Don't Forget Your Boots

Meandering aimlessly around the GURPS landscape

Tag: Supers 1200

Why no mandatory Sense of Duty?

At one point, early on, when I was seeing the amount of treachery and back-stabbing going on, I speculated about the possibility of making “Sense of Duty (Adventuring Companions)” a required trait. I had done such things in the past.  The “Supers 1200” game had a package of required traits just for being on the team, and a recommendation for Injury Tolerance: Damage Reduction that was so strong as to be a requirement. (“If you do not have this, you will die in the first two seconds of your first real superhuman combat.”) The “Space Cowboys” game had the loose arrangement that all PCs were either family members, or hired hands, which had consequences for what traits one could purchase. I didn’t enforce a rule that any family member had to be dedicated to the family’s well-being, but that’s how it worked out. The players enforced their own rule, there.

When it came to Dungeon Fantasy, though, all I did was speculate, the one time. I never actually instituted the requirement. I felt it went against the sandbox nature of the experiment. The idea is to give the players as much power to decide — as much agency, as they say — as possible. In the words of Uncle Al, “Do as thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.”  My goal is to set up an interesting series of environments and inhabitants of those environments; how the PCs interact with those environments is entirely up to them.

So it follows that if the PCs want to find comical ways to step into the grave, they should have that freedom. If the party is fighting itself, as well as the monsters, I expect an overall drop in treasure extracted, as well as life expectancy. If the party is working well together, covering each other’s weaknesses and reinforcing each other’s strengths, using sound tactics, they’ll walk right over any monster I throw at them, and get rich doing it. I don’t need to wave the all-powerful wand of the GM to make that happen, it just emerges from the variables naturally.

One example came up, this past session, when the seasoned pros told the new recruit the tale of how Needles gave up a fortune by trying to keep the treasure to himself.  Acting alone, he was able to score 25cp, all for himself. Tax-free, you might say. If he had shared the loot, the gem likely would have been identified as magical, sold for ten thousand copper, with a share coming to 2,000cp each.

There’s a reason Jed’s new mantra is “A rising tide lifts all boats.”

In the meantime, since they can’t count on the Immutable Word Of Ghod* to say that every applicant is trustworthy, the party has again started enforcing its own rules. They’ve hammered out something resembling a charter, with the ground rules that the party operates by. Rather than hoping that every party member has uncharacteristically warm feelings for one another, they’re going to spell out expectations and police themselves. You can bet, if PC X is caught stealing from a fallen comrade, rather than honoring that comrade’s will (“I leave all my stuff to my next character…”), PC X will shortly wind up dead at the bottom of a pit, and PC X+1 will get the story of how PC X was swallowed whole by a purple worm, instead of any inheritance.

* * *

* This should go without saying, but:  They really shouldn’t trust everything I say, just ’cause I’m the GM. I’m an unreliable narrator, at best. I’m just reporting the evidence of their character’s senses. I try to shove off as many rolls as I can to the players, but I always try to roll the “what do I know” and “what do I see” rolls in secret, so I can give them false information if they crit fail. My NPCs lie. My truthful NPCs are often wrong. I just promise not to lie about the meta-game stuff, like “town is safe” and “stick to the templates”.

It’s All About The XP

I’m trying to suppress my instincts, and be a lot more free with the experience points than I have in the past.

Ever since I ran 3rd Edition AD&D and realized the party had gone up something like ten levels over the course of two weeks, game time, I’ve tried to pay attention to the speed of character growth. In more realistic games, with 150 point starting characters, I tend to hand out a minimal point or two per session. Even in the 1200 point supers game, I was handing out around 5 points a session. I figured, supers tend to be pretty stable over time, but if I tried to hand out less than 1/1000th of the starting point total, I’d get cut.

It’s a rough crowd.

So here I find myself, throwing around 10 point awards like they’re normal. Sure, I only hand out XP when they return to town, so it’s pretty normal for them to average closer to 5 per session, but that’s still more than I’ve handed out in the past, both as a percentage of starting points and as gross points-per-payday.

By my math, the Space Cowboys game, at 1 point per session for 150 point characters, had a standard award of 0.66% of starting points. I thought that was bad, but the Supers 1200 game was even worse, returning only 0.42%. The 500 point street-level supers game might have been my most generous, since I seem to have averaged 4 points per session, for a return of 0.8%. “Most generous”, that is, up until the Dungeon Fantasy game. Even at 5 points per session, with 250 point starting characters, we’re talking about a whopping 2% return!

Like I’ve said before, I’m aiming to simulate an idealized version of the dungeon crawl from 1984. Now, truth be told, I don’t recall a single instance of one of my characters going up a level through the entire decade. I don’t think any of my D&D characters ever received any XP, strictly speaking. I remember a lot of characters started off at 5th level, or 10th. We were kids, we didn’t have the attention span to run what you’d call a real campaign. (Though we did come pretty close, in high school, using the Marvel FASERIP system: folks played the same characters for more than one session, and Karma was awarded. I think I might even had once upgraded a character in play. Bought a skill. One of the five styles of martial arts, as I recall.  All the prices were super-steep. I think I might have been the only one in the group who stuck with a character long enough to think about doing such a thing.)

But in the ideal game, characters would grow and expand over time. They start off scrubs, then grow into competent adventurers. (We skip over this stage for DF. It’s boring whacking rats, and it’s no fun playing the apprentice wizard with only one good spell a day in ‘im. We assume our PCs are the kind that went out and found a nest of giant ants, then flooded it. Cha-ching! Third level, baby!) As adventurers, they wander around doing their murder-hobo thing, kicking in doors and gathering wealth. They gather gangs of followers. In time, they rack up so much wealth, kick in so many doors, and gather so many cultists-er-troops-er-henchmen *cough*cough* that they become a hassle for the local authorities. At that point, they’re invited to go subdue some wilderness and build a castle, at which time, they become murder-landowners, rather than -hobos, and start building up the castles and dungeons and towers that will become the ruins for the next generation of murder-hobos to explore.

I don’t know that I want to swear that we’ll play it to the natural endgame, but I do want there to be a sense of growth and increase in power. Realistically, that means I need to throw the points at ’em. We play once a month. (Pardon me while I go cry in the corner for a moment. I’d love to play more often, but adult life is what it is.  We’ve got one night-owl, two early-birds, and one guy who routinely works around the clock. I’m thrilled if we go a whole session without someone falling out from pure fatigue.) Historically, the campaigns I run tend to hit their peak at around the 12th session. What with the flexibility of GURPS, it’s really easy to give in to restlessness and switch genres.

