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doc_lemming ([personal profile] doc_lemming) wrote2012-03-29 12:14 pm

GM Notes: The RetConQuest

The index of our ICONS adventures | James' write-up

Preamble (Heavy on the Amble)

You know how some series end with a slice of what's made it so good all along, and you can just imagine them going on forever without you? The HPS stories didn't end that way. I wanted it to feel by God finished (but open): if we went back to it, good, and if we didn't, it still felt done.

And I had a copy of Steve Kenson's adventure The RetConQuest. Other restrictions: Only one night. And I put out a call to the players, so that if they had something they wanted to see, it was going to happen. (Only half of the players responded, and of them only Rumspringa's player had a request: The guardian angel should find someone to guard. Didn't matter who.)

The only problem is that The RetConQuest takes place in an alternate timeline, so really, we'd be missing out on the interpersonal stuff that makes the campaign fun, but I decided to do it anyway.

So in a campaign that's all about the interpersonal problems of being teens in a skewed version of our world, I did a big saving-the-world adventure to end it.

Spoilers from here on in. There are lots of changes from Kenson's original adventure to make it fit and fit in an evening, and I'm not going to tell you what the changes are! You have to go buy the adventure! Nyah nyah nyah!

As usual, corrections cheerfully accepted because I might not remember something correctly. I don't have much of the dialogue recorded, but it was fun, with exchanges between Hari and Rumspringa, and Sari pointing out how her violence was sanctioned. (Oh, and here's a cut.)

Off to the Spoilers--er, Races!

Everyone got only a small amount of starting Determination. I explained to them that they were at Hope Prep, a re-education facility for supers so they could learn to use their abilities for the glory of the Chronal Empire, which has existed since the 1940s, when Tempus Khan conquered the world. Students normally wear power inhibitors except for gym, where they learn crowd control techniques, fighting, and Empire Orthodoxy. It's assumed that freshmen don't have the proper control to deal with someone nonlethally, so they have a bunch of prisoners who have been judged guilty and fit to kill to practice on. If they die, well, they're already judged guilty. (And if they weren't really guilty of that, they must have been guilty of something else.)

Rumspringa and Hari have never actually killed anyone: they're resistant, but the school figures it has four years to break them down. Usually Sari has to step in and do it.

Anyway, there they are in gym and Mr. Able (wearing his power suppressor) shows up to take the four of them and Neil to the office. Sari can take her sword; he has the paperwork. As they walk along the hallways, Empire Security Guards enter because Dr. Bailey has been experimenting with forbidden technology again. This is his third offense, so he'll probably be dealt with: they'll be looking for a new teacher soon.

But instead of leading them to the office, to the place under the showers where they fought the slugs. "I had a vision that you had to be here in thirty seconds," he says. "I have to go. Good luck."

A green ghostly figure of an old man appears and lays hands on each of them in turn, saying, "Remember."

And as he does this, they remember both current and alternate histories.

The green ghost says, "I can only manifest while the time machine is on, though I shall try to help. I hope you are not too young to do this, but I had no choice this time: you must destroy the chronal stabilizer in the fortress before it solidifies the timestream. Hari, there is a subway in the city--the abandoned Sheppard line--that will take you to the fortress." He fades away.

From outside, they hear, "What are you doing here? Let's see your papers! No? You're with the resistance!" and a scream--

Hari teleports them all to the subway tunnel. (There are pictures of Rob Ford there, posters that say, "District Leader Rob Ford pledges allegiance to the Khan!" and suchlike.)

My Fist Is All The Authorization I Need

Six robots are there. One asks for their authorization to go to the capital; the other five wait and when authorization doesn't show up, start saying, "Halt, malefactor!" in English, moving down through their languages. At least one gets to Kamarinadu, and another near the end reaches Enochian. The robots weigh about as much as a car: Hari can't move one to the third rail.

So the fight begins. Highlights include Glimm being tossed across the room and smashing into an unfinished alternate room, Rumspringa ripping sprinkler pipe from the ceiling so she can run current from the third rail to a robot, and Sari stabbing one and playing Mixmaster with its insides. Eventually they win--Neil learns to hack the robots; he reveals he's gotten kind of good at hacking because some of what he needs to learn to rescue Dad is behind security. They hide the robots. The subway comes.

The subway is, in part, Kamarinadu technology. Once it leaves the station, it drops through a chord in the earth and comes up in Antarctica. (There are parkas in the subway in case there's a problem; the kids put them on to make sure.)

Arriving at the Fortress

As they pull into the station, Hari looks at the three guards/officials with blasters who are on the platform and uses TK to pull the blaster pistol of the farthest back one to shoot the middle one. Turns out the blasters are lethal, and his head is blown open. The front one responds by drawing his weapon, certain he has a quisling on his hands.

The train pulls up and the kids deal with the problem. Rumspringa heals the guard and they quiz him: What's the authorization code? He won't tell them all of it--they'll just die if they go in there--but why don't they hide in the shipment of robots coming in for repair? And please knock him out now before he has to listen to more bickering between Hari and Rumspringa....

They do. The heroes hide the unconscious guards. The new train arrives. Neil claims it's "Take your son to work day," and signs unconvincingly for the delivery of the busted robots, but the train guys don't care: all they want is to be out before they get yelled at for delaying other trains. The heroes worm their way into the busted robots and get hauled into the fortress.

