SHC GM-free session 12: Return North

Recap:

Last session ended with good news for the Chicago Peers Birkby, Cliff, Dan, Hitch and Sandi. They succeeded in getting clear of downtown Chicago.

With them have travelled Ralph Hagen, disaffected Olympian scion, and Maria, the ‘fake nun’ of some adventures ago and ally of Liam Heaney the arch-summoner and adversary. Hagen is something of an ally, Maria definitely a captured subdued enemy.

Although the opening need not be immediately following the evacuation of the Olympian Lair, it must be reasonably hard on its heels. Perhaps a night has intervened: just enough for the mages to re-allocate.

We can also assume that precautions have been taken to prevent Ralph and Maria from getting any kind of lock on where they have been taken. So now, on with the first scene…

Scene: Campus Inner Sanctum, a Zone of Truth

PCs: The Chicago Peers

NPCs: Ralph Hagen, Maria, Mary Hewstone, possibly Rev. Brown

A series of questions (using the Emulator) determines that while Maria does not have all the answers, she does know the ‘next step’ and where the Peers should head. It involves a spell, or at least arcane forces.

Ralph Hagen is willing to accompany Maria out. This is a coup for the Peers, since the ‘deal with Ralph Hagen’ thread has not been fully resolved: but when it is, the next level is gained!

Scene ends.

Chaos drops to 4.

Scene: Highway north out of Chicago

Encounter: Since this is heading north away from the base, I step the chance down from 50-50. But I still roll a Yes.

The deployment draw has ‘reset’ because the Peers returned to base. So two d6s are rolled.

First d6: 4, a north-facing deployment that  the move ‘away’ does not alter.

Second d6: 1, opposition mobilize as soon as the Peers head out. There is a 50-50 chance that the maxima are encountered, rather than the d20 random result. I get 3 Mage-plus-bodyguard teams and 3 or 4 Agents supporting them, arranged in three groups of 3-4. Each Agent is in turn supported by a couple of L5 thugs, but these are not worth counting. The Mages, Bodyguards and Agents are all L9.

It may be worth noting at this point that because Heaney has been defeated and killed, I’m tending to select against critters that would require a major summoning spell to keep ‘on the board’.

Location Cards – Chase Cards – are laid out in a 4 x 4 grid, face down. Including a number of Opponent cards gives me at least a starting-point for them. I lay a second layer over them where needed, to check upper levels, details of ambush sites etc. Opponent M1 is behind a road block; M2 has set up in a bar; and M3 is up in an external gantry or elevator.

Based on the cards once they are flipped, there aren’t many places Cliff could be. It appears that the opposition have set up an ambush based around big rigs, road blocks, detours and a rail crossing. Un-usable cards are just ‘expected’ – i.e. highway blacktop; but there are few of these. Pedestrian cards become traffic volume, so ‘light pedestrians’ becomes ‘light traffic’ and ‘heavy pedestrians’ becomes ‘congested traffic’. Cliff’s card flips to roughly flanked by M1 and heading towards M2.

The range is Spades: near, so potentially not good news for Birkby and Hitch. On the bright side both Sandi and Cliff are effective at this range.

Surprise round: group 1 mage begins with a Will SV Confusion attack, group 2 muscle drops a load of physical objects on the SUV and two mages, groups 2 and 3 roast everyone in the area with a Fireball.

Cliff rolls 18 vs Confusion, which is just enough! He is unaffected by the immediate spell and free to take evasive action against the physical+telekinetic attack and the fireball. He makes a DC15 driving check, taking only half damage from the short-ton load of iron dropped. 34 points, and everyone inside takes crash damage of 8 (adjusted in some cases).

Fireball attack: Although the mages encountered have ‘upscaled’ by adding L4 tattoos, they are still only L6 by mage level so the fireball comes in at 3d6 each. 21 damage. The fireball disables the SUV but Cliff can steer it 45 degrees forward in his round.

Meanwhile, Confusion Will SV results from the others in the vehicle: all OK.

Chaos check: Alteration. Ralph Hagen bugs out. He is ‘kind of’ an ally, not a strong and faithful friend!

Initiatives:

  • M2 group
  • Birkby
  • Sandi
  • M1 group
  • Cliff (later resets to top)
  • M3 group
  • Dan
  • Hitch (later resets to top)

Round 1:

While M2 muscle switch to weapons their mage buffs heavily. No bullets or low-level spells in or out!

Q: Can any of the ambushers be spotted? (50-50) 53 no.

Birkby makes a spot check at a penalty from the damage, but even with -8 it’s good, so he gets the general layout. He blinks away to close behind the roadblock, taking Sandi and Dan.

Now that positions have shifted I ask:

Q: Can Sandi spot the mage? (50-50) 01 exceptional yes!

Sandi makes a rather low check (for her) so only sees the mage and bodyguard. She opens up, and the bodyguard takes the first hit but fails to save his mage, who falls. She goes on to wound the bodyguard further. (None of her shots is likely to force a Mas SV.)

The bodyguard, agent and thugs all return fire from the wrong side of their barricade: none hit Sandi, Paul is proof to their shots (for now) and Dan avoids area fire and shelters behind Paul.

Cliff steers the SUV limping off to shelter near the bar. His drive check is too poor to do more.

The M3 group still have the height advantage and open up, drilling through the SUV. This is not good for the three inside! But Maria and Cliff make their SV in spite of the Dex loss. Hitch takes some serious damage but makes his Mas SV. 

Dan, out with Paul and Sandi, disdains cover: he casts Prayer then surges and casts Faith’s Fury. In spite of the reduced SV, the agent and one thug make it. The bodyguard falls, and the other three are still in the fight.

