Saturday, March 18, 2017

Penumbra Alliance 2: Mad Science and Base Corporate Behavior

The Players:

Mr X: A commando working for a shadowy government agency that doesn't officially exist. Mr. X is possessed by a benevolent (to them) spirit or presence of some kind- a voice that frequently pushes them to commit various acts of violence.

Hannah: An experiment who escaped the clutches of Specte Corp. Hannah has fine turned senses of vision and smell, and is a frightening front line combatant.

Arzela Ascoli: A philanthopist sage, Arzela funded the tricked-out RV the group drives around in, and is a big bibliophile and researcher. Arzela works for the Librarians of Alexandria, attempting to preserve knowledge of the occult.

Aquos: A non-binary witch, Aquos asks that you use the singular they pronous to refer to them. Aquos is extremely competent at magic, preferring the Path of Energy primarily. They help the Hidden Path guide newly awakened students of magic reach their full potential.

Last Time:

The group arrived in New Bedford, reaching out to Pulaski for information. They began with the teen at St. Luke's, with Aquos using magic to break the spell the teen had been placed under.

The teen's information prompted them to investigate Pope and Fish Islands- they found human remains on Fish Island, as well as the carcass of a demonic dog on Pope island. A little bit of research lead them to believe that the owner of the fishpacking plant on Fish Island was responsible.

Duncan was boating into work when Mr. X couldn't resist the temptation of the Phantom Voice in his head (crit-failed the will roll), and shot him with a sniper rifle for ~30 damage to the torso. Duncan wasn't expecting it, didn't have defensive charms up (Overconfidence, yo), and died on the spot.

The players did their best to hide how Duncan died via magic, and then investigated his house. They discovered a magical gem that's acting as a massive repository for magical energy- energy gained via human sacrifice. Arzela was able to recover the tome Duncan purchased to help with opening a rift into another plane of existence.

Overall, the team did a great job on the mission.

SAD 4, Maine

School Administrative District #4, located in Piscataquis County Maine, covers the towns of Abbot, Cambridge, Guilford, Parkman, Sangerville and Wellington. The district covers a population of roughly 5,000 people.

SAD 4 is home to multiple schools:
  • Piscatauis Community Secondary and Elementary Schools (Consolidated from the following three schools and a few others)
  • Abbey Fowler Elementary School, Sangerville (Closed, converted into a gym, now unused)
  • Guilford Primary School (Closed, now a food pantry)
  • McKusick Elementary School, Parkman (Closed)
Being located in rural Maine, SAD 4 doesn't boast many amenities. Local police is stationed in Dover-Foxcroft, a 20 minute drive away from Guilford (further for other towns such as Parkman or Cambridge), as are any EMT services. Guilford maintains a small fire department largely staffed with volunteers.

Dynco LLC

Dynco LLC is a multinational corporation deeply invested in scientific and biological research. Their main goals include creating super soldiers to sell to various government entities, enslaving supernatural beings for study and exploitation, and giving Spectre Corp the middle finger whenever possible.

Dynco has been winning against Spectre Corp as of late, with their stock increasing accordingly. Both companies are investing heavily in biomedical research, hoping that their latest crops of experiments will be able to shove the other out of business- whether through winning bids to provide soldiers to various clients, or by sending hit squads to more directly eliminate the competition.

Project Galapagos 

Started by Dynco, Project Galapagos is a long-running project on testing virus-implanted genetic changes on a relatively isolated population over multiple generations. Started in the 1950s in SAD 4, Galapagos has managed to remain unnoticed, even as they now begin on their fourth and fifth generation trials.

Project Galapagos maintains numerous research stations under various SAD 4 schools:
  • The largest and oldest is under PCSS.
  • Abbey Fowler, Guilford Primary School, and McCusick Elementary all have smaller labs
  • An abandoned lab exists at the old preschool in Abbot
Dynco has a monitoring station underneath a house across the street from the Highschool. The monitoring station is home to a small security staff, who have zealously taken care of intrusion into Galapagos dealings when they arise. Dr. Emerson, the third and latest lead of Project Galapagos, maintains ties with school administration to ensure their compliance.

Galapagos continues to try and make the local population more susceptible to the various processes that they use to make their Experiment soldiers.

Events:

The team gets the briefing from Logan. They're very unimpressed with the lack of information they're given- just that a precog and a member of The Velvet Curtain have reported incidents in rural Maine.

Either way, orders and orders, and they make their way North to meet with Jason Smith, the Velvet Curtain contact who reported the shady business.

Evidently the Veil in the area has been fluctuating wildly, which Jason views as an omen. During his investigations he discovered a nearby house that seemed to have an odd security presence around it, which made him very suspicious.

The players investigate the Guilford area themselves:
  • They learn that Dynco recently made very large purchases of chemicals at the local hardware store. Aquos is able to use magic to learn that they were made with legitimate Dynco accounts.
  • A local recluse/crazy person, Ronnie, is living in the house that Jason was scared away from. The players eventually kidnap him and use magic to make him less crazy, long enough to learn that he's been brainwashed by Dynco to act as a deterrent for locals to look into their affairs.
After getting Ronnie out of his house and determining that one of the labs must be under his house, they go in to kick down the door.

The firefight with security is short and brutal as Mr. X promptly unloads on them. Hannah goes off to intimidate some scientists when it becomes clear they recognize her, and similarly gets destructive once it's clear they have copies of her file.

Meanwhile, warnings and alarms are going off- evidently some virus dispersal system in on the fritz. The PCs call in a bomb threat to clear out the school, causing children to pour out onto the school grounds.

It erupts into an all-out brawl as the viral sabotage by Spectre Corp takes hold. 

Scrambling to contain the outbreak, Hannah uses Bioengineering to reverse the sabotage done to GIV-T. The chemical reaction necessary is strongly exothermic- resulting in the high school completely blowing up.

The team regroups and decides to raid the remaining Dynco labs. They discover Adam, a friend of Hannah's already inside one, having broken in to delete their records. He tags along for the final lab, where a lone guard Experiment attacks the group.

In a hail of bullets and with a few chainsaw blows, they cut down the guard without much difficulty.

Arzela manages to contact the saboteur who caused the GIV-T to cause zombification. The saboteur is some kind of '1337' hacker and infiltrator, who taunts the group, but has already made clean his escape before they even arrived in town.

With the labs destroyed and local emergency services dealing with the wounded, they leave the area, one zombie outbreak prevented and contained.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Penumbra Alliance: Investigating Disappearances in New Bedford (Setup)

Later tonight I'll be going through character creation for a new IRL Monster Hunters campaign. It tentatively looks like I'll have:

  • A Commando who's been possessed or otherwise in contact with spirits (I'm going to push for Diabological Phantom Voices as one of their disadvantages)
  • An Experiment
  • A Sage/Techie
  • One person is undecided.
They're all going to be operatives working for the Penumbra Alliance- a ragtag collective of supernaturally aware organizations that have decided that stopping demon incursions and such is the best course of action for everyone.

Even if these organizations don't all actually get along very well, or have matching goals.

New Beford, MA

Population: ~95,000
Notable Locations: Numerous Projects, Waterfront District (whaling predominant historical influence), Buttonwood Park Zoo, New Bedford Regional Airport, University of Mass. Dartmouth (UMD) nearby.

Three islands in the harbor:
Fish Island (Fishpacking warehouse)
Pope Island (shops, a marina)
Crow Island (Inhabited with a few houses)

Nearby Law Enforcement: 4 New Beford Police Stations, Mass. State Police has a barracks nearby in Dartmouth. Fire Department is acknowledged to be among the best in the state. One hospital- St. Luke's.

Penumbra Alliance Presence in the area:

New Bedford has a large Syndicate Presence. The Syndicate cell in the area is primarily concerned with their illegal operations, and only really pay attention when events harm the bottom line. Their local Lieutenant, Jake Schneider, recently stole a grimoire from Larry and Kenny.

