Tuesday, October 21, 2014

VirtuaCon After Action Report: Corruption Uncovered, Avatars Arrested & Cyber-Apes Smashed

VirtuaCon was awesome. It was one of the best convention experiences I’ve ever had- on or offline.

I ran three games; a fourth didn’t go because I had a brief crisis that ate up the morning. I played with a dozen+ amazing gamers. I participated in five panels. I got to pop into the online tavern several times and talk with role-players I’d met before and some I’d only seen on RPG Geek. The con was well managed, they had prizes for the GMs, and I absolutely loved it. Once again RPGGeek proves how it brings the awesomeness of its community. Good games encourage more games.

Below is a quick summary of my three sessions. I’ve also provided the video, if you like watching online rpg sessiond. I check them out from time to time to see how other GMs run and handle the table. Below each video I’ve included a link to a YouTube playlist of the same session, but recorded to show the Roll20 app. If you’re curious about how that plays, I recommend checking out all of "Super-Rebels" or the last third of "Science City."

The Pitch: Science City, 1937. Once a shining beacon of progress and hope following the defeat of the Kansegu alien invasion, darkness now covers Science City. Some hint at strange forces behind the transformation of this island paradise. But clearly corruption, urban decay, foreign agents, and criminal influence have made Science City a hotbed of vice and crime.

You’re going to fix that.

You’re a superbeing with amazing powers and an equally difficult task. The Transatlantic League, the world-renowned team of superheroes has selected your group to fix Science City. But you only have thirty days. How you decide to do that is up to you: quiet, loud, soft, hard, above board or from the shadows. Will you prove that heroes can make a difference and keep yourselves above the muck?

I’ll set the stage and you’ll figure out what to fix and how to do that. Play involves a mix of investigation, social interaction, problem solving, and the occasional head thumping, should you so choose. System: Venture City Stories, Fate Core

I gave the players an overwhelming challenge right away. Invited to join a famed superhero group, The Transatlantic League, they'd first have to undertake a secret mission. A supervillain had issued a private threat: the heroes had thirty days to clean up Science City. This wasn't the first time this madwoman had made such demands. Two years earlier the Iron Gale issued an ultimatum about Monaco. The famed superteam had simply thought it part of some elaborate ruse- only to be shocked when an earthquake leveled the city. Now the League was caught- they could not be seen as giving into supervillain demands, but they could not simply stand by. Hence the PCs would be undertake this without official sanction.(For more, see this post.)

The group began with preliminary questioning- trying to get a feel for the industries and level of corruption in the city. They isolated the three most obvious threats and followed up with queries about those. After some discussion they opted to go into Science City mostly out in the open, arriving as new heroes taking up the mantle of the fallen superhero, the Watchman and his lost comrades. At the same time they kept one player, The Phantom, off the radar and their doppelganger, That Guy, assumed another superhero ID. That would allow them to act independently. The players spent a little time working on minor crime and using their network of agents and contacts to get a better sense of the city. They established some aspects in shaping public perception. Eventually they uncovered a couple of other major threats hidden with Science City. Phantom targeted one group, The Sundown Boys, and discovered one of their edges: access to and maps of underground networks throughout the city. After some discussion the team decided to hit the Sundown Boys decisively- rolling up the three highest members and a chunk of the gang. A surgical strike took them down quickly. The speed of the operation meant that the team gathered additional useful info.

They followed that up by putting PR pressure on city officials to ensure that Sundown Boys couldn’t simply walk out of police custody. Instead corrupt local officers and lawyers would have to hold off. They traced a connection between the DA and another group, Oriflamme, indicating his debts to them. That led them to follow up on Oriflamme. Materials found on the Sundown Boys showed a possible location for the base of the late Watchman. That seemed to coincide with Oriflamme’s zone. They tracked an unusual ship and discovered it servicing an underwater base. The group took out the vessel and then raided the base which turned out to be in the hands of Oriflamme. In the hard fought battle the group took on a dozen henchmen as well as three supers, but triumphed in the end. They discovered the head of Oriflamme was the Watchman’s son, who had used his father’s info on crime in Science City to carve an empire for himself after slaying his father.

The Pitch: Another day on the mean streets of Abashan. In a town of fantasy adventure it’s up to you and your fellow guards to patrol your district, quell riots, take down monstrous invaders, break up foreign conspiracies, shut down wild magicks, make friends in the community, and stop crazed adventurers. Beginning with a morning briefing you must figure out how to prioritize assignments, shirk duties, protect the innocent, and perhaps even earn a little extra coin…

You’ll be able to pick which case you want to run down and how you want to fix things. Play involves a mix of investigation, social interaction, problem solving, and the occasional head thumping. System: Fate Core

I’ve run Guards of Abashan several times. It’s based on my home campaign, with the characters echoing the PCs. I usually run it with Action Cards. Since I haven’t yet figured out how to get that to work with Roll20 I translated it over to Fate Core. The session beganwith their sergeant giving them a little bit of a dressing down and briefing them on three cases available: victimized murderhobos, a warehouse fire, or a ghostly thief. I like to let the party argue out which case they ought to follow up on. That gives them a chance to find their character’s voice and establish relationships. In this case, the group opted to look into the warehouse fire.

