Friday, March 27, 2015

Rifts Misadventures: Session 12

Max [Commission] by babyk00lz2010
RIFTS. PLAYED IT. FUN. If you need a refresher, click here.

The Roster (with Fate "high concept" aspects, followed by traditional Rifts O.C.C.s)

Arisis Solstice, Radiant Daughter of Atlas (female titan Cyber-Knight), played by Felix
Katrina Mansfield, Mutant Psi-Stalker P.I. (female mutoid Psi-Stalker), played by Chris
Max Parkinson, Runaway Teenage Mystic (male human Mystic), played by me
Valerie Cain, Amazon Cyborg Wildchild (female Praxian Headhunter), played by Kent

Session Recap
Our heroes, still stuck in Big Heap until the Sunstar Aegis is repaired, have tried to open the stasis box that contains the twins they were hired to rescue -- and failed. One of the defenders of Big Heap, the young woman called Nina, informs the group that a restless spirit is interfering with their attempts to release Asha and Annejah. Nina, a psychic spirit medium, asks Max about the ghosts that attempted to contact him earlier. Max recalls that the ghost of a small child that gave her name as "Maria" sought him out, and admits that he regrets being unable to help the girl. Maria, Nina informs Max, was the name of her older sister, who died "badly" when she was very young. She suggests that the two of them travel back to Death Gorge to resolve the issue. Max is initially reluctant, but Nina is an attractive, intelligent young lady, and her romantic interest in him is increasingly apparent. His Raging Hormones eventually get the better of him: he agrees despite his concerns about the encounter with the Hard Repo mercenaries earlier, and his focus on the group's mission (and eventual return to Serendipity). Nina happily links arms with him.

Valerie tells Max that she's confident he can handle his mission on his own if he feels up to it -- a vote of confidence which Max deeply appreciates. As he prepares to leave on his "date", the dwarf woman Grooma (the techno-wizard that has been repairing the Sunstar Aegis) asks if she can inspect Kat's no-dachi rune sword. The psi-stalker consents, and after a painstaking examination, Grooma informs Kat that the sword is a weapon of great importance in her home dimension, and tells Kat that if she ever wishes, she can take her (and the sword) there.

Max and Nina depart, and Arisis, Kat, and Valerie decide to hit the pavement of Big Heap in search on information on Hard Repo. Having learned that Bastille Impenetrable has posted a bounty on them, they eventually find themselves in an underground hookah bar called the Caterpillar's Cocoon, where various shady characters imbibe in substances both known and unidentified, the majority of them scavenged from the surrounding Pile. (Arisis' radiance is deeply out of place in this venue, and she is not received warmly.) Valerie notices the presence of two juicers in the colors of the notorious Wild Hurricane mercenary company. The pair, a married couple, soon wave our heroes over and introduce themselves as Mister Payne and Infinity Payne. They share a fairly jovial (if somewhat shouty) conversation with Valerie and her friends, repeatedly asking "where's the kid?" Valerie steers the discussion towards the subject of Hard Repo, and Mister Payne relates the story of "the time back in Iron Heart a blue guy and a Glitter Boy-lookin' thing" appeared out of nowhere and repossessed a jump bike that Payne admits was "ripped off from the Black Market". In the end, the group doesn't get much about Hard Repo from the Paynes that they didn't already know. Valerie evades the Paynes' question about her group's current base of operations, Kat avoids the Paynes' offer to "come home" with them, Arisis buys them another bowl of whatever they're smoking -- presumably something quite potent, to cut through their default combat-drug-enhanced state -- and the trio leave the Cocoon to find more concrete intel.

An unfortunately oily-looking local computer hacker named Jorge is able to provide them with data captured from Bastille Impenetrable's local "bounty board" using his custom hacking rig, assembled from pre-Rifts and interdimensional computer equipment. Jorge informs the group that the board connects to something called the Intergalactic and Megaversal Justice Network (or IMJN) -- apparently, some kind of information schema based in another dimension. He finds that the bounty on our heroes was a special type, where certain established groups have the opportunity to bid on the exclusive right to pursue it. The bounty in question, he finds, was claimed before it was ever posted to the general public. Interestingly, the wanted posters use only our heroes' professional aliases (not the "true names" that the Hard Repo agents used when they accosted them) and are clear that the group are to be taken alive. Their crimes against Bastille Impenetrable are enumerated, accompanied by images and video clips taken from their recent actions in and around Isla de Juventud, as well as supplementary files detailing "persons of interest": the young goblin Gia and the Tisch vigilante called Objection among them. Valerie, intrigued by the apparent existence of a headhunting network that extends far beyond Rifts Earth, asks if Jorge can provide any further information, but he demurs, saying that he's provided her with everything that he could translate from the alien language in which the initial bounty files were written.