Now, I think this campaign is going strong. Here we are, 2/3 of the way to what experience says is supposed to be the final game, and it feels like everybody’s just now finally settling in to their characters. Folks are planning ahead, interest is high, and there’s plenty more dungeon to explore. But, still, I have to figure, that’s the likely size of the canvas, so it’s best to paint a picture that’ll fit on it. If there’s room for more when we’re done, we’ll paint more then.

I think it’s working out. We’ve had a few people pick up multi-class lenses in play. That feels like gaining a level or two.

Here’s the scoreboard, as it stands after session #8, with everybody having just received a 10 point award (and TKotBO picked up an extra Cool Point on top of that):

  • Alric Redbeard — 280 point Barbarian (working towards Barbarian/Swashbuckler, a prospect which shakes me to my core, and oh my goodness you should have seen the look of unholy glee in the player’s eyes when he laid the news on me), 18 unspent points
  • Gabby The Cabin Girl — 255 point Swashbuckler (currently at 235 effective points, thanks to her shiny new One Arm disad, until the bones in her arm grow back), 24 unspent points!! What?!?
  • Mississippi Jedadiah Walker — 271 point Bard/Wizard, 10 unspent points
  • Needles — 282 point Thief/Swashbuckler, 12 unspent points
  • The Knight of the Blood Oath — 291 point Holy Warrior/Knight (only short the formality of choosing some combat skills), 6 unspent points

Folks have gotten away with paying less than 50 points for their multi-classing lenses thanks to overlapping traits. Jed really made out on the deal the best, I think, since he was designed as a Bard to cover a Wizard position. TKotBO probably climbed the steepest hill, what with having to buy Combat Reflexes in play — first time, I think, that I’ve ever seen that happen.

Alric is saving up to become the world’s tallest Musketeer, so I understand his unspent point total (even though, I allow lenses to be purchased bit by bit)… but I couldn’t tell you what’s going on with Gabby. With a reserve like that, I half-suspect it’s a waste of time for her to look for magical healing for her crippled arm. She should just talk me into allowing her to buy Extra Arm twice, and grow two new ones.  “Oh, those?  Curse. You want a story, you should ask about the horns and tail…”

Hmm.  Come to think of it, “critical failure with a Regeneration spell” is actually a better explanation than “Curse”…

No, really, why not D&D?

That last post seemed to stir up some response, with some great discussion over on G+, so I thought I would throw a little more fuel on the fire. As the wise man said, “Some men just want to watch the world burn.” 😉

But, seriously, I’m not knocking on the D&D ecosystem. It was what started me on this road.* It’s my gaming roots. Clearly, the idea of playing desperate men and women crawling into a hole in the ground to whack monsters and take their money is an idea that has resonance, even today, decades after the original ideas came up.

I absolutely do not want to push negativity.**  I would rather lift GURPS up than push down the whole wide world of Dungeons And-Or Dragons.

So, that out of the way, I’ll double-down: GURPS has the level of focus that I like, a level of focus that I haven’t seen offered by any edition or variant of D&D.

Here’s an example. I’ll keep picking on the hit points. Everybody loves to pick on the hit points. Some of the G+ discussion centered around how the D&D HP is an abstraction. Take your 20th level fighter, who can jump off a cliff and survive, where her 1st level self would have died outright.

Yes, yes. <waves hands> I know, there are various “massive damage” rules that kick in to discourage high-level fighters from choosing to eat a giant-sized bowl of damage. Doesn’t matter. Say the fighter would have to make extra rolls if she took 50 points of damage, but the actual damage from the fall was only 45 points. That’s plenty enough to kill a 1st level fighter.  (Or, at least, it was in my day. I hear recent editions have given 1st level characters lots of HP? Or something?)

I’ve heard folks complain about that 20th level fighter leaping off the cliff, saying it’s unrealistic. That’s not my beef at all. Take Conan, for example. He’s pretty high level, right? Throw Conan off a cliff.  What happens?

I’ll tell you what absolutely does not happen:  Conan does not fall to the base of the cliff, impact, and die of his injuries! Even if he’s already tossed a dozen soldiers to their deaths off that same cliff, it’s just not going to happen. Sure, it’s a lethal cliff… but he’ll grab the edge. Or a branch on the way down. Or something. So, by that standard, the classic D&D HP mechanic does its job.  D&D Conan goes over the cliff, marks off some HP, dusts himself off, and keeps on truckin’.

But, then, I’ve got the nagging voice in the back of my head, saying, “Sure, but if he grabbed the edge at the last minute to save himself, why is his miniature now at the bottom of the cliff? Shouldn’t he now engage in an exciting battle of strength, using one arm to fend off the enemy’s kicks? … rather than now being out of reach, telling them that they’re #1 in Cimmerian sign language?”

Myself, I’ll want a game that will focus in tight enough to detail the fending-off-on-the-cliff-edge. GURPS does that for me. The various D&D’s set their focus a bit fuzzier, and accept that the mechanics aren’t going to support certain outcomes, in themselves. That sort of cliff’s-edge detail becomes something injected by the DM.

And if you were playing some kind of war game, where the focus is at a higher level of granularity, you wouldn’t even have talked about the time Conan had the exciting battle against the angry demon worshipers at the top of the Cliffs Of Poor Risk Management. You would roll Conan’s dice once and note down: “Conan sacks temple, takes out 100 gold and 1d4 distressed damsels.”

If the war game were at the level of Risk or the like, Conan himself would be abstracted away. He would be a joke after a good roll:  “My one figure took out your whole temple complex! They must have had Conan along! Hey, little figure guy, what is best in life?”

These aren’t flaws and virtues of the different systems. The problem is figuring out the style and level of detail that you’re looking for, and then choose the system that supports that kind of play. For me, that’s GURPS. Specifically, the 4th edition.  Third was great, but Fourth really knocked off all the barnacles and shined up all the brass.

