SHC GM-free session 19: Nemesis stalks the Presidio

Recap: Lately the trail of St. Vitellius’ Cup in San Francisco, 1922, has become confused. Some type of extremely dangerous foe is hunting the Chicago Peers. They have seen off one probing attack, by a daunting undead predator with icy armor, and the three spellcasters, Birkby Dan and Hitch, have decided to combine their powers.

There’s a lot of combat in this session. After some experimentation, I’ve decided to shift the mechanics explanation of a combat scene, to the point where combat begins; after that it should be reasonably self-explanatory. But note that the Emulator is still used during combat, so Emulator use still appears in green at those points. I have also split the extended combat scene into two parts. Apologies for the complications!

Scene: Hotel guest chambers

Cliff grits his teeth: “Bring it!”

Sandi grins, levels her Glock and shoots Cliff right in the chest.

“Hey, that went all right!” she comments as Cliff peels his vest off and checks. There’s no wound and no damage to the vest. Cliff just looks at her under lowered brows, which is easy since he’s not more than an inch taller.

“Let’s hope the undead get a different take on that,” he mutters. Cliff’s a bit sick of not being able to land a blow, and that last creepy thing would probably have torn him apart in a tangle.

Birkby and Hitch look smug. Dan looks a little troubled.

“Now, something to fire really big unpleasant rounds out of…” Cliff prompts.

“He he, got a problem with size Cliffie?” Sandi giggles. And ragging and joking continue.

Scene ends

Mechanics:

PCs: all the Peers

NPCs: the Gloom and its minions, hotel proprietor and staff

Interrupt: 69 PC Positive

Meaning 68/21 Carelessness [of] Pain

Simplest explanation given the situation is Cliff volunteers to ‘take one for the team’ and let the mages shoot him.

The bullet is combo greater magic/phantom projectiles/cure light wounds. It works.

  • Greater magic wpn adds +5
  • Phantom projectiles will penetrate 3 of DR before counting DR (do not stack)
  • Cure light adds a circumstance bonus and harms undead

If a mage uses Truestrike, they add 20 before rolling to hit.

Each spellcaster has a task: Paul casts the Gtr Magic Wpn, Hitch the Phantom Proj; Dan the Aid-Blessed Bullets (ABB).*

Chaos drops to 4 as this was positive.

Scene: Army Surplus

Cliff carries a heavy sack out. Whatever’s in it is long and metallic.

“Let’s head over to the warehouse,” Birkby decides. “I want to get started asap.”

“Roger that,” Cliff retorts, “did anyone order a cab?”

Scene ends

Mechanics

The PCs shop for items to use as tankbusters. BARs were still new, so I think junked Lewis guns would be likely – the Army was replacing them with BARs. I did think about HMGs but we need to keep weight to something Cliff or Hitch can wield comfortably.

Chaos check 5 = fine.

They strike out at one shop (rolling 1 and 1 to help) then OK at the next. Army surplus rules! A converted Lewis is worked up by Birkby with gearhead ability. (Craft/Repair rolls 19) This success powers him forward for a second gun. (Craft/Repair a 16.)

The mages can now stagger round with heavy weaponry. Or more likely, Cliff carries them as gun bearer.

Chaos drops to 3.

Scene: the Sanatorium, the Presidio

The Peers react to Dan’s warning as quickly as they can. But even as they try to withdraw inside, the air fills with sleet and the ground becomes treacherous. Then a great gaunt skeletal shape appear directly behind them!

Mechanics

Chaos 2, interrupt, focus 48. Move away from a thread. Dammit!

Meaning 09/28, Malice/pleasures.

I don’t know where we are but am thinking, somewhere pretty solid and secure and with plenty of light. And maybe a heated pool.

Environment: 49/67, Healthily Modern. The scene is the Presidio’s sanatorium.

Q: Is this an ambush? (likely) 93 no

Q: Is this an encounter? (50-50) 38 yes.

Card draw KH. D20=12. Adding PCs and points on table I get CR23. Which means a pair of Winter Wights.

The next vital question is one the previous encounter hinted at.

Q: Is Hagen’s staff blocking dimensional movement, such as Dim door? (likely) no

Q: Is it permitting Fireball, since the WWs can switch on immunity? (likely) yes!

Q: Does this extend to any favoured spell? (50-50) yes!

Q: Does this extend to weaponry? (50-50) yes.

So in summary: No immunity to fireball, and no Spell Resistance. That’s some pretty serious nerfing. And note the last point: the Wights DR20/+6 won’t stop ammo powered by Gtr Magic bullets +5 with Prayer+1 circumstance bonus. They are still incredibly hard to hit though.

Next vital question is whether Dan can sense them at mid-range, which is the range drawn. It (Hearts) is not necessarily outside Turn range.

Q: Can Dan sense them (somewhat likely) 40 yes.

Dan rolls a 1 on Spot so has no direction.

He rolls a 14 on Arcane Lore so can tell something is going down!

Combat begins

Round 1: Both Winter Wights have Init but the Peers have been warned by Dan. The remaining Inits are Hitch, Sandi (but drops to below Dan), Dan, Cliff and Birkby.

