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 Memory Lane: Tabletop RPGs

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The House of Ainsley
Keeper of the Dark Mirror
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Male Number of posts : 2024
Age : 45
Location : The Dark Heart of Bardosylvania

PostSubject: Memory Lane: Tabletop RPGs   Tue Jun 13, 2017 11:54 am

So while Drakon, Tiger and I got into a lively cell phone texting rally about tabletop gaming (aka. pencil-and-paper gaming, or PnP) a few hours ago, we started tripping down Memory Lane again and revisiting the various adventures (and misadventures) that we've experienced.  Maybe you've had your share of memorable game sessions too, from one side of the Game Master's screen or the other.  Then I remembered these gems that I posted on another forum about three years ago, and I couldn't believe that I hadn't brought them here yet.  So here we are!  Smile

The generic term "Game Master" applies to any roleplaying game, whether the Game Master is called a Dungeon Master, a Storyteller, a Judge...whatever.  Also, though I prefer to refrain from cussin' in public forums, apologies for my Francais in advance.  Although I'm a stickler for accuracy -- or at least as much accuracy as I can dredge up with stuff that happened ten or twenty years ago -- some details hereafter may be fudged for the sake of filling in a forgotten blank or simply so I could tell a better story....  


First, way back around 1984, some time after Aunt Karla gave me my first "Red Box" Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set, I'd grabbed up a few more in the series and I thought to try my hand at this Dungeon-Mastering thing:

Me:  "Okay, so what's your Magic-User's name?"
Ron:  "Zuul."  *shows me his character sheet*
Me:  "Really?  Why 'Zuul'?"
Ron:  "Because it's a cool name!"
Me:  "...and it's a monster from Ghostbusters."
Ron:  "...who has a cool name!"
--One of my first misadventures as a teenaged Dungeon Master with Red Box D&D.  Things got worse with my next troupe....


Me:  "Justin!  Now that we got your stats rolled up, have you picked a Class yet?"
Justin:  "Yeah!  I'm playing an Elf."
Me:  "All right."  *jot jot jot*  "What's his name?"
Justin:  "Aleister Crowley!"
Me:  "No, seriously."
Justin:  "Aleister Crowley, the Stormtrooper of Death!"
Me:  "...oookay."  *jot jot jot*
--He was dead serious, too.  And his girlfriend Susan rolled up a Cleric named Chastée Fuckblood (again, pardon the French).  Every Game Master should run a campaign for a couple of teenaged metalhead stoners at least once in his or her life.  You know that munchkin in every game shop, the one who acts like you owe it to him to let him play a Planetouched half-troll/half-drow with exploding shuriken and mastery in all ninja weapons?  After running D&D for a couple of druggies, you'll start to realize that that munchkin's really not such a bad guy.


Me:  "So after three days of sailing over a calm sea, the Golden Albatross finally arrives in the harbor of Whaleport.  The captain personally thanks Aleister and Chastée for their generous payment for passage as his sailors drop anchor and lay the gangplank across to the dock.  The scarlet sun hangs low under a rainbow sky in the early hours of morning.  What now?"
Justin:  "We **** on the beach!"
Susan:  "Yeah, let's do that!  We **** on the beach."
Me:  "...all right.  So...the minutes pass into an hour, and...Chastée looks like she's really enjoying herself...and as Aleister slips his manhood back out of her and wipes the sand off his thighs, he suddenly remembers that they have pressing business in Whaleport."  [sarcastically]  "Would you like to see the baron about this whole black dragon business now, or would you rather switch to the Reverse Cowgirl position?"
--Yeah.  That campaign lasted for three or four years, too.  Imagine it, if you dare.  :s


Then along came my glorious Air Force years...


Me:  "...wow.  Okay, so you guys came out of that adventure with enough XP to gain a Level, and you're all 1 Experience Point shy of your next Level too!"
Our very own Golden Drakon:  "We kill the mule."
--Drakon, trying to get around Old School D&D's "You can't gain more than one Level in any single adventure" rule.


That Spirit of the Tiger guy:  "Well, we got Crislen back.  Now let's hunt down Rigor Mortis and kill him!"
Me:  "Verdemortak."
Tiger:  "Yeah...like I said, Rigor Mortis."
--Tiger, hassling me about the name of my archvillain.


Drakon:  "Oh, sure!  Dillion and I came up this perfect plan to get around all those traps and guards, dispel the demons, grab the armor and get the hell out of there, then Wonder Boy just comes in and wins it!"
--Willard (Drak's Thief) and Dillion (Robert's Magic-User) were plotting to steal Duke Eowuld's grandfather's suit of full plate armor, which Duke Eowuld was offering as the Grand Prize to the victor of the jousting tournament.  While they were cooking up their plan, Sir Wolflen (Tiger's Fighter) joined the tournament, beat all challengers and, even though Duke Eowuld had ten Levels over him, rolled some hot dice, unhorsed the duke three times in a row and won the armor legitimately.  Drak and Robert were a bit miffed over that.