Is it complicated? You’ll hear this one a lot, but I think folks are just repeating what they heard from a grumpy Usenet post from 1992. You could make the case that some parts of Third Edition were a bit complex. (Hey, I loved GURPS Vehicles. I’m not afraid of a very occasional cube root. I use spreadsheets no matter what game I’m running.***) Fourth Edition does a great job a scaling to whatever your game requires… just so long as you’re clear on what that is.

Carrying on with the sad, threadbare hit points question…

Two other GURPS campaigns, besides the current Dungeon Fantasy one, have appeared in this forum:  the Space Cowboys game, and the Marvel Supers 1200 game. They had some pretty different requirements, when it came to the sturdiness of the PCs.

The Space Cowboys game was designed from the beginning to be low-combat. The goal was to do a “slice of life”, “normal guys in an exotic situation” story. If somebody pulled a gun, the metaphorical soundtrack would do something dramatic and we would cut to commercial. Folks built their characters accordingly. You could feel the difference, in play, in combat, between Bubba and Osolo. If you’re familiar with Firefly, it was like the difference between Jayne and Simon. (If you’re not familiar with Firefly, what are you thinking?!? Stop wasting your time here and go watch it! NOW!)

I haven’t actually tried it — threatened more than once — but based on the Space Cowboys experience, I have no doubt that GURPS could handle a high school slap fight, realistically and satisfyingly. No doubt whatsoever.

At the other end, the Supers 1200 game was based on the Marvel Universe, where folks are more sturdy than in the real world. I knew, up front, that I was going to have to rig the game to make that happen. It’s a beyond-cinematic world. So, acting on advice from the forums, I declared that everybody in the universe who had a name, also had Injury Tolerance: Damage Reduction, which divides injury suffered. Fragile ol’ Aunt May had IT: DR 4, dividing any injury she took by 4. (Face it, it’s easy to put Aunt May into a coma but it’s really hard to put her down for the count. Look at the lady’s history.) Actual heroes had more, lots more. It was strictly explained as plot protection… which is to say, it wasn’t explained at all, just noted as How The World Works.

People addressed the issue in other ways, of course. At least one took Unkillable, and I seem to recall a lot of Regeneration and Very Rapid Healing. The point is, we were able to “bolt on” the ruggedness of comic book characters as needed.

Another thing that you’ll hear from the 1990’s is that GURPS can’t do supers right. I would dispute that. In actual play, Araignee Rose felt like Spider-Man. Goliath felt like… well, Goliath. The other one. The dead one. From the comics. You know what I mean. Again, I’ll admit there used to be a grain of truth to the complaint: I tried to run a supers game in Third Edition and had difficulties, back in the mid-90’s. These days, with the current edition? Nope, no problem. The engine supported it. (My energy level didn’t, but that’s another story for another time.)

I would go so far as to say that in my opinion, in a lot of ways, GURPS did a better job at supers than HERO System. (I haven’t seen the latest edition, so I’m talking FREd and the big blue book that had Seeker about to die on the cover.) I ran HERO System for a long while, and I started to notice that every PC I saw was doing pretty much the same amount of damage, roughly the same chance to hit, same small set of disadvantages… everybody was starting to blur into everybody else. With its tighter, more detailed focus, GURPS fixed that problem.

So, there you go. That’s what I was trying to say before. More of it, at least. 😉

* Ok, I’ll admit it. The thing that drew my attention in the first place was the nifty maps. They were what started me on this road. “What’s this ‘S’ on the wall mean? How about this square with an ‘X’ in it, sitting in the middle of the hallway?” Little did I know, that square with an ‘X’ would turn out to be the most lethal thing thus far in the current dungeon, a pit trap.

** This may come as a shock to some. 😉

*** Not really. Almost. I ran some White Wolf, World of Darkness stuff, way back when, that didn’t have any need for math stronger than counting on fingers. Take that how you will.

 

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 #6: “School’s Out”

I would like to draw your attention to the appearance of a tyrannosaurus in this game session. I’ve got a sort of running joke with these guys that every campaign, sooner or later, will involve an encounter with some form of T. rex. The first time it happened, as I recall, it was a different fantasy game, and they all ran for cover. The next time, it was a supers game, and the brick wrestled it down, rodeo-style, with the help of a length of chain. In the Space Cowboys game, it was a man-sized robot modeled on the dinosaur, and after a bit of cat-and-mouse, it took a laser beam through the CPU. This time around… well, you’ll see.

 

What Happened:

Cash woke to the sound of heavy footsteps outside his door. Investigating, he came face-to-face with Colossus and the rest of the delegation from the X-men, passing through while Cyclops and Dr Pym argued over jurisdiction over Sauron. Part of the entourage was Pixie, a young lady with pixie wings. Araignee was fascinated by her wings and approached to look closer. In an effort to distract Araignee from her stated intention of talking to Magneto, Pixie dosed Araignee with her mutant hallucinogenic pixie dust. Cash and Pixie struck up a conversation while Araignee bounded off, chasing imaginary playmates.

Meanwhile, Goliath made his report of the death of the Purple Man to his superiors at SHIELD, Maria Hill and Steve Rogers, the original Captain America. Hill announced that if she could, she would give him a medal, but then she would have to take it back, due to the waste of her time. Rogers agreed that nothing more could have been asked of an agent of SHIELD. He then continued: “As a member of Avengers Academy, though, you really have to ask yourself if you lived up to your father’s expectations?”

Spurred on by this remark, Goliath contacted EL13T and began laying plans to rescue his father’s stored mind from Pym’s lab in the Infinite Mansion. When EL13T wasn’t entirely receptive to the plan (“Don’t worry, you’re already infected, I’m pretty sure you’ll be immune!”), Goliath tried to talk Cash into making a dash for it (“You’re so fast, he’ll never lay a hand on you!”). Awakened to the politics of being the only mutant student in the Academy, Cash also declined. Finally, Goliath turned to Araignee, only to find that she was unavailable.

At about this time, the private conference between Cyclops and Pym concluded. Pixie quickly took her leave, giving Cash her number. Pym approached the students, mentioning that there would be an unavoidable delay in classes, while Pym’s team of “top men” extracted Sauron to be turned over to the X-men. Pym told the students that they were absolutely forbidden from taking part in the extraction. When questioned as to the members of his team, he offered “Thor, the current Captain America… I’ve got emails out to some other folks…” and wandered off mumbling to himself.

