Throwback Thursday: Supers 1200, Session #5: “A Night On The Town”
About the only thing I see that demands explanation is the bit about EL13T’s fear of sex. (Facepalm time.) One of the character’s quirks was that he (it?) had a deep-seated phobia of sex. Think of a really bright, articulate two-year-old, who has recently read everything in the encyclopedia about human reproduction, and just doesn’t get it. Oh, and the two-year-old can change shape virtually without limit.
It doesn’t come out much in the synopsis, but in play, we got a constant stream of jokes – just the kind of jokes you would expect from this set-up. And that, boys and girls, is why I won’t allow such Disadvantages any more. At least, not in any game that I can imagine running.
I really have found, over the years, that the best tool that you can use, as a GM, to keep an entertaining and smooth-running game, is the ability to say “No” before the game starts. Once everybody’s at the table, there’s an argument for “Yes, but-“, but when you’re setting up the background, you’ve got to be a harsh skeptic.
Anyway: the concept behind this session was pure wish-fulfillment. The group included several X-Men fans. I was reminded of one epic game of the Marvel Super Heroes RPG that I played in, back around ’91 or so, where the only thing that happened, really, was the character with the wealthy background threw a party at her beachfront estate and invited all the heroes she had met in her costumed identity. (Oh, the joys of having no secret identity to conceal…) This rapidly turned into a “Who’s Who” of the Marvel Universe at the time, as party-goers brought along friends, and as the event drew the attention of villains. If you’ve ever seen one of the comics depicting one of the poker games that the Thing hosts, you’ll understand the vibe. Anyway, I set out to try to recreate that feeling here.
In a flashback, Goliath did some lab work on the T-O virus.
Pym called the students together to announce that classes were canceled for the day, thanks to “difficulties” with the transfer of Sauron to the Raft. Taking advantage of the powers offered by his new Phalanx form, Sauron had infected portions of the Infinite Mansion. Pym stressed that this was only a temporary situation, which he expected to have remedied soon. In the meantime, to make up for the inconvenience, he had obtained tickets for a Dazzler performance in San Francisco later in the evening. Dazzler, aka Alison Blaire, is a famous singer who is also a mutant with the ability to convert sound vibrations into light.
Cash arrived late, appearing hung over, wearing a dirty “Magneto was right” t-shirt. Upon hearing the news, he yawned and staggered back to bed at only about 30 mph. Pym had Jocasta open a door to S.F. for the rest of the team.
The door opened into Golden Gate Park, where the students were confronted with the awe-inspiring sight of the Dreaming Celestial – a half-mile tall “space god” who stands lost in meditation, considering the fate of humanity. In an effort to figure out the story behind the Celestial, the Spirit opened herself to the voice of the city, and ended up channeling Hank McCoy, aka Beast, of the X-men, who is the world’s greatest expert on mutant biochemistry. While in touch with his skill set, she made some off-the-cuff observations concerning Cash’s metabolism, based on what she had seen of his powers.
Between the Dreaming Celestial and the view of Utopia, the island home of all mutants, the students were quite impressed with the spectacle. They decided to get in some tourist time before the concert. They began interacting with the locals, as well. Araignee started playing frisbee (and showing off) with some visiting hippies. EL13T took the form of a human-sized Dreaming Celestial and offered $5 photos to tourists. The Spirit quickly became bored and wandered off in search of petty crime.
After some time, EL13T realized that s/he was being probed, spotting a drone circling the park. EL13T quietly alerted Goliath, then slipped off to transform into a stealthy flying configuration to stalk and eventually capture the drone. During this time, Goliath discovered that the team’s earpiece communicators had become non-functional. He tried to tinker with his, to figure out what the problem was, only to discover that it suffered from over-engineering: the mechanism actually routed all its functionality through the extradimensional space of the Infinite Mansion, so with the connection broken, it was worthless.
The Spirit, following the prompting of The City, found herself drawn to an illegal craps game, where signs pointed toward imminent violence. She intimidated the potential attacker by snagging his knife from his hand with a whip. Then, she heard a dull thump behind her. Turning, she found an elderly blind Asian man carrying a pool cue standing over an unconscious thug with a drawn pistol. Stick didn’t introduce himself, but the two passed a few friendly words before parting ways.
Back at the park, EL13T had captured the drone and turned it over to Goliath for examination. As they prodded it, they were discussing the possibility of disabling it with an EMP, when a video screen flipped up from the drone’s body. The screen displayed a pair of men who introduced themselves as Madison Jefferies and Doug “Cypher” Ramsey, mutants working on the island Utopia. They explained their interest in EL13T: Various “X-teams” have violently encountered the alien Phalanx in the past, leading the mutants to keep an eye out for future infestations, and EL13T had appeared “on their radar” as a variant Phalanx. Furthermore, they explained, Cypher’s “platonic life partner” was a mutant member of the Technarchy, the alien race who were the progenitors of the Phalanx. It was agreed that the four people would meet in a local coffee shop a short time later.
Meanwhile, Araignee and the Spirit went out on patrol together. They discovered that they have very different approaches to patrol. After several false starts, they ended up shaking down pimps to distribute their money amongst local prostitutes.