At some point, Drak (as Willard) and Robert (as Dillion) came up with a plan to break into a cathedral and burgle the "Fat Bishop" (a corrupt bishop whose name I can't even remember now, even though I created the bastard...probably because everyone kept calling him "the Fat Bishop," so the nickname stuck), but they ran into the bishop's treasure's guardians: four homebrewed golems made from shards of stained glass, like that stained glass monster in Young Sherlock Holmes. And the golems started coming upstairs at them, so Drak got the idea to use Willard's Ring of Telekinesis, pick up the lead golem and drop him down the stairs (and into the other golems) repeatedly, over and over and frickin' over, until the golems were all dead and shattered. I still throw out a stained glass golem every now and then, but now I only do it when there's not a single staircase in sight.   Embarassed


Drak (as Willard):  "It's a beholder golem."
--Their freshly slain enemy was actually a floating, spherical, time-travelling robot with four laser-firing robotic tentacles on top.  "Beholder golem" was a pretty good way for a quasi-medieval character to identify something like that.


Tiger:  "So ever since we found this crashed spaceship..."
Drakon:  "A flying castle which got Dispelled."
Tiger:  "...we've killed four of those orb robots..."
Drakon:  "Beholder golems."
Tiger:  "...six of those red anime-looking robots..."
Drakon:  "Demon knights."
Tiger:  "...about a dozen of those plasma turrets..."
Drakon:  "Sceptres of Magic Missiles."
Tiger:  "...about twenty guards with laser rifles..."
Drakon:  "Crossbows of Fire."
Tiger:  "...three robots with the Predator's cloaking device..."
Drakon:  "Iron ghosts."
Tiger:  "...and two of those big Robotech robots."
Drakon:  "Ogre golems."
Tiger:  "And now Borak's trying to break into a snack machine and steal a bag of Creamy Boffos."
Drakon:  "A Cabinet of Endless Iron Rations, and...iron rations.  Of the Creamy Boffo kind."
--Drakon, enforcing the paradigm.


Kevin:  "I can't believe that Borak has a 17 Strength, and he can't even open a bag of Creamy Boffos!"
Me:  "Sucky Strength checks are like that."
--Borak the Fighter fails at opening bags of junk food.


Me:  "I spent a damn hour coming up with the stats for Captain Stane and his mech!  I meant for your final battle with him to be a lengthy, exhausting, climactic battle worthy of the epics!  And Dillion just completely ruined him with only two freakin' goddamned spells!"
Robert:  "What can I say?  I'm just that good."
--Their archenemy from the distant future comes to defeat, and it only took one Disintegrate spell (to destroy Stane's mech) and one Polymorph Other spell (to stop Stane and his Gauss chaingun by turning him into a frog).  Naturally, I was a bit miffed.   Rolling Eyes


So then, Our Heroes' epic raid on the Palace of the Ice Tyrant in the Land of Eternal Winter came and went...

Me: "Night falls on your third night in Galemond Tor.  Willard returns from questioning the miller's family about those mysterious snow beasts; alas, the whole family was too busy hiding to see where the snow beasts went, but Willard followed the tracks and found that they stopped at an icy stream...but not before the trails had changed from the large pawprints of unknown, four-legged beasts to the more mundane footprints of several barefooted humanoids.  After stopping that scoundrel with two baskets full of stolen goods from leaving town, Wolflen and Borak have earned a promotion of sorts; they've been taken off of street patrol and are now manning the North Gatehouse...third watch.  Time to report for duty, guys.  By the innkeeper's leave, Booötes (boo-OH-tess, the golem) is standing outside, next to the inn's entrance, cutting an imposing figure against the twilight heavens and earning many questioning stares and speculating whispers from passersby.  The golem's master Dillion continues his work by candlelight, deciphering the Ice Tyrant's unique 'Fateful Aurora' spell, which the Ice Tyrant himself had brought against the fellowship to grave effect.  Pandel the cleric is seated at the hearth, leading two local trappers in prayer while he restores their lost earlobes, fingers and toes, all claimed by a wicked stroke of frostbite in the mountains.  And Logan bumbles back down the stairs, fresh from his reverie, sober for the moment and tightening the laces on his sagging deerskin trousers...."

Lenny:  "So how many women are in the tavern tonight?"

Me (not even bothering to roll):  "To Logan's brief dismay, all of the women in town are elsewhere...all save for one raven-haired beauty seated under a moonlit window pane across the room.  She is garbed in the revealing manner of a prostitute or other seductress, and a coy smile plays across her lips as her gaze greets yours over the smoky expanse.  She seems vaguely familiar, but you cannot recall seeing her in Galemond Tor before now.  And yet she wears no furs, no cloak, no heavy boots or other protection from the frosty winds.  Apparently she lives very close nearby, perhaps even somewhere in this inn."

