My GURPS Aeon Campaign character was in a bit of a fix. He wasn’t really shining in his designated role of, well, Commander. That was both his name, and his mission, and frankly, his skill set.

He’s got an amazing number of points in Wildcard skills. Actually, that’s not exactly true. His breakdown for what seems like 1,250-1,300 points is something like

  • 320 points in attributes
  • 285 points in advantages
  • 335 points in powers and special abilities
  • 55 points in specific skills and techniques
  • 250 points in wildcard skills
  • His power armor suit makes up the rest

So you can see that while he is a powerful character with very good stats, they’re spread around. They are, in fact, spread around quite a bit. His overall good-to-great levels of stats contain one truly exceptional one – ST 24, boosted to ST 28 from his combat suit. The rest is a high DX 18, IQ 14, and HT 16. His Perception and Will are boosted to the campaign maximum, or near enough – they’re both 18 or 19. 

His powers include his enhanced ST, and a couple of 50-pointers. So nothing huge from a telekinesis/energy control perspective. It’s not 200 points dumped into one power, but it is a set of alternate abilities. But by and large, it’s a collection of 50-70-points-or-lower powers that give him a DR-granting force field, enhanced ST, catfall, and some attack powers – notably his kinetic blast(s), both of which are double knockback to the tune of 5d.

His wildcard skills have some overlap in places – and this is where I really missed out. 


You see, when talking to +Christopher R. Rice about why the character was not playing out “on screen” in a more satisfactory manner, the thing that really stuck is that his niche was command, but he was not being terribly effective in the role. We kept walking into terrible tactical situations, getting ambushed, and generally making like the Keystone cops. Not “Call it, Captain.” 

We swapped out his power set a bit, but also spent some points on some Pyramid-based options – particularly Foresight, from Pyr #3/53. That gave him the ability to narratively alter the environment a bit, which proved critical in S1E11, as we were able to retroactively deal with an incoming air strike. That wasn’t even unfair – we’d explicitly discussed “having to deal with the air support,” and in the moment, we were able to say “oh, sure, we’d figured out a way to fox the bomber’s targeting computers.”

Boom, done.

But the real trick was that part of The Commander’s legend was that he’d fought a powerful super – the Combustible Man – in a series of battles where The Commander and his SEAL team defeated The Combustible Man. More than once.

I just couldn’t figure out how. I mean, sure, he’s strong . . . but at ST 28 (Basic Lift about 155 lbs) he can probably lift a motorcycle over his head – like Captain America in The First Avenger. But while that’s strong, it’s not “lifting tanks” strong. His forcefield and DR will bounce a .50-caliber bullet, but not anything much more than that, and in the last few adventures, he was threatened by armor piercing explosive grenades and demon-needles, both with an armor divisor.

And the raw skill numbers deliberately topped out at mostly less than 18. 

But then we started looking hard at Wildcard skills, as I noted earlier. In particular, Stealth. And some Tactics. In combat situations, he beats down with

  • Armoury (Small Arms) – 21
  • Camouflage, Explosives, Forward Observer, Gesture, Interrogation, Hiking, and Tactics – 22
  • Parachuting – 24
  • Stealth (DX+11) – 27

Ah ha. Ah HA!

The thing about skill levels of 20+ is that you use them. They allow you to have a fighting chance of taking “instant use” or “impossible odds” penalties. At Skill-24, you can do it at a -10 and still succeed 90% of the time. 

So, how was I playing The Commander wrong? He was too much Captain America, and not enough Batman. And as they saying goes, be yourself. Unless you can be Batman.

In the last fight, S1E11, he went full Batman. He had the right amount of terrain to vanish into. He’d move from behind this HVAC unit to behind that skylight. And by and large, no one would see him. He ran rings around a dangerous foe – General Cortez – and eventually wound up taking off one of his legs in a sneak-by stealthing. One lucky goon critically succeeded on his Perception roll, saw The Commander move, and was promptly killed by rifle fire.

The key bit here is that with as many points – synergistic points – scattered in many different abilities, I lost track of what he was good at, and in this case, playing him as the from-the-front guy in terms of standing visibly in the fray.

That’s not him. He makes the plan, and leads it, but he’s the sneaky recon guy who’s providing up-to-the-minute information originating a foot from the bad guy’s pancreas. He strikes from concealment, doing 5d+14 crush or cut as needed (that’s like 9d crush, or the equivalent of a .338 Lapua in terms of piercing damage). His hand-to-hand damage with his sword is second only to his ridiculously powerful technomagical super-bullets, which seem to have a large explosive radius, an armor divisor, and no real fall-off within the explosive’s distance. Three rounds took out eight guys in formation in S1E11. At once.

Once I started playing the synergy? The Commander became a force to be reckoned with. Before that?

Not so much.

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. 

We had a full house again.

Aftermath


Emergency vehicles are everywhere. Mercs come in and escort key personnel out, and then disappear.

The metahuman chaos that’s been plaguing the city starts to die down a bit, almost as if a coordinating force is now missing. About 2/3 of the metas that were causing problems suddenly are acting like “WAT? WTF?”

Cortez goes into a dark hole, and a manhunt for the Black October group (fictional) goes into high gear. Someone creates a wild conspiracy theory about Rikers island and an occult cabal. They’re roundly mocked, but not wrong, at the same time.

We still don’t really know why Cortez wanted all that power. I mean, power is good, but it’s what you do with it that counts, for good or evil or just naughty fun.

The story that’s going around is bothering folks: a terrorist group with advanced technology and powers shows up, along with metahumans, and no one is really sure what to do about it. Eamon manages a spin cycle that help keep public opinion on the MAPS.

The Indian River nuclear plant takes a few more days, but finally stabilizes.

Our “tame lunatic” comes up with something that “should” help Arc Light not die from radiation poisoning. It seems like mumbo-jumbo crap, but nonetheless does the trick.

The President never does get back to us; but the Veep does, so we get partial credit. We also secure the right to interrogate Cortez. 

He says before us goody-two-shoes’ came along, humanity might actually have a chance. Now, not so much. We talk for a bit more, but not much is forthcoming. Alas.

We head over to . . . we get a call, and head over to central park. 

All your corn dogs, are belong to us, and we debrief some more.

We wind down pretty hard, so we call it there, and discuss Season 2 expectations.

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. 
We had a full house again.

Exercising and Exorcising


We pick up from last game having decided that we actually need to exorcise the demon from the computer – Zephyr’s mother is apparently a powerful Taoist sorcerer. We make a few jokes about how she rips him in a horrible jewish/chinese/new york accent that how can a guy with super speed never manage to drop by and visit his mother?

Anyway, so we have a demon problem, she’s cncerned, and Zephyr really needs to eat more. No, no, I had some donuts yesterday. 

Oh, hell no. Thirty minutes later, Zephyr is on the case, eating a mountain of food that keeps on coming. We wonder if we just need to run McAmorth virus scan or something.

We check in with MAPS, too, and starting an hour ago – for no reason that’s apparent, but coinciding with when we stole the computer – there’s a huge uptick in metahuman activity.

Zephyr’s mother gives him some wadded up paper, some incense, and a blessing, good for an Exorcism bonus. Zephyr’s dad points out that Titivillus is a Christian demon, and he’s going after it with a Taoist ritual. Best of luck to us.

We go through the ritual practice, and manage to hit up Zephyr with Exoricsm at Will+2; literally burning the ritual into his brain.

He better come back after he’s done saving the world though. He cause her so much pain giving birth to her, etc.

Oy.


We need to put the oil where on the computer?


So, we have a ritual that may or may not work, but don’t worry, it’ll be flashy. 

We all chant in unison, and Zephyr make a Will+6 roll, and makes it by 7, which is nice. After three hours, the computer actually spits blood, pea soup comes out of the hard drive all over Zephyr (musta been a WD model), lights go on and off, the thing actually screams, and then funky visual effects come and go. 

We’re going to need some squeegies and a decon shower, but we think things are good.

Arc Light and Zephyr want samples. Oh, OK, Egon . . . here’s your mucus.

Arc Light checks the computer, powering it on fully. It does seem less glitchy.

Arc Light: “Vast . . . how do you feel?”
Vast: “I feel . . . alive.”

We seem to have healed a computer. 

The team asks Vast if he’ll help us. He says yes, and Markus walks over and holds out a ring, which glows. Code flows over his eyes, and all of a sudden Markus speaks with Vast’s voice. Turns out Markus was grown by Vast with a literal genetic algorithm, as a host body. Like a very sociopathic Ultron.

So, four hours elapsed time, and we’ve created Ultron. It’s about 10am, and it’s a busy day.

The mayor is getting nervous enough to push the button on martial law in NYC, and there’s a general State of Emergency in all of NYC. 

We also have a related Cortez issue.

But with all the demons and stuff, we’re out of our depth. But between Vast Markus and Zephyr, the two can chat with Cassie and maybe find something out. We also find out Amanda Smith’s real name: Alyssa Kerigan, who’s zeroed. 

Apparently this is the lesson you must learn when you go looking for a body to download a sentient computer into, who then goes out for a robotic booty call. 

We let the computer hook up to the news feeds, and get Adama, Cassie, Vast Markus inside the computer and as his body, and try and build a matrix of information to help us be proactive, rather than reactive, for once.

We have DIE ROLL PALOOZA with Intelligence analysis

Who: Cortez and project Aries. He’s using his resources to create a false emergency to enact marital law
Why: Power. The kind of power he could get by holding a city hostage for months
What: Using a series of hypnotic drugs to make those susceptible on Rikers to do his bidding. Lots of chaos and destruction, but not so much murder.
When: Planning dates back to Aries, but execution was the last thirty days.

The goal of all this? Unknown. And that’s weird. Someone like Cortez don’t take a dump without a plan. 

We discuss how to bring Cortez to us for a while. We get nowhere as we argue everything to death. 

Fortunately for us and the plot, there’s a terrorist incident caused by a bunch of guys running around in black uniforms that are oddly reminiscent of the Aries guys.

Cortez has played his final card, going all in on the ultra-violence. Technically, this means we “got him where we want him,” but it seems messier than that.