The Librarians of Alexandria and Warehouse 23 both maintain a library/storehouse on the premises of UMD. They're severely lacking in resources, consisting only of a two man team, Kenny and Larry, who are primarily engaged in research.

Veilwatch has a representative in the area, Damien Pulaski, a Massachusetts State Police Sergeant. Pulaski is a good cop who believes he's descended from Casimir Pulaski. Damien is deeply concerned about the disappearances and is the one who initiated the investigation, resulting in the Players being asked to travel to New Bedford.

The Locust Order has a single Locust Priest in the area, Ba'dur "Buddy" Shawn. Shawn has an undeserved nasty reputation within the Alliance involving dark research and horrible rituals. In reality Ba'dur is just a gentle old man who happens to be made out of a sentient swarm of locusts who enjoys gardening and teaching young pupils the fundamentals of magic. 

The Church of St. Germaine has a congregation in the area. Having noticed the supernatural disappearances, they believe they stem from Ba'dur Shawn's presence in the area. Father Norton is fair about this assessment, admitting that it's largely based on Shawn being a Locust Priest, and not any proof that's beyond circumstantial.

None of the Alliance members in the area besides Pulaski or some Syndicate members are really able or willing to engage in field work that involves risk. Pulaski is invested in solving the disappearances and will likely volunteer his services if the group conducts themselves well. Convincing the Syndicate to help will likely be frustrating, as they really don't care.

Buddy might be convinced to help out, especially if it provides a chance to clear his reputation within the Alliance.

The Disappearances:

  1. Transients and homeless individuals have been disappearing- about fifteen have been noted over three months. Damien believes this to be a low figure.
  2. A few (2-3) children have been snatched. Normal investigation proved fruitless when forensics teams ran into spectacularly bad luck- one team had a smartphone battery catch aflame, fouling a crime scene, another was pushed off the road by a drunk driver into the harbor, and the last team's evidence was destroyed when a short circuit fried the testing device. 
  3. One teenager may have escaped an attempted kidnapping- but he's currently in St. Luke's, unable to talk coherently and babbling the lyrics to Little Drummer Boy. 

Available clues:

Who:
  1. Both Father Norton and Ba'dur have detected the presence of dark magic used within the city, although they don't know the caster (and Norton suspects Ba'dur). (Deduction: Rogue Witch)
  2. The Syndicate recently fulfilled a special order for a magical grimoire, stolen from the Librarians of Alexandria/Warehouse 23. Good luck getting them to admit to it though. (Only local lieutenant knows the specific nature of the order, -3 at attempts to get him to talk about who bought it.) (Deduction: This gives away the Witch's identity immediately.)
  3. Fish, Pope, and Crow Islands all seem to be experiencing unusual amounts of strange activity over the last few months. (Deduction: Witch is likely setup on the Islands, Witch also frequently uses boats to access Crow Island, might live there)
  4. The owner of Duncan Fishpacking is adamant that nothing strange is happening, even when confronted with evidence. (Deduction: He's in on it.)
  5. A few people will report that some employees of Duncan Fishpacking have been acting strangely. (Deduction: It's connected somehow, provides more avenues of investigation)
What:
  1. Kenny and Larry had a Grimoire useful for opening gateways and portals stolen from them. Both aren't terribly excited to admit to it happening since it makes them look bad. (Deduction: Rogue Witch is attempting to open a portal of some kind.)
  2. A man was attacked by a strange dog near the Dunkin Donuts on Pope Island and managed to fend it off with a pistol. (Players can find the corpse if they search near the Dunkin on Pope Island. Deduction: Rogue Witch has summoned a few members of the Endless Legions already.)
  3. Human remains have been dumped at Fish Island, among the offal produced by the plant (See Clue #3 under where). (Deduction: They were sacrificed to provide energy for a ritual.)
  4. The bad luck of the police investigations is not natural. Should be easy to indicate it stems from a supernatural origin. (Deduction: Rogue Witch)
  5. Children provide more magical energy than adults. (This ties into clue #3 of What.)
  6. Attacks Decrease during the full moon (Rules out Lycanthropes)

Where:
  1. Most of the disappearances have happened closer to the harbor. (Deduction: Boat accessible)
  2. Police have investigate numerous reports of strange activity near the Pope Island Marina. They consistently find nothing and believe a prank caller is at work. (Deduction: Pope Island Marina is a place to investigate)
  3. The teenager in St. Luke's, if he's able to recall anything, remembers hearing that the 'trash' was disposed of on Fish Island. (Deduction: Witch has been dumping the dead bodies of his victims on Fish Island) 
When:
  1. Attacks have no correlation with a set date (timing appears random based on days passed, etc)
  2. Attacks increase during periods of bad weather and reduced visibility
  3. Attacks decrease near the full moon
  4. The kidnapping of the children occurred most recently, as did the police investigations. (Attempts to ramp up progress)

Deduction Penalties:

Who: -4 to area knowledge/current affairs to identify locals (Scope penalty, I doubt players will have applicable area knowledge, although Lore! of course wouldn't.)
-8 (reasonable precautions to thwart identification by perpetrator), +1 (status 2 Individual as prominent business owner), +2 (known bibliophile and antiques collector)= -5 to deductions

What:
-4 (takes basic measures to cover his tracks) (For learning it's a Rogue Witch)

-2 (Endless Legion Demons don't really count as sapient)

When:
-8 (Plan involves no special timing)

Where:
-8 (Intelligent foe who didn't think he needed to pick an unobvious location), +3 (small local cult of ~15 members has been assisting the Rogue Witch)

What's actually going on:

Sid Duncan, owner of Duncan Fishpacking, is a Rogue Witch. Having been raised by an aunt who was deep within the Dark Arts, Duncan was initiated into summoning demons at a relatively young age- 11. Duncan has made a pact with the Demon Lord Drumer for magical power- in return for attempting to summon Lord Drumer to Earth. Drumer is the source of the bad luck curse that affected the investigation teams- Duncan lacks the skill in the relevant paths to cast such a spell.

Duncan is aided by a few of his employees at the Fishpacking Plant. Most have had spells placed on them to force their compliance. Some early sacrifices were conducted to make these spells easier.

Drumer has instructed Duncan to fill a gem he's fashioned into a reservoir for magical energy via conducting human sacrifice. He's been unhappy with the slow progress, pushing Duncan to bolder attempts to find fresh victims- which is why the young children were targeted. 

Duncan is capable of summoning up to two Impalers at a time, or up to four demonic canines. He also has his followers, although most are little more than meat shields and distractions for him to have time to accumulate energy. One or two might have pistols.

Duncan has numerous (23) charms that he has prepared for emergencies, cast and gathered over a long period of time:
  • 5 3d lightning bolt charms (He prefers lightning over firebolts because they short out cellphones)
  • 1 Gift of Gab Charm (Used sparingly because he has to resort to spending FP to make it possible to cast)
  • 1 Hush Charm 
  • 3 Necrosis 
  • 8-round pistol magazine with additional 6d of crushing damage for each bullet.
  • 3 2d healing charms
  • 1 100 yard emergency teleport (Quirk: Loud bang upon arrival)
  • 1 charm for DR 4 (Quirks: Painfully obvious that he's covered in a shield of energy or similar, sparks super obviously when hit by an attack)
Duncan lives in a manor on Crow Island, uses his Fishpacking Factory to dispose of the bodies, uses the Pope Island Marina to move his sacrifice victims, and generally conducts his rituals at home. The gem he's filling can ONLY be used for the summoning of Lord Drumer, and currently houses a great deal of magical energy.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Aeon C-Team S304: We Leverage Nation Security to get Free McDonalds

We'll update the logo... eventually
The Team:



Marsh Langston (Maverick): A blond, smiling hacker that will rip the most secure files out of your mainframe while convincing you that he's just downloading more RAM. Marsh is a technical wunderkind and social engineer with a shadowy background in intelligence. PROHIBITION MOBSTER

Mikhail Kovalenko (Alex): Measuring 6'4" and weighing about 230lbs, Ukrainian-born Mikhail Kovalenko was a former special agent in Eastern Europe and is extremely competent at drinking vodka, making friends with random people, piloting, field action, reminding others that he's from Ukraine (not Russia), field operations, and handling firearms. TOTALLY NIKO BELLIC

Agent Veracity (Me): The Subway's resident spook and dumpster diver, Agent Veracity is a highly skilled investigator, tradecraft expert and conspiracy nut. HE'S IN YOUR TRASH!




