Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Tommy's Take on Wild World Wrestling Main Event Edition

Nearly two years ago, I reviewed Wild World Wrestling, the spiritual child of WWE: Know Your Role!, one of the more surprising (in a good way), d20 RPGs. Now, Wild World Wrestling: Main Event Edition is about to drop, with improvements and refinements based off of gameplay and feedback. You can see characters built with the first edition of the rules right here on this blog by searching for VIP Wrestling.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: First off, this is actually a pre-release PDF, as Main Event Edition is actually waiting the Print on Demand approvals from One Book Shelf, so it can be released as a print + PDF bundle I believe. In the interim, it appears as though the first edition of the game has been removed from RPGNow. According to the Timeout Diversion Facebook group, the PDF will remain $5, and the print book will sell for $20.

The wrestling in Wild World Wrestling is kayfabed. That is, you aren’t predetermining winners, you are playing it out like a competition. You are not Steve Borden and Terry Bollea, for instance, you are Sting and Hulk Hogan.

As I reviewed the game once before, I’ll describe the game in broader strokes, and then discuss some of the changes between the first version of WWW and this one.

The system is a modified d20 system, with classes removed and ability scores now covering Power, Athleticism, Instinct, Brawn and Flair on a scale of -5 to +5. Your level typically corresponds with your place on the card, from curtain jerker to main eventer, though there are rules in place to give your characters temporary artificial boosts and penalties (Star Power). Alignment is replaced with Attitude, with Face, Tweener and Heel as options. You can purchase Gimmick Enhancements that tweak your wrestler to better fit the concept. Flaws can be used to purchase extra Gimmick Enhancements. Hit Points give way to Fatigue and Heat is kinda like Action Points that power your Finishers, among other things.

There is no set list of wrestling moves, rather a group of modifiers that can be used to build pretty much any move that you would like, with tons of examples provided.

The rules also extensively cover special matches (like cages, battle royals and ladder matches), as well as outside the ring type stuff, like cutting promos and sneak attacks.

A roster of 13 sample characters based on WWE and TNA superstars is included, including a Paul Bearer-like manager.

But what does the Main Event Edition bring to the table?

Some key changes include:

-          Free Gimmick Enhancements for filling out not only your name, but your gimmick and your entrance music (an important staple in pro wrestling).
-          Characters now get more Skill Points per level.
-          Characters can now swap out a single Gimmick Enhancement each time they level up (rather than having to blow up their sheet and rebuild every time they, say, want to drop a finisher). This is more for Kane making mini transformations over the years from Evil to Slightly Less Evil than it is for Dr. Isaac Yankem, DDS becoming Fake Diesel.
-          New Gimmick Enhancements like Critical Strike (when you NEED to go in for the kill), a new set of Master GEs (like Master of the Game, in which you are prepared for basically any opponent), and more, with many other GEs being tweaked (like Indefatiguable now being available to anyone).
-          New Flaws: Glass Jaw and Old Injury (yes!)
-          Submission rules are now mechanically identical to pin attempts.
-          New Tie-Breaker order.
-          Tweaks to Tricks, including a great new Heel Trick called Phantom Tag.

It is also worth noting that a new Quick Play document has been released, which includes six new wrestlers, including one based off of one of my personal favorites, Wade Barrett.

WHAT WORKS: Still the best wrestling RPG I have ever seen. The level-by-level GE swap is brilliant, and a welcome addition. I always like more stuff to play around with, so more Tricks, Gimmick Enhancements and Flaws are a good thing. The production values on the book are a noticeable step up.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK: Still probably the RPG that I’m likely to have the hardest time getting players for. Either my potential players are not wrestling fans, or they are already indy wrestlers and don’t feel the need to play an RPG about it. I still would have preferred Skills to have gotten a full overhaul into something closer to the Star Wars Saga Edition rules.

CONCLUSION: Improved production values plus rules tweaks are a good thing. Timeout Diversions is promising more support for the game, including roster books, federation books and quarterly books coinciding with the major Pay Per Views. Wild World Wrestling has already made big steps to separate itself from Know Your Role (which was already a fine game), and while few of the changes in this book are massive innovations, they do a nice job of pushing the game just a little higher up. If you’re a fan of pro wrestling and RPGs, you have absolutely no reason not to pick this game up…even if, like me, you will just stare longingly at it in hopes of someday busting it out in play.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Bedrock Blog Interviews ME!

Hey folks, this is mostly for the people who aren't connected to me on social media already...Brendan Davis of Bedrock Games just interviewed me for his blog, covering writing (both comics and this blog), my thoughts on RPG design and reviewing!

If you have a moment, pop over and take a read!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Buster Squad 5: A Necessary Evil Actual Play Volume 9

New Session!

The players got off to a good start by successfully recapping most of the previous adventure, scoring a bonus benny each for doing so.

With newly reprogrammed Talos on board, the team was sent headlong into Plot Point Adventure 7, in which Dr. Destruction sent them a pre-recorded message telling them to attack a lab on the Docks, where a V’Sori scientist would be waiting with his hands over his heads. The team was to kill everyone else in the lab and make it look as though the scientist, Dr. Aden, had been killed. Socks asked if they could kill the scientist afterward, but Kale threatened to do horrible things to Socks’ mind.

As the team set out to converge on the Docks, Mindstorm asked Kale to disrupt the power to the facility. Kale dug deep within and summoned the depths of his Atlantean Sorcery to short out the V’Sori power fueling the lab. Talos followed suit by magnetically ripping the doors from the lab. None of the team could see inside, Mindstorm told Kale to generate light. This caused me (as Kale) to comment on being asked to kill the power and then generate light, when Mindstorm replied with “I want to kill communications to the place.”


Socks rushed the lab to find a lone V’Sori standing behind a table with a blaster, and Socks hurled machinery in his general direction but missed. Talos leaped in and crushed another figure that moved, but it turned out to just be a janitor.

Talos was still gleeful about his kill.