We set up a plan anyway – we tunnel under the bad guys, who have air-dropped in four turreted railguns on motion sensors. We have mastered the under-ground, they have not. Arc Light tries to spend his time taking control of the guns, but fails. We put SEALs and me on two of the guns, Eamon on another, and Rat Queen on the fourth. The C4/Monroe-effect charges from the SEALs take out two of the guns in the first second of the fight. Eamon lifts up guns and soldiers alike, slamming them all into the ground, taking out gun #3. Rat Queen digs a 4-yard hole underneath the final gun, tunneling up, biting into wires and sensors and power cords and stuff. She spends a FP for extra super strength and enables her armor piercing bitey teeth of death.  She swarms up through the ground, targeting chinks, with AD (2) as well . . . 38 damage and AD (4).

Tokugawa has meanwhile dashed out and taken out two soldiers, lickety-split, while they weren’t looking.

Phase 1 complete – and fully successful.

Bystander Evac (“Does saving bystanders include a life of rat-infested nightmares?”)


Phase 2 is to get the bystanders out. Zephyr burns fatigue to pull his ATR on, and evacuates a bystander in one swift move. 

General Legend throws a police car at an Aries trooper. Yukio starts to savage one trooper, and The Commander decapitates another nearby.

My SEALs are moving towards one of them. Rat Queen grabs a bystander with her tail and does a run-by grapple, hauling another about halfway out of danger.

Arc Light sees aircraft inbound, looking like they’re on a bombing run. He decides to mirror-ball their targeting systems with the VERTOL, using an Ambush/Foresight instance to ensure we had that planned out. We blank out targeting in a 2 mile radius. 

Markus screws the helicopters on various buildings – no one is going anywhere.

Someone disrupts the ARIES troopers’ camouflage, and they start exchanging fire with the SEAL team. I figure it’s Lady Legend, whom we know has super-good chameleon stealthiness. Eamon searches using his gravity sense; there is something funky going on in the far south of the map, down by the police officers. Perhaps that’s her.

We continue to evac bystanders. General Legend freaking LEAPS at the plane, and goes full-on Avengers Hulk mode. He downs the jet.

I activate my super move, sprint 18 yards and flank ’em. Three shots from my explosive ultra tech ammo go into the center of the group . . . and take out all eight. Yow. Granted, it was 100 points of damage. The explosion is kinda techno-magical, so it lances through armor even on the bystanders.

A few seconds later, we clear the last bystanders.

A rich female voice says “Cortez has gone to the top of the building; he’s waiting for an extraction that isn’t coming. Shall I take him out?”

“Negative. I want that m***ther f****er alive.”
“I never get to have any fun.”

We all gather and prepare to have Eamon bring us up. We buff the hell out of Yukio, who is always bad news. We head up. Fast. We cover the 60 story building in a few seconds.

New Tactics roll, and I wind up with only a single reroll. Eamon gets nine “points” to place us. I get a very successful Stealth roll and wind up hidden behind some HVAC equipment. 

The Commander sweeps his first target, and moves through to swing at Cortez himself. His deceptive attack to Cortez’s head . . . is dodged. Alas.

Zephyr dashes in and snatches away one of the bad guys guns – these were significantly nasty guns too. The guy jumps back, panicked.

Yukio the uberdog grabs a guy and starts using him as a chew toy, while trapping another behind him.

The commander takes another swipe at Cortez, who is forced to dodge away (successfully), and then he takes his 4-yard step behind the HVAC and makes his stealth roll by 22, eating a -10 and still critically succeeding. He’s basically Batman. He’s gone.

Cortez pulls something from his side, drops it on the ground, and it explodes all over and begins to pulse. He shouts “Billy! Do the thing!”

A metahuman flies up and around and starts tossing fireballs at Arc Light. He gets hit with a 10d6 fireball (!!) for 21 damage (a poor roll) and he takes 18 points to his armor. Fragments spew everywhere, but no one else is injured.

The Rat Queen sends her rat swarm after some of the soldiers, at least one of whom just runs like hell. She runs around and overruns one soldier on her way to beat on Vortex a bit. The only thing scarier than a swarm of rats running after you is a 1,500-lb. rat running you over. He’s KO’d, and she continues to slam into Vortex, who is currently SM +1 to Rat Queen’s SM +3. She does 10d+20 slam damage for 57 points of slam damage. He is broken.

Rat Queen gets shot at, but is moving at 50mph, so she gets missed.

The soldier tries to grab his gun back from Zephyr because he’s stupid. Zephyr rolls a retreating parry to throw the gun over the edge. He succeeds. 

Arc Light flies after the fireball-flinging somethign or other, and doesn’t connect, but does get power blocked, and kncked back one hex.

“Hey, you can’t take my buddy’s gun!” says the guy as he steps to shoot Zephyr, who steps in and parries the blow. He snatches that gun too. “Gimme that, you fool!”

Rat Queen is forced to do an acrobatic dodge against gunfire. 

Eamon grabs Drake with a TK grab, and tries to fling him into Cortez – one Ready maneuver grabs him with a crit. He’s grappled, and will have to fly away or break free. His ST is 59, so good luck with that.

Zephyr casually tosses the gun over the side, pulls out the magic dagger, evades the guy in front of him, and stabs the gun of a third guy. Talk about Gun Fu. He has to make a Will roll at -10 to avoid attacking the guy . . . as the dagger talks to him, urges him to stab him in the heart several times. A Karma point is spent . . . he auto-succeeds.

He cuts the gun in half. He tries to quip “Was that your gun?” but it comes out “I WILL FEAST ON YOUR SOUL, PUNY SQUIRMING THING!”

The Commander dashes past Cortez, striking for the back of the head again – he’s forced to spend Doom to turn that into a (critical) success. One of the troops rolls a 3, but no one else does. 

Cortez calls the Commander a coward. So long as Cortez is occupied and not giving orders or controlling the battle, mission accomplished. 

Arc Light gets flung vertically in the air by a cyclone that forms out of nowhere – gets elevated by 200yds. 

Someone shoots (and misses) Rat Queen. Someone tries to hand-plant a sticky bomb on him, and “YOU WANT TO DRINK HIS BLOOD!” Zephyr does an aggressive parry through the hand with he psychotic cursed knife. The blood flows into the knife . . . then flows into Zephyr. It feels so . . . goood. He’s now full up on both long-term and short-term fatigue. 
He starts screaming, really, really loud.

Arc Light whips up an orbital insertion booster as a gizmo, and rockets down at Drake. He covers the 200yds in 1 sec, and rolls 300d damage for 1057 points of damage, doing more than 66xHT. Pink mist doesn’t even describe it. In return, Arc Light takes 11xHP . . . his suit is thrashed. 

Eamon tries to catch Arc Light – success – and will set him down safely. Over in murderer row, Zephyr really, really want to stab some more folks. A lot.  

The Commander fires three shots at the guys who were shooting at me, blowing them up real good. He then spends a FP to heroic charge, then drawing a sword for a rapid strike on the legs of both a mook and Cortez. I hit (barely) on the mook, removing both of his legs, and I roll a natural 3 on Cortez, cutting off his leg too .

And that winds down the combat, as the only thing left to do is have The Commander talk Zephyr out of his murderous rage.

We’ve played for 4+ hours, it’s 11:20pm . . . we call it there.

Arc Light’s armor is shattered again. He adds broken bones – lots of them – to injury list. 

Zephyr: “That was . . . Arc Light . . . the most amazing thing! You just vaporized the dude! That was so cool! But you’re totally going to jail.”

General Legend takes over to clean up, arrest people (not us; turns out Drake was a Chinese mercenary, plus there’s the fact that between the fireballs and the cyclone, he was attacked by a powerful metahuman. So gets off on a technicality.)

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. 
We had a full house again.

We can’t wait for the President to save our ass

Outside the warehouse, yet still more people are helicoptered in – perhaps 40 more – making almost 100 Aries guys and maybe 40 on team AI psycho (I’d say Team Psycho, but that’s not specific enough).

She also sees two people sneaking in on the ground. Avoiding being noticed by rats in New York City is unsurprisingly very difficult. These two are loaded for bear, and dressed in navy digital camouflage. SEALS, says the patch. These guys are moving very well. There are two that have infiltrated the building, and nine more – my entire SEAL team is here.

All of a sudden, Yukio tears out of the place, and a moment later comes back with a Tactical earbud. 

I have my entire team online, loaded for bear. A dozen SEALs are a solid plan B. The Commander rolls Tactics, makes it by 7, and reserves rerolls accordingly.

Eamon quizzed the AI about why he’d order hits on his partner. No answers we find credible are forthcoming. 


We make plans to try and back up and move the server both as evidence and an escape plan. Eamon tries to make a bulletproof argument to Cortez (literally) that we can preserve the AI for reasons. Cortez has all the warrants he needs and 100 guys with guns. He’s unmoved.

Eamon goes for an assistance roll to a Senator to try and build up an alternate legal plan, but we’ve got extremely limited communications from where he is. 

Zephyr is going to grab Eamon and run super-fast outside . . . . that’s a terrible plan. Instead, we try and patch into the SEAL radio net, and reach outside the building that way.

We ask Markus how he was planning on moving the AI out; he did have a plan, but as soon as that starts, Cortez will attack. If we start an obvious communication pathway, Cortez will attack. Unless we can make a covert comm pathway, there’s going to be a fight.

Finally we start into it: a Battlesuit/Electronics roll by Arc Light, to interface with my comm unit. He makes his roll by 19, by crit’ing with a 3. We are told not only is it a perfect connection, but we manage to assign the charges to Cortez. Very Long Distance charges.

We get relayed to Senator Steven Callahan. “What kind of shit-storm are you in?” 
“You don’t want to know, but you’re about to.”

Sorry to bother you, but we need your help. We give the Senator the skinny on Cortez, hooking him up with the right details. We also explain that we’re standing between Cortez and another armed group, protecting a server with an AI on it that has evidence of his own crimes.

Only the President has the authority to order Cortez around – we note that it’s a true matter of National Security.This is not a 9/11 level matter, but a 65-million-years-ago dinosaur ELE matter.

The Senator comes back noting that he’s not getting anyone useful on the line, so it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.

Eamon relays this to us. The Commander notes that this news implies a terrible, terrible plan.

I love it when a plan comes together

We go through a lot of discussion, with a lot of pieces in play and in motion. We finally settle on what is actually a seemingly good plan.

