Don't Forget Your Boots

Meandering aimlessly around the GURPS landscape

Tag: heroes

Featuring a cast of ones…

It has been a while, hasn’t it? My original plan was to put a bunch of work into the upcoming post-apocalyptic campaign, but… y’ever heard the one about making plans? So, yeah, none of that work happened. Instead, we had all manner of domestic upheaval — some good, some bad, but all survived and more-or-less settled now — plus a chunk of overtime at work plus the loss of a player to a work-related schedule change. It has been a time.

But, we soldier on.

This past weekend, we got most of the players together for character creation for the post-apoc extravaganza. The player that we’re losing is also the one who has the stomach for keeping detailed records, so I fear that the campaign may not be as nitty-gritty resource-driven as expected. It’s possible that this is a blessing in disguise. We managed to get character concepts and nearly all the character creation finished.

Here’s our starting cast for the end of the world as they know it:

Bob T. Builder

Quite possibly a placeholder name, though I get the impression that the first name, “Bob”, is solid.

Bob is something of an everyman. He’s a general contractor with a lot of talent and experience with the building trades. He’s a skilled carpenter and mason, and if you need a door unlocked with a sledge hammer, he’s your man. He seems to have gone back to school and picked up a degree in electrical engineering, as well.

Bob lacks obvious troublesome disadvantages. He’s a “salt of the earth” kind of guy: honest, trustworthy, handy, and hard-working. He’s also got some points left to spend, so he may be picking up some further capabilities.

Cyprys Hil

Another likely alias, though in this case, it could just be because the guy doesn’t give out his real name. Cy is a likable young hipster with a guitar and a pack full of squandered potential. He’s a nice guy who makes friends easily. He’s a talented folk singer — well, teller of stories while strumming the guitar, which is almost the same thing as being a folk singer.

The problem is, he’s so lazy that he can’t properly apply his considerable talents. Furthermore, on the rare occasions when he does get a bit ahead, he always ends up giving it away to friends in need. All he has is his cheap guitar and a sleeping bag.

Farrah Fawcett-Adler (No relation)

Farrah is a fitness instructor. Some have said, I’m sure, that she’s the Fitness Instructor From Hell. She is aggressively fit. She knows her way all around a gym. Since that includes the boxing rings and the self-defense courses, I think Farrah might be the best-equipped character thus far in a fist-fight. Looks like she’s filling the “ninja” role, to the extent that it can be filled at this level.

Aside from her wide-ranging and useful skill set, however, Farrah’s got some issues. She’s a compulsive calorie counter, in a way that’s great for maintaining one’s weight in a 21st-century civilization, but quite possibly fatal in a world of limited food resources. She’s also impatient and abrasive to those around her. Finally — and worst of all, in the opinion of the rest of the group — she’s got a drinking problem.

Hanna Marlow

Hanna is a skilled auto mechanic who rides a bicycle to work. Clearly a Portland native.

She’s a friendly dreamer who’s maybe a little over-trusting, but with a core of level-headed horse sense to keep her from disaster. In a word, she’s nice. Hanna is kind to both people and furry woodland creatures in need. She’s cheerful to a fault.

Aside from her top-notch mechanical skills, Hanna appears to have spent some time up on the mountain. She’s in good physical condition, and skilled in climbing and mountain survival techniques.

When the world ends, Hanna’s going to have one of the more effective sets of equipment. She’s kitted out for the commute, so she’s on her bike, with a full canteen, pockets fulls of energy bars, multi-tool in case of mechanical trouble, and a tire iron for personal protection. (I imagine her describing it as protection from cougar attack, though. She doesn’t seem the type to expect the worst from people.)

H. Oxford Killingsworth III

A self-described “1%-er” from West Linn. He’s a businessman and lawyer; as I recall, his current job title goes something like Assistant Executive Assistant to the Director. He’s a natural aristocrat, for both better and worse.

On the one hand, Oxford is intelligent, well-educated, forceful of personality, and knowledgeable about the better things in life. On the other hand, enjoying those finer things has given him a bit of a spare tire, and left him a snob with more luck than grit.

* * *

They’re an interesting bunch. Looking at the group as a whole, there are some things I notice…

As expected, they’re not a fightin’ bunch. They’ve got a barehanded scrapper, a couple of folks who can swing an improvised weapon, and somebody who can tell which end of the gun to point towards the bad guys. They’ve also got a couple of folks whose go-to maneuver in a real combat will be Do Nothing (Wet Self). Nobody tried to talk me into allowing Combat Reflexes, but not everybody is a Reluctant Killer, either.

Only two characters invested any points in Driving, neither heavily. I wonder if they’re maybe expecting the zombie* apocalypse to clog the roads.

Out of the entire group, only one character has any skill in the day-to-day, cookin’ and cleanin’ stuff that keeps folks alive before the zombies* show up. I see one character with any kind of medical training. It’s entirely possible that these guys might evade the zombies*, establish a safe zone, and then die of food poisoning.

That said… They’re a lucky bunch, really: more than one purchased Luck. There are a couple of other “meta-gamey” advantages in play, as well, which could make a big difference. They’ve got scroungers, an organizer, a “face”, and a wide range of practical skills.

If they live long enough to get their feet under themselves, I can see the seeds of an effective band of survivors.

* I promise, no zombies! Zombies for example purposes only! No Zombo!


Throwback Thursday: Space Cowboys #12 – “Nail The Colors To The Mast”

It’s been a slow week around here, but I couldn’t leave y’all hanging on the finale episode of Season 1.

What Happened:

The crew and Seth discussed the Lo Pan situation over the trip to Ganymede, but came to no certain conclusion. Despite her words, Nanika refused to sign up for killing the man, even though she saw no other way out of their situation. In the end, nothing was resolved.

Bubba had lost custody of Rahne thanks to the recovery of her mother’s previously-lost survey vessel. One of Rahne’s stepfathers had sued for custody, basically using the cowboy lifestyle as a basis. Among other things, her ‘net connection logs were called into evidence, showing how interplanetary transfers on a small ship had interrupted her access.

