Thursday, August 3, 2017

ICONS Drop-In (Strange City), Episode 1

SYSTEM: ICONS

Well, I did it. Only one player showed up, and I haven't yet decided whether I'll run weekly or bi-weekly, but it looks like Wednesday nights on Roll20 is where it is. (So drop in and play, if you have a hankering for some superhero fun.)

(Aside: Roll20 is just hard enough to use that I have to invest in it. Sure, it says it's system-agnostic, and it sort of is...but the default is D&D/Pathfinder.)

Here's a sketchy summary of the first session, devoid of the snark or attitude I'm used to from James Nicoll. If anyone reads this and asks questions, I'll answer them in the comments, but also amend the main text so that others won't have to ask the questions.

Episode 1, Rumble Replacement

PC: Psychosis

Today's the day for tryouts. Tryouts are actually held at Camp Centurion, a decommissioned military base purchased by the Centurions. A special train runs out to it; the normal security precautions are lifted slightly in order to allow the train in and out.

The train car has a number of people on it, maybe two dozen. About half of the people on the train are in costume. Of the remainder, some are obviously there to provide moral support to others.

One guy shows off his power—flame powers—by making a flame dance on his palm during the ride in; when the train arrives, a stern military-looking gentleman escorts that guy away. The rest are greeted by Mr. Geist, who shows the moral supporters to a waiting room and splits the rest of the applicants up into pairs. Psychosis got paired with Blur, some kind of speedster.

The building is tall and curved. Not military at all.

Twenty minutes later, the two of them are meeting Black Aster and the Heartbreak Kid, who will be running the Rumble Room for the test. The Rumble Room is about two and a half storeys tall, and apparently the mechanisms for it go a couple of storeys down and at least one storey up. The control room is visible through a window, but the window's not very big.

There are two doors. They hiss shut and then there's the muffled sound of locks engaging. "We're not going to put the force field up for this run. We want Wisp to be able to get in and get you, if necessary," says Black Aster over the loudspeakers.

"Later we'll use simulated scenes," she continues, "but for now just the bare room, so you can see where things come from."

Things seem to go fine at first—they eliminate some robots. They're ready for more.

They notice a strange steampunk-y man in the control room, who Blur identifies as CyberSerf, a kind of cyber-thief for hire. CyberSerf clearly ups the lethality on the Rumble Room. The room's paralyzing gas doesn't get either of them; Blur gets caught in a pit trap but gets out through the hatch by vibrating her molecules at superspeed; Psychosis avoids his pit trap. Both phase out of the Rumble Room to find CyberSerf at the control panel.

The larger room is clearly a haven for the gadgeteer of the group: large artifacts and trophies and unknown machines are sitting in various stages of construction or demolition.

CyberSerf hits a button on the control panel and one of the statues—a robot—starts to move. It makes quick work of Blur and says something in an alien tongue, then, "All impediments to the mission must be removed. Life must be eradicated. The mission must succeed."

Then the robot hits Psychosis and knocks him clear across the giant chamber. Psychosis fades into the wall.

CyberSerf says cheerily, "That worked out better than I hoped." Then the robot starts attacking him. CyberSerf gets hit once before activating the antigravity repulsors in his boots; the repulsors don't let him fly fast but put him out of range (even stretching range). Then CyberSerf realizes that the morale supporters and the heroes-to-be-tested could provide a welcome distraction, so he begins to guide the robot to them.

Psychosis is working his way along (through) the wall, trying to get ahead of them. He hears a woman saying, "Look, they've been in the Rumble Room for long enough. I'm sure it must be our turn now." Longbow and Ice Princess are soon in combat with the robot. Psychosis concentrates on CyberSerf, who drifts to a window once the robot's attention is engaged.

Though CyberSerf manages to blow a hole in the window, it isn't quite large enough for escape, and Psychosis catches him in a hard light ball-and-chain image. CyberSerf then fires a bullet of expanding adhesive resin at him—but Psychosis reflects it back, trapping the computer criminal in his own adhesive resin.

Meanwhile, Ice Princess has been knocked unconscious and Longbow has been seriously slashed by the robot's blades. Psychosis makes it to the control panel and deactivates the robot.

Psychosis gets all the injured to the infirmary, but by the time he gets back, CyberSerf has escaped.

The Centurions are still missing.

Names mentioned: Black Aster, Blur, CyberSerf, Heartbreak Kid, Ice Princess, Longbow, Psychosis, three different types of Rumble Room robots.

