Wednesday, September 27, 2017

*Sigh* One more Drop-In delay.

SYSTEM: ICONS

Once again, I won't be running tonight. Not because I feel awful (I've improved to just bad), but because feeling awful left me with all sorts of work to catch up on, so that's what I'll be doing.

Gah.

John

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Hmmmm.

Apparently I am so anaemic that it was necessary to start me on three times the normal iron supplement Right Now.

Well, I wonder what good effects will come of fixing this problem?

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Gender neutral first names

Yanked from a baby name site, some gender-neutral names for when I need them.

Icons DROP-IN Cancelled again this week

SYSTEM: ICONS

Because this bug has been resistant to the first two antibiotics and I am about to start the third. I am in no better shape than I was last week, or the Saturday before that. Sorry.

In other news, Steve Kenson confirms that you don't need Shrinking or Growth to change into an animal of that size. That is, if you decide to change into a queen bee with your Transformation (Animals) you have, like, Flight 3 and maybe Super-senses 2, and possibly an Affliction. You don't need enough Transformation to get the appropriate shrinking for that small (what is that, Shrinking 8 or 9?). If you wanted to be a giant housefly, sure, you'd need Growth, or a teacup elephant, you'd need Shrinking, but to be a regular housefly, Transformation 3 will do. A regular elephant, you probably want Transformation 7 because an elephant is strong...but you don't need it for the growth part of it.

So as of Judas Contract (the original comics), Gar Logan probably looked something like:

Garfield Logan (Changeling/Beast Boy)
PROCRDSTRINTAWRWILStaminaDeterm.
34245464
SpecialtiesNone, really.
Powers
  • Transformation (Animals) 7
    • Extra: Instant (no page prep needed)
    • Extra: Growth (because sometimes he becomes a giant snake)
    • Limit: Tell (always green)
Qualities
  • Heir to Steve Dayton & Rita Farr fortunes
  • Emotionally needy but only knows how to relate by being quippy...doesn't feel he's worthy
  • Connections and enemies from Doom Patrol days

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

ICONS Drop-In CANCELLED this week

SYSTEM: ICONS

I'm sorry, folks, but I have a sinus infection. I've started on antibiotics but it's not enough yet.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A quick Swamp Thing

SYSTEM: ICONS

Here's a quick Swamp Thing that might be useful to people. Though Plant Control seemed like an obvious power, I made the power Magic with the Extra No Performance, and plants are the theme. This is Swampy after Moore is done with him, so he's grotesquely powerful.

Swamp Thing
PROCRDSTRINTAWRWILSTAMINADeterm.
427465121
Specialties Occult (+1)
Powers
Plant Control (Magic)10
 Extra: No Performance 
 Known Spell: Knows things through the Green (Detection, Magic)10
Immortality5
Alternate form: Plant body (fluid form) 5
Qualities
Plant Elemental (Responsible to the Green)
He's a Plant
Relationship with Abby and Tefe

Various powers, like teleportation, are stunts off the Magic.

Yes, there will be an ICONS Drop-In on Wednesday

SYSTEM: ICONS

In honour of Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson, I will see if I can get something swampy in the adventure. Or, I suppose, something Wolverine-y.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Manslaughter Redux

SYSTEM: ICONS

Years and years ago, in a Champions campaign, I had an homage to the Joker, and what I intended was that he had the pweor to come back from the dead, but that every time he did so, he would have a new power. Kill him once, one new power. Kill him again, another new power. And so on... To keep him from gaining new powers, the players would have to keep him alive.

(Of course, that wouldn't stop him from killing himself to get new powers...)

I don't recall that I ever had him come back...I think that campaign folded before it happened. (And the usual reason for my campaigns folding is that I had spotted a logical inconsistency in something I had just tossed off, and I had no answer. So I would put off doing another adventure because I just had to figure it out, dammit, and the campaign would wither as we went on to something else. See "Alderson Disk Campaign.")

But I thought of him this weekend when I was thinking of recurring villains in superhero campaigns. I don't have the notes from that campaign any more (there was a purge: I don't have the notes from much anything any more), but I figured I could re-create him in ICONS.

I was just going to do the "extra power per death" thing by GM fiat, but I'm also big on the "provide a game mechanical way that's legal" thing for GM characters as well as for player characters. So I thought about it and there's one attached. You don't have to use it, of course.