When entering the treacherous magnetosphere of Jupiter, the Cabra was given the usual offer, from JCS Traffic Control, of a local pilot to guide them through to Ganymede. Feeling confident, Samale turned them down. Nanika, working the sensors, saved him from a misstep that would have led to disaster, doing it quietly enough for him to save face.

At Ganymede, the crew worked around the clock to unload the ship’s freight and refuel, eager to get to the reunion. The gathering itself was in a long orbit. Dozens of ships were lashed together, with flexible connectors between airlocks, forming an impromptu ziggy space station. Seth announced that he had made arrangements for the crew to meet with Grandma in a few days.

Osolo was swept away to spend time with many “aunts”, sharing gossip and recipes. Hal and Bubba located a likely lad to take on as an engine room apprentice.

When the time came, Grandma listened to the entire story, making no comment. In the end, she agreed that Lo Pan was a threat to the family, and should be dealt with, one way or another. After talking over several different approaches, it was decided that Grandma would come along on the trip to the Ag’, to be used as a demonstration of the effectiveness of the “fountain of youth” drug. Two young roughneck cousins, Randal and Cob, were recruited as muscle.

The crew then set course for the Ag’, carrying freight that Grandma arranged for at Ganymede. During the trip, Nanika resisted the urging to load the second canister with a lethal agent, instead deciding to fill it with a drug that would simulate the symptoms of a heart attack. When they arrived, they took pains to make this trip seem like any other.

While out drinking, Hal spotted Du Yi, one of Long Tong’s right-hand men. After passing this information along to the rest of the crew, he fell in with Leo Donadoni, bentlam addict and son of a Martian Mafia higher-up. Hal brought him back to the ship to meet with Samale and Osolo, who hooked him up with the bentlam and thereby became his new best friends. Conversation determined that Leo’s “family” was also nursing a grudge against Lo Pan.

Osolo caught up with Bustah Capp for dinner. The conversation turned to Osolo’s motives in allowing the RIAA to declare him dead. In the end, Osolo finally decided to accept Bustah’s offer of help, and stay on the Ag’ to fight for his music when the ship left.

The crew’s investigations revealed that Lo Pan had left the Ag’, in light of the escalating violence of the ongoing gang war. He was spending his time in an undisclosed location, somewhere near the Ag’, instead. They got in contact with his organization, using their previous contacts to get an appointment with Lo Pan’s Walken. Samale started the negotiations by attempting to titillate the Walken, which didn’t work out at all well. (Reference was made to the famous “Christopher Walken is watching you pee” picture.) Osolo took over as crew representative while Bubba and the young cousins took Samale into the hall for an educational roughing-up. Samale swore that the Walken would pay for misleading him so badly.

The Walken agreed that Lo Pan would pay $10 million for the fountain-of-youth drug, if it were proven by demonstration… passing up the offer of $8 million and an end to their association. The meeting and demonstration were set to take place in a few days’ time. Originally, the Walken placed restrictions on who could appear during the meeting, but he was convinced to allow the entire crew, as well as Grandma (for the demonstration) and Seth (as her attendant).

The guys talked Leo into trying to set up a meeting with his father. This fell through, but he was able to call in Silvio Manfredi, a trusted agent of the family, instead. After discussion and negotiation, Silvio agreed to work with the crew. The plan was made that the crew would go in first, and set off a beacon to reveal the location of Lo Pan’s summer home. At that signal, the Martian Mafia’s men would swoop in and clean up. The end goal would be to end up with Lo Pan dead, his Walken alive, and his sanctum in mob hands. In return, the Martian Mafia would look upon the Cabra with favor, and also pay them $8 million.

On the morning of the meeting, Samale concealed a holdout pistol upon his person, then used his smuggling experience to conceal Randal, Cob, Cleo, and Han in the shuttle. (The plan was, once the advance team with Grandma started a ruckus, the four surprise members would strike and join them.) Nanika, knowing she would be involved in unpleasantness (including violence and telling lies), gave herself a sedative. Bubba concealed several smoke bombs, obtained from the juvenile delinquents back at the reunion, inside a necklace he had machined, and gave it to Osolo to wear. Osolo announced, even if they all survived, he was going to stay on the Ag’ and pursue his music career, finally making his decision public. Grandma was gently moved onto the shuttle, and they were off, using coded flight instructions provided by Lo Pan’s organization.

There was much evidence of tight security on Lo Pan’s private space station. Thanks to the crew’s meticulous preparation (and, in Samale’s case, willpower), though, none of their concealed weapons or co-conspirators were found. They were taken into Lo Pan’s presence, where Bubba talked Lo Pan into nearly clearing the room, leaving only the crew, Lo Pan, and his Walken.

Everyone watched as Nanika administered the drug to Grandma. Shortly, she regenerated into her much-younger self.  Satisfied that the drug was real, Lo Pan questioned Nanika. Thanks to her forethought in sedating herself, she managed to lie to his face, convincingly. (Possibly a first, for her.)

While this was going on, Samale was quietly moving for position and drawing his weapon.

When the “drug” hit Lo Pan’s system, he was in obvious distress. Walken went to pull a gun. Suddenly, everyone was in motion. Samale tried to shoot Walken in the knee, but missed. Grandma and Seth went to cover the doors, with Grandma delivering a high kick to the first guard to stick his head in the room. Bubba and Hal went to help control the doors. Osolo moved to get control of Lo Pan in the most direct way possible, by sitting on him, then dropped one of the smoke bombs, filling the room with thick smoke.

At the sound of Lo Pan’s ancient bones breaking, Nanika dove to provide medical assistance. In response to the resulting slap fight, Osolo got off the old man. Nanika picked up Lo Pan – still breathing, though badly injured – just in time for the Walken to open fire. In the poor visibility, he managed to put three slugs into Lo Pan, which was more than enough to finish him.

