Sunday, October 28, 2012

tremulus Actual Play Report

Last night, we decided to give tremulus a go in a solo game as we work through various breaks before we finally resume Necessary Evil.

My lone player selected the Detective playbook (which I rather expected) and gave him the name "Harry Copperfield Dresden" (so he wasn't looking for points for originality).

We went through the Ebon Eaves creation, generating a town that had seen its heyday come and go, after wealthy eccentric McKenzie Baker, leader of the Silver Circlet and owner of the Windsor Place, had passed away. Harry was actually in Ebon Eaves at the behest of Lorraine Raslo's second cousin, Judith Crandall. See, Raslo murdered her family, saying it was "God's Will" until her brother-in-law Jack returned to Ebon Eaves. Jack, a big-time explorer who had been thought dead, was riding this fame and controversy all the way to the Mayor's office. Judith couldn't believe her cousin was capable of this, and sent Harry to investigate.

Ebon Eaves, PA

As Harry rolled into town, he took a visit to the police station where he met Clint, a young, overworked officer manning the station by himself. Harry slipped him a quick bribe to get into the Raslo case files where he stumbled across the journal of Raslo's husband Stanley. Harry tried to slip it in his pocket, but when he "accidentally" dropped the case file, the journal fell behind Clint's desk. Harry came away from that visit with two things: The journal contained rantings about "snake men" and the police chief was an alcoholic.

Harry set out for the old Windsor Place, operating on a hunch, and while snooping around outside the house he stumbled on some dirty, yet fancy, eye glasses. Trying them on, he decided that the glasses belonged to someone who was incredibly nearsighted and pocketed them. Harry tried to enter Windsor Place and found the way barred, so he scaled the side of the house to the third story balcony...where an attractive, older woman in a flattering red dress was standing at the large double doors drinking tea. Harry tried to bluff his way through his trespassing, claiming that he heard cries for help, and when she pointed out that the road was two miles downhill from the house, he claimed his car had stalled. She instructed Boris and Dmitri  a big, lumpy Russian and a handsome younger one, to eject Harry...and they nearly threw him off the balcony. She ultimately relented and had them take Harry out the front door...though on the way out, he saw a portrait of an older gentleman surrounded by a dozen people...including the blond woman and the two Russians...and the older gentleman was wearing the glasses Harry had found outside. As Harry was being thrown outside, he heard an eerie moan from somewhere inside the mansion.

Harry's next stop was the Ebon Eaves Home for the Mentally Distressed, where he was told it was past visiting hours.

Harry went to the bar, where he found the chief knocking back drinks and he told the chief that he saw Clint taking bribes. His smooth talking combined with the chief's drunkenness lead to him and the chief heading back to the police station and sending Clint home, giving Harry his chance at getting the journal back. Inside, he ran the insane rantings of Stanley Raslo, who claimed that his entire family was snake men.

Harry got himself a room in a boarding house, and wound up oversleeping the next day.

He rushed back to the Asylum where he was told that Lorraine had been having "incidents". He asked to speak to her doctor, Dr. Gould, but was told he was in a meeting. Making arrangements to speak with Dr. Gould later, he went out to his car, where he was clubbed in the head from behind. When he awoke in the car, he was missing the journal and had a note on his chest telling him to leave Raslo alone.

Deciding to head a diner for some food and hoping to rustle up a lead, he found out a bit more about the woman in Windsor Place, and spied something lurking around his car. Heading outside to investigate, he was shocked to see - momentarily - the pale form of McKenzie Baker...missing his glasses. Heading back into the diner to pump the waitress for information, she directed him to the local paper and Jackie Laurence, intrepid reporter.

Harry found Jackie working late and the two began to talk. Jackie questioned why Harry was snooping around the Windsor Place if he was sent here to investigate Raslo, and then he dropped a bombshell on Harry: Lorraine Raslo's cousin had committed suicide since the last time Harry had spoken with her. Jackie dismissed both families (Stanley's and Lorraine's) as being crazy, but was intrigued with the activity at Windsor Place. He also noted that Lorraine's doctor, Dr. Gould, was part of Baker's inner circle. The two men set off for Windsor Place.

They searched around the house and found a shed...and Harry removed floorboards to find a tunnel underneath. The two men ventured in and followed the tunnel back to the house...where they found a large metal, unlocked door. As they started in, Harry heard the Russians coming and tried to threaten them with his gun, but only wound up trading bullets with Boris instead. Dmitri moved in to kill Harry, but he ripped Dmitri's hand around and shot Dmitri in the throat with his own gun.

Harry and Jackie, both armed now, entered the underground chamber, which was disturbingly cold, and began looking around. Harry came face to face with Baker once more...who was staring at him with glassy eyes. Harry offered Baker his eyeglasses and felt the chill of the grave as Baker touched him. Tabitha McFlaherty, the woman Harry had met earlier, walked into the chamber and explained that Baker had died but that she was trying desperately to restore him...she just hadn't gotten it right and he came back "wrong". Harry countered that the dead shouldn't come back at all, and she dismissed that as "rules for the little people". She explained that Ebon Eaves NEEDED Baker now, more than ever, due to Jack Raslo's moves to take over the town. Harry asked her why she didn't just run a candidate against him, and she pointed out that Raslo's serpentine tentacles were everywhere...including the newspaper.

Harry turned to see Jackie Laurence with his gun in Harry's face. Harry and Jackie both fired and Harry went down. As he recovered, he saw a blood trail heading out the tunnel and Tabitha and Baker closing the door to the house. Harry tried to break down the door and ultimately shot his way in...and managed to make it through the house and in front of an escaping hearse. He ordered the driver to stop, but he swerved around and Harry shot the tire out, causing it to crash into the large, wrought-iron gate. Harry moved in on the hearse, only to have Baker bust out of the back, attacking him. Harry was bitten by Baker multiple times, but managed to blow Baker's face off.

Tabitha, wounded from the crash, climbed out of the hearse and cursed Harry for his actions and all the damage he had caused, causing Harry to retort "that's what little people do". Dying, from his injuries and the arcane infection running in his veins, Harry asked Tabitha to save him like she did Baker, but she said she didn't know how...that's why they were trying to get the Raslo family secrets from Lorraine. She said she would put Harry out of his misery, though, and use the mystical artifacts collected by the Silver Circlet to fight Jack Raslo that way. As she moved in to finish Harry off, he snapped off a shot between her eyes.

Harry, in desperation, crawled back up the hill and into Windsor Place, where he searched desperately for something. Bleeding all over the place, his blood began to seep into runes in the fireplace, causing it to spring to life. The flames parted and hands reached for him as he passed out from the blood loss.

THOUGHTS: This definitely could have gone smoother, but we had constant interruptions from my kid, I was having Adobe issues with the PDF (on my end, not Reality Blurs' end) and I was distracted by a couple of additional outside factors at points in the game, aaaaaand I hadn't made enough time to really read the book as thoroughly as I wanted to before play. I was also scrambling to pull the plot threads together, though a LOT of things that came up were entirely improv based off of the PC's die rolls (like finding the glasses, being unable to see Lorraine). Raslo partisans were all over the town and I was noting how much Harry said to whom, and if the story had gone in a different direction the implication was going to be that Raslo's reach had gotten to the cousin.

We were fine with the player facing rolls, though the lack of "initiative" and "combat rounds" was a bit of a struggle, and trying to fit everything into the Basic Moves was difficult (though I recovered and began making up relevant moves on the fly). Lore is kind of a big thing in the game and all of Harry's Lore came from rolling 12s while making Moves.

There was also a bit more comedy, intentional and unintentional, than tremulus probably expects by default. I wasn't setting out to kill the PC, but a) we knew this was probably a one shot and b) the tremulus rules are fairly unflinching when it comes to combat. It can get really ugly, very quickly...which, I mean, is fine for a horror game.

In the end, we both had fun (especially as we entered the final act, I think) and we'll bust this out again, or at least another Apocalypse World-hack (like Dungeonworld or Monster of the Week). I also think that the bonus playbooks that'll be coming would really have helped my player out, as Detective was one of the very few within his comfort zone.

Ideally, I'd love to try this with multiple people next time, so we can see the Trust mechanic in play, as well as the Help/Hinder move.

Great set-up, great ending, some Keeper (GM) failure in the middle...but really no worse than most first time experiences with a game.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Tommy's Take on Ghoul Keep and The Ghoul Lands.

I’ve reviewed the previous entries by Small Niche Games, but I hadn’t had a chance to read anything new in a while…until Ghoul Keep and the Ghoul Lands was just released, a gazetteer-style release for The Chronicles of Amherth!

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Ghoul Keep and the Ghoul Lands is $7.95 in PDF format at RPGNow, or for $15.95 you can order the print version and get the PDF for free. Ghoul Keep and the Ghoul Lands runs 132 pages, larger than the entire Amherth setting book, and is set just north of the Duchy of Valnwall, meaning you could easily run the earlier adventures in Valnwall and then move North.

The rules support is for Labyrinth Lord, as usual. The book opens with some important themes to remember, such as Isolation (the PCs, once they get in, don’t have a lot of room to run), Adventurers Are Heroes (but people can only become Adventurers in the capitalized sense if duly sponsored) and Undead Rule The Night (so stay inside when the sun goes down).

