Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Aeon C-Team S1E3: Capturing the Carpenter

The Team:

Lucas Nielson (PK Levine): A former vicar who lost his faith and made an enemy of the Vatican. Now he leads the AEGIS Subway team in their attempt to make sense of the supernatural.

Niklos Xanthopoulos (Kevin): Multidisciplinary genius, medical doctor, general curmudgeon. Believes Morphazine is the answer for everything.

Marsh Langston (Maverick): A blond, smiling hacker that will rip the most secure files out of your mainframe and convince you that was something YOU wanted. Marsh is a technical wunderkind and social engineer with a shadowy background in intelligence.

Mikhail Kovalenko (Alex): Measuring over 6'4'' and weighing about 230lbs, Ukrainian-born Mikhail Kovalenko was a former special agent in Eastern Europe, and is extremely competent in multiple forms of combat, piloting, field action, and weaponry. One of the nicest dudes you can probably meet, as long as you don't imply he's Russian...

Agent Veracity (Me): Agent Veracity is a highly capable investigator and field agent.  Agent Veracity is not allowed to participate in AEGIS Trivia Night.


We take a while to debate our approach- whether we're going to take on the Kitsune before the meeting with the Carpenter or not.

Handwaved: Binding the Kitsune via spending karma. Earning us a pissed off Kitsune that will be sure to come back to bite us in the butt.

The general plan is send Lucas, Mikhail, and Marsh inside to negotiate with the Carpenter while Veracity and Niklos take out the guards outside as quietly as possible.

PK makes a good argument that DX-based Medicine! covers using a tranq rifle to shoot sleep darts into guards. Christopher okays it.

We take a moment to assist Mikhail at hiding his ridiculously-sized wildcat pistols (Bulk -4) on his person since Mikhail's IQ-Based Gun! skill was lower than Veracity's Tradecraft! skill. Lucas assists with Mastermind! A long coat helps offset the ridiculous bulk penalty, although it might not stand up to a more traditional search.

"Can you put a silencer on an electrolaser?" (Answer: No, no you cannot.)
 Marsh attempts to build a jammer that will knock out cellphone/radio communication around the cottage. He fails and Mavrick spends a point of karma to make it a success. The jammer looks like a 1960's television remote. He hands it off to Niklos. He then succeeds by 12(!) on a Computers! check to loop the security camera footage the cottage receives.

Prep Phase

Niklos finds a vantage point from which to use the dart rifle.

The guys outside are in nice suits. They've got handguns and shotguns. They look like professionals, a cut above most mercenaries for hire. Mikhail assesses them as having guns skill roughly 14-17. Veracity uses intuition to identify which goon should be taken out first as the most dangerous.

I succeed a Stealth-5 roll to move closer to a goon without being spotted.

Inside, the Carpenter is wearing an impeccably grey tailored suit, with a red tie. He's older, perhaps mid-30's, early 40's. He looks like he could be someone's uncle. He's sitting in a very nice armchair sipping tea.

Lucas assesses the Carpenter's body language, succeeding by 9. He seems externally calm, but micro-expressions reveal that he's upset and angry. It's clear he's upset that we derailed his deal, or maybe it's that we're not French.

"We saved your butt in WW2, remember?"- What we DON'T say.
They frisk the guys inside, but somehow Mikhail does NOT have his gigantic hand cannons discovered. Marsh also avoids having his gun confiscated.

Someone who will not be named to protect the guilty (Lucas), fails a check for Overconfidence. Lucas walks in and drops his guns on the table once getting inside. He's making a statement.

There's a suitcase on the table in front of the Carpenter (Insert Pulp Fiction quotes and questions about glowing suitcases here). The Carpenter asks to see the Bastille key, and Marsh implies that Lucas is an archaeology expert. Lucas opens up the case they put the key in, showing it to the Carpenter.

Mikhail has obviously assumed a stance that most people would associated with incoming violence, but since everyone believes he has no weapons, nobody questions it.

The Carpenter reveals that the suitcase is indeed full of our payment. Marsh makes a show of riffling through it. The Carpenter really doesn't like Americans. Marsh smooths things over temporarily by speaking fluent French at the Carpenter. Mikhail ruins this by not being able to respond in French.

The exchange begins, with the Carpenter taking the key.

Guy circled in Red is the one Veracity identified as being the most dangerous. Niklos was technically off the map during the entire combat.

