Friday, October 19, 2012

Buster Squad 5 - A Necessary Evil Actual Play Volume 4




Seasoned Play Begins!  (or, Plot Point Episode 4!)

Kale spent a few days magically mending the wounds of Socks, removing most of the damage done in the last mission.  Flux, feeling quite disoriented from his flare-up of power when he destroyed the Science Lab in Tarrytown, took off for a while, though Kale assured the team (or tried to) that he would be back.

Dr. Destruction gave them their next mission, which was two-fold:  Make contact with a disgruntled V’Sori battlelord at his communications outpost and gain his aid, then assault the V’Sori occupied base of Hydra, the Mutant Mastermind.  The team was quite pleased to discover that the Warlord occupying the base was Shavak, who they had dealt with in the past.  Dr. Destruction’s orders were to find a device that looked not unlike a silver and blue phone booth, and to destroy the base.

The team quickly learned through Dr. Destruction’s debriefing that Shavak and the communications officer, Ikaran, had some bad blood between them because Shavak had publicly dressed Ikaran down and demoted him.

Some common knowledge rolls later, and the team deduced that Hydra was actually the father of the President’s grandchild (which kinda impressed me).

Before they set out, Bully announced “as team leader” that he’d arranged back-up for them:  Human resistance fighter Tula Michaels, whom they had aided in Tarrytown!  Socks was quite pleased to see Tula, and Bully helpfully suggested that they should “be one unit”, to which Mindstorm replied “I didn’t know we were splitting up” and Bully asked “Whose talking about the mission?”

The team was surprised to discover that Ikaran was holed up in a tenement about two blocks away and took off to meet with him.  They found signs of a recent struggle, where Ikaran had fended off some dregs that had tried to attack him.  The team went right to him and confronted him, with Socks quickly telling him they were after Shavak and wanted his aid.  Socks dropped the Turncoat adventure card here, and Ikaran quickly rolled over and offered to kill communications at the base, if they would kill Shavak and show them his silver pendant, which was a sign of his demotion.

With that helpfully resolved, the team stole away in a submarine to the mainland and Hydra’s compound.  As they approached the compound, they decided to have Socks burrow his way under the compound, taking Kale, Bully and Tula with him.  Mindstorm brought in storm clouds and headed into the skies, trying to get recon.

Unfortunately, he was quickly spotted by a pair of Warspheres, which took to the skies opening fire on him.  Mindstorm lashed out at them, unleashing the fury of the storms on them and trying to gain a closer look.

Meanwhile, Socks led his crew under the compound, awaiting word from Mindstorm about the layout.

Mindstorm flew in for a closer look, but saw four more Warspheres and two more headed deeper into the compound!  He sent out the order to Ikaran to shut the communications down, and tried to chase the two retreating Warspheres but had to deal with the four that were heading at him!  Only singed by one of them, Mindstorm shrugged it off and blasted the four Warspheres out of the sky.  He got a layout of the land and relayed it in detail to Socks, but had no time to rest before four more Warspheres attacked!  Once more, Mindstorm handled their assault, then headed toward Hydra’s mansion.

As he moved in to land, his heart sank:  A dozen Drones, four Fins and Shavak were waiting on him.  Shavak mocked him for walking straight into their hands like that all alone, and blasted him with a mental assault, then ordered his Drones to open fire.  Kale cast an ineffective earthquake, but Socks, Tula and Bully popped out of the ground, with Socks tearing his way through Drones, Tula blasting one in the face and Bully pounding another.  Shavak was annoyed by this, but the Fins moved in, three opening fire with rifles while one made the mistake of slashing Bully and sending him into a rage.

Shavak blasted Socks with a mental assault, but he shrugged it off and slashed the Warlord, wounding him.  Tula and Bully tore their way through Drones while Kale electrocuted a Fin.  Mindstorm, wounded from a blast fired at him, found his concentration shaken as he tried to summon lightning to attack his foes.