Events:

We learn that the Cavalry made some serious wins based off the plans and information we gave them.

Of course the chairman of the board was the last one to not get nabbed by AEGIS. 

We start setup outside the Chairman's location. Zephyr has been helping us with scouting. A man in a black suit stepped inside and then there was a bunch of screaming. 

Veracity's gut doesn't think the chairman would use PURPLE DRANK on himself without it being perfected given the risk of it killing him. The guy in the suit is definitely NOT the chairman.

Using a hyperspectral camera, we see what we assume to be the man in the suit inside killing more people.

Mikhail asks for permission to shoot. 

We have Marsh try to spoof an alert to all Blue Skies operatives in the area, trying to mimic a message that Artillery, badass motherfucker asshole supreme, is on his way. The goal is to cause chaos, maybe give the guy in the suit pause when he learns that a bigger fish might be on the way.

Veracity's gut feeling is that the man in the suit is aware that the Subway team is in position.

We then try to place a call to the man in the suit. The man's voice has a slight German accent. 

Veracity tries to convince him to delay a bit so we can get information from the Chairman, or better yet, allow Gabriella to scan his mind.

The man says that he can't do that.

Some kind of teleportation attack hits the group- only Veracity is affected. He's pulled into the 19th century house where the man in the suit is going about his business. He's unaffected by the blood and gore.

Veracity does his best to defuse the situation without outright requesting that Mikhail open fire. The Man in the Suit is pouring shadow from every patch of exposed skin. 

Mikhail takes a shot with the Barrett .50, hitting the man in the suit in the head- without being able to see him, through the intervening house. Alex spends 2 Karma to make it a critical, and another to reroll the critical headblow table twice to get us a better result.

The man's head develops a huge hole in it, but he's still standing and regenerating.

Veracity doesn't wait around as the man in the suit is knocked off balance, pulling out a stun grenade and dropping it behind him as he runs. Veracity runs upstairs- onto the second floor. He almost trips over a sprawled out Blue Skies bodyguard at the top with a severely busted shoulder. Veracity helps the man up and stops to spray slip spray- D&D's grease spell's TL 9 cousin in a can- over the stairs.

Outside, Mikhail is continuing to take shots at the Man in the Suit, going for the knees. Both knees are obliterated by anti-material rifle fire.
Mikhail and Marsh both suddenly find themselves falling. Mikhail crits his Move! roll. Both somehow keep their feet, but are inside a stone cell. It's a round stone hole, with a window looking into where they were, and then it closes.

Inside the house it's loud- among explosions, the flashbang going off, and then radio silence.

The Blue Skies goon has busted out the window and Veracity grabs him, using Mr. Gunn (his grapple gun) to latch onto a tree nearby.

Veracity helps the Blue Skies guy run away once they get outside the house.

In the cell, Mikhail's entered the astral realm. He explores a bit, eventually hitting a barrier with strange symbols on it. Mikhail SOMEHOW manages to recognize them as Norse Runes. It looks like a sphere that surrounds the prison.

Horizontally out from the cell, there's nearby tunnels and what looks like super old tracks. There's a lab, including a guy who is chained in place, working. The man is looking through a microscope.

Veracity and the Blue Skies operative are picked up by Zeus in another VTOL unit.

Mikhail concentrates, willing himself visible and able to talk while still in Astral Form. Mikhail talks with the chained man, who indicated that the man in the suit is the Devil, and that talking about him might make him aware of it.

Mikhail asks what the man is doing. The man asks how Mikhail got past the barrier. Upon hearing the answer the man says that Mikhail will be dead soon, likely subjected to unholy experiments. The man holds up a vial of purple liquid.

A teleportation shimmer happens near Mikhail, and he's shooed away by the man working in the lab. A butler-looking individual teleports in. The butler asks the lab tech if the formula is ready- if not, the butler will be back real soon. Evidently the Americans have done most of the work for them, and Blue Skies is mostly dismantled. The Butler is pleased as this means his organization gets to keep all the rewards.

Legend gets a sitrep from Veracity. Veracity attempts to Stunt his power to wipe machines of information to implant his memory of the man into a nearby computer. (3 Karma spent to make a power roll at -4 a crit success.)

Marsh burns through some gizmos to get access to chemicals commonly used by airliners in the oxygen bag masks that drop during an emergency. He succeeds on Science!, buying Mikhail and Marsh another 30minutes of breathing time.

Arguments are made that Mikhail can use Shooter! to cover Breath Control since he can just meditate by looking down the scope of the rifle that he had. Marsh burns some karma to gain access to the skill, and another to make it a success.

Marsh also tries to modify their radios to function on ultra-low frequencies, allowing them to phone home from the cell. He manages to establish a line out, and establishes that he and Mikhail are both deep underground in NYC.

Marsh manages to get a text out to Veracity's phone.

Buried under old NY subway, not ours. Suit's Lab working on purple drank. 2 hours of oxygen. Magic rune bullshit blocking Mike.

Back in the hole, a teleportation door opens, and the Butler is pointing a gun at Mikhail. Mikhail draws his pistols and wins the opposed fast-draw contest that results. The dude pointing a gun at Mikhail is wielding a strange blocky black gun of some kind.

Mikhail goes to shoot the gun in the Butler's hand, rolling a crit to hit. The gun falls to the ground, and the Butler vanishes.

Mikhail and the Butler contend for the black gun. Mikhail rolls poorly, spending Karma to keep possession of it. Mikhail tests it on a wall to see if it causes teleportation effects.

There's a McDonalds on the other side of the wall after Mikhail shoots it. The brothers dive through as fast as possible. They appear in the middle of the street, briskly walking to the other side before traffic gets disturbed by their presence. While Mikhail goes inside to get a superfluous amount of food (about 15 happy meals), Marsh establishes that he and Mikhail are in downtown Manhattan. Mikhail fails to convince the cashier that he should be given free food, and then has to enlist Marsh's aid to pay. Shit goes sideways and Mikhail breaks his phone.

Zeus flies the VTOL with Veracity and the Blue Skies operative (whose shoulder is both broken and dislocated until Veracity pops it back into place) on it to go pickup Mikhail and Marsh.

Veracity gets sick of the delay with payment, shouting into the VTOL loudspeaker that Mikhail's transaction is endangering national security. The McDonald's clerk showers Mikhail with food and the team regroups on the VTOL.

Veracity does his best to find a location suitable for a PURPLE DRANK lab near old subways located in NYC, and thinks he knows of one. He sends a request up the AEGIS flagpole for more info.

The Teleportation Gun does direct neural interfacing, and it has actual bullets (.50 AE) in it as well, but Marsh can figure out much more than that.

We work out a plan to try and take on the lab:

  • Mikhail calls up a friend who used to work for the Subway System who provides old maps
  • Marsh gets Gunther
  • Veracity puts in calls to see what support he can rope in
  • The group grabs a man-portable LRAD unit and extra beefy hearing protection
  • Dirt Bikes
The Lab is located in a spur that was abandoned after it was decided it didn't need to be used.

We take the dirt bikes down into the subway tunnels and have Gunther peel back the metal that they welded over the entrance.

The lab looks abandoned. Lots of stuff is missing, paperwork and books are on fire, and we don't run into anybody.