At the coffee shop, the two mutants met with Goliath and EL13T. They provided some information on the T-O virus and how it usually progresses in a Phalanx infection. They theorized that when Goliath and Pym freed EL13T from the Phalanx network, they must have burned out his/her pleasure centers, removing the overriding desire to form a techno-organic network. (This also explains his/her fear of sex, in that the Phalanx’s reproductive cycle is the same thing as their networking urge.) When asked, they explained that Cypher had the power of translation, while Jefferies can control and communicate with machines. When questioned about EL13T’s background, Goliath mentioned how s/he had infected Sauron with the T-O virus. The mutants offered their help and advice in the future, and everyone exchanged phone numbers.
The students gathered together at the Mangled Puppy shortly before the doors were supposed to open. Through use of EL13T’s ability to look like anyone, they managed to make their way backstage. On the way in, they passed a short, hairy gentleman with a bad attitude and a cowboy hat1; the Spirit followed him briefly, but didn’t go too far before he got on a motorcycle and left the area. Araignee went out to the bar to mingle, while the others wandered around where they weren’t supposed to be. EL13T and Goliath met Dazzler herself, and only narrowly escaped being thrown out (or possibly attacked) due to EL13T’s antics. During that short meeting, the Spirit got herself autographed, and Goliath asked some pointed questions about that time the X-men died in Dallas, Texas. (They were brought back due to the actions of Roma, a being of cosmic power.)
Out in the bar, Araignee was right at home. Due to the high mutant population, she wasn’t the only person clinging to the ceiling. (Or flying, or floating, or whatever.) In fact, she wasn’t even the strangest-looking person in the room. That award went to the three-foot tall humanoid duck at the end of the bar. He introduced himself as Howard, and started buying drinks. He also introduced her to some of his other friends.
Backstage, Goliath peeked out at the crowd to see how Araignee was getting along. He realized that one of the people she was talking with was the Purple Man – wanted criminal, mind-controller, and his personal nemesis! Signaling to the others, he made his way quietly through the crowd, hoping to come up behind them. Araignee’s danger sense warned her of his intent, giving her a chance to defend her new – and, suddenly, very good, very dear – friend. She tried to kick Goliath in the face, but he caught her foot before she could connect, shot up to over ten feet tall, and punched the Purple Man full-force in the chest.
Of course, since he was wearing no armor and has no particular invulnerability, this was enough to cave in his chest and send him flying more than twenty feet through the air, over the bar. At this point, the entire bar, with the exception of Goliath and El13T, burst into pandemonium. EL13T had been approaching in the shape of Spider-Man, in the hopes of getting Araignee’s attention, but found him/herself lost in the crowd pouring forward to tear Goliath limb from limb. As he climbed over the bar, Goliath was hit in the eye by a thrown high-heeled shoe, which nearly blinded him and drove home the peril of the situation.
On the far side of the bar, Goliath scooped up the Purple Man’s unconscious body and pushed his way through the bar wall, looking to get some space to deal with the situation. The Spirit suddenly felt the Purple Man making more of an impression on the landscape of the city, metaphorically speaking, and stopped, confused. As they came out into the open, the Purple Man stirred and opened his eyes. Groggily, he looked around, then asked “You know what would be really unlikely?”
Then the gas main exploded under Goliath’s feet.
No one was hurt, but in the confusion, the Purple Man slipped away into the San Francisco sewers. Moments later, the smoky atmosphere was made even worse by the arrival of Nightcrawler and Wolverine in a burst of sulfur-smelling smoke. The Spirit confirmed that her nemesis had apparently reincarnated in the Purple Man’s body at the point of his death. In the aftermath, Dazzler insisted on finishing the show. Wolverine ended up tending bar. It turned out that he and Nightcrawler had been on security duty for the concert, even though no trouble was expected. They had responded as quick as they could, but the whole incident had been over in seconds.
After, the students were taken back to Utopia, given a chance to rest, and then offered a ride back to New York in the X-men’s Blackbird. They were joined by Cyclops, Emma Frost, Colossus, and Magneto.
In New York, the Blackbird landed at Avenger’s Mansion. There, the true reason for the trip was revealed: Cyclops told Pym that the X-men were aware that Sauron was being held by humans, and asserted that the villain should fall under mutant jurisdiction. As the discussion grew more heated, the two withdrew.
Later that evening, Pym met with Goliath and mentioned that he had news. First, Pym explained how he and Bill Foster, Goliath’s father, had been working on a way to record human consciousness so as to preserve one’s mind after death. In fact, Foster had been using this prototype technology at the time of his death. Thus, Pym said, he had Goliath’s dead father’s mind on disc.
The bad news was that the mechanism in question was “behind enemy lines”, so to speak: it was in one of the labs on Sauron’s side of the divide in the Infinite Mansion. Furthermore, the “Sauron infection” was proving surprisingly difficult to root out. Not to worry, though, as Pym had called in “top men” to help deal with the problem.
Goliath made a complete report to both Pym and Maria Hill, his superior at SHIELD.
1Yes, Wolverine, though none of the students had any way to know at that point.