Friday, February 5, 2016

Rifts Misadventures: Session 25

The Messenger
My brother Chris took the helm of our Rifts campaign as GM last weekend, for what must be the first time running a game in decades. He hasn't lost a step, producing a session that fully reflects his inimitably quirky sensibilities. It looks like this might be our final adventure with these characters in the Rifts setting, and though I'm glad that we'll send them off into the sunset with style, it will be bittersweet to say goodbye to something we've played (on and off) for nearly 25 years.

The Solutions @ Gun Pointe Roster (with ICONS "high concept" qualities, followed by traditional Rifts O.C.C.s)

Arisis Solstice, Radiant Daughter of Atlas (female titan Cyber-Knight), played by Felix
Fay, Demigod Super-Genius Smuggler (female demigod City Rat/Runner), played by Chris
Maximilian Park, Runaway Teenage Mystic (male human Mystic), played by me
Valerie Cain, Amazon Cyborg Wildchild (female Praxian Headhunter), played by Kent

Max is vexed by the acquittal of Alexis and her troupe, and openly frustrated that he and his friends have found themselves on the defensive since arriving in Serendipity. These disappointments get the better of him when he tries to reach some kind of understanding with his on-again/off-again flame, Quinn. When Fay expresses an interest in apologizing to Quinn for their earlier spat, Max arranges a meeting with her, but Quinn takes offense at Fay's suggestion that she might one day want to leave Black Fortress. The young mystic and the Coalition heiress later have a public shouting match at the local shooting range, and predictably, the two are soon back to not being on speaking terms.

In an attempt to put his entanglements with Quinn behind him and focus on impending threats, Max sequesters himself in his section of Solutions @ Gun Pointe's compound. Noxious fumes and discordant music waft out of Nexus Garden for the next two days. With his mystic colleague Nysa assisting him, Max plunges himself into a deep state of altered precognitive consciousness, during which he experiences a vivid clairvoyant vision -- parts of which include:

  • The vampire lord Inocente, amid scores of sleeping vampires, dismisses Max with a wave of his hand
  • Yeshka, the hatchling night stalker dragon, laying with her companion, Tetka the sphinx, whose voice is heard to say "The Coiled Serpent sleeps in the lap of Heaven"
  • Kat's houseboat recedes away from the dock behind the S@GP compound, and Kat's voice whispers "His skin shimmers in the light of remembrance" in Max's ear
  • Fay, along with Mian, Reez, and Black Puma, in the cockpit of her Horizont, apparently in distress -- all four say "Those who are forsaken await the Revenant" before the ship explodes in a flash of light
  • Quinn emerges and takes Max's hand, then turns to enter a black doorway, saying "Come forth, you damned and damaged" before the door closes
  • A vision of the cave in which Max received his mystic training -- his master's voice says "And meet your fate, your master..."
  • The face of Max's father, screaming "your MAKER!" at Max

As Max ponders the meaning of his vision, our heroes take a trip to Phase World in Fay's Horizont, this time bringing the Metry brothers along as a reward for their recent services to S@GP. Once in Center, Max attempts to contact Karen Cray, but is unable to find her -- although someone has clearly released new "Champions of Light" video material. (Among this is footage of S@GP's arena battle against the Othrys Totality, apparently shot from the crowd, along with some clips that could only have been shot by S@GP's sometime ally Nahar.) Determined to bring something of value back, Max resolves to collect as much information about Center as he can during his brief stay, planning to deliver it to Nysa when S@GP returns. (Nysa had asked Kat to gather intel on Phase World before their first trip there, but Kat hurriedly left Serendipity before delivering it.)

While our heroes refresh themselves at a spacers' bar in Center, they are approached by an old-fashioned-looking robot, who informs them (via ticker-tape) that an individual called "Intaglio the Procurer" requests to meet with them. Fay seems nonplussed, explaining that Intaglio is a notorious space pirate known for his fascination with robots. The robot, who identifies itself as "the Messenger", states that Intaglio has information that might interest S@GP. Fay is still dubious, but admits that the pirate's reputation is not especially bloody, and the group agrees to Intaglio's request. The Messenger extrudes a punch-card detailing the time and coordinates of the meeting from a slot in its chest and departs.

The Angler
After spending the night in Fay's capacious Horizont, S@GP return to Serendipity to drop off the Metry brothers and the information Nysa requested. At the appointed hour, they teleport back to Phase World dimension, arriving at the coordinates specified by the Messenger's punch-card -- in close proximity to the Angler, Intaglio's large, fishlike starship. The Horizont is directed into the Angler's now-gaping maw, as Max wonders aloud if "flying into spaceships' mouths is just how they do things in this dimension" (recalling the Horizont's earlier capture by the titan flagship Xanthus).

Intaglio the Procurer is a gracious if foppish host, treating S@GP to a sumptuous, multi-course meal aboard his opulent spacecraft, served to them by a dazzling array of intricately crafted automatons. The pirate himself is attended by a quartet of feminine-looking robots named Diamond, Pearl, Gold, and Onyx, after the materials with which they are adorned. S@GP are polite but uneasy -- Valerie attempts to test the victuals for poison with her cybernetic sensors, to no avail -- but Intaglio insists that decorum dictates they not discuss business until the meal is concluded.

Intaglio the Procurer
After the table has been cleared by his hovering robot drones, Intaglio finally deigns to reveal his proposal. He informs our heroes that he has information on a party that hired him to collect certain components used in the construction of Amethyst Deceivers -- the crystalline magical artifacts that allowed Tetka and Yeshka to infiltrate and ensnare S@GP undetected some weeks prior. The Procrurer says that he will part with this information in exchange for Valerie and Max. Valerie flatly refuses, but Max is caught off guard, first advising the pirate not to trifle with S@GP, then briefly bantering with Intaglio in an attempt to understand his brash proposal. When it becomes clear that the pirate intends to turn the pair in, to collect the outstanding bounties on their heads -- and that he has no intention of allowing them to refuse -- Max abruptly summons his psionic blade and informs Intaglio that he "fucked up" by not heeding his warning. Intaglio sighs, his bejeweled robot companions transform their arms into wicked-looking double-bladed swords, and the battle begins.

As the robots advance, their torsos (and blades) whirling at blinding speed, Arisis dives at the pirate, hoping to clinch him and end the fight quickly. However, Intaglio's body -- now revealed to be entirely mechanical -- separates at the waist, effortlessly avoiding the titan's grappling attempt. Max nearly gets skewered by the robot called Gold, but Arisis recovers from her earlier miss in time to block the attack. Max thanks his friend and casts an armor spell upon himself to prevent future potential impalement. Valerie transforms one of her bionic arms into a force-pulse cannon, then blasts away at Intaglio's "fembots", as Fay likewise opens fire on them with her laser blasters, anticipating and evading their attacks as easily as she did the vampires' days ago.

The robot Gold turns "her" attention to Arisis, but Arisis deftly parries its whirling blades, allowing the titan to riposte with her own weapon and throw it off balance. Seeing an opening, Max reaches out with his telekinetic abilities, achieving a partial hold on Intaglio. The pirate's mechanical body warps and stretches in attempt to wriggle out, but the slippery, polished floor of his dining room proves to be his undoing, sending Intaglio sprawling ineffectually, still in Max's grip. While Valerie and Fay continue blasting away at the blade-spinning robots, the young mystic, infuriated by yet another presumptuous attempt to capture him and his friends, shouts another inelegant insult at Intaglio and smashes the foppish freebooter into one of the ornate chandeliers hanging overhead.

Once Intaglio drops back to the floor, Arisis again lunges at him -- this time, her mastery of wrestling serves her well, and she seizes him in a nigh-unbreakable hold. Intaglio seems unperturbed, for good reason: his head suddenly detaches from his body and flies away. Our heroes are astonished to see Intaglio's head alight atop a new, massive robot body that forms itself from the chassis of his bejeweled companions: Diamond, Pearl, Gold, and Onyx. Max psychically stuns Intaglio, rendering him unconscious, but his body regains its ability to act -- and attack. However, before the newly-formed giant robot can do much damage, Max immobilizes it with his magic, then advances menacingly with his glowing psychic knife still in hand, allowing Intaglio to regain his senses. "I warned you," Max says with murderous intent. Arisis interposes herself between the two, reminding Max that Intaglio might have information useful to the group. The teenage spellcaster admits that he has lost control, and steps back.