Manslaughter
PROCRDSTRINTAWRWILSTAMINA
55554712
Specialties: Athletics (+1), Technology Expert (+2)
Powers
Affliction (Lethal)6
Immortality5
Extras: Side Effect Magic, no roll5
Limits: No control over new power5
Gadgets4
Qualities
We're all crazy, but I know it
Nice to henchmen
Resilient and adaptable

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Len Wein

I'm seeing as-yet-unconfirmed reports that Len Wein has passed away.

Dammit.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Why supers travel in groups

SYSTEM: Any

This was inspired by a comment in this week's Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff.

Suppose that superpowers are somehow psychic, and the higher the concentration of superpowered people, the more powerful they are. So the Hulk is strong when he's all alone in New Mexico, but he's really strong—maybe the strongest one there is!—when he's near three other supers. It doesn't matter if they're good guys or bad guys; Superman is strength 8 when he's fighting Lex Luthor, but he's strength 10 when he faces four Kryptonians. (They, on the other hand, are already at maximum strength when he shows up, so they don't get any stronger.)

So, you know, supers would travel in groups.

I'm not sure how you'd model that mechanically in ICONS or M&M But it'd be easy in MHR.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Why are superheroes reactive, not proactive?

SYSTEM: ANY

For a large part of their history, superheroes have been reactive rather than proactive. That is, something bad happens and they react to it. (There are exceptions—early Superman stories where he's fighting against social ills might be an example, but stuff like the Authority is definitely an exception.) As a person creating adventures, that cuts out a huge swath of possibilities that you get in other games. Hyperman doesn't set out to become President, or if he does, it's in his secret identity. (Uh, there's an adventure right there: a certain politician is running for election for a powerful office; the PCs have evidence that he is secretly a superhuman. What do they do? To make it more interesting, assume that the politician/super has powers that will make it possible for him to destroy the possibility of replacement, such as mind control. Go.) This is also at the root of things like Reed Richards Is Useless, where the wonderful toys he creates don't have an effect on society.

Comic books as an entertainment and story-telling medium have a couple of reasons for this, some of which I've seen before. You can't make the world too different, because you want to feed into the central conceit, that this is a power fantasy for our world. Stories where X happens and the hero fixes X and sets things right have a long, long history in all genres (you can consider Gilgamesh as an example) and it's essentially the structure followed in Westerns and adventure fiction.

I'm not well read on this topic, but the reason that I haven't seen elsewhere is this: having the characters act proactively for a goal makes them less trustworthy because they have great powers.

I don't know if that follows for you, but here: in fiction, our hero is always attacked in his weak spot. He is always metaphorically outgunned. Hamlet can do many things (we're told he's an excellent swordsman, for instance) but what he can't do is make up his mind about a philosophical problem, and that's exactly what he gets: Is the information from the ghost of his father trustworthy? I have no doubt that if he believed the ghost fully, he'd kill Claudius, end of play. But he needs confirmation, and puts into effect the plans that eventually kill people.

There are other stories, but the idea of struggling, of trying and failing, is usually in all of them. It's hard to struggle if you can obliterate the enemy with your eye-beams.

But there's also this, and maybe this is my Liberal White Guy Guilt and Bias talking: The greater the power that a character has, the more you have to make them dependable and trustworthy if you want them as heroes. And I wonder if reacting to the situation isn't a way of confirming to the audience that this character will only pick up the weapon when it is necessary. The Western hero does not use his superior gunplay to take over the town, and the President does not use his ability as Commander-In-Chief to roll over the small nation. In the same way, the guy who can lift a tank and bounce missiles off his chest does not take over Area 51, just to see what's there.

Am I saying that you can't do a story about a proactive guy who happens to have super powers? No, I'm not saying that at all. But I am saying that you have to be as careful about reader empathy as you can. It's like, uh, the screenwriting book, Save The Cat: you can get a lot of audience buy-in by having the hero do something good in the beginning, and not using your powers for personal gain is perceived as good.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

ICONS Drop-In (Session 5): The Bikini Machine

SYSTEM: ICONS

Spectre and Gold Tiger face off against the Young Anarchists!

More technical troubles. I'm going to write an audio troubleshooting checklist (because the Roll20 troubleshooting page is a little shy on checklists). If that doesn't help, I might switch to Skype or Discord or something similar. (Right now, my tendency is to Discord: I have the client app already.)