Outside, Niklos is making an IQ-Based Medicine! roll to use Precision Aiming, followed by a DX-Based Medicine! roll to actually hit with the shot. He succeeds on the Precision Aiming roll for a +2 bonus (limited by gun Acc and his Scope). Overall, with range penalty, it's at -1. Kevin fails the roll by 2 and spends a point of Karma to make it a hit.

Christopher rolls a 4 on the HT check to resist the Morphazine dart to the neck. *WHOMP WHOMP*

Veracity sneaks up on a guard and goes to get him around the neck with his garrote. Against a modified skill of 22, I roll a 5, which crits for double damage. I roll crappy damage. When offered a chance to spend 2 karma to make my margin of success Skill-3, I take it, killing the guy.

Veracity manages to sneak behind the dangerous goon. Attempting to shoot him in the skull I fail. I attempt to spend karma. Christopher slaps down doom points to make it a critfail. I roll a 18 and Nancy is out for the rest of the fight.

Miraculously, the goon doesn't notice this. He also doesn't notice getting hit in the neck by Niklos' tranq rifle, swatting the dart away like a mosquito bite.

Niklos hits the goon with a second Morphazine dart. The doubled-dosage overcomes the goon's mighty HT score. And he drops, falling on top of Veracity. (Thanks to another Doom point spent by Christopher.)

Veracity manages to use Tradecraft! based escape to get out from under the goon, continuin to sneak around to the corner of the cottage, while Niklos drops another goon with a dart rifle.

Sneakity Sneak, a Snake a Snake

Niklos nails the last guy not on the doors in the neck, dealing 3 damage and sending him to coma land.

With all of the exterior guards taken out except for the two manning the front door to the cottage, Niklos and Veracity plan on attempting to drop the two at the same time. Niklos shooting one, Veracity shooting the other with his Electrolaser.

Niklos drops his target by getting him in the arm with a dart, Veracity gets his in the leg and knocks him out.

Just before Mikhail makes the Four Dead in Five Seconds Gunfight look like Amateur hour

Mikhail springs into action at that moment, fast-drawing both of his pistols. With his left hand he pops the guy in the rear, dropping him immediately. With his right, he Quick-Shoots at the remaining 3, firing 1 shot each at the skull of each guy. In a second, Mikhail has killed all four men inside the Cottage protecting the Carpenter.

Marsh takes advantage of the chaos to fast-draw his Electrolaser and shoot the Carpenter with it. The Carpenter starts convulsing on the floor.

Veracity enters and grabs the briefcase of cash. Niklos ensures the guys he tranquilized will wake up in hours instead of days. Mikhail uses a guard's phone to call the French equivalent of 911.

We get the Carpenter into the Ghost Train and return to the base in NYC. Marsh crit fails his check to not puke out his guts- for the third or fourth time. It's clear that Marsh and the Ghost Train just do not get along. (QUIRK ACQUIRED!)


The Carpenter, in a glaringly bad moment of opsec, was carrying the other keys that he had acquired.

Mikhail takes a look at Nancy to get Veracity's gun fixed from the malfunction earlier in the day.

The Carpenter had fake identification on him. We toss him into one of the magical cells.

When he wakes up, The Carpenter is in for a rude awakening with Lucas looming over him. The Carpenter indicates that he won't survive the night. He seems to think that we don't know what we're dealing with. Lucas attempts to rile him up, being a bit of a dick.

Lucas starts off by trying to get him to talk about what's going to kill him.

At this point, Christopher is swearing about the spree of crappy rolls that he's suffered over numerous sessions. PK's bribes to roll20 are clearly paying off.

The Carpenter lets slip something about a demon, who is working for 'Him', who is also who the Carpenter was working for. Lucas attempts to broker a deal where he gives up his employer, and we attempt to keep him alive despite the demon out to flay him and wear his flesh as a tuxedo.

PK's threat to spend karma to negate Christopher's first good roll of the night causes Christopher to drop Doom on it. We as a group decide to negate it by collectively spending Karma.

The Carpenter has only met his employer, Marlowe, once. Lucas seems very cavalier to ambush the demon at the spot where the Carpenter was supposed to make the trade with the demon.

Lucas continues to pressure him to drop the details on the meet. The Carpenter seems legitimately concerned that he's actually going to die.

Our prisoner witch is complaining about the lack of food and wanting to be released. Veracity goes off to make her a sandwich, also dragging over a TV so she can watch Pawn Stars.

"You can't leave a TV outside her cell left on Pawn Stars, that's torture!" -Marsh

Lucas allows the Carpenter a choice between escape or cooperation, and the Carpenter runs for it. Mikhail quickly abuses him of the illusion of freedom, getting him in a prompt arm lock.