Arisis interrogates the now body-less Intaglio, as Valerie sets about destroying his giant robo-chassis with her arm-cannon. Intaglio proves much more willing to divulge his information now that he is at S@GP's mercy, and commands his innumerable robot servants to stand down. He reveals that he was contracted to steal materials called Cairngorm Crystals by an anonymous employer, who dealt with Intaglio only through encrypted communications signed with the seal of an ouroboros serpent, twisted in such a fashion as to resemble an infinity sigil. Max immediately recalls "the Coiled Serpent" referred to in his vision, then re-stuns the pirate. S@GP head to the Angler's cargo hold and loot it thoroughly, loading up Fay's Horizont and ensuring that they take the stolen Cairngorm Crystals in the process. Fay, a demolitions expert, also rigs Intaglio's starship to explode before the group makes its escape with Intaglio's head still in their possession. Aboard the Horizont, Max cruelly wakens Intaglio to see the Angler erupt in a ball of fire. "I warned you," Max repeats. Arisis' psychic senses alert her to impending danger, and she cold-cocks the furious pirate before he can do whatever damage he intended.

The "Coiled Serpent"?
As Fay and Valerie pilot the Horizont, Arisis and Max turn their attention to the captured Cairngorm Crystals -- small balls of glassy spikes that resemble sea urchins. Arisis tries to use her powers of postcognition to get a reading on the crystals, but is unable to glean any useful impressions. Max gives it another try, and is rewarded with a vision of the crystals being technologically refined -- somehow "concentrated" out of vapor on a gas planet -- then stolen by the Angler from the craft that is performing this process. When his vision concludes, Max is surprised to find that the Cairngorm Crystal he was examining has changed shape: it is now a single bluish shard that seems identical to those that comprise his own crystalline power armor (the origins of which have never been understood). Max, bewildered, takes care not to touch the transformed Cairngorm Crystal with his armor.

Fay learns via accessing IMJN (the Intergalactic and Megaversal Justice Network) that Intaglio is wanted for numerous crimes, and has been sentenced to death in absentia by the Transgalactic Empire. This being the case, the group contacts Bastille Impenetrable, who agree that Intaglio is a high-value target, and will count towards the five remaining apprehensions required under S@GP's bargain with Bastille if handed over to them in Cuba. Arisis requests that they first stop in Center, where she reassures the four titans that fled Serendipity when she was possessed by Alexis and convinces them to return to Earth. S@GP then teleport back to their homeworld, turn Intaglio in as agreed, and return to Serendipity.

Solutions @ Gun Pointe take a moment to regroup at their headquarters and ponder their next move. While sharing a meal in the mess hall, something crashes through its skylight -- something that is quickly recognized as the BAKENEKO stealth drone, which their missing companion, Kat, brought with her when she suddenly left town weeks ago. Badly damaged, the catlike drone carries a crumpled piece of paper in its mouth: a Coalition medical supply order. On the back of the sheet is scrawled a symbol that none of our heroes recognize, but which Fay analyzes and confirms was drawn by Kat.

Max uses his powers to get a reading on the order form, seeing fleeting impressions of Kat traveling from place to place, questioning people in her own inimitable (and intimidating) style before some sort of psychic interference cuts the vision short and thrusts Max's perception unwillingly out. The young mystic tries once more with the BAKENEKO itself, and is rewarded with a more detailed vision of the drone running through desert. Again, something -- or someone -- attempts to force Max's consciousness out, but Max powers through and follows the drone's progress all the way back to Serendipity and the present.

Having learned all that they are likely to from the drone, Max's friends look to him expectantly. Without them having to say anything, he sighs in resignation and contacts Quinn. Yet another tense reunion follows, with Quinn immediately identifying the symbol on the sheet as representing Project Helix -- a Coalition genetics program said to have been shut down at least fifty years ago.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Rifts Misadventures: Session 24

Artist unknown
Last session ended in mid-fight, with things looking decidedly bad for our player characters. Our final Rifts session with Felix in the GM's seat was a huge, knock-down battle that saw us thinking strategically, using our Qualities in creative ways, and spending all the Determination points we had to win. We really gave ICONS' combat system a thorough workout for the first time -- a valuable thing to do.

The Solutions @ Gun Pointe Roster (with ICONS "high concept" qualities, followed by traditional Rifts O.C.C.s)

Arisis Solstice, Radiant Daughter of Atlas (female titan Cyber-Knight), played by Felix
Fay, Demigod Super-Genius Smuggler (female demigod City Rat/Runner), played by Chris
Maximilian Park, Runaway Teenage Mystic (male human Mystic), played by me
Valerie Cain, Amazon Cyborg Wildchild (female Praxian Headhunter), played by Kent

What was intended to be a hostage transaction has now devolved into full-scale combat, with the Muluc vampire lord Inocente, his undead minions, and the carnival troupe of "la Princessa" Alexisandriath on one side, and the badly outnumbered Solutions @ Gun Pointe on the other. Fay yells for the recently released Biggers family to run like hell, and again opens fire on Inocente, missing him and setting the roof of the Biggers residence on fire in the process. S@GP's recently arrived ally, Nikomedes, leverages his titanic might to flip over the armored ATV Alexis and company travel in, an act which seems to shock the woman who currently occupies Arisis' body and her troupe. Her strongman, Hamilton Ponchartrain, leaps at Nikomedes, knocking the giant out with hammering blows to the torso, as Alexis' brother, Invictus, carefully recovers a battered and bloodied -- and bound -- elven woman from inside the upturned vehicle. Max decides engaging Alexis physically is a mistake, even with her inexpert use of her stolen titan body, and tries to psionically exorcise Alexis' presence from Arisis. Unfortunately, the young mystic finds hers to be one of the most formidable minds he has ever encountered, and is incapable of loosening Alexis' psychic grip.

As the battle rages, Valerie, whose power armor's controls have been compromised by the young hacker Jack Spade, manages to overpower her mecha's servomotors with her own considerable inborn Praxian strength. First, she stops it from punching through her helmet with its blades, then wrestles the missile launcher system's chest-mounted hatches shut, preventing the mecha from incinerating her friends with plasma blasts. Spade is shocked by her display of muscle and grit, frantically tapping at his datapad as she inexorably powers her way towards him, even as Spade's friends open fire upon her. Max tries to shield Valerie by telekinetically moving his unoccupied suit of crystalline armor into the line of fire, to little effect. Alien Ahmed, the driver of the ATV, uses his own telekinetic powers to lift and right the vehicle.

Fay, meanwhile, has squared off with Inocente and a pack of his vampire followers, deflecting their repeated lunges at her with ease, sending the undead sprawling into the dirt. Max -- still in the form of Quinn, whom Inocente wants for his own nefarious ends -- has considerably less luck fending off the vampires. He finds himself grappled by several of the bloodsuckers, who begin to drag the struggling Max-as-Quinn towards the waiting ATV. Inocente commands his minions to load "Quinn" into the vehicle, as Alexis' drug-crazed flunky, Joaquin, again attempts to cloud Max's mind and put him to sleep... and again fails miserably. Furious and confused, Joaquin tries to pour a bottle of liquor down the squirming and sputtering "Quinn's" throat. Alexis takes charge, staring intently at "Quinn", but like Joaquin, her psychic assault is easily turned away by Max's mental resistance -- not without cost, however, as in the process, Alexis senses that "Quinn" is not what she seems. She shouts that Inocente has been deceived, and the vampire lord instantly orders his progeny to drop Max and slay the fleeing Biggers family.

The atmosphere again fills with a now-familiar mist, and the vampires rush to slaughter their prey. Fay, unable to see the vampires, pragmatically decides instead to shoot the nearby Jack Spade, mortally wounding the young man and causing the exoskeleton-wearing Miss Tess to cry out in anguish. Having regained control of her mecha, Valerie transforms it to motorcycle mode and speeds into the fog, through and then past the vampires, cutting them off and preventing them from attacking the Biggers. Max, realizing his ruse is done, reclaims his empty armor via telekinesis and lets it envelop him. Alexis' troupe, realizing that Inocente's plan has been ruined, focus on loading into their ATV rather than prolonging the fight.