At about one in the morning, Gold Tiger and Spectre are out searching for tau radiation, using the portable detector (about the size of a full duffle bag). Gold Tiger spots a source in Through The Keyhole, a strip club on the outskirts of town. The strip club is a two-storey building, with the club area being two stories tall, and the outside walls having a closed-in mezzanine for the manager's office and so forth. Gold Tiger gets there first. He hears a shout in anger, a gunshot, a science-fiction-weapon sound. He flies in a window on the second floor, flies down the stairwell, and sees a bouncer-looking individual unconscious on the stage, armed guards near a gentleman (whom he recognized as "Socks" Maroney, the last major Irish gangster in town), and a gold woman in a trench coat whose fedora has been knocked off. She is floating to the fire exit (but in an upright pose, so she looks like she's walking). Gold Tiger checks in the dressing room, and yes, the gold woman just stole all the money from the strippers.

Gold Tiger exits, following the woman. Gold Tiger decides to follow her home, because she said, "I must get the specie to the master." (This is an incorrect use of the word "specie" which refers to the tangible asset instead of the cash value of the asset, or sometimes coins instead of bills. My mistake.)

Gold Tiger convinces her that he was sent by the Master. She interfaces with his computer systems, decides he must be from the Master, and he grabs her ankle while she flies home. (This is good, because she has a top speed of around 600 mph and he has a slightly lower top speed: Flight 6 versus Flight 5.)

They land between some trees in the backyard of a small postwar house, one that backs onto a park. (Park not named.) Golden Tiger sends the location to Spectre and waits while the Femmebot goes in. A young guy, maybe 20s, in chinos and a polo shirt, greets her and takes the money. He says he doesn't require pleasure and she should continue cleaning. Spectre will be there in a couple of minutes.

Gold Tiger goes in to talk to the guy. This is Nathan. Nathan inherited the house from his parents. He's an unemployed welder, and he was applying for work at SIT when he "found" the two halves of the Femmebot. (Gold Tiger's other knowledge leads him to think that Nathan was on campus at the same time that the Centurions fought off a set of golden women who stole computer parts. One was torn in two, according to reports, but the pieces were never found.) The top half called him "Master," so Nathan took the two halves home. Then he called this kid who sometimes fixes cell phones and computers (George Turner...a chubby fourteen year old). Normal welding wouldn't put the two halves together, but the kid was able to get some electric welding gadget that would do it. (No, not normal electric welding. Something special.)

Anyway, Nathan's been using the femmebot, which he calls "Liza," to commit petty thefts of strip clubs. (Why strip clubs? Because not a lot of places carry cash these days, but strippers do: they get their tips in cash.) George has been coming over to fix the Femmebot on a regular basis. Because there are multiple people, Liza comes in and calls Nathan "Dr. Warp" and says they'll need more coffee if there are guests. Nathan hates her coffee but can't seem to reprogram her to make coffee that isn't European espresso.

Gold Tiger offers Nathan a job, needs the money back but he'll just give Nathan the equivalent amount of cash. The whole haul amounts to $568.00, so Gold Tiger gives him $600.00. Spectre has been listening but comes in visibly to talk to Nathan while Gold Tiger flies the money back to the strip club. On his way out this time, Gold Tiger gives a cheerful, "Hi, Socks!" (I'm sure this will have no consequences at all.)

When he comes back, a hole opens up in the back yard and it contains:

  • George Turner, in a green and yellow costume, with some gadgetry
  • A disaffected Goth girl in the de rigeur corset, fishnets and Uggs
  • A humanoid about six feet tall and made of dirt

Both Gold Tiger and Spectre remember the goth girl from the news: she essentially pulled a Carrie last spring, locking people in the gym during prom and having her bats attack people (she can shape and control darkness; presumably she can leech light out of Spectre's constructs). Anyway, she's been missing and on the run from the cops since then.

Spectre makes a bunch of Liza illusions, but George summons out the real Eliza. Gold Tiger figures out how George is controlling Liza (he's added programming so she obeys anyone who talks while sending a certain radio signal), so he jams the radio signal. Lily the Goth girl climbs out of the hole...

...and a rocket from Gold Tiger knocks her right out.

A comment from George indicates that he (a) knows where Liza came from and (b) needs her to get past the security on that base.