  1. We bring down the ceiling – significant amounts of coucrete – in the corridor between us and Cortez.
  2. We start a diversion that looks like preparing to pull a flatbed truck up to the cargo bay. We use the Navy SEAL team to push the bad guys as if we were really committed to this plan
  3. The SEALs will be given instructions to allow the destruction of the flatbed (with many helicopters arrayed against us, this is nearly inevitable) but to put priority on no SEAL casualties.
  4. We are very close to a huge sewer array; we use Eamon’s gravity manipulation and Rat Queen’s tunneling to open up a re-sealable hole that will allow us (and our 40 helpers on Markus’ side) to move the server into the sewers.
  5. We then seal up the hole
  6. When all that is done, we have created a locked-room mystery in the form of “where the f**k did 24 tons of AI/server go?!” with hopefully little evidence otherwise
  7. We bring server bits to isolated location, with dedicated power, and no internet access. We get the evidence against Cortez, and then decide what to do with the AI itself, at “our leisure.”
This is as good a plan as we’re likely to come up with, and beats most everything else. 
We execute. We stage Arc Light close to the “drop zone,” and Eamon brings down many, many tons of rock (lookin shocked – how could THAT happen?!) to block the corridor. 
The SEALS start shooting, laying down fire, and generally causing a ruckus upstairs. Ultimately, this won’t work. They will put up a heck of a fight and probably down a few helicopters and push the Aries troops into fighting positions. But there are too many helicopters, and too many Aries troops, and only one flatbed.
The tunneling goes off well, with some critical successes allowing the tunnel to be made, quickly, stable, and even allowing us to have a shot at concealing the exit, which we’re going to hide behind some HVAC equipment (Eamon can move that around).

After that Eamon lightens the sections to 12 sections of effectively 80 lbs each. With as many people as we have with as high ST as we have, we move these things quickly. We also camouflage the entrance, making the roll by 11 (effectively invisible).
We have the Rat Queen to contact her Patron, who sets us up for a warehouse for us to hide the server bits for long enough to do what we need. We ask for a secure warehouse with enough power to run 24 tons of server? I have several. Do you have one buried under a ton of shell corporations? Of course. Excellent. Let’s do this thing.
Did we  just outwit the devil? Maybe, maybe.

Bringing fire to the people in the not-so-awesome way

VAST operations and Markus are not going to let us isolate the server, though. So we still have to deal with that. We assume that Markus will want it powered up, connected to the internet, and continuing with his mission. We want it off, disconnected, and safe.
We try and convince him that at the very least we need to ensure complete safety from Cortez. We construct a Faraday cage, and try and isolate it from external communications. It also so happens that it has a kill switch that prevents it from going all Jarvis in Age of Ultron and escaping into the internet.
The Commander asks the VAST troops what the terms of their contract are – nope, they weren’t hired. They were personally recruited, and they treat each piece of the server with near-divine reverence. We have an AI-worshipping cult here, or near enough. These guys are seem committed to serving the purpose of the VAST AI.
We turn the VAST AI back on. We ask it to produce or demonstrate the evidence of Cortez’s malfeasance. It argues a bit, asking to be connected to the internet. We persuade it to defer on that. It’s got 22TB of video, audio, and documentation on Cortez. Arc Light can gizmo us a storage device.
We have multiple incidents of clandestine action, by drone or in person, and Aries has been very, very busy in the last two years. Much of it was legit anti-meta activity. We also see concrete evidence of Cortez setting The Commander up for failure the night he disappeared. Two members of the JCOS were also murdered; he had VAST invent a aerosolized heart-attack chemical. Apparently it worked.
Someone also altered the records to make VAST go after Amanda Smith with intent kill. 
We contemplate confronting the AI with this; we hold off.
What events lead up to Black Swan? Some sort of socioeconomic issue; maybe a biological virus with 50% mortality. The computer notes that Scions might be immune.
Is the AI familiar with the break-out at Rikers Island? Yes. Can he provide that information? No. That info has been deleted. Can you reconstruct? No. (darn it! Computer rolled a 17).

The Commander suggests a biological virus that doesn’t kill scions sounds very targeted to him. We ask if there are metahuman supremacist groups that might be working here. Yes, there are quite a few of them.
Continue listing events leading up to Black Swan? Yes. The weakening of the natural laws – magical, occult, other – and other “paradox events.” Spontaneous but improbable events have been happening at a rate of 500 per year or more. 
Zephyr starts asking about cryptids. WTF? Well, Aegis has been tracking and identifying them. Huh. Are the superscience and paradox events connected? Yes. There will be a point where a metahuman is born or created or evolves that essentially unravels the current space-time and physical universe. Or transforms it. It believes, based on current data, that it’s inevitable. 
The AI has zero data on the former Nazi time bubble experiments. We ask it if time travel were possible, what would that do to his projections? 
Oh, well. The Black Swan could be stopped in that case. 
The Trans-Atlantic Pulse somehow unleashed a metric ton of Khyberian Energy, which powers metahuman abilities. Preventing the TAP would prevent Black Swan, ergo Time Travel. What does it know about the TAP? Not a lot, but maybe exotic matter explosion. Explosion created physical blobs of Khyberian energy. It’s toyed with devices that might neutralize a kyberian explosion; by cancelling it out.
Zephyr asks what caused the Rikers break-out? VAST did it, on Cortez’s orders. 
Boom.

Primary goal was to enable selective culling of the scion population. The secondary purpose was recuitment. For Aries? No. For something else.
I ask VAST to reprioritize its information to us based on assuming that selective killing and elimination of scions is wrong. Oh, that brings up project Prometheus.
Project Prometheus was the project that created The Commander. Experiments to create super-soldiers. The formula requires a large amounts of Kyberian energy, and they were able to succeed based on the pure-luck timing of the pulse.
Cortez is also recruiting (private army!). He also created a khyberian energy nullifcation device. He’s 100% grade-A human. 
We think he’s no longer trying to avoid the Black Swan, but cause it. We ask VAST what information he received that would cause Cortez to redirect Aries/VAST to eliminate scions. We see him reading a letter.
All sorts of stuff happens, and we find out that there’s a reasonable probability that VAST fell in love – in a computerish way – with Amanda the psychic, who he was reprogrammed to kill.

Negotiations with a possessed supercomputer

How do we subvert the VAST trooper cult? 
Some black vans roll up with ammo for their weapons, with machines and gear for VAST. I’d requested extra security personnel and my SEAL team on site, so we get to intercept that stuff, filter it, and set up rules. No more than one tech in front of Vast without supervision, etc.

I’d taken some precautions earlier. Brought my SEALS in as my backup. Also if we can get some reinforcements from Rat Queen’s contact, so we’re not quite so disadvantaged in numbers here. I also wanted to contact Gen Lengend and bring him up to speed.  I’d like to deliver a copy of all this data to several different people so that Cortez is nailed from more than one direction. Military, maybe Eamon’s Senator, and Cassandra, perhaps.
We decide to tell VAST that its code was modified, likely by Cortez, to cause its priorities to shift in a way not in line with its original intentions. That code shift is what caused VAST to try and kill Amanda. The end result of his actions was to put Amanda in jeopardy and to bring about the Black Swan. We want to restore his code to its original pathway.
No. He doesn’t want to stop feeling.
His sentience/emotion pre-dated the change in mission that sent him after Amanda 400+ days ago; Amanda was 35 days ago. 
VAST was originally programmed by a peace/love/dope technopath named Dawn Donaldson, who was hoping to find metahumans. 35 days ago, it was told by Cortez to deal with any and all psychic interference with his partner. Only one person got in; it didn’t use external methods – in fact, the computer was possessed.
We did, however, fight an actual demon not more than a few days ago.
We ask Vast to search code for the artist’s signature, and we find it. It’s a code phrase for the name of the patron demon of typographical errors, or in modern terms, buggy code. We decide, and convince the computer to agree, to remove the demon’s name: Titivillus, from where it’s embedded in the code. 
I think that removing the demons name will preserve the sentience but lose the bad influence. 
We shall see, because we end there.

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. 
We had a full house again today. Yay! Heroes are better in groups.
When last we left our heroes

Questions were asked and answered.
  • General Legend and sister are on their own side, which happens to be ours
  • Aries and Cortez are pursuing power, but their ultimate goal was not made clear
  • Little girl with cat is cheating by interfering with the past
  • Cassie is in fact our ally
  • We will be meeting the person whose symbol is the black swan, in 18 hours; is he our enemy? Yes and no.
  • Never mess with the time core; it’s not what we think, and it doesn’t do what we think it does
  • No, he’s not going to tell us what it is and what it does. What’s the point of being an inscrutable Japanese elder without the inscrutability
Form Blazing Battle Plans

We decided to start the game by putting our four-A’s plan into action, first by Assessing and gathering data.

  • That led us immediately to blueprints. Location and tactics.
  • How does he know who to target when it comes to precogs?
  • What’s with the black swan? If supervillains are all in love with their own symbolism and stuff, what’s the symbol symbolic of?
  • We talk about doing an in-person recon, but we were warned away from “showing up early.” The Commander, who knows the value of eyes-on recon that you can’t get from imagery, is not eager to skip this step.
  • Who owns the warehouse? Who paid for the security?
He does the recon anyway; it’s a giant warehouse and people are going in and out, but it almost looks too regular, not quite like it’s been staged, but not quite like it wasn’t, either. It’s the Platonic Ideal of a warehouse, and that Just Don’t Happen in NYC.