Lenny:  "Nice!  I go over to her and ask her if she's from around here, and if she could use some company for the evening."

Me:  "While most of the women in your experience need some coaxing and enticing before they'll share a bed with you, this one is very forward!  'I am Tristania," she murmurs into your elven ear as she drapes her lithe arm across your muscled shoulders.  Her soft, milky skin is quite cool to the touch, as if she had just come in from the cold.  'And I would love nothing more than to share myself -- body, mind and soul -- with such a great and renowned hero...Logan of Etheria, was it?'"

(So Lenny was pretty stoked by this point, as I recall.  Several more pick-up lines passed between Logan and Tristania as they marched and sashayed up to Logan's room.  Tristania seemed to have some unusually intimate knowledge of Logan and the rest of his party, but Lenny thought nothing of it; bands of heroes have their groupies, after all.  So the next thing you know, both of them were naked, Tristania was on top riding Logan's throbbing manhood, and we, being a bunch of Air Force jerks, had nothing against roleplaying it out....)

Me:  "...Tristania continues to pump away on top of Logan, breathless in her carnal throes and smiling with pure contentment.  Never pausing in her vigorous work, she purrs, 'So... you and your comrades just returned from the Dominatus Glacies, the palace of the Ice Tyrant.  Is that right?'"

Lenny (as Logan, proudly, while doing a little mock pelvis-thrusting in his chair):  "Yeah!"

Me:  "'That must have been such a dangerous adventure!' she coos in admiration, fluttering her eyes amid the clapping of her pale breasts and soft coral nipples against your collarbone.  'And while you were in the hollows beneath the palace, did you meet a...coven of vampires led by the Revered Mother Carmilla?'"

Lenny (not proud anymore, now confused/uncertain/"WTF?"):  "Uhhh...yeah?"

Me:  "Despite her smooth and slender figure, Tristania proves to be surprisingly strong as her cool-skinned hands forcefully clamp down on Logan's wrists, pinning his arms to the mattress as her sultry nakedness continues to thrash and grind away atop him.  'And...I believe that your priest dispersed half of the vampires, your fiery sword struck down the Revered Mother, your warriors hunted down any who had fled, and then your band burned and shattered all of the coffins.  Is that right?'"

Lenny (growing nervous):  "...yeah?"

Me:  "Despite her sexual exertions, there's not a single drop of sweat glistening on the entire length of Tristania's cold, bare body, as Logan feels when she presses herself impassionedly down onto him.  Though both their breasts press and rub into each other, only one beating heart is felt between them.  'All of the vampires were left in ashes...or most of them, I believe.  Did one of the vampires flee the hollows and escape your wrath as you put her coven to death?'"

Lenny (now very nervous):  "...yeah???"

Me:  "'Did she look like me?'"

Lenny (as nervous as nervous gets):  "...YEAH?!?"

Me (leaning over my DM screen, parting my mouth wide as if baring a full set of vampire fangs):  "'HRRRRSSSSS!!!'"

Lenny:  "'AAAAHHHHHHH!!!'"

So then Pandel and Dillion heard Logan's screaming, came storming out of their rooms, smashed in the door to Logan's room and got the vampire off of him, but not before Logan had lost about four or six Levels.  Pandel and Dillion spent a few rounds nuking Tristania while Logan groped around for his flaming longsword, then Tristania misted and billowed down the hall.

Alan (as Pandel, shaking his head bemusedly):  "'All right, lover boy, we'll handle this.  Put on some pants and be downstairs in an hour."

So Willard happened to be walking the streets back to the inn when the wailing cloud of mist blew over him, so he joined Pandel, Dillion and Booötes in chasing Tristania down.  Tristania had made a new coffin for herself in the local graveyard, so Dillion had Booötes carry her coffin over to a nearby stream, hold it over the stream, crack it open like an egg and hold Tristania's naked butt underwater until she crumbled to dust.

Robert (as Dillion...sort of):  "Damn, that was a waste of a fine piece of ass!"

Me:  "In-character?"

Robert:  "Uhh...forsooth, we hath wasteth a fine piece of ass!"

So then Pandel restored Logan's lost Levels, and when Wolflen and Borak got off their watch and came back to the inn, they got to hear all about what had happened.  Logan didn't do as much whoremongering after that, but from time to time, someone else in the party would still deride him over the time when he was dumb enough to bang a vampire (or over any of the fifty-billion other dumb things that Logan did).   Laughing


Drakon:  "Hey, Lenny!  While we were at the marketplace, the rest of us chipped in and got something for Logan!"
Lenny:  "Yeah?  What is it?"
Drakon:  "It's a Hot Date Kit!  It has a bottle of wine, some cologne and hand mirror."
Lenny:  "Logan doesn't need a mirror!  His Charisma's 14.  He always looks good."
Robert:  "It's so he can make sure his next date's not a vampire before he takes her upstairs and bangs her."
Lenny:  "You guys are dicks."
Tiger:  "And the cologne's made from garlic juice.  Have fun!"
--...yeah, something like that.