Araignee had been having the time of her life, and quickly left the mansion. Under the sway of Pixie’s powers, she encountered a talking badger who knocked her out with a touch. Back at the mansion, the students’ earpieces announced that Araignee had lost consciousness. Checking for her location, Goliath found a location just a few blocks north… then a location in the 5th-dimensional space of the Infinite Mansion… then the same location a few blocks north.

The students headed out without informing anyone of their intentions. They quickly located Araignee and brought her around. The Spirit began using her detective skills to investigate the scene, and rapidly reconstructed events. According to her analysis, Araignee had been targeted by a group of costumed villains, likely from Spider-Man’s rogues’ gallery, after they had mistaken her for Spider-Man. They had been holed up in a nearby apartment, caught a glimpse of Araignee, panicked, and sent one of their number to take her out. This accomplished with surprisingly little trouble, thanks to Pixie’s powers, they had ran. The only problem was, the front door of the apartment was still locked, from the inside. The students soon realized that the villains must have gone up the fire escape to the roof, then taken the roof-access door downstairs.

While looking for clues, the team found a CD inside the apartment, which they picked up for later perusal.

Following the deduced trail of the villains, the students went back to the roof. They opened the door, expecting to find a stairwell. Instead, they found a jungle scene straight from Jurassic Park, with giant prehistoric trees, pterodactyls flying in the distance, and a glowering volcano on the horizon.

Overcome with wonder, the students stepped through the door into a small clearing. The door stood in a makeshift frame in the clearing, with no surrounding structure. The Spirit was still empowered by the “spirit of the city”, and so knew that the “jungle” was full of sentient life. Araignee knew that something was off, since her knowledge of the real thing from back home told her that this jungle was missing expected sounds and smells. EL13T realized that the jungle was actually a techno-organic construct after realizing that every plant in it was attempting to connect with its personal network.

In light of this, the students figured out where they were: in the Infinite Mansion, in the area controlled by Sauron. He had reconstructed the environment to appear like a prehistoric jungle, making it more comfortable for himself.

At about this time, the tyrannosaurus reared up from the underbrush on the other side of the clearing.

In a flash, Cash crossed the clearing and punched the dinosaur several times at super-speed, right on its snout, knocking it over. Araignee joined him, grabbing the creature’s tail and slamming it repeatedly against the ground. It disintegrated and was absorbed into the ground. From his vantage point, Cash noticed a trail leading away from the clearing. Figuring the villains must have gone that way, the heroes followed.

Soon, they realized that they were being “holo-decked” – made to believe that they were moving, when actually their surroundings were moving past them, to give the illusion of a large space inside a relatively small room. Splitting up, they tried to overload the illusion and determine the size of the room they were in. With all of them working together, it didn’t take long to locate a wall.

While Goliath prepared to smash a hole in the wall, there was the sound of a high-tech door opening several yards away, hidden in the faux plant life. Sabretooth, the famous mutant terrorist, came bounding through the newly-exposed door, saw Goliath, shouted to his companions behind him, then went on the attack.

While Sabretooth tore into Goliath, he was joined by Batroc the Leaper, a French mercenary and master of savate, who engaged Cash. This turned out to be a mistake, as Cash’s super-speed punches overwhelmed him quickly. While they took the brunt of the assault, Bushmaster took advantage of his speed and tried to make a break for it, while Shocker tried to peek through the door, using the frame for cover. Araignee used her webs to sling Shocker into Bushmaster, knocking them both down. EL13T used his taser-hand form to make sure the three stayed down, but was unable to get a clear shot at Sabretooth, in close combat with Goliath.

Araignee and Cash went to check the door as the struggle wore on. There, they found Death-Stalker and Avalanche, covering the villains’ retreat. It was not clear what they were retreating from, however, thanks to poor visibility in the dust raised by Avalanche’s mutant powers. Striking from surprise, Araignee covered them both in a huge web, but Death-Stalker, being a teleporter, escaped to parts unknown.

Back at the main battle, Goliath managed to get a grip on Sabretooth’s head. To begin with, this only made it easier for Sabretooth to rip into his arm, but Goliath was soon joined by allies. The Spirit pulled advanced martial arts skills from the “spirit of the city”, and used nerve strikes on Sabretooth from behind. She started with one to the torso, which paralyzed his lungs, and followed with several to the groin and abdominal region. (These were less effective, but more enjoyable, she claimed.) Goliath followed this up with a piledriver, putting the mutant down for the count.

As the din of battle died down, those inside the room that the villains had come from heard a voice announcing that someone “would have words” with Avalanche. Recognizing the distinctive idiom of Thor, most of the students fled through that room into the lab containing Goliath’s father’s mind. The Spirit had a lucky accident with a misfiring dimensional transfer mechanism, damaged in the fight, which dropped her out of the Infinite Mansion entirely.

(Of course, Araignee had already webbed her trademark around the room…)

In the lab, the students recovered the mind-recording device, then had Jocasta open a door to Tokyo. There, they met the Spirit, who already had a table and a bowl of raman, waiting for them.

Looking at the CD they found in the villains apartment, they found emails showing that Sauron had been in contact with the Purple Man’s “Villains For Hire” organization, and arranged for an extraction team. Apparently, the villain team’s timetable had been moved up due to the appearance of Arraigne Rose, they had encountered Pym’s “top men”, and then bumped into the students during their retreat.

Goliath then turned his attention towards the stored mind of his dead father….

 

Throwback Thursday: Supers 1200, Session #4: “Along Came A Spider”

Is it Thursday already? Between real life and stocking the dungeon, I haven’t had much to post… but the saga of the 1200 point supers continues.

Unlike the Dungeon Fantasy game, the Supers 1200 game was not played “cards up”. The PCs had secrets from each other and background motivations that were hidden. Since I didn’t want to leak extra information at the time, sometimes the reasons behind the PCs decisions are obscure. For example, in this session, we see Goliath pursuing a private project: the resurrection of his father. Living in the Marvel Universe, he had noticed that sometimes, supers come back from the dead. He figured, with enough research, he could uncover a method to bring back his dad. When he questions Hawkeye and goes to consult with Doctor Strange, it’s in pursuit of that goal.