Bubba gave the signal for the cavalry, but the crew was still presented with the problem of surviving until they arrived. Sealing doors as they went, the crew retreated to the last room before the long hall back to the shuttle. Grandma and Bubba agreed, if they tried to make it as a group, they were doomed; the guards would either break in or circle around, and the crew would be fish in a barrel. They also agreed, anyone left behind to cover the escape would be taking on a suicide mission. Making a quick decision, Bubba sent Grandma, Seth, and Nanika in the first group. He gathered up spare weapons, then sent the others on their heels.

Then Bubba squared his shoulders, raised his pistol, and went back into the smoke.


Throwback Thursday: Space Cowboys #2 – “One In Every Port”

You could say, according to the rules that these things are judged by, this was the episode where the series jumped the shark. 

The “mules” that were mentioned weren’t literal animals. They were the four-wheeled ATVs stored in the hangar bay for light cargo hauling on-planet. The ship also had a white Ford panel van tucked away for larger jobs. According to the setting history, during the escape from Earth, humanity ended up sharing the designs for just about any TL 8 object you care to name. With TL 9 factories, it became possible to fabricate all these items. With asteroid mining, metal and stone are cheap. With advanced solar power technology, in space, comes cheap energy. The bottleneck becomes the designs. Therefore, out on the edges of the solar system, you find a lot of seemingly “retro” technology, built from open source designs dating back to the early 21st century.

The most precious object on the ship, pound for pound, was the antique cuckoo clock hanging in the dining room. It was old, it was handed down from previous generations, and it was made from wood. Anything made from organic materials was rare and precious, anything from Earth-That-Was, doubly so.

The crew finds themselves in need of a translator because they all speak Portuguese, while the population of Agamemnon mostly doesn’t.

The Apple Fleet gets mentioned, but not much explained. When the ship made port, I would generally hand out a newspaper. The gimmick was that part of the docking service was the printing of a single-page news sheet with a combination of news selected according to the crew’s interests. I used the newspaper articles to give background information and set the scene. For this session, one of the big stories was about the Apple Fleet, a sort of mad rush of ships taking advantage of the favorable orbital conditions to deliver Agamemnon’s apple crop to Ceres. Every so often, the orbits of the two align, and it’s a relatively short hop from one to the other. At the other extreme, they’re each on opposite sides of the sun, one can’t even make direct radio contact, and the trip becomes too long to be economical. The Apple Fleet was a big deal on Agamemnon, along the lines of harvest time on a farm.

What Happened:

When the cargo doors opened to the docks on the Ag’, two people were waiting for the crew of the Cabra: Dr. Melika “Mel” Nanika, also known as “Big Sis”, and a representative of the customs office, a “Walken” model clone indentured to the spaceport. The family reunion was cut short as the rep explained how things were going to go. It would take nearly two and a half days for the customs office to inspect the load. Furthermore, Solo and Samale discovered that corrupt union dockworkers would require a bribe – which they paid – to expedite the unloading once the inspection was finished. Meanwhile, Dr. Nanika dropped her duffel in her new cabin, and the others discovered the high incidental price of entering Agamemnon – including the daily air fee.

Once the formalities were complete, the crew headed out on the mules to celebrate. While taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of the flea market, they discovered their need for a local guide, when young “Short Round”, a local guide and Portuguese translator, pointed it out to them. He led them to the Drum, a revolving cylinder habitat within the Ag’, but accidentally lost the second mule in traffic while animatedly discussing the local music scene with Solo. While waiting for the others to catch up, Solo and Dr. Nanika both won a few dollars at three-card monte, but cut their games short after Samale pointed out the third player in the game: the ruffian who would follow and mug any big winners.

Inside the Drum, Short Round led them to the Mangled Puppy franchise, where they met “Salty” Sal, the general manager. The crew spent the night in the establishment. After everyone had a haircut and a bath, they split up.

Samale went upstairs to the dance club, where he encountered two attractive hostesses. He ended up spending the night with both, but spent some extra money on their drinks and dancing along the way.

Dr. Nanika went with Solo and Bubba to the basement bar. There, she used her knowledge of advanced psychology to pick the likely targets out of the herd, so to speak. Taking advantage of her advice, the twins were successful in their “cougar hunt”. They took their new friends back to the ship at the end of the night, leaving big sis behind.

Hal also ended up in the basement bar, where he met “Captain” Jack Bickram, an elderly sailor with two missing legs. They ended up drinking together (on Hal’s tab), telling stories, for the rest of the night.

The next day (29 June 2517), the crew, some more hung over than others, gathered for a late brunch and strategy huddle. Everyone eventually agreed that Ceres was a good destination, being a large, terraformed, highly-developed and high-technology world in a favorable conjunction with the Ag’. However, as the conjunction was moving towards its close, they were coming in on the tag end of the Apple Fleet’s departure, meaning most goods had already left. Samale and Solo hit the streets, seeking freight for the trip. By the end of the day on 30 June 2517, they had scared up a freight load of 290 tons of aircraft, which wasn’t nearly enough to fund the trip.

While the two face men searched, the others went about their business. Captain Jack found Hal at his own business – drinking – on the evening of the 29th, and passed along the word on the street: the Mafia, being strong on Agamemnon, had caught Hal’s entry on the ship’s crew list, and wanted a word with him. The ship was under surveillance, and a couple of hard men were on their way to the Mangled Puppy that night.

With the help of Captain Jack and Short Round, Hal took refuge among the lower-class parts of town. The others continued to search for the means to get off the Ag’ while still showing a profit, but to no avail: no passengers were looking to get to Ceres, and the cargo that was available was beyond their price range.

Just as it seemed that all hope was lost, Hal ran into an old friend from back on the tree farm, Sen Yung. Sen explained that he had come upon good fortune, and was now working for a wonderful old Chinese gentleman, David Lo Pan. When he heard about the Hal’s and the crews’ troubles, he offered to see what he could do. Hal and Sen arranged to meet again the following day.

