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doc_lemming ([personal profile] doc_lemming) wrote2011-12-15 12:00 pm

Halloween Ball, Part II (things we learned in ICONS)

The index of our ICONS adventures

I'm sure James' summary will be better reading, but we have different purposes.... This has been filled in as I have time (I do these during printing).

EDIT: And no knock to James; he does funner summaries than I do. But he had to do something else first and that's just the kind of situation where I forget, so I wrote a summary of events here. Now I won't keep pestering him and he can write one if he thinks of it and he wants to. Just to make that clear.

What Happened

About 9:30 on Saturday morning, there's a knock at Sari and Rumspringa's dorm room. It's Chuck (Mr. Able), who wants details about the imp from Sari. Turns out he met the imp and put a spell on him that limits the imp to about 3 kg of stuff...but the spell is reversed if members of a group willingly give him sugar and alcohol in that order, within 72 hours. ("These things always have to have limitations. I'd have made it less time, but I knew this phrase, and I was working in a hurry.") Glimm gave him a licorice pinwheel cookie last night, so sugar is satisfied (At least they can't be all together, so an alcoholic sugar cookie doesn't count as both, just one or the other.) The imp is fond of Rube Goldberg-style plans, Chuck says, and is a Corrupter, who at his peak transformed an entire fleet of cruise missiles into balloon animals.

He goes off to prepare because the imp will surely try something at the Halloween ball.

Then, shortly afterward, a girl from the Science Club knocks, wanting cellophane from their trash. Rumspringa has some from the costume she's going to wear. (She's going as a slut, so she bought a tight turtleneck sweater.) Sari goes for her morning run.

Knowing that Hari no longer feels That Way about the Dreamy Dr. Bailey clone, Rumspring goes off to find T'kla, who has broken up with Tommy, and has been the subject of several rumours about her sexual behavior. She finds her in the dorm kitchen. (T'kla eats at a time when others don't; she finds local food off-putting.) T'kla seems confused about the rumors. "I don't do that, and my nose isn't prehensile that way!" Rumspringa asks her if she's all right because Rumspringa is here if she needs protecting, and T'kla says, "Are you that girl who follows other girls into the bathroom?" (The response was, "I'm an angel, not a girl.") No, T'kla says, she's fine. Her mother sent a care package with several Ba-traky'n eggs. The eggs are mildly hallucinogenic but cause no problems otherwise, though consumption of the eggs is controlled so that there will be Ba-traky'n eggs for generations to come.

Upon hearing that T'kla's mother sent her legally-controlled hallucinogens, Rumspringa determines that this girl needs to be guarded. But patrol calls--

Glimm teleports in from Ottawa (his dad is an ambassador and the presence of easy teleport means he stays at home and commutes), goes to Gary's dorm room and gets a harpoon that once belonged to Poseidon, but the tip is broken, which makes it function in an odd way. "Don't get it wet," is the warning he's given. "You won't like the powers it has." Glimm thanks him and then hears a scream.

It turns out that someone's costume has been stolen. Now, Glimm isn't on duty--Lorn's group is, Legacies all of them, and Lorn is conveniently absent, tracking down something else Important. The costume in question was a shock trooper outfit (he and his girlfriend were going to go as shock troopers). At Glimm's suggestion, the guy phones her to find out if hers was stolen. It was not, and she accuses him of making the whole thing up because he didn't actually want to go as a shock trooper. (Glimm gets on the phone to assure her that this is in fact legit, but she doesn't believe he's actually with the patrol.) Several others--about a dozen boys--have had their costumes stolen, too: in fact, anyone who left their rooms empty between 10 and 11 lost their costume. And, it turns out, about a dozen girls as well.

Upon checking the security cameras in the hall--Glimm and Rumspringa and Lorn's team--they find that the costumes were stolen by students who were photographed but they had someone who had powers to make them unidentifiable to the cameras. There were two sets of them, boys and girls, and so at least four people were involved. Possibly planning for the evil assault tonight which will inevitably happen or heartless prank pulled on the day of the Ball? Eventually, they decide it's the latter, but it might excuse crappy costumes thrown together at the last minute, so it might give a few ringers a chance to show up when they're not supposed to be there.