Spectre imprisons the dirt guy...so George works on getting Liza to their side. He succeeds so Gold Tiger is occupied with Liza. Neither of them can hurt one another (she might be made of the same alloy as his suit), so Gold Tiger consoles himself that he's keeping her busy. Meanwhile, Spectre gets George in the cage...but the cage is kind of large, so the dirt guy escapes and George tries to shoot a blob of expanding foam to imprison Spectre. A marginal success doesn't do nearly enough, and while his next shot gets Spectre solidly, he's forgotten that if he can shoot out of the cage, Gold Tiger can shoot in, so George goes down.

Dirt guy (Landslide) has gotten out of the cage (fluid form has some uses) and tries to attack Spectre; Spectre whacks him with the cage. So Landslide, not the brightest light in the yard, turns around to attack the cage.

The heroes have won!

The tunnel that the Young Anarchists used goes straight to George's house. His parents didn't know he was gone nor that he was experimenting with super-villainy. ("We thought the girl was a sign that he was getting, whatcha call it, socialized!")

World setting details just tossed off:

  • Strip clubs close at 1:00 am in Strange City
  • "Socks" Maroney is the last remaining significant Irish mobster, and he travels with bodyguards
  • George Turner of the Young Anarchists goes to Jack Parsons High School
  • There is a connection between Dr. Warp and Dr. Jelinek.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

ICONS Drop-In on September 6

SYSTEM: ICONS

Yup. And we're going to find out who is making tau radiation weapons.

I presume that Spectre and Gold Tiger will be there...I've planned for them to lead us with fifteen minutes of investigation...but have alternative plans if they don't show.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Conversion: "What Rough Beast" Champions to ICONS

SYSTEM: ICONS

This is the conversion notes, not the adventure itself. While you might be able to deduce things about the adventure from this, I urge you to go and read "What Rough Beast" yourself.

Non-Conversion Changes I Made

If you read my account of it, you'll see that I made a number of changes, mostly names (Genocide became PURITY88, UNTIL became APRIL, MINUTEMAN became VIGILANT, Project Omega became Project Mu, and so on). Instead of using a one-level base, I made it several stories (though then I had to figure out out the titular beast made it between levels).

General Base Construction

  • Outside exterior walls are Material 8 (thick stone)
  • Interior walls are Material 6
  • Interior doors are of hard wood, Material 4
  • Ceilings—the rooms are 4 metres tall, except reactor rooms & robot room (10 metres tall)

The Shack

I had the shack as a hunting shack.

  • Walls & roof are Material 4.
  • Blast 5 or better tears away topsoils to reveal elevator.
  • Floor is Material 7.
  • Entrance: Pyramid test [4; Awareness, Intellect, Technology] or a Phased character in elevator succeeds at a single Intellect test [3]. Actual mechanism I used was studs in two fake knotholes could be pressed to create a binary 8 in each knot.

Elevator

Outside the elevator takes a successful Intellect test [4; Technology (Security Systems)]. It takes six seconds (roughly a page) to go all the way up or down.

Guard Post(s)

  • UNTIL armor & equipment here (Damage Resistance 4)
  • Blast door is Material 10 (Unobtainium). To bypass code is Intellect test (difficulty 5), though list of proper door codes is in room 5 (Awareness test, difficulty 3).

Head Technician's Office

Search is Awareness test (difficulty 3):

  • Automatic (just by saying you’ll search): find a memo from Dr. MacBeth, asking Dr. Ward to look into the Bypass System in the Reactor Pile, as it could accidentally withdraw the rods (which is exactly what happened).
  • Marginal or moderate success: Previous, plus a torn page, apparently from a journal: "I have deep reservations about Project Omega. The DNA seems to mutate even more when agitated with high energy fields. This is due to—"
  • Major success or better: Previous, plus schematics to a MINUTEMAN. Schematics are labelled, so recognizing it isn’t an issue. However, Intellect test (difficult 4) reveals that this is a new type of MINUTEMAN, possibly not as vulnerable to electrical attacks as a standard. (Though I didn't have stats for an existing MINUTEMAN, say that cold and energy damage automatically did one extra level of damage.)

Dr. MacBeth's Office

Pyramid test [4; Intellect, Tech (Computers)] to bypass security on computer terminal. The trick is not to think of it as "outwitting the security so you get in cleanly" but rather as "going in so the system delays the Virus Clean Wipe for as long as possible."