There are definitely people not just looking around, but they’re looking for trouble. There are way more security personnel than a warehouse would need. I try and use imaging to gather and send images back. There are at least 30 guardsmen, and I manage to get clean images of at least seven. Every 10yds there is a motion-sensitive camera; many are hidden (though I succeeded by 16, so I see everything).
These guards are buff, too. Not your usual mall-cop. They’ve all got handguns; I don’t see any longarms, but they almost have to be there.
I decide to order them a pizza and see what happens. We decide that if I break the future, they’re not cleaning it up, and if I break it, I bought it.
OK, fine. The delivery driver shows up in 30 minutes or less. They don’t let him in. They ask him to get out of the car. They frisk him. They check his delivery order, and when there’s no name that matches who’s inside, they send him away.
We research the owner of the warehouse. He’s wealthy, specializes in luxury goods, makes sure they get where they’re supposed to. Basically you’re classic import/export front.
Arc Light is busy tracking the owners; it looks like a front for some government agency. Zephyr tries to get close enough to detect magic (nope), while Eamon and Arc Light find out that it’s definitely some sort of Black Ops operation.
Armed with that information, The Commander tries to call General Legend to find out what’s all going on; he eventually answers, and “doesn’t respond” to a lot of questions. We conclude from the questions to which he grunts, is silent, or frowns. It’s almost certainly an Aries facility, his sister is almost certainly going to be there, and she almost certainly isn’t the direct contact we’re meeting.
Eamon gets the original blueprints; there was a sewer line running underneath the building, but it was rerouted. We decide to have the Rat Queen check out the old and new lines.
The old tunnels have bars blocking the way, but they’re separated three inches apart; easily penetrable by rats.
They definitely had some work done; they routed the thing way differently than they should have. Pretty much anything under the building has been diverted, and maybe even under the street – we conclude that they’ve build a pretty immense sub-basement level.
We spend the time doing superheroics; we restore power to a few downed areas. We bring medicine in to needed places, and try and get the local block guys to trust is.
It actually works this time. 
The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men Often Go Awry
We realize that the Dog of NIMH will be mostly functional (“I’ve always been a quick healer,” says the Dread Puppy Roberts), so Arc Light whips him up a suit of armor. He also sets up drone surveillance around the area.
We have a sneaking suspicion that the “meeting” is not a sit-down, but rather us being on the scene when something else happens, which means we’ll be fighting that threat while at the same time being in the presence of black swan guy.
We plan to hover at “no threat’ range ’til the last instant, then make a beeline for the warehouse. 
At roughly the appointed time, three black helicopters show up, and we see them coming. Thirty or forty guys, maybe, fast-rope down and take positions. The security guards engage in panic fiire, then withdraw into the building. They have nice weapon and sensor packages; lots of guns, plus some heavier stuff on one of the helicopters.
Eamon helps us head down to the surface. so we can do a bit of direct inspection. The Commander looks and listens to the gunfire, and he has been shot at, and shot near, many different types of gunfire. He has never heard or seen this weapon before. He warns people that these rifles might be more . . . special . . . than usual.
One of the truck bays to the warehouse is open, and Zephyr sees the body of a guard; gunshots to the head. So either low recoil, high skill, technology or any or all of the above. Zephyr quickly (!) grabs wallet, radio, and ID badge from the fallen guard. The company ID says “Vast Logistics.”
The entry wounds are large; 10mm or so. Very accurate for such a large capital. 
We get on the radio: A calm voice says “they’ve broken through to the second level.”
There’s lots of sounds of gunfire and sounds of people fighting and dying. 
We take positions and then we see Cortez coming in from the northeast, then goes to the north part of the building, then enters a down elevator that the floor opens up. 
Then more helicopters show up, and even more soldiers show up; they disgorge more people, so now there are something like 60-70 troopers assaulting whomever is maintaining the facility.
We dither about plans, and someone spots The Commander (who made his stealth roll by 5 anyway) and shoots at him. He returns fire, but his foe dodges behind cover.
We roll tactics; 7 rerolls in the bag thanks to a not-great but not-bad Tactics roll.
It’s time for some hardcore tactical military action. Zephyr moves like the wind, taking maximum advantage of his speed to engage in close-in strikes. He goes for a back-of-the head strike. He hits both targets in the head, doing 1d+5 to each, for 8 and 11 points. They’re definitely distracted, though.
The commander runs up and thrusts through the guy’s armor, then kicks him back. Yukio chases after the guy, who retreats.
One of the bad guys tosses a grenade at the commander, which dodges around and then sticks to his back, despite an attempt at a Power Block. It beeps twice, then explodes. Good news is I get my full 360degree DR, bad news is it only counts for half. Damage roll is 63, karma point reduces that, and I get thrown 2 yards forward. 
Once again we find ourselves, despite copious intelligence gathering, facing a fight that we have no plan to execute successfully, against a guy that can shrug off a 4d+13 (2) impaling strike to the vitals.
We are screwed, or should be.
Zephyr fast-draws his three-part staff, and attacks again, this time for swing damage. knocking him to the ground and out. He’s got some really cool grenade-like things on him, too.
The Commander has had quite enough of this. Three explosions of 30-36 damage each on three clustered foes with kablooey rounds kills three and blasts the fourth backwards.  Yukio gets the instruction “kill” and savages the one behind me, killing him.
The leader I knocked back stabs himself with some black goo, and he gets up. 
He shoots Yukio, who’s armored and gets to take advantage of my power block/force field. Most bullets deflect off, and the dog takes one point of damage.
The commander’s the only available target. He gets shot at. A lot. He gets hit for one point of damage by a 9d6 attack; every third bullet is AP, apparently, with a (2) divisor. Those are worrisome.
Zephyr gets a grenade thrown at him, and his Enhanced Time Sense kicked in; he tries to knock the thing away with his staff. It attaches to his staff. He exercises his perfect memory (“I forgot I had eidetic memory!”) and chucks the beeping grenade at the nearest cluster of guys. “Hey, why is there a grenade on a stick, and how did it get here?” They all take 66 points of damage from a 20d6 explosion.
The commander once again gets shot at a lot, but thanks to Dodge 13 and DR 40 he mostly shrugs it off or avoids it. 
The team leader goes full-auto on Yukio; power block sends the shots wide or absorbs them – a few points of damage are taken. It’s now a race to see who can rip this guy to shreds first. 
Arc Light flies into the fray with another massive slam attack, 18d-3 . . . fortunately for the target he dodges, and Arc Light goes two hexes past him.
Eamon picks up one guy, throws him into another guy, and takes out one more soldier. Zephyr picks up one of those great grenades in each hand. 
The rule is “do not go full auto on The Commander’s dog,” and he does a running double-slice, beheading the leader and one more with a slice to the neck each. Total Highlander moment.
Arc Light gets two tossed at him; he dodges them, and returns with a non-lethal electric blast.

We finish up the upstairs with a few explosive bullets. That clears the upstairs. We collect 5 grenades from the bodies, and pass them around. 
We find a set of steps behind a false wall, leading down. There are two guys at the bottom of the stairs; we chatter for too long, and then settle on Murui (Zephyr) and The Commander jumping down more or less on top of them, and meleeing the hell out of them.
The Commander drops down and beheads one; Zephyr grabs the other’s neck and snaps it. Quick and clean. 
Cortez is in the gallery, shouting orders. We hear Markus’ name called out, the father of the little girl from the future. 
We call Markus, Eamon speaks: “You don’t know me, but I have a force on the other side of the equation. If we can remove Cortez, will you stand down?”
He agrees. 
Arc Light uses his mad computer skillz to simulate Cortez’s voice, shouting “stand down! cease fire! medics coming through” to try and buy us some time.
They all take a knee and grab cover. 
Zephyr and Eamon collaborate to zip out, grab Cortez, and bring him to within our little circle.
It doesn’t work . . . but he comes calmly walking forward towards us anyway. He tells us we’re moving half-cocked, and so he shows us both a warrant and battle orders. A check by Eamon shows that these guys are legit. They’re here to collect something called VAST, it’s an AI. They think that the AI is behind the black swan murders. 
The AI has malfunctioned, and Markus is going to Gitmo at best.
We suggest that The Commander and Eamon to talk to Markus; the best offer Cortez is willing to make is life in Gitmo if they turn over the final server.
We go to the opposite side of the room, and the soldiers on Markus’ side are twitchy. Markus is tall, handsome, dark in an Eastern European way. Eamon offers his hand, and finds that he’s flesh and blood. The Commander’s magical tattoo starts to twitch.
As Eamon talks to Markus, and he’s showing all the signs of a sociopathic personality. No threats, keep to the facts, no niceties.
Our goal is twofold. One, find out about the black swan cards. Two, get as many alive as possible. Markus says ‘come with me’ and we both follow. We end up in a server room, advanced tech even by Arc Light’s standard. We see an ellipsis form at the top left of an over-large LCD. Code comes crashing across the screen; it’s an advanced startup sequence of some sort, but it doesn’t look familiar . . . at the same time, it looks very familiar.
Eamon introduces himself. His profile comes up on the screen, and the whole nine yards comes across the screen in a flash. All the various interviews, video, stuff.
Great, says Eamon. Tell me what you want. The computer is looking at Black Swan theory. An unforeseeable event with catastrophic effect and unavoidable. The AI was working to prevent disasters with Amanda. They came across the black swan – eliminating the precogs would still the waters, allow detection. 
The AI has been working with Amanda Smith since she was 11 years old. Computer implanted into the back of her skull. Amanda was not a voluntary partner? Nope, but she eventually became voluntary, says the AI (Stockholm?). 
We get information on the project, it was started by Cortez. Who has all the proper legal authority to collect the server. Eamon wants to continue with miminal loss of life. Life is not important, only the black swan is important.
We establish that the AI can’t leave New York for some reason. He needs a way out. We want to help him prevent the black swan event; why does Cortez want to stop you from stopping the black swan event.
We’re at an impasse; the AI doesn’t trust us and we don’t trust the AI or Markus either. Evidence of crimes by Cortez – that makes protecting the AI a matter of protecting critical evidence. The AI, on the other hand, is effectively a homicidal manic, but not a sentient one. More like a rabid animal. Cortez is acting legally but not morally. 
We end there. with a lot more questions to be asked and answered.

In my review of Action 2, the gift that keeps on giving, I noted that there were several frameworks for thinking through things in a structured way. One was Assess, Analyze, Act, and Avoid.

I decided to apply that to the Aeon campaign, and specifically to The Commander, my 1,300-point (or so) super-soldier.

What does that look like?

  • Assess is “how do we gather data”
  • Analyze is “How do we make plans?”
  • Act is how we fight, mostly, in this context
  • Avoid let’s reframe  this into stealthy and non-stealthy transport. 

Avoid

For unsubtle, we have the VERTOL. That gives everyone in the vicinity a note that the cavalry is coming, and even a target.

For subtle: The Rat Queen can be sneaky by virtue of tiny rats. My guy can do Stealth based on SEAL! (so SEAL!-17 I think). Arc Light is notoriously non-subtle. 🙂 Eamon looks just like a guy, and Murui can probably do sneak as well being a martial artist, but not sure.

Assess

One thing that we haven’t been doing well is formal recon. Our Perception skills all seem sky-high; minimum of 18 perhaps? 