The Ghoul Lands are actually the Kingdom of Makaar Mor (a reference to another company’s supplement, Lesserton and Mor). Lorrgan Makaar was ripped to pieces by Valen of Vay, but Makaar survived this dismemberment and now his disembodied head rules his kingdom while seeking out the rest of his body. The Ghoul Lands are surrounded by mountains and is dominated by The Cult of Rebirth. This could be a Ravenloft domain already.

A good overview follows, with a calendar, a section on the tech level (they are about semi-Bronze Age) and the topic of alignment (most folks fall in the area of Lawful-Neutral and Neutral-Evil…few Chaotics or Evils). Women outnumber men five to one and everyone is assumed to be serving the Ghoul King Lorrgan Makaar, from the barons to the nobles to the commoners.

The geography section aims to provide “just enough detail” without mapping out every inch of the world, with the major landmarks even about a paragraph. For instance, the Westwood is an untamed forest uninhabited by humans which holds all kinds of ruins and monsters. The Cowl is a river known for its dangerous undercurrents, hidden debris and quicksand bogs.

Palatz Makaar, the seat of Makaar Mor’s power, has blood red waterfalls that flow into a blood red lake and a large chunk of the city that is now underwater. Each of the five Provinces of Makaar Mor have suitable evocative landmarks with definite room for exploration and adventure.

The Cursed Ward of Valen surrounds the Ghoul Lands and damages (to the death) any undead that tries to cross it.

Adventuring can be…interesting…as warriors and rogues are respected for their prowess, but clerics and magic-users are viewed with suspicion, and clerics preaching of other Gods treated as Heretics. And demihumans are automatically treated with suspicion. Oh, and remember how you have to be sponsored in order to be an adventurer? Well, there’s this whole ritual you also have to undergo that allows you more freedom to move at night. It’s creepy, it involves ghouls, and it has a nasty surprise if you do certain things…that’s all I’ll say.

A dozen plot seeds are provided, with many being open enough to go multiple ways (like Lorrgan Makaar selecting a bride: Do the PCs answer his call to help track her down…or help her hide?). Another seed involves overthrowing the King and ties in nicely with others (like having an evil NPC help the PCs out…leading to the PCs having to deal with the bad guy left over), and even an old prophecy that is left entirely to your interpretation.

The NPC section stats up the Ghoul King, his Barons, The Cult of Rebirth as well as providing information on The Church of Law and Order and The Keepers of the Old Law. Makaar’s Brood as the children of Lorrgan Mor, half-human and half-ghoul, each with their own motivations and goals. The Ghoul Lands even houses a blue dragon, an elder vampire and a swamp witch.

New magic items include the Dead Man’s Draught, which tricks lesser undead into thinking the drinker is also undead, as well as the Cape of Entanglement (which can be a surprising and effective weapon), Herkon’s Ink (which can provide magical tattoos), the Spear of Rot (which injects rot grubs into its victims) and the Sword of the Unliving (which burns the flesh of the living upon touch).

Relics include the Sword of Valen (though both the powers and fate of the sword are shrouded in mystery) and the Skeletine Throne, made from the bones of Lorrgan Makaar’s enemies.

The Flora and Fauna section includes plants like corpsegrass (which can force the dead back into unlife) and ghostmoss (which can heal the dead and poison the living) as well as creatures like bonewraiths (made up of the bones and spirits of fallen soldiers), and half a dozen types of ghouls, including the half-human gahouls.

Ghoul Keep, which is pretty much the entry into the kingdom, is fully mapped out with its traps, treasures and pitfalls, as well as random encounter charts. The Agden Commoner’s Hall is also provided as a base of operations and includes a list of rumors, relevant NPCs and rules for haggling, as well as a series of games used in competition (like arm wrestling and Five Finger Fillet). Plot seeds are also provided for the Hall.

Kalitus Corpi, a sandbox adventure, is also provided. It is an exploration of an evil, ruined temple (how the PCs get there is determined by the GM, though suggestions are provided) that is housing a hidden cult that is in opposition to the Cult of Rebirth, though far from good guys themselves. It also includes a really freaky temple inhabitant that is essentially a four armed undead human rat maggot.

Rules are provided, based off of an old Dragon magazine, to tweak undead in order to make them stronger. Finally, the book concludes with an index.

WHAT WORKS: As is usual for Small Niche Games, they provide a lot of gameable material for a good price. Lorrgan Makaar could easily be a Ravenloft Dark Lord, and I mean that as a compliment. This isn’t a straight forward “let’s go kill the bad guy” supplement, though you can certainly do just that. Raltus the Undying is just absolutely creepy. The lands are detailed enough to get you going while providing plenty of room for you to add your own twists.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK: As usual, my biggest complaint is that it isn’t written for a system I’m a bigger fan of, but a little conversion work later and that’s not an issue.

CONCLUSION: My favorite release yet from Small Niche Games. Making an undead kingdom gameable in more than just the “kill everything that moves” sense isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but they pulled that off here. Lorrgan Makaar is an interesting villain who is operating from a position of power while having very noticeable vulnerabilities that prevent him from being unstoppable. You could easily get a full campaign out of this book, either using native-born PCs or travelers from outside The Ghoul Lands.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Buster Squad 5 - A Necessary Evil Actual Play Volume 6

Into The Wild

Mindstorm, Flux, Kale and Socks were loaded aboard a small cargo plane, headed over Asia.  Dr. Destruction had arranged them a flight with a pilot that the group knew fairly well…”Eagle” McGee, the pilot/mechanic/handyman for the former protectors of the Earth: Alpha Force!  Socks had a weird flash looking at him…remembering back, back before the V’Sori…when he was part of a group that had held McGee hostage…a group of villains…that’s strange.

Flux and Socks kept bugging McGee about letting them fly, each kept getting turned down…and McGee finally turned his handgun on Socks when Socks started to press buttons.  Kale, meanwhile, was very relieved when he was able to regenerate the horrible damage to his groin from the previous mission.

The plane flew over China with a sobering look first-hand at the devastation that had been caused by the V’Sori.  Some time later, McGee informed the team that they would be heading over Siberia…this excited Socks for some reason.

The instruments began to seize up, and the lights in the plane flickered.  McGee told the team not to panic, they were just having complete instrument failure.  When they got mildly agitated, McGee pointed out that he’d crashed planes before, and it would be fine…to which Socks said he’d rather have someone whose never crashed before, namely him, flying the plane.

When the plane was definitely going down, Flux summoned the air to buffet the plane, and Mindstorm joined him, the two guiding the plane down to the ground and a reasonable landing.

Once on the ground, the team was rather annoyed…though safe and sound.  They got outside the plane and looked around, seeing some trees and a lot of wasteland.  Socks got a scent on the wind, and notified the team that Fins and Drones were coming!

Mindstorm flew into the air to see what he could see, which wasn’t much.  He and Flux again combined their powers to try to snow over the plane, hiding it from view.  Socks, meanwhile, burrowed into the ground to make a hiding place for the team.  The team laid in wait, as Kale tried to sense what was above but couldn’t, so Socks moved in…only detecting two Fins and half a dozen Drones, Socks relayed this to Mindstorm who made the order to attack.

Socks erupted from the ground and went at a Fin, while McGee lunged from the hole and pitched a snowball at the other Fin.  Flux, Mindstorm and Kale emerged, with Flux sending eruptions of flame and Mindstorm hurling lightning.

Socks dropped his Fin, but McGee’s plan for Flux to blast two Drones while moving in on one Fin and unleashing his fiery aura didn’t work out too well, as the Fin shrugged it off.  He then attacked Flux and Kale, injuring the Atlantean sorcerer.

A Drone blasted McGee, injuring him very badly.

Socks also took a hit from a Drone, and the team was getting awfully concerned with how much damage the Drones were dishing out.

Socks caught something else approaching, and a robotic form grew from a tiny size and slugged him!  With a bit of a laugh, announced he was here to kill the team!

Mindstorm unleashed energy knives and went at the remaining Fin, but only got light wounds.  Kale took a step back and blasted him, but the Fin just pressed him.  Socks slashed at the robotic attacker, who shrugged off the claws and then turned to the plane and magnetically tore the door off, whipping it at Mindstorm, MISSING and wrapping it around a Drone.

He then sheepishly laughed, saying he’s still learning that trick.

He then decided that if he’s going to kill our villains, he should introduce himself:  He’s the “Multifunctional Automaton Requisitioned for Killing” Designate: Talos!

Notes:  At this point, Mindstorm’s player dragged me out of the room and strangled me.  Why?  Because Talos, aka MARK, is Good Mindstorm’s best friend in our Marvel SAGA game.  Back to the game.

Flux blasted Talos with flame, but it did little.  Socks attacked repeatedly, but Talos shrugged it off.  Kale unloaded a mental assault on the Fin and staggered him, then slipped away.  The very wounded McGee moved in as well, using the plane for cover.

The Fin kept shrugged off assault after assault, even when Kale burnt his powers out firing eldritch energy into him and not harming him.

Flux and Mindstorm grew frustrated at their inability to stop the Fin, until one Drone tried to blast Flux and the shot was deflected by his air field into the Fin, killing him.

Talos turned his back on Socks, giving him a free shot, to clobber Mindstorm…but had his confidence shattered when the scrawny leader of the team shook off his big fist!  Talos, clearly rattled, decided to leap away, swearing he would be back!

Mindstorm, harnessing the weather, unleashed lighting to drop the remaining Drones.

Flux moved quickly, trying to nurse wounds…and when Kale regained his powers, he made with the magical healing on his friends to get them back to fighting shape.

