Dramatis Personae

  • The Commander (Doug) – telekinetic super-soldier with a really angry dog (Yukio). The dog is a powerful ally (250-300 points) and very intelligent and very, very aggressive.
  • Arc Light (Christian) – battlsuited gadgeteer with electrical powers
  • The Rat Queen (Emily) – brick with super-perception; made of actual rats
  • Zephyr (Merlin) – Real name Murui; Shaolin Kung Fu expert and super-speedster.
  • Eamon Finnegan (Kyle) – smooth talking gravity-master; Ultimate Fighting Lawyer, to borrow a phrase.
  • Billy Waugh (Shawn Fisher) – A special operative and guide provided by General Legend. Special guest star!
I love it when a plan comes together

Once again, we left off with The Commander needing to make a plan. This came together offline during the weekend, and to sum up, we have:
  • Arc Light – hacks the planet and gets a link into the comm station. 
  • Zephyr – back up to Arc Light, perimeter defense for that part of the mission.
  • Rat Queen, The Commander, Billy – initial perimeter recon. Goal is zero residual presence, no detection. If you have to choose between breaking contact and not looking in a particular window, break contact.
  • Eamon – scan base for underground surprises.
We re-convene near the Comm shed.
What Comm shed? Oh: that comm shed.
With Arc Light hopefully all in they face with the communications in and out, we put a contact team in the barracks (I’d say Billy, Ian, and . . . who’s the next sneakiest? Not the guy in the battlesuit, I suspect) and down the guards there.
When that’s done, which whittles down the opposition by half or more, we then all converge on our scientist quarry. Ideally, we have a noisy group that will be the hammer, and the quiet group that’s the anvil, and drive him into our waiting clutches.
Then we throw down a monster diversion – remotely firing up DA CHOPPA as if we expect to exfil using the CH47, for example – but we actually sneak out through the floor, using Eamon and TRQ to literally make a hole. At that point, The Commander and Billy can play rear guard, Zephyr and Arc Light keep our mysterious scientist nice an quiet. We emerge farther down the mountainside and Eamon floats us down. Billy takes point then and we disappear into the jungle, and then get back to the USA.
So that’s where we are, now we see what monkey wrenches are thrown in.

Game on! 
We set out, and the first thing we do is take down the guards on the east side of the field. The Commander quickly moves in, spends Fatigue, and does a move-and-attack and a flurry of blows, and takes down the two closest guards, while Billy uses his .300 Blackout (with super-suppressor) to down the guards midfield, and takes out each one with a shot to the eye. So the two supers neutralize the opposition on that side that we can see. That’s more contact than I was looking for early on, but there was really no way to do this without contact. 
Arc Light taps into the comm shed, and owns their communications network in short order. 
Billy and The Commander and Yukio head directly to the wall – The Commander warns Yukio that if he gives us away, no snacks. Yukio bolts across and then pops claws and starts climbing the wall. Overachieving showoff.
We check out the window, and it’s a foyer. Biometric locks, but Billy can see that it’s a handprint scanner. The Commander burns 5 karma to turn a natural 18 Tactics roll into biometric information dump that Arc Light feeds into their system, giving us access to the place.
We continue to look into windows and stuff. Yukio dispatches two guards, silently, and drags their bodies into the shadows. He’s doing “barkour,” nimbly leaping across rooftops. He continues “working” and piles up eleven bodies in the niche.
We see a few non-guards in the mess/lounge. Hmm. We send The Rat Queen northwest to neutralize the barracks, and that goes off as planned. The only bad guys we have to face are in the facility itself.
Eamon reports there are no hidden passages, nor underground basement, with his gravity sense. There are quite a few personnel – over 30 – and we sense construction similar to a prison cell, and made of an advanced carbon fiber material. The Commander deduces that they brought it in by air as prefabs. 
Eamon starts to scan and actually gets nosebleed scanning an internal part of the base, as if physics and dimensions have been broken in that area.  
Eamon then sends out a text message: “I think I just got contacted . . .” and then the message cuts out. The missing word? “Telepathically.”
Uh-oh.
We turn around, and see Eamon the flying lawyer hurtling to the base – and Total Eclipse of the Heart starts playing over the headphones on our personal frequency.
We hear, in tones of mind-bending horror “Find me. Free me. Restore me.” Eamon’s heading right there. 
OK. so much for the plan. 
The Commander blows in the wall and Billy dashes in, he sees our Quarry in Cell 2, and a guard down the hall. The guard is quickly dispatched with a bullet to the knee, because this is GURPS and not Skyrim. Sort of.
There are two unoccupied cells, and the Engineer is in Cell 2, so Billy goes in to get them. We’ve turned the building into swiss cheese, with many holes in many walls. 
We go full-on murder-commando. Zephyr throws in five grenades into the lounge, turning the nine people in there into gazpacho. Well. Boom. Arc Light electrifies the comm shed, rendering all within unconscious. He’s going for tapping into the data that the comms are sending and receeiving. They’ve got some pretty fancy satellites in orbit, and they’re sending this data – live data – to somewhere else. The encryption is really really good, though.
ED209’s Revenge
We have rapidly removed all opposition but in the R&D lab. Zephyr goes into the second-to-last unscoped room – and discovers trouble. Big trouble, in the form of a giant mecha. With giant guns. He tries to shoot at Zephyr, but crit fails, and we have an ED209 moment – he kills the techs in the room. Zephyr dodges, and instead of getting hit by 9 bullets, gets hit by two. 9d6+2 (2) to the torso. He takes 39 points of damage, even through armor.
The Commander runs down the hall and fires three mega-super-bullets at the now-shielded Giant Robot (SM+4). 6dx3(10) vs ultra-tech shields. Damage rolls 63, 75, 60. With an AD of (10), this could be OK, but that depends on the quality of the force shields.
Over in the R&D lab, we have a bunch of combatants. Down in the R/D test lab, Zephyr’s insides are on the outside. 
Billy does his thing and discovers the robots weaknesses. There’s a weak spot that will let us take it out in the sensor area, but we have to ablate the shield with massive firepower.
The special bullets actually penetrated the shield, so The Commander tries again. He hits five times, with “special” bullets, and even manages to hit through  a power defense. But it looks very, very mad. The way robots with giant guns doing 9d(2) damage do.
It runs past Zephyr, and totally unloads a minigun or something at him as it passes. Zephyr wisely spends karma to avoid being totally perforated.
Dr Jones, Meet Yoric . . . 

We note that the machine in the middle of the R/D lab is a crystal skull. Arc Light decides to grab it and smash it. We universally decry this as a terrible idea.
Arc Light grabs it, rips it out of containment. It starts pulsing, and starts giving off energy waves. The scientists start getting ripped to shreds, Arc Light’s armor starts dissolving, and he and his armor disappears. Only dust remains.
Every person in the building that isn’t a metahuman . . . dies. Our TacNet is down; it was tied through Arc Light’s computer.
Zephyr spends karma like it’s going out of style, and gears up for a lightning bolt – he’s going for a super-surge static electricity attack with an armor divisor at 6dx9 or something. He actually makes the robot explode. But he’s in range of the explosion. Acrobatic dodge out of the radius? Yes! And closes the blast doors, which contain the explosion.
That takes us out of combat time, but we still have a nasty red glowing crystal skull in the middle of the room.
Eamon’s Hidden Lore skill comes into play. A legend he thought was false, about 13 crystal skulls. Those that get ahold of them gain immense power. Some are portals to other times and places. All have some sort of personality inside them, and they judge you.
Billy actually had a secondary mission – and there’s yet another guy here that Billy was supposed to get. 
Zephyr talks to the skull, which allows Zephyr to pick him up (!). It looks to be made of a single piece of crystal (quartz, perhaps). It is emitting pure kyberian energy. 
Oh. Crap.
We try and lift the containment machine, and the skull shrieks out “I will not be contained!” Billy, and The Commander stay conscious by making will rolls; Eamon and The Rat Queen spend Karma to stay conscious; Zephyr passes out, and Arc Light has been disintegrated, so there’s no change for him. The Commander stays awake out of sheer determination to tell the rest of the team “I told you so” after tis.
The skull naturally floats to me. I say “OK, Yoric, what do you want?” I feel it rummage through my memory, and then deactivate. Things are OK for a bit, then I feel an immense pain, which I sustain through a good HT roll (and HT 16). 
We do a quick intel sweep, then grab everything we can, which winds up to be everything. We zip-tie all the survivors, get the Engineer, and out. We load into the CH47 and fly off; Eamon gives a few nudges to the mountain as we go to implode the base, and bury the base under a landslide. 
So, when we land on the ship, General Legend is there. Also there, uncloaked, is Basilisk, General Legend’s sister, sniper, and heal-bot. With them standing next to each other, they definitely look like twins.
“Did you know they had a skull,” Zephyr says without pause, and with a great deal of rancor.
Legend looks surprised. “Where is it?” Basilisk has tears in her eyes; she goes over and hugs the scientist on Billy’s want list. They talk together in a language no one understands but Shawn.
We end there.
*************
More thoughts on this later. It’s late and I’m tired.

Dramatis Personae

  • The Commander (Doug) – telekinetic super-soldier with a really angry dog (Yukio). The dog is a powerful ally (250-300 points) and very intelligent and very, very aggressive.
  • Arc Light (Christian) – battlsuited gadgeteer with electrical powers
  • The Rat Queen (Emily) – brick with super-perception; made of actual rats
  • Zephyr (Merlin) – Real name Murui; Shaolin Kung Fu expert and super-speedster.
  • Eamon Finnegan (Kyle) – smooth talking gravity-master; Ultimate Fighting Lawyer, to borrow a phrase.
  • Billy Waugh (Shawn Fisher) – A special operative and guide provided by General Legend. Special guest star!
Orichalcum for Sale?

We start with 500 lbs of orichalcum, enough for us to all retire comfortably, for those who don’t have (nigh) infinite sums of money already (cough Arc Light cough).
So a few days roll around and Blue Skies is quietly panicking over the loss of well over a billion dollars. Well. Over. 
Grandfather Tokugawa is finally through customs, but it’s going to take a week or more to fix up the sword. 
We pick up wanting to go after The Engineer, a gadgeteer who could reverse engineer just about anything, but in particular he is the guy who can re-engineer the orichalcum refining equipment. He’s wanted in the US, and General Legend gave us permission to go to South America and get him out. Extraordinary Rendition for the, um, win. But that will seriously damage Blue Skies’ long-term ability to make super-suits and other kyberian tech.

We get flown out to sea to land on an enormous amphibious-looking ship which is definitely not a helicarrier. It looks really advanced. But totally not a helicarrier. We get transferred to a V22-like craft (it’s a V44!), and then travel about 10 hours to South America.
We arrive as fresh as we can after a long time on a military transport, and hook up with a scout that has been looking over this base for quite a while. He’s a military operative who knew the original Arc Light. He also knew The Commander, but there are few special ops that don’t know him.

We transfer to a small boat headed upriver. Uh-oh. Alien vs Predator action. And I loved him in Wall Street.

We’re going to hike from river to village, and then hump up to the village; Shawn’s . We start into the woods, and find that the local guerillas are trying to set up an ambush for us. How cute (Shawn crits on his first Roll20 game roll ever. Go Shawn!).

We start off by having our operative Billy sneak up behind a guerilla and roll a crit to the neck with a Neck Snap, rolling max possible damage, about 40 points of injury. Snap. Dead. Poof.

He’s going to move to secure the area by himself because he doesn’t know our capabilities yet. 

With Observation-31, there’s not much The Commander misses, and he sees both Billy and the ambush. The rest of us all make decent Per/Obs rolls, but only Zephyr and The Commander really see what’s going on. 