Another thing that might not come across well in play is the nature of the Spirit’s powers, since she herself didn’t really understand them. She was actually the ghost of a cop, whose death had focused her (presumably mutant) powers, turning her into a disembodied ghost. Instinctively attempting to return to the land of the living, she found that she could merge with the body and mind of a dying person, taking possession of their body while also taking on something of their skills and goals. Each cycle of death-and-rebirth would overwrite some amount of old memories with the partial memories of the new host, which clouded her understanding of the process and of her own identity. (All of this was back-story and special effects for Unkillable 3 with Reincarnation.)

While in the world of the living, in a body, the Spirit’s natural low-level telepathy kicked in. She couldn’t read thoughts, or individuals, but she could tap into the telepathy energies generated by minds and use them for various effects. Her powers would wax and wane depending on the number of people around her. To use her full power, she had to be surrounded by a major city. She could take a tiny bit of the citizens’ psychic energy, and channel it into affect probability, heal herself, make herself stronger, and so forth. She could also sample the currents of the peoples’ thoughts, giving her Illuminated and the power to pick up skills possessed by the people surrounding her. 

Befuddled as she was, she decided that all of this meant that she was the chosen avatar of the spirit of the city. (Thus, the name.) 

Araignee and EL13T had simpler motivations. For the most part, they just wanted to mess with folks. Araignee had a bit of a hero-crush on Spider-Man as well. 

Cash was a go-with-the-flow kind of guy, but over time, he developed a sense of the politics of being a mutant in the Marvel Universe.  As the game went on, he seemed to become more militant.

 

What Happened:

Dr Pym announced a visit from a Dire Wraith expert on shapeshifting, to examine Sauron and his ongoing infection by the tecno-organic virus. Between the villain’s normal transformation into a dinosaur-man hybrid, due to mutant pterodactyl genes, and the transformation into a shape-changing Phalanx caused by the T-O virus, Pym felt the need for an outside expert.

While discussing the visit in the hall of the Infinite Mansion, the students met Mockingbird and Hawkeye, who were apparently using the Mansion as a short-cut while dealing with some terrorist plot. The students offered to come along and help, but were turned down due to their inexperience. While Mockingbird gave Araignee the drill sergeant treatment, Goliath struck up a conversation with Hawkeye. Things were going well, until Goliath brought up Hawkeye’s death and resurrection. At that point, Hawkeye declared that they were wasting valuable time, and drew Mockingbird away.

Discussing the incident with Jocasta, the students learned that Hawkeye had been killed and resurrected, twice, by the Scarlet Witch, a mutant with power to manipulate probability and, indeed, reality itself. While Mockingbird had been reported dead, on the other hand, she had actually been kidnapped by the Skrulls.

The next day, the students were excited to meet their guest instructor, Spider-Man. Araignee, in particular, was almost giddy. They quickly became less interested, when they discovered that the class was to be “chemistry for superheroes”. Araignee asked if they could all go out on patrol, but Spider-Man pointed out that he would need to talk to Pym and get authorization before taking the students out in public.

The students found themselves with time on their hands. The Spirit pointed out that they could follow up on tracking down her “evil twin”. Goliath had Jocasta open a door to his lab on the helicarrier. There, he set up a search of the databases he could access through his position at SHIELD, looking for anyone in a hospital in a coma, or with a terminal condition, making a miraculous recovery, either in Mexico City or New York, since the team’s trip to Mexico.

While Cash eyed the expensive computer equipment, Araignee and EL13T grew bored and quietly slipped out of the room. In the hall, they saw a group of passing SHIELD agents, jogging in formation. Araignee followed out of curiosity, clinging to the ceiling out of sight, while EL13T took the form of a generic, clean-cut agent, and joined the tail of the group.

The search didn’t turn up any clear leads, so Goliath and the Spirit continued to poke around. At one point, while scrolling through patient listings, she pointed to one group of deaths at a New York City hospital and remarked that they weren’t random, they were the product of conspiracy.

When the group of SHIELD agents jogged past the command center, things got out of hand. Araignee couldn’t resist trying to press some buttons, blowing her stealth. Under cover of the confusion, EL13T dropped back to a concealed position and observed as she was arrested.

Meanwhile, back in the lab, the others were surprised by the “intruder alert” alarms. Immediately figuring out what had happened, they rushed out, just in time to join Araignee as Maria Hill tore into her, and them. Seeing a way he could do the others a service, EL13T transformed himself into a perfect duplicate of Luke Cage and approached, claiming that he, too, wanted to teach the students a lesson. He convinced Hill to hand them over to him for concentrated punishment. As soon as she was out of sight, they fled back to the Mansion.

Back at the Mansion, the students decided they might as well go look into the murders the Spirit had picked from the hospital data. While in the Mansion’s halls, they ran into Vlox, the Dire Wraith expert, being escorted into the Infinite Mansion by a Spaceknight. Pym mentioned that they would likely need to transfer Sauron to the Raft, if they couldn’t get the T-O infection under control, as the Mansion wasn’t as well-equipped for superhuman containment. The students offered to help, but Pym assured them everything was under control.

During all the talking, the Spirit got bored and left.

Eventually, the other students had Jocasta open a door in Greenwich Village. Goliath talked the group into using that location as part of his recent researches: he wanted to try to talk to Dr Strange, semi-famous mystic. Araignee and EL13T were quickly distracted when they spotted Spider-Man swinging by, and left to follow him. Cash and Goliath forged ahead.

While swinging around, EL13T started to receive mental messages, saying things like “Why will you not join?” and “Are you there, father?” The messages cut off on a distinctly sinister note, mentioning “fleshy ones” outside who would “join” by force. EL13T realized that this must be its “offspring”, Sauron, completing the transformation into a Phalanx and reaching out to join the hive mind network – the same network that EL13T itself had been released from.

Meanwhile, the Spirit was smacking a confession out of the head of surgery at a NYC hospital, having gone to track down the conspiracy behind the murders.

At Dr Strange’s house, Cash and Goliath rang the silken pull-rope provided. The door was answered by Wong, Strange’s man-servant1. He immediately took a dislike to them, and would not admit that the doctor was home, or that he would ever be willing to see them. While Goliath pressed their case, Cash faded back to take a look around. Discovering Wong’s market bicycle chained nearby, he broke the lock and made off with it, seeing if he could break the sound barrier on two wheels.

