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.