It's obvious that they deployed teleportation to evacuate the entire premises. Marsh goes to check their stuff and almost breaks an extremely thin vial of glass holding some blue liquid from lot 26.

Marsh comes to the conclusion that it's some kind of bioweapon. Veracity is able to pull four different partials from it. 

Searching around we find a journal. It contains scientific and occult notes, personal notes, and actual magical formulas. It's written in old Norse.

Veracity spends some time experimenting with the portal gun. Veracity's gut feeling is that the gun is low, but Mikhail can't grok the actual number of shots.

While Mikhail and Marsh pack up the lab Veracity stalks some Columbia professors that know Old Norse, using Telepathic Learning, Speed Reading, and another Stunt to migrate it all into digital data Marsh can use. 

We end there. Mikhail is voted MVP.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Aeon C-Team S303: Guess who got Their Kestrel VTOL Shot Down?

We'll update the logo... eventually
The Team:



Marsh Langston (Maverick): A blond, smiling hacker that will rip the most secure files out of your mainframe while convincing you that he's just downloading more RAM. Marsh is a technical wunderkind and social engineer with a shadowy background in intelligence. PROHIBITION MOBSTER

Mikhail Kovalenko (Alex): Measuring 6'4" and weighing about 230lbs, Ukrainian-born Mikhail Kovalenko was a former special agent in Eastern Europe and is extremely competent at drinking vodka, making friends with random people, piloting, field action, reminding others that he's from Ukraine (not Russia), field operations, and handling firearms. TOTALLY NIKO BELLIC

Agent Veracity (Me): The Subway's resident spook and dumpster diver, Agent Veracity is a highly skilled investigator, tradecraft expert and conspiracy nut. HE'S IN YOUR TRASH!

Miguel Drasil (Andre): The ultimate personal assistant. A sarcastic wiseass.

Andre wasn't present for tonight's session.



Events:

We discuss who will be driving our Kestrel, Minnie, while we're parachuting into the AO. We state that we want an AEGIS pilot named Zeus to take the 'wheel' after we leave the perfectly good aircraft via gravity and parachute.
"Hey, Zeus. Take the wheel."
Mikhail projects his Astral Form out and explores the fortified position.

The setup as we're planning. All the tents have goons inside.


 There's a collection of dudes outside the power plant. Inside their perimeter they've set up some tents, a trailer that looks like it has communications equipment inside based off the radar dishes on top of it, a laser fence surrounding it all, and another trailer that could probably be a "barracks" of sorts.

There's about a dozen Blue Skies Agents, as well as numerous (five) hired thugs. There's a few drones flying around- reconnaissance. There's also a dude dressed as if he's from the Wild West.

The white trailer is empty, kitted with kitchens, some bunks, and a makeshift toilet. The other trailer is luxurious, and features a wall panel that's full of communications equipment.

The guards look alert, but not alarmed or otherwise expecting issues. Some are wearing night vision, and there's a lot of Type 3 armor present DR (~19). Most are wielding Blue Skies prototype weapons- TL 9 rifles. Mr. Wild West has a Winchester 1979 on his back and two Colt Peacemakers on his hips.

Mikhail tries to get info off of the laser fence for Marsh to handle.

The tents are filled with more troops. One of the tents has two guys overlooking the security systems.

We're looking at 18 vs 3 odds.

We spin wheels talking about our approach for a bit, debating tactics and the use of grenades. I crit on mastermind to case the scene.

Eventually someone on the ground crits a perception roll and we're spotted midair. The guys on the ground open fire with an anti-air missile of some sort and Minnie (our VTOL) takes 57 points of damage on 18d6.

Mikhail tries to direct the crash landing so it will plow into the trailers and control tent on the ground.

We bail out and parachute in. I burn a point of Karma to make up for a shitty infiltrator roll. We make stealth rolls- I succeed mine by 24, Mikhail crits, and Marsh succeeds by 3.

Minnie crashes through the powerplant. The blue RV is largely intact (besides Minnie's nose poking through its side). Minnie brings down a portion of the laser fence, which turns out to have had an attached laser canopy as well.

Tax write-off?


Marsh opens up festivities by using Illusion to make Jon Wayne believe that the Blue Skies men have suddenly turned on him. Marsh succeeds by 9, and Wayne rolls a 15, failing to resist.

Mikhail tries to grab Wayne as he parachutes in. He fails his first attempt during the surprise round and tries again, succeeding. He crits while trying to grapple off the grab, only to be defeated by Wayne's bigger crit with a natural 3.

Veracity tosses a Stingball grenade into the clump of guys directly below him, landing it right in the middle of them. "Michael Easton" fails his HT check bad enough that he's effectively stunned for the rest of the fight.

I make my stealth roll at -10 to disappear (I really need to buy up that technique).


Stun Grenade FTW


Wayne breaks out of Mikhail's grapple, quick-draws the two pistols at his sides and fires two shots at his own people. Both wind up with chunky salsa inside their helmets where their heads used to be.

Marsh stunts his illusion to make it persistent on Wayne for the next ten turns.

Mikhail steps towards Wayne, feints with his extra attack and then attack Wayne with a deceptive attack kick for -6 to the chest. Even after hitting Wayne with a huge defense, Mikhail flubs his follow-up attack and misses Wayne.

A goon shoots at Mikhail. Mikhail successfully dodges the shot with the aid of some timely acrobatics. Mikhail continues to have fire sprayed ineffectually in his general direction. Zeus, our pilot takes a bunch of shots and goes down, still clinging to life.

Mikhail continues to take more fire, which he manages to dodge.

Veracity uses Mr. Gunn (his grapple gun) to get onto top of the Blue RV.

Mikhail (just below the blue RV) has taken out two baddies next to himself 


Wayne shoots at Mikhail with both Peacemakers, aiming for Mikhail's vitals with six shots. (Christopher: It's high noon.) Mikhail tries to make a bunch of dodge checks and gets hit in the vitals for 19 points of injury overall. Mikhail burns Karma to keep his HP topped up.

Marsh radios in Gunther. He then stunts his Illusion power with Cybernetics, spending 5 fatigue and a Karma point to take out all of their comms with terrible feedback, causing some panic among the guys.

Mikhail shoots an underslung grenade at Wayne with his H&K AG36. The grenade lands right at Wayne's feet and doesn't explode- a dud.

A nice looking guy among all of the thugs spots Marsh and suggests that Marsh should come on down and be all friendly like. Marsh fails a will check and complies.

Mikhail takes more gunfire, crit-failing his dodge, taking a shot to the arm for 27 base points of damage, 14 injury. He continues to go through karma like water to turn it into a fleshwound.

Gunther takes a bunch of gunfire and doesn't care.

Veracity tosses another stun grenade into the cluster of guys next to Gunther, trying to get all five with the blast. 3 are stunned by it going off.

Seriously, Stun Grenades Save Lives


Wayne makes his way onto the top of the RV.

Marsh, while leisurely moving towards the friendly guy takes the opportunity to whammy Wayne with an illusion of getting shot, actually managing to cause damage.

Mikhail uses Move! to jump up onto the RV, getting a crit. Mikhail blindly shoots another grenade where he believes Wayne to be.

The friendly guy tries to convince Gunther to help people off the top of the bus.

Gunfire and grenades bounce off of Gunther without any effect.

Veracity uses Mastermind! to try and snap Marsh and Gunther out of the effects they're experiencing from the friendly guy. He manages to succeed in this. Veracity has taken official notice that guns and explosives don't seem to work on Wayne.

Mikhail takes two shots to the eye, each a crit. I spend 3 Karma to allow Mikhail a dodge against one. The other shot does ludicrous damage but gets reduced to a flesh wound when Mikhail spends Karma.

Mikhail's eye is crippled, and he still has to make a knockdown/stunning check at -10. He's knocked down, but isn't stunned.