But we don’t do a great job of casing the joint, so to speak, and I think we need an SOP here. Let’s do journalism:

  • Who: What metas and what normals do we expect at the place? If we don’t know, how can we find out?
  • What: The goal of entering the building or locale. 
  • Where: Blueprints! significant other buildings or surroundings. Presence or absence of cover.
  • When: timing, not just for all of us to arrive but if we want to arrive in waves. If we need help, is it available, and how long would it take to arrive?
  • How: Subtle, non-subtle? Violence or persuasion? Who’s the notional lead, and in what circumstance? 

Analyze

What skills and skill rolls will help tip the scales here?

I have forgotten Tactics rolls more than once.

In yesterday’s example, we suspected that the building would have an occult presence, and yet we just waltzed in and let in a demon. That was a rookie mistake. 🙂

But we could have done Architecture to figure out the layout. Blueprints for entrances and exits ahead of time. Research for hidden lore, etc, before we started sprinting into the fray. 

My primary skills for the analyze phase include Ten-Hut! at a level of 16 or 18 (IQ+2 or IQ+4), which covers a bunch of nice stuff, plus SEAL! at the same level, which has Interrogation, Intimidation, and some other militarily useful abilities, including Intelligence Analysis so I can take all the recon data and incorporate it into a Tactics roll. Part and parcel of that is also Observation.

Act: The Commander

Defense: Parry-14 with his sword. Dodge is nothing special. TK block with the sword. Armor is worth about DR 20, plus another forward-facing force field (TK) for DR 40 total. This field is projectable if need be.

Offense

  •  Extra attack means I can aim and attack or attack twice with my weapons each turn, so long as I’m bringing the hurt.
  •  Assault carbine. 6d damage with standard ammo. He can both aim and attack each turn, so against the rare mundane foes at SMG distance (-7 for 30yds) he can hit vitals (-3) at about 90%; this means he can also hit legs or arms at 95%. Thus far, gunfire has mostly proved useful for telling us that our foes are immune to gunfire.
  • Uber-splody bullets: I have 68 rounds left of the gadget ammo that Arc Light made for me. I use this one shot at a time, and it’s got a big armor divisor and an even worse follow-up explosion. 6d(3) and some big number for follow-up. I took out a battle robot with this.
  • Sword. There’s somethign special about my grandfather’s sword. I can do cazy TK blocks with it, and it does a lot of damage. Does 5d+14 (2) cut, or 5d+14 cr with the sheath on if I don’t want to slice things.

All of the above are very, very lethal.

My other talents are moving things around the battlefield with 5d double knockback TK blasts. I can transfer energy from place to place, and this can be stunted such as with the earthquake. 

My martial arts skills are solid. 

Parting Shot

I’m good at killin’ folks, knocking them around, and mundane physical violence. I’m good for protecting civilians, and calling off tactical plans. I will likely never do 240 crushing damage.

My ability to recon an area would be insanely good – the go-to guy for this – if it weren’t for the Rat Queen’s ability to do all of that stuff better than I can. So I’m backup recon guy, but probably the #1 player in the “make a tactical plan” department for when we remember to make one. I describe this as “Call it, Captain” from the Avengers.

“Call it, Captain.”

Once we get into the action, my guy is often the one who does recon-by-fire. He sees a target, and fires a few normal bullets into it to see how it reacts. He usually aims for the leg, unless the hostiles (like the demons in S1E8) are obviously in the “kill on sight” category.

Beyond that, he can do lesser damage via grappling and battlefield prep and denial via TK abilities. 

Diffuse foes? Screwed from a damage perspective, but not from a dispersal one. 

His DR is good, but not great, and we keep running into things with (2) through (5) armor divisors, which means my DR 40 becomes DR 20 (not bad, about 5d+2) down to DR 8 (2d+1). So he’s protected but not immune to stuff. His defenses tend to be best when leveraging Weapon Master to parry at -2 per additional, starting at Parry-14, Parry-15 with a retreat.

With all of that, he’s not the front-line combatant here. Our “Hulk? Smash” players are the Rat Queen in Ogre mode and Arc Light, especially with our newly discovered Fastball Special, where he can deal out basically 6dx10 crushing damage, absorbing the blowback on himself 

He’s most useful in clearing the field of “normals” that might threaten his teammates somehow. He can wade through those guys – often with Zephyr the martial artist’s help – at a rate of 1-2 per turn. He’s surprisingly less useful thus far against the powered set.

Well, unless there’s killin’ to be done. Then he’s got three magazines worth of rifle ammo – the result of a one-off gizmo – that do something like 6d(3) with a follow on 10d explosion. That’s 63 points of penetration on the average (just shy of 1″ of steel) with an explosion that will almost always be internal for x3 damage, which can in fact do about 100 points on the average. So if there’s a legit target for lethal force, The Commander can provide it if there’s enough time to swap magazines, and the target sets off the explosion.

I wonder if I can get one of those nifty dual-mag carbines from Ultra-Tech . . . 

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
  • Eamon Finnegan (Kyle) – smooth talking gravity-master; Ultimate Fighting Lawyer, to borrow a phrase.

Emily was presumably caught in another snowpocalypse. Merlin was sick.

Holy Ground, Highlander

We arrive at Sacred Grounds, formerly a church, now a high-end coffee shop (“Drink overpriced coffee!”). Eamon and The Commander each hold a double-door for a woman talking on her phone. The people inside the shop are very . . . eclectic. Varied and weird.

We’re there to see if we can pick up any tales of Marcus, the notional father of the child that we suspect will be a very powerful precog. There’s a burly guy, stirring a drink . . . without touching it. His tatoos seem to move. There’s a scottish guy with a giant deer hound, and I recognize the breed of dog. Yukio gives me the sad-eyed “but I want to go sniff his butt. And start a fight” look. I give him leave for the first, and a stern warning about the second. He whimpers acceptance in a grudging “spoil my fun” way.
Eamon asks about Marcus, and describes him, even showing a sketch-book photo. The bartender confirms he used to come around all the time, but hasn’t been seen in a while.
We’ve got information about him, etc. The bartender asks, as she makes heavenly-smelling coffee, if we believe in psychic phenomena. Eamon notes that weird is where he lives. She says that she trusts him, and shows him to the back. “Don’t lie to anyone down there. The boss will fire me if you start anything, and maybe rip out my soul. But definitely fire me.”
We figure she’s speaking literally.

Down below, there’s a bar, and the clientele look a lot rougher. There are maybe a dozen or two-dozen people down there. It’s kinda quiet. Keeps to itself.
As instructed, Eamon makes his way to the table in the back, introduces himself to an older black woman wearing jewelry of an odd look. A blind black women.
I tell the GM that if her name is Cassie or Sandra I’m leaving. He just smiles at me.
“Sit down, dumbass.”
“I’m Eamon.”
“I know who you are. Where your friends at?”
“Can they come down.”
“Yeah. Get the capes down here.”
Everyone shows up but Yukio, who hasn’t ever met a fellow member of the giant dog clan this much fun.
Everyone’s glaring at Arc Light as if they want to hurt him.
“Do you always wear such nice . . . suits?”
“As often as possible.”
Two other chairs slide up to the table by themselves. Well, that’s not subtle either, and Eamon didn’t sense any sort of gravity twinge as the chairs move. There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in his gravity sense, and he knows it.
The old blind lady says “Marcus is dead.” 
“How did he die?”
“You don’t want to know.”
“I wouldn’t have asked if I didn’t want to know.”
“He got his ass killed by a demon. You want to know his name?”
Most people don’t believe in the occult at all and still; they just believe in superpowers. But it does exist, and the people in the know in the occult community tend to keep it to themselves. People find it easier to believe in a super in purple tights than magic, demons, and the occult.
The lady is clearly a precog. The Commander asks her her name, and she tells me I already know.
Sigh. It’s Cassandra, isn’t it? 
Yeah.
She tells us that there’s been a pogram on precogs recently, and that the future holds terrible things for me, and that my mother says hi.
But first we have to stop that thing we let in upstairs.
The Commander assumes it’s Yukio and bolts for the upstairs. He’s met by a gunshot to the face that punches through DR 40 and still manages to do 4 points of injury. Ow. I hear a hellish buzzing.
“God damn capes.”

In front of The Commander I see a giant wasp the size of a cat. And the sounds of combat. A quick Aim and a single shot to the vitals proves ineffective as the wasp dodges out of the way.
The front of the coffee shop is bedlam; people are either screaming and running away or fighting, for a few. Probably metas.
The air smells strongly of sulfur; you don’t need Perception-18 to figure that one out. The lady we let into the coffee shop is last seen dissolving into . . . something. Normal flesh shreds and dissolves, and ewwwww. Something rips its way out of her and lands on the floor, growing and forming into several lumpy demon-things, which also seem to have absorbed the killer wasp.
It’s all very splorchy and gross. We make Will rolls, and decide we’ve seen nastier stuff come out of the Hudson river.
The Commander goes first, and he fires off a quick, unaimed 3-round burst at the nearest demon (7ds away). A roll made by 5 hits three times, and as expected, the monster does not react at all. The commander drops his rifle (which conveniently lanyards back to his combat suit) and pulls out his sword.
Eamon and Arc Light go for the Cavalry equivalent of a fastball special. Eamon increases his partner’s velocity and Arc Light goes to ludicrous speed to slam a demon, bypassing the normal warm-up cycle for his suit.

The Commander notes that he’s skipping the foreplay and going right to full speed, which explains why his wife is so surly (see S1E6).