Me:  "Well...damn.  I don't know what to tell you, Lenny.  I mean, Logan didn't tell anyone that he was teleporting back to Tasselton, so no one's going to know what happened or where to look...."
Lenny:  "Come on, man!  Don't do this to me.  Help me out here!"
Me:  "I mean, it's not like a bunch of orcs killed him and left his body somewhere for someone to find.  It's a botched Teleport spell.  There's only so much I can do to save him from that."
Lenny:  "Aw, shit.  Come on, [Me]!  Logan can't be dead!"
Me:  "Well, you see...Tasselton's near the coast, so there's no Underdark here.  But it's still a few miles upriver from the sea, so there can't be any sea caves here either.  Now, if Logan had only teleported ten or twenty feet underground, I could just say, 'Okay, Logan teleported into a sewer by mistake.  Now he has to find his way out.'  But eighty feet underground?  Sorry, Lenny, I can't work with that.  Logan just teleported into solid bedrock.  His death is instantaneous as his body's atoms and molecules instantly disperse on arrival and fuse with that bedrock.  And the only sign of his passage is an elf-sized lump in the middle of Tasselton's main street, the intended destination to which he shall never arrive."
Drakon:  "He has become one with dirt!"
--Logan the Elf eventually came to a most inglorious end, alas.


Me:  "The townsfolk greet your heroic band with cheers, as they clearly remember you and your deeds from your previous visit to Tasselton...most of you, rather, as Micron the Elf is not yet known to them.  While your merry band is heading to the marketplace to peddle their plunder, Wolflen stumbles over a bump in the middle of the street...a bump that he's pretty sure wasn't there on his last visit."
Tiger:  "I stomp it flat."
Me:  "Easier said than done.  The bump's about the size of a small man, or a woman, or maybe an elf.  It's a pretty tough little mound, too; its roots must run at least eighty feet deep."
Tiger:  "I stomp harder!"
Lenny:  "I hate you guys."
--Even in death, Logan can't catch a break.


Me:  "As Willard tiptoes silently through Duke Eowuld's dungeon, ever fearful of being found and recaptured, he hears a man bitterly sobbing behind the iron door of the next cell."
Drakon:  "Willard goes up to the door and whispers, 'Who's in there?  Why did the duke jail you?'"
Me:  "The despondent man chokes down his weeping and answers.  'The guards...they catched me stealin' bread from the marketplace.  I tells them that me wife an' kids are hungry, and I've not found work for o'er a season!  But they didn' care a whit.  They flogged me, locked me away down 'ere an' left me to die.  Who'll look after me wife an' children now?'"
Drakon:  "'From what I know of Duke Eowuld, your story rings all too true.'  Then Willard picks the lock and sets Bread Man free."
Me:  "Roll 'em."
Drakon:  *rolls d% and gets an 80-something*  "Got it."
Me:  "With a ferrous clack, the cell door groans ajar, revealing a wretched soul dressed in little more than filthy rags, reeling excitedly with newfound hope.  'Aw, thank yeh, good sir, thank yeh!  But I fear that I canna pay yeh for your kindness.'"
Drakon (as Willard):  "Think nothing of it.  Now follow me out of here.  Duke Eowuld shall not have us another day."
Me:  "Bread Man nods fervently and falls in line, creeping fearfully through the dank and moldy dungeon corridor.  They round the next corner and happen across another stout cell door.  A voice, babbling madly, cackles from within: 'They laugh at me, Mother.  They laugh at me.  I'll kill them, Mother.  I shall kill them all, and I shall drink their heart's blood.  I love you, Mother.  I'll kill you.  I killed you out of love.  I love everyone....'  Wanna let him out too?"
Drakon:  "Hell no!  Mama's Boy can sit in there and rot!"
--Willard, having finally run afoul of Duke Eowuld, makes a jailbreak.


Then Tiger ran a Champions campaign.  I played Xeros the Visitor, a reptilian sorcerer from another star system.  Drak played Doctor Vanguard, a surgeon with a Black Belt (or equivalent) in pretty much every martial art known to man.  And Lenny, as usual, played a munchkinized Punisher wannabe whose name I can't remember because all of Lenny's characters acted the same way.


Drakon:  "Why don't you just buy a nuke?  You'll do less damage!"
--Drakon, criticizing Lenny's ridiculously overpowered custom laser-guided full-auto railgun/rocket launcher thing.  Palladium games are extremely munchkin-friendly.


Drakon:  (as Doctor Vanguard)  "Here's another one for you: Gang member, black male, early 20's.  He has a punctured lung, and the fourth and fifth ribs on his left side are completely shattered."  (as an Emergency Room medic)  "How do you know his ribs are broken?"  (as Doctor Vanguard)  "Because I'm the one who kicked them in!"
--Drakon explains his character to us.


