Thursday, March 23, 2017

Designer's Notes:Terry Toucan & the Puzzle Pals - The House of 10,000 Sock Monkeys!


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My involvement in this article was mostly as a format checker and "crunch" meister. Though I did help J. hammer out some of the details. I spent maybe 10 hours total, with 0.5 hours writing, 5 hours editing/format-checking, 0 hours for research, and maybe another 4.5 hours of revision. I had a blast working with J. and we've discussed the possibility of another team up in the near future.

The following is J. Edward Tremlett's designer's notes.


The Case of the Sock Monkey Abuse
When I was a kid, my favorite stuffed animal was a sock monkey. I slept with it around my neck to keep vampires from biting me. The poor thing was loved to pieces, so my mom sewed it a superman suit to keep it "alive." It then became... Supermonkey!

Supermonkey continued in his mission for truth, justice, and keeping my neck from being punctured by bloodsuckers. After some weird adventures in misplacement, maturity, and moving out, the fellow was eventually framed and presented to me at my wedding rehearsal dinner.

It's still up in my office, stuck in what may be a "Saturday Night Fever" pose, and still protecting me from vampires -- even behind glass. Supermonkey is mighty.

Let's just keep that in mind as we begin.


The Beginning
I approached the humor issue with some degree of dark amusement. I've written a lot of funny stuff for Pyramid in the past, mostly involving heroes. I thought about doing another generic supers humor article, but decided against it, remembering that, frankly, no one liked reading them as much as I liked writing them.

So I thought of a few other options, and decided that I wanted to do a one-shot humorous horror misadventure. One of my favorite pieces was Electric Hoe-Down of the Atomic Reptile Bikini Women - in 3D! - A Call of Cthulhu "Blood Brothers"-style Scenario that ran in Worlds of Cthulhu.

So now I just had to think of a suitable story. After a few false starts, one finally gelled enough to stick to the inside of my skull -- what if Scooby Doo turned evil and decided to kill off the gang while they were solving a mystery? It could be done as cartoony, low-firepower Monster Hunters, maybe with its own, special splat for Teen Sleuth.

And no one would suspect anything until the big, brown dog said "Ruck You" and pushed them down a cliff... which is the image that made me decide this was my ticket.

Now, anything I write tends to evolve -- and hopefully improve -- from where it starts. Sometimes I go through several iterations before I arrive at a finished product (like the !@#$ !@#$ thing I'm working on now). House of 10,000 Sock Monkeys was no different, though it's still recognizable from where it began.

I originally had a mystery gang going to a small island to investigate the "ghost" of a pirate, only to have their talkative parrot friend try to kill them. I imagined them learning about the mystery from a newspaper in their favorite burger shack, and then going to the island, where they'd be cut off from the outside world because they'd wreck on the reef. They'd only survive by getting the ghost's boat, but only if their animal companion didn't kill them first...

I got a little ways into that, but was thankfully informed of the fact that there already was a villain parrot out there. One of the iterations of Scooby Doo had such a bird, already -- Professor Pericles -- and I didn't want this to be a rip-off. This is why it's Terry Toucan instead of Pauly Parrot.

I can't quite remember how it made the hop from an island to a small tourist town. This is probably the point where the ideas started to mudslide and it all came together as the mash-up that it is. It's also the point where I decided there needed to be a further "aha!" in the mix, and came up with the idea of this being half cute homage, half potential TPK, thanks to the addition of a dangerous monster.

I'm not sure why possessed sock monkeys became the monster in question. As mentioned earlier, I love them, but they are kind of creepy. (It's the black, soulless eyes. They look like Cybermen eyes)

So, thanks to Christopher for sewing the monkeys together... so to speak. Further help came from my girlfriend, who suggested the widow be involved in keeping the ghosts at bay. (Thanks, Chrys!)

I think this is one of the best epilogues I've written for a story:

But seeing all this death and destruction never quite leaves them. Between that and Terry’s betrayal, the Puzzle Pals return to Groovyville changed people. No longer swinging teens, their 1960s innocence is gone – replaced with the hard, grey cynicism that predominates the decades to come. In time, their childhood seems like some strange cartoony dream they all woke up from.


Small Notes:
  • The Omop tribe is just a stand-in for the Pomo, who lived around that area. They were not slaughtered by disgraced Spanish nobles, though they suffered from smallpox and were nearly wiped out. 
  • The Widow Redheel gets her name from the Red Heel Sock, which "official" sock monkeys are made from. Blue Feather is a play off that. 
  • The real sock monkey capital of the world is Rockford, Illinois. The largest Sock Monkey is in the UK. This is why Solivar is the sock monkey capital of the West Coast, and can only lay claim to the world's second largest sock monkey. But being first to be second is often what tourist towns are all about. 
  • There is no Solivar in California. The area between Freestone and Occidental is just a nice, mostly uninterrupted drive. Certain people reading this may know why it's called Solivar, but it has more to do with DC Comics than Scooby Doo. 
  • Speaking of Scooby Doo, fans of the show may find a few familiar names in the story. I'll let you find them yourself ;) 
  • Affendammerung is supposed to be "twilight of the monkeys." I probably screwed that up. Oops. 



Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Aeon V-Team S01E03 - You Can Be Alice...