Kale took control of a Fin and sent him after the nearby Drones to no effect while Shavak physically assaulted Socks and was outmatched.  Mindstorm pitched the silver pendant to Socks, who caught it and said “This is from Ikaran…and so is this” before slashing the Warlord down.  Shavak, his voice filling with blood and death, screamed at the travesty that a warlord such as him could be brought low by a pathetic traitor like Ikaran and insignificant bugs like these villains (Mindstorm played the Villainous Verbosity card to prevent Shavak from attacking or escaping).  Mindstorm lashed out with another bolt of lightning, blasting Shavak into unconsciousness…Socks sneered and ripped his throat out, saying “I hate V’Sori.”

Kale, Bully and Tula cleaned up the Drones, then the team went inside to find the tube.  Deciding to look around before finishing the place off, they spied Hydra, floating inside a chamber filled with green liquid!  Bully smashed it with a headbutt, and they freed Hydra!  Hydra, upon seeing Bully, was convinced that he was in Hell!  However, Mindstorm explained the situation to Hydra and Hydra agreed to leave with them, to meet with Dr. Destruction.  Before he left, he set the base’s self-destruct mode, which blew Socks’ mind.  Hydra’s response?  “Of course I have a self-destruct.  I’m a SUPER-VILLAIN…what are you?”

As the villains escaped in their sub, the cliff-side base erupted in explosion.

A few hours later…

Socks knocked on the door of Ikaran’s communications outpost.  Ikaran opened the door and said “Oh.  It’s you.”  Socks offered “I have something for you,” and tossed him Shavak’s head.  “Now I want yours,” Socks said with a sneer.  Ikaran looked taken aback, then blasted him with a mental assault that Socks was seemingly immune to.  Socks advanced and Ikaran yelled “Do your worst!”  Socks brought the battlemaster low with a brutal assault, then parried Ikaran’s sword attack.  Ikaran, sensing his end said, with a sigh, “Go ahead then, kill me…it’s worth it, knowing Shavak is dead.”  Socks brutalized Ikaran with a claw full of gut, but stopped short of beheading him as well.  He did pick the blaster and vibro-sword off of Ikaran before departing, leaving the dead V’Sori in his tenement.

15 minutes later, another V’Sori communications outpost tried to raise Ikaran repeatedly…an hour later, a detachment of V’Sori strode to the top floor of the building and looked disappointed to see Ikaran dead.  One offered “Check the feeds…this building is wired…it was probably dregs that did this, let’s find out for sure.”

And at the wreckage of Hydra’s base, an Mbuna landed, releasing its crew to the carnage.  As they spread out, their leader remarked “Scour this base…seek out any clues.  This is becoming far, far too common.”

Notes:  The honeymoon is over.  Mindstorm is a known commodity among the V’Sori, and now their repeated tactics are finally being noticed…plus, Socks went “off the reservation” a bit and killed Ikaran in his own tower, albeit before Ikaran could alert anybody…however, Ikaran’s death (and manner of death) has not gone unnoticed.

Flux’ player flaked out on us at the last minute.  This would become a common theme.  Socks and Mindstorm are both Seasoned now, and I am changing the dynamics of the setting on them a tad.

New Session!

Flux emerged from his sabbatical, having discovered the secrets of his armor, The Flames of Atlantis.  He rejoined the team just as Izzy informed the squad that word on the street had it that Capone’s safe had been found…by the government of Star City!  Izzy gave them the details as he knew them: That the government would be transporting the safe from Star City PD to Warlord Grypon at dawn.

Mindstorm, Bully, Kale, Flux and Socks prepared their assault at dawn…the plan being that Kale would cause the armored truck to shut down…Socks would tear through and get the safe, hand it down to Bully, and Flux would shift them through the earth to get away.

Everyone got into position…Kale zapped the truck and shut it down…Socks decided to attempt to be stealthy in removing the safe…and he rolled a 12 versus both the Drones and the SOCorp Operatives critically failing their Notice rolls!  Socks managed to remove the safe from under the truck without being noticed!  Everyone was so distracted by the truck shutting down and a potential outward assault, that Buster Squad 5 was long gone before anyone saw it was missing!

Bennies abounded for that, from participation in a perfectly executed plan, as well as Socks pulling off his sneak-steal without winding up in an unnecessary fight.