Max, meanwhile, has taken to the air in his crystalline power armor, cradling Nina superhero-style in his arms (with her permission, of course). As the pair fly toward Death Gorge, they notice a number of partially cybernetic, chimeric beasts vaguely similar to those Max and his allies have faced sporadically since they arrived in Serendipity, which seem to be on the move as if they were migrating. A pair of flying hybrid creatures speed towards Max, intent on tearing him and his new female friend apart. Max barely avoids their attacks, weaving, spinning, and dodging in midair -- even having to let go of a startled Nina at several points. Eventually, he is able to outrun the monsters and recover his date from freefall, and he and Nina reach the apparent source of the ghostly disturbances that plague the Gorge: a small black stone etched with arcane symbols, presumably some sort of artifact disgorged along with countless others from the rifts that created the Pile.

At around the same time, Max notices that he and Nina are being followed: they have been tailed by Kat's feline drone, as well as Arisis' robotic T-Rex mount, both remotely controlled by their owners. Arisis, via radio, tells Max of her respect for him taking the mission on his own, which briefly flatters Max until Nina points out that they have essentially been chaperoned. Max doesn't have time to express his disappointment: the apparition of Maria soon materializes, joined by a chorus of other spirits, who insist that the pair should leave. Nina senses that the ghosts are anchored against their will to the strange stone, prevented from moving on to the afterlife. Max rebukes the ghosts with an octagonal mirror, which keeps them at bay long enough for Kat and Arisis' robots to shatter the stone after he discovers that his psi-sword has little effect on it.

Nina realizes that with the anchor stone gone, the spirits, who have been maddened by their long and tortuous linkage to it, will be free to haunt and otherwise wreak havoc across the land. Desperate to aid the spirit of her departed sister, she offers to tether them to her own soul and pledges to help each of them find peace. Max is both moved by Nina's selflessness, and saddened that she has shouldered this tremendous burden, which will surely overtake her life for a long time to come. Nina and Max's eyes meet, and they silently realize that whatever small romance might have been blooming between them is, at least for now, not to be. Nina quietly curses her decision, and kisses Max.

Valerie, Kat, Arisis, and Max return to Grooma's workshop and find the matter of opening the newly non-haunted stasis box much simpler. The apparatus soon opens, steam and fluid streaming forth, revealing the sleeping, nude forms of Nysa's twin sisters, Asha and Annejah. The machine slowly awakens them, and Max offers them blankets to cover themselves. After some brief introductions, the group explain that Nysa hired them to rescue the twins, which seems to relieve them. Our heroes' questions about Prince Osange are not answered in detail, but the twins assure them that they want to return to Serendipity and to Nysa.

The mayor, Mrs. Velasco, arrives to inform the group that she has visited Bastille Impenetrable's local outpost and bought them some time, but that they must leave Big Heap as soon as possible. Hearing this, they and Grooma work doubly hard to get the Sunstar Aegis seaworthy again, and succeed in doing so. Our heroes say their goodbyes to Big Heap and its defenders and set out for Serendipity.

The twins largely keep to themselves as they recover from stasis, the side effects of which prove beyond the capability of Max's minor healing spells to quell. The return voyage goes smoothly until the Sunstar Aegis finds itself simultaneously under attack from a band of ogre pirates and in the grip of a sudden, fierce D-storm. The group, now quite familiar with the ogres' tactics, handle them with aplomb, hurling them into the sea and blasting them from the lightning-wracked skies. When the battle haze and the dimensional tempest clear, however, they find themselves badly off course. After a brief moment of confusion, the group sights land, and by sailing around the small island, are able to triangulate their location. They learn that they are nowhere near Serendipity. Instead, they have found themselves off the coast of the Yucatan peninsula.

(For those who are regularly following these posts: if you are detecting a shift in tone in the last couple of recaps, that is probably because I have started GMing certain parts of the sessions. For example, the Hard Repo material is me setting up the conflicts that will be in play during my stint as GM. So, in this session, almost anything that didn't involve my character, Max, was at least partially GMed by me.)

Friday, March 6, 2015

Rifts Misadventures: Session 11

V. Cain by K-Bonifield
Rifts was played last weekend! This session was the most fun I've had playing an RPG in years. Nice mix of combat, social interactions, and laughing our asses off at dumb jokes. I wish we could play every week, though I'll never feel like we get to play as often as I'd like, because I'm obsessed with these characters and this campaign. Catch up here.

The Roster (with Fate "high concept" aspects, followed by traditional Rifts O.C.C.s)

Arisis Solstice, Radiant Daughter of Atlas (female titan Cyber-Knight), played by Felix
Katrina Mansfield, Mutant Psi-Stalker P.I. (female mutoid Psi-Stalker), played by Chris
Max Parkinson, Runaway Teenage Mystic (male human Mystic), played by me
Valerie Cain, Amazon Cyborg Wildchild (female Praxian Headhunter), played by Kent

Session Recap
The group is confronted by the defenders of the scrapyard settlement known as Big Heap. Their leader, the mutant bird of prey Ortio Caracara, is vocally displeased with our heroes for drawing so much trouble into their community, but the other members are less confrontational. One of them, the dwarf woman Grooma, even offers to help repair the Sunstar Aegis and to try to unlock the stasis box.