Dramatis Personae
  • Ciera A. Maeweather aka Weather Girl (played by +Christian Gelacio): Considered the weather manipulator (and News Channel 4's meteorologist). Ciera can control the local weather in a variety of ways including earthquakes and the oceans. Highly trained original member of the Valiants and master of Capoeira.
  • Sigyn A. “Ginny” Locke aka Valkyrie (played by +Ann LS): Original member of the Valiants. Team captain of the second response team. Battlesuit wearing pyro- and chronokinetic with multiple secondary abilities including Savant capabilities, flexible bones, immunity to mental control,  an "awe" aura, and the ability to "summon" her possessions (which is how she gets in her battlesuit).
  • Janos K. "John" Nemonovich aka Doctor Mnemonic (played by +Troy Loy): Incredibly intelligent savant from another reality (which experienced the TAP during the late 1800s vs. late 1900s). Immortal with a perfect memory and eternally youthful body. Wears a costume with a "steampunk" aesthetic.
  • Sophia O. Saki aka Silkworm (played by +Natiel Leealexander): Mute fabric-controlling metahuman. Secondary abilities includes telepathic bond with identical sisters (they were triplets) and "forgetfulness" aura (people can't remember her). Her signature ability is to manipulate fabric to produce strong "tendrils."
  • Alicia I. Milam aka Howler (NPC): Once viglanate and still angry orphan with a chip on her shoulder and "perfect physical coordination" - she can bounce a quarter from the floor to a soda machine and hit every time. Looks up to the others as family she never had. Riki-Tiki-Tavi (NPC): An Ivory Labs "Doolittler" (an altered animal like Yukio from B-Team), Riki-Tiki-Tavi or "Tiki" is a semi-sapient mongoose with obsession for anything sweet - but especially cookies. His bite is toxic and insanely strong (about 23,000 PSI or ST 120). He has enhanced reflexes, regenerative ability, and an enhanced sense of smell.
  • Lucian A. de Keye aka Warlock (NPC): Lucian (or Lu as he prefers to be called) is a metahuman who can control darkness and space (including teleportation) and a sorceror. His powers are not linked, but he likes using darkness as a means for getting in and out with his teleportation. He can make constructs of darkness and is a capable skirmish porter.


Meanwhile...
Previously the PCs were heading into the Dodge Physical Fitness Center at Columbia College to deal with a reality warper who'd gone mad and turned the entire building into a portal to a dimension that resembles Wonderland from Alice and Wonderland. After dividing into three teams they head inside...

And see if the Mad Hatter cares


Welcome to Wonderland
Dr. Mnemonic, Silkworm, Valkyrie, & Weather Girl
Dodge Physical Fitness Center, 42°F, Clear skies
Friday, January 13th, 2017, 8:00 pm

3030 Broadway, New York, NY 10027

Upon entering Wonderland the PCs are separated from some of the other members of their group (Katori Legend and a couple of AEGIS STARRS), though Elena Pushkov aka the Pusher remains. The PCs find themselves on a garden path with lots of human faces in flowers and pollinating bees that are shaped like literal alphabet "B". The PCs hear the flowers saying all sorts of things: "Oh, yes! Work that stamen!" "Dude, you wanna get high?" "He loves me...(plucks petal from body as it bleeds while screaming)...he loves me not." and other...disturbing words. The PCs opt to leave as quick as they came and begin to display traits from their "chosen" roles (Silkworm gets a turtle shell, Dr. Mnemonic gets mechanical bunny ears on his steampunk mask, Valkyrie is dressed as a maid, etc.).

After wandering around (about 2 hours of game was just this) they made their way to the Red Queen's garden. The PCs hear "Four!" and two hedgehogs go sailing through the air. Ginny makes a DX roll to catch them and critically succeeds. They hear a loud voice scream for them to retrieve the croquet balls and the PCs hide (everyone is Batman rolling crits except for Dr. Mnemonic and Silkworm). Bianca Rosetti aka White Rabbit comes running forward to retrieve the hedgehogs and the PCs work out a plan to mug her and figure out what's going on. White Rabbit critically dodges attacks from Dr. Mnemonic and Silkworm (which is crazy because Silkworm has six freaking "arms" to grapple, but a four is a four). Warlock uses Teamwork! to set up a feint and then transfers it to Valkyrie who makes her attack Deceptive and nails the rabbit using the Kay-O rules to knock her out. A Two of Hearts Card Soldier comes to find out what's going on and he too gets mugged, but it's not so stealthy this time.

Unfortunately, this alerts the Red Queen who sends out her massive wave of mind-controlling "love me! love me!" I spend Doom to screw over Weather Girl's roll so she fails...but Silkworm also fails. Valkyrie is immune to mind-affecting effects and because of her and Warlock's bond so is he. Dr. Mnemonic makes his roll and assesses the situation. Hundreds of card soldiers begin attacking the PCs and rush forward. Silkworm begins attacking her own people starting with Weather Girl. Pushkov, a little crazy from the reality warping gets angry that someone is "stealing her girl (Weather Girl)" and drinks a combat enhancing drug. Thanks to the effects of the reality warp it has a side effect: she grows taller... Angry she smashes into the cards and literally rips some apart until she gets to the Red Queen at which point they enter into combat.

Weather Girl summons a tornado (ST 300 winds!) and bounces Valkyrie around inside of it...but it doesn't work because her battlesuit is made of orichalcum which begins to absorb all the kinetic energy the bouncing is producing. Valkyrie comes up with a quick plan to continue occupying Weather Girl (since she can't be hurt) and to absorb the energy so it can be channeled.

Valkyrie instructs Warlock to get Silkworm to safety and he uses his powers to teleport her in a series of portals until she reaches terminal velocity and is stuck in a loop and sick. He then opens portals around Valkyrie as the orichalcum armor overloads and instead of a radial explosion he concentrates the fire from other portals onto the card soldiers absolutely decimating their ranks. The PCs decide to remember this trick later.

Dr. Mnemonic realizes the Red Queen is controlling the others and whips up a gizmo (a natural 3) bullet that allows him to negate 150 points of DR, Injury Tolerance (Damage Reduction /1000), and a bunch of other protective traits via an affliction. He asks to shift the damage from the bullet as a follow-up to the affliction which I allow as it seems like a feature. He critically succeeds his roll to hit her in the eye using one of his "taser" bullets and the Red Queen drops.

The Card Soldiers are confused for a minute and after the mind control effects go away Weather Girl expands her tornado and just sweeps the cards up in it. Silkworm comes back to herself and shakes off the effect of the constant 'portation. The PCs have found two of the members of Hatter's team and now goes to look for Hatter himself.