Wight 2: Sleet storm: DC 10 balance to stay upright – all sight blocked. The Peers make it, with some slight difficulty here and there.

Wight 1: Dimension door to close. No extra action. Sandi dodges away (it lands closest to her) while maintaining perfect balance; all the others stay upright. Two APs are on the table from the Balance checks.

The freezing air around the Wight begins doing damage: everyone except Hitch takes 2d10 (used Emulator to check who is in).

Hitch has a plan involving two Wall spells. It won’t really work unless Birkby can ‘glue’ the things in place – so screaming out instructions Hitch moves into the freezing cold, throws a hemispheric wall of force around the group, surges and throws a circular wall of fire around that, focused inwards. The Wight close enough to freeze them does not know the force wall is there of course. It takes minor damage from the fire immediately.

Q: is WW1 also inside the fire? (no way) 69 no.

Dan: Turn! Although sight is blocked the up-close Wight is pretty obvious. Dan’s turning is not stopped by the Wall. But he needs to roll 20: and he does! CR 23 is affected! Dan affects 35 HD worth of enemy. Even with its high resistance to Turning, the WW is burned and turned! (Dan’s Burning Belief adds 3d6 spite damage.)

Sandi is next but Hitch has just told everyone to hold fire.

Q: The freezing cold is stopped? No.

This is turning out to be a bad spell choice. Sandi quick-reloads with ABB clips.

Cliff is next and again, can’t do anything. He too loads his Python with ABB loads.

Finally Birkby is up, and buffs himself with Blur then immediately throws up a convincing illusion of the party.

Q: does he know the spell can’t leave the hemisphere (has to be) 53 yes. Birkby has not prepped something to anchor a teleporter. He’ll need to research it!

Round 2: WW2 flees by Dim-dooring away instead of running through the firewall. Rats! WW1 charges, but will it charge through the fire? 45 yes. It takes some damage smashing a gap through (20 damage creates a break in the wall), then bounces off the Wall of Force hemisphere and takes more damage! Now the force wall is looking inspired!

Hitch drops the wall of force and hits the knocked-down Wight with a maxed fireball (it misses Refl SV).

Dan hits it with maxed Faith’s Fury (makes Fort SV).

Birkby hits it with another maxed fireball (makes Refl SV).

Cliff fires three times, missing with all. Sandi fires with Leadstorm and again manages a hit. Ten ABB bullets slam home! This time the gun’s bullets do ‘healing’ and ignore the first 3 points of DR. That is enough to slay the Winter Wight.

Q: will the Turned Wight reappear? 06 yes! I place this after twelve intervening rounds. It can Dim Door back, then charge. The WW rapidly repairs damage so earlier damage has been set aside by that time.

The mages are a little low on their top spells, especially Hitch. Time to break out the Truestrike weapons! These are firing ‘tankbuster’ projectiles doing 2d12+5 with penetration 10, or 2d8+5 from Cliff’s Python.

Paul holds the illusion in place while the others hide. (Sandi DC26 to help them.) The Wight returns but everyone gets one surprise round: it loses its Dex bonus while it reacts to the illusion.

Q: does it also lose its insight bonus? (unlikely) 56 yes.

(Surprise) Round 14: They all rise from hiding and open fire. This time the Wight seems caught off-guard, and even two of Cliff’s shots strike home. The impact of the tankbuster rounds is severe, and it staggers, but turns to drive home against these pesky humans!

Round 15: The Wight leaps at the group, targeting Sandi: clearly the one that is delivering the most vicious amount of damage. It makes a relatively poor attack, Sandi dodges out of the way, and while Cliff stands ready to hurl himself in harm’s way for Dan, the spellcasters fling killer spells at it: And destroy it!

Combat ends!

Chaos rises to 4.

Scene ends as the Peers look to get away and re-enchant their tankbusters. But…

Scene: The same; outside the indoor swimming pool

As the Peers wearily – and warily – bag up the tankbusters, a shower of arrows smacks down! Cliff grunts as two or three slice through his armor; Paul squeals in alarm as his Stoneskin is sliced through. The others hurl themselves aside in time. Then roll to their feet to meet a new shower of spears, flung by on-rushing, grey-skinned men!”Don’t kill them!” Hitch yells, “If they are your ancestor you disappear!”

“I don’t think great-granpappy was ever grey,” Dan yells back as he steps forward with insane bravado to menace the small horde, “and say now! These coots don’t have eyes!”

“Umm, umm,” Birkby stammers, trying to think of a protection that isn’t already working. Then inspired, he throws a Slowing spell out at the mob and about half are slowed right down. The others finish closing the gap, attacking with remaining spears and short clubs. Although eyeless they seem to be able to sense everyone’s location.

“So like they aren’t legit targets, say when they are Paulie” Sandi calls – knowing full well that Birkby will call them legit. She spins out of the way of the charge, squirting one in the face with her CS gun. Her other hand reloads a different clip into a Glock.