Kale got the safe open and the crew was surprised to find $200,000 in gold bars, a map to Capone’s hideout and a note from Capone, revealing that before his execution in 1959, Capone used a yogi mind trick to jump into a cloned body of Capone!  Buster Squad 5 saddled up in a sub and headed toward the coast of Maryland, where Flux avoided V’Sori patrols and guided them to the cave entrance.  He widened the cave entrance so Bully could enter, and the group found an Atlantean sarcophagus with a body inside.  Kale quickly opened it, and Capone rose from the sarcophagus!  He asked the team if they were here to kill him, but Mindstorm assured him they were not, and that they had found his note.

Capone, content with that answer, told them he had a hidden weapons cache inside the cave.  Mindstorm asked how long he had been in the cave, and Capone asked what year it was…did the math…and said it had been 45 years.

Mindstorm gave him the good news and the bad news: The good news being that superheroes were no longer a problem, the bad news being that alien invaders had taken over the planet!  Mindstorm tried to recruit Capone for OMEGA, but Capone brushed it off.  He gave Buster Squad 5 his weapons cache, which included Energy Knives, Octo-Bombs and Palm Blasters.  Kale took the Palm Blasters while Mindstorm loaded up with the rest…and Buster Squad 5 found themselves better armed with a tentative ally!

Notes: Before the session began, Socks used an earned Advance to take the Bring It On edge from a Martial Arts supplement that allowed him to diminish the Gang Up bonus for attackers against him.  The force on the armored truck was a dozen SOCorp Operatives and four Drones which was hardly insurmountable, but Socks’ stealth and their botched Notice rolls made that laughably easy.  Rather than find an excuse to get them into combat, I let the whole thing go smoothly, giving them a well-earned moment of a well-executed plan.  At the conclusion of this adventure Mindstorm and Flux earned advances, with Mindstorm taking Power Points (adding Force Control with Telekinesis trapping and the Gale Force modifier for Storm) while Flux revealed his previously unknown Streetwise skill.

That having gone so smoothly, we launched into a new mission.

Dr. Destruction, pleased at the news from Buster Squad 5 about their mission, told them that he had (yet another) double-agent working for him infiltrating the V’Sori, an Atlantean named Lucian.  Lucian had been supplying superhumans for an underground fight club ran by a V’Sori Warlord named Darb, who was – sources said – due for a promotion!  Destruction, not wanting his brand of barbaric entertainment to be spread further, ordered Buster Squad 5 to infiltrate the club and assassinate Darb.  The plan was for two of the team to pose as prisoners and enter the arena, while the other three would disable the transports from the arena and try to free the prisoners.

Bully fell all over himself trying to volunteer as a prisoner, and Socks – of course – was eager to volunteer as well.  Socks and Bully beat each other up to make their imprisoning look legit, while Flux, Mindstorm and Kale formulated a plan to sneak into the club.  Mindstorm threw an Octo-Bomb at the back entrance of the club while Kale cast a spell to gain Darkvision and tried to sneak in with Flux (using their telepathic link to guide him through the darkness)…Flux tripped up and drew the attention of Drones inside the facility, but Kale blasted one and another fell from a stray shot into the darkness fired by another drone.

Flux charged one Drone and caused flames to erupt around him, but it didn’t seem to affect the Drone.  Flux, Mindstorm and Kale looked rather helpless against the Drones, not really being hurt, but not stopping the Drones either.  Kale gave up and moved on into the cells, where French thief Cyber-Burglaire kept calling for him to release him!  Kale made his nullifier shackles malfunction, and Cyber-Burglaire unlocked the prison door from the inside!

The two men released Rictus, the Undead Clown of Crime, who quickly bolted for the exit.  They next released Brimstone, who cackled and teleported away.

Mindstorm finally electrocuted one of the remaining drones and Flux burned the other one down, putting them to rest, while Kale and Cyber-Burglaire freed the jingoistic vigilante/villain Patriot, the Darkforce manipulator Shadowcaster, the angry Elven warrior from Asgard known as Sarveen, Hiro – a martial artist who had fought Mindstorm before, and Lycan, a werewolf hero.

