Monday, April 18, 2016

Session Report – Urban Surfin’ – Session 7: Surf’s Up!

[This session happened February 29th.  Sin’s player started taking evening classes and temporarily dropped from the group, so he is an NPC for the rest of the run.]

Bookie – male elf alcoholic hacker, favors whiskey with a whiskey chaser
Murdoc – male elf kilt-wearing street mage, at home with the hobos
Prometheus – male human street samurai, handy with any firearm
The Fin – female human con artist and gambler from India, by way of Russia, posh and elegant
Void – female human physical adept B&E specialist, a shadow that blends in easily

Killroy – male human street samurai, specializes in hand-to-hand combat (and apparently machineguns)
Sin – male human rigger, knows exactly the wrong thing to say and says it

Thursday, March 19, 2076
Early the morning of the run, Bookie accessed the Ares Macrotechnology Motor Pool systems to verify the previously targeted vehicles were still assigned to the vehicle requests matching the times Mr. Johnson supplied.  They were, so the job was “Go”.  The team split into three groups: Void and Murdoc in the “Team A” vehicle (a recently “borrowed” GMC Commodore with tinted windows) jumped into by Sin.  Prometheus and Killroy, as Team B, took a non-descript Nissan-Chrysler Jackrabbit to a point in Issaquah that would allow them to intercept the target easily if Plan A failed and Plan B was needed.  Sin was in his GMC Bulldog at a mid-point to reduce distance noise, with The Fin there to protect his body while he was jumped into the other vehicles.  Bookie and coldpulse were in the Matrix, waiting to do their part.

The primary target, with an “O” spray-painted on its roof in UV-only paint was given the code name “Hugs”, with the secondary target vehicle (having an “X” on it) designated “Kisses”.

8:40 AM
Sin flew one of his Lockheed Optic-X2s modified to pick up the RFID tags Void placed on the target vehicles earlier in the week.  He found nothing, meaning the tags had been located and removed.  This was not unexpected and had been planned for.  The team hoped it would boost the overconfidence of Ares personnel.  As a result, Sin sent out his other Optic X2 and put both on “racetrack” orbits between the parking garage in Bellevue and the R&D lab in Everett, looking for the target vehicles.

10:04 AM
Both target vehicles were detected in route to the R&D Lab, the invisible UV markings still on them.  After being loaded, both convoys headed south towards the testing range in Renton, “Hugs” taking an easterly route, “Kisses” a westerly one.  Team A moved east on 522 to intercept “Hugs” just north of the Snohomish border with Redmond.

Once Team A was in position, Murdoc cast invisibility on Void.  She then climbed onto the top of their car and Sin was given the go to move alongside “Hugs”.  Once Team A was adjacent to “Hugs”, Bookie hacked its rigging system and forced a reboot, dumping the Ares rigger hard.  Sin then took control of “Hugs”, using the access codes Bookie had collected earlier in the week.  The NeuroStun X device hidden in the AC unit was triggered as Void gracefully made the jump between the two vehicles.  Due to the light rain, the gecko-tape gear she was wearing wasn’t much help, but Void ended up not needing it.

After a minute [to let the NeuroStun X dissipate], Sin rolled down one of the windows on “Hugs”.  Void peeked in to verify the driver and security guards were all knocked out and found an Ares Duelist drone embedded into the car as a back-up driver!  This was unexpected.  Void contacted Bookie and coldpulse and asked them to brick the drone pilot, which they quickly did.  Bookie had Void wait while he checked the card for any hidden cameras inside “Hugs”.  He found the AR signal of one camera and bricked it before signaling “all clear”.

