Friday, October 2, 2015

Rifts Misadventures: Session 20

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."

2 comments:

  1. Ah, a great wrap-up to your turn behind the screen! I was grinning the whole time I was reading. (And inwardly shuddering at the thought of how long it would've taken to play out that combat with the original Palladium rules...) I particularly enjoyed the mental image of Max playing the heel and heckling the crowd. Great stuff!

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    1. Thanks. I'm still getting the hang of tailoring threats to our PCs' capabilities -- we seem to sail through almost anything I come up with. Also, fights are really short, but I vastly prefer that to interminable combat like the original system.

      Max had had about enough of those titans at that point. (Relos is still treating him like he's a freak, by the way, and is pissed that he launched that centaur "hero of the empire" guy into a black hole.)

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