Billy takes out two more with shots to the legs, but they go into shock and die. He then crits again for a rapid-fire burst to three close targets on the top of the roof, and takes out two of them. He’s using a suppressed rifle, so there’s now five down, and no one the wiser.

Zephyr’s up now, for the rest of us. He notes that there are six fodder types, plus a loincloth-clad fish-man to our rear. He runs clear into their midst, leaping jump-kicks one in the knee (because we seem to be doing a lot of that), and then moves on to kick the next-nearest guy to the east. He gets a boot to the head (yah yah!) which actually kills him. Boom. Dead.

Billy’s up; he actually misses as the guy dodges out of the way. Then moves over to the far building, with all four targets conveniently in a line (“They were excited”), but doesn’t actually kill them all.

The Commander drops one decisively with a three-round burst to the vitals, and Yukio starts to savage a guy on the south end of the fight.

The fish-guy closes the distance ridiculously fast, and grabs The Rat Queen stunts dissolution, and turns into a giant pile of rats. She crits, and instantly turns into a pile of rats. So fish-man now has a fistfull of rats, but disappears beneath the muddy water.

The Rat Queen runs after the bad guys. Eamon senses the fish-guy, and grabs him with TK.

The Commander and Billy each take fire – ineffective fire – from bad guys. Some one goes full auto on Yukio, and hits once. Billy takes fire again, and he dodges again, as does The Commander. Someone tosses a grenade at Eamon and Arc Light, but Eamon power-blocks it and grabs the grenade with his TK. Someone runs up to our Kung Fu master and tries to butt-stroke him. He does a grabbing parry. Murui does a grabbing parry and then squeezes the trigger on the rifle, shooting the guy in the head, and then he kips up.

Billy goes upside someone with his friend, Thomas A. Hawk, and hits for 3d6+8(3), taking off both the guys legs, and then throws the weapon at the nearest guy, spending karma to make it a crit. Dead.

The Commander shoots a guy three times in the chest (out), and then steps forward and stabs a guerilla who is holding a villager hostage in the eye, with predictable results.

We’re down to the fish-man and three normals.

Yukio rips up another soldier, taking him out and then sprinting after the last guy, who is standing near Zephyr.

Fish-guy tries to grab Arc Light, who electrifies his suit to thank fish-guy for his trouble for 41 points of Feel the Bern. 

Eamon shoves the grenade down fish-man’s throat. Oh, my – he’s grenade fishing

The last guy on the south bank tries to shoot Zephyr; but he’s close enough to parry the gun. He grabs him on his turn, and Judo-tosses him into the water. No one left hostile on the south side of the river. 

Billy Waugh shoots twice, doing some bullet-bending and taking out two folks. Our fish-man is trying to retch out a grenade. Arc Light puts his hand over his mouth to prevent it . . . and rolls a 3. He does damage and there’s an internal explosion on the way. 

We interrogate the last guy – the only survivor – and luckily he speaks English. Eamon crits. We get ALL THE EXPOSITION.

The guy’s boss had a vision we would come, they got some money from some local white-guys. So they’re patsies, but directed patsies. The were supposed to murder-hobo us at the behest of the local warlord – El Jefe Huaca – who fancies himself a priest of the old (Incan) Gods, but they do seem to listen.

We turn over the prisoner to the local villagers.

Billy knows that Blue Skies’ base and the guerilla base are in opposite directions, and they’re three days away. Between Billy and The Commander, we’ve got two of the best point-men on the planet. We can also go at a very good clip, making 1.2 mph through the jungle while moving “slowly” enough to search and bringing our spec. The Rat Queen can do counter-tracking as a disperse entity. 

We decide to give us two 14-hour stretches to the foot of the mountains, then fly us all up via TK. We decide that Eamon is going to start carrying glitter dust. “Think happy thoughts.”

We make a ridiculous set of rolls. Zephyr runs up the cliff, the rest of us fly up with Eamon’s help in a place that no one ever climbs.

He shows us the map for next time and we end there.

***** ** ******
We’re given a week to come up with a plan. We immediately start talking about throwing the helicopter off the cliff. Surfing down the mountain on disassembled radar dishes.

But this is a Blue Skies facility, so we can count on metahuman opposition.

So we need to make a plan. We’re good at that. Yeah.

Dramatis Personae

  • The Commander (Doug) – telekinetic super-soldier with a really angry dog (Yukio). The dog is a powerful ally (250-300 points) and very intelligent and very, very aggressive.
  • Arc Light (Christian) – battlsuited gadgeteer with electrical powers
  • The Rat Queen (Emily) – brick with super-perception; made of actual rats
  • Zephyr (Merlin) – Real name Murui; Shaolin Kung Fu expert and super-speedster.
  • Eamon Finnegan (Kyle) – smooth talking gravity-master; Ultimate Fighting Lawyer, to borrow a phrase.
Fight, for the Night, to Par-ty!

We start dealing with Our Two Zephyr’s, and Eamon trying to build a psych profile to tell the two Zephyrs apart. Yeah, no luck with that. And Zephyr 
About 19 hours after the Commander’s sword was broken, he gets a call from Tokugawa, his grandfather, that he’s coming to see me. Oh. Joy.
We spend a bit of time bantering about Flash and Reverse Flash with Zephyr and his twin. He points out I’m down half a sword, making me have half a soul. I’m a so man.
The two of them start to argue about who needs to draw a mustache on the other’s face, and Merlin crit-fails his roll. He winds up with a giant phallus on his forehead, with Other Zephyr making fun of him for being so slow.
Here we go. They challenge each other to a race. Then the one-uppsmanship starts. Then The Commander steps in, and demands to know what the loser has to do. We decide on an “I’m the Evil One” tattoo.
He loses. Arc Light holds him down and we tattoo him on the back of his legs.
Anyway, we have a sword to reforge and a Scarface to stop. With that in mind, I’d sent a note to the group earlier about plans:

  1. Reforging the sword is to be part of today’s game; Christopher said that last week. I’m assuming this is more than just spot-welding, so there’s some game to be had there. Might need a new piece of orichalcum, frex.
  2. We should probably pull a data dump of the Blue Sky HQ, which means another infiltration. While that data tap is very very tasty, I think we should consider assuming at some point that it’s outlived its usefulness or will be discovered and turned against us.
  3. We should “triangulate” on the Blue Sky Scarface by using our most recent data pull (see above) with external computer hacking in order to identify a few nexuses (nexi? Nexuses.) of possible activity, and then take the fight to them. 
  4. My preferred tactic would not be hitting Scarface directly, but acting to simultaneously make his life difficult in three to five places. Disrupting two of his current operations, making inroads on two more of his bases or depots where he’s NOT going to be present, plus an informational and/or psychological warfare trick or two.

With that in mind, I’ll suggest the following:

  • Find an important ally of his and defeat him. (Arc Light to do computer fu to find, Commander and Rat Queen to scout, Team to fight)
  • Find an important location of his and destroy or incapacitate it. (Commander and Rat Queen to Find, Team to Destroy)
  • Contact our grey-market acquaintances and allies and pay them to disrupt his activities. (Eamon, Zephyr, Onyx, and Katana will all be helpful here)
  • Try and ferret out some internal dissent within Blue Sky and turn them against Scarface, so he has internal issues as well as external. We could even plant evidence in our data dump packet of internal dissent that isn’t there. (Eamon and Arc Light to create, Commander, Rat Queen, and Zephyr to plant)
  • I don’t think we’ve been exploiting the sorcery angle enough. Zephyr should brainstorm on how we can use the surging magical power for good rather than evil.

These are by and large considered good plans by the GM and players.

Anyway, we need orichalcum for the sword, and Zephyr (the evil one, who is our one) fails the roll . . . but his good twin argues that that isn’t how you do a magic circle, this is how we do a magic circle. And he makes his roll.

A GM-NPC has never been so much fun. 

“Yeah, you keep talking, but here you are straining, and here I am makin’ magic in your circle.”

Merlin has had quite enough of this, and he has extra karma to burn. So . . . 

There’s quite a bit of orichalcum in the Van Dorian industries building downtown – they came up with super-suits in the setting, so they have it. And they know the only orichalcum mine in the world, which they keep as a closely-guarded facility.

Oh, and there’s a bunch of it in the Blue Sky building outside of town.

Yes. That sounds like both what we need, and who it need it from. 

Zephyr and Other Zephyr start arguing about who’s Dr Evil and who’s Mr Bigglesworth.

We have plans for the building from our last data tap. If we successfully eliminate the Blue Skies source, they’ll have to get more if they want to keep outfitting their supers. So Blue Skies would have to go to Van Dorian’s facility or the secret mine to get more, which makes them predictable and would allow us to start taking the initiative.

We make the call to Eamon’s contact so we can try and get a meeting with van Dorian himself. We don’t lie, but we definitely are cagey with our information. Eamon has to burn two karma to make van Dorian in NYC in a convenient way; The Commander spends two karma to make Tokugawa and he old friends, or at least acquaintances. Actually, I don’t, because the GM is evil and they already knew each other.

Tokugawa can’t make it – he’s in the process of bringing every useful swordsmith in Japan to me, since (for plot reasons) I can’t be in Japan. 

We head over to the Van Dorian building to a very secret room using a very secret approach method, and we’re informed by a helpful AI that our appointment is in 10 minutes . . . and the computer is very, very confused by the two Zephyrs.

We’re greeted by a receptionist on the top floor, and we’re invited to sit. In a bit, van Dorian comes out, an older gentleman who looks like he just worked out.

We introduce ourselves: Luca Damini (Arc Light), Ian Owari, The Rat Queen, Zephyr, Evil Zephyr – a redundant backup, perhaps.

We show him the broken sword, Eamon’s unbroken sword, and lay out the concept. Deplete Blue Skies’ orichalcum reserves, then Blue Skies will have to go get more, which means Van Dorian. So . . . bringing him in on the deal.

He asks if we’re basically telling him we’re going to commit a crime. No, we have reason to believe this stuff is being used to commit crimes, so between Civil Asset Forfeiture and strategic military action, we can take it.

Van Dorian shows us a file that shows that there are three stockpiles that Blue Skies has, plus one location that has re-engineered refining equipment based off of Van Dorian’s designs. Some crazy Russian (a meta called The Engineer) did it for them. It blows up frequently. I spend two karma to make him a wanted man already by the government.

I critically succeed on an Intel Analysis roll, and we put together the plan from our own data as well. There are facilities in Florida, Norfolk, and NYC. 

Van Dorian agrees to send a team to Florida. We send Onyx (karma spent to force the appearance roll), Katana, and the NPC Zephyr to Norfolk so that my SEAL allies will have competent leadership and metahuman backup. 

We first raid the Blue Skies facility again.