While there, waiting, Hari sees a technician use the Celestial Light abilities to move one of the dead robots. The technician is much better at this Celestial Light thing than he is!

Using ESP to spy, he discovers that the technician's room and the time silo are both shielded from ESP, but he peeks into the tech lab while the doors are open and thinks, "Ah! Technology from Kamarinadu!" And even though it's about 700 years ahead of him, it is built so that a poor 21st century human can operate it, so he has some idea of how it works.

The doors to the time silo are guarded by supers--in fact, by Jade, "Paul" (looking quite demonic), Serena (about halfway between herself and Serevil), and Winston Driver (who we last saw wearing a dress as he tried to kill Tyrone and take his powers; looks like he succeeded). He sees Serpent Sphinx show up, reinforce their programming, and move on.

Hari and Neil reprogram one of the broken robots to create a distraction in a nearby lunchroom. No harm can come to anyone, because the guns will only fire upward.

Hazing the Upperclassmen

The group teleports in close and behind the supers guarding an entrance to the silo. By concentrating their efforts, they take down Serena fast. Paul and Jade make things around Glimm burn, but Glimm and Hari work on Paul, while Sari and Rumspringa deal with Winston. Sari cuts off his hand (the one with the Wrath of God) and Hari uses TK to place it against the Son of Satan, where it does him no good at all, even as Glimm applies a ferocious uppercut.

Jade tries an area effect attack that takes out the rest of her teammates but not the kids, and pretty soon it's bye-bye for her.

Rumspringa takes a moment to kiss the unconscious Paul and whisper, "Remember," and then they enter the main chamber.

A Mind Controller, A World Conqueror, and Robots versus Five Teens: Even Odds

Some brief banter with Tempus, who tells them he has improved all of his devices against the ways that these people defeated them last time. "Ms. Trem, the joints on the robots are armoured so you cannot immobilize the robots; Hari, I have made this armour proof against the workings of the Celestial Light; Rumspringa, your pet human can no longer hack my computer system: I have closed that back door; Glimm, I have improved the armor on my robots so that you cannot hurt them."

The kids work on keeping him preoccupied while he's monologuing. But, they figure that Serpent Sphinx is a more immediate threat, so Glimm and Rumspringa leap/fly over there to help, while Sari works on whittling away the supports of the catwalk he's on (after he grows out any damage from her first shuriken.) Hari goes off to get technical things to help: Hari pops back to the technician's room and has a brief futile battle with the technician before winning by teleporting steel balls into his head.

(This version of Hari is a bit more bloodthirsty than your usual. Because this universe didn't really matter or because James was warming up for D&D? You decide...)

Neil has made it to the bottom console. He is trying to entice Tempus Khan and the robots to shoot at him, where he will dodge and let the blast hit the console--but Rumspringa keeps blocking the blast entirely in the name of protecting him. He's willing to let her protect him, but the console, darn it!

Hari reappears and convinces almost all the robots to fire at Tempus Khan.

Glimm hits the upper console and that's enough damage: the chronal stabilizer starts whining and then blows up.

Epilogue (Where the GM Muffs It)

So what I had planned was that we would then skip forward ten or fifteen years, to Glimm's wedding. He's at the front, in a tux, the bride is veiled so that in true comic book fashion we don't know who she is, Hari, Sari, Rumspringa, and Neil are there at the wedding, and outside they hear the explosions that indicate that Tempus Khan is attacking for the first time. And they go out and save the world: they know how. I had sheets with adult writeups, and they could do this thing, and I might be able to work in some of the visions they saw when they were under the influence of the clairvoyance juice in the Halloween Ball adventure. (Having them all at the wedding meant I didn't have to worry if someone wasn't going to go on and be a superhero.)


For some reason I was thinking of the 1940s, when Tempus Khan would have come through if he was going to change the history of Hope Prep. And I said the words out loud. So they beat Tempus Khan in the 1940s. As teenagers. Even though I said they were adults the first time. (Well, time is fluid.)

And as they are being photographed and mobbed and whatever, they hear, "Pssst!" And there, in an alley, is Dr. Bailey. They break free, head over, and he says, "Spraying chronons all over the place. You could have changed history. What did you think you were doing?"

"Saving the world," says one of kids as they get into the time machine to travel back to the present.

"Pht. Students. That's what they all say."

And lights down.

Not a bad ending, actually.

Things left unsaid

The green ghost guy was Master Tulka. Players referred to him as Obi-Wan. :)

I think the whole series ran pretty well. Certainly we left it in a place where I'd be willing to take them on as sophomores after a lapse of some time. Considering that I was intrigued by the setting but dubious at the beginning, I think that's a pretty big leap.

Also, the adventures taught me lots about how to convert from PDF into Epub format, so I could have them easy-to-read on my phone. (It takes about an hour, and I never did graphics, so I don't know anything about that. I printed graphics off so I could show them at the table.)

The whole thing left me wanting to GM on a regular basis again. Probably superheroes: that seems to be the way my mind works, as opposed to fantasy (really, I can take or leave the whole D&D structure; it's pretty generic and holds little interest for me) or SF. (Though Law And The Multiverse has me thinking about a twist on The Hunger Games...)