After Action Report/Rules Notes
The PCs blew through the plot I'd prepared stupidly fast (about 16 hours of material in 4 hours) with a bunch of good rolls, some quick thinking, and good tactics. I didn't plan on half the PCs to be mind-controlled, but the players went along with it and produced genuinely difficult combat for their friends. The turning the explosive overload trick into a combo using three supers was nothing short of brilliant. The players intend to use that against any tough supers in the future even though it takes about 2-3 seconds to "charge up".

I wasn't happy with how physically tired I was. I'd been up the night before because I was so happy about getting close to the plot for Aeon. It feels good to be so close and hopefully I'll be able to finish it up between May and October (I'm guessing around June or July myself, but we'll see) so I can start another campaign. I also think that the multi-interlinked campaigns is working and I'm likely going to do it again.

Session Soundtrack
"Alice (Underground)" by Avril Lavigne
"Painting Flowers" by All Time Low
"Rock You Like a Hurricane" by the Scorpions (during the fight with Red Queen)
"Still Alive" by Ellen McLain
"Mad Hatter" by Melanie Martinez (Closing song)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Boil and Bubble: Ritual Path Magic Knacks


Those with ritual path magic have an infinitely flexible magic system at their fingertips. So how to make a one-spell johnny? Or those who have an innate ability to do one particular thing. To create such abilities use the following method:

• Determine the ritual normally using the standard rules for ritual path magic.
• Purchase Magery 0 (Limited Scope, One Spell only, -80%) [1], Discreet Ritual (Pyramid #3/66: The Laws of Magic, p. 11), the Path skill at IQ+0, and Ritual Mastery. Buy enough levels of Ritual Mastery (which, for this one purpose has unlimited levels with each +1 translating to another level) to cast it so that your effective skill equals or exceeds the Safe Threshold (GURPS Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic, p. 26) to cast the spell plus 4. . Treat the Path skill as if it were IQ/Average for this purpose instead of IQ/Very Hard (you're effectively double specializing in a Path, see Pyramid #3/66: The Laws of Magic, p. 20).
Ignore the usual restriction on Thaumatology. Those with knacks just do things with the smallest act of will! This comes at a price however – they cannot create conditional spells with their ability and can only alter normally alterable effects (e.g., Range or Subject Weight). Optionally, they can create a single form of conditional ability (e.g., an elixir), but cannot cast it normally.
• Optionally, purchase Magery (Limited Scope, One Spell only, -80%) [2/level], Ritual Mastery [1], or Ritual Adept (Limited Scope, One Spell only, -80%) [8]. 
• Those without adept still suffer the rules for connection, consecrated space, etc.
• Determine casting time as follows: if the character is a non-adept then it takes a minute to cast. If he's an adept it takes a single second to cast. If you're an adept you can opt perform an action instantly by buying Compartmentalized Mind 1 (Limited, One Spell only, -30%) [35]." You may do this once per turn as a free action.
• Add up the final cost and treat the whole thing as advantage.



Example
Mercado can cast a spell with the ability to drown a nearby target. The player decides that the Nixie’s Curse spell (GURPS Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic, p. 47) is what her character wants as a knack. Theia’s player then buys Magery 0 (Limited Scope, Nixie’s Curse only, -80%) [1], Discreet Ritual (Nixie’s Curse) [1], Path of Matter (Create Water) (A) IQ+0 [2], Ritual Mastery (Nixie's Curse) [1], and Ritual Adept (Limited Scope, Nixie’s Curse only, -80%) [8]. Since Nixie's Curse takes 90 energy to cast he must have a minimum skill of 23 (to cast the spell) + 4. Since she has a IQ of 14 that means she needs to buy nine more levels of Ritual Mastery so that it equals IQ+11. This is written down on Theia’s character sheet as “Ritual Path Magic Knack (Nixie’s Curse) [22]”  and allows Theia to cast Nixie’s Curse at IQ+13 in one second with merely an act of will. If she wanted to drown someone as a free action it would cost another 35 points.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Aeon V-Team S01E02 - Down the Rabbit Hole


Dramatis Personae
Ciera A. Maeweather aka Weather Girl (played by +Christian Gelacio): Considered the weather manipulator (and News Channel 4's meteorologist). Ciera can control the local weather in a variety of ways including earthquakes and the oceans. Highly trained original member of the Valiants and master of Capoeira.
Sigyn A. “Ginny” Locke aka Valkyrie (played by +Ann LS): Original member of the Valiants. Team captain of the second response team. Battlesuit wearing pyro- and chronokinetic with multiple secondary abilities including Savant capabilities, flexible bones, immunity to mental control,  an "awe" aura, and the ability to "summon" her possessions (which is how she gets in her battlesuit).
Janos K. "John" Nemonovich aka Doctor Mnemonic (played by +Troy Loy): Incredibly intelligent savant from another reality (which experienced the TAP during the late 1800s vs. late 1900s). Immortal with a perfect memory and eternally youthful body. Wears a costume with a "steampunk" aesthetic.
Sophia O. Saki aka Silkworm (played by +Natiel Leealexander): Mute fabric-controlling metahuman. Secondary abilities includes telepathic bond with identical sisters (they were triplets) and "forgetfulness" aura (people can't remember her). Her signature ability is to manipulate fabric to produce strong "tendrils."

Alicia I. Milam aka Howler (NPC): Once viglanate and still angry orphan with a chip on her shoulder and "perfect physical coordination" - she can bounce a quarter from the floor to a soda machine and hit every time. Looks up to the others as family she never had. Riki-Tiki-Tavi (NPC): An Ivory Labs "Doolittler" (an altered animal like Yukio from B-Team), Riki-Tiki-Tavi or "Tiki" is a semi-sapient mongoose with obsession for anything sweet - but especially cookies. His bite is toxic and insanely strong (about 23,000 PSI or ST 120). He has enhanced reflexes, regenerative ability, and an enhanced sense of smell.
Lucian A. de Keye aka Warlock (NPC): Lucian (or Lu as he prefers to be called) is a metahuman who can control darkness and space (including teleportation) and a sorceror. His powers are not linked, but he likes using darkness as a means for getting in and out with his teleportation. He can make constructs of darkness and is a capable skirmish porter.