  • Zephyr goes in and managed to snag a few high-access keycards, and a success helps infiltration
  • Arc Light, Eamon, and the Rat Queen all make equally good rolls
  • I roll vs a base skill of 29, roll a 6, and with help the net is I make it by 27, overwhelming the -10 BAD and managing to hide the data tap even deeper than last time.
  • We also use some of that extra mojo to try and determine the algorithm by which they program the security in the keycards. He spends karma, making it an auto-crit. We have a universal superuser access card, and it’s off the books.
The keycards will get us into all the facilities, not just the one in New York. 
Now we have to go back and get yelled at by . . . oh, Tokugawa hasn’t arrived yet. Ah. Christopher is messing with us using Doom.
OK. Back on mission then. Tactics, with plenty of Teamwork from everyone but Other Zephyr, who crit-fails . . . but then spends 5 karma to turn that into a critical success, because Other Zephyr can’t be one-upped by Evil Zephyr.
With a BAD of -9 and -4 for planning three separate ops, I still succeed by 14, and get 15, giving me 5 karma to spend on anyone involved with any of the teams.
We resolve the other teams stuff first, and I spend 4 of the 5 karma to make the raids, which would have succeeded anyway, turn into critical successes, and the two teams are in and out like ghosts. 
We have one Team karma left for ourselves.
The plans we have suggest they have tons of microcams all over the forest. The compound itself is in upstate New York. 
We check in with the other teams – each location had something like 75kg of orichalcum, so we can carry it out.
We stage in with the VERTOL, and use Eamon’s gravity manipulation to TK us onto the roof pushing 2FP for No Signature. 
We fire off a gizmo or three to spoof the motion sensors on the roof. There’s a pot with cigarette butts in it right outside of the door. There’s no one beyond the door, and several below, says Eamon’s TK sense. We know from the blueprints that it’s a single floor with vaulted ceilings that contain the equipment. The doorway we’re standing at leads to a staircase that will take us where we need to go. The orichalcum is located in a several-ton vault in the back, which we decide we can crack with Eamon’s TK+Lockpicking.
The Commander gets Arc Light in by making a Stealth roll by 15; Arc Light gets inside the security room and disables the cameras. Our magical mystery keycards take care of the rest.
The room is hot. Very hot. There’s a blast-furnace heat here. Arc Light makes an Inventor! roll to sabotage the system; Eamon and Zephyr, who really is Evil Zephyr with Criminal!-19 skill, is the actor doing the lockpicking. Zephyr crits with a roll of 5, even without Eamon’s help. With it . . . they could steal so much.
Arc Light crits his Inventor! roll. The Rat Queen crits her Perception roll. Holy. Crap.
The Commander spends karma to roll twice to get us out, and makes the roll by 19 (not a crit). Arc Light also burns karma to try and steal the orichalcum refining technology. He’s got Inventor!-20, an eidetic memory, and needs to spend 5 karma to get this done.
We exit with the orichalcum in hand, and a certainty that the next time the reactor is used, it’ll go up. We spend karma to make it certain that it happens to our schedule.
So . . . that leaves us with all their orichalcum in our hands, and their only refinery will definitely blow up on the morrow.
Our next step is to go after the Engineer. This is a black bag extraordinary rendition situation, against The Engineer, a wanted rogue weapons designer, likely created purposefully by Russia (or maybe Iran). 
We need to find him first, though. Zephyr makes a Streetwise roll to find him through criminal contacts by 12 (Russian mafia comes through); The Commander makes an Intel Analysis roll by 12 on his end as well. 
He’s currently in a Blue Skies facility in South America, where he’s working on a project that’s so secret it’s not even in the Blue Skies archives. At all. We do have a code name for the project, called BIRDS EYE.
We will be partnering with General Legend’s operatives to extract the Engineer as a black ops mission sanctioned by the government. 
****
We had a ridiculously successful mission. Almost too many crits, but they were all legit, and they snowballed – we had extra karma from great sessions the last few times, plus the boost karma from the crits, and we spent it like it was going out of style to basically force Blue Skies into the corner we think we want them in.
I guess we’ll see.

Dramatis Personae

  • The Commander (Doug) – telekinetic super-soldier with a really angry dog (Yukio). The dog is a powerful ally (250-300 points) and very intelligent and very, very aggressive.
  • Arc Light (Christian) – battlsuited gadgeteer with electrical powers
  • The Rat Queen (Emily) – brick with super-perception; made of actual rats
  • Zephyr (Merlin) – Real name Murui; Shaolin Kung Fu expert and super-speedster.
  • Eamon Finnegan (Kyle) – smooth talking gravity-master; Ultimate Fighting Lawyer, to borrow a phrase.
We were delayed a bit as we had hardware problems and we were trying to actually all play together, but we eventually bailed and started the game.

Kool-Aid for the Win
We know we need to check out the warehouse that we learned about last mission, and I did a quick electronics-assisted recon (made Stealth roll by 23), and we just assume I make the Observation roll by 17 (I have Observation-31, and Christopher lets us assume a roll of 14). There are a couple of ways into the building that are disguised as boarded-up entrances. There are also a few ventilation-type ducts that would give access.
I decide that’s not why I’m here – external recon only. We pull in Eamon, and he decides with his gravity sense that there are three people present. He tries for a bit more information, to determine if they’re armed or not, and he sees some sort of gravity wave flash out, as if apertures are forming about 2 yards across. He warns us that something inside is currently breaking the laws of physics, and there are 15 portals that have opened, with more opening all the time.
One of the targets starts walking through and disappears into a portal. Zephyr tries a quick “where does the portal go” spell, but hard. He then tries to create a sympathetic token but that’s improv magic.
So we decide to do the Kool-Aid maneuver, and we send Arc Light through the wall at full force. He’s a human/robotic flash-bang. 
Eamon softens the wall a bit (actually quite a lot) and when Arc Light goes through, it explodes inwards. Hopefully creating real-brick shrapnel from a faux-brick force collision.


Inside we see Gemini, looking out of it, and a petite woman with black hair. And still fifteen or so portals branching throughout the city.

We basically figure we have 1-2 seconds to take these guys out. They’re not surprised or stunned, but we’re more or less first. So Zephyr jumps in and runs up to Gemini, and gives him a love-tap on the jaw for 5 damage. He didn’t even twitch, though – he gets a crazy look in his eye, and Zephyr gets the feeling he doesn’t want to be there. 

It’s like Age of Ultron, where Hulk spits out that tooth? Yeah. That kind of pissed.

GM calls for confusion rolls. The Commander fails by 1, and he’s dazed for 11 seconds (25-IQ), so ouch. 

Zephyr splits into two. Eamon’s unaffected by this due to Unfazeable, but the rest of us are stunned for at least one turn. Maybe more. Even Yukio is frozen in fear. I’m so going to make fun of him for this. Maybe from a distance, though. Katana is also confused, and Soarise just passes out.

That’s one heck of a confusion blast. It was a visible, multicolored wall of force that came out of the dark-haired woman. Eamon tries to fly up to her and give her a TK punch from the portal side of the room. He hits, but the GM spends Doom (anti-Karma, or Karma for NPCs) for a critical success.

They step through a portal. We recognize a particular donut place, so they’re still in the city.

Eamon elects to grab us all – stunned and not – and dump us all through the same portal by making the portal “down” in terms of gravity.

We all go through the portal, and we land in another part of town. The sudden mix of gravity and spatial distortion creates a massive breakdown in the concrete beneath us. Totally superhero-landing style.

Zephyr, who hasn’t done anything crazy in a bit . . .wait. 

Which Zephyr? There’s s second one lying KO’d on the concrete.

He shrugs, and runs up to the rapidly retreating criminals, and says “Hi. Where you guys going?” He rolls 17 on the reaction roll. 

“Bad man. Tried to punch me.” Says Gemini.
“I’ll take care of it,” replies the sister.

Gemini punches him. He’s got Roll with Blow, so he tries to take the shot, and he crits! And he makes it look good. Which is good, because Gemini hits for 15d+15 damage, quartered to 17. He’s knocked back, does a backflip in the air, and does a superhero landing, because we all have seen Deadpool too many times. As if that’s a thing.

Zephyr tries to talk to them, mentioned the jewlery store, and then she blasts him with a confusion blast. Zephyr makes the resistance roll, but pretends to be confused anyway. Not sure why, but we’ll go with that.

And the other Zephyr wakes up. He decides that the other him is Evil Zephyr. “I can take him down!” He runs over and performs six rapid strikes. Here we go. He hits with all six.

Heh. He’s reeling from getting biffed by Gemini, so his normal Dodge 15 needs to be cut down in half, then boosted back up to 15 with a fatigue point, a retreat, and an Acrobatic dodge. He makes five of the six dodges, and takes 2 points of damage, which brings him to 0 HP.

“Guys! Guys! I found the Evil Me!”

Fracture throws stuff at us, using a Telekinetic bombardment, but between The Commander’s TK (a seldom-used power) and Eamon’s, no harm done.

The Commander gets a turn, and runs up next to them, and tries to hit them both with a sheathed katana strike for 5d6+14 crushing, as well as a 5d6 kinetic blast. The blast throws Fracture three yards (not bad) and Gemini takes 29 crushing and 40 knockback . . . and just takes it.

Arc Light tries to tangle Fracture, but she TK’s it away, leaving a sticky spot in the middle of the street.

Zephyr is attacking Zephyr again – a parried grapple and another. “Wow, Evil Me is really slippery!” 

“I am not evil!” Z tries to Judo Throw Z, and gets aggressive parried for a point of damage.

Real Zephyr (we think) decides he’s had quite enough of this, and goes for his Hundred-Handed Strike. He makes the roll by 20, but the defender power stunts.

I get hit with a crit, spend karma, defend successfully, and my katana breaks as a result. I still make my DX roll to avoid the blow, so yay.

When the sword shatters, an explosive burst of energy comes from the sword, blows Gemini 7 hexes back, knocks Fracture into the goo, and the Commander is now standing in a crater. Gemini is on his back, screaming, with a piece of telephone pole pinning him to the grounds.

Apparently orichalcum blades are chock full of kyberian energy. Boom.

The Commander runs up and gives Fracture a love tap to put her out, which works. Gemini is bleeding all over the place, and in bad need of medical attention. Eamon chokes him out with a blood choke using TK, so that we can treat his condition. We keep him knocked out chemically, thanks to a quick gizmo by Arc Light.

The other Zephyr tells me that the other Zephyr is really the Dastardly Phantom Menace. Eamon’s had quite enough – he suspends both Zephyr’s in the air.

The Commander rolls a 3 for Physician to treat Gemini, plus first aid from Arc Light, and we fix up 12 HP for Gemini, saving his life. Not that he’ll be grateful or nothing.

Gemini’s real name was Edgar Giardian, and he suffered severe brain damage during an accident in New York. Very strong, very durable, regenerates like crazy.

His sister is . . . stranger. She’s got a big TK ability, and her “Fracture,” which is a kind of random effect field. It can damage, it can afflict people, temporary madness, and in one case it can actually split people into other versions of themselves. She can actually control what power is used, but normally she just lets it roll. Entropy influence, if not control.

This is the first time they’ve been able to be captured – he’s a D-scale metahuman, compared to us, at I scale (I, D, C, N). The A-Team are mostly high-end I-scale, one will end up D-scale. Just for background.

They’re keeping him under heavy sedation, changing his meds every hour. Fracture is wanting to see her brother. We decide that Eamon can leverage that desire for excellent interrogation prospects.

We hit the key questions

  1. What was the purpose of the diversion? They were paid to steal something. They don’t know what. Don’t care. Steal a safety deposit box – gives us the number, too.
  2. Who paid them? They were paid by a guy with a scar on his face – $5M, $10M if they could kill one of us – to mess with us. Sandy hair. Caucasian. No one we’ve encountered before – a new player.
  3. Who was the portal guy? A very scary man. She won’t say more. 

Huh. Why didn’t portal guy – scary portal guy no less – steal it himself? A good question.

Oh, and she created Zephyr Duplicate. Usually they go away, but sometimes they stick around. If he’s not dead after 20 hours, he’s likely to be sticking around.

Oh, and I get an irritated call from Grandfather, who somehow knows that the sword got broken. He’ll be on a plane. Try not to break anything else. That it’s broken means “it” is active again, and that might not be good for me. 

What does that even mean? He’s not telling.