  • Success gives rundown on Project Omega.
  • Failure of any roll in test initiates the Virus Clean Wipe. At one failure, system is wiped in four hours. At two failures, two hours. Every failure halves the time (one hour, 30 minutes, 15 minutes, 7 minutes, etc.)
  • Once the pyramid test is successful, character knows (as result of hacking) that further attempts will wipe the system immediately.

Head Security Office

  • On wall is Blaster Rifle (Blast 5, Fast Attack 4).
  • Search is Awareness test, difficulty 3. Marginal success reveals personnel list; moderate success or better reveals personnel list and door codes.
  • Any character who has seen the revised schematics in the Head Technician's Office (room 3) can try an Intellect test [3] to detect that the plans are different.

Guard Post/Armory

  • Glass window hardened (Material 4) and Radiation Resistant
  • Room contains:
    • 15 Genocide Blasters (Blast 5, Fast Attack 2)
    • 10 helmets with Radio Hearing (to understand what’s said, Hearing Awareness [3])

Machine Shop

  • Three other suits of UNTIL armor
  • Three UNTIL Autoblasters (Blast 6, Fast Attack 3)

Storage

  • Radiation suits cut radiation damage in half and lower Coordination by 1. It takes 1 panel to put on one of these suits on completely (to cut the radiation in half) or to take one off.

Laboratories

Intellect test [4; Science (Biology)]:

  • Marginal success: what general use these labs were put to.
  • Moderate success or the appropriate specialty: also that mutated animals were bred here.
  • Major success or better: also the early file on Project Omega.

Radiation Pile Reactor

  • Dotted line shows Faraday Aerolithium transparent wall (Material 6).
  • To reinsert control rods using control panel, Intellect test (difficulty 4). Failure means that mechanism gets stuck. Takes four pages if it works; "in radiation only" abilities of Beast disappear, but MINUTEMAN wakes then unless they do something.
  • Second Intellect test [4] reveals that a sufficiently strong (Strength 6) character could physically push the rods back in to place.

The Beast

PRWCRDSTRINTAWRWILStamina
64825513
SpecialtiesQualities
Athletics (+1)
  • Intense radiation feeds body but angers mind
  • People hate me, so I hate them
  • I’m a radioactive animal!
  • Large
Powers
  • Aura (Energy Drain) 4
    • Extras: Burst, Slow Recovery, Drain Str (when touched)
    • Limit: Constant
  • Growth 6 (Damage Resistance 6, 24 ft long, -2 to hide)
    • Limit: Constant
  • Density 1
  • 3 arms (extra limbs: Fast Attack 8)
  • Sensory Resistance 3
    • Extra: Super-Senses: UV Vision, Tracking Scent, IR vision
  • Claws (Slashing) 6
  • Life Support 10
    • Extra: Regeneration 10
    • Limit: Only in high radiation fields (both Life Support & Regeneration)

APRIL Agents

I don't claim these are what you'd get converting UNTIL agents; I don't have statistics for UNTIL Agents or for MINUTEMAN robots, not any more. But if you want agents, here's a generic assault agent...

PRWCRDSTRINTAWRWILStamina
4333336
SpecialtiesQualities
  • Military (+1)
  • Part of a large organization
  • Doing what's right
Powers
  • Equipment: As issued, but often including
    • Armor (Damage Resistance 4)
    • Carbine (Blast 6 Extra: Fast Attack 6)
    • Billy Club (Strike 4)

And below are my feeble attempts to re-create the base with multiple floors. If you do that, though, you need to figure out how the beast moves between floors and what evidence there is of it.

Big-ass giant robots

SYSTEM: ICONS

Can I just say that I always found the notion of Sentinel robots stupid? I mean, it's visually cool to have these giant humanoid forms flying around threatening mutants, but in a world of superheroes, it's kind of dumb.

Suppose for a moment that the giant robots are from a government organization, convinced that mutants, a subset of superhumans, are a threat. The information about where they are housed is part of a bureaucracy. Even if it's secret, someone has to know. Someone makes the parts, someone buys the parts, someone ships the parts, someone assembles the parts. Someone knows about it. Someone will leak it. Can it be hidden? Yes, but you need something on the scale of, oh, North Korea to hide it.

