Friday, April 22, 2016

Rifts Misadventures: Session 28

You probably won't be able to tell from the recap, but at the table, this was a rather zany session of Rifts. Our last couple of sessions were cut short by technical difficulties and other constraints, so it was nice to have one where there was plenty of time for riffing off of one another and generally goofing around. It doesn't hurt that we seem to be heading for a big battle after several fairly cerebral sessions, either.

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 Sheriff (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

And "The B-Team" (with ICONS "high concept" qualities, followed by traditional Rifts O.C.C.s)
Black Puma, Nekoboy Ninjalante (male Mutant Superhero), played by Kent
Fay, Demigod Super-Genius Smuggler (female demigod City Rat/Runner), played by Chris
Mian Feng, Dedicated Alien Martial Artist (female Manarr Dedicated Martial Artist), played by me
Reez, Space Catgirl Bounty Hunter (female Kirn Bounty Hunter), played by Felix

With their awareness of the world beyond Blessed Valley beginning to return, Arisis and Valerie meet with Max at his saloon. Max, who the locals have taken to calling "Crazy Mr. P" due to his frequent bouts of mental disturbance, is relieved to see his friends ready to act. The trio put their heads together, and soon decide to arm themselves and head to Atticus Stone's mine near the edge of town.

Along the way, our heroes notice a mysterious-looking, mist-shrouded island in the lake that acts as the town's water supply, making a mental note to further investigate it later. They continue on their stated mission and make their way into Stone's Scar, a ravine that leads to the mine. Though her companions' psychic perception is negated by whatever strange force is at work in Blessed Valley, with her replacement implants, Valerie detects the presence of an individual ahead. She and her friends ready their weapons, but soon find that it is none other than Kat, who had earlier been reluctant to investigate the mine, but has apparently had a similar revelation to that experienced by her friends.

As the group continues toward the mine, Valerie's ocular enhancements, though primitive compared to those she lost when entering the valley, prove to be sophisticated enough to pick up nine more people somewhere in the ravine, as well as to spy Kat's TENGU drone hovering thousands of feet overhead. Kat is surprised, speculating that the drone is simply following its default programming to keep her in sight. Max wonders whether whatever force cancels out magic, psionics, and even high technology in Blessed Valley might be dome- or bubble-shaped, and wishes they had some way to test this theory. Kat recalls that her friends insisted that she had only been gone a matter of weeks while a decade passed for her in the valley, and suggests that if the drone is still operating, it's likely that whatever has accelerated the passage of time in the area is similarly limited in scope and range.

Before S@GP can give these hypotheses further consideration, a group of armed toughs led by a squat, unattractive individual appears. The man, who Kat identifies as Atticus Stone, demands to know what business the Sheriff has on his property. A brief standoff ensues, but Arisis forcefully (but politely) insists that she and her companions be allowed to investigate the mine. Stone backs down, saying that he has nothing to hide, and invites Arisis and her associates to join him for supper, to be followed by a guided tour. "Remember what happened the last time we agreed to have dinner with a stranger," Max hisses, recalling Intaglio the Procurer's similar invitation and attempted ambush. Nevertheless, S@GP agree to dine with Stone.

Stone and his men lead the group to a tiny company town located deeper in the Scar, which seems better-appointed and provisioned than the rather ramshackle environs of Blessed Valley proper. The mine itself proves to be a near-vertical shaft leading straight down into the earth, but Stone directs the group to an area with a simple table and benches, with his henchmen seating themselves nearby. Max inquires about the possibility of purchasing some silverware for his saloon, and Stone replies that he might be able to procure some for the young man. Max pointedly asks whether there is really any silver at all in the mine, noting that he's never seen anything made of silver in Blessed Valley. Stone indignantly begins to sputter a response, but an infuriated Max cuts him off, calling him a liar and abruptly storming off, leaving his shotgun behind in process. Arisis insists that she and her friends be shown the mines immediately, but the fuming Stone is not inclined to do so. Before telling S@GP to leave, he turns to Kat, saying "and Sheriff... say hello to my son," which clearly upsets the normally unflappable psi-stalker.