Void then climbed into “Hugs” and located the gun case that was the target of the run.  She slipped it into the canvas carrying bag she had with her – Murdoc’s invisibility spell now covered the gun case.  She then shouldered the bag and climbed back onto the roof.  Once on top, she signaled Sin to bring over the team car so she could leave “Hugs”.  Sin set the auto-pilot on “Hugs” to continue to the testing range in Renton and jumped back into the GMC Commodore.  He brought it up alongside “Hugs” and Void leapt back to the Commodore.  Sin then took the next right and calmly drove the Commodore away from the target and to where his GMC Bulldog was parked.  Void opened the gun case [after disabling a NeuroStun gas trap attached to the latch] to verify a prototype was actually in the case and it wasn’t a decoy.  There was a disassembled assault rifle of a kind she did not recognize inside, which was good enough.  Team B was told to stand down as the job was a success.  Void re-armed the NeuroStun trap before re-closing the case.  The client was paying for the case, not a safed case.

Prometheus and Killroy drove to the drop-off point to set up to cover The Fin’s the meeting with Mr. Johnson.  The meeting was to take place in a small greenspace between a small shopping center in Bellevue and the adjacent parking garage.  Killroy took a position on the top floor of the parking garage; Prometheus took one down the alley behind the shopping center, remaining in the Jackrabbit.

3:00 PM
The Fin, with the package (still in the canvas bag) sat down next to a suited exec on the only bench in the greenspace.  After a perfunctory greeting, the exec passed The Fin a platinum credstick and The Fin nudged the canvas bag to the exec.  The Fin then got up and walked away, checking the value on the credstick.  The pay was correct, but an AR message was also attached.  The Fin opened it and it was a short note that said:
“Good work.  I’m not who you were expecting, but I recognize good talent when I see it.  Expect to hear from me in the near future with some work.”
The exec wasn’t the client, but an Ares man!  The first words out of The Fin’s mouth were said over the Pleiades Group comm network: “Shoot him.”

Prometheus immediately obeyed and clipped the exec (who was walking towards the parking garage with the case) with an APDS round from his Remington 950 sniper rifle.  This dropped the exec without killing him [below average roll on damage], but also triggered a return shot from a hidden Ares sniper on the second floor of the parking garage!  [Prometheus has a terrible Perception skill and really needs a spotter to work with him.]  The Ares sniper hit Prometheus in a weak part of his armored clothing, doing significant damage [my defensive and armor rolls were very poor and Prometheus took 5 points of Physical Damage out of the 10 he has].

Prometheus, being the mostly cyber-machine he was, ignored the Ares sniper and shot at the exec again, specifically the trapped case release.  This triggered the NeuroStun trap in the gas, knocking out the exec and keeping him from leaving under his own power.  A second shot from the Ares sniper was absorbed by Prometheus’ armored clothing [I rolled much, much better], but aggravated Prometheus.  Prometheus dropped his Remington into his lap in the Jackrabbit and pulled the Aztechnology Striker out of the backseat.  Prometheus then put the loaded anti-vehicular missile into the concrete pillar right behind the Ares sniper.  It was hard to tell which killed the sniper first: the explosion or the spray of concrete shrapnel.  With all known hostiles stopped, Prometheus pulled out his CelGene Medkit [Rating 4] and then attached and activated it. He started quickly and carefully following the medkit’s expert systems instructions to deal with his gunshot wound.  [I rolled well enough to reduce the 5 points of Physical damage by 2 points.]

Meanwhile, Killroy was rapidly running down the stairs from the roof of the parking garage.  With the sniper dealt with, Killroy instead retrieved the gun case from the exec [Killroy’s body armor is chemically sealed, so he was not affected by the NeuroStun gas].  The Fin left an AR note with the Ares exec explaining the team were professionals and were hired to deliver the case to the client, not him, but in the future the team would have no problem providing the same level of professional service for him.  She then had Killroy trigger the exec’s DocWagon bracelet before the group left the area.

4:00 PM
The Fin dropped a careful message into a drop-box for Mr. Johnson, explaining the group had the package and still wished to deliver it to complete the contract.  [It would be several days (and another game session) before a reply was received.]