Veracity takes a moment to ask the witch about demons. Marcelle seems to know something of substance, but Veracity leaves it to Lucas to negotiate with her. Marcelle wants freedom, immunity for her past crimes, and a big payday.

We contemplate agreeing and then getting the Coven of the Black Grail to be waiting nearby to snatch her so they can deal with her.

Mikhail does some gun-based intimidation, by firing a shot directly over the top of her head.

We realize that the demon will be returning to the cottage in France near Sundown- where we just left six bodies and four unconscious guys. The entire place is likely a crime scene by this point, and a demon showing up will likely be a catastrophe.

Lucas contacts Anya, and once the topic of Marlowe comes up she immediately mentions that everyone needs light. The lights in the entire subway click off. All of us except Mikhail make our perception checks.

Niklos and Veracity are attacked by something and both fall unconscious. Niklos, who is in the lab trying to fill darts with holy water, dumps a jar of it all over himself as he falls. (Spending a Karma point to affect the scene). Marsh also can't resist what's going on, and falls unconscious as well.

Anya tells Lucas that we need light again, causing Lucas to ask Mikhail to create a fire. Mikhail attempts to create light by firing his guns, hoping that the flashes have an effect, giving Lucas time to ask. Mikhail can make out a shadowy figure moving about.

The lights click back on Subway, triggered by Lucas' foresight to rig up a backup generator in case we ever lost power. The Carpenter has been ripped to shreds, and the demon that killed him is standing in the cell, looking solidified. There's a grand total of four shadowy demons outside the cell.

Mikhail opens fire with both of his pistols, landing 4 hits on the solidified demons. It is completely unphased. Lucas fast-draws and fires his electrolaser, but the demon dodges.

The shadowy figures start smoking and fleeing for cover. The demon in the cell starts screaming and burning. Mikhail goes to get Veracity and Marsh to safety, while Lucas rushes to the medbay to check on Niklos.

The demon in the cell starts going off like a sparkler, leaving an ash trail as it tries to shamble around to escape whatever is frying it. It crumbles fully to ash, which Lucas collects.

It takes about 10-20 minutes for all of us to regain consciousness. We all show signs of frostbite and bruising. Niklos figures the demon reduced core body temps in an instant to incapacitate us all.

Veracity checks the cameras immediately. The shadows appear, unsurprisingly, as shadows.

The Subway's wards have been completely blown through, something confirmed by Anya. Marcelle was completely left untouched. Anya suggests discarding the ash left behind. She mentions "He who must not be named.", making a Harry Potter reference that Lucas completely misses. Marlowe is the Warlock's Nom De Plume. Anya says he's 4-5 centuries old, and scary.

The security footage shows that the cell likely forced the demon to solidify and take corporeal form. From the looks of it the demons completely avoided Marcelle and didn't attempt to communicate with her.

However, earlier, Marcelle totally saw shadows shifting at her feet during our conversation with her.

"We did some really fast research on Marlowe and found a reference to him - he got his start in 15th-century Europe, studied magic and witchcraft, and has popped up a few times since including work with the Nazis in the 40s, rumored work with the Russians during the Cold War, and rumored work with the CIA in the 90s."- Niklos

Veracity gets to scouring the internet with Oracle, while Lucas does the same with his occult resources. Niklos gets to doing an autopsy.

Marlowe shows up, causes all sorts of damaging waves. Goes after something specific, almost always a relic, artifact, but sometimes people, and then fucking disappears. In the 40's while he was working Thule Cult Society, he acted as a mentor for occult and magical shit to several of the people within the society.

Marsh double-checks that the cops who clean up the shootout in France didn't result in a cop massacre via demons. He also looks for collaborative reports for shadow demons, which turns up shittons of search results. No crime is reported at the cottage, and evidently no bodies were found.

Veracity strikes out on his internet search.

Marcelle offers to tell us where Marlowe is in exchange for her freedom. Niklos isn't haven't any of it.

Lucas calls Anya to arrange getting the Black Coven to take custody of Marcelle if we release her after cutting a deal. Anya is violently enthusiastic about such an arrangement. (OUT OF CHARACTER INTERRUPTION DUE TO COOL 3D PRINTED MASKS)

Lucas offers to pick them up in the train. There's dithering about the true nature of the train, with Marsh being violently opposed to it, with Lucas singing its praises. Anya and the Coven agree to make the jaunt to the Subway to grab her.