Valerie and Fay concentrate their efforts on stopping Inocente's vampires from slaughtering the Biggers. Max senses an opportunity, however, and uses his still-active spell of telekinesis to lift the ATV -- now occupied by nearly half of Alexis' troupe -- high off the ground, then furiously slam it into the ground in a nosedive, with as much force as he can muster (which turns out to be considerable). The occupants of the vehicle are, to a man, either badly injured or rendered unconscious. Alexis looks on in shock, and Arisis -- still in the bruised and hogtied body of Alexis -- takes immediate advantage, summoning all of her mental reserves and casting the usurper from her own body. Instantly, the titan's consciousness returns to its rightful place, as does the elven woman's. Alexis is rendered helpless, and though a few of her followers -- and all of the vampires -- escape into the night, S@GP soon take Alexis captive, along with the badly wounded Jack Spade and those that were aboard the ATV.

After the fog dissipates, our heroes speak with their captives, as well as the rapidly recovering Nikomedes and Pelagia, to piece together an account. Inocente apparently learned from Alexis' fortune teller, Reana, that Quinn could potentially engineer a cure to his kind's vulnerability to running water, and determined to capture the Black Fortress scientist. Alexis is adamant that she and her troupe were mesmerized and otherwise coerced into assisting the vampires, though admits that she possessed Arisis simply because the opportunity presented itself. Alexis demands that she and her employees deserve a fair trial, immediately threatening that if they don't receive one, her escaped troupe members, as well as her swamp-dwelling family and their subjects, will rise up and attack Serendipity. Max, infuriated by Alexis' brazen threats and unrepentant attitude, openly scoffs at the idea that someone "who's spent years making the dreams of half the guildmasters in this town come true" could receive a fair trial, but ultimately recognizes with disgust that S@GP have no other real options.

In the end, the court is sympathetic to Alexis' argument, despite Arisis' eyewitness testimony -- perhaps because of the influence the elven woman wields over the town's upper crust, or perhaps because of the still-fresh memories of vampires, pestilence, and maddened dogs attacking its citizenry and laying siege to Black Fortress' headquarters. The idea of solely vampiric responsibility is bolstered when Black Fortress operatives testify that vampires mesmerized their own men into ambushing Master Sergeant Jesse John Ross. When Alexis offers to monetarily compensate Black Fortress for their damages, the matter is declared settled. Max silently seethes, barely comforted by the fact that Arisis was not held responsible, and that Serendipity authorities promise to enact tighter security measures and begin an anti-vampire training program. The young mystic, angry that he and his friends have found themselves on the defensive since arriving in their new home, vows that Solutions @ Gun Pointe will not be victimized again.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Rifts Misadventures: Session 23

V. Cain. Headshot. by K-Bonifield
This was the most "traditional" RPG session I've played in a long time, with hours of planning, investigating, and joking around leading up to a massive fight that still didn't quite go the way we had planned. The fight is so massive, in fact, that we were barely able to finish the first round due to the number of combatants (and the fact that we've just now started to understand some of the ICONS combat rules).

The Solutions @ Gun Pointe Roster (with ICONS "high concept" qualities, followed by traditional Rifts O.C.C.s)

Arisis Solstice, Radiant Daughter of Atlas (female titan Cyber-Knight), played by Felix
Fay, Demigod Super-Genius Smuggler (female demigod City Rat/Runner), played by Chris
Maximilian Park, Runaway Teenage Mystic (male human Mystic), played by me
Valerie Cain, Amazon Cyborg Wildchild (female Praxian Headhunter), played by Kent

Valerie hurriedly administers first aid to young Patty Biggers, the child whose family are held hostage by vampires. Max, seething, states that the vampires "fucked up" by giving Solutions @ Gun Pointe the better part of a day's worth of sunlight to formulate a plan of attack, and proposes using shapeshifting magic to assume Quinn's form for the supposed handoff. Fay thinks this could work, and further suggests that Max mimic his own presence at the midnight meeting by controlling his (empty) suit of crystalline power armor via telekinesis. After leaving the exhausted child in the care of the neighboring Gun Street Girls militia and speaking with the crew they have working on Fay's spacecraft, Solutions @ Gun Pointe, still missing a founding member, head north for Biggers' Farm for reconnaissance.

Our heroes take position a considerable distance away from the Biggers' compound, where Max hunkers down to get some desperately needed rest. Valerie, pushing the limits of her transformable VAMPS bionic arms, detaches one of her hands, reconfigures it with an assortment of high-tech sensors, and sends it crawling towards the family's house, connected to her arm via nano-fiber. She then remotely explores the house, finding little of interest other than nine distraught, unguarded family members bickering with each other. Valerie attempts to make contact with the Biggers patriarch via hand-microphone, but he is beyond reasoning with, refusing to leave and apparently able to do nothing but rave in terror and despair. His family does not fare any better. The headhunter retrieves her wandering hand, and Fay opines that the Biggers family and their employees have been mentally dominated by the vampires into remaining on the property, with the destruction of the undead being the only way to break their hold.

Valerie decides to move closer to the compound, and Max and Fay follow, camouflaging themselves with techno-wizardry. As they approach, the group confirm that the farm hands are still working the Biggers' fields as if nothing were out of the ordinary, and either don't notice S@GP's arrival, or simply ignore it. Transforming her bionic arms into seismic "thumpers", Valerie acquires subterranean imagery of the area, which reveals that a number of bodies have been buried in a nearby pit. Max casts a spell of earth control to exhume them, but finds that they are not vampires -- they do not burn in the daylight. After reburying them, the young mystic has second thoughts, and again opens the shallow mass grave. He casts another spell to commune with the spirits of the deceased, and confirms his suspicions: these were farm workers, murdered by the vampires, and their souls are seeking to be released before their bodies rise as bloodthirsty undead. Before he grants their wish, Max asks why the vampires want Quinn, and learns that their master believes she has the knowledge to permanently remove one of his kind's weaknesses. Max then incinerates their corpses with fire bolts from his armor, and buries their ashes for the last time.

S@GP receive a call from the crew working on the Horizont, informing them that there has been more trouble at Black Fortress headquarters. Max decides to contact Quinn telepathically and learns that there is dissension in the Coalition-affiliated group's ranks, with several of their operatives having made an attempt on Master Sergeant Jesse John Ross' life. The psi-stalker is now in critical condition, but recovering, she says, and Max hypothesizes that the vampires mentally dominated several Black Fortress members when they attacked their base. Quinn is confident that she'll be safe as long as her brother, Brigadier Omar Espinoza, is with her. Max warns Quinn that she is in danger until he and his friends resolve the situation, and insists that "after this, we're done -- it has to be over, seriously." Quinn agrees, but implores Max to be careful, then ends the communication. Max sighs in frustration, and admits to his friends that the two have continued seeing each other in secret since "officially" breaking up at the power armor tournament (after the revelation that she was a member of Black Fortress).

The group then return to their headquarters to rest and equip themselves for the impending battle, having decided not to return to the farm until the appointed hour to prevent being spotted by the returning vampires. Our heroes load up on wooden stakes and silvered ammunition, and Max metamorphoses into an exact duplicate of Quinn Espinoza. Fay climbs onto the back of Valerie's Cyclone mecha-motorcycle and the group heads out, with Max-as-Quinn being flown to their destination, cradled in the arms of his own (telekinetically controlled) crystal armor. Almost immediately after leaving their base, S@GP are contacted by an excited Emerson Metry -- the crew working on Fay's ship has successfully detected two dimensional "blips" on the east side of Serendipity. Having little time to investigate, our heroes elect to continue to the farm, but en route, they receive another call from Metry. Two titans loyal to Arisis -- Nikomedes and Pelagia -- have arrived at Solutions' headquarters and want to help. S@GP ask the giant warriors to meet them at the Biggers compound.