On 2 July 2517, Sen met with Hal and extended an invitation. Lo Pan would meet with the crew’s representatives for dinner. Everyone went to the meeting except for Solo, who was still seeking honest work. Lo Pan turned out to be absolutely ancient, in a wheelchair, and mostly silent. His majordomo, another Walken, did the negotiating. He offered to finance, at no interest, a deal between the crew of the Cabra and some other of his associates. He would loan the crew $2.8 million to buy 14 tons of biotech, which they could then take to Ceres at a likely profit. In return, they would avoid taking in passengers, while quietly taking in a single individual. This individual would spend the trip to Ceres in isolation, accepting no questions or communications. The ship would land at Botany Bay Spaceport on Ceres, following a given flight plan. During a section of their approach, the passenger would leave the ship through one of the airlocks (presumably performing a High-Altitude, Low-Open parachute jump or the like, though this was left unspecified). On the ground, they would report no passengers.

After some discussion, and calling in Solo’s remote opinion, the crew agreed. Over the course of the next few days, they picked up the financed biotech, as well as a few loads of freight for cover. They smuggled Hal back onto the ship in the crates. Shortly after, Captain Jack came calling, and asked Hal if maybe there was room on the boat for one more hand. He pointed out that he had worn out his welcome, some, having stood against the Mafia, and that he could work his passage. The crew put it to a vote, and decided to let him on-board, giving him a hammock in the engine room – convenient for getting around on two canes, due to the lack of effective gravity.

On the night before leaving, Solo met their clandestine passenger, code-named “The Signifyin’ Monkey”, at the airlock. A disturbance further down the docks had lured away prying eyes. The Monkey was an elf – extraordinarily tall and slender, from being born and growing up in ziggy – and moved with remarkable stealth and poise. Without a word, he looked over the best passenger room on the boat, nodded once, dropped his single carpetbag, and showed Solo the door.

On Turn-Around Day of the six-week trip, Solo added a bottle of his homemade wine to the Monkey’s dinner tray. Later, he found a $100 bill and a note requesting further wine… which led to tense discussions concerning how Lo Pan would take the interaction: was it enough communication to break the contract?

Finally, the Cabra landed. On their final approach, as expected, one of the new airlock lights lit. Samale cleared the alert, Bubba cleaned the records, and Solo headed down to the passenger room and the airlock with a bucket of bleach. By the time they landed, all forensic traces had been wiped away by thorough cleaning.

The biotech cargo, as advertised, sold before the boat hit the ground, to great profit. Between the cargo and the freight, Bubba was able to fill the fuel tanks, and arrange for another refill when the boat lifted. Everyone’s share was considerably larger than the last, causing much rejoicing. As the crew gathered to hit the planet, the door opened to reveal a preteen girl: “Hiya, Dad.”


Throwback Thursday: Space Cowboys #1 – “Weigh Anchor”

The Isolationists are mentioned in this session. They were a sort of hybrid between a political party and a religious sect, out among the asteroids. Their stance was that the outer planets were being drained by interplanetary commerce, and they sought to bring an end to the practice. 

Bubba got the Cool Point for this session, for taking the shot.


What happened:

We fade in on a dock in the asteroid Nestor. The Cabra Espaco docks and disgorges its crew, most of whom say their goodbyes and leave in all directions. Only two crew members remain: Osolo-Solo Bono Solo and Solo no Samale. The matriarch of the Solo clan, “Grandma”, has arranged for the exiting crew to be paid off, leaving these two with shares in the ship, along with several new crew. Samale has lived on board other Family ships and only recently come to the ‘Goat*, while Solo grew up on the boat. Solo has been given the position of all-around cook, housekeeper, and warden of the chicken coop, while Samale is a highly talented pilot.

Waiting on the dock, we find two of the new crew, waiting next to their duffel bags: Bubba, Solo’s twin brother, though you can’t tell it at a glance, and Hal, a cousin from a tree-farming branch of the Family who discovered a sudden need to be traveling. The necessary 5th position on the crew, communications/sensor officer, is filled for this trip by Dub Williams, a Rastafarian, who is working his passage to Agamemnon.

Filling out the crowd on the dock are the passengers, who had their passage negotiated before the ‘Goat docked, by Grandma’s agents. The first group is three mercenary soldiers, working for Colonial Marines, a “warfare management” corporation. They are led by Sgt. Bob Jones. His two aides are Pvt. Mary White and Pvt. Jane Blonde, two attractive young women who immediately attract the eyes of Samale and Bubba. The last passenger, Kwang-Sun Quincy, is a mouse of a man whose only question is if it would be OK for him to say grace at the table, or if he should take care of that in his room. By contrast, Jones wants to know if his people can carry their guns. (Permission to do so was granted, if all the ammunition was locked up.)

The whole crew pitches in on loading the freight that Grandma has arranged previously. Among the 14 lots are: several lots of precious metals and gemstones, all firmly locked, with stickers mentioning things like “lethal deterrents”; over 200 tons of Twinkies, being shipped at a 70% discount to pay off a favor Grandma owed the Weyland-Yutani Twinkies distributor on Agamemnon; a pile of used vacc suits, which were unremarkable aside from their factoring in to later speculations; and, most worrisome, several tons of extremely fragile scientific equipment, which had to be packed especially well.

The boat leaves dock on 21 May 2517. The first day’s work is to put up the plasma sail, a complex job taking hours and the attention of the whole crew. Hal gets suited up and goes Outside, to cling to the side of the boat by his magnetic boots and set up the rigging. Bubba, in the engine room, manages the solar panel array and energizes the rigging. Samale and Dub spend the day in the control room, providing information to the engineering crew and setting up the course. Solo is kept busy getting the passengers squared away and ferrying sandwiches to the crew members who can’t come to the table. Once the sail was safely deployed, Samale brought the boat up to spin, which was a great relief for the passengers.

Over the course of the first half of the journey, Jones and his aides occupy the crew’s attention when away from their daily tasks. On the one hand, Sgt. Jones seems to take it as his personal duty to come between the ladies and the interested crew members. He consciously insults Bubba’s military service in the Core Worlds Patrol, and trades intimidation attempts with Samale. On the other hand, Osolo and Jones end up bonding over their shared interest in bladed objects**. The ladies showed signs of being interested, as well, but were likewise stymied by their superior. Quincy, meanwhile, kept to himself. Similarly, Hal avoided entanglements with the passengers during this time.