Anyway, we hit up all the information. The equipment, the patterns. We find a Blue Sky metahuman handler, reported dead, with sandy blonde hair, and a scar on his face.

Blue Skies is funding metahumans to attack us. No surprise there. They got just enough info from our involvement with Singleton to be pissed. 

We decide that we’ll take some time over the next week in out-of-character downtime to take the fight to them.

We end there.

We are on patrol as a group, when we come across 20 guys robbing a store. But they’re all the same guy, in the same super-suit, and a bunch of SWAT gear, knives, a sword, carbines . . . 

Hmm.

The Commander has Observation-31, so there we go. We’ve also got copies of guys on the roof, with sniper rifles. My Tactics roll was made it by 14, and that allows me to give either 4-5 karma points (re-rolls) or 14 “steps.” Given the tactical situation and that we’re in the middle of the street, I choose movement.

So, The Commander’s step is 2, Zephyr’s is 3, Arc Light is 4, Eamon is 2, and Yukio is 3. I divide that into none for Zephyr (he’s fast anyway), 5 for Arc Light (because he’s flying and can take the snipers) 2 for me (I’ve got good armor), 4 for Yukio the Wonderdog (force of nature), and 2 for Eamon (he’s vulnerable).

And Katana, the Okinawan sword expert from a prior game that we won over to our side, is also there. That’s The Commander’s future wife, for sure. He’s convinced. True love. Also Saorise Finnegan, who is apparently also one of the best swordswomen in the world.

Anyway, The Commander and Eamon take cover behind a plant . . . but Katana grabs me and teleports me to the roof. That’s right, she’s a blinker.


Zephyr, unsurprisingly, is up first as we start out in media res, and bolts off to his first target, grappling him and using his Altered Time Rate to run over and cuff his hand to his leg behind his back – the guy’s got an assault rifle, and we’re trying to start with the high-threat guys. Guns and sniper rifles.

Saorise (Soor-sha) runs up and attacks another rifle-wielder, and cuts his rifle in half. The Commander runs up to a guy with a Barrett .50-cal, hits him hard on the leg as a distraction (which he pulls his damage to 2d+7 which is 11, which is plenty distracting), then grapples him by the neck and throws him to the ground, stunning him. 

Arc Light pops a series of smoke grenades to obscure the local terrain after flying into the middle of the street, since we’re a bunch of sneaky bastards, this will help us more than it will hurt. With an 8-yard obscuration radius, and six grenades on tap, he can blur a lot of territory.

Saorise gets stabbed in the gut by the guy whose rifle she cut in half – Overconfidence takes a toll.  Arc Light gets shot at a few times by the guys with the .50-caliber rifles. A nifty acrobatic dodge later, and he’s still getting shot at by more guys. These bullets are large and with miles of range; stray fire is a problem here. I relay a request to Arc Light to keep his flight pattern down, assuming that the 52(2) pi+ damage he just took didn’t kill him.

People try and take a few shots at Eamon too, and a bunch of guns jam due to some spectacularly bad die rolls. Eamon responds to the guy who stabbed his cousin with a no signature gravity sledgehammer to the back of his head. He decides that 5d6 should be enough to deal with a DR12 SWAT helmet and DR 2 skull, with a budget of 1d6 for a head wound. He rolls 23, less 14 DR, for 9 points through. He’s KO’d with unpleasant head conditions, but he’s neither dead nor dying so there.

Oh, good. When the guy in front of me got up, he pulled pins on his grenades. Lots of grenades. The Commander has a plan, though – he’ll throw him up in the air and then have Eamon loft him into the air. The grenades have been modified, possibly in the fuses, so we might not have much time. I don’t like the fact that these guys seem to be indifferent to death. We may need to find the master clone here.

Zephyr binds up two more guys so quickly they’re not even on the ground by the time he’s done. Saorise slices up a guy’s kneecaps, incapacitating him.

The Commander takes the guy and throws him 22 yards into the air, expending extra effort to do so – ST 28 and a 5d double knockback blast will do that. Hang time is about 4 seconds . . .

One of the geminis kips up and kicks Arc Light hard enough in the chest to dent his armor. These guys are not normal as well as well-equipped. He goes for a power-block using his electrified armor. He rolls a 5, so he makes it look good. So yeah, he takes a hit, and electrifies the heck out of him for 5d burning. Not a good trade for him. And the Arclighter is born.

Someone fires a .50 at Zephyr, who sidesteps, which causes one of the other Gemini’s to take the hit, and he turns into street pizza. Ooo. Friendly fire is the most accurate fire ever – the GM rules that the arm is severed at the shoulder (the guy rolled a 4 for HT), but he’s cuffed so now he’s dragging his severed arm by his leg. We pause to remind ourselves we’re cops.

Zephyr gets shot at again, and he dodges again. In the meantime, an airborne Gemini explodes messily, but he’s high enough that it’s outside of the lethal frag radius, so mission accomplished there.

Arc Light gets critted (he takes care of that with a karma point), and gets shot at again. We really need to take care of these .50-cals. 

Zephyr gets attacked as one of the Gemini’s swings his own severed arm at him, and crits. This is mitigated by 2 karma, and Zephyr tries to catch the arm, so he can heal it back on to the guy, which will actually re-handcuff him. We are not normal people.

The Commander gets another grenade tossed at him, and he uses his scabbarded sword to aggressive parry it – basically he plays baseball, and knocks it way the hell up into the air. Boom, harmless again.

Oh, but the bad guys have all bunched up, so Eamon sees an opportunity for an area attack. His 9-yard area effect (selective) targets only Geminis, and he lays down the Gravity Slam.

Boom. 30 crushing damage later, from overhead, no signature. It just hits. And 12 guys take the fall, all at once.

Now Zephyr, arm in hand, takes the guy who’s still standing (good DX roll) with a severed arm and tries to reattach the arm magically by making an attack. I guess this is basically the opposite of a Disarm? A re-arm?

He spends the right fatigue and karma and makes it happen. 

Meanwhile Yukio has already stealthy put one of those guys in the alley to sleep, and is working down the road. We’re really down to four foes remaining here, so we try and force a morale check – which succeeds. 

So we wrap up the fight, and disperse the smoke. Tale of the tape, one dismembered and healed, one blew himself up, three unharmed and surrendered, and the rest down. But the jewelry store is missing loads of stuff.

The bodies do not disappear, either. They’re disarmed – this gear is absolutely top of the line, too. We run the numbers, and they were bought at a wholesale show by a “legit” shell company with a large line of credit about a week ago. Each guy was probably outfitted at a cost of about $70K per mercenary. The rifle alone is $10K, grenades, body armor, etc. These guys were seriously lavished-upon. And since there were 20 of them, that’s like $1.5M in gear.

They’re also healing very fast, at about 1 HP per minute. Interesting. 

We feel like we’ve been played. This was a distraction to keep us busy from  . . . something. 

Each conscious Gemini is displaying a different emotion, too. One nihilistic, one afraid, etc. We pick one, and Eamon focuses in on that emotion, targeting to play each of the different emotions off of each other to try and find out their motivation, or at least what they want us to think it it. Also a ringleader if possible, what their mission was here . . . and if these guys are actually clones. 

As far as they know, they were hired to rob a store. 

Oh, wait. Here’s an optimist. He knows that we were doing the wrong thing, etc. They’re all now arguing with each other about things – one making comments about Katana and Saoirise (that won’t end well), another taking him to task for it . . . and they identify each other by their own emotions. Optimist calls the other Nihilist, and says they wanted to be a superhero once. But she wouldn’t like that.

Oh? She? The other half of Gemini is the female, after all. 

The frat-brah just keeps telling Katana to show her . . . yeah, she drops her sword and starts in to probably lawnmower start this guy’s testacles. I convince her that doing that, while satisfying, wouldn’t be much of a challenge and not worth her effort. She goes off for a chai latte, and blinks away. Small victories.

We do a quick count. There were 20 people, one blew up, and . . . we’re missing one. We find out, perhaps unsurprisingly, that Dopey blew himself up, and that the first duplicate is the one missing. Where’d he go? He can’t tell us, because they’re not supposed to let him get hurt.

He also mentions that Obsessive would be the detail minded one, but we probably don’t want to talk to him. I’ll put my five bucks on Eamon on that one.

He interacts with Obsessive. Ah, he knows exactly where the missing brother is. Eamon continues to work his magic on him, messing with his foibles, asking leading imprecise questions that rouse his ire, and then the Commander says “isn’t there one of you guys who would be a bit more likely to tell us where your sister is?”

“I would! I would! I hate that bitch!”

Ah, we’ve found jealousy. 

Eamon starts to interact with jealousy. He likes Eamon’s tie. Eamon gives him the tie. We get a description – slender, dark hair, “too pretty,” maybe 5’6″, name of Micah Jaridian.

Oh, and the clones die. Quickly. After they’ve been away from the originals too long. 

Oh, and Micah set this up as some big distraction for our team. Ah ha. As we thought. Some guy in a baseball cap with a big scar on his right cheek. Where did they get the gear? Back at the Honeycomb Hideout – a warehouse in the meatpacking district. 

So we now need to find someone – and we have Yukio of the killer nose, notes Zephyr. And The Rat Queen, she of the discriminating sense. Also, Thaumatology connection, which Zephyr can follow.

We work our mojo, and we locate their building precisely, somewhere in Hunt’s Point.

We agree to stop here…

***

Good session. Good use of super tactics and stunts, minimal fatalities, and good interrogation. Everyone had stuff to do. We give Eamon MVP for both being talky and the major 12-guy smash.

Over at Tribality.com+Brandes Stoddard throws down a post called Playing with a Stranger’s Toys. Notionally it’s about the challenges of using other settings and adventures. He brings up a few examples, and a contrived scenario (not his own) where the players are put in the situation where they are being approached, on a ship, by another ship full of minotaurs, nominally peaceably.

He notes that nearly any player who has played a game, watched  TV, or seen a movie will basically screech “HARD A’STARBOARD!” at that moment, and prepare to engage in life-or-death combat.
Better to start with the PCs just being captured – why present the illusion of choice when there’s really no choice there at all – or to give the PCs a reason to be captured.
That got me thinking. I’ve posted a bit before about the motivations and methods of bad guy organiations – most recently in Sensible Master Plans Redux, and another that was the origin of that post called Bad Guy Chararacterization 2: General McChrystal does RPGing. They talk about keeping villains both villainous and not-stupid by working out the answers to just a few questions beforehand.
But Brandes’ post turns this on its head. What about the PCs? More importantly, and in context, how does one write an adventure or set up a setting or introduce a plot hook that has bite?
I think the key is to treat the players like criminals. Well, or at least spies.

MICE

The acronym MICE is short for Money, Ideology, Compromise, Ego, though C can also be Coercion, and E Extortion in some models. Still, it’s a mnemonic for why someone will betray an allegiance. 
Why not use this as a shorthand to see how to get the PCs involved in your adventure? 
Money
The simplest answer, and when you get XP for gold, as in some versions of old-school DnD, is that the players will get involved because the money was good enough. It’s not always enough, though – especially when the adventure calls to do something  against the character’s basic motivation. And while in a game like Shadowrun where a basic conceit is “I do the job, and then I get paid,” not all games – and more importantly, not all characters – are built around money.
As an example, in the Aeon Campaign, one of the PCs, goes by the name of Arc Light when he’s wrapped in his battlesuit, is apparently a multi-billionaire. To the point that in the last game, he plunked down two hundred million dollars in an auction account just to make sure that we had reserve funds to win it. Which we did. You’re quite simply not going to interest this guy in getting paid for something, unless he also has Greed on his character sheet, or if getting paid is shorthand for another motivation.

