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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