On one occasion, however, Jones was distracted by a knife-throwing contest with Solo, in the main cargo hold. The guys took immediate advantage, leading Pvt. White and Blonde to the engineering room and the engineering level cargo deck, under the skylight cargo door, respectively. Samale thought he heard someone moving around quietly on the cargo deck, but was entirely too engrossed to investigate. Just then, Hal entered, carrying a box of tools to put away. He got a confused glimpse of Samale and Pvt Blonde looking up in surprise, as well as another shadowy figure, before he was suddenly hit in the face by a cackling, terrified chicken.

Naturally, this led to Hal shouting, dropping his box, and falling ass-over-teakettle down the cargo bay stairs. Thankfully, the engineering level cargo bay doesn’t get the full effect of the boat’s 0.15 G’s of spin gravity, meaning the fall was leisurely enough to be more embarrassing than painful. Even so, the commotion not only ruined the mood, it also attracted attention. Bubba came out of the engine room, roaring about the loose chicken and brandishing a heavy wrench, just in time to come face-to-face with Solo and Jones, entering from the main cargo hold. Bloodshed was narrowly averted, but Jones did chase his aides back to their room.

During the days leading up to Turn-Around Day – the midpoint of the trip, when the ship flips and starts slowing down – Solo spent a lot of time talking Jones down. Eventually, he convinced the soldier that Turn-Around Day was a sacred holiday which much be observed in the traditional way: a feast, music, and strong drink. Despite some initial frosty feelings, a decent party actually got going. Things were loosening up, Jones was telling a story about his life in the Colonial Marines, and it looked like Samale might actually be able to lure away Pvt Blonde…

…when the entire ship shuddered in an obviously bad way.

Instantly sobered, the crew swings into action. Solo herds the passengers to the kitchen table, where they can strap in to the bolted-down chairs. The two engineers head to the engine room, where Bubba checks the instruments while Hal suits up. Samale and Dub run to the control room, where Samale discovers that the ship has been knocked a bit off-course, and Dub tries to get the radar up and running.

Bubba quickly discovers a power drain in the starboard fore jib line. Hal goes out the airlock with his sail-bug – a gadget about the size of a clothing iron, which enables mag-lev transportation around the energized sail at speeds of up to a couple hundred miles per hour – and goes to investigate. Out on the rigging, 30 miles away from the boat, he finds a spot where the rigging has been nearly broken in two. The edges are charred, as if by great heat. Initial speculation as to cause includs the possibility of a glancing blow from a small rock, but Hal soon concludes it is the result of explosives. He starts work on a splice job, while Bubba gathers additional materials and Bo (the first inch-worm loading robot), and comes out to help with the job. On the off chance that the explosives were set by pirates, he also brought along a couple of spear guns – the favored weapon, in the Patrol, for vacc suited combat in free fall.

During this same time, Dub has had issues with the radar. In the end, he admits to Samale that he had exaggerated his sensor experience. (“Not so much a certification, as a class,” he says.) Hearing the chatter over the crew’s communicators, Solo leaves the passengers, comes to the control room, and pokes at the radar controls. Mentioning that he’s watched the last guy to sit in that seat do it a hundred times, he quickly tunes in the radar image of their path… finding an asteroid lying directly ahead, that they should have known about, and maneuvered to avoid, some time ago.

Samale instructs the engineers to finish their patch job now, and starts plotting potential maneuvers to avoid the approaching rock. As the engineering team work feverishly to splice and knit the damaged section, Solo goes back to the passengers, only to find that they have all fled the scene. Asking himself where a terrified passengers would run to, he quickly located the mercs, but Quincy remains elusive. This is enough to solidify suspicion around him. Solo gets the ladies into Shuttle A – knowing that they would be reassured at the hint that escape was available if need be, even though there is no possible way, under the laws of physics, that a shuttle can slow down from full transit speed – and sent Jones to track the mild-mannered rogue.

Hal and Bubba used all the tools at their disposal and managed to get the sail back on-line as the last few seconds of available window leaked away. Yelling at Samale to go, already!, the two swung aboard Bo and had it head for the boat. Samale swung the sails to dodge the asteroid at damn near the last possible moment. Riding the robot down the rigging, the engineers had an excellent look at the keg-sized rock passing harmlessly by the ship – inside the rigging. Remarking upon the likely effects of striking such a rock at transit speed (the boat turning inside out and killing everybody in a terrible fiery explosion), they enter and start cycling the airlock.

About this time, everyone’s attention is drawn by Jones’ calls for assistance. He has cornered Quincy in one of the hanger deck cargo bays, and is standing in front of the little man, throwing a big knife from hand to hand and muttering “C’mon…” For his part, Quincy is holding Jones – and soon, Solo and Samale as well – at bay with what appears to be a detonator.

From the side of his mouth, Jones explains that he found Quincy tampering with the rocket controls in the center of the deck. The two crew members try to talk Quincy down, but the end result is only to confuse him.

Meanwhile, though, Bubba and Hal have made it in through the airlock and dropped their vacc suits. Keeping track of the situation over the open crew channel, in their boxers, they approached from the other side of the deck. Taking advantage of Quincy’s unfamiliarity with spin gravity, Bubba had plenty of time to line up a shot with his spear gun. Hoping Quincy would live, but nonetheless aiming for the center of mass, Bubba takes the shot.

Quincy falls, impaled on a spear. He is taken to sickbay, where Bubba applies rough first aid, saving the man’s life. Displaying his actual skills with radio-based equipment, Dub determines that the detonator had actually been a bluff; it was an ominously-styled personal music player.