Me (as Xeros the Visitor):  "We have...chk-chk...little time before They-Who-Kill-Their-Own complete their trade.  Chk-chk-chk.  I shall teleport us to...chk-chk...Granite Park immediately."
Drakon (OOC):  "Just don't teleport us eighty feet underground and we'll be cool."
--We loved Lenny.  Really.  Wink


Tiger:  "Xeros teleports all of you into the park right as the two crime families are finishing up their business, swapping briefcases full of cash for various military assault weapons."
Lenny:  "I shoot all the Mafia guys before they have a chance to react!"
Drakon:  "You're armed with a 50-caliber machinegun."
Lenny:  "Yeah, so?"
Drakon:  "We're in the middle of a crowded metropolitan area."  *grunts and mimics Lenny's character lifting and aiming a really massive gun*  "'What's behind them?  The local school district?  **** it!'"
--Drakon explaining to Lenny why discharging heavy weapons in the middle of a densely populated city is a Very Bad Idea.


Somewhere around that time, I ran a GURPS Horror one-shot for Robert, Kevin and Lenny while Drakon was away on a TDY for a month or two and Tiger had to stand guard at Malmstrom's arsenal that night.  Just as Palladium games are good for munchkins, GURPS games are good for obsessive-compulsive Game Masters who want a dice table for everything down to what color the character's boss painted her toenails that morning.  Every other type of Game Master tends to find GURPS tedious and nitpicky as all hell, and so I did.  But I still ran this one-shot, and I baited-and-switched my players by not telling them that it was a horror game, just that they were playing a bunch of college guys heading down to Camp Lakeside on Flathead Lake to drink beer, play some sports and schmooze with the college girls.  So Robert rolled up Jughead, Kevin rolled up Moose and Lenny rolled up Reggie because my players were jerks.   Razz

Then night fell, one of the college girls told a campfire legend about a killer maniac named "Crazy George" Freeley who killed off a mess of campers up in those same mountains twenty years ago.  Guess who showed up a little while later and started picking off those college kids one by one....

Lenny (as Reggie):  "Jill!  We're getting everyone to the ranger station!  Where's Stephanie?"
Me (as Jill):  "Stephanie?  She was all stressed out over Crazy George killing her boyfriend, so she went down to the beach to take a hot shower."
Lenny and Robert (together, as if on cue):  "She's dead."
--Lenny and Robert, being dangerously genre-savvy.  Sure enough, they found Stephanie hanging from from the showerhead, right where George caught her mid-shower.  Have two-dozen Halloween and Friday the 13th movies taught people nothing?  Very Happy


Me:  "The front door to Ranger Station 13 is a few inches ajar as you all walk past the Montana Park and Wildlife Service truck and approach.  From somewhere inside, you hear white noise crackling from a radio...."
Lenny:  "Let me guess.  All the rangers are already dead."
Me:  "There were only two.  But yes."
--Lenny, being genre-savvy again.


Robert (as Jughead):  "All right, Crazy George!  You can kill us all you want, but that duck?  You done fucked up now!"
--Crazy George tried to spook the kids out of the ranger station by snapping a duck's neck and hurling it in through a closed window.  Jughead did not take kindly to that.


Me:  "The still of the night is suddenly shattered from the staccato reports as Lenny empties the last three hollow points from the ranger's revolver into Crazy George's center mass.  The killer stumbles, then falls backward onto the grassy sand in a shower of gore, where he writhes in agony for a moment, then lies very still."
Lenny:  "Yes!  Kick ass!"
Robert:  "All right!  Is Crazy George finally dead?"
Me:  "Are you checking to see if Crazy George is dead?"
Robert:  "...okay, yeah.  I check to see if Crazy George is dead."
Me:  "Okay."  (rolling six-siders)  "While Jughead is leaning over Crazy George and checking him for signs of life, he suddenly feels the sharp bit of Crazy George's pickaxe punching through his abdominal wall for 12 Dam...."
Robert:  "Whoa, whoa, whoa!  I did mention that Jughead's checking him from all the way over here, right?"
--Sorry, Robert.  No takebacks.  Very Happy


Me (to an SP walking into the dayroom with his German Shepherd):  "Hi there.  Can we help you?"
The SP:  "Somebody down the hall called us and said that they heard screaming coming from this dayroom...?"
Me:  "Oh.  That was us.  Sorry."
--Some other Airman in the barracks called the cops on us, so we had to explain to the SP that everything was fine and that nobody was actually being murdered.  I guess we might have gotten too enthusiastic carrying on about the GURPS one-shot.