Cyber-Burglaire, Shadowcaster and Sarveen (especially Sarveen) were eager to do whatever it took to bring this down, while Patriot seemed reluctant to go along with it, and Hiro and Lycan weren’t sure they trusted the villains…still, the lot of them finally agreed to join forces and ambush the V’Sori transport crews.

Socks and Bully entered the arena, where Darb watched on surrounded by Drones.  Two Groks were unleashed on them, but Socks and Bully fended off their attacks, with Socks wounding his and Bully dropping his with a single blow!

Darb looked confused at just what had happened, so Bully sneered, grabbed Socks, and launched him through the air at Darb!  Socks snarled and tore through the force field that was supposed to protect Darb, and came to rest at his feet!  (This was accomplished through the Teamwork Adventure card, and some very nice rolls from Bully and Socks).

As Socks prepared to battle Darb and his drones, the V’Sori Internal Police arrived and ordered everyone to surrender…but Darb refused and ordered his men to fight!  Seconds later, Socks tore most of Darb’s face off (a vicious attack combined with a botched Soak roll).

Bully battled the remaining Grok, but Drones and Warspheres were advancing on him, and a V’Sori fired a well-placed shot at Socks that would have been QUITE brutal, but Mindstorm’s player played the Lucky Break card…Socks turned, holding Darb’s body still, and Darb absorbed the shot!  Socks dove off the platform and burrowed into the ground, coming up under Bully and yanking him to safety!

Outside the arena, Kale made the big pitch on behalf of Mindstorm to the villains (and heroes) that they had rescued.

Cyber-Burglair and Shadowcaster quickly agreed to join forces, while Sarveen swore he would aid OMEGA to the end against the V’Sori.  Patriot seemed unsure about working with Omega, while Hiro and Lycan, reluctantly, decided that perhaps OMEGA was just what the world needed…a necessary evil.

Notes:  Again, another rousing success for the team.  I have done away with the random mission selections, picking and choosing the missions as I think it will benefit the campaign.  Other than the embarrassing 5 rounds it took to beat the two drones inside the facility, this session was very good to the villains, going a long way toward letting them feel suitably awesome.

Exterminate!

The session began inside the team’s HQ, where Dr. Destruction had arrived surrounded by his guards.  He told the team that he had a very urgent mission for them:  Another cell of OMEGA terrorists had broken from the organization and Dr.  Destruction now considers them to be huge threats to the future of OMEGA.  His orders?  Hunt them down and kill them.

Dr. Destruction gave them team personnel dossiers on all five members of the team: The powerhouse Crunch, the Voodoo Master known as Curse, the fearmonger known as Effigy, energy controller Vesper and superspeedster Zephyr.  Mindstorm asked if any of them could be salvaged, to which Destruction replied “Doubtful”.  Mindstorm quietly contemplated that answer as he stared at the files.  Destruction said he would leave them to it, trusting in them to finish the deed.

First up was Crunch, an insanely powerful brick who had been tracked to a summer camp, and – Destruction believes – is planning on swimming from Star City to The Arctic.  Mindstorm made a plan: Bully goes in first, Kale, Flux and Mindstorm use supplemental powers to slow and stop Crunch while Bully fights.  Socks’ role is to hang back and help out if Bully got outmatched.  Flux, controller of elements, was also told to keep Crunch from escaping if he hit the water.

Bully snarled and charged Crunch as Kale and Flux got into position around him.  Crunch flinched at the charging Bully, but shook it off when Flux summoned the earth up around him.  Crunch broke free and hurled a chunk of rock and soil, smashing Flux and staggering him.  Mindstorm and Socks got into position around Crunch as well, Socks burrowing under a cabin and Mindstorm flying to a roof.

Crunch surprised everyone by leaping through the air and truing to crush Bully, though he missed and Bully spiked him with his horns…which did no damage to the horrific creature.  Mindstorm tried to bind Crunch, but wasn’t nearly strong enough.  Kale summoned Socks to his side, putting Socks in position to rip up through the ground and lay an attack on Crunch that left him Shaken.  Flux surrounded him in rock and dirt once more, this time holding him tight.  Crunch tried to break free, but failed.  Kale, once more channeling dangerous levels of magic, unleashed a power bolt of eldritch energy, but Crunch was still only barely harmed.  Socks assaulted him as well, while Mindstorm tried to telekinetically reinforce Flux’ grip.