They are soon joined by a group of Big Heap movers and shakers, led by one Mrs. Velasco, who introduces herself as the town's mayor and demands to know "what, exactly, have you brought to my town?" Kat speaks up and offers to help repair any damage, and (accurately, but rather rudely) points out that "this shitstorm was already headed your way". Max successfully smooths over the situation, explaining his team's mission and mentioning the devastated villages they found in Zaal's wake before arriving in Big Heap. He points out that Zaal, the Prince, and the ogre pirates would likely have wreaked even more havoc had he and his friends not been there. Having won her over, at least momentarily, he then tries to get more information out of Velasco, asking if Bastille Impenetrable might be coming after them, and if Big Heap is aware of any Coalition activity in the area. Velasco responds that in the wake of the chaos in which they were involved, it's likely that Bastille has issued bounties for all of our heroes, but is mystified by Max's question about the possible involvement of Dr. Stakes or his agents. The Coalition is a nation of which she professes only a vague awareness. The mayor seems more interested in what our heroes will do with the corpse of the neuron beast, Zaal. Valerie suggests sending his head back to Havana as a sign of a mission accomplished.

Caracara interrupts to insist that Max and his friends track down Prince Osange, lest he and his retinue return to menace Big Heap again. Arisis flatly refuses Caracara's demands, arguing that she and her companions have invested too much time (and blood) into retrieving the stasis box to even consider leaving it behind to blindly chase after the villains. Caracara, for his part, does not back down until Velasco suggests everyone reconvene at her mansion that evening to discuss matters in a more relaxed environment. Kat, for her part, quietly dispatches a catlike robot drone to try and hunt down the Prince and his men in the meantime.

Velasco's suggestion proves to have been a wise one, as tempers have cooled considerably by the time the two groups arrive at the mayor's "shabby chic" mansion. Max finds himself discussing the supernatural with Nina, one of Big Heap's defenders, who seems legitimately interested in what he has to say on the subject. Arisis is fascinated by the strange music played by Mayor Velasco's husband, though he shrugs off the idea of allowing the titan to record him. The topic of Prince Osange is hardly even raised until well after dinner, when Kat's drone returns and plays back surveillance video of one of the Prince's ectoplasmic-armored comrades, his mecha apparently badly damaged, heading toward a ravine. The defenders immediately recognize the locale, and our heroes consider leaving the mansion to investigate. Arisis remains reluctant to leave the stasis box behind, however. She seems dead-set on carrying the box with her into the scrapyard until Grooma volunteers to protect it. Max, who has been observing the Defenders intently all night, telepathically assures his titan compatriot that "we can trust this woman," and the mystic's word is enough for the cyber-knight.

Our heroes ride a giant elevator up to the top strata of the Pile and begin to follow the trail laid out by Kat's feline drone. Even here, where the detritus of an otherworldly war still rains down, humans eke out a living, and before long one of this blasted region's inhabitants flags down the group. The man informs them that a monster has occupied his home, and begs them to remove the beast. Though the group is concerned that the trail will go cold, they agree to help, and Kat climbs up to see what has taken nest in the man's ramshackle dwelling, which is built atop an inert walker mecha. She finds a strange hybrid creature, seemingly part lizard, part porcupine, with what appear to be "Crazy" implants in its head. The psi-stalker sneaks back and relays this information to the group. Max volunteers to try and magically entrance the beast, but is concerned that the cranial implants might interfere with his attempt to dominate it. Flying up to find the creature feasting on the contents of the man's freezer, Max soon finds that he was right to be dubious -- his Trance spell is a failure, and the creature is now aware of his presence. Luckily, he manages to slink away unscathed, and with Arisis immobilizing it, Valerie quickly puts it out of its misery with her CADS-1 blades. Max opines that the beast is similar to those he, Valerie, and Arisis faced in Serendipity earlier -- chimeric predators evidently created in Lone Star by the elusive Dr. Stakes.

Back on the trail, our heroes soon find the ravine they seek, in an area where the earth itself is steeped in malignant, necromantic energies; a place Max glibly describes as a "bad nexus." Here, the walking dead -- only some of them formerly human -- roam freely, preying on travelers and each other. It soon becomes evident that the area is haunted, as well, as strange visions of a young girl and an older man begin to invade the edges of the psychics' senses, and shimmer across even Valerie's electronic sensors. Max, uncharacteristically impatient with the cryptic utterances and vague warnings of the ghostly child, attempts to abjure and question the spirit, but learns little of use.

Max's frustration proves symptomatic of things to come. The Prince's ecto-mecha associate, but discover that he, like everything else in this part of the Pile, is zombified, mindless and aggressive. He is quickly destroyed by the group, but before they can decide on their next course of action, an immense undead dragon lunges forth, its body torn by unimaginable warfare, yet still animate. Kat stuns the group by slaying the ancient behemoth with a single stroke of her rune no-dachi.