As soon as they arrive at the farm, our heroes are confronted by "La Princessa", Alexis -- still occupying the body of their friend Arisis -- and her entire entourage, as well as a pack of vampires led by an armored, shadowy figure in a poncho and sombrero, perched atop the roof of the Biggers' home. Valerie finds that her electronic sensors are being jammed. Alexis mockingly congratulates S@GP for laying their traps, and for finding and eliminating the buried vampires-to-be. Fay responds that they've brought Quinn as asked, then demands that the Biggers family be released. The vampires, seemingly satisfied that Max is indeed Quinn, acquiesce, and soon enough the Biggers march out of their house. The master vampire then introduces himself as Inocente, and announces (in Spanish) that Quinn is "the key for a new life for the tribe of Muluc", accompanied by the howling of wolves. Max-as-Quinn raises a finger for silence, then draws the Sword of Baragor from the scabbard carried by his (empty) armor.

Inocente is momentarily taken aback. Before he can react, Fay opens fire upon him with a Wrightsmith-crafted shotgun loaned to her by Valerie (and loaded with silvered ammunition), blasting the vampire in the face. Inocente is more enraged than injured, and commands his progeny to attack, but they make little headway, as the titans Nikomedes and Pelagia arrive. Nikomedes holds most of the vampires at bay with a ward against the undead, a feat which S@GP have seen Arisis perform in the past. His companion, Pelagia, however, is quickly humiliated by Alexis' bruiser, Hamilton Ponchartrain. The short, stocky fighter incapacitates Pelagia with a devastating pair of leaping punches that the female titan proves incapable of withstanding, and she crumples to the ground soon after arriving on the field. Ponchartrain's employer, Alexis, proves less adept with physical combat, as she is noticeably uncomfortable with Arisis' giant frame. Valerie avoids her giant-sized attacks with little difficulty. Her teenage companions also evade their foes: Fay shrugs off an attempt on Inocente's part to control her mind, and when Joaquin Miranda tries to use his dream-powers to lull Max to sleep, he successfully resists.

Valerie's electronic jamming troubles come to a head when her Cyclone power armor suddenly shuts down, disabled remotely by the young hacker, Jack Spade. The skull-masked Horacio begins to weave a spell, and Max, seeing that Valerie is in trouble, begins to make his way towards her, shrugging off Alien Ahmed's attempt to telekinetically grapple him in the process. Still in the form of Quinn, Max mentally guides his armor out of the path of a blast aimed at it by the cyborg Remy, hoping the ruse that its empty shell contains himself holds. Several of Alexis' troupe seem to be biding their time, but one of the vampires stymied by Nikomedes tries to dominate Max's mind, which the mystic barely manages to fight off (invoking the Always There For Val quality was the only way I made the roll). Finally reaching his goal, Max lashes out at the Alexis-possessed Arisis, with the Sword of Baragor urging him on... and misses.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Rifts Misadventures: Session 22

Quinn by Runshin
We played a somewhat brief, but extremely enjoyable investigation-oriented session last weekend. Felix's knack for running fantastically hateable villains was on full display, and he knew when to let his players do their thing and get themselves into trouble. It's a refreshing contrast to the sometimes fairly railroady approach I used during my adventure.

The Solutions @ Gun Pointe Roster (with ICONS "high concept" qualities, followed by traditional Rifts O.C.C.s)

Arisis Solstice, Radiant Daughter of Atlas (female titan Cyber-Knight), played by Felix
Fay, Demigod Super-Genius Smuggler (female demigod City Rat/Runner), played by Chris
Maximilian Park, Runaway Teenage Mystic (male human Mystic), played by me
Valerie Cain, Amazon Cyborg Wildchild (female Praxian Headhunter), played by Kent

In the wake of a vampire attack led by Solutions @ Gun Pointe member Arisis Solstice and her titan followers, pandemonium reigns at Black Fortress headquarters! As the Coalition-affiliated mercenaries scramble to regain a semblance of order in the chaos, Max confronts Quinn, the apparent target of the assault, demanding to know why they sought her out. Quinn professes to have no idea, and with Black Fortress troops rapidly closing in on their location -- and Valerie insisting via radio that they leave immediately and help track down Arisis -- Max and Fay decide to evacuate the premises. The youths are able to elude Black Fortress and exit their HQ (aided by Chameleon magic), then reunite with Valerie. Serendipity's Federal Army has sent troops to pacify the area, and they nearly spot our heroes making their escape, but the thick mists that still permeate the part of town surrounding the besieged base cloak them from detection. The group hears Sir Shanidar, leader of the local Cyber-Knights, commanding them to "hold!" but pay him no heed for now.

S@GP find the adjoining neighborhood in nearly as poor a condition as the mercenary base. The summoned fog hangs thick over the town, reducing visibility to a few feet. The air is filled with angry swarms of insects and the sound of confused and injured townsfolk crying out for aid. Wild dogs, while no longer under vampiric control, still roam the streets, terrorizing the locals and menacing the wounded. Valerie reconfigures her VAMPS bionic arms to blast the dogs with bursts of hypersonic frequencies, sending many (but not all) of them running. Fay and Max cut down some of remaining dogs with controlled bursts of laser fire from their sidearms, until Max decides he'd do more good if he attended to the wounded citizens with his healing magic.

A distraught Valerie reminds her friends that their focus should be on finding Arisis. Fay voices her belief that "La Princessa" Alexisandriath Pnemenopanthalus is responsible, and proposes that there might be a way to track the teleporting titans, possibly using her Horizont starship, which possesses a techno-wizardry dimensional drive. Max suggests that Arisis may have been possessed, and mentions that Quinn has the psionic ability to sense dimensional disturbances. This prompts Fay's decision to reinfiltrate Black Fortress and attempt to get more information out of the young scientist. Before he leaves to help with the injured, Max asks Valerie to explain what she can to the Cyber-Knights.

In the slowly dissipating fog, Valerie and Sir Shanidar find each other in short order. Shanidar is furious, demanding to know why Arisis led the assault on Black Fortress HQ. Valerie explains that she is possessed -- probably by Alexis -- and that as one of their own, Solutions @ Gun Pointe will handle her. The Cyber-Knight allows that he has little love for La Princessa, but lets his elven prejudices show, shouting that he knew all along that trusting Arisis (and the rest of her titan kind) would prove to be a disastrous mistake. Valerie considers using her bionic arms' hypersonic tweeters to spook the elf's warhorse, but thinks better of it. "Three months ago, I'd have shot his horse. Three weeks ago, I'd have had it throw him. Now..." Her thought process is interrupted when she sees the techno-wizardry-powered flying boat of Metry Air Taxi float by in the distance.

Valerie chases the flying taxi down, thinking that its operators may have seen Arisis and her new friends in the area. Ralph Metry tells her he didn't see any giants during the night, but is receptive to Valerie's suggestion that as techno-wizards, he and his brother Emerson may be able to rig Fay's ship with a means of detecting dimensional teleportation. Valerie formulates a plan, but along the way to her next stop, she makes a quick visit to the encampment that Nysa had set up for the titan refugees, finding nothing out of place (other than the absence of titans themselves). One of the workers informs Valerie that he saw Arisis arrive in the night, enter the domicile of the half-dozen titans that had not gone on the Yucatan expedition with Relos, and depart ten minutes later with all of them in tow. This had not struck anyone as unusual at the time -- indeed, they were unaware of the titans' subsequent attack on Black Fortress until Valerie informed them. She then tries enlist the aid of an operator garage in the Gun Street area to assist the Metry brothers in upgrading Fay's ship, and the combination of Valerie's charms and the garage crew's sense of community is enough to convince them. Before long, the operators and the techno-wizards are at S@GP's compound, hard at work on the Horizont.

Even with their base on high alert, Fay finds it relatively easy to sneak back into Black Fortress, using her beyond-genius-level intellect (and her armor's magical Chameleon capabilities) to anticipate and bypass their heightened security measures. As she makes her way towards the section of the facility occupied by Grey Gate, the mercenary team's paranormal research wing, Fay overhears preparations for "paying Solutions @ Gun Pointe a visit." The young demigoddess finds Quinn being held for questioning, with Quinn insisting that she has no idea why the titans were after her, or what S@GP's involvement was. One of her interrogators is the psi-stalker Master Sergeant Jesse John Ross, who openly disbelieves her, saying "I know your boyfriend is one of them!" Quinn flatly denies this as well: "He's not my boyfriend." Ross seems to be on the verge of detecting Fay's presence, but the chief of Black Fortress, cyborg Brigadier Omar Espinoza, abruptly terminates the questioning and dismisses all personnel save Quinn, ordering that his younger sister be confined to base until further notice. Fay enters as soon as the Brigadier exits and confronts the agitated Quinn, who maintains that she is unaware of why she was the titans' quarry and that even if she wanted to help S@GP, she'd be unable to, grounded as she is. Fay trades a few barbs with the paranormal researcher before Quinn shrugs and calls for guards, signaling the end of the conversation. Frustrated, Fay is nevertheless able to elude detection on her way out of the base as easily as she did on the way in, and tells Max where she's planning to go next.