Marsh tries to work up the willpower to shoot the friendly guy. Realizing that he's encountered a user of Swagellan that he hates, Marsh fast-draws his gun and shoots the guy in the junk, sending him to the ground.

Mikhail rolls towards Wayne over the roof of the RV, fast-drawing his knife and attacking Wayne's feet with his knife. Wayne avoids one, but the other gets his achilles tendon for 16 damage. Wayne falls off the RV. It sounds like he fell wrong.

Mikhail gets shot at again, and he rolls off the side of the RV as a dodge and drop, landing on his feet with a successful Move! check.. Marsh succeeds a Will Roll. Veracity moves closer to the Blue Skies goon on top of the RV.

Marsh makes an image of Yukio (the Wonderdog) appear in the place of Mr. Friendly. The two guards freak out, thinking that the Commander and the Cavalry have arrived.

Don't tell the Commander, it'll go to his head.


The hired thugs break and run away.

Mikhail drops the LMG and draws his two hand cannons. He does a crazy dual-weapon attack with a bunch of different options tacked on to try and eliminate Mr. Friendly and the three goons next to him. (By "eliminate" Mr. Friendly we decide that shooting his jaw off will prevent him from using his Power for Evul ever again.)

All four are hit. Mr. Friendly no longer has a jaw and needs MAJOR reconstructive surgery. The other three goons die horribly.

Gunther grabs the remaining Blue Skies goon and tosses him bodily across the battlefield towards the Blue RV.

GUNTHER THROW


Veracity drops off the RV and knifes the remaining goon in the neck for 5 damage. The goon starts to bleed out and the combat wraps up.

We start cleaning up the massive mess we've made. Marsh triggers the fire suppression system on Minnie, Veracity starts tending to Zeus (leaving Mikhail to be healed by Katori, why waste an opportunity to earn some brownie points with her?), leaving him at -2 HP.

Christopher has us roll verses perception -10, and I crit, noticing a blurry hand appear from a portal and drag Wayne through. We nab Easton and Mr. Friendly before the portal can try and grab them.

We ask Gunther to move Minnie to a more accessible location and for the first time ever we see him put actual effort into moving something. He and Marsh sit down to eat sandwhiches Gunther brought along with him.

Mikhail's eye is toast, requiring some kind of cybernetic replacement.

It turns out we captured Blue Skies' #2 guy and CFO- Easton, all because Marshall Sr. managed to leave Jon Wayne's name on the foreheads of his sons.

Easton's RV has an encrypted harddrive that Marsh cracks like an egg after spending Karma because he's not happy succeeding by 15 on his Computers! check. It turns out the Harddrive has a ton of Blue Skies' actual financial records on it going back years.

Marsh crit-fails on the check to see about picking apart the info. We spend karma to turn it into a crit-success.

We learn that Mr. Smiley is a Blue Skies operative whose power revolves around making people like him a lot, preventing them from attacking him and allowing him to make very hard to resist suggestions.

Debriefing is as painful as we expect, including a huge dressing down about getting the Kestrel shot down, endangering Zeus, and so on.

We find the location of Duchess, Blue Skies' Chief HR Officer. The C-Team takes some time to lay down ground work for the Cavalry.

Veracity is voted MVP by Alex and Mavrick.

Commentary:

This fight was a doozy, and the most challenging one we've faced yet. A lot contributed to this:
  • 20 vs 3 (+Gunther waiting in the wings) means we were majorly outgunned
  • Open engagement area meant segmenting enemies and taking them on piecemeal wasn't possible
  • Our preparations weren't particularly useful for the scenario we faced- we prepared for breaching a fortified structure, not a fortified position.
  • Meta-human involvement made Mikhail's attempts to take out the most dangerous threat on the battlefield a losing proposition.
Otherwise, we handled the fight pretty well. Mikhail was forced to use a crapton of resources to survive, but as the combat monster I feel little guilt allowing him to make every single active defense roll the team had to make.

Marsh and Veracity both never took any gunfire the entire fight. In fact, there's a high probability Veracity's presence is at best an assumption or guess that can be made based on the stun grenades getting thrown. 

I do think we could've improved on some points:
  • We should've called Gunther in far sooner.
  • We should've had Mikhail switch to Melee combat on Wayne sooner
  • Parachuting in over a target building where people are inside is great for stealth purposes. Parachuting over people in the open field... not so much. Totally ruined the rule of cool of bothering with parachuting in the first place.
  • Veracity needs a better firearm for armored targets.
  • Next time around in similar situations I'm advocating for more shock and awe- open with a huge distraction, get Gunther, Mikhail and the other combaty types going, and have Veracity infiltrate from the back

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Aeon C-Team S302: Blue Skies Tattoos for Everyone!

We'll update the logo... eventually
The Team:

Niklos Xanthopoulos (Kevin): Multidisciplinary genius, medic/doctor, and general curmudgeon. Believes Morphazine is the answer for everything and enjoys asking Marsh to hold organs during autopsies. TIME LORD

Marsh Langston (Maverick): A blond, smiling hacker that will rip the most secure files out of your mainframe while convincing you that he's just downloading more RAM. Marsh is a technical wunderkind and social engineer with a shadowy background in intelligence. PROHIBITION MOBSTER

Mikhail Kovalenko (Alex): Measuring 6'4" and weighing about 230lbs, Ukrainian-born Mikhail Kovalenko was a former special agent in Eastern Europe and is extremely competent at drinking vodka, making friends with random people, piloting, field action, reminding others that he's from Ukraine (not Russia), field operations, and handling firearms. TOTALLY NIKO BELLIC

Agent Veracity (Me): The Subway's resident spook and dumpster diver, Agent Veracity is a highly skilled investigator, tradecraft expert and conspiracy nut. HE'S IN YOUR TRASH!

Miguel Drasil (Andre): The ultimate personal assistant. A sarcastic wiseass.



Events:

We're asked what the hell we want to do with Sr., the new info we've been given, and stuff the Cavalry has secured during their escapades.

We decide to follow up on Moya's address we received from Sr. We drive by the place with a Hyperspectral camera to see who is inside from the street before knocking on doors or otherwise kicking down doors. The place is over a coffee shop on the east side.

The place is full of dead lukewarm bodies- 16 dead bodies.

Just outside the doorway there's a bouncing betty- the trigger of which Veracity ends up stepping on.

Marsh attempts to disarm it, with Mikhail and Veracity making complimentary skill checks to help out. He rolls a 17 and spends Karma to prevent blowing up the entire team.

Marsh manages to disarm the mine entirely, giving it to Mikhail.

The scene is pretty terrible, bodies, blood, gore, and the works everywhere. All of us succeed on fright checks.

Veracity looks over the room to get a sense of what happened. Someone was let in without a struggle, they knew the people inside, they talked for a few minutes, then there was a fight. There are bent guns in spots, showing either super strength, TK, or something else. It looks like most people were put down with intent to maim.

Moya's sitting in a corner, dead. The rest of the bodies look like mostly hired thugs, with a few Blue Skies looking folk among the dead as well.

Mikhail uses his new astral projection powers to enter the spirit realm (or whatever the fuck the AEON equivalent is). Mikhail sees utter chaos and violence, ten replaying death scenes that loop over and over again.

Mikhail does his best to ask questions of the people stuck in death echoes. His best social influence being Intimidation, he rolls against that, succeeding by 11. Somehow he snaps a shade out of their echo. He tells the guy some ludicrous story about LSD and drugs that have influenced his mind.

It takes a while to talk the hired goon into describing what actually happened. He was working for "This guy", "for a lot of money so I can get my son into college...", "JUST ONE LAST JOB", "I answer the door and this guy came in. His eyes were red. Mikhail fails to get a physical description of the man. The dude spoke with the Boss of the hired thug for a moment before getting angry and starting to rip people apart.

The shade lifts up its dead arm from the floor to show Mikhail that he's not hallucinating. Marsh and Veracity both see the arm rise off the ground.

