Tuesday, November 3, 2015

A solo adventure: Gorilla My Dreams

In honour of Solo Gaming Appreciation Month...

This one will use a character I already have here, Haemophile. She doesn't have any opponents, so I'll look at her Qualities, which provide surprisingly little help...Ah. Idealizes "normal." The two possibilities that occur to me are that her opponent is Trained in some way and is planning to give everyone superpowers, or the Gorilla Grodd thing of turning everyone into apes. The first sounds more like what I just did, so we'll go with the second, and use the prime Ape X writeup.

I started this as a test of the story point system I was using and quickly abandoned that, though I did use the four stages. Instead, this adventure used the ICONS rules and once the Mythic GME. As is typical with solo stuff I write, tense jumps all over the place.

For convenience, we'll put both characters here. I've slightly modified them for solo play.

Haemophile

Origin Birthright
NameHaemophile (Chloe Grace)OriginBirthright
Prowess5Intellect3Determination3
Coordination3Awareness3Stamina10
Strength5Willpower5
SpecialitiesMartial Arts, Stealth
Powers Invisibility Good5
Strike (Slash) Great6
Extra: Secondary Effect: Affliction Amazing7
Qualities Idealizes "normal" because she's a mutant
Mid-level assassin for a shadowy agency
No one but her builds up immunity

Ape X

NameApe XOriginTransformed
Prowess5Intellect7Determination
Coordination4Awareness4Stamina13
Strength6Willpower7
SpecialtiesAthletics, Mental Resistance Expert, Technology Master, Wrestling 
PowersSuper-Senses (Enh. Hearing, Enh Smell)2
Telepathy 7
QualitiesGenius Gorilla
Hatred of Humans
I Will Do What's Necessary Even If They Hate Me

Every once in a while I'll put in a status summary, like this:
HaemophiliaApe X
StaminaDeterminationNotes & ConditionsStaminaNotes & Conditions
103None13None

Stage 1: Threat

Chloe is all about the normal, and the most mundane thing I can think of is sorting your clothes at the laundromat. So we'll start there.

The laundromat was a slice of normalcy for Chloe: it and the library were the things that kept the rich filling of weirdness from dripping and staining her... She couldn't figure out what the end of the metaphor should be, except that life was truly a weirdness sandwich. She found that last bra and threw it in the washing machine, then carefully counted out the quarters. She looked at the remainder and counted them. She wouldn't have enough to dry everything. She turned to the woman at the counter—

Everyone turned into a gorilla.

Chloe checked her arm—not hairy.

So everyone had turned into a gorilla except Chloe.

And they didn't notice. The woman (woman-gorilla) at the counter was still flipping through her tabloid.

Chloe looked around. One of the gorillas noticed her and the eyes started to widen—

And then the change flickered off. Everyone was human. The woman rubbed her eyes and went back to chatting with her friend.

And except for Chloe, no one seemed to notice.

This was something beyond her ken: either insanity or a plot. She stepped outside to a private place to make two calls. The first was to Dr. Jessop, her government psychologist. (Killing was hard for Chloe, even though it was her job.) Chloe felt out Dr. Jessop to find out if she—Chloe—was due for hallucinations.

"I think we'd better see you this afternoon. I can stay late tonight." Dr. Jessop had a warm voice, like honey, and Chloe agreed. After that call, she tapped the phone against her thigh. Then she called her agency handler.

"Everyone just turned into a gorilla," she said, without preamble. "I already called Dr. Jessop. So if I'm not crazy?"

"I didn't notice anything," he said. His voice was scratchy and high.

"No one did."

He paused a moment and then gave her a name—Dr. Timothy Coop—and an address. "He does all that Kirbytech stuff for the university. He has clearance. You can talk to him."

Chloe went to the counter. "I'm sorry, but I have to get my kid from the sitter," she lied. "He's throwing up. My basket's right there. If someone needs the machine, I don't mind if they put the clothes in the basket." The woman waved her hand without looking up from her tabloid.

Thus endeth the threat stage. Though I introduced a couple of people the big thing the problem. So points are not as important in this stage, I think.

HaemophiliaApe X
StaminaDeterminationNotes & ConditionsStaminaNotes & Conditions
103None13None

Stage 2. Investigation

Dr. Coop's office was cluttered, decorated with tall piles of books and printouts, and a few dusty pictures of the family. Dr. Coop was sitting at his desk between two pillars of paper and putting away a small flask.
I'm just randomly associating things with characters so that they have motivations to be involved later, if I need them.
Chloe introduced herself, using the cover name that the agency had given her. "What do you know about gorillas?"