“Gahh! Let me think – ” Hitch begins and breaks off to club a charging, grey-skinned man down with the butt of his tankbuster. But the sheer number forces him back.

Cliff wades in using fist, knee and clubbed pistol. Dan and Birkby are near-overwhelmed and only Cliff’s muscle prevents them being flattened.

“Some kind of cave or Underdark dweller?” Dan calls.

“Right I’m going with legit!” Hitch screams as the Peers are shoved violently back into the Swimming Pool area. “No way can these be anyone’s ancestors!”

Dan’s voice, powerful and confident now Cliff is shielding him, offers a Prayer. Sandi leaps into action, gliding between the man-things and blasting four down. She draws her second pistol. Cliff levels his Colt Python and blows one away, then another. The familiar blue strakes of vicious arcane energy lance out from Birkby and Hitch’s fingers and four more drop.

And as the second wave slowly charges they find themselves looking at five fully ready Peers.

It’s all over in as many seconds as it takes Sandi to pull the triggers six or seven times. There’s an uneasy pause as the Peers try to work out where the things came from and what summoned them.

Mechanics of the initial combat scene-setting

Chaos check 2: Interrupt

Possible NPCs: the Gloom, the sanatorium staff

Focus 86. NPC Negative

Meaning 68/86 carelessness of hope

The Gloom attacks! 

Range is long.

Card draw for Gloom, plus the ‘carelessness of hope’ meaning suggests the Gloom has summoned minor threats (probably luckless civilians); Summoning is L6 and CR is L4. Of CR4 time-servant possibles, I get Grimlocks.

Three rounds will elapse from the summoning until the next attack;

Next attack (the Gloom itself presumably) will be at Near range.

Grimlocks appear; they are there just to tie the party up for now.

Q: do they use poison? (unlikely) no.

They attack using arrows and spears and rush to charge range. The Peers are of course uncertain as to whether these are time-trapped (and therefore OK to kill) or contemporary (and therefore forbidden).

Q: can Dan see these are time-trapped? (somewhat likely) yes (just)

Dan makes a reasonably OK spot roll (9) and a barely-adequate arcane lore roll (5).

Q: is there a round’s delay? (50-50) yes

Q: Is there two rounds delay? (very unlikely) no.

Back to the scene…

Suddenly, a tall dark shadow seems to flick across the fine white light of the great room, and rest briefly behind Birkby. Who screams in pain and anger! They all swing wildly around to track the shadow and a volley of bullets and magic follow it.

“You OK?” Cliff checks.

“Oh, brilliant,” Birkby snarls. “That should never have been able to hit me, now another coat’s ruined.”

“Watch out!”

As he yells, Cliff hurls himself between Hitch and the shadowy killer. A dagger of some type slides right through his vest as through soft butter, and he grunts in pain, grits his teeth as fear threatens to unman him, but brings his Colt Python up and fires a round square into the tall, faceless black-clad freak’s midsection.

Birkby follows up with lancing arcs of pain and Sandi scores directly on it, with both guns. It vanishes in the direction of the exit.

It is some time before the Peers convince themselves that it is not returning!

Mechanics of the Gloom attack

Gloom has lower AC but higher FX in other areas. E.g. Sandi only needs a 14 or better to hit, but it can flit from shadow to shadow and strike with sneak attack +13d6, and exudes a Fear presence requiring DC32 Will SV on those looking at it directly. (Though the Peers are all using Will SV boosts so that’s not as terrifying as it sounds!)

Round 4: Flash of movement, Gloom strikes for a mage. (Cut High Birkby Low Hitch) It is high! Birkby takes an amount of damage (d4+21=25), but he is not flat-footed and his stoneskin still stops 10. Mas vs the 15 taken is OK (1AP). The shadowy shape darts away.

Reflex DC20 to target: Birkby no, Cliff no, Dan no, Hitch yes (1AP), Sandi yes.

Hitch lets drive with Maxed MM, 45 damage. Sandi quick-draws and delivers 55 damage with the one and 57 with the other (which heals it, possibly). She quick-reloads her normal rounds.

Cliff stands near Hitch ready to take the hit, Birkby and Dan move closer to the pool so they can’t be backstabbed.

Q: will the Gloom attack again? (50-50) 04 yes!

Round 5: Gloom attacks and Cliff intervenes, no backstab, crit, 25 damage, Mas OK and Cliff takes 22.

Reactions/Will SV: Birkby yes, Cliff yes (1AP) Dan no, Hitch no, Sandi yes (1AP).

Birkby throws a maxed-emped MM, 45 damage, Cliff shoots it (one hit, 11 damage) and Sandi gets a Leadstorm in (1AP, 57 damage). She poises next to the pool edge. Hitch backs up next to Cliff.

Q: will the Gloom attack again? (unlikely) 81 no

Chaos rises to 7, this time the Peers do get away! There are 6 AP on the table ready for the next encounter.

Session ends.

*The ABB ammo works so well against the Winter Wights that post-session, I rule Dan will boost the power if possible. A combined Bless and Cure Moderate still gives the circumstance bonus but will do a lot more damage to undead. He’ll need at least a day to put this together.

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