McGee worked on the plane late into the night, frustrated because nothing seemed to be broken…everything just seemed to be locked up.

Socks, Flux and Mindstorm managed to fix the door of the plane, and get it refitted.  McGee gave up for the night, and the five of them took shelter inside the plane.

As the group tried to rest and the night stretched on…the plane began to rock!  It went back and forth…and flipped upside down!  Mindstorm flew out of the plane, and caught a glint of metal…Talos had magnetically flipped the plane upside down!

In the process of taunting them, Talos accidentally let slip that a couple of miles up the road, V’Sori Warlord D’Beck had a Drone factory firing on all four cylinders and that Talos would make sure that the villains didn’t get anywhere near the village they were using as fodder for the Drones.

Talos has a big mouth.

Realizing how bad he was shooting off, Talos decided to get with the fighting as the team exited the plane.

Ready to take him en masse, the team left themselves wide open for Talos dropping the plane on them.

Flux and Kale did not get away in time.

Flux slipped free and blasted Talos with fire, but Kale grew enraged at being pinned down, teleported out from under the plane and ripped into Talos with a well-placed shot from a palm blaster!

Talos, stunned, quickly shook off the disorientation and leapt away, threatening to finish them off after the cold did its work!

Then he returned throughout the night, bugging them repeatedly and threatening to kill them some more.

He also told them that he had magnetically locked up their plane, and it wouldn’t move again as long as he, um, drew breath…or whatever.

Socks burrowed into the ground so he could avoid listening to him.  Talos went to the tunnel entrance and offered to come down and fight, but gave up when Socks gave no response.

As daylight came, the team departed the plane and headed toward the factory, planning to assault the Drone factory…when they caught sight of about fifty refugees in a forced march, led by a Fin, and surrounded by Drones!

Socks burrowed ahead, trying to come up on the Fin in the lead to take it out.

McGee cried out “OMIGOD IT’S A FLAMING COMET!”, completely distracting the Drones and Fin alike!

Kale vanished into the crowd as Flux and Mindstorm unloaded with fire and lighting on the Drones.

Socks tried to surprise the Fin, but this was no mere grunt, but a K’Tharen commander and he was waiting on Socks as he erupted from the ground…but he missed Socks altogether!

Mindstorm and Flux kept hammering the Drones while the Fin Commander and Socks feinted, parried and brawled.  Each man kept getting light hits on the other, slowly trying to wear them down.  The crowd went into a panic and ran this way and that, getting caught in the electrical and fiery bursts of Mindstorm and Flux.  Flux shrugged it off, figuring that if they died, that would make for fewer Drones.

Suddenly, one of the refugees threw its shawl off and revealed a yellowed complexion, bloodshot eyes and a cannon in its mouth!  It opened fire on Mindstorm, but missed.

Another attacked Socks, helping the Fin double-team him until Kale blew it away with a Palm Blaster.

As the people tried to run away, back to their village, Kale cast a spell and caused the earth to rise up, separating them from the Drones!

The wounded Fin soon found itself unable to hit Socks, while Socks failed to score a strong enough hit to put it away.

Kale finally told Socks to burrow, which he did, as Kale telekinetically yanked the pins on the Fin’s grenades, causing the fusion grenades to erupt and kill the Fin.

In all the confusion, the team realized that Eagle McGee had disappeared.

Flux provided the theory that McGee was one of the beings that had a cannon in its mouth, but Talos popped in and pointed out that he saw a pair of those guys, called Hyper-Drones, dragging McGee to the factory!

The team braced itself to fight Talos once more, but Talos said he’d had a secondary directive initiated:  To find the Protean secrets in the nearby village!  Once more, his loose lips piqued the interest of the team, and they became split:  Head to the factory, or head to the village.

After offering to reprogram Talos was rejected, a rather amusing exchange ensued in which they agreed to go with Talos to the village to find the Protean secrets, and then battle to the death.  Talos agreed, and Mindstorm made him promise not to leap away this time.  Talos assented, saying that “to the death” means “To The Death”.

The unlikely quartet then headed to the village.

As they neared the village, Socks and Mindstorm felt a strange pull drawing them closer, and once inside the village, Flux felt it, too.  Socks followed the sensation, inside a home, where he tore apart the floor and dropped to a cavern underneath the home!  Mindstorm followed while Talos, Kale and Flux watched on…Kale said he would follow, but told Talos he would be going first.  Socks, Mindstorm, Talos, Kale and Flux entered the cave…but not before Talos asked if any of them had any potato chips.

Immediately, a spear shot from the wall, but Socks managed to dodge it and smack it aside.  This put the lot of them on notice.

Socks had the perception to notice traps set in this place, but not the skill to remove them.  He spotted some kind of pressure plate in the floor, which Mindstorm just flew over.  Talos shrank down and then leapt over it, and Socks ran across the wall.  Kale flew over it as well, while Flux made a pathway extend from the walls to walk over it.

The team winded their way down and into a larger cavern with a stream, and crossed it.  A cavern in the distance was glowing with a bright, bright light and the urge to advance was overwhelming.

Socks entered the final cave, batting away a swinging blade, as he stared at a shining, crystalline formation!  A legion of voices emerged from within, and they thought they could see figures inside…

…when Talos decided now was time to kill them all.

Talos spun on his heels and decked Kale, but Flux ignited Talos and did horrible damage to the robot!  Mindstorm unleashed lighting, and the onslaught was too much…the fight was over quickly, with Talos wiped out!  As the team was impressed with themselves, the voices from the crystals turned into one: Willy the Fish!

The team looked on in awe as Willy explained that they were appearing in a form that would be familiar to the team…and they explained how the Proteans had been massacred by the V’Sori, and came to Earth because the V’Sori had come FROM Earth…this little tidbit turned the team on their ear, but Willy continued.  He explained how they had crashed in Siberia over 100 years ago and posed as humans, until The Outsider ordered them to move out into the world and procreate.  He spoke of their vision of an 8 pointed star, and how they didn’t know what that meant until The Outsider came to Earth, battled the Silver Sentinel and Star City was born.

He told them that they are the descendants of those Proteans…bred to fight this invasion that The Outsider knew was coming…and a tremendous flash of light filled the chamber, healing Kale, and then disappeared.

The team, shaken by the revelations, took the metal body of Talos and exited the cave.

There they found the people in a panic, for Warlord D’Beck was on the march, and bringing his entire detachment…100 Drones, Hyper-Drones and Fins, to sack this village for daring to run!

Mindstorm figured they should move around the army and get to the factory, while Flux offered another idea: They run.

Kale said maybe they should fight, and Socks silently assented.  They saw the villagers, panicked and desperate, grabbing any weapons they could to defend themselves…Mindstorm looked at Kale, nodded, and moved into action.

Telepathically feeding thoughts all around, he directed Socks to dig trenches and pitfalls, and began whipping a storm.  Flux began drawing the elements to him, while Kale cleared his mind and summoned his magic.  Socks had a very clear, important goal:  Kill this Warlord.  Kill D’Beck.

Somewhere in the distance, a V’Sori airship looked to be approaching, but the team shut it out.

Mindstorm tried to repair Talos, and he came to…threatening to kill.  Realizing that reprogramming him was out of his ability, he was able to find a retired Soviet scientist in the village.  The scientist agreed to work on Talos, but said it would take some time…shoddy American work is hard to deal with.

The foreboding approach of D’Beck and his minions sent chills through the spine of the villagers…then Socks caught the V’Sori on the wind, roared, and dove into the Drones.

The battle was joined.

Socks ripped arm cannons, and arms, from his opponents.  He dodged and ducked, slashed and swiped, swept and pounced.  Drone and Fin fell.  The ferocious warrior sought his target and would not be denied.

Flux summoned a whirlwind, blasting Drones aside.  He scattered men left and right, giving openings for the villagers to fall in behind Socks.  Drones saw Flux, Mindstorm and Kale standing in the rear support line and opened fire.

Mindstorm brought electric death from the skies, lashing into the Drones and Fins.  Hyper-Drones opened fire on him, but his force shield was impregnable.

Kale was a man possessed.  Sweat ran from his mask as his eyes glowed and spell after spell ripped from his lips.  Eldritch bolts tore through the air, the earth erupted around his foes, trees tore from the ground and swept their enemies aside and Kale yelled out to the villagers: “Fight now!  Fight for your lives!”

D’Beck was stunned at the fury of the onslaught.  He expected an overwhelming slaughter of defenseless people…not trained superhumans pushing back.  The land itself was pushing back, with his men falling into pits that had been dug into the ground!!

His will very nearly broke right there.

So long since he had faced real resistance…but he held.  He had brought Asia to its KNEES.  He was directly and indirectly responsible for the death of MILLIONS.  He cowed the populace of China with overwhelming force and a vastly outnumbered army.

D’Beck held.

His men paid in blood.

Socks was a dervish, tearing through the field.  Fins closed in on all sides, tearing at him, but he pressed on.

Flux swept his twister through the crowd and bolstered the charge of the villagers when a bolt struck him in the chest.

Mindstorm, swept up in the moment, drew his energy blades and charged, tearing into the Drones and fins.  He fought side by side with common people, and have gave them a chance to live.

Kale hurled blasts around Socks, deeper and deeper into the field, trying to help clear the path.  He felt his powers burning out, even as he dug deeper and drew up fallen villagers to continue fighting.  He said, quietly, to a driven Socks that could not possibly have heard him: “We will not fail you.”