In the coming days, Quincy is interrogated and eventually imprisoned on minimal rations. His story: he is not a businessman at all, as he tried to imply, but a blue-collar zero-G welder. He had chosen his cover identity to conceal his skills in free fall, going so far as to fake space sickness at the voyage’s start. Driven by his Isolationist sympathies, and mentally unstable to begin with, he had decided to sabotage the ship to cause it to crash into the spaceport at Agamemnon. He had planned to disable the sail entirely, but had underestimated the strength of the sail when under an electromagnetic load. His tampering with the rocket had been aimed at wiring the boat to blow up; considering the amount of metallic hydrogen in the fuel system, this would have been quite an explosion. He figured, even if the ship didn’t make it all the way to the spaceport, it would still disrupt traffic and cause no end of trouble for local trade. The final straw: he had spent his life savings, such as it was, to get this far. He could not pay his passage. He had never figured on having to, assuming that he would be dead in the explosion.

Debate raged over what to do with the prisoner. Samale, enraged at the attempt to kill his family members, argued for immediately throwing him out the airlock. Bubba and Jones came down firmly in favor of keeping him alive and turning him over to the authorities on Agamemnon. In the end, this was the decided course. (Which netted a $1000 bounty for Isolationist terrorists.)

Finally, it turned out that the scientific equipment had been well-packed enough to survive all the excitement, which earned a bonus from the shipper. The sail was struck and the ship docked without incident. After expenses, food, docking fees, and income tax, a share for the 5-week trip worked out to be $8,291.77, just a wee bit better than what would have been earned at a paying gig. Comments were made upon the merits of long-haul freight vs. the risks of cargo for the next haul.


* Affectionate nickname for the Cabra.

** Osolo went in for the fancy knife tricks while preparing meals.


Space Cowboys: The Crew of the Cabra

(This is part two, in which we bring the focus in and look at the PCs for the Space Cowboys game. You can find part one here, talking about the larger ‘verse that these guys live in.)

The Cabra was originally built by Volvo, over one hundred years before the story began. It started off as a mid-sized cargo hauler with sails, but was expanded and improved over the years. Originally, it was more spindle-shaped, had little internal cargo space, and didn’t use spin gravity. The engine room dates back to those days.

The ship was part of the fleet of the Solo clan*, an extended family group dedicated to interplanetary trade. They called no planet home, being life-long spacers. The clan was loosely run by “Grandma”, their amazingly-old matriarch. It was their practice to have ships working on their own, crewed by family members, with periodic family reunions. When sufficient cash and grown kids accumulated, a new ship would be added to the fleet and a crew gathered from across the clan. As we join the Cabra, it is going through one of these changes in manpower.

For the first season, the crew PCs were Bubba, Hal, Mel, Osolo, and Samale. The second season had a shakeup in the cast, adding Felix, Jasmine, and Terreno. Bubba and Osolo were twin brothers and Mel was their sister, while Hal and Samale were more distant cousins, as was Terreno. Felix and Jasmine were non-family contractors.

As a youth, Bubba Solo had gone off to volunteer for the Patrol, a military organization run by the Core Worlds Coalition. He was a big guy, over 7 feet tall, and a fighter. The Patrol trained him as a ship’s engineer and all-around mechanic, but his experiences at war left him with a touch of PTSD. He was quite protective of his ship and his family members. He shared a bond with his twin, and they always knew when the other was in trouble. Their father was a big Scandinavian, while their mom was Samoan, which explains the difference in their names. (“Bubba” wasn’t his real, given name, but damned if I can remember what it was.)

Hal had led a troubled life, growing up in an asteroid tree farm**, raised by his Grandpa. A life spent in “ziggy” (zero-gravity) had made him particularly at home in a space suit, and work around the farm had given him excellent mechanical skills, but he suffered from yo-yo luck, where catastrophic bad fortune would be followed by implausible windfalls and freak coincidences. He had left home to work a tour on a ship to fund his upcoming wedding, only to be delayed by pirates. Left for dead, he jury-rigged a plasma sail and surfed the rest of the way home, wearing his suit, eating nutritional paste, drinking recycled water, and switching bottles of oxygen as needed… only to arrive three days too late. The insult to his fiance’s family’s honor was too much for them to bear, and they had left, taking her with them, but leaving a few big guys behind to explain Hal’s mistakes to him. Among other things, they informed him that he still owed them the finger that should have worn a ring, and took it with them when they left. In an attempt to turn this disaster around, Grandpa called his space-faring cousins and arranged a new job for Hal working the sails on the Cabra.

Melika Nanika, or “Mel”, was the younger sister of Bubba and Osolo. She was fiercely intelligent, and had gone off to medical school on Mars at a young age. Having spent so much time there, she understood the TL 10 culture, but could also relate to TL 9 folks, thanks to her childhood upbringing. Her wearable computer had more computing power in it than the entire rest of the Cabra and all of its contents, combined. She was an honest, caring, giving person… to start with. She had gotten married and divorced on Mars, keeping her married name. She handled the sick bay, and also filled in as copilot, navigator, and communications officer.

Osolo-Solo Bono Solo was Bubba’s twin. (See, I told you there would be a difference in the names!) Even so, in many ways, he was the opposite of his brother. Where Bubba was driven and ambitious, Osolo was more laid-back. “Lazy”, in fact. While his siblings left to pursue their educations, Osolo stayed on the ship and made himself useful there, getting his learning from the books he read on the long journeys between planets. He was nearly as tall as Bubba, but lacked the drive to exercise, so where Bubba was muscular, Osolo ran to fat. He handled the cooking, cleaning, and passenger management on the ship.

Solo no Samale was another cousin, who had grown up in space, but among a family that pursued more aggressive trading than most of the clan. “Smugglers” was the word most often used. He was a pilot of great skill, but suffered from boredom from the slower pace of work on the Cabra. He was easily distracted, somewhat superstitious, and outgoing to a fault. He chased women single-mindedly, which often put him in hot water.

Felix took Bubba’s place in engineering. He was a neurotic, bearded cross-dresser with a perverse fascination for robotics. He was notoriously bad at remembering names, and would give everyone nicknames to compensate.

Jasmine Mung was hired to work as a business agent and accountant. She came from the Core Worlds, originally. She had a sordid history that had major repercussions for the rest of the crew.