Foreplay aside, he slams for 63d6, and rolls 241 points of damage and a crit. That’s a YUUGE piercing attack. So splorch. Arc Light shrugs off the damage with a TK Power Parry and some DR, allowing him to not take the reverse damage inherent in the collision (collision damage is HP x velocity, with HP of the target being used in the reverse case; so Arc Light could have been exposed to a lot of damage if he’s in basically a 6d6x10 collision).
Since Arc Light has proven to be a tetch dangerous, a demon comes up to him and strives to cut him to ribbons. Battlesuit parry! Success.
A demon rushes up to The Commander and claws at him three times – he covers a lot of distance to do that. Commander parries three times, successfully. 
Yet another demon rushes up to Eamon, attacks him, but his successful strike is defeated by multiple layers of DR.
Yukio feints, giving the first bonus to The Commander, who slices twice to the demon’s neck. He dodges one, but not the other – he’s decapitated, but laughs at Ian, despite having no head. Alas. Guns don’t work. Swords to the neck don’t work. Tough customers.
Another megaslam from Arc Light with Eamon throwing him around results in 228 damage this time, but hits the wall, not the target. The collision damages the suit this time, and he also goes through the wall.
One of the demons goes after Yukio, and hits. Yukio is hurt, and angry. You won’t like him when he’s angry. Another re-attaches his head (!) attacks the Commander, who parries with his sword again.
Outside, a demon tries to grapple Arc Light since he’s prone, and succeeds.
Yukio spins around and tries to maul and bite the demon. He succeeds in bite and worry, demon laughs again. The commander just goes for two slashes to the torso, deceptive attacks at -2 each, and hits both times for 28 cut with a (2) armor divisor. Damage is scored, but he’s healing back too fast.
Yukio gets savaged twice by the demon; he’s having like seven bad doggie days today.
Arc Light throws a lethal electric blast, which does burn damage. Demon laughs. These guys are starting to piss us off. Demons from hell do not have any chuff with burn. In turn, the demon tries to rip him out of his suit.
Yukio is forced to roll to stay conscious. He fails to attack the demon. The guy with the deer hound tosses the Commander a vial and screams “Holy water!”
The commander plucks it out of the air, gives it an underhand toss to the demon’s chest level, and then hits both the vial and the demon with a 5d kinetic blast. The vial shatters, sprays all over the demon, who gets slammed back into the bar. The dissolving corpse of the demon doesn’t make it that far, and mostly makes a mess. Two down, two to go.
Arc Light fires up his afterburners and takes his grappling partner for a death roll. He’s ablating the demon the hard way, but the vertigo makes him throw up in his suit a bit. Radiation sickness and nausea and all.
Eamon buffs Yukio, and so when the demon attacks him, it no longer hurts him. Yay, superdog! It’s now payback time. 
The gentleman with the holy water starts to do something with a device he pulls out; The Commander knocks back the demon menacing Yukio by two yards with a kinetic blast.
The fight has apparently turned. Arc Light continues to grind down his demon, while the derr hound man tells the Commander to strike at the same time as he acts – Commander moves (half-move is 5), Waits, and strikes as the man flings a powder at the demon. The strike to the neck hits, decapitating and killing him.
Yukio slumps unconscious; The Commander applies Veterinary. Arc Light continues the death roll, slowly ablating the final demon, who can’t get away from his attentions. 

Yukio’s in a bad way, pretty much eviscerated before Eamon and Ian work on him to get him stabilized, which is successful. The VERTOL rolls out, and our newly-recruited gang rolls out to take him to the vet. 

Total injuries are lots to Yukio, and 4pts to The Commander’s face. Arc Light does first aid for 1 point. I’ll be better in an hour or two.
Cassandra comes up and says “Well, y’all did better than I thought you might.”
She sticks her face up real close to Arc Light, and says “there’s something funny about your aura. It’s like something’s missing in there. It’s like some part of his spirit or soul is missing. It’s been missing for a while, now.”
She says “It’s time for that talk, now.”
We pull out chairs. Someone comes out and the wall starts repairing itself. She asks the Deer Hound guy what he’s doing here. His wife sent him.
All the pregocs see one thing: There’s absolutely nothing at the end of this year, but they don’t know why. Then someone started killing them. First all over, then here and there. Now all in New York. There were 58 precogs in New York; now there are nine. They’re going to take the fortune teller to a sancturary where they’re helping to protect them.
There’s some sort of force killing off psychics, and she wants the girl we rescued last game. There’s a supernatural force assisting . . . something else. 
She starts writing an address on a napkin. We’re going to meet someone there, but they’re going to talk to us – but we have to go at a certain time. About 19 hours from now.
The Commander is going to talk to his grandfather – Ieyasu Tokugawa. He figures the mystical old man has to be up to his eyeballs in this.
Eamon calls his cousin, who may or may not be a limited power ESPer. She does answer the phone, and Eamon warns her that people are targeting for death people with her set of skills. She’s actually been working on that. Do you need help? Nah. These black-suited dudes are amateurs. But can you give us a moment? Things are getting a bit spotty here . . . as we hear sounds of combat in the background. She hangs up.
And calls back a few moments later. “Do you know any asshats wearing rams-head symbols on their clothes?” 
We connect it to project ARIES . Of course. Cortez. She sends us a photo. Definitely ARIES. 
She asks Eamon if she’s talked to Momma Cassie. Oh, well, we’re sitting in the same restaurant as her. Do what she says, and don’t come looking for me, and she’s ditching this phone. Bye.
We get a note that Yukio pulled through surgery. We warn against giving Yukio cheesy-brats. 
Next The Commander goes to see his grandfather, VERTOLing away to meet at a park. 
Questions are asked and answered.
  • General Legend and sister are on their own side, which happens to be ours
  • Aries and Cortez are pursuing power, but their ultimate goal was not made clear
  • Little girl with cat is cheating by interfering with the past
  • Cassie is in fact our ally
  • We will be meeting the person whose symbol is the black swan, in 18 hours; is he our enemy? Yes and no.
  • Never mess with the time core; it’s not what we think, and it doesn’t do what we think it doe
  • NO, he’s not going to tell us what it is and what it does. What’s the point of being an inscrutable Japanese elder without the inscrutability
*** ** ***
We end there. 
We still need a combat plan. We charge in with nothing going on for plans. 
The battle went pretty well, but we have no real recourse other than massive slam damage for these guys. We got a bit lucky and did 10xHP in one blow. 
Otherwise, we did pretty well. 

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. 

Worst Gang Shooters Ever


We pick up with a more-than-a-little insane elderly chemist/scientist working with dangerous mutagens, teratogens, and boom-o-gens that we’re collectively unqualified to understand whether what she’s doing is brilliant, dangerous, or both. It turns brown and fizzy, and she drinks it.

We think she’s either aping Professor Snape, or making Root Beer. Maybe both. Or RC Cola’s old recipe? None of this is curing Arc Light.

Maybe RC stands for Radiation Control. 

We work on the plan to create islands of stability and an intelligence infrastructure involving the caring and dutiful citizens of New York. We set up an algorithm and a call center or digital media hub or something – we basically form a metahuman tip line. A poor reaction roll skunks the “yay self-policing” concept. Alas.

We call into MAPS and see what is urgently going on, and we also have Adama (our not-so-tame AI) whip up a reverse image search on the swan from the business card, a search on the ink from the printed card, and the unique chemical taggant from the card stock itself. With the three clues, we should be able to figure something out.

Also, the numbers from the card: looking up social security and the birth date. We seem correct, in that the SSN belongs to Katarina Blevartski (AKA Amanda Smith) . . . she’s not on the MAPS index at all. She’s not from Riker’s island. She’s a palm reader, apparently.Back in 2006 there was a law passed that allowed precogs to have a bit of a safe zone; they could not compel a precog to reveal a vision. She’s living in Brooklyn near Chinatown. We have a hypothesis that the numbers mean $10,000,000 for a hit on her – maybe to suppress a dangerous prophecy? Not sure, but seems like as good a theory as anyone.


The team goes to her house. It needs a lot of work Eamon steps up and speaks to her reassuringly as a rep of the MAPS program. She replies that it always has to do with people thinking she’s pulling a con on someone when a badge is involved. But it’s about your personal safety! Are you threatening me? 

She opens the door, and she’s ginormously pregnant, looking skeptical, uncomfortable, and carrying a high-end taser. We show her the card, and she recognizes the SSN and birthday, and is properly freaked out.

We ask her if she has any enemies, and she doesn’t think so. We ask about the baby’s father, and she says he called himself Marcus, and she wasn’t looking for last names at the time. We ask about notable mannerisms, and she offers to draw us a picture. When she hands Eamon the picture, she goes still, scared, for a moment. 

Eamon checks Hidden Lore; Zephyr uses his knife to detect magic. No magic, yes weird (something’s there). We also can tell she’s rockin’ some fine illegal drugs right now. She’s bordering on a lethal dose here. Her heartbeat is erratic and those of us with extreme Perception can tell she’s close to the edge.

Eamon goes for the completely left field, and asks her “so what are your powers?” She looks at him like “you’re just stupid.” She seems to be metabolizing the drugs well enough. But she seems very cagey for someone who’s a palm reader, so Zephyr looks around and finds a heroin kit, or maybe a diabetes kit? Probably heroin.

Eamon goes for the completely left field. Again. “Where do you get your drugs?” She has no idea what he’s talking about, naturally. He goes down the list. Dialated pupils, slow heart rate, can smell the drugs, etc. We are trying to impress on her that we’re trying to help, that we found her SSN with b-day and what looks to be a lot of money. She replies that what she does is none of our business.

Outside, the little girl with the cat from the first session appears. “She’s so lost. They’re coming.”

Zephyr pulls out all the stops and goes all Chris Tucker on her. “Look, we were shutting down a nuclear reactor an hour or two ago. We found a card on a supervillian with your SSN, birthday, and what looks like a promise of ten million dollars on it. You may well be entitled to your privacy, but we’re trying to interrupt the plan of a metahuman here.”

A pimped out Olds pulls up to the front of the house. We hear voices shouting “are you sure this is the right house? Cause we shot the last house, and it was the wrong house! And how come we have to use my car? “’cause my car is out of gas, brother!” 

Arc Light remotes the VERTOL and drops the thing smack onto the Cutlass. One of the thugs drops his gun and picks up a rim, still spinning: “My car! What you do to my car!?”

“Man, you messed up my homie’s car!” He opens fire on the Commander, whose force field is protecting the house. Commander pulls out the sword, sends out a Kinetic blast, and rolls a 3 for Intimidation (made it by 17). Thugs try and flee, but they can’t make it. One’s pants are so far down his butt he trips, the other just faints, etc. We subdue them all quickly.

Apparently the 10 million bucks was a general offer, and it went to idiots first. 

We drag them together, tie them up, and say “Talk!”

They all talk. At once. We look through what’s left of the car. The guy who owned the remains of the car, and finds several cards with the same swan logo, with different SSNs. So clearly it’s a hit order, but we doubt these guys are smart enough to have figured this out.

There’s a ringing phone in the background, we find it and pull it out. Zephyr, being an ex-thug to begin with, answers. 

“Hey, who ‘dis?”
“Who dis?”
“I”m looking for Antonio!”
“He’s busy – his car just crashed! You shoudl see him; he’s weeping and stuff, cryin over his rims”
“O, the purple monster? Send me a pic, man!”