D’Beck was furious.  He ordered the airships forward, even as he saw a singular form tearing a swath toward him.

Every time Socks took a foe down, two more rose up.  For a moment, he imagined that this is what Bully must have felt like, leading Tula Michaels’ resistance fighters…and for a moment, he swore he saw Bully fighting by his side as he grabbed a Hyper Drone’s mouth cannon and ripped his head off.

Flux was consumed:  Earth, Air, Fire, Water all answered his call as he drew the elements to him and he turned them against the foes in force!  The planet itself was answering his call to remove his obstacles.  A V’Sori airship was blasted away by the turbulence of a gale force.  A single Fin broke toward him…and was consumed with fear.  This mighty K’Tharen warrior ran far, far away from this unassuming half-Atlantean.

Mindstorm became a whirlwind of energy blades, slashing and stabbing, ducking away from attacks.  A handful of Drones were swept aside in a telekinetic barrage.  A Fin came up on him from the side, but lightning struck it down.  A Hyper-Drone struck, digging into the side of Mindstorm, causing him to slip.

Kale began to fall to his knees, his powers overwhelming him, but he would not give.  Delirium was setting in, and Kale screamed out to Leviathan, needing more power to continue pushing back.

D’Beck broke.

He ordered the retreat.  His last line, his elite Fins, pulled back.  The Drones began an orderly withdrawal.  D’Beck began to run like Hell.

Socks hit the hard line of Elite Fins.  Villagers were killing off his wounded behind him, but the Fins were closing around on him in front.  Fire…lighting…magic…the Fins were rocked, shocked and finally slashed.

Socks broke through the line.

Flux hammered forward, using his four-pronged assault to batter the opponents down.  He was in sole position to see the amazing thing:  Their own losses had been slight, if it all.

Mindstorm prepared to be brought low by the Hyper-Drone that had stabbed him, but a villager with a machete attacked it.  Mindstorm rose up, joining the assault, then flew into the air and unloaded a dozen lighting bolts in rapid succession on the retreating forces.

Kale struggled to stand, a Fin desperately threw a grenade…as it exploded, Kale retaliated…and the Fin’s own head exploded as well.  Kale was thrown hard to the ground, exhaustion overtaking him.

D’Beck ran.  D’Beck ran for his life.  This horrible, slavering spectre of Death was bearing down on him.

A sharp pain in his leg brought him down and claws tore into the flesh around his face.

D’Beck turned to Socks and begged for mercy…

“Please, let me live…I will give you anything you want!  Anything at all!  Name it!”

“I want your heart.”

This Warlord who had been an integral part of the invasion of Earth…who had cowed Asia to the point that he only kept a small garrison and a Drone factory…who had unleashed death and devastation on millions…begged for mercy…

…and received none.

D’Beck thought he was at the top of the food chain…and found out that this bloody, unintelligent beast of a man was his better.

As claws dug into his torso, reaching for his heart, D’Beck cursed whatever foul being could have created such a monstrosity.

The proud warlord D’Beck died in the snow of Siberia at the hands of a man who had been twisted by the V’Sori into a killing machine.

Notes:  We ended there, with the group planning on finishing the job sacking that Drone factory, and trying to reprogram Talos, presumably to replace Bully.

This was my first experience with the Mass Combat rules, and though it was on a fairly minor scale, it felt epic as all Hell, my players and I agreed. Mindstorm used the Adventure card granting d6 in a skill to pick up Knowledge (Battle) for this session...and the sheer badassness of the team did the rest.

The most epic session of an RPG I have ever ran.

Socks is now a Veteran, and the fates of Eagle McGee and Talos will be decided at the beginning of the next session.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Buster Squad 5 - A Necessary Evil Actual Play Volume 5

New session!

The tale began with Kale still in the clinic, and Mindstorm visiting.  Mindstorm was approached by the owner of the Heroes shop, who revealed himself to be retired hero The Hippocratic Oath!  He had a situation and he explained it to Mindstorm: The clinic needs supplies, bad…and The Hippocratic Oath offered his services as a healer to Omega, if Mindstorm would resupply the clinic.  Mindstorm agreed, then began planning an assault on the Atlantic General Hospital, calling Cyber-Burglair to tap him for the mission.  Immediately after making the call, Mindstorm was contacted by Dr. Destruction, who was concerned due to another cell in Southpoint having gone dark.  Mindstorm gathered his team, and they headed out for the other cell’s HQ.

When they arrived, they found a dozen dead drones laying around, and the cell all having been killed aside from one member, known as The Shifter (in reality, a V’Sori double agent known as The Sleeper).  The Shifter only had a shoulder wound, which instantly made Mindstorm suspicious.  He and Flux talked it over, and contacted Dr. Destruction who told him to take The Shifter on board until he could find a new cell for Shifter.  Mindstorm agreed, but decided to tell Shifter nothing, not even being willing to take him back to their headquarters.

Flux, mulling things over, remembered that there was a doctor at the Atlantic General Hospital that was known to help street people with medicines, and that Willy the Fish ran a pretty big underground medical supply trade.  Mindstorm took Bully’s phone (Bully was talking to Willy’s compatriot Izzy) and had Izzy arrange for a meeting with Willy.  Izzy told them to come to his safehouse, and they set up a teleconference with Willy.

Willy agreed to sell them what they needed for $25,000, which Mindstorm agreed to (they still had the gold from Capone’s vault), but Willy offered to save them some money if they would just take out one of his rivals, a new face on the scene named Oswald.

Mindstorm agreed, and the team decided to approach Oswald at his set-up in Downtown, and spring a trap for him.

Flux and Bully approached, with The Shifter hiding ON Bully as a suit.  Mindstorm and Socks burrowed beneath the ground.

Flux tried to talk out an arrangement with Oswald, while Mindstorm suggested that Socks try to use stealth to get in under the truck and steal supplies.

Oswald and Glaive (his bodyguard) heard them.

Oswald suckerpunched Flux, but had no effect, and Bully lunged forth (with Shifter melting off of him) and attacked.  Glaive was too much for Flux or Bully to hit, but Mindstorm summoned lightning that messed Glaive up!  Socks jumped into melee, and realized that he knew Oswald and Glaive as the former villains Longarm and Cutter: Former members of Omega whose cell had been killed!  What Socks DIDN’T know, was that their cell was killed by the guy lurking on their team: The Shifter!

Glaive repeatedly fell short with his weapon, when The Shifter stabbed him in the chest with a spear-arm and brought him down.  Socks ripped into Oswald, and Bully finished him off.  Impressed with themselves, Buster Squad 5 raided the supply truck, then took off back to the clinic.  Upon returning, they were relieved to see Kale up and around, having been healed by the Hippocratic Oath!

Hippocratic Oath expressed his thanks, but the Squad had no time to rest as Dr. Destruction revealed that he had discovered what Hydra’s device was missing, and had made arrangements to acquire the items!  He sent the team to the Farmer’s Market on The Docks to meet a woman named Hardcore and get the items!

The team, Kale happily in tow, headed to The Docks!  A mysterious figure hit them up regarding some kind of necklace, that he wanted a cool $10,000 for.  Socks offered him $10.

Kale, trying to take the necklace from Socks, sensed the magic emanating from the necklace!  Mindstorm quickly paid off the cloaked man with gold, and gave the necklace to Kale.

The team made contact with Hardcore, and she took them to a warehouse, where they came face to face, in the flesh, with Willy the Fish!  Willy, with bodyguards in tow, told them to have a seat!  He offered them something to drink, they began talking with each of them…about the pasts, their powers…he started to tell Socks a little about his past, but held off, still for fear of traumatizing him.

After a good long spell of conversation, he told them they could grab the crate with Dr. Destruction’s goods and they could go!

As Socks moved in to retrieve it, there was an explosion and the place was surrounded by a dozen Drones, a dozen Warspheres and a dozen Fins!

Everyone moved into a defensive position, with Mindstorm summoning a storm and Flux summoning a whirlwind!

Buster Squad 5 was quicker on the uptake than Willy’s crew, launching into action.  Kale stalked into the middle of the Drones and Warspheres, surrounded first by fire, and then ice, dropping them.  Bully snapped into a rage and began wading through the villains.  Socks took the crate underground and hid it, while one of Willy’s bodyguards was murdered by a Fin.  Willy shocked the team by sprouting horns, and goring the Fin!

The remaining bodyguards blasted away, gunning down anything they could!  Mindstorm unleashed lighting into the crowd, followed by electrical bursts.  Flux unloaded with his cyclone, sending targets scattering!  When one Warsphere wounded Flux, Willy burrowed through the room and came up in front of him, then lashed out at a Drone.

A Drone seriously injured The Shifter, while Kale teleported back into the building to get away from approaching Fins.  Buster Squad 5 and Willy’s men were handling themselves well…until six armed men approached.  They opened fire from a distance, blasting Mindstorm and Flux.  One of them laughed, opening fire and wiping out Willy’s guards.  Two of the Drones, bolstered, further injured Flux and wiped out The Shifter.