Mindstorm and Kale entered together and Kale was shot by the V’Sori, hurt but narrowly avoiding SEVERE injury. Mindstorm summoned lightning through the skylight of the lab and took the scientist out.

Mindstorm told Kale to heal himself while ordering Socks to dispatch two other V’Sori scientists who had been cowering in the fight. Meanwhile, Mindstorm found Dr. Aden and told him they were there to retrieve him. He ordered the team to depart, but Talos stopped and began to magnetically reach out to the metal frame of the building, ripping it loose and dumping it into the ocean before escaping through the skylight.

The team met with Dr. Destruction’s operatives, a pair of heroes that they had saved many missions ago named Hiro and Lycan, a wandering martial artist and a werewolf.

NOTES: The plan for the adventure is that a silent alarm is set off, dropping Drones, Fins and War Spheres on the place, but Mindstorm’s orders were designed to prevent that, and went off without a hitch, so I rolled with it and let the team have their flawless victory. Socks took Improved Sweep and we took a short break before mounting a new adventure.

The team was met in their headquarters by Dr. Destruction and a very angry half-Atlantean woman named Deja Nal. Destruction explained that he needed the team to return to Atlantis and locate a Geomantic Chamber that the Atlanteans once used for a powerful energy source. He explained that Deja Nal’s father was the Keeper of the Well before his death (and the Ruin of Atlantis), and that he was training Deja Nal to be his replacement. He went on to explain that she is a powerful sorceress herself, and will be able to use the power of the Well to destroy an orbiting V’Sori Man’O’War and then destroy the Well itself. He noted that the teleport tubes around the area have been destroyed, so he would provide them with a submarine.

As Deja Nal led the team to the submarine, she explained that the only reason she is doing this is because a Man’O’War routinely holds 3,000 or so V’Sori…and she’s going to snuff them all out in the blink of an eye.

As the team located the sub, they instinctively dove for cover as gunfire erupted around them!  Talos lunged into combat, and a cold chill went up the spines of the team as a chainsaw roared to life…just like it did the day Bully died. Talos laughed off the chainsaw and deflected gunfire, but Mindstorm was shot and Kale was clipped. Despite realizing they were facing Bully’s killers, Mindstorm made the call for everyone to run to the sub. Kale attempted to teleport in but misjudged and was deflected back to his starting point. Deja Nal summoned a swirling barrier to block the way and the team fell back, with Socks grabbing Kale and running to the sub. Talos was fighting the attack squad to a stalemate as Deja Nal teleported into the sub and Socks yanked Mindstorm and pulled him in. Talos turned to depart, but was cut down by the chainsaw. Jacko, the psychopath with the chainsaw, gleefully moved in for the kill, but Talos managed to his amazing Leaping to hurtle himself for the sub as Kale brought it down into the sea.

Talos began the arduous task of repairing himself, while Deja Nal used her magic to heal Mindstorm. Deja Nal and Kale deftly avoided Atlantean patrols, and the team entered the ruins of Atlantis. Finding the passageway blocked to the tunnels below, Mindstorm used his Telekinesis from the sub to clear the way, and the team used the airlock to descend into the tunnels.

Finding the tunnel to be covered in a glowing fungus, Socks felt the need to get a taste. As the team entered the Geomantic Chamber and saw the Well at the center, they saw a V’Sori explorer and his Fin bodyguards on the other side! The explorer, D’Bloc, said he and his men would be the only ones leaving the Chamber alive, but Deja Nal ran for the well! Talos lunged at the Fins and got swarmed, but laughed away as they tried to take him down. Mindstorm and Kale flanked the Well and Kale tagged one of the Fins ineffectually…before being attacked by Fins himself. Socks moved in to make the save and the energy from the Well began to grow.

Mindstorm was blasted and wounded again, while Socks proclaimed himself an ally of Sugrot and would kill all those who didn’t swear loyalty to Sugrot…getting no takers, he began the slaughter.  With two Fins down, Kale unleashed a power he rarely uses, in part because he saw what happened when Angel’s Bane unleashed it all those months ago…and he moved next to Talos and unleashed his Fear power! He sent the Fins scurrying from the chamber in fright, giving Talos a free shot on one of them, taking him down! Being left with five Fins and all of them in retreat, D’Bloc triggered a Teleport Shunt to disappear, infuriating the team.

Deja Nal channeled the power of the well and sent it hurling through the depths of the ocean and into space, destroying the Man’O’War! Then the chamber began to collapse! Mindstorm retrieved the unconscious Deja Nal from the Well as Talos grabbed Kale and Leaped to safety. As the tunnels began to collapse around them, Kale and Talos became trapped, but Kale asked Leviathan for power and took himself and the robot deep into the tunnel and near the sub. Mindstorm, still holding Deja Nal, dodged the collapsing tunnels but debris came down in front of Socks…who burrowed through it.

The team got into the sub and Kale summoned all of his might into boosting his natural Piloting skill (he’s Gifted, so he doesn’t actually HAVE it) and deftly piloted the sub through the collapsing ruins as the team watched a massive crater opening under the building…and an explosion consuming a mile’s worth of Atlantis.

NOTES: The team TOTALLY got saved on the new Savage Worlds rule of Spirit being used for Fear checks instead of Guts, since none of them ever took Guts, because Kale's Fear radius covered them as well. The Fins just rolled very badly. Socks came out of this session the best, as he ended with 7 bennies and an Adventure Card that allowed him to cash in his bennies for XP, becoming the first PC ever in our games to cross Heroic. He took the Counterattack and No Mercy Edges. Mindstorm also got a new Advance, raising his Smarts die to d8. I also gave them considerable props for coming face to face with Bully’s killers and choosing the bigger objective over revenge. That’s okay…I’m sure they’ll get their chance sooner, rather than later. With the PCs crossing into Heroic, we are very close to the end now. OH...I should mention that Kenny brought over some sweet, sweet HeroClix that he had modded for Socks, Kale and Mindstorm...a piece for Talos may be coming, and a piece for Bully's memorial will be as well.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Tommy's Take on Civil War: X-Men

The last of the Civil War books for Marvel Heroic Roleplaying has arrived (digitally, at least), focusing on one of the darkest periods in X-Men history: The 198.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: You will need either Marvel HeroicRoleplaying and, really, Civil War in order to get the most out of the Civil War: X-Men book, though you can always get Civil War Premium Edition and kill two birds with one stone. The PDF for this one will set you back $12.99, for 132 full color pages.