Meanwhile...
Previously, the PCs had managed to capture the villain Requiem. Moreover, they were also given front row seats to an explosive manifestation by one of Requiem's hench-things. Sigyn had deduced that Requiem had used his abilities to mindwash his thugs she opted to take the newly manifested metahuman to the Fortress (aka Locke Tower) and render both medical and assistance at helping train his abilities.

Go Ask Alice

Friendly Skies and Chance Meetings
Weather Girl
Mount Sinai Beth Israel, 33°F, Light Snow
Friday, January 6th, 2017, 5:00 pm

First Avenue at 16th Street, New York, NY 10003

Weather Girl leaves the Mall to get away from the paparazzi and instead goes to Mount Sinai's children's ward (a place she often visits). Flying in a window she notices the door is barred from the inside and a raven-haired woman is talking to the kids.
The Pusher: "So what do you have?"
Sick Kid: "Glee-Bast-Omaha."
The Pusher: "Not for long."
Weather Girl identifies the woman now: it's Elena Pushkov aka the Pusher - a metahuman "gray cape" with the ability to create customized drugs and chemicals to the subject. Normally, the Pusher charges for her products but she's widely known to visit hospitals, hospices, and other places for the dying and simply cure them because she can. After some amusing dialogue and flirting on Elena's part the Pusher continues injecting the sick children with cures customized especially for their unique biochemical makeup and disease.

Eventually, Weather Girl uses a gust of wind to open the barred door and several doctors rush in to stop the Pusher. Weather Girl seeing the other woman is trying to help uses her "star cred" (spending a Karma Point) and distracts the doctors giving the Pusher time to escape. Noting that she owes her, the Pusher assents and slips Weather Girl her cell number.


Uncle Sam Wants You!
Dr. Mnemonic, Silkworm, Valkyrie, & Weather Girl
Locke Tower, 33°F, Light Snow
Friday, January 6th, 2017, 5:00 pm

181 W 68th Street, New York, NY 10023

Several hours have passed and the Valiants are back at the Tower. Their "guest" is secured in the medbay and only Dr. Mnemonic and Valkyrie are allowed in and out. Their guest (identified as Manawanui "Manny" Watihana by fingerprint scan) has apparently become a being made of "living" metal and is emitting a constant magnetic pull. Normally this wouldn't be an issue, but Manny is unconscious and can't shift back and the bullets that Howler split in half with her knives are lodged in her body (two in her lower right abdomen and one in her upper left shoulder).

Manny is stuck in between a partially "fleshy" state and a partially "metallic" one. Dr. Mnemonic ends up breaking multiple surgical instruments trying to pull the bullets (failed Surgery roll) out so Valkyrie comes up with a plan: Warlock can use his spatial warping to teleport the bullets out of her (essentially an exoportation power stunt). He succeeds, but only gets two. The third bullet is in the shoulder and Silkworm uses her control over fabric to get a surgical thread into place and "pop" the bullet outward. (This was a power stunt to use Telekinesis for thread only.)

Manny recovers rapidly in his powered state and eventually "depowers" and turns back in his his fleshy form... except Manny is a she not a he. Trying to pass as the opposite gender, Manny wore baggy clothing and bound her breasts. The confusion was also ramped up by the fact that Manny's other self was biologically male. (In Aeon, the state of a metahuman's mind, their environment, and those around them can heavily contribute to how their powers manifest. Since Manny thinks of himself as a "he," his living metal form was the image of how he thought he should be.)

Sigyn explains that he was being controlled by Requiem and that he manifested as a metahuman. Instead of being taken to Riker's Island, Sigyn and the Valiants requested that he be remanded into their custody. Extremely suspicious Sigyn tells him she doesn't care what he did or was, only what he'll do and who is - with the Valiants Manny could save lives and put his abilities to use. She talks with him for hours distracting him while Dr. Mnemonic runs numerous tests to ensure his health.

Eventually, Manny tells Sigyn what she already suspected: he was working for a criminal so he could save up money for an (sex change) operation and a steady income to get his grandmother out of a nursing home. Eventually he wanted to bring the rest of his family over (though Manny practically grew up in New York City and had been there over a decade having immigrated with his mother, father, and grandmother). Sigyn makes him a deal: he agrees to get his powers under control via an AEGIS trainer and work with the Valiants for at least six months as a pro-tem member of their team and she'll make calls. When he asks her what kind of "calls" she responds with: "A call to AEGIS, a call to a judge to drop the charges against you, a call to the nursing home, a call to the Secretary of State to get your family asylum under the D.A.I.N.A. Act, and a call to the Sculptor who can perform the operation you desire in a day." (Sigyn's player makes a straight reaction roll and rolls a perfect 18. Look's like she has a friend for life.) The judge agrees to drop the charges if Weather Girl comes to his neice's birthday party that weekend. Weather Girl agrees and says:
Weather Girl: "It's going to be 70 degrees sunny with winds in the south west and five to ten miles an hour. 70% humidity. NO CHANCE OF RAIN."
Governor: "But its winter..."
Weather Girl: "It will be an Indian Summer."
Manny is overwhelmed (and still very suspicious) and asks for time to think about it. A few hours later, he agrees and Sigyn draws up a contract. She then does exactly what she said she would and something extra: she gets Weather Girl to use her new relationship with Elena Pushkov aka the Pusher to create a genetic regimen using her abilities (The Pusher can create any sort of drug, chemical, poison, etc. with her powers) that will switch his XY chromosome to an XX.