Terreno took over as pilot after Samale. Unlike his predecessor, he saw the job not as a calling unto itself but as a way to make a living while he pursued his true passion: mixed martial arts masked ziggy wrestling. He was a space luchador. He believed that he needed a couple of stiff drinks to pilot effectively, and so hid several bottles around the ship’s control deck.

They were joined by the occasional NPC crew members, but these folks formed the core of the Cabra‘s crew.

* Yes, indeed, they did take their name from Han Solo, of Star Wars fame. During the time of the exodus from Earth, some of the clan’s less-reputable ancestors had found their birth names a heavy burden to bear, and shed them along with the rest of their pasts. As a joke, they took a new name from a character who shared their new work of hauling cargo from world to world. By 2517, of course, this was long-lost legend, unknown to the PCs. (But known to the players!)

** It’s hard to grow trees in space. They take a lot of room and time, and unless you put them under the stress of gravity, you don’t get the strong, straight grain that’s desirable for most applications. Therefore, wood was a semi-precious commodity in this ‘verse.


Throwback Thursday: Supers 1200, Session #7: “The Only Thing We Have To Fear”

This is the big finale, the pay-off, the point towards which the campaign had been aimed the entire time: the “Fear Itself” cross-over. The action was fast and furious. You can tell that everybody knew it was the last session, because they left it all on the table.

We pick up the moment we left off, last session…


What Happened:

… only to be interrupted by a sudden, dramatic change in the lighting. The Tokyo night was washed by the bright light of two objects traveling overhead, creating double shadows. As Goliath calculated that their trajectory would put them landing somewhere in the Middle East, the Spirit reached out to hear the voice of The City. In spite of herself, she muttered, “Captain America is dead.”

The heroes quickly realized that the Avengers’ communications were acting up. They received a general broadcast from Pym, announcing that Sauron had been handed over to “agents of the mutant population”; however, he continued, there were attacks on New York and Washington, DC, and all Avengers were being activated. EL13T took on the form of a transorbital jet (with a face), everyone got on board, and the students of Avengers Academy raced off towards New York City.

Along the way, Cash got a call from Pixie, letting him know that Cyclops had put out an “all hands on deck” call for mutants, and would Cash like to respond? This led to Cash being dropped off halfway across North America, so he could make it to the assembly point east of San Francisco.

As they entered the atmosphere over Manhattan, the heroes started to pick up details about the situation from radio broadcasts, spider-sense, and the mood of The City. The strange “meteors” were actually rune-encrusted hammers. Those who grabbed the hammers then went on crazed rampages. Attacks were ongoing. One hammer had landed on Yancy Street, which happened to be nearby. As the heroes looked in that direction, they saw a series of explosions, and decided to investigate closer.

On Yancy Street, the students found Thor, on his hands and knees, being pummeled mercilessly by the Hulk and the Thing, both transformed by the hammers and shouting in a pre-human language. They swung into action to rescue the Asgardian. Araignee webbed the Hulk’s feet, knowing full well that he could easily break free and was too strong to move, but then handed the web off to Goliath, who grew to his full size and used the web line to fling the Hulk down the block. EL13T blasted the Thing with his de-energizer ray, leaving him prone and gasping for breath.

While all this was going on, the Spirit found herself in an alley next to a young blond boy of perhaps 8 years. They recognized each other as “in the know”, and the boy brought her into a telepathic mindscape to quickly discuss the situation. He introduced himself as Franklin Richards, son of Reed Richards and Susan Storm Richards, two members of the Fantastic Four. He confirmed that his “Uncle Ben” had touched the hammer and become possessed. The two decided that the best thing to do would be to support the others, to bring the fight to a close a quickly as possible.

The Spirit used her probability-influencing powers to draw accidentally-accurate fire down on the Hulk from Hawkeye, several streets over, involved in his own battle. With both his assailants down, Thor managed to get to his feet and pick up Mjolnir. He thanked the students for giving him the breathing room he needed, then waved them away, saying that he had this one, but Pym needed help in Central Park.

Again, the heroes took to the skies. At Central Park, they found the Infinite Mansion’s emergency foothold, a ten-foot wide glowing hole in space and time. Sabretooth was bound and unconscious, just outside the circle, while Dr Pym was inside the circle, defending it against waves of villains. On one side stood the Wrecker and the Wrecking Crew – Bulldozer, Piledriver, and Thunderball – old enemies of Thor from way back, empowered with Asgardian strength and toughness by Loki years ago. On the other, Dr Octopus and Sandman, both famous members of Spider-man’s rogues’ gallery. Finally, hanging back, were the Purple Man, currently possessed by “Hassan”, the Spirit’s nemesis, standing next to Henri, Araignee’s brother. As the students approached, they saw Henri throw a javelin at Pym, creasing his brow and knocking him unconscious. As the villains surged forward, the students threw themselves into the fray.

The Wrecking Crew proved to be no match at all for EL13T. First, he turned himself into a giant block of metal, hoping to knock them out. When this failed, and they grabbed him, he responded by transforming himself into a pool of concentrated acid. While their steel-hard skin saved them from gruesome deaths, they were hurt, blinded, and badly confused. They broke and ran for the river, hoping to wash the acid off.

Goliath came down in a position to defend the Mansion’s foothold, but came under attack by Doctor Octopus. During the tussle that followed, it was shown that Goliath was far stronger than Octavius’ robotic arms. He quickly gained control of the situation and started snapping robot limbs.

Araignee and the Spirit went to confront Hassan and Henri. In both cases, a furious fight ensued. Araignee knocked down Hassan on her initial approach, but was unable to budge her brother, who revealed that Hassan had provided him with super-strength through the “Power Broker” treatment, used by the first generation of Unlimited Class Wrestling participants. The Spirit dove on Hassan, undeterred by a highly-unlikely rain of lethal blue ice, and engaged in a battle both physical and metaphysical.