Mikhail and the goon get into an astral fistfight. At some point he yells that the Devil was Russian. The Mass Murderer and the Bossman were talking about a Doctor of some kind.

The dead guy goes about trying to reassemble his body. Mikhail slaps him out of it.

The dead body starts trying to talk and starts trying to walk out of the apartment. A shot from the electrolaser doesn't stop it for more than a few seconds. Mikhail resorts to emptying a clip into it. It's completely ineffective until he hits the head.

It appears Moya didn't give an answer 'The Devil' wanted when asked about Lesko, the Chief Information Officer for Blue Skies.

It's inconclusive whether the murderer is a meta or occult in nature.

Mikhail's electrolaser goes off into Mikhail's leg, triggered by the spirit he pissed off during his jaunt through the Astral Space. Mikhail makes his HT check by 12 and more or less ignores it. Mikhail then jumps back into Astral Space to subdue the spirit (now poltergeist). A brief astral fistfight results in Mikhail pummeling the spirit into ectoplasmic goop.

Marsh and James are more than willing to cover up Mikhail's creation of a poltergheist- especially since they can feasibly deny knowing how exactly it happened.

Marsh collects phones and other computer devices for going through later, including one that needs hardware level authentication fobs to work without turning into slag.

We move onto the safehouses we've been given info on. We have info on eight of them. One's been scouted by the Cavalry, and the other we just checked out has obviously been burned. Five are within the city, two are outside of it. 

We head for Port Tilden to talk with the captured Chief of Information. We've cleared the safehouse where a board of director member was. When we arrive they're unhappy that Moya is dead. We hand off the hard copies of files we found off to a tech working the Blue Skies Task force, informing him what limited info we knew about them. The tech is Riley Porter, and he believes that the files are utter gibberish.

Veracity promises Riley a coffee for going through it.

Lesko is in a metallic straightjacket. It's clear they took keeping him from escaping very seriously.

Marsh starts to talk with him. Lesko questions if we're AEGIS or SENTRY. We bring up the slaughter at the safehouse and that Moya is dead.

Evidently there's some sort of curse that prevents Moya from talking about things. Marsh notices that Lesko is sporting a similar mind-tendril tattoo as he once had. We ask Mikhail to get Sr. for us. 

Lesko claims that we've fucked up the plans of Blue Skies- plans to avert Black Swan. Lesko also claims to have seen our files- especially Marsh and Mikhail's due to Sr's involvement in Blue Skies.

Evidently killing off Marlowe threw a huge wrench in their plans. He's a little confused he can talk about Marlowe to us.

Mikhail gets a sense that something is wrong as he goes to fetch his father. Yolena is concerned that Sr. hasn't been getting fed since he arrived. Mikhail fetches some snacks and a drink for his father.

Mikhail is suddenly karate-chopped to the back of the neck for 16 damage. He fails his knockdown roll (-5 due to major wound), and then takes an axe kick to the face for 8 points. His mothers eyes are glassy, like she's not really in control. (Christopher confirms she has one of those neural tattoos that whammied Marsh a while back.)

Yolena tosses Sr. some keys, then stomping Mikhail in the family jewels with a crit for 22 damage. Mikhail spends Karma to keep in the fight.

Mikhail decides to 'stay down' after his mother tells him to stop resisting. Waits until his father and Yolena run for it, taking a shot at Sr's knee. Marshall Sr. takes a "Flesh Wound" (costing a point of DOOM). 

I spend 3 Karma to add some details to the scene:
  • BIG RED BUTTON
  • BIG SECURITY DOORS
  • Halon fire suppression system right where Yolena and Sr. are when Veracity hits the BIG RED BUTTON
Mikhail takes a moment to reflect on his treatment by his mother. He then goes to make sure that Sr. hasn't died.

Sr. is in rough shape and looks horrified at things. He grabs a pair of scissors and starts stabbing himself with them in the abdomen. (Guess who else has a lovely neural tattoo?)

Marsh busts ass to hack through the security alert, taking a -8 and still succeeding by 3 to open the door. Sr. is dying, rapidly, and Marsh crit-fails first aid (DOOOM) while trying to save him.

Marsh and Mikhail both dump Karma to counteract the DOOM to save their dirtbag father. Mikhail and Marsh both see something written on each's other foreheads in blood. Marsh has JON on his face and Mikhail has WAY written on his face. This name matches up to a name on the list the Cavalry got for us- someone by the Codename John Wayne.

The safehouse Wayne is at is a powerplant.

We decide to go for an aerial insertion through either parachuting or fast-roping. We opt for parachuting as hovering within fast-rope range would probably alert people to our presence. 

We end there with an additional game session tomorrow.


Monday, December 5, 2016

Aeon C-Team S301: Mikhail Chugs a Fifth of Vodka and Lives

We'll update the logo... eventually
The Team:

Niklos Xanthopoulos (Kevin): Multidisciplinary genius, medic/doctor, and general curmudgeon. Believes Morphazine is the answer for everything and enjoys asking Marsh to hold organs during autopsies. TIME LORD

Marsh Langston (Maverick): A blond, smiling hacker that will rip the most secure files out of your mainframe while convincing you that he's just downloading more RAM. Marsh is a technical wunderkind and social engineer with a shadowy background in intelligence. PROHIBITION MOBSTER

Mikhail Kovalenko (Alex): Measuring 6'4" and weighing about 230lbs, Ukrainian-born Mikhail Kovalenko was a former special agent in Eastern Europe and is extremely competent at drinking vodka, making friends with random people, piloting, field action, reminding others that he's from Ukraine (not Russia), field operations, and handling firearms. TOTALLY NIKO BELLIC

Agent Veracity (Me): The Subway's resident spook and dumpster diver, Agent Veracity is a highly skilled investigator, tradecraft expert and conspiracy nut. HE'S IN YOUR TRASH!

Miguel Drasil (Andre): The ultimate personal assistant. A sarcastic wiseass.



Events:

We get to sleep for the first time after six months of intense training. We're given a physical and psych eval, and then we're caught up on recent events. Niklos earns extra telepathic scanning because he can't resist messing with other psychologists.

Blue Skies in Syria just got raided by the Cavalry. B-Team uncovered a ton of new information that Markus is currently going through.

We're being sicced on the Board of Directors of Blue Skies. Decapitation strike, as it were. Problem being, all of them have gone to ground and disappeared. They've been using seriously advanced video conferencing to communicate and have meetings.

We're introduced to our new team member, Miguel. Miguel is a generalist. Who is extremely capable of improvisation in the field.

Marsh brings up securing Gunther's release to Legend, arguing that he should be able to work off his sentence. Legend resorts to downing a massive bottle of antacids, but allows us a side trip to Rikers to get Gunther.

We're given the keys to a VTOL unit. We're given a comprehensive list of things we are NOT allowed to do with the VTOL, including spilling kool-aid on the seats. It's outfitted for very long missions given that it can usually hold two humvees or sixty individuals, but is going to be supporting far less. 

We promptly begin searching the entire unit for kill switches, take-over controls, and bugs. We don't find any. 

The VTOL has a fission reactor and doesn't need refueling. There's a Science! lab inside, as well as a persistent internet connection. 

Rikers has a VTOL sized helipad. 

Gunther is in deep solitary confinement. The Warden of Rikers is a normal who thinks that we're crazy for deciding to spring Gunther on work release. Gunther is chained to what is effectively a giant metal cube, and it takes some time for them to pump out whatever gas they used to sedate him.

Marsh has no difficulties getting Gunther to agree that leaving Rikers is exactly what he wants.

We head to the briefing. We're headed to Marrakesh, Morocco. Our target is Scarface, who has gone up against the B-Team multiple times. We're tasked with extracting him alive to gain access to what he knows.

Definitely not the lake in Morocco
We'll be operating without operational support, and since all of us are dead and don't exist, our existence will be disavowed.