Hitch also needs a fair spot, and makes it. He Maria and Cliff blink out and appear atop the bar’s outside balcony. M3 group no longer has height advantage and there is some cover.

Round 2: no points on the board yet.

M2 group are out of targets. The mage draws another immediate, fireball, so withholds it to cover his muscle advancing up to the next level.

(I check who they can see with a couple of questions – Dan Paul and Sandi are out of line of sight and they can work out where Hitch went, presumably from M3’s comms.)

Birkby draws an immediate and casts Haste on Sandi, then draws another immediate, surges and drops Ice Storm on the remaining muscle of M1 group. Everyone takes 17. Both thugs fail their Mas SV and drop.

Sandi runs to the barricade and vaults over (using an action point) while chopping the agent down. She still has a free extra action thanks to the Haste, and reloads both Glocks. M1 group is now out.

Cliff positions in cover from M3 and resets, ready to take the approaching M2 group on at melee range.

M3 group are firing into cover against Cliff while Hitch and Maria are protected to some extent by Hitchs’ Protection from Bullets. Cliff is still hit and uses an AP to SV. Most of Hitch’s protection is used up.

Dan bravely and typically advances to Sandi’s general location (his Balance check is excellent) and casts Bless, which is wide enough radius to include Hitch and Cliff. He draws an immediate and surges, throwing Flaming Wrath on the tight-grouped M3 group. Their vantage point is now a weakness, as all are hit. After a disastrous round of Ref SV and Mas SV the mage is the only one left standing!

Hitch gets himself and Maria to cover, prepping for M2 group’s arrival.

Round 3: 2 points on board.

M2 group muscle burst out onto the balcony level, the mage covering them with a fireball. Cliff leaps in to melee (spends a point) so avoids the blast, Hitch takes half damage and Maria full damage. She makes her Mas SV. Cliff bashes the mage with Maxwell’s Silver Hammer but misses his follow-through, and leaps back to give Hitch room. Hitch hits the group with a maximised fireball. This group has double the agents and thugs. Two thugs are killed outright, and the bodyguard drops protecting his mage. The agents and remaining thugs are sore hurt.

Birkby has no line of sight and picks his way carefully through his ice zone to a corner, from where he can check progress.

Sandi is fully loaded but has no immediate LOS: she runs to the bullet-riddled SUV, leaps up off it and hoses the M3 mage, removing his protections completely and killing him outright.

Dan has nothing further to add at this stage: he makes his way quickly (adding another AP) towards the bar and cover.

Round 4: 5 points on board.

M2 mage is still alive and in the fight: he unleashes a Wall of Fire, but Hitch counters it with an adequate (for him) Spellcraft check. Cliff leaps back into melee, finishes the mage and one thug. Agents fire at Hitch, but one misses and one is blocked by Cliff. Cliff takes 27 which is over even his ridiculously high Mas, and only makes the SV thanks to another point! Hitch uses fast-talk to confuse the two agents momentarily… and they lose their next action.

Birkby draws a wild card (Joker) and throws up a large-scale illusion. Paramilitary forces advance, waving oncoming traffic away and hopefully distracting any remaining hostiles!

Sandi climbs the bar exterior at double speed (natural 20 for 2nd part of climb) and with her extra action rolls to cover, though it is probably not needed.

Dan strolls into the bar and uses his authority to terrorise any occupants into not calling police, and turn off those cell phones!

Round 5: 6 points on board.

Cliff melees with the two agents remaining, and puts them both down, easily soaking the few rounds they manage to land.

Over the next few rounds, the Peers clear the area, looting briefly (all bodyguards and agents wear a charm) and taking Cliff’s heavy bag and any briefcases or electrical equipment. Using his streetwise skill Cliff steers them towards an auto-hire yard where another SUV can be rented.

Combat ends.

Post-battle, chaos rises back to 5.

Scene: auto-hire yard, not a great distance from the previous

PCs: the Peers.

NPCs: Maria, auto-hire staff.

Chaos check 6, no problem.

Cliff negotiates for a new ride, while Hitch makes contact with Ralph.

Cliff makes a poor Repair/Mechanic check so hires no better a vehicle than ‘normal’ for a 2nd-rate yard.

Q: will Hagen rejoin now? (somewhat likely) 18 yes.

Healing from Dan, everyone mops blood and glass chips off.

Scene ends.

Chaos is back down to 4.

Scene: Highway further north. The arcane border.

PCs: the Peers.

NPCs: Maria, Ralph, then Old Man Hagen and minder.

Chaos check 8, no problem.

Location Crafter: 16/23 ceaselessly drab. Action 52/39 adjourn news.

A plain featureless under the remaining snow. The Peers guide Ralph and Maria through, using the ‘river crossing’ technique with the pass-coins. Then Ralph is presented to Old Man Hagen and Maria is placed under Academy jurisdiction.

‘Let’s speak in private,’ Old Man Hagen suggests and they all vanish.

Scene ends.

Chaos drops to 3.

All Peers advance to Level 18.

Character Progression

Birkby – L5 Arch-mage. With a mwah hah hah Birkby advances to Ultimate Power! His character level feat is probably something around powering up the ultimate power to even more ultimate. Probably illusions, a specialist branch.

Cliff – Daredevil L3. The extra skill points are coming in handy. Cliff picks up a bonus feat as well, and takes a vehicle stunt.

Dan – L3 Witch-hunter. He picks up the talent ‘Undying while evil yet lives’ which makes him kind of immortal (once he has linked back up with the Judges).

Hitch: L4 Arch-mage. With the number of items the Peers have accumulated, and his superlative Research ability, Hitch will gain a feat around items.

Sandi: Gun Goddess L3. She picks up the Heroic Fortitude talent and for character level feat, Advanced 2-Weapon Fighting.

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