In a nice touch, the cover features the four surviving original X-Men as of Civil War (spoiler warning: Jean Grey died again), even if I’m again not a fan of the particular art chosen. What you should know about this period of X-Men history, and the book does tell you this, is that Scarlet Witch has wished mutants largely away, reducing the number to 198. Most of that 198 are sequestered at the X-Mansion, and “protected” by O*N*E, a government task force led by War Machine and consisting largely of piloted Sentinels.

In fact, the first chapter of the book is largely that short summary.

The next chapter provides from mutant specific milestones and unlockables, and it has some very good ones. Can I Join Yet? is great for a young mutant trying to prove they can join the X-Men (and can easily be adapted to any young hero trying to earn their way onto an “adult” team), Disciple of X (attempting to follow Xaver’s dream in the face of oppression) and X-Veteran (which can lead to an X-Man seeking out a new role in the world, like Wolverine joining the Avengers or Storm branching off the X-Men into a mutant police force). For the Unlockables, only one seems particularly tied to the time period (gaining the trust of O*N*E), as others allow you to gain particular notoriety among mutants, gain notoriety among humans AS a mutant, or gaining a big surge of energy when using your powers.

The Xavier Institute chapter talks a bit about playing young X-Men, but also provides several datafiles including Armor (who was in the main rulebook), Pixie and Prodigy (without powers), as well as the 198, which serves as a great reminder about the horrible selection Marvel made for who got to keep their powers, like Alchemy, Erg (who looks like Legion and Callisto had a love child), Fever Pitch, Mammomax and Peepers. O*N*E is also covered here as well, with Sentinel datafiles, War Machine and Valerie Cooper, as well as a small section on playing Sentinel pilots. A few action scenes are included, including two which basically cover the events of the Civil War: X-Men miniseries in broad strokes (not that there was a ton of story to that mini).

X-Factor Investigations gets their own section, with Watcher datafiles on Layla Miller, Rictor and Quicksilver. There is a nice section on using X-Factor during parts of the Civil War Event, providing some good twists on the scenes.

The entire rest of the book is filled with full player datafiles. These include obvious choices like Archangel, Iceman, Cyclops and Beast, as well as Colossus, Shadowcat, Emma Frost and Nightcrawler and the X-Factor Investigations crew (add Madrox to the list of characters I’d love to play in this game someday). Some more unusual choices are provided, like Micromax and Sabra (due to their connection with O*N*E), as well as Sabretooth (with a Milestone set that can turn him into a hero). Personal favorites of mine that also get included are Forge and Hellion.

WHAT WORKS: Some great Milestones and Unlockables that are usable in just about any X-Men campaign is great, as are some X-Men getting the Datafile treatment for the first time. In fact, from a pure character selection standpoint, this is probably the most pleased I’ve been with the datafile collection.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK: A lot of the problems with this book have more to do with the really bad place the X-Men books were in during Civil War than it does with the book itself. The gameable content feels lighter here than it does in any of the other books, but again: That was the X-Men during Civil War.

CONCLUSION: The weakest of the Civil War books, unless you just NEED the mutant datafiles (and the inclusion of X-Factor alone makes a strong argument for that), hampered by being tied to Civil War, which was a dark time creatively for the X-Men books. That said, the Unlockables and Milestones are pretty much all-purpose, and the section about playing Sentinel O*N*E pilots plays to one of Marvel Heroic’s greatest strengths in the Event set-up, which is flipping the perspective of the events on their ear by putting the players in different driver seats. That said, a set of Milestones and Unlockables for the O*N*E pilots would have taken that promise one step further and made the book that much better. I can’t call it a “must-buy” unless you’re a big X-Men fan running Marvel Heroic, because with Annihilation and Age of Apocalypse coming up, this is as close to an all-purpose X-Men book as you’re probably going to see for a while. Still, might be worth it for the oddity of seeing an X-Men product that basically ignores Storm and Wolverine (due to their activities during Civil War).

Friday, November 23, 2012

Camp Myth, Land of Fire and War of the Dead Kickstarters

It's holiday crunch time, and I'm dealing with electronics failures around the house, as well as missing work due to holidays, plus my kid's birthday just passing and Christmas around the corner, so I'm having to back off of supporting any Kickstarters financially for the time being, much as I'd like to.

That said, I can sure point them out to you, so here's a trifecta of Kickstarters I feel deserve your support:

Camp Myth by Third Eye Games

Using the same system found in Mermaid Adventures, Camp Myth seems to be a good alternate for those guys who were looking for an RPG for their kids, but found Mermaid Adventures to be a hard sell. In Camp Myth, you play a mythical creature attempting to score merit badges by doing things like Kraken Fishing, Golem Building and Unicorn Taming. Honestly, it sounds really cool. With 9 days left to go, it still needs nearly $2,000, however.

$15 gets you the book in PDF, along with the Phoenix Watching e-book, while $35 gets you the print version.

Hellfrost: Land of Fire by Triple Ace Games

Honestly, I'm hard pressed to find a better example of a small press publisher with a track record for both content and quality than Paul Wade-Williams (better known as Wiggy), but Land of Fire, the Arabian Nights expansion for the amazing Savage Worlds setting Hellfrost, is still about 4,000 lbs pounds shy of its goal with 14 days left. Hellfrost, like most of Triple Ace Games' material, is pretty amazing and I have little doubt that Wiggy would work his magic again with Arabian Nights.

7 pounds (about $11, I think) will get you the PDF, while you can get the PDF and an adventure for 16 pounds or the print version for 38 pounds.