Max's friends catch up with him, and Max mutters an apology before asking Kat what her connection to Atticus Stone is. Kat reluctantly begins to explain, but is cut short by the arrival of a frantic young boy on burro-back. Chunchullo -- one of the children Arisis watches out for, and a relative of Max's employee, Concepción -- cries out that the Sheriff's son has been shot by Jesse Stone.

S@GP and Chunchullo rush to Kat's home, where her son, Kipling, is being tended to by Dr. Vines. Max takes his leave, hurrying back to his saloon to gather some of his herbal medicines. Arisis inspects Kip, finding that Jesse Stone's bullet exited cleanly, but also finding a series of injection marks on his arms. When asked about them, Kat reveals that she has similar marks, and explains that when she arrived in the anti-magic zone of Blessed Valley, she began wasting away, literally starving to death in the absence of eldritch energy. Only injections of a substance of unknown origin, delivered by Atticus Stone, kept her alive. When Kat had her son, Kip, with the town's previous Sheriff -- Rudy Flowers, brother to Jennie -- she found that he was likewise afflicted. In a cold fury, Kat vows to hunt down and kill Jesse Stone.

Chunchullo informs Sheriff Kat that Jesse has taken refuge in the town jail. Kat assembles her posse, consisting of herself, her S@GP comrades, the rhino-man Orson and his partner, Wellesley the ankylosaur, as well as Margot Briess, the so-called "Crow Girl", a teenage mutant sniper corvid and one of Arisis' projects. Chunchullo, who is only twelve years old, offers to help but is turned down. "Just a couple more years and you'll be ready," Max assures him, having himself become a professional mercenary at the age of fifteen. He briefly laments leaving his shotgun behind, but Valerie silently hands him his weapon with a smile, having picked it up before she left Stone's mine. Max and his friends choose mounts from among the local riding animals, with Max selecting a horse, Arisis an immense lizard, and Valerie a bizarre, floating tentacled creature. Then, they ride out to the jail and quietly take their positions for what promises to be a deadly shootout, with Max taking cover, hoping to find a way in without being noticed.

Meanwhile, Fay, Reez, Mian, and Black Puma have arrived at the desert ruins to which the coordinates Intaglio coughed up originally led them. The young demigod lands her spacecraft here, some distance away from Blessed Valley, saying that she won't risk the Horizont being destroyed the way Valerie's bionics and Max's techno-wizardry armor were upon entering the region. Instead, she says, her squad will proceed on land, and reveals gifts from her mentor, the god Anhur: a giant lion-mount for herself, and magnificent desert stallions for her comrades. "We ride for justice," Mian announces in her melodramatic way, and the group mounts up and departs for Blessed Valley.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Rifts Misadventures: Session 27

Another short session of Rifts last weekend, as spare time seems to be in short supply these days. This one was short on conflict and high on details. A good deal of what you'll find below was actually conveyed via our online message board, rather than in a sit-down tabletop session, but I think we've gotten to a very interesting turning point now.

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

Arisis awakens to find herself unable to move, her strength drained, with her unconscious companions Valerie and Max out of reach, and Fay nowhere to be seen. A strange creature that seems to be a walking mushroom examines Arisis as someone unseen calls out to "Ma and Pa", informing them that they "gots a live one, and big!" A frog (nattily dressed in a waistcoat and top hat) then inspects Arisis, and comments that "three in one day" is "most unusual" and that "it appears our services are not required." As Arisis dazedly wonders if she is hallucinating, the frog states that he is leaving our heroes in the care of someone called Orson. He and a dozen mushroom creatures then depart in a horse-drawn cart labeled "Taggert & Bhagrem, Funereal and Custodial Services."

Orson turns out to be a massive, grey-skinned humanoid wearing a duster and badge, who comments that "the Sheriff will want to see them." He and his companion, a bipedal ankylosaur named Wellesley, load the still-incapacitated Arisis, Valerie, and Max into the back of an archaic-looking paddy wagon, which the pair then pull into town, rickshaw-style.