Ideology

There are many facets to this, and they need not all be envisioned as a bunch of poor people waving a red flag while crooning “Do you hear the people sing.” 
Though that’s always good. Les Mis is it’s own reward.
But while revolution is its own ideology, so is “For Queen and Country,” and especially in Fantasy RPGs, if not the real world “Because God Says So.” 

I mean, in many Fantasy RPGs, the gods pay people personal visits and occasionally engage in heavy petting with their worshippers, so when God says so, the odds of it being delusional behavior are rather low. I mean, dude, not only did Aphrodite tell me she needed me to head north and get something for her, not only did she give me this suit of armor that her husband made for me, but wow, Nothing Compares 2 Divine Lovin’!

Perhaps I digress – but the point that anything from “it’s the right thing to do,” “because I’m loyal to my feudal lady,” or “because the manifestation of my deity showed up and told me to” are all Ideological motivations to get a PC off his duff and into the wild world of adventuring, without having to pay them. Or perhaps in addition to paying them.

Compromise or Coersion


Yeah, that “liaison” you just had with Aphrodite? You were kinda loud. So . . . if you don’t head East and get the Staff of MagGuffin for me, I’m going to tell the guy with the Hammer and Forge about it. 


And he’s not going to be happy with you.


So, compromise. The way most PCs are, a GM won’t even have to play the fiat card – the players will give plenty of hooks on their own.

But still, threatening a PC with consequences if they don’t get involved in the adventure is a real way to get them involved, but risks loss of agency if it’s just dumped on them. “Oh, you were caught in a compromising situation” is way more legit if the character does it to herself. A quick search of the Disadvantages section of the sheet on a GURPS PC will usually reveal whether or not they can be had this way by internal motivation.

But the time-honored “framed for a crime they didn’t committ” trick is always available as well. Heck, having a powerful noble whose word is as good as law simply make an accusation is good – and in many areas of the world today, that power exists simply through dictatorial fiat. And even in the “First World,” things like doxxing and ransomware are clear and present dangers, so across times and cultures, people can put others in compromising positions that will make them get with a program.

There’s no question that this can be high-handed on the part of the GM, and in writing the equivalent of gravity wells for plots, it’s always best if the victim (the player) puts her foot in the trap willingly. And by the way, “you have lecherous, greedy, compulsive gambling, or Dependents on your character sheet” – or the equivalent in any other game – means that the player has already voluntarily put her foot in the trap, by virtue of paying for good abilities with the promise of plot hooks.

Ego (or Experience)

This can be arrogance and pride. But in RPG terms, “I want to level up’ is a form of ego built right into the game, though from that perspective, experience point rewards are probably more closely a form of payment.

But challenging a character’s bravery, or allowing them to establish a reputation are key motivators here, with plenty of support in the literature. And by “the literature,” I’m talking Sir Conan of Schwartzenegger. From “I will have my own kingdom, by my own hand” to “Crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentations of their women!” the drive to be Just Damn Better Than You looms large in the motivating factors for heroes of all sorts.

Denethor seemed to appeal to Boromir’s ego in the cuts from Return of the King that only Gondor should have the ring. “A chance for Faramir, captain of Gondor, to show his quality” is right over the center of the plate for Ego, and was in many ways the true operating motivation of the One Ring itself, tempting Sauruman, Faramir, Boromir, and even Gandalf and Galadriel.

Ego, the desire to be not only better than others, but seen that way? Powerful. Anakin Skywalker was driven by it – in fact, it can be said that the fall of the Jedi order was brought about by Palpatine using his own Ego and Ideology to corrupt the Ego and Ideology of his target – they largely brought about their own destruction, at least up to the point of General Order 66.

Combined Arms Adventure Writing

The key, of course is never throw one motivation to get on board when four or five will do. If you really, really want to engage a team of players and their characters, you will need a very broad funnel for them to enter into, choosing which of the hooks they’ll accept for themselves.

So provide them. In fact, provide several, acknowledging that being forced onto a train and riding the rails is kidnapping, but stepping onto a train and riding those same rails while enjoying wine and food is a journey, experience, and vacation.

But recognize this – the players want to be engaged. But they want to be engaged their own way. Give each one of the four reasons above, and ideally two or three, and the carefully-planned adventure can occur as per schedule. But “that just doesn’t interest me” isn’t the player’s fault – it’s a foreseeable occurrence that they will interact with the world with a “why should I care?” lens. So think about it, using the framework above.

Let’s get real here. Tomorrow night +Peter V. Dell’Orto+Patrick Kelly +Brian Renninger at the minimum, perhaps joined by +gregory blair, will find themselves in Northpoint having successfully engaged and defeated an ogre with fairly minimal fuss last game. They will learn that a caravan from the Keep at Northwatch to Midgard had been lost, and a small team of scouts sent to find it . . . that team never returned. 

They will also learn that the pattern of predation that they attributed to bandits (they’d found evidence of both medium and large humanoids on their own scouting) has continued, or even accelerated. The towns along Audreyn’s Wall are concerned, but they don’t really have the manpower to engage in recon and destruction missions.

So, I can count on these guys to head out and try and take on a force that already destroyed one group of PCs? Right?

No. Not without the right hooks. All of these guys are interested in adventuring North of the wall. That’s why they’re there. But if they are to choose to go after the bandits, or do whatever, I’m going to have to provide a set of motivations that they will choose from.

They’re 1st level characters in a game based off of the SRD5.1, the engine that powers DnD5e. So they need money, gear, and experience to level up. I recall Peter is a Monk, we had at least one Warlock and a Ranger. Maybe a fighter is the fourth? 

So paying them in cash or gear is obviously a possibility. Ideology probably doesn’t work real well, though the Monk might be engaged that way. Coercion is possible, but seems rather heavy-handed – though being press-ganged into a recon force is a possibility, the adventure would quickly turn into “kill the captors and escape to the north.” That has real possibilities, actually. Which leaves Ego, and gaining the reputation of being the ones that stopped the loss of supplies and caravans would bring them additional opportunities to improve their status, power, and wealth – all of which will be needed to secure lands north of the wall and claim right of conquest as peers of the realm.

But look at that. I now know how to involve at least several of them in one potential plot direction. And if they don’t have any Ideological hooks now, I’ll have to encourage the campaign to grow some (clerics, druids, and paladins, some monks, have this built in to the character class) or work harder to find them (“your fighter’s old unit went out for recon, and is missing!”).

This brings us back to Brandes’ ship of minotaurs. No sane group of PCs is going to make nice-nice with violent bull-men just so they can be captures. That’s not MICE, it’s S for Stupid. Which is a good motivation for a criminal, but not so good for a spy that intends to remain alive and out of prison.

So how to engage them? They can be paid. Join the minotaurs on their island, and there’s money in it for you. This could easily be “there’s a valuable artifact at the minotaur home village/island/town/whatever that you can pillage, and in return, you have also done me a service.” Ideology would be invoked if getting captured served a larger goal, in which case the PCs would simply surrender as part of the plan. That puts agency right back in the hands of the PCs, where fun games live. Coercion is the operative force already in play (the PCs will be captured), but inflicting that coercion requires active stupidity on the part of the PCs. Better to have a minotaur or an ally sneak on board and take a valuable captive, or heck, just cut the rudder chain/cable, so that the ship is effectively dead at sea. Now going along with the minotaurs is the only thing to do. But again, the GM must be careful here to pretend PC agency when none, in fact, exists. Finally, Ego – there’s a challenge that the characters will gain renown for meeting, that others have tried. 

Tried and failed? No. Tried and died.


Oh? Really? Tried and died? I’m in. Let’s do this..

Thanks for Brandes for penning something to inspire thoughts today!

Dramatis Personae

  • The Commander (Doug) – telekinetic super-soldier with a really angry dog (Yukio). The dog is a powerful ally (250-300 points) and very intelligent and very, very aggressive.
  • Arc Light (Christian) – battlsuited gadgeteer with electrical powers
  • The Rat Queen (Emily) – brick with super-perception; made of actual rats
  • Zephyr (Merlin) – Real name Murui; Shaolin Kung Fu expert and super-speedster.

Black Magic, Black Market

If only we knew someone with Chinese descent and attunement with magic. Or an archaeologist or something. Who knows about Maltese Tigers? (“It belongs in a museum!”)

What’s all this? We were trying to figure out if there’s a way to figure out whether the Maltese Tiger (no, really) is real or not. We look about, and come to the conclusion that Bao Lu, the expert in Chinese antiquities, and he’s here at a local museum.

We nip over, and we are there in time to see a woman drop a vase; Zephyr is on hand to catch it, which saves the destruction of a priceless vase.

The Commander nudges Zephyr. “Ask her out. You just saved a priceless vase.” He spends a karma point to help his reaction. I will be his wingman any time.

He tries to chat her up, introducing himself as Murui Ao, by the way, also known as Zephyr. Her name is Stephanie Harper, and “Oh, my God . . . you guys are the Cavalry.”


Yes. Yes we are!


“Oh, my God. You don’t remember me! I was at the Taco Stand! You saved me!”

They banter. She’s blonde, almost silver blonde. She’s got gigantic glasses on. Zephyr will call her after museum hours. She offers to work up a dossier on the Tiger, and Zephyr offers to take her to the best noodle cart in the city, his uncles. 

They go to the cart, and Farther and Uncle starts in. “Murui! She’s beautiful! You will make lovely grandchildren for your parents!” 


Uncle calls the parents, and they chat in Chinese, which of course Stephanie understands perfectly. Things go downhill as they call Murui’s mother, and she starts in on why he didn’t tell her that he’d been dating. No, they just met. Then why did you introduce her to your father?! Because of the noodles! She starts to give him advice.

They finally break away and manage to start looking at the Tiger dossier, when it was lost in 2006, and found in 2014 by an Aegis team. Murui asks what’s special about the tiger. Oh, well, the pearl it’s clutching might be an actual dragon pearl, which can summon and control a dragon.

Like the one sighted over New York? Yeah. That dragon. Crap. Suddenly this takes on a greater import.

He asks if she wants to go to a secret auction. “You mean the midnight market!” she gasps.

Zephyr is doing very well. We have two days until we have to get to the Market, and Zephyr tries to show her a good time. We pimp the VERTOL. Spinning rims that look like throwing stars, and we stencil Zephyr’s name on it as if it’s HIS plane. Regrettably, some super that calls himself the Hamburgler or something creates beef golems all over his big night, so he literally has to spend his date beating up meat. Yes, someone sent me a gif. No, I’m not linking it.

The doorway to the midnight market is a women’s restroom at the airport, and when we go in, it looks like we’re in an outdoor market in the middle east. It also has a weird extra-dimensional feel to it, like the odd meeting places in Tel’aran’rhiod from Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time system.

Anything you can  buy, sell, or process can be had here. (Insert Say Anything reference here.) Zephyr tries very, very spicy hot dragon meat, but passes on the bigfoot milk. 

This is an odd place.

Uncle Yin is there too with his goon squad. There are a lot of people here, and at a million bucks a ticket (or a personal invite), there are probably 500-600 people in a small space. 

We are reminded that the Maltese Tiger is going to be auctioned off. So we have to put money in an escrow account that can be accessed and validated. The straight-up value is hard to measure. The hard-dollar value is probably $5M, but the subjective value could be anything.

Arc Light decides to put in about [censored] dollars (he won’t tell me) into the account. The auctioneer appears – literally teleports – in to validate that the apparently gargantuan amount of money on tap is what he wanted . They escort the group to a private booth, with chairs with fine Corinthian leather (we decide that the guy is Ricardo Montallban.) Just to test them, The Rat Queen asks for glacial water from Lake Vostok in Antactica. And it arrives.