World of the Dead by Daring Entertainment

Okay, I want to see this come to fruition for a few reasons...1) I think it'll be great and 2) there's a fair chance I'll be working on the book (I AM listed on the Kickstarter team). World of the Dead is the full blown setting book and Plot Point Campaign follow up to War of the Dead, the expansive, 52 week zombie apocalypse adventure saga. World of the Dead is over halfway funded with 27 days left to go.

$12 scores you World of the Dead in PDF, $25 gets you that and an exclusive adventure, $40 gets you the hardcover and an alternate adventure opening and $50 is the extravaganza, getting you World of the Dead, War of the Dead and The Paper Dead...and if you go to $60, you can complete a trilogy with that exclusive adventure from the $25 level. It's pretty much the perfect page to feed your Walking Dead obsession.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Tommy's Take on Deadlands Blood Drive 1: Bad Times on the Goodnight

What the hey? I still do reviews on this blog? The following is Bad Times on the Goodnight, the first of a three part series (designed to also be standalone) called Blood Drive for Deadlands, written by John Goff. As always, it's an adventure, so I'll try to go light on spoilers, but if I go too light, it's hard to do a review.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: The PDF is $9.99 for 37 pages, which might be a tad steep for some folks, and the adventure is largely designed for novice characters. It is designed to either be used as the beginning of the Blood Drive campaign, or as a standalone adventure as you need. You DO need a copy of Savage Worlds and Deadlands Reloaded in order to get full use of this product.

The production values are suitably top notch, as Pinnacle products tend to be, with removable layers, high quality art, search functions and so on.

The adventure starts off in Texas and takes your posse on a cattle drive up to Wyoming, with a full on range war along the way. Interestingly, one of the common complaints I hear from Deadlands critics is that there's not enough "normal" old west stuff going on, which this adventure addresses right out of the gate with sections focusing on - and rules supporting - rounding up and roping cattle, as well as breaking horses. Far from extensive, of course, but Deadlands has never tried to be an old west simulator...though these touches are appreciated.

The bulk of the first act is pretty much tame stuff like this, with a hint of weirdness thrown in (when the cattle are attacked by some of the more "normal" - but still creepy - varmints of the Weird West) and culminating in a showdown with the Bayou Vermillion railroad.

Act two gets into the actual cattle drive, complete with a "positioning map" for the PCs and NPCs to use to make sure all the parts of the Cattle Drive team are covered (I know I'd need something like this for a cattle drive...I don't know who does what). The cattle drive is plagued with zombie attacks, possibility of stampede, a creepy scene that is meant just to remind you that the Weird West is really weird and an encounter that harkens back to Lonesome Dove's cattle drive just a bit, albeit with an evil twist.

Act three switches gears with a bit of social conflict as the posse enters the Disputed Territories, and sets up a conflict with some very bad men, as well as an "enemy of my enemy is my friend" kind of situation to cap off the Cattle Drive.

WHAT WORKS: The "slice of Weird West life" stuff is very much welcome, with a "common" cattle drive also being peppered with a number of distinctly Deadlands encounters. The Act Two stopover is very nice touch that helps drive home the oddity of the setting. This adventure certainly lives up to the promise of being self contained.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: If you're running this is a full series, there's an NPC or two with plot armor, and some suspicious players are going to get hung up on that Act 2 stopover I mentioned. $10 for 37 pages may feel like a tad much for some people.

CONCLUSION: I love the "mundane" stuff being in here. Such a great change of pace for Deadlands adventures (which I'm usually a fan of, anyway). This also serves as a great adventure because not only does it combine elements of the "weird" west with the "old" west, but a number of the Savage Worlds and Deadlands Reloaded rules as well (dueling, random encounters, social combat and mass combat). Is it the most awe inspiring adventure? Nah. Are the hooks in this adventure compelling enough to make you NEED to see Blood Drive 2? Not really. But it's well worth picking up, especially for a relatively new group who may not be wildly familiar with the Deadlands setting.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Buster Squad 5 - A Necessary Evil Actual Play Volume 8


After three long years (real life time), we resumed Necessary Evil last night. I began with the opening narration:

“It has been one year since you left Star City. Presumed dead when your headquarters was destroyed by Dr. Destruction, you have moved throughout the world, making surgical strikes on V’Sori installations. Moving with brutal efficiency, Buster Squad 5 has become a horror story among the V’Sori, and a quiet legend being whispered among the resistance.

Communications are tightly controlled by the V’Sori, but word from Star City has proven grim. A number of spies and agents of OMEGA have been rooted out, exposed and executed. Your adventures have not been without peril, either…”

We then moved to using the Interludes system (the original, from Zombie Run, rather than the abbreviated table from Savage Worlds Deluxe. Socks got “Obstacle” and he decided that his obstacle was that he needed a giant statue honoring Bully to be built. I helpfully turned this into an obstacle by indicating that they had heard of a revolutionary artist and sculptor being held in a makeshift prison in France. Socks demanded that they free him.

This led to a tense argument between Socks, Kale and Mindstorm (with Flux having abandoned the team after losing his heart for the fight – Mindstorm ultimately decided not to report this to Dr. Destruction) over whether or not this was a worthwhile effort. Mindstorm said they could have a tribute statue built after the team had won and the V’Sori were defeated, which made Kale laugh. He surprised Socks and Mindstorm by saying that he holds no hope of victory or survival…just that he’ll take down as many V’Sori as he can before he dies.

Kale ultimately agreed to infiltrate the prison, teleporting into it and transforming into a V’Sori (then fast talking his way past a V’Sori who had become suspicious). He got the layout of the prison and walked back to Mindstorm and Socks. Socks and Mindstorm burrowed under the prison by Socks emerged too soon, leaving them facing some drones and a V’Sori. Socks attacked quickly and was nearly Incapacitated by a Drone, but the quick use of an Adventure Card saved the day.