As they pushed hard to keep him from escaping, Bully roared and drove his head and horns deep into the earthen tomb until blood and dirt began to run down his face…then he pushed again harder.  Crunch stopped struggling, and Flux and Mindstorm released their grip.

Kale summoned Healing magic and restored Flux…not a moment too soon, either, as word came that Zephyr and Effigy were robbing a bank and Dr. Destruction did NOT want them falling into V’Sori hands.

Notes: First target down.  Mindstorm laid out a plan and it mostly worked.  Good thing, too, because Crunch’s Strength was growing every round.  The huge difference maker was Flux successfully binding Crunch in place so he could be whittled down.

Buster Squad 5 descended on Star City Bank where Effigy was keeping the bank staff and customers cowed and Zephyr was rapidly emptying the vault.  Socks tore his way up through the vault, with Mindstorm and Bully behind him.  He tried to attack Zephyr, who heard him coming and was far too hard to pin down…so Socks moved on through to block the door.  Mindstorm zipped in and swooped past Socks, sealing the vault so Zephyr couldn’t escape…but was immediately targeted by Effigy, who unleashed nightmarish thoughts of Belladonna on Mindstorm, but the leader of this squad’s will was too strong to be broken.

Flux and Kale entered the bank from a side entrance, and Flux spewed flame at Effigy, who initially freaked – but calmed when it had no real effect.  He snarled about how “All the heroes are supposed to be dead”, and Kale replied “If we were heroes, you wouldn’t have anything to worry about” before launching a fireball at Effigy that erupted and set him on fire.  Zephyr just laughed at Socks and literally ran through him, the vault door and Mindstorm, then out the door with two bags of money while Bully charged up into the vault, confused to find himself sealed in with Socks.

Kale reached out with his mind and forced Zephyr to come back and face them, while the burning Effigy shrieked in terror and unleashed his Fear power in the bank.  The staff and customers, as well as Mindstorm, ran away from him, while Zephyr freaked and fell to his knees vomiting.  The most unfortunate effect came from Kale’s heart seized up and the Atlantean wizard fell to the ground in cardiac arrest.

Socks burrowed his way under the vault door and ripped into the blazing Effigy, tearing the constructed scarecrow apart.  Bully came up through the same tunnel and charged the Shaken Zephyr, smashing his spine and breaking the fragile speedster apart.

Flux immediately dove onto Kale and worked feverishly, trying to provide medical aid to keep Kale alive.  With a lot of luck and some natural talent (Healer Edge plus bennies), Kale was stabilized, but the V’Sori were en route to the bank.  Mindstorm ordered a retreat, since their goals were accomplished…and turned when someone grabbed his arm.  A bank teller, frightened but grateful, thanked Mindstorm and the rest of the team for saving them…Mindstorm, obviously taken aback by this, pulled his arm free and they escaped.

Notes:  Wow.  Second fight in this mission down, and Kale is in bad shape.  This took Kale out for the rest of the session…though Flux definitely saved Kale’s life.  Effigy’s desperation Fear effect totally changed the complexion of this fight, setting up Zephyr (total glass ninja normally) to be taken out by Bully since he was Shaken.  I gave them a 6 round time limit on this one before SOCorp would show up and turned it into a three way battle.

Back to the game…

Socks came up with the idea of contacting Willy the Fish, and Flux did just that with his Streetwise skill.  Izzy, henchman of Willy, told them he would meet with them to pick up Kale and get him some help.

As the Squad met with Izzy outside a gas station, they were stalked by a villain-killing vigilante named Blind Justice!  Justice opened fire on Mindstorm with a Nullifier gun – which had no effect – and pitched a grenade that came awfully close to the truck they had just loaded Kale onto.  Socks dove onto the grenade and absorbed a ton of shrapnel into himself…but kept the grenade from further harming Kale.  Izzy dove into the truck and fired it up, trying to get Kale away.  Bully charged Blind Justice, who snapped a katana free from its sheath and slashed into Bully…but Bully’s tough hide deflected it (really, Flux played an Adventure Card that kept Bully from behind harmed in that one attack)!  Bully attacked and missed, but Mindstorm wasn’t playing around and wrapped him in force bands.  Flux tried to ignite him, but Blind Justice was too well protected.  Bully smashed Blind Justice with a brutal headbutt that ended his resistance.  When Mindstorm drew a knife and walked over to finish Blind Justice off, Bully stopped him…saying that he had suffered enough from guys like them.  Mindstorm looked at Bully, then told Blind Justice that if he came at any of his people again, Mindstorm would kill him…even as Dr. Destruction provided information of a rendezvous between Curse and the V’Sori.