Meanwhile, Max, having expended his magical healing energies, returns to S@GP HQ to investigate Arisis' living quarters. He finds them in a state of disarray, and use of his postcognitive abilities reveals a vision of Arisis herself trashing the bungalow with obvious glee. Part of this vision involves Arisis knocking her sapient rune weapon, the Sword of Baragor, from its rack, and Max recovers the blade from the corner where it lies. As soon as he touches it, Baragor, the entity that resides within it, initiates mental contact with him, manifesting himself in Max's mind's eye as a blinding white light. Baragor is curt in his interactions with the young mystic, who is already aware that he falls somewhat short of Arisis' standard (and thus, the entity's exacting expectations), but nevertheless states that the person that cast him aside was not Arisis. Baragor cannot say whether the presence occupying Arisis was elven, but confirms that whatever it was, it was "depraved". Now certain that Alexis has somehow possessed Arisis, Max accepts the responsibility of reuniting Baragor with Arisis and restoring their bond.

Having successfully escaped Black Fortress HQ for the second time, Fay visits the home of Nysa, the godling who has acted as S@GP's benefactor since their arrival in Serendipity. Nysa welcomes Fay and grants her access to her records on Alexis and her troupe. Fay learns the names (and in some cases, an idea of the capabilities) of most of Alexis' companions, and also finds that the elf is literally the princess of a clan of swamp-dwelling elves. An exhausted Max then catches up with Fay and asks Nysa if there might be a connection between Dr. Stakes and Black Fortress' research division, or between Black Fortress and Alexis' troupe. Nysa is unsure of the former, but recollects that there was a scuffle between some Black Fortress grunts and some of Alexis' employees a few years ago, shortly after Black Fortress arrived in Serendipity. Unable to learn much more, Fay and Max take their leave, but not before Nysa takes Max aside and expresses her concern for him, saying that he is clearly drained and needs to rest. Max acknowledges Nysa, and asks if she can ensure that their headquarters are kept under watch if S@GP has to leave Serendipity again, to which she instantly agrees.

Back at S@GP's compound, Valerie is overseeing the crew's initial work on Fay's starship when she is alerted to inbound intruders by the base's security systems, arriving via the river running behind it. A half-dozen fanboats crewed with armed Black Fortress troops led by Master Sergeant Jesse John Ross are intercepted by Valerie and an assortment of automated defenses, including Arisis' robotic T-Rex mount, Kat's KAPPA cannon-drone, and various other mechanized armaments. Ross barks orders at Valerie, demanding that S@GP "hand over yer big'un". Valerie is unimpressed, explaining that Arisis isn't there, pointing out that she and her friends fought to help stop the titan assault on Black Fortress' base, and reminding Ross that he has no authority over Solutions in the first place. Ross and his Dog Boys, noticing that they cannot sense the supernatural giant's presence, soon realize that Arisis is indeed not on the premises, and withdraw after some token saber-rattling.

Max and Fay return to the base soon afterwards. Max is incensed that Black Fortress mobilized against S@GP. Fay seems unsurprised, then admits that she knew it was coming, and correctly guessed that Valerie would handle it without issue. Max is taken aback, then distracted when Fay says "your girlfriend's a bitch, by the way." Max says "she's not my girlfriend," but is forced to agree with the thrust of Fay's argument, though he states his belief that Quinn is fundamentally a good person that feels trapped by her situation. Fay is sympathetic to Max's disappointment in Quinn for remaining with Black Fortress, but points out that both Max and herself had to emancipate themselves from their own families, and that if Quinn wants to do the same, she'll need to do it on her own.

The teen members of S@GP's chat is cut short by another alert -- someone is at the compound's front door. The group checks a viewscreen, and the visitor is revealed to be a very disheveled-looking, very young girl. Valerie is unnerved, wondering aloud if "she's a ghost or something" and volunteers Max to handle the situation. Max sighs and asks (via intercom) what the girl needs, and she piteously asks for help. When Max picks her up and brings her inside, the girl identifies herself as Patty, and begs our heroes to help her family, the Biggers, who have a farm several miles outside of town. With horror, Valerie notes bite marks on the child's skin, and Patty Biggers tearfully delivers her message: that the "bad people" will hurt her family if Solutions @ Gun Pointe do not deliver Quinn to them at midnight.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Rifts Misadventures: Session 21

V.Cain.Dust by K-Bonifield
I caused a long break between sessions by going on another trip to Japan earlier this month. We resumed as soon as I got back, with another member of our gaming group, Felix, taking the GM reins for a while. Felix hasn't run any RPGs in years, but he was definitely firing on all cylinders by the end of the night. It's exhilarating to be back in the game as a player, not knowing what's coming next for a change!

The Solutions @ Gun Pointe Roster (with ICONS "high concept" qualities, followed by traditional Rifts O.C.C.s)

Arisis Solstice, Radiant Daughter of Atlas (female titan Cyber-Knight), played by Felix
Fay, Demigod Super-Genius Smuggler (female demigod City Rat/Runner), played by Chris
Maximilian Park, Runaway Teenage Mystic (male human Mystic), played by me
Valerie Cain, Amazon Cyborg Wildchild (female Praxian Headhunter), played by Kent

With Fay having joined the group, Solutions @ Gun Pointe takes advantage of her Horizont dropship's capabilities. As discussed with Sir Shanidar, they drop off a contingent of cyber-knights, a half-dozen titans, and Relos (along with a cargo container full of Naruni armaments) in Belize, to bolster the Range Knight Irregulars in their struggle in the Yucatan. 

Arisis then turns her attention to local affairs in Serendipity, letting her friends know about some sort of hedonistic ball or fetish party to be held outside of town in a few days. Apparently this bash is thrown annually by a traveling troupe led by an individual using the rather grandiose moniker of "La Princessa Pnemenopanthalus", and has become something of a tradition among the locals. Arisis is bound and determined to check it out, and though Max is somewhat trepidatious ("Am I even old enough to be let in?"), Valerie has no such qualms about attending, saying that if Arisis is that interested, she's in.

(Later, Max has a low-key birthday celebration, in which he provides everyone in S@GP with membership at the local gun range, explaining that it'd be a good opportunity for the group to rub shoulders with the other mercs in Serendipity. For her part, Valerie presents Max with the gift of a dune buggy to replace his missing Wastelander motorcycle. Max is thrilled.)

Though the group's benefactor, Nysa, doesn't seem to be a particular fan of the Princessa's recurring presence in Serendipity (and indeed, states that she never personally participates in their festivities), she hosts a formal reception or "pre-party" for Pnemenopanthalus and her crew at the Social Club, explaining that the troupe's activities attract some of the city's most influential citizens. S@GP's presence is requested at this party, and they attend, dressed in their finest, though many of the wealthier guests -- guild masters, oil barons, and the like -- put them to shame. Nevertheless, our heroes are escorted to meet with the guests of honor soon after they arrive. They are (roughly in the order that S@GP meet them):
  • Old Man Simms, a septuagenarian who is very interested in Valerie's bionic arms, and who Valerie allows to escort her for the evening
  • Hamilton Ponchartrain, a very short but extremely muscular bruiser type
  • Jack Spade, a teenage hacker that is constantly fiddling with a datapad
  • Remy, an agile-looking full conversion cyborg armed with some sort of high-tech staff
  • Joaquin Miranda, a wild-eyed man that seems amused by S@GP's presence and is imbibing massive quantities of illicit substances
  • Reana Negron, a female fortune-teller (complete with crystal ball and gypsy-esque clothing) with whom Max has a brief conversation regarding dreams and portents
  • Horacio, a silent practitioner of magic that wears a skull-like mask
  • La Princessa Alexisandriath Pnemenopanthalus (or "Alexis" for short), a lithe, languid elven woman who seems to thrive on innuendo
  • Invictus, a male elf who seems never to leave Pnemenopanthalus' side (and physically resembles her strongly)
  • Miss Tess, a brash woman that acts as a master of ceremonies
  • Alien Ahmed the Runner, a D-Bee in desert garb that serves as the crew's driver
La Princessa takes a break from holding court with Serendipity's upper crust to briefly address S@GP, complimenting their appearance and informing them that she has high expectations for their participation in the upcoming festivities. Our heroes mostly laugh off Alexis' lascivious intimations, and before long, call it a night.