6:00 PM
All the local news channels had an article about the unusual explosion at a Bellevue shopping center.  Knight Errant was reporting it to be an unusually energetic stress fracture in one of the load bearing pillars of the parking garage.  City inspectors were checking the rest of the parking garage to verify it was completely safe.  The only reported injuries were a local business man and his bodyguard who appeared to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

End of Session

[And this is why we did all that planning and prep-work before the actual run – it made the run quick and as safe as possible for the PCs.  We were happy to have the quiet Plan A succeed and to not need the extremely noisy and violent Plan B.  Still, having the necessary equipment turned out to be handy for dealing with the Ares sniper.]

[We’re not certain how the Ares exec is going to handle us taking his money but not handing over the goods.  We were not expecting the client to be taken out before the hand-over of the package.  On the plus side, we are getting paid twice for the job.]

Session 1
Session 6

Session 8: The Conclusion

Friday, April 15, 2016

Status Update

So I'm finally over my last cold and my Spring allergies are finally settling down, so I'm able to get some writing done again.

Session 7 of Urban Surfin' will post Monday morning on the 18th.  I plan to have Session 8, the final one for that run, post later in the week.  The exact date will vary depending on too many things for me to make a strong guess beyond "after Tuesday".  

The following Monday (the 25th) will be SABRE Issue #3, Act 1.  This will catch me up with the session reports for the monthly Champions game.  The next game for that is in late May, so there will be a delay before Act 2 of Issue #3 happens and gets posted.

After THAT, I have session notes for the first session of Woodchipper, the next Shadowrun game.  The Fin has been putting her contact information out there as a fixer and that is starting to bring some work, maybe more than the Pleiades Group can handle at one time.  We'll see how that plays out.  Session 1 happened March 21st and for several reasons dealing with me we haven't actually played since then.  Session 2 should happen April 18th and we'll get back on our regular gaming schedule after that.

Finally, if anyone knows of a company in the Houston area looking to hire a Tech Writer with 15+ years experience, please let me know as I'm in the market for a new job.  Thanks!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

SABRE, Issue #2 – Act 2: The Hunt is ONT

[This session happened March 5, 2016, and continues Issue #2 from the previous game.  Due to an error on my part, The Terrapin Avenger’s player didn’t know we were playing on that day, so his character faded into the background for this session.  Sorry, Bryan.]

Mars – super-powered ex-professional wrestler
Mnemesys – teleporting martial artist with no official name, yet
Black Light – light manipulator with withering attacks
Sentinel – combat armor-wearing inventor
The White Shade – mentalist with a Pulp style
Aces – the team’s “Sorcerer Superb”

The Terrapin Avenger –model and spokesman for TURTLE Armor™ line of battlesuit products
Max Power – President and CEO of FutureTech Systems and sponsor of SABRE
Chance Morway – PR representative for SABRE
Detective Alana Petrey – Detective in the CCPD Metahuman Crimes Division

Thursday, January 19th, 2012, Capitol City
The day after the kidnapping of Professor Bates and the attempted theft of the codex with him, The White Shade discussed the German prisoners captured on the University of Southern Maryland campus with Detective Petrey of the Capitol City PD metahuman Crimes Division.  Detective Petrey asked what evidence did SABRE have on the Germans, as most of what CCPD had was circumstantial.  The suspects were claiming they were just visiting the university before being attacked by the superheroes, without provocation.  The suspects were: Marko Nacht [the red-headed leader], Gunther Metz, and Eckhard Breiner.  When shown the video of the other members of their group dragging away Professor Bates, the Germans suggested that perhaps the professor had been attacked by the heroes as well and their friends were merely taking him to a hospital for medical treatment.  They also demanded to speak with someone from the German Embassy in Washington, D.C., and CCPD had contacted the Embassy.

The White Shade told Detective Petrey about the recording from Aces communicator where the Germans threatened both Professor Bates and Professor Wilson.* [*Secretly the super hero Aces! –Ed.]  The White Shade offered to have the recording sent over and Detective Petrey accepted the offer, stating the recording would allow the case to proceed and help prove to the German Embassy that the suspects were actually criminals.