Willy ordered a retreat, telling the team the box was more important, and he charged the newcomers…Mindstorm ordered the team to pull back, but Bully – in a full rage – charged them as well.  Another of the newcomers laughed and lunged at Bully with a katana.  Bully smacked him down, but he came back up in a rage, now wielding a chainsaw!  The gunmen kept firing at Bully, bringing him down further.  Socks tried to burrow under Bully and bring him underground, but the fighter drove his chainsaw into the ground and tore up Socks as well.  He nailed Hardcore a moment later when she got too close…and one of his compatriots shot Bully down while another threw a grenade on the pile, injuring all of them.

The team hurting and now clearly outmatched, tried to pull back to the box, and Kale cast a spell, reaching out for both Bully and Socks…when only Socks responded, Kale teleported him close, shorting out his powers in the process.

Mindstorm, reluctantly, ordered Socks to dig them to freedom, while Flux closed the path behind them.

Willy told them “Run!  For my blood runs through your veins!  Use it wisely!” as he shifted into a giant monster and tried to block their retreat.

Word spread quickly…the V’Sori had trounced Willy the Fish AND one of the terrorists, Bully.  Bully’s body was paraded through the streets as an example.

As the team returned to headquarters, Dr. Destruction asked for the status of his contents, then told them a team would come pick the box up.

He then showed the hurting team what he had been told just minutes before: That the V’Sori had been tracking them since they returned from Hydra’s base, and how.  He showed them the footage of Socks killing Ikaran at his outpost, and the V’Sori showing up to check on them.

Destruction told Socks, simple:  “You cost this organization an asset in Ikaran, and a very loyal and powerful operative in Bully.  Your stupid vendetta jeopardized this team and this organization.  I only pray that what’s in this box was worth the price we paid for it.”

And of course, the team never realized that they had been being tracked for weeks and were sitting right there in their base…SIGH.

The next session proved uglier still.

Notes:  This “Very Special Episode” puts the team on the defensive.  The elite team I dropped in was tasked with taking out Buster Squad 5 after they raised their profile more and more in Star City.  They group lost popular (and powerful) NPC Bully, as well as NPC ally Willy the Fish.  I figure they’ll be about due for some serious revenge not long from now, though.

After a month-long break…

We picked up shortly after Dr. Destruction’s goods were picked up by another team.  Mindstorm, furious at the current situation, immediately called for a team meeting.  As the four remaining members of the team gathered together, Socks gave a touching – and hilarious – eulogy about departed “team leader” Bully, and placed Flux in charge of the team.  Mindstorm ignored him.  As Mindstorm tried to consider options for new team members, they all detected a sound…beeping…all around them.

Socks reacted first, burrowing into the ground…Kale, Flux and Mindstorm followed as their headquarters blew sky high.

Socks made the effort, as he burrowed into the ground, to strategically collapse the tunnel as he went, hoping to choke off efforts to follow them.

Dr. Destruction contacted the team quickly with coordinates, and they made their way under the city to a boarded up KFC full of Atlanteans.

Mindstorm pulled Socks aside and chastised him for everything his recklessness had caused them.  Then he took the dossiers of the OMEGA defectors they had hunted down a few weeks back and threw them at Socks, asking if he remembered them.  As Socks stared at the dossiers, Mindstorm pointed out that they were defectors who the team had to hunt and kill.  He told Socks, in no uncertain terms, that if he ever makes a move that stupid again, he will kick Socks off the team, tell Dr. Destruction Socks defected, and then hunt Socks down and kill him.

Socks was left with his jaw hanging open at the boldness of Mindstorm’s statement.

Sarna, the Atlantean running the safe-house, informed them that Dr. Destruction had told them they were to remain only for an hour, and then they were to strike a local hidden naval base and hijack a minisub…at which time Dr. Destruction would contact them with further instructions.

She also told them that Destruction had told them to change their appearances as well as their tactics…the V’Sori were about to be claiming victory, and Destruction’s thought was to let them have it.

The team found some raggedy clothes, and Socks dyed his hair purple.  They pondered what to do about Kale…who summoned his magic and transformed into a V’Sori…then promptly wondered why he hadn’t ever thought of that before.

The team headed to The Docks, to hit the naval base, and saw about half a dozen V’sori and half a dozen Drones on site.  Flux snuck to the sea and dove in, making his way under water to the sub…while Kale, as a V’Sori, simply walked across the base and to the sub, passing inspection by all that saw him!  One V’Sori wandered too close to Mindstorm and Socks, so Socks suckerpunched him and broke his neck!

Kale made his way up to the sub, where one of the V’Sori finally began to question him, so he summoned more power from Leviathan and took the V’Sori’s mind, entered the sub and had it lowered into the water.  He picked up Flux, and they later rendezvoused with Mindstorm and Socks!

Notes:  I was floored…FLOORED…with how flawlessly this plan played out.  I mean, THEY thought Flux would sneak onto the sub, Kale would slip away and Mindstorm and Socks would have to fight for a distraction, but it went WAY better than that.  Back to the game.

Flux and Kale were piloting the sub, as Dr. Destruction contacted the team once more and told them about a Hydro-Base a mile under water!  A strike team had been sent down two days earlier, and while communications from the base had ceased, so had communications from the sub, aside from a distress beacon.  The team headed toward the base, with the goals of finding out what happened to the team, and to make sure the base was disabled.

As the sub approached the base, Socks spotted the other sub in a docking bay, and saw a second bay that the team could use.  Flux veered the sub into the bay, and the team entered the base.

Mindstorm sent Socks and Kale one way, while he and Flux went the other…ordering Flux and Kale to remain in telepathic contact in case of trouble, while also giving each side a ranged fighter and a melee fighter.

Mindstorm and Flux entered the base’s living quarters, finding blood and signs of struggle everywhere…blaster marks on the walls, overturned furniture, etc.  They also found, on the walls of the base, timed explosives that had not yet been set.  In addition, some kind of strange, muddy substance on the floor.

Kale and Socks entered the main corridor, finding the center of the base and more blood and signs of conflict.  The weird, muddy substance was there as well, heading off into one section of the station, while a bloody trail led the other.

The team regrouped and decided to enter the other sub, where they shut off the distress signal, but saw no other bodies or signs of life.  Getting weirded out and kind of frustrated, the team headed deeper into the base, first following the trail of blood into the mess hall.  Again, signs of struggle, overturned tables, etc…in the back of the hall, they found large stores of food.

The team then followed the muddy trail, encountering a V’Sori hanger.  They then entered a lab, where they suspected the purpose of the base truly lay.  Mindstorm searched for journals, while Kale summoned the power of Leviathan and began to work the controls while reading V’Sori aloud!  He dug through file after file, experiment after experiment until he said aloud, in English: “What’s a Protean?”  Then, he turned to the team and told them that the V’Sori had tried to meld a K’Tharen with a Protean!  Before the team could ponder what that meant, a large, muddy, malleable, Fin-like creature stalked into the room, snarling!

The Proto-Fin lunged at Socks, who managed to avoid its attacks, while Mindstorm jolted it.  Flux followed lightning with fire, and Kale summoned eldritch bolts, which did little.

The Proto-Fin lashed out at Socks with a bizarre attack, but he luckily dodged at the last second!  Flux unleashed flames once more, and scorched the beast badly!  Kale tried to follow fire with fire, but his had little success…then, to the horror of the team…the Proto-Fin began to heal!

Socks roared into life, unleashed a furious series of attacks, hammering deeper and deeper into the heart of the Proto-Fin.  As it collapsed, Mindstorm hacked at it with Energy Knives, cutting its head off!  While Socks tore its heart out and devoured it, Mindstorm threw the head to Flux and told him to incinerate it, which he did.

Kale, having just studied the Proto-Fin, relayed that the Fin was apparently trying to breed with Socks, and that it had been absorbing the bodies of its prior victims.  Not waiting around to see if it recovered, Kale told the team to head back to the submarine as he moved from room to room, triggering the explosives and letting the base erupt in explosions.

As the team departed, Mindstorm contacted Dr. Destruction about the mission, with pleasing news that Kale had managed to copy the data from the experiments before they blew the base, and asked about their return to Star City…but Destruction told him that they weren’t coming back to Star City!  He told them that the V’Sori had just pulled two humans, an Atlantean and a half-Atlantean from the wreckage of their base, and that the team was to stay as far away as possible!  He directed them to Florida, where they would then take a flight to Japan…to recruit: The Monolith!

Notes:  A much better mission after the downer of the last go-around.  Socks picked up his last Seasoned advance, gaining Brawny after his body underwent bizarre changes from eating the Proto-Fin’s heart.  Flux boosted his Strength from a d4 to a d6, hitting his second Seasoned advance.  We decided to continue on with the game, so I sped things up about a week, with the team in Japan, hiking through the woods to find the Monolith.

As the team hiked toward the Buddhist Monastery where The Monolith was believed to be held at, Mindstorm filled them in on Monolith:  Dr. Karl Antaeus was an environmentalist with the power to transform into a giant stone man…and over time he had become more radical and unbalanced.  He had went to this monastery after being defeated by Champion and The Alpha Force, and Champion had sworn to take up the mantle of the environmental causes driving Monolith.  Now, the orders were simple: Bring Monolith out of retirement after ten years.

The team (now tentatively using the codenames #1 (Mindstorm), #2 ( Kale), #3 (Flux) and Doesn’t Matter (Socks)), walked up the final path toward the monastery.  Several monks milled about, but about ten in the courtyard met them at the path.

Mindstorm said they needed to speak to Dr. Karl Antaeus, and they were rebuffed by the monks.