The following evening, S@GP (along with many other citizens of Serendipity) travel to the ruins of Baton Rouge by rail for the party proper. The former city is half derelict buildings and half predator-infested swamp -- a dangerous location for revelry, to say the least, which seems to be part of the allure for the participants. Alexis' crew ensure that everyone attending understands that they do so at their own risk before they exit the train.

S@GP were expecting something fairly risque, but Max (at least) is taken aback by the sheer variety (and increasing debauchery) of the activities Alexis' troupe have on display amid the Baton Rouge ruins. He does his best not to look too interested, but he can't tear his eyes away from some of the performances, particularly when Alexis, Invictus, Horacio, Reana, and several others of the troupe's inner circle take the main stage. An elaborate sadomasochistic exhibition ensues, and those that watch it feel their perceptions altered by its intensity. Fay, though inured to this kind of torture by her upbringing among the evil Pantheon of Taut, is disturbed, and deduces that its impact on the crowd is somehow being artificially heightened to an almost frightening level by Joaquin Miranda, one of Alexis' followers. She resists the mind-altering effect Joaquin is causing, but Arisis and Valerie are less fortunate. Max is similarly reminded of some of the rituals performed by the Church of Tolmet in his home city, but is unable to stop himself from being caught up in the perverse spectacle (here, the GM invoked his Raging Hormones trouble quality, and I accepted a Determination point in exchange for an automatic failure on his Willpower roll).

Alexis and company's performance reaches its crescendo, and the air is suddenly filled with the sound of baying wolves. Max, disoriented, struggles to comprehend what is occurring, and reaches out telepathically to Arisis to ask her what's happening. He has difficulty contacting her -- something that is almost unprecedented -- and her response is that she doesn't know, but seems unconcerned about it. The howl seems to whip the crowd's tension to a breaking point, and the exhibition suddenly ends. When Miss Tess (in a spark-throwing exoskeleton) takes to the stage to ask for applause, the crowd erupts in a mad frenzy of excitement, and with the exception of Fay, S@GP are caught up in it. Arisis, Max, and Valerie party the rest of the night away with one another in wild abandon (with Max at one point assuming giant stature to dance with Arisis, at Valerie's suggestion). They are among the last to leave, and when Max notes that Ahmed seems to be loading up the traveling crew's APC, the D-Bee confirms that they will be moving on to another town soon. With that, our heroes return home to their compound to get some sleep.

Their rest is brief and fitful, however, as Fay, Max, and Valerie experience a vivid, shared dream that a great red-scaled dragon, their friend Arisis, and a gang of other giants are trying to tear down the walls of a castle to reach what lies within. The three somehow sense that their quarry is Quinn, the young Black Fortress woman that Max was formerly romantically involved with. There is a scream, and our heroes awaken to the sound of klaxons, and an amplified announcement stating that Black Fortress' headquarters is under attack!

Valerie, Fay, and Max confirm that they experienced a communal dream as they scramble to arm themselves, noticing that Arisis is nowhere to be seen. They race to Black Fortress' compound, with Fay riding on the back of Valerie's Cyclone, and Max flying to the scene in his techno-wizard power armor. Their fears are realized when they reach their destination: Black Fortress is in complete chaos, with Arisis shouting commands to a half-dozen titan followers, instructing them to smash their way in and "get the girl". A coterie of vampires has pushed their way into the compound, attacking Black Fortress personnel at will. The Coalition-affiliated mercenaries, caught by surprise, are hardly a match for their assailants, and their attempts to defend the base are made even more difficult by a thick fog that surrounds the entire area. As if the vampires, giants and mist weren't enough, huge swarms of swamp insects and packs of wild dogs are also harrying the disorganized and confused grunts.

Once Max has summoned a blast of wind to dissipate much of the fog, Fay's superior intellect and tactical acumen lets her ascertain Quinn's location within the compound, and she directs Max there. The young mystic rushes to his former flame's side. Valerie tries to grapple with Arisis, managing to get a partial hold on her -- a feat that would normally be almost impossible against the titan wrestling master. Realizing that the vampires are the source of the fog, the insect swarms, and the dog packs, Max evokes a globe of daylight to keep the undead at bay, away from the unarmed Quinn. A second incantation creates a localized rainstorm, which sends the vampires shrieking back into the night and gives Black Fortress' operatives time to regroup. The psi-stalker Master Sergeant Jesse John Ross, accompanied by his loyal Dog Girls, Barb and Bree, pursues the fleeing vampires into the darkness, and soon thereafter can be heard slaughtering the bloodsuckers. 

A furious Arisis calls off the assault. Quinn is a bit shaken up, but nevertheless embraces Max and jokes that if they're going to stay broken up, he needs to stop rushing to her rescue. Thoughts of Arisis and Alexis are foremost on Max's mind, however, and his reunion with Quinn is cut short by the arrival of gun-toting Black Fortress mercenaries. The young scientist wearily orders them to lower their weapons, but Max, a spellcaster in the middle of what is effectively a Coalition base, is on edge. Meanwhile, Valerie desperately continues to try to detain and reason with her friend as the titans retreat from the compound. Arisis treats the headhunter as an annoyance, insisting that she leave her alone. When she realizes Valerie is determined to stop her at all costs, Arisis teleports away. Valerie can do nothing but watch as her former ally and her fellow titans vanish into nothingness.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Rifts Misadventures: Session 20.5

Max by Runshin
I officially concluded my run as Rifts GM last session, but between that one and the next, we've been doing some interim role-playing (mostly on our private Google+ community) to wrap up the loose ends left hanging at the end of my scenario. I figured I might as well summarize that downtime and cleanup as a bullet-point "half-recap" in preparation for the next adventure.

The Solutions @ Gun Pointe Roster (with ICONS "high concept" qualities, followed by traditional Rifts O.C.C.s)

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

Solutions @ Gun Pointe spend several days settling back into their new headquarters (and their new hometown), during which the following events take place:

  • Relos shares what little she knows about her origins with Valerie, revealing her telepathic abilities in the process. Apparently, she and her clone-twin Jendra were discovered by titans loyal to Maia on an unknown planet in deep space, sleeping in "eggs". Relos is disturbed by Valerie's account of her parents -- their world, the Praxian race, and the conflict between the Robotech Expeditionary Force and the Invid. Valerie, also confused, combats Relos' discomfort by imposing a semi-military structure on her day-to-day activities and by allowing her to stay in her bungalow. Relos slowly grows comfortable with S@GP, though she displays obvious distaste for Max's presence.
  • Fay (in her Horizont dropship) arrives at the group's HQ. Fay is still cagey about what happened after she left the group earlier, but has received mummy-like wrappings for her afflicted arm. She explains that they were a gift from her mother, Amon, and that they may stave off the curse. Fay accepts an invitation to stay in Serendipity with Solutions, saying that she promised Amon to "stay closer to home".
  • Nahar immediately follows Fay's arrival, breezing into Serendipity on a fanboat and sticking Max with the bill. She gives Valerie a token from Bastille Impenetrable, verifying that Sorventh was delivered to them as agreed. Nahar and Max share a brief fling, which apparently prompts Nahar's abrupt departure only a few days later. Before she leaves for Havana, she informs Valerie that there are sizable dead-or-alive bounties on both her and Max's heads, placed by a certain Lupe Guerra -- the petty warlord in whose employ Max and Valerie first met. She also lets her know that an even larger reward awaits anyone who can return Max to the custody of his father alive. Max has many questions, and is frustrated that Nahar didn't simply tell him directly when Valerie later relays the information to him.
  • Arisis, Max, and Valerie discuss what to do about Tetka & Yeshka, but do not reach a consensus on what (if anything) can be done to stop them from re-infiltrating S@GP. Arisis convinces her teammates that there are more pressing matters to attend to, and to deal with Tetka decisively when and if she rears her head again.
  • Fay teleports the group back to Center for a brief but eventful visit. Valerie and Max confront Naruni Enterprises for their role in Tetka's plot. Valerie is able to negotiate a fruitful settlement where S@GP publicly dismisses NE's involvement as "a big misunderstanding", pledges complete non-aggression, and receives a small trove of Naruni arms and armor in return. (These are earmarked by S@GP to be sent to Belize, to assist the Range Knight Irregulars in their struggle.) 
  • Max thanks Karen Cray for her assistance, which she shrugs off, revealing that the Othrys Totality was able to track them down because her assistant tipped them off, then disappeared. Before shooing S@GP politely away, Karen provides Max with a copy of the "Champions of Light" film at his request, but seems worried that he and his comrades will not approve of its content. (Max later finds that the film she gave him is in a format unplayable by any of the equipment S@GP own.)
  • Fay uses the visit to break off a relationship she had going in Center, and is understandably distraught.
  • Valerie, with Arisis as support, meets with the real Mian and Reez to explain how she was deceived by Tetka and Yeshka. Mian extends her sympathies and insists that Valerie allow her to assist her in bringing Tetka to justice if Valerie and her friends find the sphinx. Reez, who knows Valerie well, takes her to a shooting range, a simple gesture that sets her on the road to recovery. She drops off the rifle she took from Hard Repo's Magnus Maddock in a locker (and informs HR) before returning to Earth, where Valerie largely heals from the emotional trauma of the past several days. She spends much of her time with her increasingly close friend Arisis, deepens her bond with Max, and establishes a rapport with her new "sister" Relos.
  • Max finishes cleaning up Solutions @ Gun Pointe's headquarters in the wake of Yeshka's attack, incinerating the corpses the night stalker dragon had reanimated, and returning their ashes to the cemetery from which they came.
  • Valerie visits Wrightsmith Armaments to cash in the vouchers she received at the end of the power armor tournament for a custom-made carbine and shotgun, which she is promised will be done in a few weeks. Valerie is given an extensive tour of the facility, which is filmed, potentially for use in some future promotional capacity.
  • Arisis approaches Serendipity's Cyber-Knight militia and informs them of her plans to mount an expedition to Belize, to deliver the weaponry Naruni Enterprises provided to S@GP. She intends this sortie to include whichever of the newly arrived titans that wish to accompany her. Sir Shanidar expresses a few token concerns, but offers his support.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Rifts Misadventures: Session 20

S@GP & Other Champions by EUDETENIS
This is it: the conclusion of my adventure for Rifts. Looking back on it now, there were a few things I'd certainly have done differently if I had the chance, but ultimately I'm happy with the way everything turned out. The switch to ICONS, in particular, has been well-received. I'm handing the reins to another longtime player: Felix, who usually plays the titan cyber-knight Arisis. I already miss running the game but can't wait to get back to seeing the action through my character's eyes again.

The Solutions @ Gun Pointe Roster (with ICONS "high concept" qualities, followed by traditional Rifts O.C.C.s)

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

Kat sends her still-camouflaged BAKENEKO drone out to investigate the area near the brig that she and her friends are locked into. As she does so, one of the imprisoned titans approaches her and suggests that as a psi-stalker -- a species practically unknown in the Three Galaxies -- she might be able to offer her services to the Totality and secure her escape. She feigns interest until the titan starts to try negotiating his own release as part of the plan, which Kat points out would do nothing for her. "I was told you were a woman of principle," he protests impotently, and eventually relents. Kat shrugs and checks in with her drone, which has found no trace of Arisis' former tutor, Rizon, and little else of note. She commands it to wait outside the brig.

Arisis decides to approach Rhaphis again, to try to talk him into fighting alongside Arisis and her friends in the trial by combat. She reminds him that if they succeed, Maia will have no choice but to release them, and the Totality will pursue both of them no more. Her twin brother is apparently unconvinced, though many of the other titans in lockdown urge him to fight at her side. Rhaphis is more interested in the nature of Arisis' conversation with their elder sister, Maia. She summarizes the content of their meeting to Rhaphis, who is amused to learn that Arisis physically struck Maia, until he realizes that this course of action has likely sped up Maia's legal proceedings. 

Sure enough, the door to the brig soon slides open, and Maia sweeps into the chamber, accompanied by a dozen armed guards. S@GP and Rhaphis are separated from the other prisoners and escorted down a long hallway in a silent procession, during which Kat nonchalantly uncloaks her drone and directs it to rejoin her. Maia is barely able to mask her fury as they walk, and at one point one of her guards tries to "accidentally" knee Max in the back, which seems to amuse some of the titans. Max avoids the blow, then telepathically asks Arisis why the guards seemingly have it in for him in particular. Arisis is more concerned with the upcoming trial by combat, and advises Max to network all of S@GP together with a telepathic mindlink, so that they can better coordinate their strategy -- a link he more than succeeds in creating.

As our heroes are led to an huge set of double doors, Arisis senses a subtle shift in her surroundings and realizes that the Xanthus has performed a dimensional teleport. The doors open to reveal what appears to be an immense arena -- or better yet, coliseum -- suspended in deep space. Its configuration resembles a giant bowl lined with seats, filled with spectators: mostly titans, along with some representatives of their conquered "servitor species". The bottom of the "bowl" is an open, circular space, beneath which hangs a large platform, as if suspended by invisible wires. The crowd erupts into a roar as Maia breaks away from the procession to be seated upon her Judgment Throne, to the tune of martial fanfare. 

Meanwhile, Solutions @ Gun Pointe and Rhaphis are conducted down a long walkway, then onto an elevator-like conveyance that carries them to the battleground floating below, which they now see is littered with shattered statuary. As the defendants disembark, the titan that earlier attempted to strike Max manages to trip him, sending the young mystic sprawling to the dust. Valerie rushes to his aid as the spectators erupt in laughter and jeers, and a brief scuffle ensues, with Arisis cuffing the titan and Kat siccing her drone on him. A more level-headed titan guard takes charge, quelling the disturbance and flatly telling S@GP (and Rhaphis) to get off the elevator, informing them that their weaponry will then be delivered back to them. The group grudgingly complies, and the platform is lifted up, then back down, with their gear. Our heroes equip themselves for battle and take in their surroundings, realizing that beyond the edge of the slowly rotating battlefield is indeed deep space -- in fact, the inexorable, yawning chasm of a black hole is visible.

The dire nature of their predicament starts to sink in, and a hush falls across the crowd as Maia rises from the Judgment Throne and begins to imperiously recount the "story all the Totality knows well," of how Arisis Solstice and her twin brother Rhaphis Equinox conspired to abandon and betray the Othrys Totality, then fled to Earth. Arisis denies having ever turned her back on the Totality and claims her right to do as she sees fit, as a daughter of Atlas, which surprisingly draws shouts of support from some of the spectators. Maia pays no heed, and summons the Zodiac Enforcers: a glowing, clock-like wheel of astrological symbols appears above the battlefield, and from a dimensional portal in its center, five warriors are disgorged:
  • Siculus, the Libra enforcer; a bulky, toad-like alien who seems unpopular with most of the crowd
  • Rizon, the Taurus enforcer; an undying warrior forever encased in a giant armored battlesuit, wrestling trainer of Arisis in her youth
  • Keryx, the Sagittarius enforcer; an ancient cyborg-centaur archer from the planet Ixion and veteran of the combat trials, now mostly machine
  • Relos and Jendra, the Gemini enforcers; the twin Praxian (?) warrior women that seem to be related to Valerie in some way
The arrival of the Enforcers whips the crowd into a frenzy. Arisis summons her psi-sword, the legacy of her new role as a cyber-knight -- a feat few titans have ever before witnessed her perform. Jendra unsheathes the pincer-like claws of her ride armor, and Valerie revs the engine of her Cyclone in response. Kat draws her rune no-dachi, the crystals of Max's techno-wizard power armor darken and grow spiky, Rhaphis readies his glaive with a flourish -- then, the terrific clash of a giant gong sounds, and battle is joined.