Valerie, pumped up by Kat's display of prowess, asks out loud "what else you got?" As if to answer, our heroes now notice an odd, mirage-like disturbance of vertical lines, which quickly "unfold" into a somewhat ragtag assemblage of heavily armed men and women:

  • A pair of human(oid)s in full environmental body armor, decorated with unfamiliar insignia and indecipherable writing
  • A male cyborg with extensive (and badly mismatched) bionic enhancements, carrying a sniper rifle
  • A male psi-stalker, possibly of African descent, armed with a scimitar-like electrified blade
  • Two terribly attractive young women (one fair, the other with dark green hair and jet-black skin) who appear to be completely unarmed and unarmored
  • Nahar, an ogre juicer woman with whom our heroes have crossed paths with several times in the past, and whom they have counted as an ally, if not necessarily a friend

Nahar briefly exchanges tense greetings with the group, but it is clear that she has not come for a social call. She calls for our heroes' surrender, as one of the armored men reads off all of their names -- their true names -- and informs them that "Halcyon Reacquisitions" will be placing them under arrest and delivering them to Bastille Impenetrable. The name rings a bell to Valerie: she knows the organization under the nickname of "Hard Repo", which headhunter lore describes as a mercenary group that appears out of nowhere and muscles other mercenaries into giving up their most prized possessions. The amazon warrior has some choice words for HR, which seemingly amuses their patchwork cyborg sniper -- "that is such a Val thing to say," he chuckles, and attempts to shake hands with the Amazon headhunter, giving his name as Magnus Maddock. Max is thoroughly bewildered by the mercs' evident familiarity with him and his friends, but before he can articulate his confusion, Arisis squares off with Nahar, the titan towering over even the massive, chemically enhanced ogress, and successfully intimidates her into backing down somewhat. Nahar begins to rethink her strategy, but Valerie overplays her hand, overconfidently demanding that Hard Repo stand down and "strip."

The tension finally boils over, and both sides explode into combat. Kat and the silent psi-stalker lash out at each other, with neither one badly injuring the other. Valerie slashes wildly at Maddock, and he instinctively blocks -- with his non-bionic arm. He curses his own stupidity as he collapses, clutching the bleeding stump. Max, who has been hovering above the fray, has been unable to tear his eyes away from the pair of beautiful ladies (damn these Raging Hormones!) on the Halcyon Reacquisitions side. Unfortunately for Max, the young women seem less impressed with him, as they both take to the air (apparently under their own, unseen power) and attack. He avoids the fair-haired one's feint, but the dark-skinned one connects with a brutal kick that knocks the wind out of the mystic, sending him crashing to the ground. Arisis, unperturbed, lays out Nahar with a single haymaker punch to the ogre's face. As Nahar crumples, one of the armored Hard Repo operatives, realizing that two of their number are down for the count, frantically shouts a command into a communication device. The mercenary agents disappear instantly, seemingly flattening and folding into nothingness.

Now completely irritated, the group elect to return to Big Heap. They find the stasis box well-protected by the Defenders, though unfortunately still sealed. Grooma, it seems, has been stymied by the device, at least for now, and though each of our heroes attempts to determine how to open it, each of them fail. What next?

(If you've made it this far, thanks for reading Dungeonskull Mountain's 200th post!)

Friday, January 30, 2015

Rifts Misadventures: Session 10

Zaal! by K-Bonifield
The holidays wreaked havoc on our Rifts game, but as always, we bounced back once we got some spare time. This week: FIGHTING and very little else. I got a little hot under the collar about the way Fate handles damage at a couple of points. But it was fun! It's been a while, so if you need to refresh your memory on what led up to this, go here.

The Roster (with Fate "high concept" aspects, followed by traditional Rifts O.C.C.s)

Arisis Solstice, Radiant Daughter of Atlas (female titan Cyber-Knight), played by Felix
Katrina Mansfield, Mutant Psi-Stalker P.I. (female mutoid Psi-Stalker), played by Chris
Max Parkinson, Runaway Teenage Mystic (male human Mystic), played by me
Valerie Cain, Amazon Cyborg Wildchild (female Praxian Headhunter), played by Kent

Session Recap
Having pursued the neuron beast Zaal into the outskirts of the interdimensional junkyard known as the Pile, our heroes have found themselves suddenly facing a cadre of mysterious individuals in strange, partially ectoplasmic armor. One of the armored figures agrees to allow Zaal to escape in exchange for the young women that our heroes have reclaimed from the neuron beast. He explains that the twins are his aunts, which prompts Arisis to engage him in parley. She informs the armored man that she and her friends are in the employ of a relative of the twins. If he is family, she says, he should reconsider. The vaguely non-human-looking man responds by drawing a sword and identifying himself as the Grand Imperial Almighty Prince Barrenton Bahren Chanestor Osange. Asha and Annejah, he declares, were taken from his family by the group's benefactor, Nysa, "a generation ago", and he has no patience for the likes of Arisis and her friends. (At this point, it became clear that the group's prior intelligence was faulty, and that both twins were in fact contained in the stasis box Arisis was carrying.)

