Friday, March 27, 2015

Rifts Misadventures: Session 12

RIFTS. PLAYED IT. FUN. If you need a refresher, click here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 6, 2015

Rifts Misadventures: Session 11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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