Drakon (having returned from Guam, now hearing our account of the GURPS Horror adventure):  (as me)  "You've all showed up for a fun-filled weekend at Camp Crystal Lake!  What do you do first?"  (as himself)  "We leave."
--Sorry, Drak.  I had a contingency in place for that possibility too!  I think of everything.  Wink


I also remember that at some point, I had gotten my old Marvel Superheroes RPG from Missouri and was set on running a campaign.  By then, Lenny was out of the Air Force (under very mysterious circumstances, and considering that he worked in Computer Cryptography, that was a bit unsettling) and so was Kevin, but Rod had decided to start hanging out with us.  I tried running an X-Men MSH campaign with each player picking and playing one of the X-Men; Tiger picked Wolverine, Drakon picked Nightcrawler, Robert picked Bishop and I think Rod picked Colossus.  But that campaign got boring in a hurry, so I switched to a different tack: a Marvel Supervillains campaign, with player-rolled supervillains.  Drakon played Whodunit? (an altered human with Mystique-like chameleon powers), Tiger played Mr. Four-Armed Bad Guy (a mutant and an idiot savant sort of inventor with four arms), Robert played Blockhead (an altered human with Monstrous Strength, Amazing Endurance and Excellent body armor, but Feeble Reason) and Rod played the Infamous Imp (a little Magic-origin devil with flight and bad luck powers).  So for their very first misadventure, they decided to rob a McDonald's (and even if I can't remember every last word verbatim, it all went something like this)....


Me (as the Judge):  "So the four of you walk into McDonald's and right up to the cash register.  Right away, the cashier starts looking pretty nervous, but she manages to swallow her apprehension and stick to the script.  'Thank you for choosing McDonald's!  May I take your order?'"
Drakon (as Whodunit?):  "Yeah.  This is a robbery!  Give me all your ketchup packets!"
Me (as the McDonald's cashier):  "...excuse me?"
Drakon (as Whodunit?):  "Give me all your ketchup packets!"
Me (as the McDonald's cashier):  "Is this a joke?"
Tiger (as Mr. Four-Armed Bad Guy):  "We're not sure either.  But I think you'd better do as we say."
Me (as the McDonald's cashier):  "Well...for a moment there, I thought you were gonna take all the cash in the drawer."
Drakon (as Whodunit?):  "If we wanted cash, we would have demanded cash!  Now give me all your ketchup packets!"
Me:  "Okay, so after about five or ten minutes, you guys have taken every ketchup packet in the place: all the packets in the cash register line, the drive-thru window, the lobby, the prep line...not to mention all seven boxes of ketchup packets in the stockroom.  The shift manager and all the worker bees are clearly torn between fear and stark, raving confusion as the four of you race for the door and make your escape."
Drakon:  "And as soon as I'm at the door, I shout back, 'And don't call the police or we'll be back for the mustard!"

Then they took one of the ketchup packet boxes, emptied all the packets into a pile in the middle of the street, stomped on them furiously and made the mother of all ketchup packet splatters.  That was the first time they left the "calling card" for their new supergroup: The Ooey Gooey Screwey Kablooey Bandits.  The rest of the ketchup went back to the Splatcave (their secret supervillain headquarters), to be used in a nefarious plot later....

More stuff happened in the meantime, of course.


Tiger:  "So, let's see what we have here: A bathtub, a washing machine, a toolshed, four traffic cones, three boomboxes, a sawhorse, two sledgehammers, a TI-82 calculator and a dozen rolls of duct tape.  One luxury yacht, coming right up!  Give me a paint bucket and a popcorn popper and I'll throw in a jacuzzi too!"
--Tiger explains how Mr. Four-Armed Bad Guy's main superpower works.


Me:  "He spent five years at Alcatraz before he finally realized that Alcatraz isn't really a prison anymore.  So he left."
--Me, trying to help Robert come up with Blockhead's backstory.  Robert didn't bite.


Drakon (teasing Robert about Blockhead):  "His idea of subtlety is kicking in the back door!"


Later, the police have surrounded a laundromat, where Mr. Four-Armed Bad Guy and Blockhead are inside, emptying all the money out of the pay phones, coin changers and laundry machines...so that they can buy all the snacks and cola out of the vending machines.  The Bandits were just like that, okay?

Me (as a Police Sergeant):  "We can see you in there, and we have you surrounded!  Come outside slowly with your hands up...and I do mean all of your hands, you...Four-Armed Bad Guy!"
Tiger (in-character):  "Hey!  That's Mister Four-Armed Bad Guy to you!"

...then...

Me:  "Okay, Robert.  Roll to hit."
Robert:  *rolls while I check the result*
Me (as the Police Sergeant again):  "This is your last warning!  The SWAT teams are in position!  If you don't come out in ten seconds, we're coming in and we won't be nice!  Ten!  Nine!  Holy God!  Incoming!"
*a jumbo-load washing machine, thrown through the front window, takes out the sergeant's squad car*
Tiger (as Bad Guy):  "Now back off, or Blockhead throws the dryer too!"
[Bad Guy and Blockhead proceed to fight their way out from there.]