Kat springs into action before the Prince can act, putting him on the defensive and allowing Arisis, who is still holding the stasis box that contains the twins, to break away and head for the Sunstar Aegis. She reaches the ship as the three mecha that accompanied the Prince and his companion open fire on her with javelin-like projectiles. The titan shrugs most of them off, but one spike lodges in her shoulder, dangling painfully. The unprepared inhabitants of the Pile frantically attempt to flee the carnage. Max, who still views Zaal as the primary target, casts a Carpet of Adhesion spell on the neuron beast from his vantage point on the Sunstar Aegis' bridge. It wraps the demonic entity in a mass of sticky sludge and Pile debris, but does not completely immobilize it as the young mystic had intended. Valerie engages Prince Osange's bodyguard, who (at his master's prompt) introduces himself as El Capitan Ko Strinick and appears to be a match for her fighting skills.

At this point, the ogre pirates that had also been pursing Zaal (and our heroes) catch up, with several of them, including the shaman Max had earlier engaged psionically, swarming aboard the Sunstar Aegis. Arisis, undeterred, barrels past them and stashes the stasis box in the ship's cargo hold. Kat invokes her Everyone Has Their Use aspect and maneuvers behind the partially entangled Zaal, hoping to use him as a shield, but before she is able to act upon her advantage, the neuron beast psychically dominates Max, forcing him to dispel his Carpet of Adhesion. Max is shaken by the ease with which Zaal overcame his mental defenses, then horrified to see Valerie, his closest friend, brutally -- almost effortlessly -- cut down by the man called El Capitan.

Kat directs one of her mechanized drones to swoop down and carry Valerie from the battlefield. Max, who is Always There For Val, bursts from the bridge of the Sunstar Aegis in his techno-wizard power armor and flies (perhaps needlessly) to the headhunter's rescue. The crystals of Max's armor grow jagged as his unrestrained emotions flood into its harmonite circuitry, strengthening its enchantments. (Fun fact: one of the armor's aspects is called Emoverload!!.) Max unleashes the energy, blasting El Capitan with magic lightning and cracking his ectoplasmic armor. Kat is likewise unable to restrain herself, and launches herself at the Prince, slashing at him in a berserk fury. In the meantime, Arisis has continued to protect the ship, weathering a combined mecha and ogre assault with barely a scratch. Even the Prince's mecha are unable to restrain the titan, as she permanently dispatches the ogre pirates' shaman with a single blow of her Psi-Sword.

As a chase which developed into a skirmish now threatens to engulf the Pile in full-scale battle, yet another faction joins the fray. A mutant bird of prey calling himself Sunifre Ortio Caracara swoops in and opens fire on the ogre pirates with an assortment of firearms that telekinetically float alongside him. The falcon-man directs the rest of "the Defenders of the Pile" to put a stop to the fight. Aside from Caracara, the Defenders are:

  • Grooma, a female dwarf techno-wizard piloting a ramshackle mecha built from Pile detritus
  • Nina, a young Latina in gothic attire, and
  • The Trashman, a tectonic entity that obeys Nina's commands.

The Defenders begin to turn the tide of the conflict, concentrating on the ogre pirates. Prince Osange evidently decides that discretion is the better part of valor, as he leaves the field, accompanied by his bodyguard and the three mecha that had engaged Arisis. Max, infuriated, points at El Capitan and shouts "Ko Strinick! I know your name!", swearing revenge for his fallen comrade, Valerie. He then turns to the escaping Zaal and uses his psionic Evil Eye power to temporarily freeze the neuron beast in its tracks. Kat, Arisis, and the Trashman turn their attention to the beast, wounding it badly before Max incinerates it with his armor's Fire Bolt spell, rendering it unconscious. The young mystic flies slowly towards Zaal, summons the Psi-Sword that Arisis taught him to manifest, and slices the neuron beast's head off. "From darkness to darkness," Max intones softly. As the entity's body blackens and shrivels, Max hurls the head into the Pile. The neuron beast Zaal is dead.

Max immediately raises his hands in surrender to the Defenders, which Caracara somewhat grudgingly accepts. Nina protests that Max singed the Trashman. She accepts the mystic's apology, but adds that the Trashman might not be as forgiving. The Defenders and our heroes begin to clean up the mess and aid bystanders.

Max soon finds himself returning to Valerie, who he restores to consciousness with healing magic. The pair embrace, though Valerie will not be at one hundred percent for some time. The psychic members of the group (Arisis, Kat, and Max) sense that the stasis box apparently does indeed contain both twins, and wonder whether to open it -- or if they even can.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Rifts Misadventures: Session 9

One thing I worry about when running a game is keeping momentum. In my experience, if a few weeks go by without convening to play, a campaign has a tough time getting back on its feet. Happily, that hasn't been the case with our Rifts campaign, which started roughly 20 years ago and has "died" several times, but always bounces back with everybody on the same page. The recap of our group's last session is here if you'd like to catch up.