The bidding for the Tiger starts at $10M. We sit back and watch who bids. One of them is the guy who pretended to be a security guard that zephyr forgot to check for magic the second time.

We wind up buying the damn thing for $200M. “It belongs in a museum!” “For that kind of money, we’re going to mount it as a hood ornament on the nose of the VERTOL.”

Stephanie’s turn. Did we get the real one? Yes we did.

The Commander does his Batman thing, trying to get close enough to our escapee to plant a tracer on him.

The Tiger is powerfully magical, Zephyr tells us. We request a private exit. A door appears, and we step through. Happily step through into New York. 

We need to check out what’s going on with this, so we go to Murui’s mother’s house. So, says Stephanie, we’ve been on four dates in two days and I’ve already met both your parents. No, no, this is totally a valid cultural thing. 

“I have an advanced degree in Chinese culture.” 

“Oh. Um. Well . . .” She doesn’t really believe the truth either.

So, they go. In fact, we all go. 

“Why do you only come around when you need me?”

It gets worse from there.

We are told that (a) she doesn’t want it, and (b) we should put it in an anti-magic room.

Since the commander is up-to-date on his after-action reports from AEGIS history, he knows they have those. Oh, you mean we have to give it to Top Men? Done!

****

So this game was “throw money at the problem” as superpower. And a large not-superpower that was Zephyr’s dating skills. 

My attempt to plant the tracker was somewhat successful, or at least it seemed to be so.

That’s the season, though. This session was hysterical – we all blamed the strawberry moon, so even if the session

Today we did something quite different, and Christopher let me know (I think he let everyone know) ahead of time. The game would involve everyone acting like one of the characters was dreaming about the entire superhero thing, just like that episode of Buffy. 
That, by the way, very nearly ruined BtVS for me. It turned it from something noble and good, to something potentially pathetic and sad. But that’s neither here nor there. 
Anyway, I’m playing Ian Owari, orderly at the mental institution where Zephyr will be ‘imprisoned.’

His new character is ST 13, DX 11, IQ 11, HT 11, his skills include Wrestling-13, and Administration, Housekeeping, and First Aid at 12. He’s got Fit, Charisma 1, Stubbornness, Code of Honor (Professional), and Self-Defense Only pacifism. He’s also married to Saya Owari, who is an NPC that he now has the hots for after meeting her last session. Since she’s 2x his point total in the hero game, she’s also a neurologist and neurosurgeon at the hospital, so that’s mirrored there too.

We’ll see. But I think we’re all doing method acting today. I intend to call Merlin’s character Zippy, Zipper, or Speedy instead of Zephyr, of course.

So, let’s get it on…

*** ** ***

Zephyr wakes up in a room that’s not his room. The walls are taupe, the door is open, and it looks like he’s in a hospital. 

“Well, that’s interesting.” He looks around for monitors, and there’s no medical equipment in the room, but there is a camera. As soon as he starts moving around, the camera can be seen to move a bit, tracking him, then comes back to normal. 

He looks out of the room, and sees several nurses and orderlies, and several people in bathrobes, just like Zephyr’s wearing. One of them is muttering about the pumpkins are going to come to eat him again.

A large, tallish man with an Asiatic face comes up to him with a tray, and some medicine on it. Zephyr notes that he looks like The Commander.

“How are we doing today,” he says. They banter back and forth about how long The Commander has been working there (6-8 years, after he got out of four years in the Marine Corps). He offers “Zippy” some medicine, which he takes without fuss. 

“I feel like i’ve just woken up in the real world after being an RPG campaign for a few seasons. There’s nothing like waking up sane one day.”


There’s somone in the corner eating newspaper and trash in the corner, wrinkling her nose like a rat. A janitor comes out of the closet, and scolds the woman shredding the paper not to make a mess.

Zephyr decides to do what any rational person would do in the psych ward – he goes to watch TV. Either that or color with crayons, so we can all see his pictures are normal.

Someone gives him the evil death stare as he reaches for the remote. Zephyr offers a trade for Jell-O. He is rebuffed, and the TV plays a kids cartoon about a schoolbus.

He has a brief vision of being a  hero, fighting a magical schoolbus that tries to eat him.

Remote-control guy comes unglued.

“Do we have a problem here?” asks one of the staff. 
“Yes, I’m an adult watching kids cartoons in a psych ward.”
“Now, Mr Murui, you know you need to be respectful to the staff. Do we need to give you some Vitamin T before we start the day?”

He’s led to his morning routine, and his reflection in the mirror seems to pulse a bit.

Murui is led to Dr Eamon, who asks how he’s doing. 

Well, a little fuzzy, since he wasn’t in the hospital yesterday. Oh, where was he? In his bed in New York, are we in New York? We’re in Bellevue, in New York. 

OK. Obviously he’s crazy, not a superhero, he’s been here a long time. He took his pills, watched magical school-bus, and let someone scrub me who’s not part of my family, which is disconcerting. Let’s skip all that, and tell me why I’m here.

Oh, you don’t remember the incident? You had a a bit of a psychotic/schitzophrenic episode that led you to jump out of a window in a third story building. You don’t remember this?

Well, since my feet are working fine, I’m not buying it.

Oh, you’ve been here a while, and you didn’t break that many bones. Only two or three. 

OK, who committed me? 

Well, no one did, but let’s focus on letting you get a better grasp on the real world here. I’m glad you’re willing to cooperate today.

Well, I’m of the opinion that if you wake up one day with no memories of being a superhero, odds are something happened.

Murui notices that he’s somehow picked up the letter opener from Dr Eamon’s desk, and suddenly feels the urge to stab the good doctor with his “mad” Kung Fu skills. He’s a Shaolin master, after all. Ian walks in at this scene, tosses a tiny Jack Russel terrier at the very soft couch, and does a telegraphic grapple on Murui’s arm; he misses his dodge and then Owari puts him in an arm lock.

Now we have to get him restrained, and maybe something to take the edge off. Where did he get the letter opener? He claimed it was on the Doctor’s desk, but that would be, as Ian says, “crazy talk.”

Murui just wants to stab both Eamon and Ian, on general principles. 

Pontikia (The Rat Queen) is stripping the foam rubber off of a chair, and eating it. Occasionally she makes a proclamation, after all, she is the Queen of all Rodents.

Zephyr tries to do a little “magic.” He snaps his fingers, and nothing happens. They must be using a drug to suppress his superpowers, he things, as he struggles against the restraints.

The radio that the janitor is carrying plays on, and it would appear that several hours have passed. 

Zephyr wants to try something – he’s got a “crazy” idea. He wants to see if he can will the letter opener – the knife – back into his hands.

The GM asks him very carefully, so it’s on the video recording, if he’s really asking to have the knife in his hand? Merlin dodges the question, but in any case no knife appears. I guess he doesn’t want it badly enough.

Zephyr wakes up the next day, his door is open, and the restraints are gone again. The crazy guy is still talking about pumpkins, and his neighbor is still screaming about rats.

He goes an moseys on over to the pumpkin person, seeing what his environment is like. “They said that Peter was a pumpkin eater, pumpkin eater, pumpkin eater . . . what do you want? You can’t have my pumpkin!” He tries to bite an invisible pumpkin.

Owari comes up, making his rounds. He offers him his meds, and Zephyr wins a contest of something vs Ian’s Perception of 13 and manages to conceal not taking his meds. Yukio the Jack Russel terrier jumps around and starts running around and trying to hump The Queen of All Rodent’s legs. Sigh. Saya wanted the dog as a helpful mascot, but I haven’t done much but chase him around for four years. Sigh.

Dr Finnegan (Eamon) is handing out macaroni in Arts and Crafts. He instantly detects that Zephyr is acting differently, and asks if he’s taken his meds. “Of course.” Yeah, BS. Still, a double dose might cause serious damage, so he refrains from ordering that.

Zephyr asks if he can do paper airplanes instead of macaroni. He tries Origami-13, and takes his time. He tries a few different designs, including a paper samurai. He then goes and takes a crayon, and tries to draw a “spell ward” on the paper with the crayon. 

The samurai warrior he folded out of paper stands up and starts talking to him. “What are you doing? We can’t do anythning here unless you help us! Look, if they see you talking to me, this day is going to start over again. Get with it!”

“Can I get a hint at how I can help?”

“Break the system a bit, you complacent fool! Also, can you finish my shoulder plate? it’s not right and it’s bugging me.”

“Oh, sorry man.”

Zephyr starts to fold some paper shuriken, and he hears “The Wheels on the Bus” again.  He goes into the other room and threatens to throw paper shuriken at folks. Owari is distracted by Yukio misbehaving again, and misses the initial volley.

A few moments later Owari hears people screaming and shouting, “OH, my GOD, my EYE! The pain! Why! What did you do that for?!”

Owari runs into the room. The Queen of all Rats is chewing on a shuriken, and Zephyr picks up a chair and AoA/Telegraphic attacks the TV to SHUT IT UP.

The TV fails to dodge. Murui breaks the tube, and unplugs the TV. Zephyr swears he can still hear the song. “The daddys on the bus go ‘read read read'” 

The paper samurai stands up and says “Great work, dork. You’re about to get Thorazine up your ASS. Why did *I* have to be your spirit guide? Oops. Gotta be paper again.”

Owari does a flying tackle, as the rest of the patients go crazy, and there’s a mini riot on the floor. “This motherf**ker’s a pumpkin. And that one! and THAT one!” The paper samurai is looking up at Zephyr saying “man, this is some crazy shit.” 

“Of course it’s crazy, I”m talking to a paper samurai.” 

“Dishonor on you, dishonor on your family, dishonor on your house,” but then “you need to get the keys from one of the doctors or guards, and open up the doors. that’ll be your portal out. Now put me in your pocket, because you can’t fold origami for shit.”

“Hey, I was hopped up on drugs!”

Owari is on top of Murui, and tries to backwards head-butt him in the face. Nuh-uh, he rolls a 17, so it’s just too clumsy. He goes for the arm lock, then goes for a zip-tie to handcuff him. He manages to slip out of the arm lock, to everyone’s surprise. Owari gets beaned in the back from behind with a chair. He fails a HT roll and is stunned. Another orderly is still screaming about his eye, and Eamon is also disoriented from the attack with the paper shuriken.

Eamon is over in the corner trying to call more orderlies. Zephyr goes to try and steal the keys from Eamon . . . but the keys aren’t there.

“Dammit,” says the origami samurai, “you gave me two left hands! Why can’t you fold me a paper sword? OK, I think we need to go find the brain-doctor chick.”

Zephyr tries for a Stealth roll, as a half-dozen orderlies come running. They’re not paying attention to Zephyr, and he runs out the door down the hall. 

The origami samurai tells Zephyr that brain-doctor is on the fourth floor. The elevator’s doors open, and Crazy by Patsy Kline comes on. “OH, that’s just TOO on the nose,” says the samurai.

There are people in riot gear, and Zephyr sees the doctor. Zephyr has a sudden vision of him getting his ass kicked by the doctor wielding a katana. 

The paper samurai says “If you hum your own theme song, you can hide better.”

Zephyr tries to run up, and hums Crazy as he runs up. And gets +2 to the Stealth roll, but still rolls poorly – but he gets past them anyway. 

Saya Owari (the neurosurgeon, also Ian’s wife, and Katana in an alternate world) is busy signing paperwork and looking nervously at her phone. Zephyr grabs a scissors and some other weapon and tries to intimidate him. She looks at him like “you’ve got to be kidding me.”

