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.


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.


  • 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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