Deducing the plan from the clues provided by The City and the words Hassan was spitting, the Spirit called out for the heroes to keep Hassan and Doc Ock apart. The villains were under the Purple Man’s sway, working on a plan to destroy the world by “ramming” it, in a 5th-dimensional sense, with the Infinite Mansion. Doctor Octopus was the only villain with the technological know-how to put the plan into effect, but would only do so while closely controlled. Octavius is more in favor of getting rich and/or ruling the world, not destroying it. He lives there, after all. Hassan, by contrast, was just hoping to silence the never-ending voice of The City.

Finally, EL13T shot both the Spirit and Hassan with his electric taser-blast, knocking them both near-senseless, and Goliath flung Doc Ock through the portal into the Infinite Mansion. With Octavius regaining his senses, the plot was defused. The Spirit used the last of her energy to call for a very unlikely outcome, and manipulated probability so that the Purple Man’s innate regeneration finally kicked in enough to bring him back to life… ending the possession by Hassan and sending him on to his final reward. Either from the effort, or because she wasn’t needed anymore, the Spirit, too, fell dead.

Araignee was reunited with her brother, once he threw off the effects of the Purple Man’s pheromones, and the surviving students were declared to have graduated from the Academy into full-fledged Avengers status.

Throwback Thursday: Supers 1200, Session #3: “What Happens in Mexico City…”

I’ve been posting old play reports, working my way through our 1200 point Avengers’ Academy game. Those who’ve been following both this game, and the ongoing Dungeon Fantasy game, might be surprised to see some of the selfless acts performed by the heroes. Looking back in the XP log, I see that Goliath (played by the same player as Rho, etc.) was awarded the Cool Point for performing his Atlas impersonation and holding up the collapsing building to save the mooks he had just been fighting – a classic move for a growing brick, incidentally. Furthermore, I see that the Spirit (played by the player of TKotBO) actually spent a point in the effort to save mooks. (We were using rules that allowed different things to be bought with spare character points, like turning a failure into a success.) 

It turned out that the Spirit earned back that point, with a musical aside that caused your humble host to be reduced to tears. Anything that makes me laugh that hard deserves XP.

I don’t think it was really brought out in the previous posts, but one of the Spirit’s quirks was, before she would use her probability-bending powers, she would use her catch-phrase: “You know what would be lucky?”

This session was notable, in that it contains the one round of combat that would set the stage for the entire remainder of the campaign. See if you can spot the crucial plot point!


What Happened:

Seeing Spider-Man on the cover of the Daily Bugle, Araignee Rose declared her intention to go find him and determine if he was, indeed, a threat or menace. The others went along with this plan, having Jocasta open a door into Manhattan. There, they discovered that the majority of the superhuman community was helping with the preparations for Hurricane Sandy. EL13T took the form of a flying car with a police scanner, everyone piled in, and they went off searching. Araignee spotted Spider-Man swinging by, and took off on her own, chasing him, but lost him almost immediately.

While Araignee was casting about, Pym contacted Goliath by communicator. While the local established heroes were busy with the storm, the Academy students were being sent to handle a lower-priority call in Mexico City. Initially, Araignee was reluctant to leave her quest, but after several attempts, she was coaxed into joining the rest of the team.

And that’s how the students signed up for a chupacabra hunt.

At first, they were distracted by the sights, sounds, and smells of the city. Thanks to the upcoming Day of the Dead celebration, masks and finger foods were readily available. After several hours of cruising around, the students spotted some kind of flying lizard. They split up to corner the creature. While EL13T and Araignee stayed close on the creature’s tail, the Spirit and Cash used their superior maneuverability, moving to flanking positions. Goliath ducking into a dark alley where he found himself being mugged by a man in a mariachi outfit wearing a skull mask.

As the team’s pincers came together on the “chupacabra”, they finally got a good enough look at it to identify it as Sauron, the life-draining were-mutant-pterodactyl. Even though he dodged the first few attempts, Sauron was rapidly forced from the skies with entangled wings. He ended up dangling from a wall-mounted flagpole, balanced by the weight of the Spirit on the other end of a line. As they hung there, a window open next to the Spirit. A man leaned out, casually asking “You know what would be really lucky?” before readying a shoulder-fired rocket.

During the same time, Goliath attempted to grab his attacker, but was unable to pin the gun. A burst of gunfire at point-blank range did no damage to the hero, but did intimidate the mugger… and draw the attention of dozens of similarly-dressed gangsters, and their leader, the infamous Don of the Dead.

Seeing that Sauron was down, Cash went to check on Goliath, and finding him in good spirits, continued on into the building full of mooks. He came face-to-face with the Don, and exchanged blows for a few seconds before the criminal fled.

Outside, the Spirit released her grip to drop to the sidewalk, also dropping Sauron into a bad landing that pinched a nerve, paralyzing him momentarily. Araignee took advantage of this to fling him into the crowd of mooks coming out of the cantina. EL13T then dove on the toppled crowd, entangling them. This trapped the normal humans, but gave Sauron the opening he needed to start draining life energy from EL13T. The robot instinctively responded in kind, attempting to infect the dinosaur-man with the techno-organic virus and drain him in turn.

The man upstairs with the rocket launcher fired it – not at the Spirit, but at the building containing Cash, Goliath, the Don of the Dead, and dozens of his men. Suddenly, the battle became a rescue operation for most of the students. Goliath grew to his maximum height to support the damaged building, keeping it from collapsing. Araignee slung herself across the street, through the flames and wreckage, past Goliath, and into the main room to help direct people to safety, while Cash generated whirlwinds to hurry them out the doors.

The Spirit, on the other hand, caught an Uzi thrown by the explosion and fired back, only to be amazed when the man displayed a dynamite vest, waved cheerfully, and blew up the building he was in with a final “Be seeing you!”

With the heroes’ help, evacuating the damaged building took little time. Everyone escaped in relative safety. The Don slipped away in the confusion, along with many of his followers. The others separated EL13T and Sauron from their deadly embrace, taking the lizard-man into custody. Conscious of the chance that Sauron had been infected with the T-O virus and turned into a Phalanx like El13T, the students had Pym open up a containment cell to hold him for observation.

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