Anya and two of her sisters meet up with Lucas. Niklos calls Lucas to confirm that Lucas didn't die on the train. Niklos' phone rings strangely. Niklos seems to be having a strange call from his grandfather, who is long dead. Niklos has a pleasant conversation with his Grandfather, being unfazeable. Niklos brings up Marlowe.

His grandfather has heard of him, and warns Niklos that Marlowe is dangerous. Niklos' grandfather knows of someone who can help us locate Marlowe. Niklos goes on to talk with his grandmother, inquire about the afterlife, and continue to act like all is normal.

Niklos gets a bunch of info on Marlowe, circa 1940. Marlowe was part of an elite unit called the Marauders. Daniel Legend can supposedly help us out.

Lucas eventually gets Niklos' text about talking with his dead grandparents. It's too surreal to be false.

Niklos discovers from the autopsy that the Carpenter was just brutally ripped apart- at least ST18 with claws. He's guessing that they knock people unconscious with the cold touch and then shred them like cheese.

Lucas will let Marcelle walk if she tells us what she knows about Marlowe, right into the waiting arms of the Coven of the Black Grail. She informs us that he was working with a company called Sun Green Holdings.

Marcelle is swarmed by the Black Grail, who takes her down after a messy altercation. We ended the session there.


Despite getting hosed by DOOM early on, the fight at the cottage was extremely one-sided in our favor. "I'm not a sniper/secret agent" Niklos managed to drop at least 4 guards outside with his tranq rifle. Mikhail also performed admirably, utterly preventing a fight inside in a flurry of lead and violence.

I made something like five stealth checks in a row vs. modified skill 13 to move undetected into position. It's nice not to be taking fire from six armed guards without an immediate backup, but it didn't really feel badass and still doesn't. Veracity is arguably the second-most capable combat character in the group after Mikhail, and Niklos doubled his bodycount while assuming less risk to do so. I think it's a fair argument that had a firefight broken out my character had the highest risk of getting gunned down without copious Karma expenditure.

After the fight, things shifted heavily towards Lucas, to the point where Marsh and Veracity in particular didn't get any opportunities to do much of anything. A large part of this is the fact that Lucas is the only PC built to handle occult matters, and too many problems have either the Coven of the Black Grail or the Occult Library in the Subway as solutions.

I have very little interest myself in the oogey boogey stuff as a player, which makes me loathe to spend points on Occultism when I'd much rather be focusing elsewhere. I feel the onus is on Christopher to blend modern and occult in a way that most of the PCs will actually have contributions they can make to the group, something that really fell apart this session.

Christopher is aware of my opinion on how this session went, and I know he's already looking into how he can better accommodate the group.

Friday, July 15, 2016

VTT Rant: Port Forwarding and my Love/Hate relationship with Roll20

A few Five years back I ran a D&D campaign using MapTool, which I'd still be using if I hadn't run into port forwarding errors. Being behind numerous routers because my roommate has unique internet use demands meant that configuring port forwarding correctly was a complete and total pain in my ass.

Nothing like pestering the roommate at 11pm because a firmware update fucks port forwarding up and your gaming group can't do jack shit until he adds it back into the router.

(In fact, I wrote about having the same port issues over two years ago- my internet situation hasn't changed in that time.)

Maptool's macros were handy, the line of sight feature was nice (although sometimes buggy), and generally the program did everything I needed it to.

Compare to Roll20. Roll20 is browser based, locks line of sight, Fog of War, and the more powerful features behind a pay gate, and has really clumsy controls (I hate reflexively using just the scroll wheel in an attempt to zoom in on the map and having the entire page scroll).

Roll 20 Pros:

  • No Port Forwarding
  • Everyone and their grandmother has a compatible browser
Roll 20 Cons:
  • Have fun paying $100/year for macro functionality Maptool provides for free
  • Browser controls are funky
Other solutions exist, like Battleground's VTT, which is ~$100 for a permanent GM license + five players, which is way more reasonable that $100/yr for me.

But then I stumbled on this looking at Battlegrounds:

I'll skip a licensing process and a cool $100 that might smack into port forwarding bullshit, thanks. Maybe it's been fixed in the last ten years of development (Update: nope), but I'm not exactly brimming with confidence. That money could also be spent on a large pizza and a hardcover copy of GURPS: High-Tech, which is far more likely to give me lasting warm fuzzy feelings inside.

So for now, I'm still looking at alternatives to Roll20. Of course, getting maps suitable for use with any VTT is also a complete and total pain in the ass, and I wish I still had the mapping objects .zip that was floating around back in 2011 that was really nifty. 

Although it's nice to see that Tiamat Mapper has resurfaced lately.