(AEGIS is also impressed with Dr. Mnemonic's first tests and figure Manny for at least a Bruiser-7 and Controller-7 on the MLR Scale.)

A week passes by...

...and Dr. Mnemonic putters around in his lab and learns a new language...
...and Valkyrie learns Māori, putters around in the lab with the others, and spends time with Warlock...
...and Weather Girl works the community outreach program for the Valiants...
...and Silkworm spends time working on a new type of protective fabric...


Vroom Vroom Vacuum
Weather Girl
Locke Tower, 33°F, Light Snow
Wednesday, January 9th, 2017, 1:00 pm

181 W 68th Street, New York, NY 10023

...mid week Elena Pushkov calls Weather Girl and asks for a favor: She needs to create a vacuum seal in a container that has no opening. Silkworm signs in the background "DO EET. WE NEED TO BE FRIENDS WITH HER," but Weather Girl flies outside to finish the phone call. Eventually, she agrees to help her but that results in the Pusher owing her two favors. Flying to her location she seals the box and uses her ability to create mobile "ball" of vacuum that can reseal itself if put in an airtight container (this was done by spending Karma Points and "changing the world"). The two have coffee before Weather Girl heads back to Locke Tower.


Uncle Sam Wants You!
Dr. Mnemonic, Silkworm, Valkyrie, & Weather Girl
Locke Tower, 33°F, Light Snow
Friday, January 6th, 2017, 5:00 pm

181 W 68th Street, New York, NY 10023

...when Agent  Trueman Templeton (the Valiant's AEGIS liaison) arrives. The normally unflappable man is slightly nervous and informs the second response team for the Valiant's (e.g., the PCs) that the other team - including Artillery, the seemingly invulnerable man - has disappeared while working a mission for AEGIS. Templeton keeps getting blocked for further information by the new Assistant Director of East Coast Operations for AEGIS - Rodney "Hotrod" Frazer. Sigyn bypasses the AD completely and goes right to the Director. After a quick conversation lots of cursing is heard on the other line and he informs her to gather every meta she can and met him on the roof in 20 minutes. They pick up Weaver (called by Silkworm to help who spends a Karma to succeed her Appearance roll) and Material Girl (who arrives in a limo and pulled in via Weaver) before heading to their next to last stop: Breakfast at Epiffanies. Weather Girl calls in one of her favors (though Silkworm just says "GET HER TO GO ON A DATE AND SHE'LL DO IT." - which might have worked). Instead, the Pusher agrees to help - strictly as support since the situation does sound dire.

Daniel goes to speak with Urich Rosenkrantz and while the PCs can't hear what they are saying at first (Warlock conjures a tiny gate to listen through) it's still pretty clear: Urich is pissed at Daniel. After a while the old man heads to his storage locker in the backroom and gathers weapons and gear before joining the rest of the team in the Kestrel VTOL.


Welcome to Wonderland
Dr. Mnemonic, Silkworm, Valkyrie, & Weather Girl
Dodge Physical Fitness Center, 42°F, Clear skies
Friday, January 13th, 2017, 8:00 pm

3030 Broadway, New York, NY 10027

Heading toward their destination the Director gives them SITREP: DARPA has been secretly running a metahuman "team" - the Wonderlanders - and has lost control of one of the most powerful metahumans on the planet. Dr. Roger Hargreaves had an ability to store objects in a localized extradimensional space and eventually realized her could do more: He could literally control reality around him. Knowing he would never be a decent combatant and fearing what another could do to him should they gain control of him, he created an experiment to make a "trap" in his mind. It failed. Badly. 

It drove him insane and lead him to believe that he was the Mad Hatter from Lewis Carroll's Alice and Wonderland. When others tried to break his delusion it made him worse. Realizing the potential of both his mind and abilities DARPA gathered together a team to enforce his delusion (and thus his calmness) and to act as a mechanism to control him. Queen (a meta who derived power from the adoration/love others had for her), Alice (a reality warper who had her own pocket dimension), Dormouse (a psychiatrist who saw to Hatter's needs and could "shrink"), Cheshire (who could geolocate his body parts elsewhere), and White Rabbit (who was an excellent fighter and physically fit and could bludgeon Hatter unconscious if need be). Working with them was Mishka Rosenkrantz who was helping Hatter decipher his experiments notes and trying to reverse what he did to himself (Note: the Hatter thinks that Mishka is Dinah the kitten). AEGIS was aware the team had managed to get Hatter back to his old stomping grounds at Columbia - but something happened and then they lost contact.

The Director informs them that an upfront fight with Hatter will be impossible. He literally can't die thanks to his ability to warp reality. When Silkworm asks why they were bothering with firepower the Director goes quiet and it's Weather Girl who answers: because Hatter's projections (constructed beings he's made thanks to his delusion) will not want to be unmade and thus will need to be fought. The Director breaks his people into three teams: one led by him, one led by Katori (his sister and right-hand man), and one led by Sigyn. The rest of the group are divided up to cover multiple needs and they land in front of the Fitness Center which is being blocked off by dozens of AEGIS personnel ready to go in...


After Action Report/Rules Notes
This session went very smooth (despite me cooking chicken curry - which was yum by the way). Not a lot of combat action, but lots of roleplaying and relationship building. Those who follow along can see how I'm weaving the narratives of the other teams together into a cohesive whole. I really enjoyed the back and forth between the Pusher and Weather Girl and the team's reaction to Manny. Breaking down what the Hatter could do involved lots of cursing from Silkworm's player, but reality warpers are a PITA. It did spark some interesting ideas from Sigyn's player though ("Let's prepare roles from the books for ourselves instead of him assigning one to us"). That was a bit of brilliance that might just pay off in the end. We'll see next game session.