This went back and forth, with Socks and Flux joining in, trying to convince the monks that they had to see Antaeus, and that the Monolith was needed to beat back The V’Sori.  The team was repeatedly rebuffed.

Mindstorm grew annoyed, while Flux and Socks were in his ear begging for a fight.  Mindstorm began to suspect that Monolith was being held against his will, but the monks denied this.  Mindstorm said they were hiding something, the monks said they were merely protecting Antaeus.

The conflict slowly boiled to a head…and finally the monks attacked because Mindstorm and the team would not leave!

Flux controlled a stone barrier and wrapped it around one monk, while two others attacked him!  Mindstorm had been summoning a storm throughout this, but did not bring it into play yet, trying to fight in a calmer manner.  Instead, he telekinetically moved one of the monks away, though he came charging back.  Socks even refrained from using his claws, slugging it out with another monk, who was giving as good as he’d gotten.  Kale cast a spell with one hand, transforming a giant Buddha statue into a walking ally, while blasting one monk with a palm blaster.

The team played very nice, Flux trying to Bind opponents, Mindstorm telekinetically moving them and Socks using fists over claws…until one monk hammered Kale with one brutal attack, then dropped him with life-threatening injuries with a second!

The kid gloves came off, and Mindstorm began unleashing lighting bolts, while Flux – who was taking hits on all sides – began using fire to bring down the monks.  As soon as Mindstorm got clear of him, Socks went for a Sweep on three of them, and made it an Omega Strike, wiping out all three!

The one that brought down Kale went after Mindstorm, while Mindstorm freed Flux to go save Kale!

Socks, tired from the Omega Strike, ran down one of the monks while Flux and Mindstorm cleaned up the rest.

With Kale down, Socks fatigued and wounded, the team were glad it was over…until the ground began to shake!

The monastery collapsed and Monolith, enraged, emerged!  He charged the team, unleashing shards of earth that ripped Mindstorm to shreds and nearly brought HIM down!

Mindstorm unleashed a bolt from the sky, striking Monolith…and doing squat.  He retreated behind Flux and Socks.

Socks tried to burrow, but the constant earthquake made that sound like a BAD idea…so he lunged at Monolith…and failed to harm him.  Monolith formed a stalagmite, and began slashing away at Socks.  Flux tried to meld Monolith to the ground and make him fall over, but Monolith’s control was far greater!  Mindstorm pleaded with Monolith to stop fighting and join them, and was crest-fallen when it seemed to have no effect.  Flux and Socks, however, sensed that something wasn’t quite right…Flux decided to get inside his mind, and he reached Dr. Antaeus, who was out of control and frightened!  Flux could also sense the overwhelming swell of energy being output by Monolith, causing the earthquake!

The team was getting very desperate, with Socks finally about to give in when a little pink-haired Japanese girl popped in next to Mindstorm and said Dr. Destruction had sent her…then gave him a little mechanical device that she said was designed to bleed off the excess energy in Monolith’s body.  Mindstorm telekinetically flung it at Monolith, hit, and drove the powerhouse down!  The team quickly subdued him, and headed out for a rendezvous, so Monolith could be indoctrinated into OMEGA!

Notes: We had to wrap up very quickly, as I had just received news of a family tragedy.  Mindstorm had played “The Calvary Arrives” moments earlier, so I popped in a little Japanese girl-genius to help stop Monolith, though I made sure the decisive blow as in the hands of the PCs.

Kale, in a non-Necessary Evil game, would be dead.  That said, he has sustained grievous injuries once more.  Kale, The Magic Eunuch, anyone?

I gave out one more XP, which pushed Mindstorm into Veteran, and he took Power Points, with one power being Telepathy, which is how his Leadership Edges are now going to begin effecting Wild Cards.(Note: This was pre-Deluxe edition in which that became the standard.)

Buster Squad 5 - A Necessary Evil Actual Play Volume 4

Seasoned Play Begins!  (or, Plot Point Episode 4!)

Kale spent a few days magically mending the wounds of Socks, removing most of the damage done in the last mission.  Flux, feeling quite disoriented from his flare-up of power when he destroyed the Science Lab in Tarrytown, took off for a while, though Kale assured the team (or tried to) that he would be back.

Dr. Destruction gave them their next mission, which was two-fold:  Make contact with a disgruntled V’Sori battlelord at his communications outpost and gain his aid, then assault the V’Sori occupied base of Hydra, the Mutant Mastermind.  The team was quite pleased to discover that the Warlord occupying the base was Shavak, who they had dealt with in the past.  Dr. Destruction’s orders were to find a device that looked not unlike a silver and blue phone booth, and to destroy the base.

The team quickly learned through Dr. Destruction’s debriefing that Shavak and the communications officer, Ikaran, had some bad blood between them because Shavak had publicly dressed Ikaran down and demoted him.

Some common knowledge rolls later, and the team deduced that Hydra was actually the father of the President’s grandchild (which kinda impressed me).

Before they set out, Bully announced “as team leader” that he’d arranged back-up for them:  Human resistance fighter Tula Michaels, whom they had aided in Tarrytown!  Socks was quite pleased to see Tula, and Bully helpfully suggested that they should “be one unit”, to which Mindstorm replied “I didn’t know we were splitting up” and Bully asked “Whose talking about the mission?”

The team was surprised to discover that Ikaran was holed up in a tenement about two blocks away and took off to meet with him.  They found signs of a recent struggle, where Ikaran had fended off some dregs that had tried to attack him.  The team went right to him and confronted him, with Socks quickly telling him they were after Shavak and wanted his aid.  Socks dropped the Turncoat adventure card here, and Ikaran quickly rolled over and offered to kill communications at the base, if they would kill Shavak and show them his silver pendant, which was a sign of his demotion.

With that helpfully resolved, the team stole away in a submarine to the mainland and Hydra’s compound.  As they approached the compound, they decided to have Socks burrow his way under the compound, taking Kale, Bully and Tula with him.  Mindstorm brought in storm clouds and headed into the skies, trying to get recon.

Unfortunately, he was quickly spotted by a pair of Warspheres, which took to the skies opening fire on him.  Mindstorm lashed out at them, unleashing the fury of the storms on them and trying to gain a closer look.

Meanwhile, Socks led his crew under the compound, awaiting word from Mindstorm about the layout.

Mindstorm flew in for a closer look, but saw four more Warspheres and two more headed deeper into the compound!  He sent out the order to Ikaran to shut the communications down, and tried to chase the two retreating Warspheres but had to deal with the four that were heading at him!  Only singed by one of them, Mindstorm shrugged it off and blasted the four Warspheres out of the sky.  He got a layout of the land and relayed it in detail to Socks, but had no time to rest before four more Warspheres attacked!  Once more, Mindstorm handled their assault, then headed toward Hydra’s mansion.

As he moved in to land, his heart sank:  A dozen Drones, four Fins and Shavak were waiting on him.  Shavak mocked him for walking straight into their hands like that all alone, and blasted him with a mental assault, then ordered his Drones to open fire.  Kale cast an ineffective earthquake, but Socks, Tula and Bully popped out of the ground, with Socks tearing his way through Drones, Tula blasting one in the face and Bully pounding another.  Shavak was annoyed by this, but the Fins moved in, three opening fire with rifles while one made the mistake of slashing Bully and sending him into a rage.

Shavak blasted Socks with a mental assault, but he shrugged it off and slashed the Warlord, wounding him.  Tula and Bully tore their way through Drones while Kale electrocuted a Fin.  Mindstorm, wounded from a blast fired at him, found his concentration shaken as he tried to summon lightning to attack his foes.

Kale took control of a Fin and sent him after the nearby Drones to no effect while Shavak physically assaulted Socks and was outmatched.  Mindstorm pitched the silver pendant to Socks, who caught it and said “This is from Ikaran…and so is this” before slashing the Warlord down.  Shavak, his voice filling with blood and death, screamed at the travesty that a warlord such as him could be brought low by a pathetic traitor like Ikaran and insignificant bugs like these villains (Mindstorm played the Villainous Verbosity card to prevent Shavak from attacking or escaping).  Mindstorm lashed out with another bolt of lightning, blasting Shavak into unconsciousness…Socks sneered and ripped his throat out, saying “I hate V’Sori.”

Kale, Bully and Tula cleaned up the Drones, then the team went inside to find the tube.  Deciding to look around before finishing the place off, they spied Hydra, floating inside a chamber filled with green liquid!  Bully smashed it with a headbutt, and they freed Hydra!  Hydra, upon seeing Bully, was convinced that he was in Hell!  However, Mindstorm explained the situation to Hydra and Hydra agreed to leave with them, to meet with Dr. Destruction.  Before he left, he set the base’s self-destruct mode, which blew Socks’ mind.  Hydra’s response?  “Of course I have a self-destruct.  I’m a SUPER-VILLAIN…what are you?”

As the villains escaped in their sub, the cliff-side base erupted in explosion.

A few hours later…

Socks knocked on the door of Ikaran’s communications outpost.  Ikaran opened the door and said “Oh.  It’s you.”  Socks offered “I have something for you,” and tossed him Shavak’s head.  “Now I want yours,” Socks said with a sneer.  Ikaran looked taken aback, then blasted him with a mental assault that Socks was seemingly immune to.  Socks advanced and Ikaran yelled “Do your worst!”  Socks brought the battlemaster low with a brutal assault, then parried Ikaran’s sword attack.  Ikaran, sensing his end said, with a sigh, “Go ahead then, kill me…it’s worth it, knowing Shavak is dead.”  Socks brutalized Ikaran with a claw full of gut, but stopped short of beheading him as well.  He did pick the blaster and vibro-sword off of Ikaran before departing, leaving the dead V’Sori in his tenement.