Notes:  Just a bit of an interlude with a Punisher-type vigilante attacking the team.  Socks made a huge sacrifice, risking life and limb to keep Kale safe from the grenade.  Blind Justice could have given any one of them a run for their money, but the team was thus far gelling really well together.

Buster Squad 5 approached the park where Curse was planning to meet with The V’Sori.  The team began to move in, unaware of the fact that Curse sensed them coming and was summoning zombies as well as preparing to copy Socks’ burrowing ability to sneak attack them.  Mindstorm swooped in first (first round, got a Joker) and Curse smiled from ear to ear…”I was expecting you…saw you all com—“  Without a word, Mindstorm summoned a bolt of lightning from the sky that ripped through Curse!  An impressive 32 point attack dropped Curse where he stood (a soak roll provided no successes, and I decided just to run with it).

The team considered, for a moment, waiting for the V’Sori to arrive, but thought better of it.

Notes:  Wow.  This one was supposed to be BIG…Curse was summoning Zombies, he had Copycat and Danger Sense, and the V’Sori were arriving in 3 rounds to provide backup…but Mindstorm, his closest ally on the shelf, was very, very angry.

Dr. Destruction sent only coordinates for the final target: Vesper.  The team arrived in a residential area, but seemed rather confused when they couldn’t find their target.  Examining the area, they all realized at once who they were looking for:  The woman across the street unloading groceries with her kids.

The jaws around the table dropped at this final target.

Taking a moment to compose themselves, Mindstorm opted to fly over to her and called out her real name, Theresa Hammond.  Seeing Mindstorm floating in the air, she told her kids to go inside.  Mindstorm was brutally honest: He told her he was there to kill her…but that he didn’t want to.  He asked her to come back to Omega so that no one would have to kill her.

She countered by pointing out that someone WOULD kill her if she went back…she would get sent on some stupid mission where some teammate would be too slow and she would pay for it.  She told Mindstorm that she’s the only thing her kids have, and she can’t risk that being a part of OMEGA again.

Mindstorm quickly offered a compromise:  Mindstorm told her he would have her added to his team’s roster, but she would remain at her house in Westpoint with her kids, and would remain off the active roster except in circumstances of dire emergency.  She hesitated, weighing her options…and realized how few she had.  Finally, she agreed to his terms.  Mindstorm, before leaving, pointed out to her that if OMEGA failed, she and hers would pay as bad a price as they will if they don’t fight.

On the way back to HQ, Mindstorm informed Destruction that Vesper was back onboard, as an inactive member of his team.  Destruction asked if Mindstorm was now dictating terms to him, to which Mindstorm said no…just that he hoped Destruction would trust him on this.  After a moment’s thought, Destruction told Mindstorm he would abide by Mindstorm’s decision.

Notes:  I intentionally tossed this one out there for the team to decide what to do…there was no wrong answer, even from Destruction’s perspective.  He intentionally did not tell them any circumstance about Vesper’s situation, in order to surprise them and see their reaction.  He figured that if they killed her, they were loyal footsoldiers.  The plan Mindstorm came up with, I thought, was rather brilliant.

Incidentally, out of character, the players commented that they can’t wait until the V’Sori are defeated so they can bring down Destruction.

One thing the guys seemed to like is that I typed up the personnel dossiers on the cell, and handed them out at the table when we began to play…they really rather liked that.

I also helpfully pointed out two more things about this mission:  1) This is what happens when people leave OMEGA and 2) Destruction clearly has files on all of them as well.  That’s actually what prompted the comment about bringing him down.

Next session, I believe we are now going to tackle some black marketers, and then Plot Point 5.