In the meantime, Araignee and EL13T had caught up with Spider-Man. While they talked, both spider-people had a flash of spider-sense. Spider-Man took off like a shot, followed closely by the two students. He led them to a cathedral, where they saw what seemed to be Daredevil, a noted hero and friend of Spider-Man’s, at the mercy of Will-o-the-Wisp, one of Spider-Man’s rogues’ gallery. Racing ahead of the students, Spider-Man tried to attack ‘Wisp, only to fall to a sneak attack as it turned out that “Daredevil” was actually Venom in disguise!

Araignee and El13T launched themselves into battle, with the shapeshifting robot taking the form of the Scarlet Spider armor, so that the villains found themselves beset by a gang of spider-people. Venom was up for the fight, but ‘Wisp panicked, went intangible, and started to flee.

Meanwhile, on the far side of the cathedral, the Spirit was dragging the guilty doctor to confession. They ran into Cash, still on Wong’s now-battered bicycle. He offered to give them a lift, which the Spirit accepted over the civilian’s protests. As they approached the front of the building, they saw the glare from EL13T’s boot jets and heard Venom’s roar of rage. Cash dropped the others and the bike, as its wheels were starting to smoke a bit, and ran up the wall to join the battle.

On the other far side of the cathedral, Goliath was walking around in a daze after Wong’s expert tongue-lashing. He, too, saw EL13T’s boot jets. Realizing that something must be up, he approached, growing as he went, only to be countered by Rhino. Rhino had been lurking in the shadows near the cathedral, watching for interfering supers. He charged, but Goliath went to full size and stepped over him, avoiding the attack.

Venom and Araignee exchanged words, while the Spirit sent “good vibes” towards her friends. Under the influence of her powers, one of Spider-Man’s web-shooters exploded from damage sustained in his fall. The web fluid inside exploded, engulfing Venom. Araignee took advantage of the distraction, kicking him in the groin and punching him repeatedly. EL13T went after Will-o-the-Wisp, but was dazed by the villain’s hypnotic light show. Venom tore himself free, leaping to a higher perch to get some room. Araignee followed suit, and the two engaged in a duel of amazing jumps.

Goliath picked Rhino up. As the villain beat upon his thumb, to no avail, he drew back and threw Rhino directly into the biggest bell in the cathedral’s bell tower. Rhino fell to the cathedral floor, where the damaged bell fell upon him.

Rang by Rhino, the bell gave out a huge clang. Having worked his way into position, Cash used his whirlwind attack to blow Venom off the cathedral, putting him near the Spirit, on the ground. The sound of the bell (and a dose of lucky mojo from the Spirit) caused Venom such pain that he fled, rather than continue the fight.

Seeing this, Araignee dropped to the cathedral floor and knocked Rhino unconscious. The students gathered together, watching as Will-o-the-Wisp tried (and failed) to flee at his painfully slow pace. When the authorities, and reporters, showed up, Goliath pulled a mini-EMP generator from his pocket to kill the cameras. In the confusion, the students jumped through the cathedral’s doors, back to the Mansion.

As the doors slammed shut on the crowd of confused reporters, there was a clap of thunder and a loud voice: “Who would dare tamper with the bicycle of Wong?!?

Back in the Infinite Mansion, the students bumped into Vlox again, but this time, she was walking around free. When confronted, she explained that when Sauron’s escape attempt began, she had been set free. The students appeared to accept her protestations of innocence. Checking in with Pym, their offer of assistance was again turned down by Pym, who claimed that the situation was relatively under control.

1Yeah, that’s what they really call him.

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.

Throwback Thursday: Supers 1200, Session #2: “Meet The Friends Of Humanity”

For those coming in late:  I’m posting play reports from old games, starting with our 1200 point Supers game, based in the Marvel Universe. This is the report of the 2nd session of that game.

The characters:

  •  Araignee Rose – gained powers similar to Spider-Man through a mystical ritual performed by her reclusive people’s shamanic leaders, after defeating her brother in a contest for the privilege
  • Goliath – long-lost son of Bill Foster, the former Goliath, who died during the events of the Civil War storyline; used Pym particles to give himself the same powers of strength and growth enjoyed by his father; has a serious crush on Luke Cage
  • Spirit – ghost of a cop who died on 9/11, only to be recruited by “The Spirit Of The City” as a supernatural agent, able to possess the bodies of others at the point of their death
  • Cash – first appearing in this session, Cash is a mutant with super-speed powers
  • E.L.1.3.T. – also first appearing here, a shapechanging alien robot with issues

Something that will become clear to those of you who are familiar with the comics:  I have no problem at all stealing wildly from my sources. The first session was, essentially, an issue of the published “Avengers’ Academy” comic, and as the campaign wore on, I continued to borrow events from it. 

 

What Happened:

Cash finally caught up with the rest of the team.

After some days of classes, Pym announced that they would be going on a field trip to the Raft, the “Maximum-Maximum Security” facility of the Ryker’s Island Maximum Security Penitentiary. When questioned, he claimed that the idea was to see the destination of the villains they would fight.

When Pym happened to mention that Luke Cage was the current warden of the Raft, Goliath excused himself to spend some time perfecting his wardrobe, including a special costume under his street clothes.

Since there are anti-teleportation devices in place on the Raft, the team couldn’t use the Infinite Mansion’s magic doors for the trip. Instead, they stepped out onto the roof of Avenger’s Mansion, boarding a Quinjet for the short flight to the Raft.

Once there, they were greeted at the beach by Cage. He gave a short description of the place, largely oblivious to Goliath’s adoring stare. Then, he introduced the team to the other members of the tour group: Graydon Creed, his assistant Cameron Hodge, and their security entourage. Thought dead for some time, Creed had recently come out of hiding and resumed his presidential campaign, on a conservative, anti-mutant platform. Without being overtly rude, they still managed to shake hands with everyone but Cash.

The group toured the prison, and was introduced to a couple of members of the Thunderbolts, a team of super-criminals working off their sentences by doing super-hero work. First was the Ghost, a technological genius and conspiracy theorist. The moment he entered the room, he locked eyes with the Spirit, and some sort of wordless communication seemed to pass between them. His presentation rapidly abandoned the standard “scared straight” script, diverging into a rant against Tony Stark’s ties to the military-industrial-entertainment complex and the Illuminati.

After the Ghost came the Juggernaut, with a much more down-to-earth discussion of life in a maximum security prison for super-villains.