15 minutes later, another V’Sori communications outpost tried to raise Ikaran repeatedly…an hour later, a detachment of V’Sori strode to the top floor of the building and looked disappointed to see Ikaran dead.  One offered “Check the feeds…this building is wired…it was probably dregs that did this, let’s find out for sure.”

And at the wreckage of Hydra’s base, an Mbuna landed, releasing its crew to the carnage.  As they spread out, their leader remarked “Scour this base…seek out any clues.  This is becoming far, far too common.”

Notes:  The honeymoon is over.  Mindstorm is a known commodity among the V’Sori, and now their repeated tactics are finally being noticed…plus, Socks went “off the reservation” a bit and killed Ikaran in his own tower, albeit before Ikaran could alert anybody…however, Ikaran’s death (and manner of death) has not gone unnoticed.

Flux’ player flaked out on us at the last minute.  This would become a common theme.  Socks and Mindstorm are both Seasoned now, and I am changing the dynamics of the setting on them a tad.

New Session!

Flux emerged from his sabbatical, having discovered the secrets of his armor, The Flames of Atlantis.  He rejoined the team just as Izzy informed the squad that word on the street had it that Capone’s safe had been found…by the government of Star City!  Izzy gave them the details as he knew them: That the government would be transporting the safe from Star City PD to Warlord Grypon at dawn.

Mindstorm, Bully, Kale, Flux and Socks prepared their assault at dawn…the plan being that Kale would cause the armored truck to shut down…Socks would tear through and get the safe, hand it down to Bully, and Flux would shift them through the earth to get away.

Everyone got into position…Kale zapped the truck and shut it down…Socks decided to attempt to be stealthy in removing the safe…and he rolled a 12 versus both the Drones and the SOCorp Operatives critically failing their Notice rolls!  Socks managed to remove the safe from under the truck without being noticed!  Everyone was so distracted by the truck shutting down and a potential outward assault, that Buster Squad 5 was long gone before anyone saw it was missing!

Bennies abounded for that, from participation in a perfectly executed plan, as well as Socks pulling off his sneak-steal without winding up in an unnecessary fight.

Kale got the safe open and the crew was surprised to find $200,000 in gold bars, a map to Capone’s hideout and a note from Capone, revealing that before his execution in 1959, Capone used a yogi mind trick to jump into a cloned body of Capone!  Buster Squad 5 saddled up in a sub and headed toward the coast of Maryland, where Flux avoided V’Sori patrols and guided them to the cave entrance.  He widened the cave entrance so Bully could enter, and the group found an Atlantean sarcophagus with a body inside.  Kale quickly opened it, and Capone rose from the sarcophagus!  He asked the team if they were here to kill him, but Mindstorm assured him they were not, and that they had found his note.

Capone, content with that answer, told them he had a hidden weapons cache inside the cave.  Mindstorm asked how long he had been in the cave, and Capone asked what year it was…did the math…and said it had been 45 years.

Mindstorm gave him the good news and the bad news: The good news being that superheroes were no longer a problem, the bad news being that alien invaders had taken over the planet!  Mindstorm tried to recruit Capone for OMEGA, but Capone brushed it off.  He gave Buster Squad 5 his weapons cache, which included Energy Knives, Octo-Bombs and Palm Blasters.  Kale took the Palm Blasters while Mindstorm loaded up with the rest…and Buster Squad 5 found themselves better armed with a tentative ally!

Notes: Before the session began, Socks used an earned Advance to take the Bring It On edge from a Martial Arts supplement that allowed him to diminish the Gang Up bonus for attackers against him.  The force on the armored truck was a dozen SOCorp Operatives and four Drones which was hardly insurmountable, but Socks’ stealth and their botched Notice rolls made that laughably easy.  Rather than find an excuse to get them into combat, I let the whole thing go smoothly, giving them a well-earned moment of a well-executed plan.  At the conclusion of this adventure Mindstorm and Flux earned advances, with Mindstorm taking Power Points (adding Force Control with Telekinesis trapping and the Gale Force modifier for Storm) while Flux revealed his previously unknown Streetwise skill.

That having gone so smoothly, we launched into a new mission.

Dr. Destruction, pleased at the news from Buster Squad 5 about their mission, told them that he had (yet another) double-agent working for him infiltrating the V’Sori, an Atlantean named Lucian.  Lucian had been supplying superhumans for an underground fight club ran by a V’Sori Warlord named Darb, who was – sources said – due for a promotion!  Destruction, not wanting his brand of barbaric entertainment to be spread further, ordered Buster Squad 5 to infiltrate the club and assassinate Darb.  The plan was for two of the team to pose as prisoners and enter the arena, while the other three would disable the transports from the arena and try to free the prisoners.

Bully fell all over himself trying to volunteer as a prisoner, and Socks – of course – was eager to volunteer as well.  Socks and Bully beat each other up to make their imprisoning look legit, while Flux, Mindstorm and Kale formulated a plan to sneak into the club.  Mindstorm threw an Octo-Bomb at the back entrance of the club while Kale cast a spell to gain Darkvision and tried to sneak in with Flux (using their telepathic link to guide him through the darkness)…Flux tripped up and drew the attention of Drones inside the facility, but Kale blasted one and another fell from a stray shot into the darkness fired by another drone.

Flux charged one Drone and caused flames to erupt around him, but it didn’t seem to affect the Drone.  Flux, Mindstorm and Kale looked rather helpless against the Drones, not really being hurt, but not stopping the Drones either.  Kale gave up and moved on into the cells, where French thief Cyber-Burglaire kept calling for him to release him!  Kale made his nullifier shackles malfunction, and Cyber-Burglaire unlocked the prison door from the inside!

The two men released Rictus, the Undead Clown of Crime, who quickly bolted for the exit.  They next released Brimstone, who cackled and teleported away.

Mindstorm finally electrocuted one of the remaining drones and Flux burned the other one down, putting them to rest, while Kale and Cyber-Burglaire freed the jingoistic vigilante/villain Patriot, the Darkforce manipulator Shadowcaster, the angry Elven warrior from Asgard known as Sarveen, Hiro – a martial artist who had fought Mindstorm before, and Lycan, a werewolf hero.

Cyber-Burglaire, Shadowcaster and Sarveen (especially Sarveen) were eager to do whatever it took to bring this down, while Patriot seemed reluctant to go along with it, and Hiro and Lycan weren’t sure they trusted the villains…still, the lot of them finally agreed to join forces and ambush the V’Sori transport crews.

Socks and Bully entered the arena, where Darb watched on surrounded by Drones.  Two Groks were unleashed on them, but Socks and Bully fended off their attacks, with Socks wounding his and Bully dropping his with a single blow!

Darb looked confused at just what had happened, so Bully sneered, grabbed Socks, and launched him through the air at Darb!  Socks snarled and tore through the force field that was supposed to protect Darb, and came to rest at his feet!  (This was accomplished through the Teamwork Adventure card, and some very nice rolls from Bully and Socks).

As Socks prepared to battle Darb and his drones, the V’Sori Internal Police arrived and ordered everyone to surrender…but Darb refused and ordered his men to fight!  Seconds later, Socks tore most of Darb’s face off (a vicious attack combined with a botched Soak roll).

Bully battled the remaining Grok, but Drones and Warspheres were advancing on him, and a V’Sori fired a well-placed shot at Socks that would have been QUITE brutal, but Mindstorm’s player played the Lucky Break card…Socks turned, holding Darb’s body still, and Darb absorbed the shot!  Socks dove off the platform and burrowed into the ground, coming up under Bully and yanking him to safety!

Outside the arena, Kale made the big pitch on behalf of Mindstorm to the villains (and heroes) that they had rescued.

Cyber-Burglair and Shadowcaster quickly agreed to join forces, while Sarveen swore he would aid OMEGA to the end against the V’Sori.  Patriot seemed unsure about working with Omega, while Hiro and Lycan, reluctantly, decided that perhaps OMEGA was just what the world needed…a necessary evil.

Notes:  Again, another rousing success for the team.  I have done away with the random mission selections, picking and choosing the missions as I think it will benefit the campaign.  Other than the embarrassing 5 rounds it took to beat the two drones inside the facility, this session was very good to the villains, going a long way toward letting them feel suitably awesome.


The session began inside the team’s HQ, where Dr. Destruction had arrived surrounded by his guards.  He told the team that he had a very urgent mission for them:  Another cell of OMEGA terrorists had broken from the organization and Dr.  Destruction now considers them to be huge threats to the future of OMEGA.  His orders?  Hunt them down and kill them.

Dr. Destruction gave them team personnel dossiers on all five members of the team: The powerhouse Crunch, the Voodoo Master known as Curse, the fearmonger known as Effigy, energy controller Vesper and superspeedster Zephyr.  Mindstorm asked if any of them could be salvaged, to which Destruction replied “Doubtful”.  Mindstorm quietly contemplated that answer as he stared at the files.  Destruction said he would leave them to it, trusting in them to finish the deed.