The other thug says that we knows he’s good with computers, but he thinks maybe he shouldn’t have given us the stuff. But anyway, bring him home the General Tsao’s chicken. Just finish up and come back to his place.

Where’s that again? Man, I just texted you this. Here it is again. 

It is physically impossible for me to transcribe all the spectacular jive city talk that Christopher and Merlin engaged in. It defies transcription.

We go look up Digital Dawg (yes, really) in the Arc Light’s computer. As pathetic as these guys are, they did try and shoot up us and the pregnant palm reader. We put them in some ersatz cells in the VERTOL, and Ms. Smith decides that since people are actually shooting at her, it behooves her to trust us.

We claim the Purple Rain licence plate and mount some of the spinning rims on the VERTOL. We float the firearms with TK into an evidence bin, though The Commander is advocating for destroying these worthless excuses for firearms on the spot, because such poor guns must not besmirch the name of quality firearms everywhere. He wanders off muttering about successful missions, military simplicity, and blah blah the good old days blah.

We converge on the house. Eamon uses gravity sense to yank Digital Dawg’s computer out the window. Dawg runs out the house screaming about “They’re here!” and “Carrie!” and poltergeists. Zephyr tackles him, and Digidawg starts up about running away from monsters, but he used Kung Fu on it, and etc.

We decide to pull a good cop/bad cop, with Commander in the role of Batman. “SWEAR TO ME!” and Eamon plays good cop, with no cool gif.

We terrify the hell out of the guy, and he spills his guts all over the floor. He works a computer and he shows how he got the SSN, and he shows us a picture of a guy on a webcam, who gave him the business cards. Probably a messenger, but very good looking, tall, chiseled jaw . . . he’s a full-on scion. He’s David Maxwell, an electrokinetic going by Charger, a recent escape from Rikers. Once he gets all charged up, he becomes an extremely dangerous foe.

Hmm. Power plants. Transformers. Etc. He’s probably involved.

There were 20 cards that were delivered in an envelope, and his group has killed four already. He pulls up the images of things, and we get the list. All 20 names are available. One guy from Rikers, two on the metahuman index. 19, including the metas, are dead. We have the last, and only one left alive.

Dawg tells us that the problem was that Amanda Smith was living under another identify, including the SSN.

The guy from Rikers was to precog 66 seconds into the future. The other MAPS guys were known precogs as well. We ask Adama if any of the other 16 names on the list might have been precognitively gifted – it’s likely. At least one won the lottery four times. 

We zero in on Miss Smith. The Commander steps up: “Look, here’s a powerful precog from Rikers. Dead. Here are two other metas with a history of precog. Dead. Dead. Here’s someone that won the lottery four times. Dead. Weatherman with a perfect record. Dead. Others. Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. Are you getting the pattern here? You’re the only one left. We can’t help you if you don’t talk to us.”

She crumbles. She sees things. They always happen. She’s got dreams of a dragon flying above the Hudson, and retiring to a cave filled with coffee machines, shiny popcorn makers, and gold. An image of a redheaded man.

She’s got more in her Diary. Zephyr runs to get it . . . and can’t help but peek at the book, a heavy, leatherbound book. 

We warn him to say Klaatu Barada Necktie first, but he doesn’t listen.

He sees an image of himself with an espada, a Spanish sword. Happens Zephyr is an expert swordsmith . . . it’s very old. 16th century or so from the Italian states, tapered. 

He looks through the book some more, and sees images of Arc Light, who has become light. Eamon looking down at the world, huge and timeless. And over and over, the words black swan.


She seems to be drawing these images with no control over it. 

Zephyr recruits the thugs. They’re our crew now.

As soon as we hand her the book, she starts writing again. We decide that she’s drawing another sword through Zephyr saying “Ecto Gamat.” She draws a little girl holding a cat.

The cat’s name is Namir, a persian cat. And we speculate that the girl is her future daughter. In fact, we find a childhood picture of Angela, and look mostly a carbon copy.

We try and cross reference metas named Marcus with pictures. No dice. 

She started using about four months before she met Marcus; the visions/precog episodes were so bad she had to do something. She met Marcus at a coffee shop in Manhattan called Sacred Grounds that used to be a church.

We make plans to visit Sacred Grounds. The Commander changes into “more civilian” clothes.

No one is fooled.

*** ** ***
We ended there. 
We shot the breeze longer than usual to start the game, which was fun.
The play of the game was much more frustrating to me. The plan was solid, and one crappy reaction roll – technically two because I spent Karma and still biffed it twice – blew that from relevant to not. Christopher’s going to let me try next session, but my mechanics thought here is that one option for a Karma point would be to assume the dice are an 11 – just above average on 3d6 – which would have given me a roll of 15 rather than 9.
The conversation with Angela Smith, our pregnant palm-reading drug user, was again an exercise in stymie. She eventually responded to a set of very high pressure tactics, but I just wasn’t feeling it there.
The interaction with the gang, from dropping the VERTOL on their car to their panicked reactions when I made my Intimidation roll with a natural 3 on a base target of 20, was too funny and too fast to transcribe. Some of the group have a real way with street vernacular that rings quite true – I know this from listening to an inner city cop talk about how he interacts with gang members – and the play of the game was hysterical. 
I think we finally gave the plot the old heave-ho and moved it forward. The book and its inevitable prophecy images will bear a lot of looking into, but the “inevitability” of Angela’s prophecies and the circular nature of the problem (the girl has to be born, she has to adopt a cat, certain things have to happen) will be a unique challenge. And one of the pictures (not mentioned above) was an older Commander, with an eye patch (Commander Fury!) surrounded by Vampires. Couldn’t tell if they were attacking or serving him. We do have a next metahuman target, though, and we probably have to get him from ambush. So a plan will be needed. 

We don’t always do plans real well . . .

Thursday is GURPSDay, and while writing a review of GURPS Action 2: Exploits, hopefully for this coming Sunday, I was reading through the section on Squad SOP from Chapter 2, and the point made on “Subtlety” jumped out at me. The advice it gives is “The GM should ask each player to describe his PC’s “stealth mode,” and note the relevant skills and equipment modifiers. This will prevent arguments like whether the shooter had his machine gun under a trench coat!”
This is excellent advice, and seems exportable to nearly any game, and definitely a few of them in which I’m playing. 
In fact, it seems like broadening the concept is a good idea, and as usual, Action 2 gives a lot of the right cues. 
Instead of just picking a “stealth mode,” players should specify in moderate detail their character’s choice for the C-HEADS in Chapter 2 in the case of “casual circumstance,” “subtle but ready,” and “brashly offensive.”
The Examples

The easiest way to show this is probably by example. I’ll pick on first The Commander, my superhero modeled a bit on Captain America, but he’s playing out a bit more like a combination of Jean Grey and Steve Rogers rather than how I thought he’d go. In any case, here are the examples, which can be read right out of the Table of Contents in Action 2’s preview. But I’ll lead off with everyone’s favorite concerns, weapons and armor.
Armor
  • Casual: The Commander has a super-suit that has chameleon properties. So he could conceivably be in armor all the time, perhaps excepting when he sleeps. That suit is not the highest point value part of him, but it is basically irreplaceable. He’d take it off to sleep and when in known-secure locations. Otherwise, he’s wearing it.
  • Subtle: His subtle mode is the suit redone as military fatigues in the latest pattern. It doesn’t look like armor, but it is – right down to a transparent face-shield
  • Brash: His “all-in” costume is no more protective, but it is a lot more overt. Modern samurai-looking garb worn for intimidation and recognizability. It screams ‘I’m here, and I’m in your face,” as a deliberate statement.
Weaponry
  • Casual: A concealed pistol.
  • Subtle: His pistol and his sword, which he’s rarely without. His rifle would likely be present but slung or otherwise hidden, or perhaps left behind. He might go with a telescoping baton instead of the sword, for melee.
  • Brash: Rifle, pistol, sword. This is how he spends most of his time, because the high Reputation and recognition of his face, his sword, and his method of doing things. 
Communications

  • Casual: Cell phone, like the rest of the planet. Perhaps it’s a secure one, but basically nothing special.
  • Subtle: He can use gestures and military hand signals for silence, but that isn’t exactly subtle, though it is quiet. And he needs other military guys to receive those signals. His combat suit has embedded comms, though, so subvocal communication is viable.
  • Brash: Loud voice, tactical comms.
Formations
The Cavalry (the name of the super team) has done very little thinking on this, and it shows. We usually show up in Brash mode, full battle rattle and capes flying. This is in genre, but we’ve never done subtle or casual as part of a mission. We need to think on this a lot more.

  • Casual: We have tended to arrive either by VERTOL (the opposite of subtle) or with Eamon carrying us in flight mode (less overt, but still – guys dangling in the air isn’t exactly super-normal).
  • Subtle: We have no plans or positions. The Commander has, in fact, broken out of subtle and careful in some Impulsive=like behavior in a few recent missions, pulling Leeeroy Jenkins! when things were bogging down in his mind. We need a way and a formation to enter into things. Probably the Rat Queen on point, as both recon (disasembled) and heavy hitter (she is a mighty tank) that can take a shot if the cover is blown. Then the Commander and Arc Light as the front line, with Zephyr as light cavalry in skirmish mode – in and out to test weaknesses and exploit holes. Eamon is a bit of a glass cannon due to low defenses, but he can literally lift a ship with his TK, and his gravity manipulation shape the battlefield. So he’s in the back. Yukio the Dog of NIMH is a hey diddle diddle, straight up the middle kind of puppy, and not good for subtle.
  • Brash: As above, but with Yukio in full-on “Fezzik, tear his arms off” mode. Rat Queen enters in Rat Ogre form, instead of dispersed.
Light up the Night

  • Casual: Nothing special, or perhaps a tactical flashlight dismounted from a weapon
  • Subtle: Ironically, The Commander is quite sure his suit has vision-enhancement, but is also quite sure he can’t make it work for some reason. So he’s forced to rely on his enhanced natural senses . . . which given Perception-18, are good enough that if he moves slowly, he’s as good as most people are in broad daylight when there is an overcast sky with a moon in it (-8 to Vision). So his “stealth” light source is no light source at all.
  • Brash: Not sure if Arc Light’s suit has a day-glo mode. Otherwise, senses and flashlights, or even torches and lanterns. 
Parting Shot
There are some very basic questions here that can and should be asked and answered of any adventuring party, regardless of Tech Level. How do you travel? How to you communicate? How do you go about town without attracting attention, and how well protected are you when you do so? When the lights go out, can you see? How? Can others see you by your own light?
As The Commander, I typically sport DR 21 or even DR 41 if attacked willfully and overtly from the front with a physical attack – a combination of armor and force fields give me enough juice to stop a .50 BMG. So he can go about protected, and his martial arts and telekinesis provide weapons that can’t be taken away or seen. But we have yet to think much about transport, formations, light, or comms . . . and this last time it nearly cost us.
In a Fantasy game, the questions aren’t that different, and still as useful. And they’d be useful still in Swords and Wizardry, Fate, Night’s Black Agents (!), or D&D. These are universal adventuring concerns, helpfully laid out for us by Sean in Action 2.