The Roster (with Fate "high concept" aspects, followed by traditional Rifts O.C.C.s)

Arisis Solstice, Radiant Daughter of Atlas (female titan Cyber-Knight), played by Felix
Katrina Mansfield, Mutant Psi-Stalker P.I. (female mutoid Psi-Stalker), played by Chris
Max Parkinson, Runaway Teenage Mystic (male human Mystic), played by me
Valerie Cain, Amazon Cyborg Wildchild (female Praxian Headhunter), played by Kent

Session Recap
Our heroes meet with the Tisch vigilante that calls himself "Objection" to review their plan of attack. Realizing that a running battle is about to begin, Gia, the young goblin woman that Max has taken a shine to, excuses herself -- a decision which the young Mystic cannot fault. (Max, for his part, asks Gia to look him up if she ever visits Serendipity.) Kat and Arisis are looking forward to starting trouble with the ogre pirates that are hanging around outside the Neuron Beast Zaal's embassy, and Valerie confers with Objection: the Headhunter will pursue Zaal, and the vigilante will capture Phket, the middle-man whom Zaal has been using to smuggle his captive.

Though Max trusts his old comrade Valerie implicitly, he is apparently hesitant to leave the infiltration of the embassy in the hands of Objection. When Max proposes an alternate plan, in which he will use his transformation magic to shrink down and sneak into the embassy to gather reconnaissance, Objection shoots him down, assuring Max that his original plan will work. Max, still dubious, questions the Tisch on what he intends to do if Zaal and Phket don't fall for their ruse, and Objection stares Max down, insisting that he knows "his city". Max, who has seen and done more than his sixteen years might suggest, wordlessly locks eyes with Objection. After a long, tense moment, the vigilante turns away, muttering an apology. (Valerie silently mouths her approval of Max's refusal to back down.)

Kat decides to initiate the goosechase by walking up to a trio of ogres, asking who the toughest among them is, then knocking him out with a single punch. A high-speed chase through the back alleys of the city surrounding Bastille Impenetrable ensues, with Max maneuvering the twists and turns (though not always successfully) in his flying power armor, Arisis riding her giant mecha-mount, and Kat simply running full-tilt away from the ogres' motorcycles and ATVs. The trio successfully hit several known ogre hangouts with hurled garbage and insults, luring the bulk of the pirates back to the city docks and simultaneously avoiding being apprehended by the Bastille police force (who now on high alert). Valerie is in constant contact via encrypted radio, confirming that Objection caught his quarry: Phket, who had successfully turned the "stasis box" containing one of Nysa's sisters over to the Neuron Beast. She also informs her comrades that Zaal has left his embassy with the stasis box, and that she is in hot pursuit, heading towards the docks.

Arisis, Kat, and Max reach Nysa's stolen ship, the Sunstar Aegis, still chased by ogres and police. The ship is occupied by a number of ogre pirates, one of whom is the shaman that thwarted the group's attempt to reestablish contact with its sapient "rune CPU" earlier. As the trio race toward the Aegis, Arisis (invoking her status as the Radiant Daughter of Atlas) issues a stern, shouted ultimatum to the ogres: abandon ship, or forfeit their lives. All of the pirates, including the captain, decide that discretion is the better part of valor and flee -- with the exception of the ogre shaman, who moves to activate one of the ship's weapon turrets. Max, somewhat uncharacteristically, elects to engage the shaman physically, and (invoking the Golemite Vigorizing Frame aspect of his techno-wizardry power armor) hurls the ogre overboard with a suplex before he can open fire. A hover-truck carrying the Neuron Beast Zaal and several armed minions appears on the coast across from the docks, with Valerie giving chase. As Arisis, Kat, and a large number of ogre pirates rush to engage Zaal, Max heads to the Sunstar Aegis' bridge, where his magical power armor interfaces with the techno-wizardry-powered ship and starts its engines.

More of Zaal's troops appear, and a full-scale battle is soon underway on land, sea, and air with ogre pirates (using jetpacks, jetskis and small watercraft), minions of Zaal (on the ground and in flying harnesses), and our heroes all engaging each other. Before long, the chase has taken the combatants away from Bastille Impenetrable and into Big Heap, a settlement on the outskirts of an area known as the Pile. This part of the island is a literal dumping ground from some off-world war, with spent shells, wreckage, waste, and bizarre weaponry regularly disgorged from dimensional rifts.

As the chase weaves through half-submerged piles of extradimensional detritus, the Neuron Beast psychically influences all of our heroes (save Kat, who resists), filling their minds with doubt and resentment toward their comrades ("your teammates are always getting in your way"). Despite this distraction (and Max's constant badgering), Kat is able to remove the armed thugs guarding Zaal from the fight, creating an opening for Valerie to slice at Zaal's tendrils and wound the beast. Max opens fire at Zaal with the Sunstar Aegis' armaments, to no effect, but Arisis uses her peerless titanic strength to wrest the stasis box from the pain-wracked demon's grasp.