OK, paper samurai, you’re my witness, I didn’t want to stab her. OK, I won’t stab her. I will ninja kick her! While humming Kung Fu fighting.

She grabs his leg, and judo sweeps his butt to the floor. She backs off, not looking terribly worried.

“Just give me your keys!”

“Why do you want my keys?”

“Look, you can take me there. Open the door. If nothing happens, you can take me right back.”

“O . . . K . . . ” she waits for him to go along with things. The paper samurai told him to go to the door, and to the door they go. She’s walking behind him and they go to an employee lounge.

“Now you need to convince her to give you the keys!”

“OK, Dr, just give me the keys. Look, you have nothing to worry about . . .you can literally kick my ass if it doesn’t work.” She draws a baton, hands him the keys, and he turns the lock…

…and wakes up. A bunch of people are around a bed, looking down at Zephyr. Katana is there in a white ceremonial robe. The box is sealed now, we have possession.

Poking out of Zephyr’s robes is a folded paper samurai. None of us remember it being there earlier.

The whole process was the spiritual and mental journey required to sever his ties to the dagger.

“But why was the Wheels on the Bus playing over and over? Come on, paper samurai, tell me!” says Zephyr. 

“Are we sure he’s not still in there a little bit?” Eamon says. 

Katana assures us in Japanese that he’s all out. 

The Commander nods. “Welcome back, Zippy.”

* * * ** * * * 

We spend two weeks training, playing with toys, and generally amping up our skills. Merlin practices his magic sans evil magical dagger, and Ian boosts his katana! wildcard skill, picks up a few extra points in some background skills, and starts spending points on Katana and Onyx as allies.

In game, we spend a quiet but boring two weeks, with our new mega-secretary taking care of all sorts of things with ridiculous proficiency. It’s been absolutely quiet, the proverbial TOO QUIET.

We recall that we were going to try and undermine Blue Skies, and that we’ve got two weeks of data on Blue Skies during a critical period. The Commander sneaks in through a conveniently left-open entrance. He is in and out with no one the wiser.

They’ve been really quiet lately, so mission partially accomplished with them keeping a low profile, and we have a source saying that some media corporations are being paid money to ignore certain stories about them. They’re being very careful, but we’re on the lookout for ways we can mess with them, redirect things to blow up in their face, as it were. It’s a wait and see game, and we make plans, keep out initiative, and don’t share command. (Deacon’s Laws)

Murui gets a call from his uncle, and we all go off to his noodle house to meet Murui’s dad and “Uncle Yin.”

Uncle Yin is one of the most brutal organized crime bosses in the entire city, by reputation. No one has come close to pinning anything on him, ever, to the great annoyance of the NYPD’s Major Crimes and Orgainized Crime and Homicide, and  . . . you get the point.

We meet the most interesting people at restaurants. Seriously. What is it with Murui and people in restaurants?

“I did not know you were bringing friends,” he says, breathing in heavily. “I don’t want to report this to police for obvious reasons, but there’s going to be a robbery shortly. In the Midnight Market.”

This is a black market, an infamous open secret, that is located through a door that is the unholy spawn of the Room of Requirement from Harry Potter and the back doors from the Matrix. Have we heard of it? Huh, Arc Light crits, spends karma, and he’s actually there all the time, since he often needs stuff you can’t usually get at Target.

He knows who’s going to be robbed, and when, but not who’s doing the job. 

OK, The Commander calls Murui over. “Are we really going to help yet another criminal enterprise do their thing? Because the last time, it was such a grey area that my combat fatigues are still covered in soot.” 

“Look, when we Chinese come over here, we live on the streets, and . .. “
“OK, Kane, I get it. My ancestors were in interment camps, and me, grandfather, and George Takei are tight like this. But save it. This guy is dirty as hell. Never mind, never mind. I’ll just be over in the corner singing the marine hymn. God, I miss the simple days when I just had to shoot terrorists in the face.”


Uncle Yin shows a picture to Murui of The Maltese Tiger (yes really). An occultism roll by Murui convinces us that having the Tiger fall into the wrong hands would be cosmically bad.

The Commander goes off and starts swearing like the ex-sailor he is. Yet another grey area in which we’re working to help criminals and miscreants to help the greater good, where the downside of not doing it is actually definitively worse than just arresting everyone. 

Wars have been fought over this mythical blue tiger statue, with the jade it’s made out of pulled out of the heart of a mountain. An Aegis field team found it, locked it up, and then lost it. 

Yin wanted the tiger for himself, but if he can’t have it, he might as well prevent someone else from getting it. We ask him for more details, and there’s a royal seal with the mandate of heaven impressed into the base. The mandate of heaven was there to stop calamity, and there might be an active seal.

Murui takes some time out to talk to his paper samurai, who is now named tanto, for many reasons.  Something’s fishy, and we all know it.

“Look, uncle. I’m a hero. I’m going to be real, here. Keeping all of the crazy criminals from destroying the city has helped you too, right?” Right. “So this is one time you have to tell me what’s up. Last time I did that I wound up with a possessed knife on a killing spree. You owe me more information than this.”

He gives us a name. Scott Boling, supposedly responsible for half a billion dollar theft from the diamond exchange. He’s got a very high end theft ring going on. 

We agree that this is worth following up on, and end there. We’ll plan our next moves over the following week.

******

So, this one was fun. I was wondering how we were going to keep up the illusion for three or four hours, and turned out we didn’t need to – it was about an hour long, the same as the Buffy episode. 

Good to know that we’re actually all insane, or figments of Murui’s imagination. 

Also, we’re about to plunge into the criminal occult underworld with the Chinese equivalent of Gentleman Johnny Marconi.

Woo hoo.

Dramatis Personae

  • The Commander (Doug) – telekinetic super-soldier with a really angry dog (Yukio). The dog is a powerful ally (250-300 points) and very intelligent and very, very aggressive.
  • Arc Light (Christian) – battlsuited gadgeteer with electrical powers
  • The Rat Queen (Emily) – brick with super-perception; made of actual rats
  • Eamon Finnegan (Kyle) – smooth talking gravity-master; Ultimate Fighting Lawyer, to borrow a phrase.
  • Zephyr (Merlin) – Real name Murui; Shaolin Kung Fu expert and super-speedster.
Setup
We’d led Singleton on a chase, trying to pull him away from populated areas. We successfully did this, and wound up with two to four supers, Singleton, and ten special forces types scattered through an empty park.
Midas is made of solid gold. Onyx is made of, yeah. Tornado we’ve seen before, and Katana is probably pretty accurately named.
We spend some time setting up the arena, because we had the opportunity to prep it first. So Zephyr makes the first move, leaping the wall and then trying, as we worked out, to take down the 10 special forces guys. He crits on his jump roll, and can make 31 yards (!) of broad jump, and attacks two troopers as he flies by. This is the Thundercats, Ho! opening, and he follows that with attacks on two more. We note that this means since he’s a speedster with a staff, he’s Cheetara. Meow. He takes out two of four, which is a good start.