Sari gets back from her run and hears rumours that it was the Science Club that stole the costumes. After all, the running around and getting stuff like cellophane and grass clippings was obviously a cover, they could have stolen the costumes. Hari and Rumspringa have heard the rumour too, but the Science Club is not in their usual hangout. She finds them, but Dr. Bailey assures her that the Science Club has taken no costumes or anything valuable, and he can't lie about this sort of thing. The mental blocks prevent it.

At home, Glimm decides to wash the harpoon to get rid of the vaguely fishy smell, and discovers that when wet, the harpoon flies and tries to stab anyone nearby. Since Glimm is impervious to even automatic weapons fire, he doesn't care, but there's a bit of a struggle.

Hari finds the Science Club in a room that is not shielded to ESP and pops in to talk to them. They are producing a device for the science competition that the super high schools hold every month. Behold: The Transmogrifier! It can turn any non-living thing into any other non-living thing that they have a computer design for, if you don't mind it being covered in slime after you get it. (You can usually wash the slime off.)

There's now a mob of students outside the door of this room, but Sari, Rumspringa, and Hari eventually overcome their antipathy, and the rabble-rousing of a few members who just hate the Science Club, and get them to disperse.

Glimm gets into costume and wants to go by hoverlimo to Toronto, and that's limited to under Mach 1, so he takes off.

And it's time for the dates!

Sari goes on her date with Tyrone, to Peet's. Tyrone's mom drives, but does not come into the coffee shop with them.

Tyrone always wears a glove on his left hand. (As James said to Brian, "You're dating Rogue.") He inherited his gift when his grandfather died: oldest male in the family inherits, and the grandfather only had a daughter, who was estranged from him, so she never told her son. "So I was playing basketball and we were in the third quarter and I brush against this guy while blocking a shot and wham, suddenly I put the Vengeance of the Lord on him. I mean, by accident. He nearly died, I ended up nearly killing the school nurse too, and I got kicked out of the school league for having super powers. So we figured that when high school came, I'd go to Hope Prep, you know?" A young man (in Petra's uniform, which was the closest to fitting) then tried to poison Tyrone, but Sari took care of him and handed him to the authorities. They found Petra tied up in the back.

Hari and Lenore go to a bubble tea place for Italian sodas. During the course of the drink before the ball, her skin sloughs off, revealing green scales beneath, and she starts growing a tail. Stress turns Lenore into a giant humanoid gecko. She is not happy. "Sad" or "devastated" might describe it. They take her to the school's affiliated supers medical facility and the decision is that it might just be part of growing up a gecko girl. She does go to the ball, though, because Hari has to go.

The ball is fine: Jade comes looking totally as she does every day but claimed she had come as a goth ("I'm normally emo!") Serena met Glimm a block away (so he could actually pick her up) and showed more class than I had at that age by actually dancing with Glimm; Lenore showed Hari how to dance; Tyrone and Sari did that sort of shuffling thing on the dance floor by the time they got there; Nancy and Justin and the other Juvies were over in a corner; the whole Patrol was there....and at eight o'clock--the ball was until eleven--the mass hallucinations started.

Hari, like everyone without immunity to aerosol poisons was busy with a vision of himself:

  • Hari in a wifebeater and boxer shorts (with pockets) and a pot belly, eating bonbons while watching TV;
  • Hari heard but did not really register Lenore's scream of, "A clutch of eggs!"
  • Glimm saw himself in a stainless steel (no, not plasteel) home with a pile of people accidentally killed;
  • Rumspringa saw herself guarding someone in Hell;
  • Sari saw herself as a cyborg bladed warrior.
  • Tyrone saw himself as dead.

By the time the teachers got it under control, it turns out that Justin is alone and passed out with a flask of alcohol nearly empty with him—the other Juvies had been a mere illusion!— and bottles of Sister Synestria's Precognitive Solution at his feet. It turns out that Sister Synestria's Precognitive Solution can be aerosolized, and shows all who take it a possible future (not the future).

A quick look with Hari's ESP shows Nancy and the others in their storeroom, in cloaks, chanting. They finish something--Hari repeats it to Rumspringa to discover that it as a powerful summoning spell--and that's when the gate opens up in the middle of the gym, and the demons show up.