Some future time I'll put the selection of pregens up so you can see them. The conceit is that the pregens are all crafted at 45 points, and if you commit ahead of time, you get to roll your own character or spend 50 points to create your character. 

Addendum: As a module, for you


I might never do this again, but this is what my notes would look like as a sort-of module. I stole heavilyfrom the Mutants & Masterminds Beginner Guide, so kudos to them.

Introduction

Today's the day for Centurion tryouts, at Camp Centurion, a decommissioned military base purchased by the Centurions. A special train runs out there; the normal security precautions are lifted slightly in order to allow the train in and out.

The train car has about two dozen people on it, maybe two dozen. Some people are obviously there as moral support to others. Half of the people on the train are in costume.

One guy shows off his power by making a flame dance on his palm during the ride in; when the train arrives, that guy is escorted away by stern military-looking folks.

The Centurion building is tall and curved. Not military at all. Mr. Geist greets them, shows the moral supporters to a lounge. He splits the applicants into groups (the PCs are one group, or a PC and an NPC), each group to a room.

In point form:

  • Forms and tests were done before arriving, on computer or at previous assessment.
  • Showing off on train is a sign of bad judgement. You have to show obvious potential or they'll cut you immediately.
  • PCs are split into groups (if only one PC, use a pair with an NPC).
  • Changerooms provided if necessary; PCs were told to dress in something durable.
  • The change in security for the train is how the bad guys got in to do their thing.
  • If a character’s powers require some source to work (such as plants), they are not provided.
    • Part of the reason Heartbreak Kid is watching is to see how they adapt to lack of the source. (Mentalists are bad against non-thinking robots, for example.)

Starting Easy

Twenty minutes later, the PCs are meeting Black Aster and the Heartbreak Kid, who will be running the Rumble Room today. The Rumble Room is about two and a half storeys tall, and apparently the mechanisms for it go a couple of storeys down and at least one storey up. The control room is visible through a window, but the window's not very big.

There are two doors. They hiss shut and then there's the muffled sound of locks engaging. "We're not going to put the force field up for this run. We want Wisp to be able to get in and get you, if necessary," says Black Aster over the loudspeakers. “Means the room is a little more delicate than usual. This is an easy setting, bare room. Starting...now.”

  • PCs can see through window to control room. Black Aster and Heartbreak Kid are there.
  • Room releases 2 level 1 robots for each PC. These are minions, so any hit will take them out.
  • PCs know that Centurions are looking for teamwork, etc.
    After PCs have dealt with robots, Room starts increasing the opposition.
  • Begin with traps that are generally appropriate for characters.
    • Good generic ones are flame trap, pit trap, etc.
    • Hand-to-hand fighters like taking on level 2 robots.
    • If characters have some special ability like phasing, don’t introduce a trap with “Affects (Ability)” yet.
    • When a character deals with one threat, there’s a 50% chance of a new one starting immediately; if there is nothing happening in the room, new traps are a certainty.
    • Don’t use the Sonic Screamer trap yet.
  • After two more pages of opposition, someone notices that Black Aster and Heartbreak Kid are no longer visible. Now there’s a steampunk sort of fellow at the control panel.
    • Someone with appropriate knowledge or Intellect test (Difficulty 4) identifies him as CyberSerf, a computer hacker for hire.
    • He has a low level of Mental Resistance on (in case he was dealing with Heartbreak Kid).
  • The next threats are more lethal. Robots are level 2, and shoot instead of blast, and the traps have “Affects (Ability)” enabled to deal with special abilities that the PCs have shown or are obvious by looking at them.
  • As soon as any PC finds a way to leave the room to get to him, he turns on the Sonic Screamer.


Things Get Real

  • The control panel is in what is obviously the technology lab. This is a huge room with various things in states of assembly or disassembly.
  • Armoured unopenable windows show outside.
  • A corridor leads into the rest of the building, including the lounge where the innocents are locked in.
    • CyberSerf can override that lockdown if he needs the distraction.
  • There are lots of tools or equipment that the heroes can use (the room has the Quality “Danger! Equipment here!” which can be activated with an Advantage). The equipment might be captured villain technology or just machining equipment. For example:
    • Hydraulic press
    • Exosuit to move heavy items
    • Cutting lasers or welding torches or cutting water-spray
    • Alien space pod
    • Magnetic net
  • CyberSerf is busy doing we don’t know what until the PCs get to him.
  • To buy time, he presses a button, and Robot X comes to life.
    • If there are lots of PCs, several things might come to life at the button press.
    • If the PCs are outmatched, several other applicants left their room and are coming up the corridor. They’ll help, but they aren’t world-beaters. (We don’t steal focus from the PCs.)
  • CyberSerf will escape if he can.
  • Heroes can stop this version of Robot X with brute force, or by imprisoning it in a sufficiently strong cage (the Rumble Room itself?), or by using the “All kinds of tech inside” quality, perhaps by claiming that some remnants remain of the safeguards that the Centurions tried to put in. They can make quick work of it if they trigger the Overload limit on its Nemesis.