Shortly after Juggernaut left, the lights went out and everyone’s cell phone went dead. Concerned, Pym told everyone to sit tight and left to find out what was going on. After a few moments, Hodge also decided to go investigate, taking half the security team with him. After a few more minutes, Creed announced his impatience and declared that he, too, would leave to investigate.

The team wasn’t entirely comfortable with the idea of a presidential candidate wandering around a dark prison, even with a team of bodyguards, but didn’t know how to approach stopping him. As they discussed the situation in whispers, Goliath’s phone rebooted and offered up a text message from Pym: “Possible security breach, keep an eye on Creed.”

Without mentioning the message, the team tried to talk Creed’s group out of leaving. When the discussion became heated, Creed moved for the door, telling his entourage to disable the heroes. “And kill the mutant,” he added. The agents transformed before the heroes’ eyes, turning dark and technological, shot through with glowing yellow circuitry.

Combat had barely begun, with the heroes quickly getting the better of the agents, when another message from Pym came in. Through the techno-babble, it told Goliath to look to the monitor that would appear shortly. As he looked around in confusion, the last agent standing convulsed as a laptop-style keyboard and screen popped out of his chest. Goliath jumped to the keyboard as the others finished subduing the other agents. Using their advanced knowledge of high-tech computer systems, Pym and Goliath managed to shut down the network between the robotic agents. This had the unexpected side-effect of causing the agent with the terminal to break free from the control he was under, wiping his memory, and leaving him a blank slate.

Meanwhile, Araignee chased after Creed, who had made it out the door. She tackled him, only to have him transform in her arms, turning robotic and growing a blaster hand. She let him go to avoid his attack, leaping back and away.

Sensing that more was going on here than met the eye, Cash took off to do some recon. Down the hall, he discovered Hodge, now sporting a thoroughly bizarre robotic body. His human head was mounted on the end of a long, flexible neck, connected to a spider-like body the size of a small car, with eight legs and a huge scorpion-like tail. The final touch was a cardboard cutout of his human body, with an impeccable business suit and power tie, hung around his neck. Cash evaded this horror, returning to the others.

Goliath grew to his largest size yet, destroying the door thrusting his hand through it to grab Creed. This had the side-effect of destroying his street clothes, revealing this week’s costume: a copy of what Luke Cage wore back when he started his super-heroic career as Power Man. Including tiara.

From inside the conference room, the Spirit inflicted bad luck on Creed, causing him to hit a bad spot of logic in his programming and go into a seizure. Along with the binary code and broken-robot noises, he sputtered out a few words of understanding language, including “Destroy mutants” and “Free Osborne”.

Looking behind herself, Araignee saw that the Raft’s vehicle bay was being invaded by men in battlesuits bearing creepy smiley faces. Seeing that Creed was well in hand, and unaware of the approaching Hodge, she bent back the bars shutting off the office and conference area from the vehicle bay, quickly opening up a gap large enough to slip through. She quickly did so, bouncing and swinging around the bay disabling several of the invaders with kicks to the head.

Hearing Creed’s words, Cash took off to find Norman Osborne’s cell. It took a few seconds of searching, but he finally found the cell on the most secure level of the prison. When he arrived, Osborne looked up, remarking, “What kept you?” Cash passed a few words with the former head of H.A.M.M.E.R., before returning to the team.

By this time, Hodge had approached close enough for Goliath to see him. Rushing the spider-thing, he used the semi-liquid form of Creed as an improvised fist load, sending Hodge flying back down the hallway. Severely damaged, Hodge scuttled away with Cash in pursuit. He blasted the hallway behind himself to cover his tracks and managed to elude the mutant speedster.

Back in the vehicle bay, the remainder of the team joined Araignee in the vehicle bay. Goliath threw the liquified, but still living, Creed to the last few battlesuit troopers, telling them to take their boss and go, leaving their weapons and armor. They complied, having seen how little resistance their comrades had given Araignee alone, and what had happened to Creed.

Moments after the invaders retreated, Luke Cage broke through a wall into the vehicle bay, not realizing that the threat was over. He came face-to-face with Goliath, wearing a version of Cage’s costume from his Power Man days, yellow silk shirt and all, and left in a daze.

In the aftermath, it was established that Osborne had not been freed, but there was no hard evidence sufficient to connect a respected presidential candidate to any wrong-doing. The team took the newly-sentient robot, who named himself E.L.1.3.T., back with them to the Infinite Mansion, to help him adjust to life.

On the way home, conversation turned towards Creed’s anti-mutant stance, the politics of being a mutant, and where everyone got their powers from.

 

Supers 1200, Session #1: “Small Beginnings”

In a cheap conference room in Manhattan, three people met for the first time, sitting in the front row of a sea of empty folding chairs: Araignee Rose, Goliath, and the Spirit. According to the speaker, Hank Pym1, a fourth audience member, a mutant speedster, had been expected, but was apparently running late. The meeting was for orientation for the newly-opened Avengers Academy2, and these were the first class.

The students were introduced to the Academy staff, and assigned mentors. Goliath was acting as Pym’s assistant, and had already met the staff. Araignee was assigned to Tigra3, the Spirit was assigned to Justice4, and Cash, the speedster mutant, was already been sought by Quicksilver5. When questioned as to why such famous super-heroes had to meet in such mundane surroundings, Pym led the group through the service area door, in the Infinite Avengers Mansion.

The Mansion is an extra-dimensional space, created by Pym. (He can do that kind of stuff. He’s the Scientist Supreme. It says so on his business cards.) It takes the form of an endless mansion, in a ring 10,000 miles around, manned by Jocasta, a robot mind who time-shares among the bodies that are stationed as mile markers. Jocasta controls the dimensional interface technology, which can connect any door in the Mansion with any door on Earth. The students were issued earpiece communicators which could be used to contact Jocasta.

Spirit realized, as soon as the doors closed behind them, that she was now cut off from the city, the source of much of her powers.

At this point, the students were instructed to choose rooms and get settled before dinner, which was scheduled to be a group gathering, in Dining Room 23. Goliath already had his room, of course. Araignee decided to test the story about the place being endless, and took off down the hall at top speed. Spirit closed her eyes and chose the first room that came along, discovering a “new student” packet and fruit basket inside. She then decided to test the stories herself, asking Jocasta to open a doorway to a part of the hallway that was in front of Araignee, miles away. She then proceeded to race ahead, one doorway at a time, as they discussed the situation.

