Thursday, November 20, 2014

Bloodlines: A Supers Campaign Seed (Part Nine)

Ten years ago I ran a ten or so session Mutants & Masterminds campaign I hugely over-prepared for.  "Bloodlines" focused on inherited super-powers limited to certain bloodlines around the globe. You can see the first post here which lays out the general concept. This post is the last of the ephemera I put together for the campaign. These are three handouts I used to move the main plot along. One presents the alt.rec.minion boards, another hints at the discovery of means to destroy super-powers, and the third reveals the secret behind the big event which kicked off the campaign. 

This is the last of the series. You'll see a combination of new material and published ideas, primarily used to add color to the background. You might find some useful ideas for plots or how to present certain things. My real hope is that other GMs steal inspiration from this for cool sessions. This material may be a little rough since I haven't gone back to edit. 

GM's notes: A few weeks into the Untouchables work in Chicago, they had the Anarch Underground buzzing. The following is a data intercept from a blog connecting various minions in the area. The typos have been left intact. This is an example of a kind of side-plot and device that serves to make the players laugh and reinforce their ego.

BARON KARZA69: I know people have been asking about this, particularly some big boys who seem to be recruiting now or at least hunting or something. Anyhow, I’ve put together a quik list of what we know now about the,m.

Shutdown: A Syzmanski which means he’s only good against other supers. I read somewhere that he’s their leader, but I think you can leave him for last. He’s probably wearing armor. Rumor: I’ve heard that he’s tied up with Firstborn and his girlfriend Transcendence. That could be bad or good—might be able to sell him off or it might draw the attention of those a-holes.

Grey (?): MENTALIST. Take her out asap. She’s a tiny little thing but she seems to know Kung-Fu. Fast, she has to be taken out quickly and at range. Big objects, trucks, nets, those kinds of things, number one on the list for who gets K.O’d. I heard from one of the guys that she led the charge in to the bar. Might be reckless.

Bolt: God I hate speedsters. Fats and hard to hit—solution as always, drawn from the Minion manual—“Autofire and Objects.” You can get some things to hold him: sticky spray guns, nets, etc but you need to get him in a place where he can’t dodge away. Plus he does that human top thing which is a pain. Two other solutions: flash grenades to send him flying off and gases or smoke. He’s an Aussie, which means he’s probably a Hunter so if you do capture him, he’ll weak out pretty quixcklyu.

Onyx: This is their brick, she’s got a Drammen glow so be careful. She’s not super dense, but you should probably play the environment off of her—she has to have leverage to lift things. I heard she punched in the window at that bank robbery and that stuff can take heavy arms fire. So don’t get punched by her. Better to hit her with disorientation, things that rely on dodging, etc. Grapples won’t work and neither will straight physical. xjAnubis49 suggested using Hero-B-Gone packs. That’s no a bad idea—she doesn’t seem to have a transport power.

Roaming Wolf: Hard to say what his deal is. Probably a Rakepaw and they can be just about anything. HTH combatant!!! Make sure to keep him at range if at all possible. He’s fast and can jump around. May have to lock him up inside. He must be sneaky too, maybe some stealth powers because I headrd he got up behind the robbers at the bank before any of them saw him. Probably ought to treat like their brick. OOH you need to watch out and not underestimate him since we don’t know exactly what his powers are.

Cruel Butterfly: We’ve got pretty good info on him from the Japanese Fan Groups. He’s got a whole dossier available. Check [here], [here] and if you want to see something funny theirs a fan page with all of his TV commercials from japan [here]. He’s got a little bit of Braddock and a little bit of Drammen blood. The first thing you’ll notice are the Wings—he’s apretty good flier and hard to hit. SOP is an entangle or something to drop him down, which apparently Transit did to him when they fought Kingdom Come. However, those fruity wings secret some kind of caustic acid which will burn through most of the stuff you’d use for that. It also means you shouldn’t try to grab them unl;eess you have glovers on. Plus, if you get too close he can shake the wings and spray acid in your face blinding you. WEAR GOOGLES!!! That seems to be the extent of his superpowers, but he got outfitted when he was in Jpan and has some nasty equipment: a glue gun to he can reach out and pin you down. The gun’s trademarked and VillainNet has a solvent formula you can make in your kitchen…the problem is you really need a partner to spray it and you may not have time. He’s got armor but more importantly they gave him a utility belt. I don’t know much about it since I can’t read Japanese, but they say it is super-cool. It might be for show, but I’ve seen these freak (in general, not just these guys), pull things out of their pockets and laid waste to whole squads of agents like GI Joe on crack./

That’s what we have so far--- if you have more, feel free to post.