Aftermath

  • There is an infirmary for anyone injured; it has Healing 6 Limit: Degrades.
  • Investigation by the PCs reveals:
    • CyberSerf put the base on lockdown so everyone was sealed into their buildings, passes didn’t work, and so forth.
    • CyberSerf then stole files.
    • Someone else killed or kidnapped the Centurions. All of them are gone, even the ones who weren’t at Camp Centurion.


Camp Centurion

  • Decommissioned military base purchased by the Centurions.
  • Used for testing, constructing devices, examining and dismantling villain technology and gadgets.
  • Fairly high but unobtrusive security:
    • Surrounded by force field generators and scanners. Together, they keep out everything but natural wildlife and environment. Force field is between 1 and 8, depending on threat.
    • Camp can be covered top and bottom by force field “domes”
    • Scanners on grounds search for mental threats (possessed animals, for instance).
    • Magical protections have lapsed due to recent events not relevant here.
  • At least one room in each building has life support (in case of chemicals, gas, radiation, etc)
  • Outside of test building, need a pass.
  • Powered by reactor which uses combination of science, magic, and parallel universes.
    • Camp is now a known weak spot in dimensional walls.
  • Relatively small staff. If a task can be automated, it is.
  • Controlled by camp computer, which can share databases main Centurion computer.
    • There is no AI after the last one revolted.
  • Main building is tall and curved, about eight storeys tall, and has three underground levels.
  • Floors are reinforced in main building to handle up to Density 8 (though that person might have to take the stairs if the service elevator is broken).
  • There is a fantasy “Centurion” camp there for a week in the summer.



Qualities

  • Dangerous stuff happens here
  • Takes the obvious precautions and some inobvious ones
  • Weak spot in dimensional barriers

Rumble Room

  • Used for training and testing supers.
  • Can handle powers to level 8: it’s tall enough for Growth 8, strong enough to withstand Shooting 8, and so on.
  • A force field can be enabled to prevent Phasing out of the room, but is not in this scenario.
  • Unless otherwise stated, the Rumble Room attacks as if it were Coordination 5 or Prowess 5. So to avoid a trap such as a pit, tentacles, or a flame cage, it is usually attacking at 5 versus Coordination (usually) or Prowess.
  • Applicants generally agree to a fair test, so mental attacks and some line-of-sight attacks can get through the window. (Lasers and light-based attacks cannot, in case a blast hits the window.)


Rumble Robot I

  • These simple robots take the place of civilians in simulations.
  • They’re slow, blocky, delicate, and cheap to build.
  • The quality “Minion” can be removed for a slightly tougher opponent.
(Let's see how a straight conversion of the table works, or if it's too small on this page layout.)
Prowess2Specialties
Coordination2 
Strength4
IntellectQualities
Awareness2
  • Connected to base computer
  • Robot
  • Minion
Willpower
Stamina8
Powers
  • Life Support 10


Rumble Robot II

  • These robots are an actual threat in simulations.
  • They’re not minions.
  • Normally they blast, but in lethal simulations, they can shoot.
  • They can also be equipped with some customizations (such as Affects Phasing).
Prowess4Specialties
Coordination3Power [Blast/Shoot] Expert (+2)
Strength5
IntellectQualities
Awareness3
  • Connected to base computer
  • Robot
Willpower
Stamina10
Powers
  • Blasters (Blast 4 Extra: Shoot)
  • Tough (Damage Resistance 4)
  • Radar (Super-senses 1)
  • Life Support 10


Sample Rumble Room Traps

  • I chose from this list to match the heroes.
  • It wouldn't be too hard to generate numbers to make it random, because I stole this list from the Mutants & Masterminds Beginners Guide and altered for ICONS; it's random there.
TrapDescription
Pit TrapA trap door opens under a character, revealing a pit underneath. If a (non-flying) character is caught:
  • Falling in causes a Coordination test (Difficulty 1) to avoid a being hurt (Strike 1). Athletics can be added.
  • The hatch is Material strength 8 to bend or break; but Difficulty 6 to lift.
  • To get up to the hatch is a Difficulty 5 climb.
  • Breaking the hatch is a Pyramid test, but only a short and deep one: It requires only a Major success, and marginal successes add to the test (two marginal successes make a moderate success).
  • Suitable powers to escape easily include Phasing, Corrosion, and Telekinesis.
Fire Cage

A projector in the wall or floor surrounds the target character in a cage of flames, limiting movement and mobility. Character is in partial hold in the cage, at -2 for most actions and unable to move; the cage “bars” are Aura 4 and have the Contagious extra.