Rosencrantz hops the wall, puts a knife into one guy, and a bullet in the head of another. Tough crowd. 
The Commander and Yukio work their way stealthily but quickly around the north wall, and Yukio, who’s faster, takes up position on the west wall, ready to bit some serious specops butt.
Suddenly, the ground around The Rat Queen turns into quicksand. Zephyr gets attacked by a lightning strike out of a clear sky. Miss.
Arc Light flies up and hits Katana with a stun grenade, or tries to. Katana instantly teleports next to Arc Light! Drat. That’s a tough one . . . some variant of Warp or Blink. Teleportation makes him a good opponent for Eamon. But . . . Midas did get stunned during the explosion, so that’s a big win.
Singleton takes a Wait. The Rat Queen is in an area bind, and stays that way. “Help me! Help me! I can only rat paddle!”
One of the specops is trying to shoot at Zephyr, but Z-man was planning on this, and has let one guy to shoot the other. “My bad, bro!” and another discount merc goes down as he walks fire into his friend. Oops. 
That’s five down of ten, so far. Eamon’s turn, he advances from cover to cover, using stealth.
Katana, Mr/Mrs. Blinky-McBlinkypants, crits Arc Light in the back with some sort of phasing sword, and it goes right through his suit like it’s not there. He also blinks nearly 30yds to appear behind Zephyr, and attempt to stab him as well. That one is detected, and a megadodge later, he makes it by 6 and gets out of the way. Katana then teleports away again.
Zephyr zigs and zags, and attacks one more, cracking him across the face with his staff, after feinting and succeeding by 10. We joke that he opened his helmet saying ‘what did someone say’ and he gets whumped and taken down. Our lethal octogenarian takes out one more
The Commander zips in, knocks one guy sprawling, and rolls a 3 on Stealth, disappearing into cover again (he made a roll at -10 by 14 . . .). Yukio runs up and starts savaging another non-super, taking him out, and then proceeds to gnaw on a second, but that one survives.
Onyx hits Yukio with a quicksand-bind, which doesn’t prevent him from nixing the guard he was working on, and then Rosencrantz gets hit with a bombard attack from a lightning bolt, as does Arc Light, the Commander, and Yukio. Area effects don’t care if you’re hiding. Yukio’s unconscious. The Commander takes 6 points through DR after failing to dodge (he doesn’t retreat so he doesn’t give himself away). 
Arc Light absorbs the attack and recharges his battery, a total Iron Man/Thor moment. He dumps all that power into a stunning blast targeting the three heroes on the center of the monument. Onyx raises a wall of stone in defense, and so triple damage blast meets wall of stone. He rolls 30-freakin-d6, and hits for 108 points of damage. The electrical charge busts through the wall she threw up, hits her, and goes through her defenses. She’s still up, but she did get tagged, and their comms are messed up due to the surge effect.
Midas recovers from stun. The Rat Queen decides to pay Midas a visit. She throws stuff at Midas, he catches it, it turns to gold, then turns to gold dust. Midas says “Oh, my. You are so large . . . I cannot wait to get my hands on you.”
“Have you seen the balls on rats? I have been hit on my much creepier people than you,” replies The Rat Queen.
Eamon is now in range, and “down” for the people on the platform becomes the northwest pillar. So gravity pulls them sideways, they re-enact Smooth Criminal, and they manage to reorient themselves mid-air. 
Katana appears behind Eamon, whose gravity sense tingles (he crits on his Per roll) and he gets to dodge the attack with a feverish dodge. Zephyr has been running at Speed 96, so technically has a 9-10 yard step, so he rushes in and does a sacrificial parry with an electrical shock-staff. The sword goes right through the metal staff. Alas. Eamon gets slashed three or four times. Eamon spends karma like a fiend, turning the wounds into flesh wounds, and Katana teleports out again.
So all the normals are down (Yukio’s last got bound in the quicksand, so is out of the fight), but so is Yukio, the Dog of War.
Zephyr runs up to the three on the platform, and since their down is different than Zephyr’s, technically his blows count as overhead attacks. He Feints, makes that by 12, and imparts, one way or another, something like -12 to Tornado’s defenses. He hits, does 19 damage, but is still up. Zephyr repeats that pattern, but crits on the strike, does 21 damage, and also we have two electro-zaps, which technically would power him up, but Tornado goes KO.
Rosencrantz throws a microgrenade at Midas, hits dead on, and at least distracts them.
The Commander runs up, and attacks Onyx and Singleton each once. The attack on Onyx fails, but Singleton gets hit with a (pulled) 4d crushing attack and 5d6 double knockback. He’s conscious but screaming, effectively stunned.
Onyx grabs Singleton, and uses a rock-assisted jump to leap to the other side, starting what looks like (maybe) a retreat.
Arc Light hits Onyx/Singleton with a tangler, but is power-parried by a slab of earth. 
Midas launches himself at The Rat Queen (bad touch bad touch!), and turns the Rat Queen to gold! But he does get trapped in The Rat Queen’s grip, at least momentarily.
Eamon steps into a Wait, waiting for Katana to show up, whereupon he will gravity slam the entire area, excluding folks he knows are there that are good guys, pulling a Dodge This. Katana appears directly behind Eamon, triggering his Wait . . . but Katana warps out, blinking back into reality above Eamon – falling down on him cutting multiple times. Eamon retreats, but gets tagged anyway, taking 11 HP, for a major wound. Eamon, naturally, crits on his ‘avoid major wound’ roll. 
But Katana does not blink away, giving Zephyr a target. A few unsuccessful feints (Katana is very skilled) later, and another run-around attack later, and nothing lands. 
Rosencrantz throws all of his grenades at Midas. He’s out.
The Commander tries recon-by-fire at Katana, using his conventional rifle, and hits three times, but Katana parries the bullets into my friends. Eamon deflects or otherwise avoids the damage, and Zephyr dodges. So bullets are not good. My area effect explosives might be the better plan, and if I can get close I can try an area effect kinetic blast.
Onyx patches up Singleton using an advanced medpack of some sort.
Arc Light attacks Onyx, who’s damaged. Singleton changes position and gets up.
Eamon stunts his AoE to cover 11yds straight up as well, and tries to bring the hammer down on Katana again.
Katana triggers a cascating wait, takes a hack at The Commander (who dodges out of the way), and continues on to Singleton. Eamon takes his turn, and still goes for the stunt. Eamon blows 5 fatigue points for a 16-, and makes up for all that critting by rolling a 17, forcing him to blow his last Karma point to change that to a success. His roll for the physics roll is, naturally, a Crit as well. He steps to keep her in range, and brings the hammer down on all of them, and Katana doesn’t get a defense.
Katana gets hit with a 32-point crushing damage, and her helmet goes flying off. Her armor glows with the hit, and strikes back hard with some sort of enchantment or power at Eamon, taking 20 HP direct to injury. He makes his HT roll exactly, but he’s seriously injured, and struggling to maintain consciousness.
Katana has bright red hair, and an asiatic look to her features. Her eyes narrow in anger. and Eamon, focused as he is on staying upright, is nonplussed. She calls her helmet back to herself, puts it on, and disappears.
Zephyr runs around the back side of Singleton, does an elbow strike to Singleton’s head, while facing away to draw Katana’s attention, with intent to hundred-hand-punch her in the face a lot. His elbow strike does 5 damage, enough to trigger a KO roll, which he fails.
The Commander steps and Waits, assuming katana will appear close to Eamon or himself, with the intent to hit her with a kinetic burst if she does.
Onyx looks down at Singleton in disgust, and says “that’s it. I’m done. I’m simply not getting paid enough for this.”
Arc Light asks how much she’s getting paid. 1.5 million. Arc Light offers $2M, if she’ll attack Katana. She won’t attack her sister. Oh, we didn’t know that. They want to leave the field. We’re inclined to agree.
Onyx speaks accented Okinawan, which the Commander can understand. She discontinues the quicksand effects, and we allow it – Arc Light offers to hire them both. They start speaking in “twin,” and accept the deal.
We’re making the world a better place one payoff at a time.
The Commander goes over to Physician my dog. Because I’ve known Yukio longer than Eamon, sorry. I roll Physician on both Yukio and Eamon, restoring 4 HP to Yukio and 5 HP to Eamon, which helps.
Katana comes over to Eamon and asks in Okinawan if she can help him; The Commander translates, Eamon agrees, and she mutters something that can only be an enchantment, crits, and restores him to full HP.
She requests to help Yukio as well, Owari agrees, Yukio looks at me like “didn’t we just try and kill her?” but rolls over and lets her both heal him (yet another crit) and rub his belly.
The Commander will regenerate, but he wants to be treated by the incredibly attractive red-headed warrior woman too. She tells Owari that he leads with his left shoulder a bit. He is happy to be trained by him.
The Rat Queen is slowly regenerating back to normal, and Midas is regenerating, but still KO’d.
OK, so Singleton gets arrested a lot, and the Kestrel drones got a ton of video, and we decide that as little as Singleton did in the fight, we’re going to charge him with conspiracy to get punched in his own face. We figure Eamon can make it stick.
But ultimately we find out that Onyx and Katana are positively livid at being used by Singleton, so although we did buy them off for a couple million bucks, they were not thrilled and are potentially allies, even. 
Singleton winds up in Rikers, and Blue Skies actually spends resources to ensure he stays there and accelerates the trial.
So, final tally:
Singleton: jail.
Midal: jail.
Tornado: jail.
Onyx and Katana: employed, maybe on our side, and The Commander is going to spend points to buy Katana as an “ally.” Heh. Long cruise, eh sailor?
SpecOps guys: 2 dead by Rosencrantz, 8 KO’d but alive.
We end there. 
After hours, so to speak, Zephyr manages to spend the right number of character points and with Katana’s help, separates himself from the magical dagger.
The Commander spends some points to raise his Broadsword skill (specialization of Katana), and gets a boost because of his ridiculously good teachers. Auric Rosencrantz, the WW2 vet, named The Reaper, has DX+12 in four different wild card skills. This guy is the ultimate teacher and fighter.

Dramatis Personae

  • The Commander (Doug) – telekinetic super-soldier with a really angry dog (Yukio). The dog is a powerful ally (250-300 points) and very intelligent and very, very aggressive.
  • Arc Light (Christian) – battlsuited gadgeteer with electrical powers
  • The Rat Queen (Emily) – brick with super-perception; made of actual rats
  • Eamon Finnegan (Kyle) – smooth talking gravity-master; Ultimate Fighting Lawyer, to borrow a phrase.
  • Zephyr (Merlin) – Real name Murui; Shaolin Kung Fu expert and super-speedster.
Singleton Separated

We’ve got three different layers between us and Leslie Singleton. A coffee house, a secure basement, and a trap door down to the sewers where Zephyr and The Rat Queen hollowed out the bunker to hide Leslie. It was faraday caged, isolated, and secure in several different ways.
While we were at it, we made two more of them, because we wanted defense in depth. And since The Rat Queen critically succeeded her roll with a 3 for building them, they’re ridiculously well hidden, well built, and well appointed, for a hole in a dank sewer.
So it’s all good, at least for the moment. We have about 30 hours to kill, and we decide that the best place to direct Singleton is where he can’t go – his home. Arc Light is going to whip up a “wife simulator” that will produce realistic phone traffic, and since The Rat Queen’s subcomponents have a Basic Lift of 5 lbs, she can get the actual cell phone into the house.
So we also make plans that implicate the board members of Blue Skies, some of the ones he’s tussled with before, and then as a second backup, we point him in the direction of The Pusher. Enough truth to be plausible, far enough away from the actual plan to ensure he’s not anywhere near her.

We set up a watch with my SEAL team, and the heroes not currently working the electronic stuff wind up setting up a basic -10 for people to even notice the security, and once they notice it, they’re still at -6. Yeah, we rolled really well. We do that frequently enough that I suspect Christopher is going to start hitting us with a BAD type of penalty, because we so routinely make our combined rolls by 10+.
We keep our stall on for a few more hours, then. 24 remaining, 8 burned including getting Leslie into “the can.” This includes rather extensive debriefing from Leslie by Edgeworth
We look to see if we can get an airtight case for getting permission to actually wiretap Singleton. That’s more likely to tip him off, rather than help, so we give that up. We do, however, try and produce “glue” to tie together some of Edgeworth’s circumstantial evidence into something resembling an indictable case.
The deposition hits some truly horrifying lowlights of Singleton’s abusive relationship with his wife. And as if we could sleep . . . we all need it.
We sleep in shifts, for four hours each. Those of us who need less sleep are in good shape. The rest are better off but not awesome. It’s currently 3am and 16 total hours have elapsed. 14 more to go, and we’re fairly sure Singleton is still in the dark.
We use Foresight to retcon camera coverage of Singleton’s house, looking out for metas and others that might recon the house and discover the cell phone trick. After 22 hours, he finally starts tracking down the white panel vans, using teams of 4-5 men, and maybe 20 guys total.
But it took him 22 hours to get past the first layer. The paperwork was found for the application, and the rumors of white vans . . . he realizes after 26 hours, then, that she’s not in the house. 
The question is where is she?
We’d set up the security net to try and point him at the board members he’d tussed with . . . but he bypasses that with a crit and then The Rat Queen and Eamon both detect a heat mirage in the middle of the room.
The Rat Queen tries to cover that in rats . . . but no physical contact is made. Eamon rolls Hidden Lore, and finds that it’s someone using Clairsentience. This guy can lock on to a particular subject, and project his viewpoint to where that subject is. 
That means that rapidly we will be seen – all who are in the room – and we don’t want that.
So The Commander sets of a $20M power-nullifying grenade that hums audibly, emits purplish particles, and shuts down everything powered in the cage, and a bug also shuts down electronics. Oops. Fortunately, the faraday cage keeps that from extending to a full 100yd radius. 
Arc Light feels he can hook the grenade to the faraday cage, burns 5 karma (he’s now out completely; the first time that’s happened to any of us, I think), and manages to create a clairsentience-shielded room. 
So, $40M down, because we had to burn a second grenade to shield the room, but we now have a pretty solidly shielded room.
The Pancake Man has just strapped on so many knives to his body that he looks like one big knife. Then he starts with the guns. This was all in response to the mysterious post card, with peoples’ names, time, dates, etc. The meeting is . . . in five minutes. And the coordinates are right upstairs.

Big scary guys with  . . . things . . . on them come in. A bunch of black vans have people coming out in utilitarian clothing and yeah, it’s Singleton. He’s physically frothing at the mouth. Gary Oldman: “EVERYONE!!” level of psycho.
We do know that they don’t yet know where we are. They do know that something’s here, but we rapidly realize that as ugly as things might get.
We come up with a quickie plan to broadcast a fake “Live on CNN” type report to the TVs in the upstairs coffee shop and the channels Singleton can access that Leslie and Edgeworth are about to have a press conference. Marionette (Edgeworth’s wife) is also a journalist, so we can try and get the (fake) story to go viral while we’re at it.
Eamon rolls Psychology (and naturally crits) to come up with the perfect lie. Arc Light makes the roll for Computers! by 10. We pull a wire scam . . . but he sees through it. It was a good try.
After a few hours, a fourth van shows up. One is wearing a katana and other weapons. The second looks to be made of solid gold. The third (a woman) is made out of onyx, it looks like. We’ve got a ferrokinetic, a terrakinetic, and a dude with big honkin’ knives.
We decide to leave Leslie where she is. She’s got physical, electronic, and kyberian protection on. 
So we do what most people would do in a crazy situation when four black vans with heavily armed guys – and metas – show up. 
We call the police. 
We try and get a hold of the MAPS teams, and we call for backup. 
The plan is that we get out of the basement by a second exit, and make ourselves seen. The plan is to try and draw Singleton and the metas and his SFOD-D-oid team away, and use a fighting withdrawal to pull them to somewhere safe.
The Commander burns 4 karma (has 4 left) to make them think Leslie is with us, and also to give me a net margin of 14. We successfully draw the battle away from the coffee shop, which gives us time enough to get Leslie formally “off the board” into Witness Protection. Edgeworth confirms that she’s on her way out of the city, into presumably meta-human enhanced protection.
So now it’s on, to the extent that the fight needs to happen. At this point, it’s superfluous. But we decide to call it here, so we can focus on the fight fully next week.