GM's notes: While investigating an semi-abandoned Synistry base, Onyx discoverd a page jammed in a fax machine. It had survived the destruction of all other records in the facility. It turned out to be a page proof from a scientific article, complete with editor's mark ups. The authors of the article are two scientists who may or may not have been taken away by the DHPD a few weeks ago. What is certain is that Homeland Security seized their offices at Northwestern and neither scientist has been heard from. The Untouchables also discovered that a Sorrentino super-tech who had at one time worked from Synistry had also consulted with the scientists in the last several months. That agent, codenamed Wizard, vanished a week ago in an elaborate plot that the group believes The Foundry carried out. The implications were that someone had discovered a method to neutralize all super powers of the Bloodlines.

The document is presented in its original, uncorrected state:

Seguer and Leeman Page vi
The Epsilon Field: A New Approach to Parahuman Intrinsic Field Studies mind that we cannot derive and explanatory model from these findings. We leave that for researchers in other areas, better suited for those kinds of theoretical studies.
With those caveats in minds, we can summarize our findings. This paper in particular will deal with the first point, and then give a brief outline as to how our works has confirmed the further points. We will be publishing our work on those in the next few months.(13) While we will be outlining our methodology at the end, it is worthwhile to note that our research is based on a sample size of 328 Parahumans, drawn from across all of the Bloodlines. (See Appendix 3.5 for a full breakdown of subjects and sources).(14)

First, while it has been generally known that Parahumans exhibit some form of energy field the nature, configuration and proximate cause of that field has been unknown. Using Chaotic Spectrography we have been able to define that field more explicitly and have assigned the name “The Epsilon Field” based on historical precedent. Based on our research, we can make several statements with certainty about it.
  • It falls with in the Holmes-Markey Range,
  • With one exception the attractor patterning of the field follows a relatively parallel structure,(15)
  • It is continuous, in that the field remains present even when Parahumans are not exercising their powers,
  • The exercise of powers does increase the field, even among those abilities that one might consider innate or passive,
  • and it is possible to identify Bloodline membership through analysis of the Epsilon Field.

Second, there is a relative correlation between field strength and the strength of powers possessed by a Parahuman. We have measured this on the basis of non-subjective power analysis over a set of discrete subjects. From this we can conclude that the birth generation of a subject within an active Bloodline directly correlates with their power. That is, later generations of Bloodliners have stronger fields.

Third, it may be possible to induct or negate the energy of that field. Given that the presence of the field is directly tied to the level of the field, we believe this would negate the powers of the individual. It may be possible to do this on a permanent basis.

Fourth, contrary to expectations this manipulation of the field is not parallel to Syzmanski...

(13) These papers have yet to be submitted and as with this one are not to be cited until publication.
(14) The Appendix includes the listing of secondary sources and records the observations are drawn from. Our primary observation group is modest but wide-ranging.
(15) While most of the Parahumans exhibit what we have come to call a Lattice version of the Epsilon Field, members of one Bloodliner exhibit a strangely different field. Within the Rakepaw members we studied (n=14) their field was noticeable different. While it still falls within the range, the configuration of the attractors does not parallel that of other Bloodlines.

GM's notes: The group looked into the murder of Tate Morgan, a former sidekick to a hero killed at the Zero Moment. In the course of the investigation the received a tape, clearly made and edited by Morgan. The Zero Moment was the kicker/starter for the campaign. Essentially the group was recruited and had been planning to be a kind of freelance Midwestern team. However, even as they were in their interview with the recruiter, news started to come over the wire about a titanic battle between several super-villain and super-hero teams, resulting the the deaths of nearly all involved. This led them to head to Chicago which had previously been a dangerous super-villain stronghold in an attempt to finally restore order there. Eventually, the plot would wrap up at the end of the campaign when they discovered why the incident had happened-- and that in part it had been arranged by an alternate universe version of one of the PCs-- as they discovered in this video.

Video opens with an interior of some kind of craft, you guess a VTOL or chopper judging by the shaking. The camera itself is clearly sophisticated and stabilized—the image shakes little while the people in the cabin lurch back and forth. Vision members Iron Lotus and Willforce can be easily spotted in lead position near cockpit door. Durandal is closer to the camera operator. Three other supers can be seen Haven, Gigawatt, and Manifest. They are independent operators, not members of Vision.

Iron Lotus: …and just keep close. There’s going to be a lot of thunder and noise out there.
Durandal: Cut it out Jake, they know what they’re doing. [Turns to the non-Vision Heroes]. You’ve done this before but not in these numbers. Don’t count on communicators—once you get a target from one of us, just keep after them. That’s the best thing. Strategy won’t work out there.
Haven: We’ve gone over the records like three times now. I think we’ve got it.
Willforce: No you don’t.
Haven: Excuse me?
Willforce: These people kill—no fooling around. Don’t even think about holding back—use everything you’ve got from word go.

(Some inaudible muttering comes on for the next few minutes. The camera shakes as the vehicle clearly banks.)