Later in the morning, Aces met with forensics experts from the CCPD [to maintain proper chain of evidence] in the evidence vault in SABRE Tower.  Under their watchful gaze [and SABRE Tower Security’s], Aces started reading through the codex, looking for a reason for the attempted theft and the kidnapping.  A few hours in, Aces received a call on the phone his secret ID uses.  He stepped into a private area to change back into Professor Wilson via a spell and answered the phone.  A man with a German accent started explaining that he had Professor Bates, but Professor Wilson cut him off, demanding proof that Professor Bates was alive and then hanging up on the kidnapper.  He then transformed back into Aces and returned to the Evidence Vault to resume reading the codex.  [The Evidence Vault is a large, well-lit chamber with armored walls, an armored door with serious locks, and a display table for viewing evidence.  It also has several cameras, to prove continuity of the chain of evidence, and can be filled with knock-out gas at a moment’s notice.]

Thirty minutes later, a faxed picture of Professor Bates holding today’s paper arrived at SABRE Tower.  The members of SABRE were called together to the meeting room to discuss the situation.  Aces attended via speaker phone.  During the discussion, a call for Max came in from the kidnappers.  The White Shade volunteered to take the call and handle the negotiations and Max accepted her offer.  The White Shade answered the call [on a different phone than the one Aces was listening in on] and used her interaction skills to keep the kidnappers on the line for a trace and to subtly pump them for information [use of the Conversation skill].  The White Shade was able to pick up that the Germans were part of a group named the ONT, they seemed to be improvising, and that they did not care about the physical condition of the codex, only that they got it back soonest.  The exchange was set for Midnight at the Haridover Building, at 8705 King Edward Place in the Brickberg district of Capitol City.  Professor Wilson was to bring the codex, alone, and deposit it in the mail chute in the building’s lobby.  Professor Bates will be released shortly after.

Aces recognized the ONT by reputation as a magically active sinister group in Europe.  Mnemesys remembered more from his days as a PRIMUS agent.  Mnemesys remembered ONT stood for Order of the New Templars and that they were part of a larger group known as DEMON, a criminal organization apparently seeking dominion over the world through magical means.  DEMON has a cellular structure, with each cell utilizing whatever magic works for them.  The ONT specializes in Rune Magic, which explained the anti-teleport runes on the History Building the previous day.

The call was traced to a land line in the Monastery Hill district.  Black Light volunteered to go investigate but needed a lift to get there quickly.  Sentinel volunteered to fly her there, so they took off from the SABRE Tower roof, Sentinel holding an invisible Black Light.  Sentinel flew over and past the Monastery Hill district and an invisible Black Light dropped away to locate the source of the call.

The source of the call. [Image from The Creepy Casefiles of Margo Maloo webcomic, used without permission.]

Black Light flew around the house that was the source of the call to investigate it.  She observed what she believed to be magical alarms and/or traps on all the doors and windows.  While trying to decide what to do next, she observed one of the German thugs they were looking for exit the building and start walking away.  She pursued him closely, trusting in her invisibility to keep her safe.  The thug walked deeper into the Monastery Hill district.  As the thug entered Little Marrakesh, the streets became narrower and started having sun shades covering them [see below] and Black Light had to follow him closer to avoid losing him.

Little Marrakesh, Monastery Hill District, Capitol City – notice slats providing street shade

Black Light followed the thug through a narrow side alley to a small, square courtyard.  The thug walked to a small door and knocked.  A speak easy opened and a voice asked for the password.  Black Light moved in close to hear the password and heard, “She’s here, drop the nets.”  Realizing this was a trap, Black Light tried to fly up and away, but a fine and anchored net she had not seen dropped on her and gas started filling the courtyard – she was captured!  An hour later SABRE received a faxed picture of an unconscious Black Light with the day’s newspaper being held in front of her.  It was the same chair and wall as in the picture of Professor Bates.