Mindstorm’s attacks from the hole were less than impressive, but Socks took out the Drones. Mindstorm telepathically alerted the prisoner that he was being freed while Kale magically shorted out the communications at the prison. Socks then related the tale of how he was freed from his own prison, being experimented on by the V’Sori, after being saved by a giant, overgrown, superpowered insect that he had never had a chance to thank. This was shortly before Dr. Destruction deposited him at the door of the Buster Squad 5.

Mindstorm’s Interlude related to an injury that he had recently suffered, when he encountered Belladonna, the team’s traitor, who was supposed to have been sent to another reality. Startled by this, he twisted his knee trying to get away from her grasp and took to the skies, scaring her off. (Mindstorm’s player asked me if it was alright that he use Belladonna when I mentioned that she was supposed to be off-world, but I thought it was a nice revelation and told him to go with it. Seems the V’Sori didn’t follow through on their promise).

Dr. Destruction contacted the team and told them that they were needed in Star City, one year to the day that they left. He explained that Shocklord Hreed had came to Earth and that Destruction had dispatched an assassin, alongside another OMEGA cell, to take Hreed out. However, a V’Sori Solo named Rom had taken control of the team and sent them after the assassin. The only reason the assassin, known as Agent 13, hadn’t been found is because no one knows so much as his codename or even appearance…information that he then turned over to the Buster Squad 5. He also gave them info on the controlled Omega Cell: Red Barracuda (a mind controller himself), Trash (a guy that covers himself in garbage to become a hulking monster), Magister Ludi (a sorcerer that Kale scoffed at), Aphotic (an undead masked man) and Abraxas (a rakshasa). Dr. Destruction being so forthcoming with information to the Buster Squad was not lost on the team

Returning to Star City, the team found the city appeared darker, more oppressed. It seemed to be locked down. Intelligence reports that had leaked out over the year implied that the Buster Squad 5 were still being reported as being dead, despite the V’Sori having to know that they were still alive due to their actions worldwide. Slipping through the back alleys, the team were stunned to find, at seemingly random places, graffiti tags of the number “5”. Mindstorm touched the tag and turned to Kale, who was staring intently and flanked by illusions of Bully and Flux, before they faded away. Mindstorm said that THIS is why they fight. Kale merely offered that if they have only returned to die, that he’s at peace with that…but that he would not die at the hands of Hreed or Rom or this mind controlled OMEGA cell…that he would not die until that hit squad that killed Bully were rotting in the ground. Socks unleashed a ferocious, guttural growl. Kale said that, for maybe the first time, they were all in agreement. The three men touched hands and Kale said that the streets of Star City should run red with blood.

Socks had Kale contact Izzy, Willy the Fish’s former right hand man, who was stunned to see the group. Izzy told them about the V’Sori rooting out OMEGA spies like Lila Jackson, the cop that helped Mindstorm escape the police station, and shattering several OMEGA cells. He said that some cells had even disbanded. He did tell Socks that Tula, the resistance fighter Socks and the team had fought with last year, was asking about him still, but that she was currently in South America. Izzy told the team that the hitman was last spotted in Tempest and the team set out to find him.

After Kale’s efforts failed, Mindstorm made telepathic contact. Agent 13 told them to meet him at the Brewery. Along the way, Mindstorm passed a bum covered in newspapers and saw the headlines announced that after the untimely passing of Mayor Perez that the new Mayor, Vincent Blevins, was taking office…Mindstorm’s own brother! Mindstorm growled that he NEEDED that assassin.

As the team arrived at the Brewery, they realized they were being followed…by the controlled OMEGA cell! Socks lashed out and wounded Aphotic and Magister Ludi, while Mindstorm unleashed an electrical burst that stunned Red Barracuda and ultimately killed Ludi! Abraxas charged Socks, but Kale drew on deeper wells of power and told Abraxas that his very presence offended Kale, before slapping his hand to Abraxas’ chest and killing him instantly! Trash smashed Socks and a shot rang out, wounding Red Barracuda, and a second shot took him down, seemingly freeing Trash and Aphotic from their stupor!

Mindstorm asked Kale if Red Barracuda was controlling the team and Kale answered that he assumed it was a V’Sori controlling them THROUGH Red Barracuda. Abraxas and Ludi were dead and Barracuda was dying, so Mindstorm asked Kale if he could save Barracuda. Kale said “yes” and walked away. Mindstorm asked him if he was GOING to save Barracuda and Kale said “no”. This led to another tense confrontation and Kale pointed out that these guys were horrible people even by OMEGA standards. Trash asked if they should be offended and Kale offered that they weren’t the first OMEGA agents the team had to kill. Mindstorm said they probably wouldn’t be the last. Agent 13 piped over the CommLink and said they were in a rush, because word had come down that Warmaster F’arak was secretly coming to visit Earth!

Mindstorm quickly formulated a plan and had Kale animate the body of Magister Ludi and alter his appearance. Trash and Aphotic joined Socks and Mindstorm in getting close to the landing site at Beachhead, while Agent 13 found himself a perch and Kale and his meat puppet took an opposite perch. The team got to witness Rom and Hreed grumbling about V’Sori politics while waiting on F’arak and another Shocklord, P’loss’ee, to arrive. Mindstorm summoned a storm and waited…until Kale had the corpse of Ludi fire the first shot, missing F’arak. The team sprang into action but the V’Sori were unimpressed and Aphotic was Shaken by P’Loss’ee. Hreed ran for cover while Trash charged in and smashed a drone, but was set upon by Fins. Mindstorm came in dropping lightning bolts on F’arak, but the Warmaster appeared uninjured…though he also had trouble focusing his retaliation on Mindstorm. Socks dove in after P’Loss’ee while Agent 13 began taking HIS shots.

Rom took control of Trash’s mind as Kale teleported out to the battlefield, and Aphotic was blasted apart by drones. Kale went after Rom but failed, murder glistening in his eyes. Rom drew a vibro sword and sneered at Kale, sending him on the defensive.