Durandal: We really didn’t get anything from Solomon on this?
Iron Lotus: I assume Bane did…how else would he know to get here? But he didn’t share anything else with me.
Durandal: I don’t like that.
Iron Lotus: No…no…he wasn’t holding back, I really think they didn’t give him much more to go on. He just grabbed as many as he could and headed this way.
Manifest: (Accented) What if they break into Lockdown?
Willforce: We run and don’t stop running until we hit a coast…maybe not even then.

(Sound goes out at this point…the operator of the camera is clearly fiddling and adjusting the device. At one point in a polished surface you can make out that the cameraman is Tate Morgan. He has body armor on.)

Durandal sits by the camera operator and starts talking. A few seconds in the sound comes back.

Durandal: OK, we’re about three minutes out. We’re going to drop you at a decent spot. Just promise me you’ll keep the Geyges Cloak on.
Tate: Not a problem. I don’t want to get killed.

There’s a break here. An edit maybe as the next thing we see is a barren landscape, some hills and scrub terrain. It is unclear how long the break is between the last sequence and this one. The camera’s maybe been on for ten seconds when several things launch from the ground. About half are missiles and the other half flying humans. As a group they impact in the air with a series of resulting explosions. Their target had been clearly cloaked up until this point. Now whatever assault vehicle the Anarchs had has been destroyed. The frame is suddenly filled with fire and wreckage decloaking and dozens and dozens of superbeings.

Morgan’s camera is pretty good and he tries to follow the fight. However there is too much. Energy beams in the air, distortions in the gravity field, pairs of fliers grappling with each other and thundering into the ground at Mach One. It is almost impossible to make out who is fighting who. For a second you see Boom of Frontline tossed up into the air by someone from Ravage. As he rises he rains a salvo of explosions down catching the Anarch and throwing Boom higher. Then with a crack that shatters the air, Warhead smashes into him, drilling both into the ground.

Speedsters, people creating barriers, telekinetic effects, gouts of fire—it becomes quickly clear that Anarchs had aborted whatever mission they were on. You can catch a few people trying to direct things—Bane leaping across the field to pull Gauntlet out of harm’s way—all the while clearly screaming into a headset. Spartacus and Master Task trying to pull some groups back to organize their end of the battle, but with little effect. Ravage is full into it as if everyone else.

Then there’s a light that cuts across the field—a pure white beam, rainbowed just at the edges that shoots from one figure to another. You pause and rewind, slow the thing down. It seems to shoot out from two figures and crash in the middle. Further analysis identifies Haven and Navigator as the two figures. There’s a sound, and then the audio goes completely out and the picture begins to slow. You check the counter on the tape and it is still rolling at the normal rate—but the images have shifted to slow motion.

More identical beams crisscross the field, pairing and pinning figures. The explosions, fire, and debris make it hard to identify who and how. You can discern at one point that Speedmetal and Apex are pinned even in their blurred super-speed state. In another you spot Lady Hive and Master Task caught on another beam. The lines of light cross each other and a glow starts to shimmer at the furthest edges of the battle, encasing everyone in an enormous sphere. In the center a figure forms in cage created by the strange energy beams. Then a flash overloads the camera.

When it comes back on, there are bodies, most burnt into the ground. A few people remain standing apparently unhurt. In the air above you see an armored figure, shining in mirror-like steel reflecting the sun. Below you see Bane, Spartacus and Harridan stagger trying to assess the situation. Closer to the camera, you see Manifest, clearly injured…he seems to have been caught at the very edge of the blast. His left side is burnt, torn and gruesome. He staggers and barely holds himself up.

Time has returned to normal. Bane and the other two appear uninjured, but shocked by what has happened. Then there’s a blur and suddenly Spartacus doesn’t have a head. The armored figure is there and tosses the skull away like a soccer ball. He looks at Bane who leaps at him without hesitation. The armored figure evades the tackle. As Bane rolls to his feet to make another strike, he freezes. The figure holds out his hand, clearly keeping Bane in place with some invisible force. Then claws emerge from the tips of the armored gauntlets as he drives a fist through Bane’s back, punching through to the front. He pulls back and spin kicks the body away.

Harridan has begun to run and the armored figure tracks her movement. However, in the air, another figure forms in an instant. It is a streak as it swoops down and grabs up Manifest, catching him before his body collapses. There’s a burst of energy and those two figures shoot past the camera. The armored figure makes to pursue but doesn’t. Instead he waits a moment and then in a blur of motion appears in front of Harridan, striking and knocking her to the ground. He leaps high in the air, spins and brings his knee down full on her. She jerks and stops moving.

There’s a good half-minute there with the camera trembling. The figure surveys the area, and then starts to walk outside the circle. He stops then, pauses and turns to look at the camera. Even from the half-mile plus distance, it feels like he’s staring out of the screen. You see him reach up and remove the helmet.

It is Roaming Wolf.

The tape ends.