Thursday, August 10, 2017

ICONS Drop-In (Strange City): Episode 2


Hardware War

We had our second Drop-In session last night, and it was okay as far as gameplay was concerned but a failure in presenting a complete adventure. Technical difficulties with Roll20 and some incredible rolling by the GM and poor rolling by the PCs meant that the first fight—meant to be an expository piece where people practice combat—took over two hours, so the last forty-five minutes was rapid tap-dancing and improvising, and I didn't manage to bring it to a conclusion. It turned out okay—everyone who got their connection to work had fun—but it wasn't an adventure. (If anything, this made the session sandbox-y.)

The major reason this was a problem was the drop-in nature of the game. If the same people show up next week, hey, it's golden. But it wasn't an adventure; it was more a teaser scene, with the caption box "Already, in Strange City..."

So as a gamemaster, there are a couple of things that I took away from that:

  • If you're on a time budget, have plans to cut any particular section short, so you can wrap it up and get on with the adventure. I didn't do that.
  • If it's something online, be there half an hour early to handle connection problems or character and rules issues. Again, the drop-in nature of the game means that doing so doesn't eliminate connection problems, but it might lesson some of them.
  • For online sessions, have the troubleshooting list for the platform handy.
  • For online sessions, have the premise or introductory text for the session in print, so you can do minimal backtracking and explaining.

On to the session.

The breaking story in Strange City tonight was the hostage situation at Prime Tools. Prime Tools has been a Strange City fixture for over sixty years; the current owner is Thomas Park. Those in the know recognize the name Prime Tools, because there have been numerous gang-related incidents there at or near the hardware store in the last fifteen years; Prime Tools is on the current border between two gangs, the Milkbar gang (commonly called the Milks) and the Abandoned gang.

Prime Tools
LocationBeside (to the west of) the train track that marks the boundary between Milk and Abandoned territories.
AppearanceA big one-storey box in the middle of an asphalt parking lot. Inside the front is retail and the back is employees only (washroom, break room, manager's office, access to roof).
  • Fire exits on east and west.
  • Loading door and service entrance at back
  • Glass doors at the front
  • Mr. Thomas Park, current owner; a Korean-American in his late fifties, he has worked in this store since he was a teenager and bought it twenty years ago from its previous owner. He keeps a shotgun under the service counter, and a pistol in his office. The pistol is loaded; the shotgun is not. Mr. Park and some trusted employees carry shotgun shells.
  • Annette duChamps, cashier in her late teens. She's trying to make money for school. Her cousin has gotten involved with one of the two gangs.
  • Cameron Hicks, sales associate. Cameron just finished a term with the Army and was lucky enough to find work, mostly because Cameron was a technician.
  • Big hardware store
  • On contested ground
  • The owner is fed up
Inside, the space is maybe fifteen to eighteen feet high (about five meters); the top meter is hanging fluorescent lights, exposed ductwork, and structural girders. The public part of the store has two cashier desks, a service desk, washroomes, and stuff; the employee section has a break room, back stock, a manager's office, and access to the roof and mechanical.

It was about eight o'clock in the evening; the surge of people who need something just before the store closes hadn't quite started. There are two police cars in front, and more coming; the PRAT team is warming up the ion cannons "just in case" but hasn't come out yet. (They're ready, though supers and long-term residents know that where PRAT goes, property destruction follows, and local law states that the city can't be sued for damage incurred while trying to stop supervillains.)

Three supers overheard the police radio chatter/saw the tweets on Twitter/had their favourite TV or radio shows interrupted and show up, fortuitously at the same time:
  • Blastar, a known criminal who has reputedly turned over a new leaf and become a good guy
  • Gold Tiger, a billionaire philanthropist and inventor who has built a suit of powered armor
  • Spectre, a telekinetic man who can create images from his mind

Despite their misgivings about Blastar, the other two agreed to work with him. They went in through the roof entrance.

There were two Milk gang members there; they had some missteps but take both of them...though not without notifying the others of their presence (I kept rolling sixes for the gang members, and the heroes rolled low.) One of the gang members had a Saturday night special, but the other was wearing odd powered gauntlets.

The stacked shelves of products made it difficult to figure out what the situation was inside. Almost all hostages were locked in the washrooms; only Mr. Park was being held by the service counter. There seemed to be members of both gangs inside, fighting each other...

...until they saw Blastar. Then everybody wanted to shoot Blastar. (A Quality showing up.)

Merry carnage ensued. The gang members had prioritized targets as follows:
  1. Blastar
  2. Other heroes
  3. Members of the other gang.

Over in the corner by the hostages was a fifty-ish guy in a pinstripe suit, and he was with gang members, and he's up-selling them. He's wearing clearly-more-advanced gauntlets, and he's saying things like, "Yeah, it does tremendous damage but you're gonna want something that covers an area if you want to get a spread of the other guys... I happen to have something that might work. Do you want to see it?"

Spectre headed over to deal with him but then realized that Mr. Park was being held hostage, so he headed down there. Once he had freed the hostage and gotten him to safety, Gold Tiger flew to the salesman and rammed him, knocking him out and tossing hi against the wall.

Some gang grudges got exercised, one gang member ran out to escape, and the rest were pummelled into unconsciousness.

They went over to examine the salesman. He had identity papers for three different identities, his fingerprints had been removed, and small scars at his jawline showed that he had had work done. Sparks started shooting and there was an increase in tau radiation, almost as if some device were triggered to teleport him away.

Gold Tiger managed to get the device off him before it disappeared.

There was another source of tau radiation in the area, and they tracked it to a luxury sedan parked a couple of blocks away. The teleport device was on the driver's seat. They found more weapons in the trunk of the car.

They decided to visit Dr. Franz Jelinek near SIT, the world's greatest authority on tau radiation. Dr. Jelinek was at home (it as after 9:00 PM) in an apartment in a six-plex in the student area by the campus.

The apartment was cluttered like an episode of Hoarders with books and journals and open crates everywhere. One crate held sawdust; another held translucent globes of varying colours; a third held electronics components. Dr. Jelinek was a small old man, bald with a long aquiline nose, who had a habit of making asides to his dead wife, Maria. (At one point, a PC suggested he get a domestic intern to help clean up, and he agreed that building one would be a good idea, so he got a notepad from a saucepan in a kitchen cupboard, and wrote it down. That was apparently his domestic "things to do" list.)

Dr. Jelinek gave them a couple of pieces of information:
  • He is horrified at the thought of tau radiation being weaponized; he has actually been inserting math errors in his papers to hide such a possibility. He only wants the peaceful uses of tau radiation.
  • One of the consequences of weaponized tau radiation is that it can rip a hole in the space-time continuum,"and that would be a bad thing, eh, Maria?"
  • Unlike regular radiation, tau radiation can propagate linearly instead of spherically; there was much talk of Riemannian folds.
  • He has detectors at his lab, and he can loan one to the heroes. Do they want the sensitive accurate one that's about the size and weight of a bus, or the hand-held one that isn't so accurate?
  • People really weaponized it? This could be a terrible thing.

And then the three hours were up, so I called it.

(Players are welcome to correct my mis-remembering. I've cut lots of stuff out.)

Again, we had fun, but now I think I'll do stuff to minimize this week's problems.