Max and Valerie regain consciousness along the way. Max finds himself completely drained of magical energy, unable to cast spells or use his other powers. Valerie's cybernetic implants are ruined, leaving her blinded and with a persistent ringing in her ears. Her bionic arms are capable of motion but little else. Valerie grimly bandages her eyes with a strip of cloth. Max matter-of-factly takes responsibility for their predicament, and wonders aloud whether this "Blessed Valley" might be located in an anti-magic zone or "reverse nexus", perhaps even one created by some sort of Coalition experiment. The group's questions to their captors receive no useful reply, and while Max attempts to cast a few spells (to no effect), Arisis elects to meditate and conserve what little of her strength remains.

Before long, they arrive at a crater-like rock formation that seems to serve as a natural amphitheater. A crowd has gathered to observe what S@GP soon surmise is a trial by combat, with a giant rhinoceros-man (somewhat similar in appearance to Orson) facing off against a small, lithe figure in a hoodie. Orson shouts "Come on, Sheriff, put an end to this," and a robed human man, who acts as an official in the process, raises a hand to pause the impending fight. Max yells "Kat!" and the hooded figure (or Sheriff) turns to look toward the paddy wagon. Before our heroes can get a good look at the smaller combatant, the rhino-man sucker-punches her. She quickly recovers, and then backflips over the rhino-man, revealing in the process that Max's hunch was correct -- the hooded fighter is indeed their missing comrade, the psi-stalker Kat.

Arisis instinctively tries to burst free of the cage that contains her, but finds her titanic strength still gone. Kat pays S@GP little attention as she finishes off her larger opponent with vicious precision, soon rendering him unconscious. A human-sized calico cat wearing an apron and bonnet flies into a rage, screaming that "the Sheriff has had it in for me ever since she arrived" in Blessed Valley, but the robed man -- who turns out to be the town's mayor, one Jonas Flood -- placidly dismisses "Ma Kettle's" complaint. "You all know the law," Flood says, and the gathered citizenry respond "Blessed be the Valley!" in unison, as the calico is dragged away. Max quietly summarizes these events to the blind Valerie.

Sheriff Kat approaches the paddy wagon in which our heroes are locked up. Her reunion with the rest of S@GP is tense, as Kat -- who appears considerably older and worse for wear than when they last saw her -- is openly suspicious, demanding to know why they look exactly as she remembers them despite her not having seen them in ten years. Flabbergasted, Max and Arisis inform Kat that she disappeared no more than a few weeks ago, with Max increasingly irritated with Kat's insistence that S@GP "gave up" on her. Max, for his part, demands to know why Kat "gave up" and stayed in Blessed Valley. Kat says she simply didn't want to leave, which Max finds hard to believe. Valerie tells Kat that she's glad that she and her friends found her.

Still having doubts, Kat has the group locked up for further questioning, but eventually is satisfied with their story and releases them, then shows them around town. Blessed Valley is populated largely by mutant animals and humans, with a few D-Bees. There is no magic in the area (though Kat doesn't know why), and as a result Kat had to learn to eat normal food over the years, apparently picking up a drinking habit in the process.

Kat explains that Ma Kettle, the calico cat, ran an orphanage that was a front for a child labor ring, where children were sent to toil in the nearby mines (owned by someone named Atticus Stone). When Max asks what's being mined, Kat is oddly unable to answer. (She later says that they were "definitely silver mines.") Arisis quietly voices her suspicions that the children were used to mine Caingorm Crystals. Max is disturbed by Kat's behavior, but keeps his discomfort to himself for the time being. Kat ends her tour of Blessed Valley, leaving her former friends at the doorstep to the local inn, which doubles as a brothel.