He looked straight in her eyes. She could smell the booze. "Nothing," he said slowly. "Biology was my wife's area."

"Because earlier today, I saw everyone change into a gorilla."

His shoulders sagged. "Thank god. I thought I was the only one. You're a mutant, right?"

"No, of course not. Why would you think that?" Chloe had known she was a mutant since she turned invisible at thirteen. The claws and the poisonous venom had only reinforced that.

"You're latent. That's okay." He looked behind her. "Shut the door." She did. "I'm a mutant," he told her. "It's a knack for technology. Put something in front of me, and let me touch it, and sooner or later I'll understand it." He smiled tightly. "Makes me good at my field. But I was teaching a bunch of first-years today, and they all turned into gorillas."

"So I'm not crazy."

"No, the Moreau ray is obscure but documented. Villain, early 1960s. His only affected one individual, though, and required a tremendous energy input. He stored lightning in capacitors— I digress. Your power?"

"Claws." She didn't tell him about the others, and the claws were itching to come out. Side effect of feeling threatened. She slid them out, and then back.

"That's not a lot." She shrugged. "Okay. Where were you when it happened?"

"South side."

"It looks like it affected at least the city, perhaps more."

Chloe nodded and pulled out her phone again. "Can you cancel my appointment with Dr. Jessop? I'm not crazy. It looks like at least this city turned into gorillas. Check farther afield." She put her phone down. "If the area is big enough, it's not my problem."

"That seems rather un-hero-like."

Chloe laughed. "Trust me, I am not a superhero."

A light started to flash. "It's the vault," said Dr. Coop. "I store high tech items for study, and someone's breaking into it."

"The police—?"

"They'll be too late. Come on!"

* * *

They ran to the vault—and found a huge silverback gorilla tearing the door from its hinges.

-I'll find it easier to look at the contents without that door,- rumbled the gorilla. He glanced at both of them, and they froze, as if a force had paralyzed their bodies.

Mind Control 7 versus Willpower 5. Major success, so she'll be controlled for 7 pages. It's a massive success against Dr. Coop.

He left the vault with something the size of a shoebox that has a blue gem fastened on top. They "heard" him but his lips didn't move.

-I can't risk you breaking the power source. You'll stay like that for an hour. That should be enough time.- He looked them up and down. -Interesting. You remember everyone else changing. Well. We'll have to hunt you down once I'm done.-

Chloe is going to use a Quality to try and remove the Controlled condition he has put on her. She'll use her urge to be normal, and it costs a Determination point. Fails. She'll recover in a minute, but he'll get away.
About a minute after he left, Chloe tumbled to the floor. She helped Dr. Coop and then phoned her handler again.

"No, really," she said. "Now I have the need to know. Tell me everything in your files about the telepathic gorilla."

***

They were sitting in Dr. Coop's office. She had a mug of tea in her hands. "They claim they don't know where he came from, but he represents a troop of hyperintelligent simians." She saw his hand tremble as he reached for his tea. "You feeling better?"

Dr. Coop grimaced. "It's still an effort to move anything. Thank you for the tea."

She shrugged. "We were paralyzed by a telepathic gorilla. A cup of tea can't hurt. Hell, I'd drink if there were booze handy."

Dr. Coop reached into his desk and held out the silver flask. She waved it away.

"I think I have to be alert. What was the box thing he took?"

"I don't know yet. It came out of a crashed spaceship during the Kootlismik invasion. He, the ape, implied that it was a power source, and that's probably correct—I just haven't got to it yet because I have other things with more urgent deadlines."

"It takes you time? I thought you just, you know, understood things."

"I always check. I'm afraid that I'll interpret my understanding wrong because I lack the background. A radio is a radio, but if you don't know about radio waves, it's a murder weapon: you drop it in the bathtub with someone and it kills them."

Chloe nodded. "But you think this thing is a power source?"

Dr. Coop said, "I think he burned out his previous power source. Check for standard power sources. See if any of them went dead." Chloe just looked at him. "Can't you—?"

"I barely graduated high school," she said. It was a lie: she had never graduated high school.

"Right." He sat down at his computer. "My theory is that he's using some variant of the Moreau ray. Mutants like me--like us--aren't affected because the Moreau ray affects a specific allele, a marker. His ray triggers certain biological changes. Our allele is different...it's a marker."

"He's making everyone into mutant apes?"

"Sort of." He scanned the results on his computer. "He tapped into the power mains for the army base."

"How much more powerful is the thing he took?"

"Assuming it is a power source?"

"He thinks it is."