Me (as the Ultimate Ninja, a rival supervillain who has invaded the Splatcave with his ninja clan):  "So we meet at last, Gooey Kablooey...Gooey...Something...Bandits!"
Drakon (as Whodunit?):  "Hey, it's Shredder and the Foot Clan!  You guys came all this way for nothing, I'm afraid; there aren't any ninja turtles here."
Me (as the Ultimate Ninja):  "Fools!  I am not that charlatan!  I am the Ultimate Ninja, the greatest ninja in the Western Hemisphere!  And I have come to claim your Splatcave for the glory of the Ninjatoga Clan!"
Robert (as Blockhead):  "Uhhh...ninjas in togas?  Where?"
Me (as the Ultimate Ninja):  "Do not mock the Ninjatoga Clan, oaf!  Now hand over the keys to your base, or there will be trouble!"
Drakon (as Whodunit?):  "It's a little too late for that.  Hey, if you're not Shredder, can I be Shredder instead?"  *morphs into Shredder, then points at the Ultimate Ninja and his ninjas*  "Now, my minions!  Crush the turtles!"
[The Bandits and a bunch of Mr. Four-Armed Bad Guy's coin-operated robots attack the ninjas.  They win after a lengthy battle, but the Ultimate Ninja gets away, yelling about revenge like fleeing villains always do.]


Drakon (as Whodunit?):  "Really?  Your secret ninja clan headquarters is in the back of a Chinese restaurant?"
Me (as the Ultimate Ninja):  "Japanese!  Japanese!  There are differences, you ignorant gaijin!  We sell sushi here!"
--The Ooey Gooey Screwey Kablooey Bandits have cornered their nemesis at last.


Then, with all the junk they plundered, Tiger tried building a new super glue rifle with Bad Guy's superpower and rolled a little too well....

Me:  "Okay, your glue gun's damage.  Roll it."
[Tiger rolls d% and gets an Amazing result.]
Me:  "That's pretty damned good!  I think you just built a hand cannon there.  Now roll again for range; you're using exceptional materials in a well-stocked lab, so add a +2 column shift bonus."
[Tiger rolls d% and, after the adjustment, gets a Shift X result.]
Me:  "Whoa.  That glue gun can shoot something in orbit around the moon."
Drakon:  "That's going on top of the Splatcave!"


[After committing yet another bizarre crime, the Bandits come home and find four superheroes from the Main Street Minutemen (...or some minor local superhero group...) lying in a heap--in various degrees of injury, immobility and consciousness--about ten feet from the Splatcave's back door.]
Drakon (as Whodunit?):  "Huh.  I wonder what happened here."
Me:  "Just then, you hear a stacatto series of screeches pealing from the second floor as the Splatcave's automated laser gun gauntlet goes off.  ZOW ZOW ZOW ZOW!  Then a fleshy mass comes bouncing down one of the chutes inside, right before your automated back door opens inward, waits for the chute to deliver its cargo and slams shut with a WHACK!, smacking the Red Hummingbird on top of the heap with her comrades, with tufts of smoke still wafting from the laser burns on her ass."
Drakon (as Whodunit?, to Mr. Four-Armed Bad Guy):  "Think we should tell them that we left the front door unlocked?"

True story.  Tiger had Mr. Four-Armed Bad Guy roll to improve every wall, every door, every window and every security system in the place, and he did a pretty good job of it...for the most part.  When he got to the front door, he rolled either an 01 or an 02 (a Feeble result, either way), so it was an ordinary wooden door and it only had a single security camera behind it; the camera was black-and-white and it broke down half the time, so it sucked.  Anyone could have kicked in the front door and walked right into the Splatcave with no resistance.  Fortunately, everyone assumes that the front door is the most heavily defended part of a base, so no one ever tries breaking in through the front door, right?   Cool


Then along came the Independence Day Parade in New York City, and Captain America was standing on the main float, waving to the crowd.  Little did he and the nearby Avengers (who were handling security) suspect that the Bandits were about to initiate their master plan: Operation Humiliate Captain Tight-Pants.