As soon as Kat departs, an agitated Max suggests that he, Valerie, and Arisis try to escape the region of Blessed Valley, hoping that his powers might return beyond its borders. The group attempt to leave town, but as soon as they pass its outer limits, a strange glowing female figure materializes and forbids them to continue, cryptically calling Arisis "little bird" and blasting the trio with lightning. S@GP black out. Arisis and Max remember their strange encounter when they abruptly awaken back at the inn, but Valerie has no recollection of the events. Our heroes make their way to the town saloon, where an assortment of characters have assembled (with passing a group of hungry-looking children chasing a cat outside):

  • Sheriff Kat, Mayor Jonas Flood, the town physician (a drunkard called Dr. Vine), and the saloon's owner (Cliff Stokes) invite Max to participate in their poker game
  • a blindfolded chimpanzee engages in an elaborate tea ceremony in a far corner table
  • a local mechanic, a humanoid theropod dinosaur named Jennie Flowers, helps herself to a drink and eyes Valerie intently

Meanwhile, S@GP's allies, Mian and Reez, have arrived in Serendipity as promised. They inform S@GP's benefactor, Nysa, of their situation, hoping that she will be able to convince one of Arisis' titan followers to teleport them back to the Three Galaxies when their mission is complete. The duo are planning their next move, considering tracking down some of the coordinates they discovered on the crates of Cairngorm Crystals they were carrying, when Fay's Horizont spacecraft suddenly materializes above S@GP's headquarters. Fay explains what happened in Blessed Valley, and asks if Reez and Mian will help her rescue their friends. The bounty hunters readily agree. After equipping themselves with conventional "slug-thrower" weapons from Wrightsmith Armaments, they and Fay board the Horizont and travel to the Yucatan to recruit the fourth member of their rescue team, Black Puma. Puma -- who had been working alongside Relos, some of Arisis' titans, and the Range Knight Irregulars in their attempt to pacify the region -- jumps at the chance to help, particularly when he learns that fellow attractive cat-person Reez is on board.

Though Fay assembled her force in less than a day, six months pass for Valerie, Arisis, and Max in Blessed Valley. During that time, the our heroes find themselves strangely preoccupied with their day-to-day existence in the Valley, unable to follow up on (or even maintain) thoughts of leaving town or investigating the mines.

Max, in particular, is haunted by fleeting ghostly images of figures that disappear as soon as notices them, and recurring sensations of déjà vu. His days are nonetheless taken up with running the establishment he won from Cliff Stokes during their poker game months earlier. Stokes seemed happy enough to hand over proprietorship to the 17-year-old, who agreed to allow Stokes to keep an open tab as long as he taught him the tricks of the mixology trade. Max also convinces one of Stokes' former employees, Concepción Yepez, to teach him to cook, and after synthesizing his new skills with his knowledge of herbalism, "Max's Apothecary Saloon & Famous Life-Giving Tamales" is soon in business, with Max rooming upstairs, and Arisis and Valerie making regular visits.

Arisis has accepted a position as Kat's deputy, which entails a good deal of fighting judicial champions as Blessed Valley's lawful representative in its Justice Pit. She also dishes out a good deal of tough love to the Valley's orphan children, keeping an eye out for the youths while instilling in them a sense of discipline, duty, and pride.

Jennie Flowers takes Valerie under her wing, helping her to develop and install a new low-tech bio-implant to replace one of her shattered eyes. Valerie covers the other with a smart-looking eyepatch (which somehow accentuates her beauty rather than marring it) while working on another replacement with her rapidly deepening knowledge of mechanics. She finds that she has to ingest mass quantities of food in order to keep her VAMPS bionics responsive, though they are incapable of performing any feats beyond acting as simple prostheses.

During this time, Jennie redirects Max's questions about what happened to Kat in the previous decade back to the Sheriff herself, but quietly reveals to Valerie that that some very low-level electronics can function in the Valley. This is a secret known to few -- namely Jennie, Kat, the mayor, and the former Sheriff (whom S@GP gathers is deceased). Not long after Valerie receives this information, Arisis and Max's suspicions about Atticus Stone's mines finally begin to resurface...