"Granted. The weapon it came from vaporized the entire hull of a tank in less than a second." He scribbled for a second. "Assuming that it does the same number of kilojoules with the same losses for efficiency... I think he could make the change permanent for the seaboard. Possibly the nation."

She chewed her lip. "Man, we definitely need real superheroes here."

"Mine is not really a fighting power."

"Mine is only a fighting power." Claws flickered out of her fingertips and then she withdrew them. "I hate it." She sighed. "Where is he now?"

"Who knows? Now he's freed from the need to tap into the power grid."

"But his lab had to be hooked up originally. The machine, the ray generator, is there. He's smart but he's not super fast."

"Mechanical lab space, not necessarily official lab space, where he can hook into the army base generators."

"That's going to be in or near the army base. They won't have lain cable outside the base."

"Then he's in the vehicle maintenance building or in the underground lab."

"The underground lab?"

"They have an underground lab. My wife—my ex-wife. She worked there."

"Of course they have an underground lab." She rolled her eyes. "It's that simple? Surely someone else has noticed this."

"Well, you have to have clearance and know about the underground lab." He printed off a map. "I don't know where the entrance is—I was blindfolded the only time I went there."

"Super." She looked at the map. "You're sure no other superheroes have responded to this?"

"They would come to ask me—I am the expert on rays that turn people into gorillas."

"I guess." She sighed. "I guess I'm going to an army base."

Stage 3: Challenge

It was so easy to get into the army base while invisible that she wondered why they didn't have protection against invisible assassins. Really, she couldn't be the only one.

The blow was entirely unexpected and sent her sprawling along the ground.

Whoops. We suddenly need another character. Fortunately, generating a character in ICONS is pretty fast. Let's roll some dice. I'm already assuming that this is whatever the military does to protect against superfolk, so it's a Trained or Gimmick origin, and if Super-Senses doesn't show up, it'll have to be an extra.
NameAPHID: Armour for Parahuman Incursion DetectionOriginGimmick
Prowess3Intellect3Determination2
Coordination4Awareness4Stamina10
Strength5Willpower3
SpecialitiesMilitary, Technology
Powers Resistance (Damage)  Good4
Binding Great5
Stunning Average3
Super-senses Infrared Vision, Radar sense, Telescopic vision Average3
Qualities Military hierarchy
Just a guy in a suit (Abilities are 3 outside it)
Open for later development...probably unique to user.
Chloe rolled out of the blow, her claws already out. She heard, "Infiltrator, female, invisible to normal sight. Trying plan 51 for guards." She didn't actually want to know what plan 51 was. She could feel the claws unsheathe.

She spun, staying on the concrete of the side walk. The man wore a light patchwork of armor, a helmet, goggles, and a bulky backpack with a hose that led to a three-barrelled gun. His pistol looked high-tech,too.

The venom trickled from her fingertips.

HaemophiliaAPHID
StaminaDeterminationNotes & ConditionsStaminaNotes & Conditions
53None10None

Her invisibility was her only defense, really. Now there was nothing left but to go on the offense.

She unsheathed her claws and attacked, aiming for a weak spot in the kevlar coverings.
Seven versus six,so she hits, but it's not a great hit. Still, it's 6 damage versus his Damage Resistance of 4, and the possibility of Affliction besides. The Affliction doesn't need a roll to hit (it's a secondary effect of the slash), so we test Affliction 7 versus Strength 5. (We could make an argument for Strength 3, but we're just going to go with the easy numbers.) That's a success, 10 versus 8. He loses 7 Stamina.

HaemophiliaAPHID
StaminaDeterminationNotes & ConditionsStaminaNotes & Conditions
53None3None

He backed away and pulled the trigger on his odd gun. Some kind of gooey fluid gushed out and caught Chloe squarely in the chest. It quickly foamed up and swelled fast, immobilizing her.

But next phase he fails the Affliction test again (Totals: 6 versus 11), so he falls over unconscious. He will die (good thing help is coming). She has no problem getting her claws into the foam (material hardness 5) but it will take her several panels to cut free.
A question for Mythic: Are there more APHID suits active (yes)? No, so the suits are expensive: they have one per shift per base. I presume they can scramble the other two, but it will take a few minutes.

She became invisible again as she cut herself free. At a glance, it would look like she had freed herself and knocked him out.

Then he shuddered and his chest heaved. She knew he was dying, but she was only free from the waist up. She rocked herself until she fell over, and called into his radio. She hoped it was transmitting. "He's down. Need medical care--full tox kit." She didn't want an innocent life on her conscience.