First up was Crunch, an insanely powerful brick who had been tracked to a summer camp, and – Destruction believes – is planning on swimming from Star City to The Arctic.  Mindstorm made a plan: Bully goes in first, Kale, Flux and Mindstorm use supplemental powers to slow and stop Crunch while Bully fights.  Socks’ role is to hang back and help out if Bully got outmatched.  Flux, controller of elements, was also told to keep Crunch from escaping if he hit the water.

Bully snarled and charged Crunch as Kale and Flux got into position around him.  Crunch flinched at the charging Bully, but shook it off when Flux summoned the earth up around him.  Crunch broke free and hurled a chunk of rock and soil, smashing Flux and staggering him.  Mindstorm and Socks got into position around Crunch as well, Socks burrowing under a cabin and Mindstorm flying to a roof.

Crunch surprised everyone by leaping through the air and truing to crush Bully, though he missed and Bully spiked him with his horns…which did no damage to the horrific creature.  Mindstorm tried to bind Crunch, but wasn’t nearly strong enough.  Kale summoned Socks to his side, putting Socks in position to rip up through the ground and lay an attack on Crunch that left him Shaken.  Flux surrounded him in rock and dirt once more, this time holding him tight.  Crunch tried to break free, but failed.  Kale, once more channeling dangerous levels of magic, unleashed a power bolt of eldritch energy, but Crunch was still only barely harmed.  Socks assaulted him as well, while Mindstorm tried to telekinetically reinforce Flux’ grip.

As they pushed hard to keep him from escaping, Bully roared and drove his head and horns deep into the earthen tomb until blood and dirt began to run down his face…then he pushed again harder.  Crunch stopped struggling, and Flux and Mindstorm released their grip.

Kale summoned Healing magic and restored Flux…not a moment too soon, either, as word came that Zephyr and Effigy were robbing a bank and Dr. Destruction did NOT want them falling into V’Sori hands.

Notes: First target down.  Mindstorm laid out a plan and it mostly worked.  Good thing, too, because Crunch’s Strength was growing every round.  The huge difference maker was Flux successfully binding Crunch in place so he could be whittled down.

Buster Squad 5 descended on Star City Bank where Effigy was keeping the bank staff and customers cowed and Zephyr was rapidly emptying the vault.  Socks tore his way up through the vault, with Mindstorm and Bully behind him.  He tried to attack Zephyr, who heard him coming and was far too hard to pin down…so Socks moved on through to block the door.  Mindstorm zipped in and swooped past Socks, sealing the vault so Zephyr couldn’t escape…but was immediately targeted by Effigy, who unleashed nightmarish thoughts of Belladonna on Mindstorm, but the leader of this squad’s will was too strong to be broken.

Flux and Kale entered the bank from a side entrance, and Flux spewed flame at Effigy, who initially freaked – but calmed when it had no real effect.  He snarled about how “All the heroes are supposed to be dead”, and Kale replied “If we were heroes, you wouldn’t have anything to worry about” before launching a fireball at Effigy that erupted and set him on fire.  Zephyr just laughed at Socks and literally ran through him, the vault door and Mindstorm, then out the door with two bags of money while Bully charged up into the vault, confused to find himself sealed in with Socks.

Kale reached out with his mind and forced Zephyr to come back and face them, while the burning Effigy shrieked in terror and unleashed his Fear power in the bank.  The staff and customers, as well as Mindstorm, ran away from him, while Zephyr freaked and fell to his knees vomiting.  The most unfortunate effect came from Kale’s heart seized up and the Atlantean wizard fell to the ground in cardiac arrest.

Socks burrowed his way under the vault door and ripped into the blazing Effigy, tearing the constructed scarecrow apart.  Bully came up through the same tunnel and charged the Shaken Zephyr, smashing his spine and breaking the fragile speedster apart.

Flux immediately dove onto Kale and worked feverishly, trying to provide medical aid to keep Kale alive.  With a lot of luck and some natural talent (Healer Edge plus bennies), Kale was stabilized, but the V’Sori were en route to the bank.  Mindstorm ordered a retreat, since their goals were accomplished…and turned when someone grabbed his arm.  A bank teller, frightened but grateful, thanked Mindstorm and the rest of the team for saving them…Mindstorm, obviously taken aback by this, pulled his arm free and they escaped.

Notes:  Wow.  Second fight in this mission down, and Kale is in bad shape.  This took Kale out for the rest of the session…though Flux definitely saved Kale’s life.  Effigy’s desperation Fear effect totally changed the complexion of this fight, setting up Zephyr (total glass ninja normally) to be taken out by Bully since he was Shaken.  I gave them a 6 round time limit on this one before SOCorp would show up and turned it into a three way battle.

Back to the game…

Socks came up with the idea of contacting Willy the Fish, and Flux did just that with his Streetwise skill.  Izzy, henchman of Willy, told them he would meet with them to pick up Kale and get him some help.

As the Squad met with Izzy outside a gas station, they were stalked by a villain-killing vigilante named Blind Justice!  Justice opened fire on Mindstorm with a Nullifier gun – which had no effect – and pitched a grenade that came awfully close to the truck they had just loaded Kale onto.  Socks dove onto the grenade and absorbed a ton of shrapnel into himself…but kept the grenade from further harming Kale.  Izzy dove into the truck and fired it up, trying to get Kale away.  Bully charged Blind Justice, who snapped a katana free from its sheath and slashed into Bully…but Bully’s tough hide deflected it (really, Flux played an Adventure Card that kept Bully from behind harmed in that one attack)!  Bully attacked and missed, but Mindstorm wasn’t playing around and wrapped him in force bands.  Flux tried to ignite him, but Blind Justice was too well protected.  Bully smashed Blind Justice with a brutal headbutt that ended his resistance.  When Mindstorm drew a knife and walked over to finish Blind Justice off, Bully stopped him…saying that he had suffered enough from guys like them.  Mindstorm looked at Bully, then told Blind Justice that if he came at any of his people again, Mindstorm would kill him…even as Dr. Destruction provided information of a rendezvous between Curse and the V’Sori.

Notes:  Just a bit of an interlude with a Punisher-type vigilante attacking the team.  Socks made a huge sacrifice, risking life and limb to keep Kale safe from the grenade.  Blind Justice could have given any one of them a run for their money, but the team was thus far gelling really well together.

Buster Squad 5 approached the park where Curse was planning to meet with The V’Sori.  The team began to move in, unaware of the fact that Curse sensed them coming and was summoning zombies as well as preparing to copy Socks’ burrowing ability to sneak attack them.  Mindstorm swooped in first (first round, got a Joker) and Curse smiled from ear to ear…”I was expecting you…saw you all com—“  Without a word, Mindstorm summoned a bolt of lightning from the sky that ripped through Curse!  An impressive 32 point attack dropped Curse where he stood (a soak roll provided no successes, and I decided just to run with it).

The team considered, for a moment, waiting for the V’Sori to arrive, but thought better of it.

Notes:  Wow.  This one was supposed to be BIG…Curse was summoning Zombies, he had Copycat and Danger Sense, and the V’Sori were arriving in 3 rounds to provide backup…but Mindstorm, his closest ally on the shelf, was very, very angry.

Dr. Destruction sent only coordinates for the final target: Vesper.  The team arrived in a residential area, but seemed rather confused when they couldn’t find their target.  Examining the area, they all realized at once who they were looking for:  The woman across the street unloading groceries with her kids.

The jaws around the table dropped at this final target.

Taking a moment to compose themselves, Mindstorm opted to fly over to her and called out her real name, Theresa Hammond.  Seeing Mindstorm floating in the air, she told her kids to go inside.  Mindstorm was brutally honest: He told her he was there to kill her…but that he didn’t want to.  He asked her to come back to Omega so that no one would have to kill her.

She countered by pointing out that someone WOULD kill her if she went back…she would get sent on some stupid mission where some teammate would be too slow and she would pay for it.  She told Mindstorm that she’s the only thing her kids have, and she can’t risk that being a part of OMEGA again.

Mindstorm quickly offered a compromise:  Mindstorm told her he would have her added to his team’s roster, but she would remain at her house in Westpoint with her kids, and would remain off the active roster except in circumstances of dire emergency.  She hesitated, weighing her options…and realized how few she had.  Finally, she agreed to his terms.  Mindstorm, before leaving, pointed out to her that if OMEGA failed, she and hers would pay as bad a price as they will if they don’t fight.

On the way back to HQ, Mindstorm informed Destruction that Vesper was back onboard, as an inactive member of his team.  Destruction asked if Mindstorm was now dictating terms to him, to which Mindstorm said no…just that he hoped Destruction would trust him on this.  After a moment’s thought, Destruction told Mindstorm he would abide by Mindstorm’s decision.

Notes:  I intentionally tossed this one out there for the team to decide what to do…there was no wrong answer, even from Destruction’s perspective.  He intentionally did not tell them any circumstance about Vesper’s situation, in order to surprise them and see their reaction.  He figured that if they killed her, they were loyal footsoldiers.  The plan Mindstorm came up with, I thought, was rather brilliant.

Incidentally, out of character, the players commented that they can’t wait until the V’Sori are defeated so they can bring down Destruction.

One thing the guys seemed to like is that I typed up the personnel dossiers on the cell, and handed them out at the table when we began to play…they really rather liked that.

I also helpfully pointed out two more things about this mission:  1) This is what happens when people leave OMEGA and 2) Destruction clearly has files on all of them as well.  That’s actually what prompted the comment about bringing him down.

Next session, I believe we are now going to tackle some black marketers, and then Plot Point 5.