While Black Light was being led off into the trap deeper in Monastery Hill, Mnemesys arrived at the townhouse that was the source of the call.  He also observed what appeared to be magical security on the doors and windows.  He set up a surveillance spot across the street from the unusual town home and waited.  Once the faxed photo of Black Light arrived at SABRE Tower, Sentinel rigged up the radar unit on his battlesuit to treat SABRE communicators as transponders [comic book physics – go with it].  He then flew over the Monastery Hill area and determined that Black Light was being held at a different location than the one Mnemesys was observing.

Mars suggested that as they could not locate where Professor Bates was and the kidnappers had made no additional demands after capturing Black Light, the group instead go to the exchange location and set up an ambush there for the kidnappers.  This plan was quickly agreed upon.

9:00 PM
Mars, Aces, and The White Shade arrived at the Haridover Building, which was an old four-story, brick-faced, office building that is now abandoned [like large parts of Brickberg].  They entered the building through the service entrance doors in the back, which led down to the basement.  They explored the basement a bit until they found the Mail Room, where the mail chute would deposit mail into a hopper.  This was clearly where the Germans would set up.  Inside this room they spotted a trap door leading to a brick-covered tunnel and explored that.  The tunnel led to an old iron door that was obviously barred on this side.  After standing around and trying to decide what to do next, they heard the loud and distinct sound of a city subway car go by in an adjacent tunnel, just on the other side of the metal door!

The trio returned to the building basement and re-closed the trap door, confident they knew how the Germans planned on escaping.  They located a storage room across the hall from the Mail Room and Mars and The White Shade hid themselves there.  Aces returned to SABRE Tower and magically duplicated the codex.  Mnemesys maintained surveillance at the town home in Monastery Hill and Sentinel did periodic aerial sweeps across the city to keep track of Black Light’s position [and to make certain no one else disappeared].

10:00 PM
During one of his flyovers, Sentinel reported a team of toughs walking up to the Haridover Building, led by one of the Germans [still wearing his distinctive Euro-style fashionable suit].  The toughs started setting up equipment in the building, including wireless video cameras.  One of the toughs discovered Mars and White Shade hiding in the store room, but a quick mental illusion by White Shade convinced him that he was mistaken.

11:30 PM
Sentinel detected that Black Light was in motion, heading towards the exchange point in a SUV.  Sentinel flew over to Mnemesys and picked him up.  The two of them followed the SUV to a place two blocks from the exchange point.  There the occupants exited the SUV and walked over to the back entrance to the Haridover Building.  Mnemesys and Sentinel could see the second German leading this group and a blind-folded Professor Bates.  They could not see Black Light directly, but a noticeably strong tough was lugging a person-sized duffle bag that likely contained Black Light.  Mars and The White Shade noticed the group enter the building and then the Mail Room, but could not get a good look at them without exposing their own position [and White Shade REALLY wanted to get a line of sight on them].

Sentinel noticed that several of the rooms in the building were blacked out to everything in the sensor suite in his armor and reported this.  Aces and Mnemesys postulated that runes were being used to do that to obscure which rooms had snipers in them.

Aces, as Professor Wilson, arrived at the front of the Haridover building in a SABRE Response Vehicle with a driver and the duplicate codex.  Professor Wilson exited the SUV and walked up the steps to the main lobby of the building.  The lobby was dark, but a voice called out for him to stop and to place the codex into the mail chute on the wall to his left.  He did so.

Down in the basement, as soon as he heard one of the toughs state he had the codex, Mars charged through the wall of the storage room, across the hall, and into the doorway of the Mail Room, bellowing for the toughs to “SURRENDER NOW OR FACE THE MIGHT OF MARS!”  [This was a Presence Attack made by Mars on all the toughs, which achieved the maximum effect on the Presence Attack Table.  And the player bellowed it at volume, at the table, for extra effect.]