Think of something nine feet tall and built as strongly as a Mack truck. And think of his twenty evil servitors, which look like Bone Demons from D&D.

Big fight between the dozen teams of Patrol members, the teachers, the students who Want To Help. Serena uses her water powers, but that gets the harpoon wet and it starts flying around the room stabbing people. Hari teleports truckloads of students to safety (the chapel) when he can. Glimm fights demons one by one—that clumsiness is really a curse here, but the high strength means that demons with 5 Invulnerability go down after a couple of hits. the other patrol groups take on other demons. Nobody can touch the Big Guy. Demons not in battle are throwing students through the gate into whatever fiery place they came from.

Imagine the pandemonium.

And Rumspringa spots the imp, under a table that holds non-alcoholic (I'm sure) punch. She gets him and holds him by the throat, no matter what he turns stuff into. (He's got to get better at wrestling, that's all.) He refuses to help her without a drink ("Just something to wet my whistle—I was just going to get one"). She knows about the alcohol thing, so she throws him through the gate.

(GM's note: Yes, he had spiked the punch.)

Serena goes down because the harpoon gets her, but it stays in her.

Eventually, it gets down to Our Heroes, about seven servitor demons and the Big Demon, the guy with arms like sequoia trunks. Knowing it's against the rules, Hari takes the power inhibitor off Rumspringa and manages to fasten it around the demon's wrist. It seems to make the demon a little more powerful. Sari does not have any luck running up the demon and stabbing him; he brushes her off casually. In the meantime, Glimm is playing cymbals with a pair of demons.

And Rumspringa notices a third-year student not helping but not running, and no one is touching him. So she telekinetically brings him over. This is when the sons-of-gods quotient at the school went up: he is the son of SatanLucifer, Damien by name but he goes by "Paul". ("We're all named Damien. What kind of name is that?" and "Dad's astonishingly faithful for a demonic overlord, but he is a fallen angel, so I guess that's why.") He doesn't want to help either side because he's got conflicting loyalties.

Rumspringa offers to dance with him if he'll help their side. "I am wearing a tight sweater."

"Okay. I was gonna ask you to dance anyway."

Paul tries ordering the demon away, but the big guy just laughs at him. He can't do anything without knowing the True Name of the big demon. Rumspringa realizes that his name was in the bit of the chant that Hari repeated to her, so she shouts his name to him, and "Paul" is able to send the demon back, with the rider that he has to return all the kidnapped students before midnight tonight to this place, unharmed and unchanged.

They leave, the demons toss back the kids, and the last song of the evening is played. (The dance is cut short.) The song is, of course, "Stairway to Heaven," and various people dance to it.

Later, Hari turns himself in for breaking the rules, and gets to wear a power inhibitor for a week.

Not said, but I'll declare it anyway:

  • Lenore is human after a couple of stress-free days. She doesn't know whether she'll date Hari (or anyone) again.
  • Serena gets helped and has a nifty new hole for piercings. I jest: someone else at the table said it first. No, the doctors heal her up fine. It turns out that the harpoon is meant to steal the souls of sailors, and the break means that the souls can get in to whomever it stabs, so Serena was metaphysically duking it out for control of her body with about 150 souls, some of whom were ruthless and some were just thrilled to be in the body of a nubile teenage girl.
  • Tyrone is ready to keep dating Sari; we'll see how she feels.
  • Nancy and her group of Juvies got power suppressors for a month; we'll see how the bullying goes.
  • Off-stage Lorn acquitted himself well, so I'm sure he'll be lionized among the other Legacies.
  • Everyone got 2 Starting Determination.


This Adventure

Well, I had photos of various characters this time. It turns out that if you put "images teenage boy" into Google you get some unsavory responses, so I restricted myself to DeviantArt. Mind, out of deference to the creators, I am not putting the pictures up though at a future date I might link to them. That wasn't a big thing, but I enjoyed doing it. I wasn't pleased with the choice for Serena but it turns out when you search on "black teenage girl" you get...a lot of black and white photos of teenage girls. Not the same thing. And for some reason, the choices in the Photography section seem, on my short look, ethnically challenged.

Despite all my high posturing and theorizing, it was a beat-em-up session, which is fine if we all had fun. (I generally try to provide the higher level so that if the players want to go there, they can. But they don't have to.)