Mikhail knows a guy who knows a guy who will let us crash at a party mansion. Evidently the place is owned by like the tenth son of some Saudi Prince. It's right outside the city and overlooks a lake. 

Veracity makes a Tradecraft! + Mastermind! check with assistance from Miguel to try and predict how Blue Skies might have moved Scarface into the area given their past operational actions. Intel places him South of the city at Douar Lahna. He was buying something from a store and was spotted on camera.

Blue Skies likes to hire locals, they like to utilize student visas, and they really like to utilize subsidiary companies. We decide a good first step is to have Marsh hack the Moroccan government to get their passport info. Marsh, with assistance from Miguel via a Teamwork! crit, succeeds by 17. 

Marsh identifies a few visas that are most definitely suspect.

Veracity does some Digital Oracle work, getting another copy of the store footage. Scarface has a star tattoo on his right wrist, and appears to be buying alcohol of some variety.
NOPE

The footage isn't good enough to use with facial recognition software. Not even after enhancing.

Mikhail's friend warns us that the local police are super corrupt and that use of metahuman abilities will cause problems with the locals. Mikhail's friend knows nothing about scarface.

Mikhail secured us a stylish ride
Marsh brings up a point that alcohol purchases in a majority Muslim country is unusual. We decide to go to the store where the sale was made. Mikhail secures us a vehicle and drives like usual- completely insane. We arrive without any accidents however.

Seen here, a temple to Mikhail's god
We pressure someone at the shop about Scarface. He tries lying to us, but the four of us are considerably intimidating. Evidently Scarface shows up at 3PM on the sharp daily to pick up vodka- Mikhail is immediately intrigued by this and orders a fifth-which he downs in one go. Christopher has him make an HT-based Carousing roll at -10. Mikhail somehow succeeds.

We decide to have Veracity and Mikhail stakeout the shop. Mikhail will be parked with a vehicle, using his astral projection to eavesdrop in case the shopkeep says anything to Scarface. Marsh and Miguel will be nearby with vehicles, and Veracity will be cloaked nearby.

Scarface approaches on foot, overdressed for the climate. Mikhail enters the astral plain, and notices that Scarface has a very nondescript astral appearance- murky and hazy. Marsh uses Gizmo to borrow Veracity's camera, but even if shows very hazy and blurry images.

We roll vs. Shadowing. Andre rolls a 17 and has to spend karma. 

Marsh is watching Scarface from a vehicle when Scarface is suddenly in the seat next to him, pointing a gun at him.
Scarface doesn't look like Travolta OR Al Pacino, but fuck it, equating Marsh to Marvin was too good to pass up

Scarface mentions that one of Legend's shapeshifters has tracked him down and threatens to shoot Marsh.

Marsh tries to affect him with illusion, but Scarface seems to be unphased. Marsh realizes that Scarface is Marshall Langston Sr. (Side note: Christopher shoots down Mind Link as being a benefit of Teamwork! to prevent Marsh from using Illusions as super covert messaging tools.)

Scarface seems very disturbed to be talking to someone like his son. Marsh manages to key open his radio mic and goes "Hey Dad, don't you remember that time we spent in Kosovo?"

It takes Marsh mentioning Marlowe to snap Scarface back to reality.


Meanwhile, Mikhail has gunned it in the car he's in and slams it into the back of the car Marsh is driving. (Cue discussion of airbags being non-existent Morocco, and Andre spending Karma to make Marsh's vehicle airbag equipped.) 

While Mikhail is apprehending Sr, someone draws a gun on him. He thinks he smells his mother's perfume. Mikhail says "Mom?" leading her to state that Mikhail is dead. Mikhail goes on to talk about how nobody else would go through all of that effort for shitty vodka.

Mikhail's mother (Yelena) recognizes him. Veracity pushes everyone to get back to base so that Sr. can have his powers chemically suppressed. Everyone except Veracity piles into Mikhail's vehicle. Mikhail's mother drives- even more terrifyingly than her son. 

Nobody shows up at the crime scene for at least twenty minutes. Evidently the cops don't care and Blue Skies doesn't have anybody watching Scarface. 

Scarface has a strange piece of tech on him. Miguel uses one of his metahuman capabilities to analyze what it is. It's a device keyed to Scarface's biosignature, and acts as a device that scrambles metahuman detecting powers as well as technological recordings.

Mikhail's mother tells us Marshall Sr. doesn't actually have powers. We settle on just restraining him and then waking him up.

Upon being awake, Sr. hugs Marsh. Marsh asks him if he's okay.

We question Sr. about how he escaped Marlowe's explosion, and why Blue Skies seems to want him dead. It turns out Blue Skies has been working with a nazi- which seems to be a line for the old man.

Mikhail has very nice things to say to his father and threatens to punch him. 

Sr. wants pay to talk. We offer him protection from Blue Skies' reprisals. Yelena drops that Sr. was planning on attempting to bring down Blue Skies on his own. Yelena won't cause us problems- but Veracity gets the sense that she could incapacitate (people named Gunther) or kill (people not named Gunther) everyone in the room.

Veracity alerts Legend that the team is en route with Senior. 

Senior gives us one choice piece of info- the name and address of James K. Moya, a man who's on the board of directors of Blue Skies.


Commentary:

What could have been a serious and arduous search in a foreign city for a reclusive badass operative turned into a pleasant stroll to the liquor store. In my opinion, the only significant reason the C-Team had to do it as opposed to a group of mooks is that the C-Team had the necessary plot armor to not get immediately attacked by Yelena and Marshall Sr.

Since we blew up Marlowe we've moved through things that were necessary to happen to get the C-Team in place for whatever Christopher has planned- but it's three sessions now. I'm itching for some freedom and agency. 

The game could've started with Sr. coming into AEGIS and demanding to speak with his sons because he learned that they were still alive. It would've lit a huge fire under everyone's asses when a bigtime Blue Skies operative just shows up uninvited, and worse, has figured out that Legend's pet terrorists were not only not dead, but recently back from time travel.

That would've been a much more exciting start to the season.

Plus it has the added bonus that we'd already be covering ground we'll be getting into next session.

ALL ABOARD

Monday, November 14, 2016

My Thoughts After my First Playthrough of Dishonored 2

This is a bit off-topic for my blog considering it's usually GURPS content, but I've been eagerly awaiting Dishonored 2, and finally got my hands on it. I've beaten the game (Emily, Low Chaos) and started dipping my toes into a second (Corvo, High Chaos) playthrough, and I have some thoughts.

UNMARKED SPOILERS AHEAD

Gameplay

I deeply appreciated the non-lethal options that have been added to drop assassinations and combat in general. It added some spice to combat in a low chaos run, while maintaining a pretty high skill ceiling. With a few exceptions, non-lethal takedowns take more time, meaning that using them against multiple foes gets really dicey.

Speaking of which, enemy AI is far improved. It seems far easier to unintentionally draw the aggro of fourt+ guards all at once in Dishonored 2 verses the first game. A lot of their actions aren't as telegraphed before, something that became painfully obvious when attempting to parry to enable non-lethal chokeholds.

Emily's powerset works, although evidently I missed out by not pursuing Bone Charm Crafting in my first playthrough. My style is usually extremely minimalist- I rely extensively on Blink/Far Reach as my primary ability. Even when playing as Corvo I tend to stray from making heavy use of Wind Blast or Devouring Swarm.

I did not use Mersmerize or Doppleganger my first run with Emily.

I found Shadow Walk underwhelming, as the animation for non-lethal takedowns takes FOREVER. Getting the upgrades for multiple attacks while in the form seemed like a waste unless you can chain people together quickly, and at that point, why avoid Domino?

Domino is great for crowd control, although I find the range it can be used at pretty limiting. Unsure of how long the effect lasts really made me fear trying to lurk and move around until I could chain four people together, meaning I didn't use it as often unless facing a big group of enemies in close proximity to my perch above them at the time.