Socks was finding these guys to be better fighters than he figured and was being neutralized offensively, while shaking off hits that were continuing to mount. Mindstorm kept blasting away at F’arak, while resisting mental assaults from him and P’Loss’ee, before Agent 13 cracked off another shot, exploding P’Loss’ee’s head. With this, Hreed teleported away.

Rom’s concentration broken, Trash snapped free from his control and attacked, but Rom’s armor resisted. He turned to Trash with contempt and prepared to attack, but Kale slipped his hand to Rom’s head and whispered to him that the Infection was already inside his wonderful brain, thanks to the finest Atlantean magic…and that the Leviathan would see Rom in Hell. Then Kale was wounded by attacks from the drone and Leviathan reinforcements, while Trash was blasted by a drone and went down in a heap.

The group heard a mechanical voice uttering “Multifunction Automaton Requisitioned for Killing: Designate Talos..activated” and Talos crashed to the earth near Kale, stunning one of the Fins. He began to Taunt them, drawing their attention, then laughing as he resisted their attacks.

Mindstorm dodged the attacks of the wounded F’arak, who never saw Socks coming. Once more, the top of the V’Sori food chain was brought down by a raging beast. Socks started to turn to Kale, but Talos waved him off, and he turned back to Mindstorm…who said they needed to KNOW F’arak was dead! Socks reached down and tore F’arak’s head from his body and threw it at the Fins, then grabbed Mindstorm and burrowed into the earth!

The Fins were momentarily distracted and Talos told Kale to “grab on…to anything above the waist, so it doesn’t get awkward” and the two bolted into the sky to safety.

In the aftermath, Dr. Destruction reported that Agent 13 had been killed, presumably by Hreed when he teleported away.

Warlord Grypon and Mayor Blevins flipped the entire city on its ear, and the faces of Mindstorm, Kale and Socks were blasted across every media outlet in the city, Wanted: Dead or Alive…their posters on every street corner and business in Star City…with half of them becoming defaced with crimson “5s” as soon as they were placed.

NOTES: Everyone slipped back into character very easily for it having been so long since we had played. Lots of great roleplaying tonight, though the combat tended to get bogged down at points because the players still like to get locked into certain tactics and follow them off the cliff (like Socks sweeping and Mindstorm blasting). Obviously, I’ve tweaked Star City a bit upon their arrival, and dropped mentions to the previous campaign continuity all throughout the session, with the players actually remembering and picking up on them. That was very cool. They tore through the fight with the OMEGA cell, getting great rolls and great cards…the V’Sori fight was much tougher, both due to bad cards and tougher enemies, and they used a lot of bennies to Soak.

Mindstorm picks up a new Advance, the Marksman Edge, and the group is set to reconvene in one week, post-Thanksgiving.

Another note: This was my first time actually using the Savage Worlds Deluxe Explorer's Edition rulebook and it was INCREDIBLY frustrating because the index was seemingly cut and pasted from the Savage Worlds Deluxe book...meaning the page numbers were way off due to the formatting change.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Buster Squad 5 - A Necessary Evil Actual Play Volume 7

On To England

Socks decided to get smarter as he entered Veteran, boosting his Smarts to d6.

As the team sacked the Drone factory, they were stunned to discover Eagle McGee strapped into machinery, caught in mid-transformation when they attacked.

Eagle was in deep, deep pain…and the team moved quickly to free him from the machinery.

Back at the village, the team had left Talos in the hands of a Russian scientist named Pietro, who was trying to revert the V’Sori programming with no luck.  Reluctantly, the team loaded up Talos on the plan, though they foolishly neglected to try to recruit Pietro.

Flux fired up the plane and they took to the skies.  All across Europe and Asia they saw the same thing: devastation.  Insulated inside Star City, they were only now realizing what was at stake world-wide.

As they headed toward England, Dr. Destruction contacted them with information regarding an informant, Laslo Locke, who had turned up missing.  Destruction stressed REPEATEDLY that he needed Locke ALIVE.  His last known address was a flat in London…so the team headed toward London.  McGee helpfully told them to find a field outside of London to set down, which Flux did.

On the way down, Socks quietly apologized to McGee for having captured him some time back.  McGee looked quite confused, and Socks replied with “I didn’t always look this way.”

As the team got ready to head to London, McGee asked Socks to prop him up, which he did, and McGee pulled a gun on Talos, saying he would make sure Talos stayed there.

As Buster Squad headed into London and advanced on their destination, they saw smoke and flames rising in the sky.  Sure enough, their destination was ablaze, and EMS was failing horribly at putting it down.  Flux took control of the flames, making an opening into the building, and the team went inside.  Smoke immediately threatened to overwhelm Socks, and Kale moved quickly, soaking all of them so they could use their wet clothes to cover their faces.  People were running out of the building as Buster Squad moved in, and Socks used his senses to seek out trapped folks.

Inside the building, Kale could sense the mystical energy permeating the fire, and his eyes began to glow.  Socks freed a trapped man, grabbing burning debris with his bare hands and ripping it free while Mindstorm transported the man to the outside.  Flux made a large earth slide for a Mom and three kids to use to escape a third story window…and this whole time, Kale’s eyes grew brighter.

A couple of floors up, they saw a flaming beast marching through the building!  The team moved in to attack, with Mindstorm trying to bind it, Flux trying to control it, Socks trying to hit it with a potted plant (and igniting the plant) and Kale ineffectually assaulting it.

Kale saw the beast and recognized it for what it was: A fire elemental summoned by Atlantean magic!  The team kept dodging gouts of flame, and Kale blasted it with a gout of water but overloaded himself again.

Socks charged for an external wall to try to get water into the building, when Flux reached deep inside the building’s pipes and burst them, sending water everywhere!  Mindstorm was able to use Force constructs to channel and focus this water, hosing the Fire Elemental down and ultimately destroying it!

With the Elemental down, the team moved steadily through the building, rounding up survivors and finding Locke laid out with Atlantean tomes surrounding him.  Kale, annoyed at the obvious carelessness with magic, rousted him up and the team headed downstairs with their informant and survivors.