She still wasn't quite free when the first guards showed up. They quickly formed a circle around the fallen figure, trapping her.

Almost as if they had been trained.

Okay, the military did have ways to deal with invisible assassins.

* * *

Chloe had a couple of thoughts as they led her into one of the buildings. She was handcuffed and surrounded.
She's used a Determination point to recover, so she has only 2 Determination but full Stamina. The Guards are Soldiers from the ICONS main rulebook, with the specialties Military and Weapons (Guns): they have a Prowess of 4, a Stamina of 7, and a Strength of 4. If she attacks, I'm going to put her Prowess one lower if she tries to use her claws.
What was with the handcuffs? Didn't they know that all the trendy Hollywood types dictated zip ties now? She knew how to break zip ties. She couldn't break handcuffs. And while she had picked handcuffs once during training, she needed a paperclip or lockpicks, and she'd left the lockpicks back at her apartment. She had been doing laundry.

And where was the secret lab? How did you get to it? They hadn't conveniently put signs up saying "This Way To Underground Lab." If she were doing it, she'd put the entrance by the washrooms, so everyone had an excuse for being there. Maybe in the mess hall....everyone went to the mess hall.

Well, she was not going to the mess hall. She was going to the stockade, or the brig, or whatever the Army called it. The soldiers led her into an elevator and three guards squeezed in with her. All of them were wearing night vision goggles presumably so they could see her.

They had guns, but it was a closed space. They couldn't fire. Really, there wasn't going to be a better time. She swivelled at the hips to plant a knee in one gut. Before they could react, she kicked out at another.

She burns another Determination point to get an Advantage that lets her put Burst on her Strike attack, because she's going to attack all three in a flurry of  movement. She hits all three (10 to 5, 10 to 7, and 10 to 6). In terms of slams and stuns, the first is stunned and knocked to zero Stamina, the second and third each get slammed to the floor, and lose 5 Stamina. Since they only have 7, this is bad. (I could do this with them as minions, but I choose not to.)
One was unconscious, and the other two guards were down. They stayed on the floor. Both MPs stay on the ground. They try to grab her ankles to reduce her mobility; both manage marginal successes, so she doesn't get to hit them but she doesn't go down, either.
That sounds like wrestling, and no effect on a marginal success (10:10 and 6:6) She still has the burst stunt up, so they are done in a quick stomp.
As the elevator slows, she grabbed the handcuff key and freed herself. By the time the door opened, she was invisible. She looked out at the office--or offices, because there were glass windows in the walls. In direct view was a gorilla working at a lab bench. Incongruously, the gorilla wore a lab coat and protective goggles.

Holy crap, she thought. That James Bond stuff about being captured so they'll take you to the boss works. I should have tried it on purpose.

Step 4. Comeback


The gorilla—yes, it was the one she had seen at the university; the white streak was distinctive—looked up.

The windows were a clever touch, she thought. He needed to see you to read your mind. With the windows, he could do that. While she was invisible, he couldn't read her mind.  She saw the gorilla reach forward to a stud on the wall.

"I've unlocked the doors," came a man's voice over the loudspeakers, dead of emotion. "Come and get me." She could see a man near the gorilla mouthing the words. The solders and technicians in the room with the gorilla kept working, but the others stayed motionless.

The gorilla would certainly know she was coming. Not for the first time, she wished she could walk through walls.

She got out of the line of sight, grabbed a carbine from a frozen soldier, and fired at the window. The shot was deafening in the room. A filing cabinet across the room suddenly dimpled as the bullet entered it. She looked at the window.

The window was only scratched slightly.

"Bulletproof glass," came the voice over the loudspeaker. "Would you like to come here? Because I'm not coming there."

Great, Chloe thought. She looked around for a shield. The desk wouldn't fit easily inside— Ride one of the wheeled chairs? Ah.

She came up behind a solder and grabbed him at the belt, holding him in front of her. Poor guy...you'll have a wedgie when this is over. With him as a shield, she moved through the first door.

Once the door had closed behind them, the soldier suddenly moved, drawing his weapon and firing at behind himself. He narrowly missed her, but the sudden noise made her drop him.

"See?" came the voice. "They don't want to pass up the improvement that is a simian existence."

Two punches later he was unconscious, and she quickly stepped away so the gorilla couldn't figure out where she was.

Sorry, guy. Won't do that again, she thought. She didn't risk saying it out loud.

She didn't have to use a shield, she realized: all she had to do was prop open the door. She wriggled along the floor to minimize him seeing her. Dimly she heard the sound of breaking glass, but didn't get up to look. This new room had two doors and some lockers. One door led to a bathroom; the other to a decontamination chamber.