Escaping:

  • Suitable powers include things like water form or Air Control, Water Control, or even Flame Control, or sufficient Damage Resistance or Force Field.
  • Squeeze through bars with appropriate power or a successful Coordination test (Difficulty 5; the -2 is already figured in).
  • Douse the cage with an appropriate power; treat as an opposed check, power to power (Aura 4). If the character’s power wins, the flames are doused and the character is free.
Freeze Ray

A weapon extends and fires a beam that traps a target in ice (Binding 6).

Homing MissilesA volley of three small homing missiles launches from a hidden panel in the Rumble Room, locking on to a particular target.

“Not-smart” Missiles: Attack 4 Defend 7 Blast 4 (Extra: Homing); Qualities: “Small” & “Not smart”. (Homing is from Great Power: each missile attempts to hit for 3 pages or until it succeeds, whichever is first.)

Escaping:

  • Attack the missiles: The missiles have the quality “Small” (-2 figured into target number); any successful attack detonates them.
  • Avoid the missiles: If you outlast them for three pages, they run out of fuel and fall down, probably detonating. If you specifically defend for a page, it can be a maneuver to activate the “Not smart” quality, and they’ll get confused and fly into something, detonating.

Rampaging RobotThe room releases a robot level II.
Sonic ScreamerA device extends from the ceiling, emitting a powerful ultrasonic shriek (Stunning 6 vs Will, Extra: Burst). All characters must deal with it. While the Sonic Screamer is active, players must make a Will save (Difficulty 6) on the Rumble Room’s panel. Characters in enclosed environments (such as armor with Life Support or closed in pit traps) can ignore it.
Steel Cage

A cage of steel bars springs up around a character. If character is trapped in the cage, treat as a partial hold (no movement, -2 to actions).

Escaping:

  • Slip through the bars: Suitable powers include Phasing or a water form.
  • Bend or break the bars: The bars are Material strength 8 to bend or break. Another short & deep Pyramid test: It requires only a Major success, and marginal successes add to the test (two marginal successes make a moderate success).

Steel TentaclesFour flexible steel tentacles spring from a surface of the Rumble Room to grab and hold a character (Binding 8).
Stun GasA jet of stun gas engulfs the character (Stunning 6 vs Strength).
Vertigo BeamA beam shoots out and interferes with the inner ear and balance (Affliction 6).

Villains

CyberSerf

Prowess3Specialties
Coordination5Technology Expert (+2)
Strength3
Intellect5Qualities
Awareness4
  • Working off a debt
  • Expert in his field
  • True love is doxxing heroes.
Willpower5
Stamina8
Powers
  • Cybernetic access glove (Interface 6)
    • Extra: ESP Limit: Medium (computers with cameras)
  • Protective Harness (Force Field 5)
  • Gadgets 5
    • Limit: Temporary (constant powers)/Degrades (instant powers)
    • Extra: Armory
    • Mastered Gadgets include Mind Shield (Mental Resistance 4) and Adhesive Gun (Binding 5 Extra Burst)
  • Flight 3
    • Limit: Finicky (Power always works, but GM sets power level for that chapter)


Robot X

Prowess4Specialties
Coordination4 
Strength7
Intellect3Qualities
Awareness4
  • All life must be destroyed, starting with the PCs
  • Next time I'll be better
  • All kinds of tech: hero, villain, alien
Willpower6
Stamina14
Powers
  • Heavy robot body (Density 5: gives Damage Resistance 5, Strength +1)
    • Limit: Constant
  • Blasters (Blast 6)
  • Nemesis 5
    • Extra: Instant
    • Limit: Overload
  • Life Support 10
  • Nanotechnology system (Immortality 1)
  • Feel free to add powers or remove the Overload limit on subsequent appearances.
    • If the heroes defeated him this time by triggering the Overload limit, it will not be there next time.
  • The Immortality is nanotechnology. Unless very special precautions are taken, the robot reassembles itself, but it takes hours, days, or months.