As they came to the entrance, Mindstorm was blasted stepping through the door, but shrugged off the shot, staring out at Drones, Fins and a V’Sori Warlord!

Socks screamed for the innocents to get cover, as he lunged into the crowd hacking and slashing!  The Warlord moved in on the building, shrugging off a lighting bolt from Mindstorm, and ordered his men to advance.

A Fin charged Kale, Flux and Mindstorm, scratching Mindstorm before Flux incinerated him!

Socks killed anything that got close, while the Warlord kept hammering Flux, Kale and Mindstorm with mental assaults.  The remaining Fins rushed to bring Socks down, but failed.

The Warlord, ego growing as Flux, Kale and Mindstorm were acting more and more defensive, gloated louder and louder: Until Mindstorm completely fried him!  The resistance broke apart shortly thereafter, with Mindstorm and Flux moving to help Socks clean up the crowd!

From the surrounding area the team was stunned at the noise: Thunderous applause.  Since the invasion, England has seen little hope…and they just saw it again, at the hands of these brightly clothed beings!

As the team uncomfortably left the scene, coordinates came over their commlinks.  The team headed to the coordinates to find a large, dilapidated manor…inside: Dr. Destruction!

Destruction immediately took Lazlo, making Lazlo very nervous!  Destruction told the team to remain in England, as a courier was arriving with something very important.  He also told them that he had Eagle McGee, and may have found valuable insight with the Hyper-Drone process because of it.  At Mindstorm’s prodding, he said he would look into reprogramming Talos.  Destruction then headed out, indicating he had a meeting with a 1,000 year old Pharaoh.

Squatting at the manor, Socks caught wind of an approaching figure…a lone form making his way closer.  As he did, Kale and Flux sensed that he was Atlantean, and Socks went out to meet him.

The man revealed that his name was Remar, and he was seeking the team’s aid after watching them save the people in the burning building.  Remar’s daughter, a half-Atlantean, half-Protean named Lucinda, was being held in a V’Sori Conversion Camp to be turned into a Drone!  Mindstorm was suspicious, but Kale – being an Atlantean loyalist – argued for him.  Mindstorm was apprehensive, since Destruction left them under orders to lay low…but then he looked back at their success lately since “laying low”.  Mindstorm relented, on the idea that they could at least take out a camp…but wanted Remar fighting alongside him.  Kale clashed with Mindstorm again, saying Remar was clearly a civilian, and would only be a liability in the fight.  Mindstorm reluctantly relented, and Remar led the team toward the camp.

As they approached the camp, Flux reached out telepathically, and oddly became immediately in tune with Lucinda!  Kale began working independently, latching onto the “mind” of a Drone, walking around inside its head, getting the layout of the camp.  Then he teleported into the camp and shapeshifted into a V’Sori to gain access to the prisoners!  When Mindstorm finally got him to answer, Kale asked for a distraction, so Socks, Flux and Mindstorm moved in to attack!

Not the brightest move, as Mindstorm faced off with a King Crab tank.  The Crab blasted him…but Mindstorm shrugged it off!  Socks was trying to burrow up underneath the tank, but was having trouble penetrating the density of it.

Flux moved in, blasting flames all around with minimal effect.

The V’Sori inside the crab heard Socks trying to tear through and unleashed mental assaults at him with little effect either.  Mindstorm taking the blast from the Crab allowed him to momentarily frighten the Crab’s crew, and a strange mechanical malfunction (an Adventure deck card) caused the tank to shut down!

The Fins and one of the V’Sori evacuated the tank, while Socks tore into the tank and took the other V’Sori down.

Drones firing into the air kept hitting Mindstorm, starting to batter him around as the camp’s Warlord arrived!  He ordered his men to diverge on the crab, and with one well-placed shot left Mindstorm wounded badly!  Mindstorm ordered a pull-out as yet another V’Sori arrived on the scene, and shot straight into the air…while Socks popped out of the tank and took down three of the Fins after one of the Drones accidentally shot the fourth.

Socks and the V’Sori on the tank battled it out, with Socks wearing him down until a stray shot ended him as well.  Flux unleashed a twister on some Drones and the new V’Sori…who was really Kale in disguise!

As Kale and the girl were whipped to the ground, his disguise dropped and she began to glow, bursting with energy!

Lucinda’s energy erupted and she blasted Kale, while the Warlord – now sensing the Atlantean presence – advanced on him with glee!

Her power kept erupting in random directions all around her, as Kale tried to shake off the effects of her power.

Sensing the Warlord approaching, Kale cast a quick spell and hunkered down in pain!  The Warlord unleashed a burst on him…but it was a trap!  Kale looped the power around, giving the Warlord psychic feedback and blowing his head up!  Then he cast a spell knocking Lucinda unconscious, before drawing on a massive well of power to teleport clear out of the camp!

Mindstorm unleashed some bolts to cover the escape as the team bailed out on the remains of the camp.

Outside of the camp, they reunited with Remar, who was delighted to see his daughter again.  Kale and Mindstorm discussed the girl and her out of control powers, and agreed that Destruction was their best bet…they talked to Remar, and then Destruction, arranging for Remar and Lucinda to join Destruction so he could help control her powers.

The courier arrived a day later, with the tube they liberated from Hydra’s base!  It had a note, explaining the directions, and ordering them to use the tube to teleport to Atlantis, find the Crown of Atlantis, and bring it to Destruction!  Socks, without hesitation, entered the tube and pressed the button…

Notes:  Not nearly as epic and awesome as last week’s, this one was dialed down a bit.  The original plan was for the team to help an Omega Hitman whose original backup team had been controlled by War-Master F’arak’s Solo aide Rom, and lead into the team having the chance to kill F’arak and two Shocklords.  As it is, we get “filler” adventures instead.

The team, Socks especially, are acting way more like heroes now…Bully’s death seems to have had a huge effect on Socks.

Next session: Into Atlantis!