Almost simultaneously, a heap of alien wreckage explodes as a trio of mecha and a pair of individuals in strange, ectoplasmic armor burst forth. Zaal cries out that he'll let the newcomers have Nysa's sister for free if they can save his hide, to which one of the interlopers replies: "A bargain... I'd pay nearly any price for my aunt."

Friday, October 31, 2014

Victory Lap

In case it wasn't already obvious, I have been having a very hard time thinking of things to blog about recently. I find that I have increasingly less to say about RPGs these days. (Well, less substantive things to say, anyway.)

I think it might be because I'm having such a great time with them at the moment. The Rifts/Fate campaign I'm playing in is sincerely a dream come true. My other game (D&D 5E, which I currently run) has been a blast, a few hiccups here and there notwithstanding. Honestly, the games that I'm participating in at the moment are a personal all-time high in terms of sheer enjoyment, and there's nothing more boring than somebody who's just plain happy about everything, right?

So, I think I'll take a break from enforcing my "must post every Friday" rule for a while. It's mostly worked out well for me, and I'm proud to have managed to keep it up for over a year. I will still make posts when the mood strikes, and will certainly continue to post session recaps for the Rifts campaign whenever we play (though whether anybody still reads those or not is up for discussion, I suppose).

This isn't a break, a hiatus, or a shutting down. I'm just not going to force myself to post when I've got nothing interesting to say.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Baleful Beasts

Rod Ruth, illustrator of children's books like Album of Dinosaurs and Baleful Beasts and Eerie Creatures -- which I compulsively checked and re-checked out of any number of childhood libraries and public school media centers as a child -- is an unsung master. Everything he painted was filled with mad, vibrant energy and color (and often, terror).

If I could commission RPG artwork from anyone who has passed beyond the veil, this man would be near the top of the list.

(Yes, this post is laughably low on content. It's been an extremely busy week for me.)

Friday, October 17, 2014

Rifts Misadventures: Session 8

Adventurers by Razuri-the-Sleepless
Our latest session of Rifts (still powered by Fate Core) featured the triumphant return of the missing member of our original player character team: the Psi-Stalker known as Kat, played by my brother Chris, who joined us via a (somewhat buggy) Google Hangouts feed. The band is now well and truly back together and it's hard to describe how good that feels. The previous session's recap is here if you'd like to catch up.

The Roster (with Fate "high concept" aspects, followed by traditional Rifts O.C.C.s)

Arisis Solstice, Radiant Daughter of Atlas (female titan Cyber-Knight), played by Felix
Katrina Mansfield, Mutant Psi-Stalker P.I. (female mutoid Psi-Stalker), played by Chris
Max Parkinson, Runaway Teenage Mystic (male human Mystic), played by me
Valerie Cain, Amazon Cyborg Wildchild (female Praxian Headhunter), played by Kent

Session Recap
Valerie, Max, and Arisis successfully make their way to Isla de la Juventud, also known as "Isla de Encanta" and "Treasure Island". Shortly after they reach the island, the erstwhile fourth member of their group, the Psi-Stalker called Kat, arrives at the docks, having earlier been summoned by Max via astral projection. Kat is warmly greeted by Valerie, who is openly thrilled to see the Psi-Stalker. Max, still haunted by the senseless deaths of the villagers back on Cuba proper, is somewhat more reserved, but glad to have Kat's particular set of skills on hand for what he anticipates will be a great struggle. Kat has arrived armed for bear, with much of her arsenal of mechanical combat drones, as well as Arisis' carnosaur-like robotic mount, in tow. (The Cyber-Knight is too excited about being reunited with her steed to properly greet her long-missing comrade.)

The group gets Kat up to speed on the nature of their predicament. They've learned that the island is home to a massive prison complex known as Bastille Impenetrable, which is operated by an extradimensional race called the Tisch. Grey-skinned and three-eyed, the Tisch (or at least, the ones running Bastille Impenetrable) are vehemently opposed to the death penalty, and will hold any criminal in one of their pan-Megaversal prisons (for a nominal fee, of course). Thus, they operate this prison out of both philosophical and profit-based concerns. The city surrounding the prison is under strict rule of law, and any infractions are punished with immediate arrest (and, presumably, imprisonment). The group believes that one of the twins they seek to rescue must be imprisoned in Bastille Impenetrable. Max wonders aloud whether it's Asha or Annejah, and under what sort of pretenses they could be held. The mere mention of their names apparently sets off some sort of psychic alert, which the team's psionics -- Arisis, Kat, and Max -- all detect.