Because these are big frickin' robots. You can see them flying around, and I haven't seen any indication that they're supersonic.

Okay, suppose the organization isn't funded by the government, but is instead a secret organization?

Then it's worse. Why doesn't some other superhuman track them to the airbase or headquarters? The superhuman doesn't even have to engage...he/she/it just has to identify the location and others can lead the raid. I mean, this are some seriously big robots we're talking about...they hold a dozen mutants in their bodies and still fly.

In our world, it's hard to hide an airbase. In a superhero world, that much harder. If the base hasn't been found, then that means that no superhero has put her/his/its mind to the task.

In the Strange City world, I suddenly realized that one of the ways that the next series of VIGILANT robots stay hidden is that they aren't big-ass giant robots at all. They're human-sized (or slightly bigger than human) subduing robots; the big-ass form is when they combine to carry targets. There are sniper robots, fighter robots, whatever, and they combine together if the target is to be brought to an airfield. From the airfield, the captured target is then transported in some other way...by rail, or in one of seven identical black Escalades, or something.

The point is, the big mega-robot exists only when needed. It's too noticeable, too easy to see, for other purposes.

You lose some of the visual oomph of the giant robot, yes, but you gain a little in plausibility (even if robots that can combine is just as implausible, it's slightly more resistant to the normal player counterattacks).

ICONS Drop-In (Strange City) Session 4: "What Rough Beast"

SYSTEM: ICONS

I started by making this a complete write up and ran out of time toward the end, so it gets sketchy. If you weren't actually there, this is probably a good thing.

This is still long, but is not essential for playing in the setting, unless you want to know about (a) relations between APRIL, PICA, and the heroes; (b) the PURITY88 anti-mutant organization; or (c) mutant porn.

In terms of gameplay, it's sort of odd, because it was my attempt to convert a Champions adventure ("What Rough Beast") to ICONS. I did okay, but certain powers, like the extra limbs (Fast Attack) I never used. I'll put the conversion-specific material up next.

The Set-up

The UN organization that deals with superhumans, APRIL, is not allowed to operate within US borders, and their relationship with the American organization, PICA, is rocky at best. So in the USA, they work informally, through local superheroes.

Lt. Commander Fawkes arrived from New York and contacted a group of you, because the local hero team is missing (though this isn't generally known yet). APRIL has information about a base for PURITY88, the anti-mutant organization which created the VIGILANT robots, which hunt and capture or kill mutants. Fawkes is normally someone who works in the UN building, but Lieutenant who was watching the PURITY88 base has not reported in for three days.

APRIL knew where the base is. They had it under surveillance for the last two months. They knew that nothing has gone in or come out for a month. Three days ago, the ranking APRIL officer in the area, Lt. Aruja, decided to go in with a totally illegal task force of 6 people. (APRIL had 11 people in the country; the other five, including Lt. Commander Fawkes, are in New York and Washington.)

Lt. Commander Fawkes doesn't know how the team got in. She doesn't know what's in there...but if it's a biological agent, they don't want to risk it getting free. And per PICA doctrine, PICA's first act will be a "can-opener" bomb. If it is a biological agent (and she doesn't know if it is), that will contaminate the countryside.

She wanted the heroes—Spectre and Gold Tiger—to go in, find out what was happening, and stop it.

She had personnel records for the APRIL agents. She knew that they had taken in a device that checked the air for contaminants and toxins (the only one that APRIL had in the country, though the CDC undoubtedly has more). Without official status in the country, APRIL has very little extra equipment. APRIL has associates at the CDC and they can pass the word that something might happen, but they can't do anything else officially.

APRIL knows that the area has a slightly higher radiation level, and they know that radio signals are seriously attenuated from inside the base. Before everything went silent, they got a message from inside. Lt. Aruja saying, "It's hideous—gigantic—glowing poison—it's..."

The Adventure

Gold Tiger has some communications equipment that uses frequency modulation of ultrasonics, which works well enough through interior construction and avoids the whole radios-not-working problem.

Fawkes puts them in the rental car and the hired driver takes them to the site of the base. It's on a hill in a forested area; the nearest people were at a service station a few miles down the road. The shack is large, as shacks go, about twenty feet by fifteen. It looks like a hunting shack.