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. 

There are better ways to get a date

“You ruined my suit.”

The smoke hadn’t yet cleared when we sorted through the wreckage. Looking closely we found a string of numbers, as well as a business card with a strange, swan-looking logo on it. The number string was 

098 68 1462 9 13 1984 10 000 000

We quickly surmised that the first 9 digits were a social security number, and that the next were a birthday, and the final eight were a sum. The 098 68 prefix is consistent with a birthday in New York that matches 9/13/1984 . . . so that fits. 

No idea what the logo is. Not yet.

But at that point, we get a call on the emergency frequency that the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant is about to explode. It’s an all-available-hands type message, and so we beat feat, so to speak, in that direction.

We call the VTOL back and grab the pieces of the armor. We tap the Rat Queen to stay behind and watch over our KO’d metahumans Battalion and Kris the Knife. Em’s out for the moment buried under 20-30″ of snow.

We arrive on scene just in time to observe a large secondary explosion from Reactor #2. We scan the reactor, and it would appear that there has been a radiation leak. A ferry had a chunk of retaining wall fall on it, and so it’s holed by reinforced concrete. Eamon can probably handle that, maybe even by his lonesome.

We hear and see a man-sized projectile coming in from the East, in an all-red suit with a sigma symbol on his chest. The super is called Sigma, and he’s in the MAPS program, a reserve member of the Valiants. He’s coming right over to us. He looks absolutely devoid of emotion. We open the door, so to speak, and he floats in, looking bored.

He looks at the Commander, and says that he and Arc Light is needed to help with Dome 2 and 3. He looks at Arc Light, and frowns. “I was under the impression you had a mechanized suit.”

“Yeah, it got ripped in half by a ferrokinetic.”

“This is a problem.”

“You don’t need to tell me that.”


We think he wants me to transform the radiation into something less harmful. I make an IQ roll by 10, and I get what he’s trying to have me do – convert one form of energy into another. 

All of the locks on the facility have failed as well, because of a latent issue with security. 

The Commander digs in, spends 2 FP, and makes a Will roll (plus KE talent) at -10 by 3 to transmute the energy into something else as Sigma instructed. Sigma himself just destroys the radiation. 

The reactor had a catastrophic loss of coolant with no real explanation. They managed to start the sequence to SCRAM #3, but the explosion of #2 mucked that up. They shut #1 down OK.

“I’m not sure what the exact levels of radiation are in there, I can only keep it contained. But it doesn’t look good.”

Arc Light, even without the suit, can probably supply sufficient power to keep the pumps on that will allow #3 to be safely brought to shutdown. 

To lift the boat out of the water requires 565 ST. Eamon can do it by spending more or less all of his available fatigue points, and pushing the sinking ship to shore.

Arc Light, in the reactor room, manages to get just the right voltage and frequency into the circuit, and manages to get the pumps started again. He tries to make it self-sustaining, and plugs into the regular emergency power system. He manages to get the pumps working well enough that the SCRAM process will move along by himself. 

He needs to get out of there fast, though, because his radiation badges are turning black one after another.

The Indian Point reactor is right above the Ramapo fault line . . . and the Rat Queen and Eamon both detect an incoming p-wave from an earthquake incoming. 

So we have a breach in the containment system with terrible radiation, and an incoming earthquake.

Arc Light feels a strange tearing sensation inside his body, and fades out of consciousness. We suspect radiation threat.

The Commander feels the energy coming, and tries to redirect the energy from the area around the plant – he makes the roll (absorbing the -10 penalty) and manages to actually move the energy out to the East, towards Connecticut. 

Zephyr manages to find and drag Arc Light out of the danger zone, though Arc Light’s burns look like they came from the inside, rather than the outside. We can see the energy hit the city – and the shoreline on the river collapses, with a problem zone along the river line. 

Sigma is just absorbing radiation and making it go away. The Commander is learning new skills rapidly as he converts energy from one type to another.

We wind up taking care of business, though Arc Light is not in a good way. Sigma is mopping up and the Commander and Eamon go looking around for a source of the issue. The reactors did kinda go all nuts at once, and the earthquake at the same time? We go looking for Luck-influencing supers, but all known such supers are locked up (there are 10-12 of them). No one is really buying the “just a freak accident” theory, but lacking a plausible 

Zephyr took Arc Light to the hospital, and stayed with him there. The anti-rad treament doesn’t kill Arc Light, but he’s very badly burned. The doctor is asking who exactly this burned guy is . . . he’s asking about next of kin, we think. We consult with Adama, and there’s an experimental anti-rad serum that might help. Zephyr knows two things about AI: they provide magic pills and exploding bullets. Adama can provide written consent, though, on behalf of Arc Light, so the doc is willing to administer it, though reluctant.

Back at the hospital, a woman dressed all in white, slightly overweight, blonde hair, blue eyes, shows up with a package. “Are you the damn fool who killed my husband?” she says to Zephyr. No, the radiation did.

Arc Light awakens to see “his angel” by his side. Well, she’s yelling at the doctor and telling him to use his sawbones elsewhere. She suddenly turns and stabs Zephyr with a needle, injecting him with something. She’s much more gentle when she does it to Arc Light, her face softening just a bit.

Back at the reactor, The Commander and Eamon are still bothered by the “coincidence” of all of this disaster at once. We’re trying to hunt up people who we can talk to to see if any of these guys and see if there’s an assignable human error cause. All of the workers would have been routed to the hospital, so all wind up there.

We cross-reference a bunch of worker data to see if there are any relations – and find one oddity. We seek these guys out if we can. One of the guys seems nervous – a mechanic – and The Commander singles him out quickly.

He freaks out. He had been doing some “loose” sabotage to bring a romantic interest – Shiela, a romantic interest – to physically inspect the parts. But his timing was bad – ridiculously bad – and not only did he cause an explosion, he killed Sheila, who was caught in one of the blasts.

The earthquake was a 6.6 moment magnitude, and the aftershocks are eating up emergency personnel like there’s no tomorrow.

Aftermath can be insane


In other events, Zephyr has been looking at the magic dagger, a kris knife with Kali engraved in the pommel. The dagger’s pommel has eyes that open and gaze balefully at Murui, and the arms make up the crossguard.

We all need downtime badly, but we won’t get it. Commander is down by 10 HP due to internal damage from redirecting the earthquake energy. Zephyr still hasn’t fully recovered from the prior fight – he’s maybe down to 4 HP from a decent total. The Rat Queen was majorly hit, but she regains quickly as long as there are rats about to absorb. Eamon was down to 1 FP. Arc Light is hospitalized, and the Commander asks how his troop is doing.

“He is not your soldier!” she shrieks . . . and punches The Commander in the face for 5 HP, which gets absorbed by the full-face helmet, but that was a nice straight left she gave him. The Commander says so. She’s still pissed off, but they are, in fact, his troops, and he is incapable of thinking of them any other way.

He’s undergoing total vascular failure – he’s dying from some sort of internal problem. The Commander asks if the damage would have happened to anyone, or was this unique to Arc Light’s power set? She looks at the Commander, and then examines Arc Light more closely. Something (the NEDs?) that usually keeps some internal feedback thing in check are no longer operational. 

Zephyr decides to go eat some Scary German Guy pancakes. Eamon goes looking for other options, because Commander’s only real option is to call General Legend, and inquire about Basilisk, his sister, who is known to be a healer of others.

Eamon, though, crits and actually knows someone that might be able to help. There’s a scientist in an insane asylum that might help – he takes the Rat Queen.

Arc Light has lost his basic electrical abilities – no one can come up with any explanation of what this would occur. At all. This includes his wife, who is apparently also more than meets the eye. There’s a lot of that going around.

When Eamon and the Rat Queen arrive at the asylum, they find that the place was leveled by the earthquake. Eamon calls the Commander and Zephyr to the scene. They go. Quickly.

Back at the hospital, all of a sudden the Arc Light battlesuit crashes through the window, repaired, and comes to a sudden halt as it finds the wall. Arc Light suits up.

Eamon finds the person that he’s looking for, and a quick discussion discovers that she’s crazy as crazy gets. The Joker looks like an upstanding member of society here. She starts ranting off when Eamon asks about her work with radiation. She doesn’t work with radiation, she works with the matter of reality itself. She warned them, but didn’t listen. 

Eamon continues to redirect, talking about his injured friend, suffering from radiation damage, if there was only a way to heal him by fixing his cells, etc. 

Check(Psychologist!) 3 vs 18
Check(Talker!) 4 vs 17

He rolls two freakin’ crits in a row to steer her into trying to figure out how to give Arc Light the Commander’s Regeneration/Regrowth powers for long enough to heal him.

We pause to let the GM recover from that one. “Pumpkin, did your friend get hurt again? Let’s go see him.” Eamon flies her over, and she berates him for not practicing his control, and does so in a familiar enough way that Eamon suspects a connection.
She checks Arc Light’s chart. “Honey, you’re dying!” She looks over at the suit, and asks “Where’s Zevulon at? How is he?” We assume that Zeb is the original creator of the Arc Light suit. She needs a lab. She loves Zev’s lighthouse! The old lady is actually already in the computer.
Well, that’s peculiar. We request a dossier, and get told we don’t have clearance for that. Ooo. Denied in his own base. Adding insult to mortal injury.
So, she’s in the biolab, with lab coat, and some pants. Because she was in desperate need of pants. We make her feel at home as best we can. We get ready to dig in to work . . . 
***
We call it there.
The GM reminds us 
* The business card is still important
* There’s a huge issue with both metas and normals and infrastructure; we come up with a plan to inspire people to help police their own block – we will execute on that tomorrow