Max links hands with the other two and attempts to trace the source of the distress call, expecting to find one of the twins requesting aid. Instead, the three sense another being entirely: one that is guarded by an ogre shaman. Their concentrated will easily thwarts the shaman's attempted mental interference, and they are surprised to find themselves speaking with a presence that identifies itself as the Sunstar Aegis -- the ship belonging to their benefactor, Nysa, which they were told had been seized by ogre pirates. Max, bewildered, admits that he's never telepathically contacted a ship before. He and his companions soon learn that the ship has a magically sapient control CPU, and it is with this artifact that they are communicating. The "rune-puter" (as Kat describes it) informs them that the Neuron Beast Zaal double-crossed the ogre pirates that captured the twins (and the Sunstar Aegis) upon arriving at Treasure Island, and that he has one of them in captivity now. Their conversation is cut short, however, when the ogre shaman that was guarding the Sunstar Aegis resumes control and severs communications. Max attempts to contact the ship again, but proves unable to. (In an interesting feature of the Fate Core system, I accepted a Fate Point in exchange for agreeing that Max would be unable to reach the ship again.)

Taking an alternate approach, Kat uses her inborn Psi-Stalker tracking abilities to home in on the residual psychic trail leading to the ship's location, but upon arrival, she and her compatriots are detained by an alarmed Tisch dock inspector. Max, often the voice of the team, attempts to appeal to the inspector's sense of justice by calmly explaining the nature of their situation, but the bureaucrat's insistence that the group lacks the proper permits and must leave the dock immediately quickly wears down Max's resolve, and his teenage distrust of authority asserts itself.  While the Tisch continues indignantly babbling in legalese and prodding Max and associates with a clipboard, they notice that a group of unsavory-looking ogres are staring them down from where the Sunstar Aegis is docked. Max grows increasingly frustrated, and before long the young Mystic goes into meltdown, shouting that "somebody's in trouble and you want us to do paperwork -- this is why nobody bothers with the cops!" (I accepted another Fate Point here, for letting the GM compel Max's Raging Hormones aspect to his detriment.) The inspector angrily responds that he is "not a cop" but suggests that perhaps he should call for backup. The titan Arisis literally carries an infuriated Max away before the situation can get worse, and Valerie flatly informs her young friend that he is "blowing it." Kat steps in and tries to provoke the dock inspector into giving away something useful, with limited results, and it seems that things are about to escalate even further when Val finally takes control. She flirtatiously smoothes over the disagreement, but has little choice but to agree to an evening date with the inspector in order to stop him from calling in armed reinforcements. Max (somewhat sullenly) muses that at least something productive may have come from the group's efforts.

Our heroes, stymied, head into the city that has sprung up around Bastille Impenetrable. Kat and Valerie search for more leads, while Max and Arisis find themselves more distracted by the sights (and tastes) of the city rather than turning up anything useful. Over a strange delicacy known as a "corn dog", Max apologizes to Arisis for his disastrous outburst during the group's encounter with the dock inspector, but asks that she not pick him up like a doll in public again. As he is wrapping up his heart-to-heart with the titan, Max is surprised to see Gia -- the young, unusually attractive goblin he had met in Havana some days prior -- also enjoying a corn dog. (I spent one of my Fate Points to set a scene detail here, since the GM had already expressed an interest in having Gia show up again someday.) Evidently, she is a travelling folk healer who roams throughout the region, plying her trade. Max seizes the opportunity to ask Gia out on a date, which she accepts. Max, naturally, picks the same restaurant that the dock inspector chose for his date with Valerie, since (after all) it's the only nice place in town that he knows of.

That evening, Max spends a little bit too much of his date craning his neck to get an idea of how Valerie's is going, but Gia is apparently only slightly annoyed. Valerie's rendezvous, which the Headhunter is apparently unable to extricate herself from despite her best efforts, is still underway when Max and Gia leave the restaurant to meet up with Kat and Arisis. As they continue to explore the city in search of clues, a gruff-voiced, masked Tisch who introduces himself as "Objection" suddenly makes his presence known to the group. Objection knows that our heroes are in search of Neuron Beast Zaal and informs them that the creature is currently holed up in the embassy that it, as the ostensible ruler of an "empire" in Cuba, maintains in the city. Watched constantly by members of the band of ogre pirates that it double-crossed, the neuron beast is unable to leave his domicile. Zaal, we're told, has one of the twins in a "stasis box" and intends to sell her to a banker named Phket, who clandestinely launders money for human(oid) traffickers. (At this point, Max advises Gia that things are likely to get a bit crazy, and that he wouldn't object if she decided to bail, but she elects to stick around.)

Arisis, Kat, and Max agree to Objection's plan to draw the ogres away from Zaal's embassy. Arisis, no friend to ogres, is particularly keen on this gambit, suggesting that she and her comrades go the extra mile and lead the hulking humanoids all the way back to the docks where the Sunstar Aegis is held. Objection plans to break into the embassy during the chaos that ensues -- "I work alone" -- and insists that "no murders are going to happen in my city", an edict to which Max and Kat scoffingly agree. The group rushes back to the restaurant and rescues a grateful Valerie from her interminable outing with the dock inspector, and after filling her in on the details, she agrees to their plan: Val will head to Zaal's location while the others distract the ogres and withdraw with them in pursuit.