Session Soundtrack
"Empire State of Mind" by Alicia Keys and Jay-Z (Opening Song)
"I Kissed a Girl" by Katy Perry (during Weather Girl and the Pusher's interactions)
"Crazy Train" by Ozzy Osbourne (While on Kestrel)
"In the House, in a Heartbeat" (The Director explaining who Hatter is)
"White Rabbit" by Jefferson Airplane (Closing song)

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Carpe Blogiem: Dungeon Grappling Review


I want to preface this product reveiw with the following: I've not yet played Pathfinder or Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition, but have read both and have a good understanding of the rules therein. I've played many games with the original Dungeons and Dragons game engine (aka "OSR" aka "Swords and Wizardry"). Additionally, I worked as both an editor and indexer on this project and the author, +Douglas Cole is a good friend of mine. All that said, to the review!

Douglas has created a stunningly beautiful book. This 53-page PDF (or softback - it comes in both) has some of the most impressive art I've ever seen. But more than that, the content is well-crafted and simplistic. Like all of Doug's work he takes something complex and flavourful and makes it easy to use and straightforward.

The various rules for grappling cover three different rules engines: Swords and Wizardry (a retroclone of Dungeons and Dragons), Pathfinder, and Dungeons and Dragon's 5th edition. Most of the affects and rules are the same and where they greatly differ (as in Pathfinder) there is extensive rules to cover most contingencies.

Their are further sections on each different game system to cover the nitty gritty details (including new feats and abilities as appropriate).

Finally, there are rules for monsters grappling PCs (which is the height of drama in my opinion). Monsters grappling a player character can lead to interesting results and make combat more deadly (or less) if done right.

All in all, I would have bought this book even if I wasn't a part of the design team - it really is that good. It takes something I like about GURPS and transposes it to three other systems in a way that not only makes sense, but is actually easy to use.

You can buy it here at DriveThru RPG and it's own sale thanks to it being GM's Day.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Aeon V-Team S01E01 - Mall Madness


Dramatis Personae
Ciera A. Maeweather aka Weather Girl (played by +Christian Gelacio): Considered the weather manipulator (and News Channel 4's meteorologist). Ciera can control the local weather in a variety of ways including earthquakes and the oceans. Highly trained original member of the Valiants and master of Capoeira.
Sigyn A. “Ginny” Locke aka Valkyrie (played by +Ann LS): Original member of the Valiants. Team captain of the second response team. Battlesuit wearing pyro- and chronokinetic with multiple secondary abilities including Savant capabilities, flexible bones, immunity to mental control,  an "awe" aura, and the ability to "summon" her possessions (which is how she gets in her battlesuit).
Janos K. "John" Nemonovich aka Doctor Mnemonic (played by +Troy Loy): Incredibly intelligent savant from another reality (which experienced the TAP during the late 1800s vs. late 1900s). Immortal with a perfect memory and eternally youthful body. Wears a costume with a "steampunk" aesthetic.
Sophia O. Saki aka Silkworm (played by +Natiel Leealexander): Mute fabric-controlling metahuman. Secondary abilities includes telepathic bond with identical sisters (they were triplets) and "forgetfulness" aura (people can't remember her). Her signature ability is to manipulate fabric to produce strong "tendrils."

Alicia I. Milam aka Howler (NPC): Once viglanate and still angry orphan with a chip on her shoulder and "perfect physical coordination" - she can bounce a quarter from the floor to a soda machine and hit every time. Looks up to the others as family she never had. Riki-Tiki-Tavi (NPC): An Ivory Labs "Doolittler" (an altered animal like Yukio from B-Team), Riki-Tiki-Tavi or "Tiki" is a semi-sapient mongoose with obsession for anything sweet - but especially cookies. His bite is toxic and insanely strong (about 23,000 PSI or ST 120). He has enhanced reflexes, regenerative ability, and an enhanced sense of smell.
Lucian A. de Keye aka Warlock (NPC): Lucian (or Lu as he prefers to be called) is a metahuman who can control darkness and space (including teleportation) and a sorceror. His powers are not linked, but he likes using darkness as a means for getting in and out with his teleportation. He can make constructs of darkness and is a capable skirmish porter.


Meanwhile...
This episode happened "in media res" and was as much a test of the player builds as much as them getting used to one another's play styles for their characters.

This is some text!

Another Prick at the Mall
Dr. Mnemonic, Silkworm, Valkyrie, & Weather Girl
East River Plaza, 33°F, Light Snow
Friday, January 6th, 2017, 3:00 pm

520 E 117th St, New York, NY 10035

The Valiants are called to East River Plaza to deal with an alleged siting of Charles M. McCray aka Requiem (#9 on the Office of Metahuman Affairs Most Wanted Watchlist). Unfortunately, it's not alleged. McCray is present along with a dozen and a half henchthings (likely mind-controlled or conditioned as he never bothers to recruit). The PCs come across him screaming incoherently at one of the terrified hostages (a mix of mall-goers and kiosk workers) with the rest tied to chairs in the food court. Weather Girl brings herself, Howler, Silkworm, and Dr. Mnemonic through the skylight. Meanwhile, Warlock brings Valkyrie and Tiki through the shadows of a kiosk. They launch a two-pronged attack.


The henchthings are using "advanced looking" longarms and are wearing assault-caliber body armor. (You paying attention here other teams? What does this sound like to you? Rhymes with OOOoo Pies.) Dr. Mnemonic goes first and uses the momentum from Weather Girls Shock and Awe entrance to draw his sword cane and jump forward. Since the two closet targets have their backs to him he opts to attack their spines (it's technically not killing them....). Snickersnack they go down. Valkyrie instructs Tiki to bite off the restraints of the hostages...but gets distracted by the yummy smells of MRs. Field's cookies in the trash cane.

Howler throws some body glitter in the nearest henchthings eyes and...hits (she didn't even use your power - this would become a running them - she critted FIVE times). Valkyrie "summons" her battlesuit and shoves a kiosk into one of the henchthings pinning him under it. Requiem, not liking being stopped screams and the air ripples with power as pure sound pushes outward from him causing devastation as it goes (luckily, the PCs all managed to dodge the cone attack). Next, Warlock teleports to the remaining two southward henchthings and teleports with them (stunning them) and handcuffing them as he goes. Teleporting back to the kiosk he started at he waits for orders from the team captain. Silkworm launches herself forward on her textile tendrils and begins grappling henchthings (ST 60 one-handed grapples!) to help secure the hostages.