"I'm almost done. Once I flip the switch, you can turn invisible, but you won't be able to hide your hairless self."

How were people decontaminated? A shower? There were nozzles in the walls and ceiling. She crawled into the decontamination chamber. The gorilla lumbered to the window to look at the room.

The far door didn't open. The voice came over the speaker.

"A safety measure. You can only open one door after the other door is shut. Shall I get that for you?" The open door closed by itself. There were multiple clicks and a hum of electronics.

A fine mist poured out of the nozzles.

"Decontamination," came the dead voice. "Makes you visible."

HaemophiliaApe X
StaminaDeterminationNotes & ConditionsStaminaNotes & Conditions
102Revealed in outline; Decontamination takes three panels (1)13None

-Now I can talk to you directly,- came the voice in her head. -You've done quite well, for a hairless one.-

Chloe hammered at the door handle. It didn't budge.

-What's the worst pain you can remember?- She tried not to remember, but she had been beaten by terrorists on her third mission. They had broken her arms and legs, and beaten every inch of her—

HaemophiliaApe X
StaminaDeterminationNotes & ConditionsStaminaNotes & Conditions
32Revealed in outline; Decontamination takes three panels (2)13None

It's just my imagination!
She spends a Determination point/Advantage to Recover; she gets 5 Stamina back. And because Ape X stunted the Mental Blast, she gets a Determination point for that. (She doesn't get one again during this fight; the Mental Blast stays stunted until the end of the scene or the fight, whichever comes first.)
HaemophiliaApe X
StaminaDeterminationNotes & ConditionsStaminaNotes & Conditions
82Revealed in outline; Decontamination takes three panels (2)13None

We wash, lather, and repeat for the next panel: she loses 7 from his Mental Blast, gets 5 back by using an Advantage, and then she's in, and invisible.

HaemophiliaApe X
StaminaDeterminationNotes & ConditionsStaminaNotes & Conditions
61Revealed in outline; Decontamination takes three panels (3)13None

She yanked the door open and rolled into the room, the decontamination mist billowing around her and then fading. There was glass on the room floor, in front of every human but Chloe. She didn't have time to think about it; the huge fists of the ape came down where she had been just a moment before.

"I can still find you physically by smell," came the dead voice of the man, echoed over the loudspeakers in other rooms.

HaemophiliaApe X
StaminaDeterminationNotes & ConditionsStaminaNotes & Conditions
61Invisible; Smells like disinfectant13None

I'm going to give her a +1 (instead of 2) to her Prowess for being partly invisible, plus the 1 for Martial Arts. So he got a 9, she got a 10. He missed her. When she strikes back, it's just even: a 10 versus a 10. That's marginal, so half damage and I'm going to claim that the side effect (venom) doesn't happen. Three points of stamina.

HaemophiliaApe X
StaminaDeterminationNotes & ConditionsStaminaNotes & Conditions
61Invisible; Smells like disinfectant10None

The gorilla gasped. "Ready!" said the man. Every human in the room but Chloe raised a shard of glass, pressed it against his wrist.

"I will kill every human in this room, unless you reveal yourself to me."

She burned her last Determination point to recover, for full Stamina.

Chloe looked at them, then walked in front of Ape X and flickered into sight, vulnerable to the gorilla's fists.

In fact, this is a tactic: she's making herself vulnerable so that she has an Advantage to use.

HaemophiliaApe X
StaminaDeterminationNotes & ConditionsStaminaNotes & Conditions
100Smells like disinfectant; has 1 Advantage; Trouble: open to a hit10None

He smiled in his simian way and brought his arm across her face, snapping her sideways...while Chloe jammed her claws into the belly of the great ape. She had positioned herself for this shot, even though it hurt.

She had an effort of 9 (Prowess+Martial Arts+3 on the die), he got a 6 (Prowess+die). She hit him and used her Advantage for +1 in the power, so that's 7 Stamina. He totally succeeded on the Affliction roll, though.

HaemophiliaApe X
StaminaDeterminationNotes & ConditionsStaminaNotes & Conditions
100Smells like disinfectant3None

"Then they'll die!" said the man, his voice cracking with emotion for the first time. Every human but Chloe slashed across their wrists. "You killed them, hero."

"I am not a hero," said Chloe, and slashed again.

A marginal success, but that's enough: the gorilla fell down, unconscious. He wasn't bothered by her venom this time either.

The MPs found her kneeling beside the one soldier she had been too late to save, holding his hand, and with a stain on her soul that wouldn't come out.