Kat leaps into the fray, chopping at Keryx with her no-dachi. She catches the veteran flat-footed, and her blade scrapes against the centaur's bionic frame, sending sparks flying. A split second later, Valerie uses the mindlink Max established earlier to warn Kat of incoming fire and targets all of the Zodiac Enforcers, unleashing her mecha's entire payload of mini-missiles upon them. A burst of superheated plasma engulfs nearly half the battlefield, with only Kat's enhanced psi-stalker reflexes and Keryx's nimble hooves proving enough to escape the blast. Rizon seems barely singed, but Siculus, Jendra, and Relos are badly injured -- Jendra, in particular, is staggered by the explosion. 

From his new vantage point at the edge of the field, the Sagittarius Enforcer, Keryx, singles out Valerie as the most urgent target and looses a pair of arrows at her, but the man-machine interface-enhanced reflexes of her Cyclone allow the headhunter to avoid them. Arisis, hopeful that Rizon is at least somewhat stunned by Valerie's missile barrage, charges full-speed at her former mentor. The Taurus Enforcer proves to be a wily toreador, however, and sidesteps Arisis' bull rush. Max decides that Rizon is the greatest threat and telepathically asks his friends to cover him, then begins to weave an incantation, which draws thunderous boos from the crowd above. Arisis belatedly realizes the source of her people's disdain: in the Totality, mystics are always female "sibyls" -- prognosticators and advisers that are generally kept hidden from society (and certainly never engage in combat) -- making Max's existence a scandalous inversion of, and insult to, titan social order.

Rhaphis, seeing an opportunity, strides forward matter-of-factly and bloodily dispatches the still-shellshocked Jendra with his glaive, causing the crowd to erupt in shrieks of horror and delight. Jendra's sister, Relos, cries out in despair and slashes wildly at Rhaphis with her mecha's pincer-blades. The scion of Atlas parries her attacks with nonchalant ease. Rizon, unperturbed, turns to his former pupil and drives a lunging knee into her back, then twists her prone form into a devastating submission hold. Arisis, wracked with pain, struggles to break free, but even her considerable wrestling prowess and titanic strength are no match for those of her immortal instructor. Max, still casting his spell, uses his mindlink to direct Kat and Valerie to "get Rizon off of Arisis." Meanwhile, Rhaphis, distracted with deflecting Relos' frantic assault, finds his vital energies being siphoned by Siculus, who has adhered to the titan with his long, sticky tongue. Siculus' wounds begin to heal before the eyes of the crowd, which nevertheless boos the amphibian Enforcer.

Heeding Max's request, Kat rushes to engage Rizon. Her rune no-dachi proves enough to scratch his mechanical frame but inflicts only superficial damage, and his hold on Arisis remains unbroken. Valerie, suddenly having a bright idea, performs a jet-assisted leap onto Rizon's back and tries to use her cybernetic interface ability to hijack his armor -- and amazingly succeeds! Rizon's powered suit shuts down, crumpling to the side, and Arisis is freed. Keryx, now growing frantic, looses another volley of arrows at Valerie but misses badly in his haste to turn the tide of battle. However, he is still competent enough to dodge a tackle thrown at him by Arisis. Max, seeing that Rizon is now out of the action, elects to instead turn his attention to Keryx. He completes his incantation, telekinetically lifting a massive chunk of broken statuary from the floor of the battlefield, then sending it speeding at the centaur. To the crowd's shock, the improvised missile crashes into the Sagittarius Enforcer with enough force to send him skittering off the edge of the battle-platform and hurtling into space. The old archer floats in the arena's inertial field for a fraction of a second, then is wrenched violently into the horizon of the black hole. Max's triumph is greeted with a storm of furious boos and screams of outrage, and the young mystic, who has had enough of the Totality's abuse, soaks it up with shouted profanity and an obscene gesture or two.

Rhaphis turns calmly to Siculus, the Libra Enforcer, and says "you need to yield, now." Siculus considers his predicament -- Rizon out of commission, Jendra dying, and Keryx cast into the void -- and kneels in submission. Kat interjects herself between Rhaphis and Relos, with her sword at the Praxian's neck, and asks if she will also yield. Relos frantically pleads for someone to help her sister, who lies at Rhaphis' feet in a growing pool of green blood, then acquiesces to Kat's demand. Valerie comes to Jendra's aid, and with Max, works to stabilize Jendra's condition. Arisis and her compatriots have won.

Confusion reigns over the crowd until Maia, quaking in anger, rises from her throne and motions for silence. The platform that brought S@GP to the battlefield now delivers the titans that had been held in the brig along with Rhaphis. She tersely acknowledges Arisis and Rhaphis' victory, and offers them a choice: return to the arms of the Othrys Totality or leave it forever. Rhaphis says he will travel back to Earth, inviting all who wish "to forge a new, true Totality" to accompany him to glory. Arisis rejects the notion of Maia's choice entirely, again claiming her birthright as one of the Pleiades as well as her right to follow her own path to justice, which again draws an unusually mixed reaction from the crowd. Maia ignores this, asking her younger sister where she wishes to be sent, and Arisis chooses to return to Earth. Rhaphis proposes that his sibling accompany him, since they're headed in the same direction, but Arisis refuses, telling her brother to "go back to Africa." At this, the titan followers that were brought to the battlefield begin to separate, with six choosing to remain at Rhaphis' side, and six electing to accompany Arisis. Maia calls for titan navigators to report to the arena and teleport the victors to their destinations.

Max uses a healing spell on Jendra, and Valerie helps her to her feet. Valerie ardently urges both of the clone warriors to come with her. Jendra turns her back and walks away before Valerie can even finish speaking. Relos dejectly agrees to accompany Valerie to Serendipity, saying "I have nowhere else to go." With the crowd still murmuring in shock, Kat ascends a pile of rubble and calls for any titans that would follow "the TRUE daughter of Atlas" to come to the battle-platform. To Arisis' surprise, dozens of titans rise up and try to storm their way the battlefield. A trio of strange-looking titan navigators hurriedly encircles S@GP, Relos, and their new titan allies. Several people try to leap their way down out of the stands as Maia and her elite guards struggle to maintain order. Only three of them reach the floor before the navigators complete their dimensional junction, teleporting everyone back to Earth.

In a flash, Arisis, Kat, Valerie, Max, Relos, and nine titans materialize on a street in Serendipity, not far from the Naruni Enterprises outpost that originally took S@GP to Center. It takes the group a moment to get their bearings, however, as said outpost is now nowhere to be seen, as if it had vanished into thin air. Solutions' headquarters is a short walk away, and soon enough, the group is back at their new home... though it is somewhat the worse for wear. Sections of fence appear to have been torn up, sections of a few buildings are scorched, and (perhaps most alarmingly) a few dead bodies are being disposed of by crewmen. Kat reviews footage shot by the drones she left protecting the compound, and sees that it was attacked in the night by a black-scaled, fire-breathing dragon accompanied by zombie minions. It seems that Yeshka staged a night raid in retaliation for S@GP's defeat of her and her companion, the sphinx Tetka, but was driven off by the combined forces of Asha and Annejah, the Gun Street Girls militia, and (oddly) the silent Glitter Boy pilot called Jim J. Wynn, who competed in the invitational power armor tournament several days prior.

S@GP are welcomed home by Nysa, who was already on the grounds and informs our heroes that she foresaw their return. However, the entrepreneuress insists that she takes her pledge to support the group seriously, and will pay to repair all damages. As the coordinator of the Mutant Railroad, she also offers to provide room and board to all of the titan refugees. Arisis and Max thank Nysa profusely. Kat receives a note from one of her local contacts, which she silently reads and then demands that Max let her borrow his Wastelander motorcyle. Max is puzzled but tosses her the keys, and Kat peels out with no explanation. Nysa is somewhat nonplussed by Kat's sudden departure, since the psi-stalker had agreed to Nysa's request to provide her with intel on Phase World. Max is likewise unhappy, lamenting that the motorcycle she borrowed was important to him. He checks his calendar, discovers that the group was away from Serendipity for a grand total of four days, and realizes he turned seventeen while he was unconscious. "Happy belated birthday to me."