They went to the scene and began canvassing. They discovered that the warehouse owner, Abniro the Jackal, was paid up with the Thieves Guild and well liked as a distributor of wine and olive oil. Investigation of the ruins and witness statements suggested a magical source, but not a drunken mage. Instead it seemed something had fallen from the sky. The Gnome Healer headed off to check on the local firefighting Vigiles and discovered they had actually stolen goods from the warehouse during the fire. Witness info and strong-arming the Vigile head lead to a discovery. They’d allowed a scavenger to go through the smoldering ruins afterwards and he’d discovered something.

While chasing that lead down they crashed into the middle of a riot. On one side, disciples of a Butterfly God. On the other, worshippers of a Deity of Masonry. The group rousted the followers and then threw themselves in the middle of the fray, with fist and sabre bringing the two leaders to heel. They turned out to be newly anointed Avatars of their very tiny gods. That morning they’d been raised up and sent out to discover a potent divine artifact which had arrived. Putting two and two together the PCs rushed off again to find their scavenger.

They caught him and discovered what had crashed: a large cosmic egg. Which, to their chagrin, they found out the thief had gifted to his girlfriend, a Dwarven baker. Hustling down the streets they discovered another Avatar on the march- this time of a less small god, a war deity also determined to secure the Egg. Part of the group stormed the bakery while one headed off to intercept. A skirmish ensued, with some back up arriving later- but the duelist among the group managed to bring down the avatar after taking serious hits. The others secured the Egg before it could be completely hard-boiled and made a desperate run to take it back to the precinct and secure it against any and all divine seizures.

The Pitch: In 2112, Chancellor Helagard seized control of the Earth at the behest of his alien masters, the Kansegu. He moved quickly to take out the world’s superbeings through sleeper agents and his own loyal cadre of Psychic-powered henchpersons. Nine years have passed and the Kansegu  ave finally cemented their control. All opposition has been crushed.

Except for you.

You’re among the last free superbeings, waging an underground campaign against the invaders. Now a desperate gamble may unlock the secret to defeating the Chancellor and his Kansegu puppetmasters. But first you will need to find Tesla’s Brain! System: ICONS Assembled. 

This was my first session with Icons Assembled. After letting the group pick their characters, I threw them into the middle of things. An agent of the resistance, The Phantom (a PC from the first game), had been captured by Helagard’s forces. He had been looking into a way to strike back at Helagard and likely had valuable information. He needed to be retrieved- preferably alive. Their target would be a massive patrol robot currently making its way back to an internment camp. The group confirmed robot's likely route and decided to sneak close before engaging it as it crossed a river. That would give the gun-platform less of a chance to make drastic moves or escape.

The group split and entered via hatches in the battle-bot’s legs. They met minimal resistance and began to fight their way upwards. They kept any alarm or alert from sounding which both helped and hurt. They ambushed the crew in the engine room (including a super security officer), but unsecured hatches in the robot's feet flooded once it entered the water. One of the team fell to keep the KO’d crew from drowning. The team fought their way forward, damaging control and systems- leading to the robot falling in the middle of the river and effectively turning the whole map. They located Phantom, defeated the baddies, and after some confusion managed to make their escape.

Back at their HQ, their cell leader, Doctor X (another PC from the first session) gave them the low-down. Tesla understood the energies powering Helagard’s super-soldiers. However Tesla’s brain had been stolen by the arch-villain, The Iron Gale, decades earlier. Phantom had discovered the likely location of her base, under the ruins of Science City. He'd also obtained a medallion which could act as a key. However, Helagard’s forces were on site- apparently digging in an effort to break into the base. The group took off and confirmed this information. They surveyed the forces and spotted several superhuman  as well as elite Kansegu alien troops. Their excavations seemed close- and the group discovered that their enemy’s efforts had apparently already set up the base’s defenses. In scouting, the resident team ninja discovered another entrance, triggered by the medallion.

Descending into the base, the team encountered several traps- including an electrified floor and an automated gun turret. While the lair, with its shag carpet and wet bar, had been abandoned for a long time, it had a strange pungent odor. The group soon discovered the source of the smell: a force of power-armor clad cyber-apes who assaulted them from multiple directions as they made their way through. The group fought a desperate running battle, but managed to turn the base’s defenses back on the apes. They blew through and managed to locate Tesla’s brain- even as Helagard’s  eam broke in from another section of the facility. They grabbed the brain capsule and took off, but not before the ninja set the base to blow up in a montage of flames and shocked bad guys. 


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