I did substantial tinkering with the cause of the plot, because as written, it only becomes visible if you have Postcognition or Mad Investigation Skillz, and these guys don't. So I had my alternate reasoning. Basically, half a dozen mostly-stories added up to an evening where everyone had something to do.

Hope Prep in general

So that's all the Hope Prep adventures that actually exist as of this writing. Maybe one will come out by the new year when we take up again, or Steve Kenson's new adventure might be adaptable.

I like the setting; the three adventures were good, good, and confusing to me, respectively. I thought they fell short of being "adventures the GM could run with very little preparation" but that might be a goal that's antithetical to what I want to do my adventures. I dunno. Unless one comes out, I'll have to either write my own HPS adventures or adapt existing stuff. Or Brian will be ready to run his stuff.

(By the way, I notice two out of three of the HPS adventures feature extradimensional invasions. Perhaps Melior Via should make sure there aren't some, for a few adventures. Don't want to fall in a rut...unless it's supposed to be a stylistic or thematic thing.)

I like the recurring character bits. (The quarterback is a blowhard, the reapparance of Sheena/Serena, that sort of thing.) It lends a consistency to the setting beyond just having the same teachers show up. And they might give the chance to have character growth, too.... Maybe Dakota Heil will learn not to peek into minds; maybe she'll get into a duel of wits with Fate's Fury, there.

Recurring character bits are harder to maintain over the years that this is supposed to take—campaigns start to diverge. Well, look at these adventures, for instance: by the end of these adventures, and I only ran four (though one wasn't a Hope Prep adventure originally):

  • people have changed names because I can never remember the "right" one (Serena and Justin are the two I can think of immediately)
  • Lorn has totally changed backgrounds, changed cliques and some powers, from being written as a potential Juvie to a Legacy
  • I have Sheena dating Glimm and broken up with Gabe (who is a crony of hers if not a boyfriend in the published adventures)
  • Jade and Serena/Sheena know each other because they're in the same class
  • I've created a whole backstory for Jade
  • I've inserted at least one villain from the main rulebook (Serpent Sphinx), and Hem-Netjer is from someone else's adventure
  • Alice Moore has been dropped in favour of Neil (because I'm trying to conserve characters and my poor memory where I can; I'm sure she'll show up later)
  • We've dropped the whole "Glimm has trouble with English" thing (player never did anything with it, and other stuff came up that generates Determination for him)

An adventure that purposely reincorporated the original versions of these characters would run adrift for me. Arguably, that's my fault, and mine to correct, and I wouldn't disagree. But I am inclined to say something like, "If they know a character is supposed to be important in future adventures, they should say so." I have the feeling they don't know, and to know actually smacks of metaplot rather than reincorporation. (It's a fine line to walk between metaplot and reincorporation. Though I suspect that "Walker" might be being set up as a recurring villain, and the Alchemical Cabal certainly is.)

Some guidance on running an HPS campaign might have been nice in the Freshman Handbook, now that I think about it.

I like the HPS stuff better than the Halifax stuff I was running, though the characters in the Halifax stuff had more agency, and that's important for new adventures. I am still learning to scale down for high school adventures, but that's counterbalanced by the wealth of story opportunities.

Possibly stochastic musings

  • Does Hope Prep keep records on its students that are available when they graduate? Because I can kinda see Batman scouring the files for clues on what Lex Luthor was like as a student. I can certainly see some of the teachers (I'm looking at Moon Maiden) keeping records so that future crimefighters have a leg up on various MOs. (Of course, it can work the other way around...suppose adult criminals steal those records to hints as to the MOs of superheroes. Adventure time!)
  • This points up a problem with school systems: is suspension really a punishment for certain actions, like wanting to get back at the Legacies?

Big list o'ICONS games

Comment from the Publisher

I pointed him to this summary and James' summary of the first session for this adventure, and said that we had fun, and that I recommended that ICONS GMs planning on a high school adventure should at least buy them and read them to strip-mine for ideas. Here's what he said:

Thanks for the kind words, John!

As a minor update to why there hasn't been anything new — I've been swamped with freelance work and had a number of familial issues over the past few months. We're working on getting things back on track though, so I hope to have things flowing smoothly soon.