Everyone in the Mail Room was stunned by this turn of events [and the volume Mars made his demands in].  While they were standing there gob-smacked, White Shade stepped up through the large hole Mars had made in the wall and placed an Improvised Telekinetic Barrier over the trap door to the subway, blocking off all routes of escape.  Once the toughs found their voices, all the locals immediately surrendered.  The two Germans used their bronze wands to destroy the [duplicate] codex and then demanded to be arrested.  Above ground, Sentinel and Mnemesys took out the mooks with sub-machine guns ready to snipe out the upper floors.  This included the tough hiding in the lobby attempting to shoot up Professor Wilson.  [Sentinel also took a moment to suggest to Max Power via SABRE radio that Max buy the building quickly before anyone made a claim based on the damages Mars was doing in the basement.  Max concurred.]

Once the heroes verified they had rescued all of the hostages and bound up all the toughs, they called in the CCPD to take possession of the criminals for processing.  Max (now the new owner of a slightly damaged abandoned office building in Brickberg) and White Shade discussed what to do with the codex and agreed that the best thing would be to let the ONT continue to think they destroyed the codex and turn the real one over to the German government as a national treasure, one they should keep secret.  Max called people he knew at the State Department to get the diplomatic ball rolling.

Friday, January 20th, 2012
10:00 AM
The White Shade and Mars attended the dedication ceremony for the Star-Spangled Singer Memorial Statue in Baltimore’s Druid Hill Park.  Also in attendance were:

  • Indigo Flame (the event organizer) – she is a local solo hero (energy projector)
  • Ivette J. Miller – she is the Head of the Friends of the Singer Charity (Normal)
  • Senator Catherine E. Pugh – she represents District 40 in the Maryland Senate (Normal)
  • Walker – she is from Special Unit One in Annapolis (animal-based shape shifter)
  • Fire Ant – he is from Special Unit One in Annapolis (pyrokinetic)
  • Dr. Katana – she is from the Damocles Society in Virginia (British accent, martial artist)
  • Dr. Shield – he is from the Damocles Society in Virginia (force field projector)
  • Moonsword – she is from the Sentinels in Washington, D.C. (super mage)
  • A small crowd of 30-40 Baltimore citizens who were either personally helped by the Star-Spangled Singer or were superhero boosters/groupies

There was also a small crowd of protesters off to one side, about 20 of them.  Baltimore PD had the protesters contained in a taped-off area and were standing by in case the protesters got rowdy, but they were not expecting any real trouble – after all, members of Special Unit One were there.  Signs in the crowd included:

  • “Heroes” aren’t COPS!  COPS are COPS!
  • REAL Humans NOT metahumans!
  • Beware the coming threat!
  • Remember the REAL victims!
  • Major Victory was a THUG!

The event consisted of a short ceremony where Indigo Flame, Ivette Miller, and Senator Catherine E. Pugh stood up on a low stage next to the draped statue and made a speech.  Once the senator finished her speech, the drape was removed from the statue, revealing the life-sized bronze underneath.  The crowd respectfully applauded and the event finished.

8:00 PM
All of SABRE attended the WWE event at the Reyes Aerobank Arena in Capitol City, making use of the VIP box seats Mars was gifted and shared with the team.  A good time was had by all.

End of Session

[Thus ended Issue #2 of SABRE.  This issue had much more in it than Issue #1 as I had a better idea what the characters looked like and how they would interact.  Everyone had something to do that contributed to the overall story and everyone got time in the spotlight.]

[Story-wise, this issue was self-contained, as will be the next couple or so.  I prefer to start this style of campaign relatively low-key until the players get a feel for their characters and knock all the design kinks out.  Plus, it gives me a chance to see the characters in action and spot where things might be broken and need some fixing.  This is the HERO System, so sometimes unusual interactions between powers and actions can lead to unexpected results that are disruptive to the game.  Luckily for me, my players are willing to work with me and are learning to trust I won’t mess them over.]

Issue #1

Issue #2, Part 1

Issue #3 [Not Yet Written]