Spectre went inside to search. There was a woodburning stove in the corner, and castoff chairs and mismatched chairs shoved against one wall. Spectre tried the obvious things (is inside the proper dimensions according to outside; are there obvious buttons, and so forth). Eventually he noticed that two of the boards on the wall were identical, with knotholes in them. He stuck his fingers in the knotholes, and found regularly spaced bumps that could be pressed down. They experimented. Gold Tiger gave him the ASCII code for 88, and that summoned the elevator.

The elevator had two buttons: up and down. They entered. It opened to show a blast door, which was held open just a bit by a piece of APRIL armor. The armor wasn't good any more, but in being splintered and deformed it held the door open enough that a person could squeeze under it. Spectre could get in, but Gold Tiger couldn't. Spectre got in and opened the blast door.

The entire place was dark and lit only by red emergency lights. There was a whiff of some kind of decay but the temperature was a controlled slightly cool room temperature. The floor was littered with ashes and suits of armor—the remainder of the suit of APRIL armor was there. Ashes spilled out of it.

Except for the tile floor and the lighting, the place looked like a hotel or an office building. On this floor, the pictures were innocuous—pictures of flowers.

To either side of the blast door were clearly niches that normally had guards. There were a few blaster pistols discarded there, empty. The blaster pistols were of a different make than the APRIL carbine, so the assumption is that they were PURITY88 issue.

A little farther down the corridor was the analyzer that APRIL had brought in. It was out of power. Gold Tiger boosted it and downloaded the data. He also checked the radio frequencies: they were staticky and probably unusable. His Geiger counter showed a higher-than-usual level of radiation (not tau radiation, though). The ashes were high in secondary radiation: they had been hit by something radioactive, and that contact had made them radioactive.

From nameplates on the doors, this level had three offices and a boardroom; it ended in another elevator. They searched all three offices, which had nameplates, and the 7 three offices (one was a converted boardroom) were:

Mr. Henry LeDuc, head of security
A rich site: a personnel list;yielded a PURITY88 carbine, fully charged (5D6 Blast, Fast Attack 4); a map of (most of) the installation; a list of security codes for locked doors.
Dr. Rosalinda Ward, Chief Technician
Dr. Ward had technical texts, pass codes and operating systems manuals for the nuclear reactor, an operating system manual for the GaiaTouch thermal power system; and, hidden in a drawer, what appeared to be a personal project: the schematics for a VIGILANT robot; a memo from Dr. MacBeth pointing out a flaw in the reactor system and requesting Dr. Ward have it fixed before it accidentally withdrew all the control rods; a torn page, apparently from a journal: "I have deep reservations about Project Omega. The DNA seems to mutate even more when agitated with high energy fields. This is due to—"
Dr. Morris MacBeth, director of the site
Dr. MacBeth's office was a converted boardroom, so it was larger than the other two. The decorations were photos of the VIGILANT robots, the experimental models and the Mark I, II, and III models. The office had texts and journals with titles like, "An Analysis of Genome Markers to Distinguish Mutations from Epigenetic Transformations." There is a computer terminal here (other executives presumably used tablets). Gold Tiger managed to get a description of Project Mu and then a warning about system cleansing.
Meeting room
A board room; this is clearly where the guest chairs came from.

The elevator at the end of the hall had three smears of ash—something had trampled them. Maybe later people escaping by elevator? Combat armor seemed unaffected, but regular clothes was nowhere to be seen, presumably destroyed by the same mechanics that turned the bodies to ash.

Something sticky had been smeared over the elevator control panel, and then dried, like a giant had licked it.

The next level was the living level. They found a sound system playing in the security lounge. The vaguely decaying smell was from the kitchens. It looked like something caused an alert, they scrambled to action, and then the something killed them all.

Posters in the dorms made fun of certain celebrities who were supposedly mutants of some kind (Angelina Jolie took a.lot of flak). Dr. MacBeth's living quarters gave up a small stash of mutant porn (like regular porn, but at least one of the participants has good-looking mutations, like wings). Dr. Ward liked romance novels and movies. Mr. LeDuc did not read, but had a large collection of gun manuals.

They also noticed the burns and scratches on the walls, which normally stayed about three-quarters of the way up but might occur at any height. They checked the stairwells, which had crash bars so that you could get into the stairwells at the lower levels but only out at the top floor. The burns and scratches were in one of the stairwells; they didn't check the other.