We picked right up with Socks teleporting into Atlantis.  Kale quickly followed.  Flux and Mindstorm joined them, and three were overwhelmed at their first real look at Atlantis, while Kale was overwhelmed at returning home.

The medallion Mindstorm purchased for Kale back at the Farmer’s Market began to glow.  Kale relayed an old bedtime story…about a “Lost Legion” of Atlantean warriors who had gone into an eternal slumber…supposedly to be awoken in a time of great need with the Crown of Atlantis.  Kale guided the team through the religious district…to the Temple of the Four Seas.

Socks looked around at the remnants of Fin armor and became suspicious…he warned the group to be on their toes.

As they forced their way into the Temple, a swarm of beetles attacked them!  This swarm ran around Kale, who darted deeper into the temple with a reckless abandon.  Flux, Socks and Mindstorm looked confused at the attacking swarm, and a little worried as it darted past Mindstorm’s attempts to blast it.

Suddenly, Kale was shot down where he stood, laser blasts ripping through him!  As he fell to his knees, he projected an image of the medallion to Flux and Mindstorm, as they were shocked to see a patrol of eight Fins entering the Temple as well!

Socks was less surprised, and rushed on to meet them.  The beetle swarm followed him, as the Fins looked eager to tear him apart.  Flux and Mindstorm moved in on Kale, Mindstorm blasting a Fin that got too close.  Flux tried to blast a Fin with a fiery burst and it jumped away…but opened itself up the beetle swarm, which eagerly devoured him!

Flux bent down to Kale in hopes of trying to aid him…but grabbed the amulet first and found himself compelled to follow its urgings!  The Fins got attacked by the swarm as well, to the delight of the Buster Squad.

Flux ran into a chamber in the back of the Temple and looked around the walls…seeing strange pictographs that depicted two races: one using magic, one using technology, waging a civil war until the tech users departed for the heavens…Flux couldn’t be mistaken:  The V’Sori and the Atlanteans were far more linked than anyone imagined!  Then, he saw the Crown of Atlantis…and lustfully reached for it, preparing to put it on!  Just then, a crazed moan came from within the chamber…

Socks took a brutal slash from a Fin, as Mindstorm headed to the chamber to aid Flux.

A mad Atlantean priest emerged from the Temple, calling Flux a genetic abomination!  Flux unleashed a fiery field that failed to harm the Atlantean, who unleashed a sonic blast that missed.  Flux used the Fear ability from his Flame of Atlantis armor, but the mad Atlantean would not be phased…and he tapped into a wellspring of power that would make Kale feel tiny…and in the middle of his attack, Flux saw Leviathan!  When the surge of energy subsided, the Priest was sitting on the floor gibbering!

Mindstorm rushed in, seeing Flux, the Crown and the insane Priest, and ordered Flux to grab the crown and go!

Socks tore through the remaining Fins and the beetles, but was frustrated when his claws had no effect!  He heard a Fin crying out for back-up, as Mindstorm and Flux emerged and helped him squash the remaining warriors.

Socks stopped, dropped and rolled on the beetle swarm…when eight more Fins arrived!  Buster Squad tried to steel themselves, Socks hurt bad by Fins and beetles…when four MORE Fins arrived!  One of the eight new Fins seemed surprised about even more back-up…when the biggest, meanest Fin to walk the planet tore his face off!  Sugrot had arrived, and ordered his men to make sure that “Socks and his minions” were victorious!

The battle between the Renegade Fin and the V’Sori loyalists was short and ugly.  Sugrot, inflicting massive damage in a short amount of time, offered an olive branch to the remaining Fins:  Join Sugrot and live, remain with the V’Sori and die.

Sugrot gained new recruits.

Mindstorm gave Kale the Crown of Atlantis as the swarm moved in to kill him…but Kale teleported away from its grasp.

Socks and Flux tore away to the teleport tube, and Kale waited for Mindstorm to pass before entering himself.

Back in London, Destruction was waiting for the Crown!  He eagerly congratulated the Buster Squad on yet another job well done, and asked for The Crown!  Kale looked at him long and hard…and hesitated greatly…before relenting.

Destruction told the Buster Squad that he would provide more orders soon…then quickly departed with Crown in tow.

Sometime later, in an undisclosed location…The Lost Legion stirred…called back to life by the wielder of the Crown of Atlantis…Dr. Destruction!

Notes:  Short session, Plot Point 6 with no real embellishments.  Sugrot crashed the show after Socks played Reinforcements when the second Fin patrol showed up.  Since the group insisted on the NPC Kale to carry the medallion, I made sure to wipe him out so that a PC would have to enter the chamber and gain the Crown of Atlantis.  Mindstorm gained Common Bond going into this session, and spent bennies like crazy helping his team.  Flux boosted Healing and (I believe) Streetwise.  Socks, at the end, took Combat Reflexes, because he’s had a lot of trouble becoming unshaken lately.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Chronicles of Rachel Strand: Voodoo is now available!

Comic book promoting time again...

This past weekend at the Darkon Expo in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Equinox Comics released a new one shot written by me titled THE CHRONICLES OF RACHEL STRAND: VOODOO, featuring Rachel Strand - wielder of the Hellrazers - and the first appearance of Equinox antihero Voodoo.

Written by Tommy Brownell and Shawn Cowan, Art by Johnnie Johnson and Jason Coody, Cover by Ben Soto, Logo by Michael Crutchfield

Standard Comic
Black & White
Page Count: 32

As RACHEL'S friends return to Babylon to help her with her war against darkness, whether she wants their help or not, a shadowy figure named VOODOO has followed them into town. What does he want, and what does it have to do with the ancient vampire LILITH?

Born a half-vampire, Rachel Strand is blessed with great powers...and cursed with a dark heritage. Choosing to fight the darkness rather than join it, Rachel takes up the Hellrazers to seek out and destroy evil wherever it may be found. These are her stories. These are the Chronicles of Rachel Strand!

You can order it now (along with EQUINOX #1 and #2, featuring the first appearance of Rachel and the first appearance of THE CURSE, both written by me) at!