Verticality is still king in Dishonored, by the way.

Agility's double-jump seems to have been nerfed to prevent drop-assassination spam that was possible in the first game. Smart use of terrain and climbable objects still enable use of drop assassinations, but it's no longer a free lunch. I'm overall cool with this change, but it definitely feels weaker and less useful for exploration compared to the first game.

Even with the range upgrade, Blink seems shorter than before. Far Reach is cool, although it's REALLY bad compared to Blink for trying to move up- it's very easy to clip into things like lampposts and fail to land where you intended, often dying in a long fall or failing to elude enemies. The upgrade for grabbing objects also doesn't helpfully show a green aura around them like Daud's Pull power did in the first game, which prevented me from realizing how to utilize it at first. (Seriously, Pull highlighting objects in your environment was one of the best fringe benefits of the power.)

Far Grab grabbing enemies FEELS far better than Pull from the first game. Pull was slow, like painfully trying to explain rules to a kid whose parent didn't provide them enough structure growing up. Far Reach is super fast in comparison. Offensively it's far better than Pull, even if it's utility and usability suffers compared to pull.

I wish the Strength tree was better balanced. Five runes (Total) to break down breakable doors seems a bit high, especially given how GODDAMN CONVENIENT it is. I can appreciate the puzzle aspects of hunting runes, but with a seeming lack of New Game + (and my game crashing during the credits, just like Dishonored 1), rune collection is still a pain in the ass. It's not helped much by the capability to mark a specific rune/bonecharm for collection so I don't have to constantly have the heart out.

Seriously, if I sink nearly as much time into this as I did the first game, I'm seriously considering modding it so door breaking is far cheaper to expedite collection of runes and charms.

I HATE the decision to make it so that the Folded Galvani weave isn't available until one of the latest missions in the game. By far one of my favorite upgrades, and having it available so late seriously crimped the appeal of Agility's sprint boost. I also completely missed the Incendiary Bolts blueprint my first playthrough, meaning that Blood Fly nests were far more annoying.

Blood Flies are roughly as annoying as rat swarms from the first game. Very simple counters absolutely wreck swarms of either groups, and once you learn the nest mechanic dealing with Bloodfly Nests is easier. Blood Flies killing unconscious people will certainly be HELLA ANNOYING should I ever attempt Clean Hands.

I don't miss river krusts at all.

I didn't use any of the new crossbow bolts, which is probably an oversight given how they could help end fights without having to choke everyone out. I did upgrade stun mines. Otherwise during my non-lethal run I barely touched upgrades.

If asked to score the gameplay, I'd probably give it 8 out of 10. There's some balance issues (rune costs), design choices (galvani weave), frustrating bits (rune collection, far reach clipping during vertical movement, no highlighting for pullable items), and bugs (which I'll get into) which dinged my enjoyment of the game.

That said, the Gameplay has measurably improved since the first game, enough to really count as a sequel offering.

Story

The Dishonored series has stellar world design. It's frankly one of the most exciting and novel settings in video games. The first game was a little light on actual plot and character development, but largely got a pass because the setting was Just. So. Good.

I had high hopes for Dishonored 2's story. Choosing to have both protagonists be fully voiced was a ripe opportunity to have Corvo and Emily interact and talk with one another, to flesh out how the experience of the first game- and the events played through in the second- would affect the father daughter relationship! Not to mention conversations with the supporting cast, and villains, and so on.

But Dishonored 2 squanders its chance at developing the main characters. We get two minutes of Corvo and Emily talking, and then one of them is absent the rest of the game until the final confrontation is over. Neither interacts meaningfully with the Outsider, which should've been the most significant and exciting dialogue to witness in the game. Daud mentions having conversations with the Outsider, and instead we get more expository lectures, most of which seemed to focus a little too much on the target of our mission at the time, rather than reflecting on Corvo and Emily themselves.

I understand that doing the whole Chaos system with the other protagonist interacting with your blank slate character is probably messy and incredibly hard to write but it's hard to justify how much potential was left to attract Blood Flies. 

So far, Corvo and Emily's dialogue isn't different enough that it's not annoying to hear "Sokolov made this lock" twice, completely wasting having the two view points to experience and play. Maybe that changes as I go further through the game with Corvo, but I doubt it.

The supporting cast of NPCs was drastically reduced. I guessed that Meagan was Billie Lurk after using the Heart on her. Both Meagan and Sokolov had impressive amounts of dialogue using the heart, which was a nice touch.

But I wouldn't say that either character really brought much to the story.

And the Story is depressingly similar to the first game. Terrible thing happens, roaring rampage of revenge (or quiet precise surgical strike of revenge, if you wish), the end. 

The ending cinematic is laughably bad compared to the first, and is WORLDS worse than say, Fallout's. The whole Howler/Overseer decision seems forced and ultimately pointless. There's no buildup to either faction besides the fact that both groups are initially hostile, and placing the mission where you pick a side late in the game seems weird.

If it had been placed earlier, it could've colored the entire game, offered different side missions, and cracked open more replayability as the different missions changed due to that allegiance choice earlier on.

Quick Thoughts and Quibbles on Story and Gameplay:
  • I don't recall any references to Piero, which seems like a glaring omission as he made both Corvo's mask and The Heart
  • The Heart is one of the few places the story actually shined
  • Delilah getting trapped in a painting AGAIN was LAZY writing
  • Deliah's one-hit kill stoning move in the final fight was bullshit
  • The lack of between-mission shopping hurt when the black market can be missed by players during the course of a mission.
I'd give Story something like 4/10. It's like getting a grade of C-. It's not failing but you were so close that you should probably give the teacher much less shit for the next few weeks as thanks for cutting you some slack.

Performance, Bugs, and Rushed Development

I specifically timed my video card upgrade (GTX 1080) to land just before the release of Dishonored 2.

Frame rate jumps quite a lot, usually averaging 45 on recommended settings at 1080p. I've personally experienced some dips during hectic moments, but nothing nearly as bad as FO4 on dual AMD R7 220s.

I encountered one progression-breaking bug in the mission targeting the Duke of Serkonos. I had choked out the real duke before finding his body double, which locked out being able to toss him on the bed for the non-lethal assassination.

End-game credits resulted in a CTD.

Alt-tabbing doesn't work (going back into Dishonored 2 CTDs), which is just fucking shameful from a AAA publisher like Bethesda. 

Frankly, I feel like Dishonored 2 really could've used another year in the oven to get tweaked, optimized, balanced, and to really plot out the story better. It would've also provided ample time for getting a mountain of voice work done.

But frankly, it's a sophomore title being published by Bethesda, the king of providing wide but shallow games. I really feel the team felt rushed to publish on time, even with delays, and that care and attention on the final parts of the game suffered. The duke's mansion was one of my favorite missions to run around in- but the polish obviously present in the first real mission on the streets of Karnaka starts to slowly disappear over the course of the game.

There's no way to tell just how much publisher pressure changed the course of Dishonored 2's development, short of Harvey Smith giving us the scoop. That seems unlikely given his professional demeanor and track record of being an excellent guy, so I'll just continue to harbor my suspicions.

In Summary:

  • Almost excellent gameplay
  • Story completely and utterly failed to live to the potential of its characters and having voiced protagonists
  • Setting is still hella amazing
  • I do kinda dig the more whimsical Outsider, although I think the more sinister overtones present in the first game were lost. It's a mixed bag.
  • Performance issues and Bugs aren't end of the world, but certainly a bit of mud on the face for the game
  • I'll probably still sink 40+ hours into this on the strength of gameplay alone (Fallout 4 was the exact same in this regard)
  • I really hope I don't hurt Harvey's feelings with this review
Question: 

Is it worth trying to get better at the game knowing that StealthGamerBR is still going to make me look like I have the manual dexterity of a particularly large toddler?