live drone, and the living quarters echoes with distant nervous SMG fire, and screaming.

Pip: Sounds like we needed… Watch out!

Pip draws and fires as a battered, barely-mobile drone cycles in through the hatch to passage 4! BJ jumps the drone after her Gauss pistol hits it with a burst of rounds, and punctures his dry-suit popping his blade out.

After a couple more rounds the drone is definitely inactive.

BJ sets to work repairing his dry-suit.

Drone hunt 3

Reluctantly Widow decides the militia are not going to get the job done. She’s also worried that the drone last seen in the mud could remote-charge off the charged two, and be patrolling outside. So she borrows Pip’s Gauss pistol and she and Iceman head out to reinforce the militia in the refinery loop. They have taken a casualty and claim the drone is using autofire. This sounds a lot like blue-on-blue. militiafirefight Widow orders everyone to pull back, so that armor plates can be organized.

Widow: we do a sweep outside, if other drone be down we armor up from stores, crowd in that one holed up inside an’ finish her

The entire expedition limps out via the main access stair, Pip supported by Widow and BJ limping under his own steam. He decides he needs a full-size laser rifle from the air raft, parked a short distance off. Meanwhile Widow has located the outside drone, still safely prone in the mud. She shoots it with the pistol. Iceman follows up and puts an entire burst through it.

Surprise round: Meanwhile as BJ locates his laser, the second drone cycles out from inside, sights BJ and opens up with laser! He is ‘floored’ as he drops behind cover.

Round 1: Widow encourages the militia to avenge their comrade, drops Pip (into the mud apparently) and gets to cover behind the stair. Iceman scuttles to get a good line of sight.

The militia open up, with no appreciable effect. The drone returns fire.

Round 2: Widow (to her surprise) and Iceman both hit the drone, but to no effect other than to put it off its own shot. Widow’s pistol is now empty.

Round 3: Ignoring the militia the drone targets Iceman, but misses. Iceman gets a solid hit, putting it down. Widow heads for BJ.

Round 4: Iceman closes on drone and puts another burst through it.

BJ’s wound proves to be a near miss, perhaps cutting some webbing on his back. Widow scolds him and goes back to pick up the loudly complaining Pip out of the mud.

thanksfortheassist

Mission wrap

Our investigations will reveal that the V3-i system has the tiny defect that when real hostilities eventuate the drones read everyone as a threat. So having taken care of attacking revolutionaries, they dealt with the crew, one burning its way into the emergency override as a crewman threw the power off.

We receive a personal bonus of 1k each.

Armor repairs are free, since both Iceman and Widow have enough skill as personal weapon armorer to effect combat suit repair.

Stoll sums up his own mission, saying all has gone well. He wants to extend the charter, to travel the Arramanx-Lewis hops. Widow bargains for a return to access to the regular Lewis route. Stoll indicates – verbally – that he can influence this, and Bex seems perfectly happy with this level of surety.

So all is agreed, and the Bad’n’Ruin will depart for Arramanx.

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SHC GM-free session 7: Very smooth, Mr. Birkby/Lair Raid!

Scene: the party

Paul Birkby’s Wraith is equipped with a complete evening-wear outfit and security pass for everyone, and a glamour that ‘switches off’ wariness of anyone looking at it. It will get them into the secure parking lot, and from there on the passes will help. They are a variant on the ‘magic paper’ the Academy uses extensively. Paul’s close-mouthed on when he worked on them. And why.

So in short order, the party roll easily through valet parking – where mysteriously no-one insists they get out – and through the parking lot and up a secure elevator.

Inside, they mingle with the crowds. There are all sorts of people there, the great and the good, the rich and the faking-it. Wolfgang & Hearst reps seem to be acting as ushers. No doubt they have their magic detectors out.

So where’s Ralph Hagen likely to be? If he’s planning on a show he may hold back until the early hours. Equally, if he’s taking private consultations he may be occupied until the early hours. And the team can’t just mingle indefinitely. Hitch manages to get enough information to point them in the right direction. They slip quietly back.

I’ve summed up three scenes here, because they all went according to the ‘script’ and as a result each time, Chaos drops. This is the first time this has happened! Up until now, Chaos intervenes almost every scene. So for the next scene, Chaos stands at 2.

Mechanics

Birkby’s earlier work threw up a description for the Rolls, or rather what the special reason is for bringing the Rolls, ‘peacefully mundane’ and ‘politely tranquil’ which was not at all what I had expected! So I interpret this to mean normal clothing suited to a ritzy party, and a special pass that acts as an anti-alertness talisman.

The other components of the initial three scenes were a natural 20 rolled by Birkby for acting, and a good (well over 20) Gather Info by Hitch.

Mechanics of the post-scene: the Lair Raid Draw

At this point I do some Location Crafter descriptions and find that the inner lair will be based around a science lab. But I can’t go to the big scene at the lab yet, because…

It’s time for the lair raid draw. This is a card draw system designed to fairly portray all the difficulties and defenses of a lair.

First draw: five cards, in order. The value drawn against is CR28, the ‘boss’ CR plus five points, one for each team member. That’s way higher than a maximum card value, so here’s how the draw works. Eventually seven cards are presented, in order drawn, face up:

From the initial draw of five, fold up to four and draw up to five more, to a max of seven cards held. Of those, fold up to four and redraw up to five, to a max of seven cards held.

The final draw of seven cards in order:

1: This merely denotes physical location. It tells me the lair itself is underground.

2: This expresses human guards as a CR. It translates as another team of wet-work agents with SMGs. Each is L9 but there are only 3.

3: This lets me know how tricky it will be for the team to detect subtle recording devices. It works out to DC14, and is a proximity-based system.

4: Traps (physical) CR26, melee range type.

5: Technical difficulty of bypassing traps DC36, and need not be done at the ‘pit face’ so to speak!

6: Monstrous defenses CR 2 – Blood Fiends and Thought Eaters, both using SV based attacks. Blood fiends require a Reflex SV, thought eaters are psionic.

7: Magical defenses CR29 (damage) and DC46 (detect and bypass); the magical defenses are close but not melee range.

The worst news out of all these draws is the magical defenses. If they can’t be detected with some enormous Spellcraft check then the team is going to take some serious damage. And Paul, Hitch and Dan have never put a lot of build into Spellcraft. On the plus side, Sandi is really good at both spotting problems and disabling devices. We’ll see how it all plays out, in order.

 

Layout and encounters

The next stage of the set-up exercise is a location card draw, where the cards relate to Interiors, and must include a Special. Cards that do not seem to apply will be ‘expected’ which is to say they may be landings or service rooms or simply larger hallways that act as assembly areas.

I bulk up my standard Interiors pack with some extras that include a science lab and command center, and simply deal them in a long line until I hit Science Lab, which happens to be well through the pack. Then the defenses are assigned to logical areas, partly using the Emulator. So far this seems a fair way of doing things, but I will need to include some random element in each location, to make sure the party can’t psychically know what it is dealing with, just because I can see details of an encounter. Generally, the Emulator is the simplest and most helpful tool for this. But if that does not seem to fit, I can check Chaos each single step of the way.

It’s also fair (to both sides) to reroll the deployment check (2d6) if and when the party misses a bypass or similar check. If the party is detected, there must be some foundation for feeding enemy reinforcements in. Conceptually there will be three deployments: ‘Away’ which means the enemy will have to chase the party from where they began; ‘Spread’ which means chances of encounter are simply 50-50 each new scene; and ‘Home’ which means the minions are hard-grouped around the ultimate objective and encounter chances double in step each closer scene.

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