The henchthings begin attacking the Valiants in a no-holds barred combat emptying clips into them (which are blocked or destroyed by various PCs using powers or tech). On her turn, Weather Girl uses her ability to cause a heat wave to begin sapping the strength of the henchthings and Requiem (persistent 1 FP attack and he stunted Reduced Time so he could bring the heat up 70 degrees in one second in a 64 yard radius). It has a devastating effect.

One of the henchthings shoots at Howler and opts to use her power (but doesn't because she crits!) to split the bullets so they hit other foes. Her efforts drop four targets at once (and also result in one of the henchthings manifesting as they were reduced to 0 HP in a single hit). Dr. Mnemonic launches a series of attacks with his sword cane targeting hands and feet and taking more targets down (he even parries a firearm attack by rolling his Blade! skill to hit the safety on the weapon rolling a critical success!). Tiki remains distracted by delicious sugary trash delights. Howler takes out another two henchthings and Valkyrie rushes toward the hostages. Rigging her shield she projects its force field to protect the hostages (good thing too because of what comes next).

Requiem uses his "death scream" and both henchthings and mall-goers begin to drop. The PCs collectively spend 1 Karma Point a piece to keep all NPCs and mooks alive. Warlock teleports Valkyrie in front of Requiem and uses Teamwork! to pass a Feint's bonus to... Silkworm who uses her tendrils to separate the hostage he had and pin him down and perform a trachea choke. Weather Girl uses her control over atmospheric pressure to put Requiem in a total vacuum (which ends up destroying his eyes and causes severe internal damage). Surprisingly (and I spent a crap ton of Doom to prevent it to no avail) Requiem goes down and thanks to the PCs no one dies.


Aftermath
Valkyrie admonishes Tiki and calls in AEGIS: Requiem is too volatile to go to Riker's and instead requests he go to Scarlet Bay (Guantanamo Bay repurposed to hold dangerous metahumans and terrorists) to be induced into a coma. A containment team shows up in a Kestrel (a large VTOL used by AEGIS) and six identical doctors rush Requiem inside dosing him up with something to sedate him. He notes that "Mr. McCray" is an incredibly dangerous metahuman thought to be suffering with MAD (Metahuman Adaptation Disorder) - though the diagnosis has never been made since he usually rips apart medical professionals. The containment team, Dr, Mnemonic, Warlock, and Valkyrie render first aid (the latter two using magic which they use to restore McCray's destroyed eyes and fixes up the various horribly injured henchthings). The AEGIS team takes off and the team sits down to a meal (with cookies!)


After Action Report/Rules Notes
One of the things I like to do when I begin a campaign is right off the bat run a combat. Get the PCs thinking mechanically about their characters because that will inevitably lead to them thinking about how their character acts. What their goals and dreams are. What their personalty is. And so on. It's a tried and true method and it really works. Now in order for it to be really effective you have to tie it into something else: a top-down look at all the PCs so the other players know what their teammates are capable of. This took about an hour but I think it worked quite well and the players asked many questions about their fellows. This is also useful because while the characters have been working together for years as a team the players haven't. Overall, I was very pleased with how everything turned out and we set next Thursday for the upcoming session (which will be less combat and more social stuff).

Oh, one thing I did when building the PCs was ask "Do you want a large team or just you guys?" they wanted NPCs. So I gave them a roster of team "allies" and went from there. Not including the guy they want to recruit who manifested during the fight (who is a transman - in game they don't know this, but it was the PCs who decided that since they want to buy him as an ally), the following NPCs have yet to be introduced:

Caitlin Baker aka Crystal (NPC): Caitlin was discovered by AEGIS during the A-Team episode "Mirror, Mirror". She has the ability to manipulate, control, turn into (her other form is so tough she can take on most bricks and is akin to Prince Rupert's Drop with the "tail" being within her), and create glass.

Kisping "Kisp" Locke aka Burnout (NPC): Ginny's younger wheelchair bound brother. Previously had fire powers that were absorbed by the Mirror (and lost his left arm and both legs in that fight); possess increased intelligence and technological ability. Kisp runs ops for the Valiants along with the Ratpack (see below). Built the Valkyrie battlesuit.

Shara Al-Hadid aka Velocity (NPC):  Shara has the ability to control the speed of herself and objects (but not others). Anything that she propels can break the sound barrier.

The Ratpack (NPCs): The Ratpack consists of a five Ivory Labs-enhanced rodents who are obsessed with Sinatra movies. "Frank" is the squad leader and is strangely charismatic (for a rodent). Dean is the heavy weapons expert and bigSammy is the computer intrusion specialist. Petey is the explosives expert (and a pyromaniac). Joey is the comms and cryptography expert and is quiet and shy.


Session Soundtrack
"Another Brick in the Wall" by Pink Floyd (Opening song)
"Summer in the City" by Loving Spoonful
"Wanted Dead or Alive" by Bon Jovi
"Dude (Looks Like a Lady)" by Aerosmith
"Way Down We Go" by Kaleo (Closing Song)

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Triple Threat: Skull Crab


The skull crab begins life as a tiny crustacean the size grain of rice and resemble large, bulky crabs when fully grown. They inhabit beaches, lakeshores, and other areas where land meets water. Skull crabs are voracious eaters and grow to full size in less than three weeks. Once at full size they look for sleeping prey and using their concealed stinger (it's just underneath the back of their undershell) they anesthetize their prey from the neck down and either burrow a hole in their prey's skulls to feast on the brain tissue (most times) or lay eggs (if during matting season which happens twice a year during the summer months). A single skull crab can eat an entire brain in an hour. If without a shell (i.e., a skull) it goes about its gruesome task of severing the head from the body and disappearing into the depths of the nearby water where it hides to digest its meal. Overall, skull crabs are not dangerous on their own, but large groups of them can easily disable even a fully-grown adult.


