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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