Finally, the ladies found Goliath, and everyone agreed to go out for lunch. They chose sushi in Tokyo.

The doorway opened into a back alley, in the middle of the night, in a city of tall buildings and bright lights. Goliath, being a geek, quickly identified their location: Akihabara, in Tokyo. With a squeal, he dove into the geek bazaar. The Spirit, guided by the spirit of the city, led the trio to the finest sushi stand in the area, where they had a fabulous lunch.

Afterward, they split up. Goliath went shopping, scoring (among other things) a gorgeous bag, and some “Hello Kitty” merchandise. Araignee enjoying swinging around a place with even more tall buildings than New York, as she went on patrol. She didn’t encounter any crime, but did have a good time. The Spirit wandered around Akihabara, foiling shoplifters before they could steal anything and picking the pockets of pickpockets to restore stolen property to its rightful owner before it was missed.

Eventually, the three gathered and returned to the Mansion to get ready for dinner. Disappointingly, most of the staff who were supposed to be there had been called away on other business. Only Quicksilver could make it, and even so, was only able to pop in and out.

The students questioned Quicksilver about the program and their place in it. The Spirit, accessing what little “spirit of the city” was available6, asked Quicksilver if it was true that he was the son of Magneto, the world’s most feared mutant terrorist.

On the one hand, the question wasn’t framed in the politest terms. On the other hand, Quicksilver himself is a bit of a hothead. The discussion became heated. He admitted that, yes, he was the son of Magneto, and that he had himself been a criminal and a terrorist as a part of Magneto’s organization. He told how his father had hired assassins to attack him and his sister in their beds when they were growing up, how his entire upbringing and education had been turned towards the goal of mutant power… and how he had overcome this background to prove himself a hero, time and time again. Pointing out that the students could do worse than to follow his example, Quicksilver vanished in a burst of super-speed.

Bemused, the students talked among themselves. Until, that is, they were interrupted by a gigantic robot bursting through the cafeteria wall!

Araignee back-flipped over the table, joining the rest of the team on the side away from the killer robot, and demanded to know what the hell that thing was. Goliath identified the robot as Arsenal, describing it as “built by Iron Man’s daddy to kill all the Nazis!” while running for the door. Spirit ran for the other door, initially intending on opening a door to some big city to re-activate her full powers, but then thinking of the consequences of dropping a killer robot into such an environment and instead calling for Jocasta to connect the door to the Pyramids, in Egypt. When that isolated locale didn’t help, she let the door shut and joined Araignee in taking the fight to the robot.

Despite what the others thought, Goliath hadn’t been running away. Rather, he had been looking for higher ceilings. When the robot cut loose with dual shoulder-mounted machine guns, he finally revealed his power, as he grew to more than double his normal size trying to provide cover for the others. Hunched over under in the small room, he also entered the melee.

Quickly, the students had Arsenal thrown into the corner of the room and trapped by webbing. The robot attempted to use sleeping gas, but the Spirit incinerated it with live wires from a broken light fixture. Just then, Jocasta entered from the hall, across the room, turned, and re-opened the door onto a garden7 in New York. This caused the Spirit’s powers to return, which caused her to realize that this whole event was a set-up. If this robot, built to take on the entire Nazi military, and known to be a near-match for the Avengers themselves, had meant to kill them, they would have been dead before they knew what hit them. She left the others pounding on the robot, and investigated the hole in the wall where it had come from.

Inside, she found an open crate, which appeared to be shaped to hold the parts of the robot. The layer of dust had been recently disturbed, showing that someone had entered and assembled the robot. Inside the crate, she found an electronic device with a blinking red light.

Meanwhile, in the cafeteria, Goliath had begun grappling with Arsenal. Just as it got him in a hold, the Spirit turned off the device and the robot went dead. She returned to the cafeteria, announcing that Quicksilver was behind the whole thing.

Quicksilver returned, and didn’t deny it. As it came out, he had been offended at the tone of the earlier questions about his background, and decided to teach the students a lesson. After leaving the students, he had gone next door and assembled the robot at super-speed, programming it to use non-lethal force. He pointed at that being attacked at dinner is much better than being attacked in one’s bed.

Alerted by the alarm, Tigra came in just in time to hear the story. She began berating Quicksilver, taking him to the side for a stern talking-to. Curious, the Spirit picked up lip-reading skills from the spirit of the city, before Jocasta let the doors close, just long enough to “overhear” some of Tigra’s remarks.

She was pointing out to Quicksilver that it wasn’t helpful to abuse the students’ trust, as it just pushed them that much closer to turning to villainy. “That Goliath kid could go after Reed Richards any day!” she said. “And you know about those crime reports that point toward the Spirit!”

The Spirit nearly went after Tigra on the spot for saying these things, but was restrained by the other students. As the staff members left, still in conversation, she explained what she had learned. After repeatedly calling Goliath “broken”, she managed to start an argument with him. Before the cat-fight could really get going, he grabbed her, called for Jocasta to open a door into the pool, and tossed her into it. One of the other staff members, Speedball, entered the pool area as well, putting an end to the fight… and leaving the underlying issues unresolved.

1 AKA Giant-Man, Ant-Man, Yellowjacket, and (for a thankfully short time) the Wasp. He’s a founding Avenger, and has had many costumed identities over the years.

2 At this point, I’m drawing a line. I’ll give footnotes for a “thumbnail sketch” of bit of Marvel Universe trivia, but I’ll avoid trying to explain all the background. If you’re that interested, hit Wikipedia. In this case: the Academy was started after it became clear that untrained super-beings could set out with the best of intentions and end up causing great tragedy. The idea is that more-experienced, more-established heroes will train and guide new heroes. This includes a certain amount of mundane education along with things like Combat Theory and Super-villain Recognition.

3 Scantily-clad cat-lady who was a cop before being transformed into her current state.

4 Earnest young telekinetic.

5 Speedster, and former mutant terrorist.

6 In the form of the skill Hidden Lore: Super-heroes, mostly picked up from Goliath, the super fanboy.

7 Identifiable as the memorial garden behind Avengers Mansion, by those in the know.

 

Let’s hope those footnotes aren’t too confusing…

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