Any Campaign Setting...
ST: 4               HP: 4              Speed: 6.00
DX: 12            Will: 10          Move: 6 
IQ: 4               Per: 12           Weight: 5 to 10 lbs.
HT: 12            FP: 12             SM: -6
Dodge: 10       Parry: N/A     DR: 2 (or 4 if it has a shell)
                      
Claw (12): 1d-1 cutting. Reach C.
Grapple (12): Reach C. No damage. Grapples as a SM -3 creature.
Stinger (12): 1d-1 impaling + follow-up. If DR is penetrated, the target must roll HT-4 or be paralyzed. This becomes HT-8 if the target's skull was targeted.

Traits: 360° Vision (Easy to Hit); Amphibious; Combat Reflexes; Extra Legs (Six Legs; Cannot Kick); Horizontal; Injury Tolerance (No Neck); No Fine Manipulators; Resistant to Metabolic Hazards (+3); Unfazeable; Ultravision; Wild Animal.
Skills: Brawling-12; Stealth-12; Swimming-12; Wrestling-12.
Notes: If the GM is using Intrinsic Fright Check from GURPS Horror (p. 139), Skull Crabs have a modifier of +3 (without a skull), -2 (if it has one), -4 to -6 (if it has a fresh one). Targets who have eggs laid in them will lose 1d-2 HP per day until they are removed or they die. Those who die hatch a number of eggs equal to HP ¥ 2 (round up).



For Dungeon Fantasy...
ST: 4               HP: 4              Speed: 6.00
DX: 12            Will: 10          Move: 6 
IQ: 4               Per: 12           Weight: 5 to 10 lbs.
HT: 12            FP: 12             SM: -6
Dodge: 10       Parry: N/A     DR: 2 (or 4 if it has a shell)
                      
Claw (12): 1d-1 cutting. Reach C.
Grapple (12): Reach C. No damage. Grapples as a SM -3 creature.
Stinger (12): 1d-1 impaling + follow-up. If DR is penetrated, the target must roll HT-4 or be paralyzed. This becomes HT-8 if the target's skull was targeted.

Traits: 360° Vision (Easy to Hit); Amphibious; Combat Reflexes; Extra Legs (Six Legs; Cannot Kick); Horizontal; Injury Tolerance (No Neck); No Fine Manipulators; Resistant to Metabolic Hazards (+3); Unfazeable; Ultravision; Wild Animal.
Skills: Brawling-12; Stealth-12; Swimming-12; Wrestling-12.
Class: Dire Animal.
Notes: Prized by necromancers and death priests for their skulls. If used to make a Power Item it doubles the available points for FP for the purposes of death or necromantic magic. If bought figure the cost of the item normally and add 60% to determine the total final value. Targets who have eggs laid in them will lose 1d-2 HP per day until they are removed or they die. Those who die hatch a number of eggs equal to HP ¥ 2 (round up).



Monster Hunters...

ST: 6               HP: 8              Speed: 6.00
DX: 12            Will: 10          Move: 6 
IQ: 4               Per: 12           Weight: 5 to 10 lbs.
HT: 12            FP: 12             SM: -6
Dodge: 10       Parry: N/A     DR: 4 (or 6 if it has a shell)

Fright Check: +2 (-2 if wearing a skull or -6 if it's a fresh head)
Claw (14): 1d cutting. Reach C.
Grapple (14): Reach C. No damage. Grapples as a SM -3 creature.
Stinger (14): 1d impaling + follow-up. If DR is penetrated, the target must roll HT-5 or be paralyzed. This becomes HT-10 if the target's skull was targeted.

Traits: 360° Vision (Easy to Hit); Amphibious; Combat Reflexes; Extra Legs (Six Legs; Cannot Kick); Horizontal; Injury Tolerance (No Neck); No Fine Manipulators; Resistant to Metabolic Hazards (+3); Unfazeable; Ultravision; Wild Animal.
Skills: Brawling-14; Stealth-14; Swimming-14; Wrestling-14.

Notes: Use the skills listed under Cryptids in the Know Thy Enemy box in GURPS Monster Hunters 1: Champions (p. 16). Skulls that have been used by skull crabs have 7d energy for Path of Undead magic and are considered one source when tapped for spells if there are multiple skulls in a single pile. 11-15 skull crabs are appropriate fodder per champion. They may also be the cause a zombie plague! If so, the larvae are the ones that cause the dead to walk and when big enough burst from the skull splattering those around them. Make a DX-4 roll or risk becoming infected yourself.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Carpe Blogiem: March Patreon Surprise!


This month's surprise is available to all $1 backers on Patreon and includes:

Rules for Alternate Forms
New Telepathy Powers
Martial Arts styles for Dungeon Fantasy

Patrons! Enjoy and thank you.

If you're not a patron already, consider becoming one.

(Note: These specials have already been released at one point and are being put out for new subscribers to my Patreon)

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Boil and Bubble: Thaumaturgic Ritual Path Magic


Thaumaturgy is a Christian form of magic dating back to various Gnostic traditions, which relies on the intercession of angels and other spirits of the Lord (including saints, martyrs, etc.). It isn’t necessarily tied to actually calling on Divine Aid (see GURPS Powers: Divine Favor), but can be. Those who practice Thaumaturgy are called “thaumaturges,” “wonderworkers,” or “miracle workers....

...if you'd like to read more, consider becoming a patron!

Note: the link to the actual content for patrons is here.

The Hurt Locker: More Psi-Tech I


GURPS Psi-Tech offers a ton of new gear for those using GURPS Psionic Powers. Here are a few new pieces of equipment for your campaign.

...if you'd like to read more, consider becoming a patron!

Note: the link to the actual content for patrons is here.