Information in the tech dorms let them know that the plans they had for a VIGILANT robot weren't the standard plans: this version of the robot was not vulnerable to cold and heat, as the usual VIGILANT Mark III robots are, but was vulnerable to radiation. With a sufficient background field, the robot would be essentially comatose until the radiation was lifted. (In game terms, it had switched from taking an extra degree of damage from cold and heat attacks to total shutdown in a certain environmental condition.)

The third level contained fabrication and machine shops, and labs. This is clearly where the fighting was the most extreme—there were blaster bolt char marks everywhere and abandoned blaster carbines. The armoury was also on this level, but it contained nothing but armour and pistols.

Near the elevator, they found the armor of all but one of the remaining April agents. Something got them at this level.

The labs yielded a picture of a mutant bear cub...something with three extra limbs. One set of labs was for preparing and applying mutagens like radiation and the other set was for keeping the test animals alive and examining them.

As reconstructed by the heroes, Project Mu was kept in the lab. A reactor problem caused the area to be flooded by radiation, which set off the Project Mu animal. Probably enraged, it broke free of the lab and killed its handlers. It killed everyone in the other lab, then broke into one of the fabrication shops. There was a fierce battle, which the PURITY88 people lost.

According to LeDuc's map, there was only one other floor, the one where the reactor was. Presumably the "something" was still there.

The antechamber between the reactor control room and the elevator was actually the place with the lowest radiation count in the base, and there the heroes found the last APRIL agent, unconscious and hurt. They made sure he was stable, and went into the control room. This storey was twice as tall as the others, about thirty feet tall.

It seemed fine. The control rods were in fact out, as Dr. MacBeth's memo had presaged, so the reactor had gone bad. Gold Tiger set about getting the system to put them back in. In the meantime, Spectre scouted the room. One side had an access panel to the reactor proper and windows of radiation-proof glass.

There was something big in the reactor room. With the movement of the control rods, it was stirred to action.

It squeezed through the access panel, twenty-four feet of mutant grizzly, making Gold Tiger's Geiger counter shoot through the roof. Gold Tiger fired at it, and that seemed to hurt it a bit, but it went after him. One hit from it disabled part of his armor.

As Project Mu moved, it hit some kind of pressure sensor that caused the far wall to open up. That revealed the VIGILANT Mark III variant that Dr. Ward had been having them build in their spare time....the one what was held comatose by the extra radiation, but once the control rods were fully in, would awake.

Spectre managed to lift the thing up (and noticed it was much heavier than it should be...perhaps a level of Density?) which gave Gold Tiger a chance to move away, but it was still so large that it could move by catching its claws on the floor and ceiling...though it moved slowly.

The extra time that Spectre gave him let Gold Tiger put it down. They called the CDC, got the APRIL agent to a hospital, and shut down the VIGILANT robot through the simple expedient of plopping the radioactive animal right at its feet to keep it unconscious.

Spectre kept the blaster carbine.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Possible storylines

SYSTEM: ICONS

I dunno if it's useful to you, but I was thinking of doing the next Strange City adventure about a cult who needs to offer "vessels" for their "gods" (powerful extradimensional entities) to inhabit. And thinking about it, trying to figure that I don't necessarily know who's going to be there and that I want the players doing stuff rather than going, "Oh, yeah, the Centurions have that," well, I came up with these three ways the story could go.




Off-Topic, But....

SYSTEM: NONE

I want a scene in the next movie with Captain America movie where Cap is re-painting his shield. Or a throwaway mention ("We repainted it for you").

Because, hey, the shield might be made out of unobtainium (vibranium-adamantium alloy, isn't it?) but the paint isn't. And Black Panther scratched it up in Civil War.

It's a small thing, but that kind of continuity is what I geek out about.

Shame I'm not a bigger Marvel fan, but when they dove deep into the continuity lake wayyyy back in the 1960s, they kinda eliminated the people who couldn't get comics consistently. (Now, yes, of course I can. But back then, before specialty shops, not so much.)

I got a gift certificate for a local comics shop for my birthday, so I picked up a bunch of Super Sons and the new Teen Titans. And, though I don't particularly like Damien as Robin, he's a great foil for other characters. I really like some of the dialogue in Teen Titans.

There's probably something equivalent on the Marvel side (I hear good things about Squirrel Girl, for instance), but I don't have access often enough.