Me:  "So at just the right moment, Mr. Four-Armed Bad Guy presses a certain button on his wristwatch.  The Burger Mutt float explodes into a shower of confetti and cream cheese, revealing the heavily armed Splatmobile underneath!  The triplet sixteen-inch cannons erupt from the Splatmobile's hood and wheel clockwise on their pintel, aiming directly across Times Square.  The scattering crowd screams with panic, confusion and dismay as Bad Guy and his triple cannon acquire their target: Captain America!"
Tiger:  "Fire!"
Me:  "Roll it!"
Tiger:  *rolls something unspeakably high.  I think it was a 92 or thereabouts.*
Me:  *rolls for Captain America's Block maneuver.  Not even close!*  "Though he instinctively swings his famous Stars and Stripes shield into position on hearing the report, it avails nothing as a keg's worth of ketchup rings off the topmost edge of Captain America's shield, exploding on impact and absolutely drenching him with a thick, dribbling morass of scarlet ketchup!  Everyone and everything within twenty feet of Captain America and his float are also slathered with the ketchup bomb, futilely trying to shake themselves off as the Splatmobile's cannon rotates its second barrel--and its loaded glue bomb--into position.  Roll to fire!"
Tiger:  *rolls and hits again*
Me:  "The Super Glue bomb follows the ketchup bomb to its intended target, striking the First Avenger square in his belly and bursting, mingling its contents with the ketchup and covering him with thick, pink super glue."  *rolls Cap's Endurance*  "But Captain America is still standing, and before the glue can dry, he leaps from the float, shouting "Freedom prevails!", and comes charging at the Splatmobile, cutting a zig-zagging path through the street.  The third barrel swivels into position.  Roll to fire the feather bomb."
Tiger:  *rolls and hits again*
Me:  "This time, Captain America reels backward as the third shell strikes him square in the forehead, releasing a shower of chicken feathers.  As Mr. Four-Armed Bad Guy calculated, the feathers contain the chemical component needed to instantly solidify the super glue, reducing Captain America to an inert mass of ketchup, glue, chicken feathers and super-soldier-serum-powered beef standing in the middle of Times Square.  Just then, Bad Guy hears thrusters creasing the heavens over the skyline, and the Splatmobile's alarm starts screaming.  'Warning!  Iron Man sighted: 1,200 yards and closing!'"
Tiger (as Bad Guy, to Whodunit?):  "Quick!  Load three more glue bombs!"
Drakon:  "I load more glue bombs."
Me:  "Whodunit? breaches the cannon and swivels all three barrels around, loading fresh glue bombs as the onboard computer screams, 'Warning!  Iron Man, 700 yards and closing!'  Sure enough, right as Whodunit? claps the last glue bomb into its chamber, he looks up and sees a gleaming figure of red and gold descending on them from 1 o'clock high."
Drakon:  "I slam the cannon closed and get the hell off the hood!"
Tiger:  "The moment he's clear, I link-fire all three barrels at Iron Man!"
Me:  "Roll to hit, but add a +1 column shift."
Tiger:  *rolls a 50-something, if I recall...good enough*
Me:  *rolls Iron Man's Evade and pooches it.  I think it was in the teens.*  "BOO-BOO-BOOOOOM!!!  Moments later, a heavy mass of glue, with a wildly flailing Iron Man trapped in the middle of it, comes zipping low overhead and crashes through the front of the Paramount Theater, much to the horror of many."
Drakon (to Tiger):  "Holy shit!  Did we just take down half the original Avengers?"
Me:  *rolling a bunch of ten-siders*  "Yes, you did.  But you might not be taking down the other half.  While the Bandits are cheering themselves on, the back tires leap from the ground as an unstoppable mass thunders down onto the Splatmobile's hood, crumpling the car's front end in the blink of an eye.  The people's wails of fear are drowned beneath the clamor of fabled Mjolnir ripping a return path through the chassis and a newly come, bellowing voice from above: 'I say thee NAY, base villains!'"
Tiger:  "Well...it was fun while it lasted.  Who wants to stick around and fight Thor with me?"
Drakon:  "**** that!  I'm already morphing into Joe Schmoe and getting lost in the crowd."
Rod (as Imp):  "Me too!  You're on your own, white boy!"
Dobie (as Whodunit?):  "You can't follow me!  I'm Whodunit?!!"

[Thor singlehandedly whooped ass on Mr. Four-Armed Bad Guy, of course.  Whodunit? completely got away, and Spider-Man went after Imp, but Imp could fly fast and Spider-Man can't, so screw Spider-Man.  Captain America got cleaned up and got back on TV to deliver a rousing speech about never giving up and never backing down from the face of evil, equating the Ooey Gooey Screwey Kablooey Bandits to the likes of AIM and Hydra in the doing, which earned the Bandits a steaming buttload of individual Karma and Supergroup Karma.  Bad Guy eventually turned his nasty prison food into another bomb and sprung himself out of the slammer; unfortunately, their glorious day of triumph was still forever stained with the humiliation of catching an Asgardian beatdown on live TV.  Such is the life of a supervillain, I suppose.]


Then I got my General Discharge and the Air Force sent me home.   Sad

I still miss our pool table in my barracks' second floor day room.  Pool tables are perfect for stopping stray dice.  But I couldn't find a good job right after leaving the Air Force, so I had to settle for working at McDonald's, and there I picked up another gaming troupe and began running a pan-World of Darkness campaign where my players switched between two parties of Player Characters every week or two: a party of paranormal fugitives on the run from the Technocracy, and the Technocracy crack team tasked with hunting them down....


Ben:  "Are there any Indian Reservations in Illinois?"
Me:  "There are now!"
--Me, exercising Game Master's Fiat to help Ben with his Wendigo's backstory.


Me (weaving the exposition for O'olish the denim-wearing, pureblooded Native American Wendigo Ahroun and his backstory):  "...but the serial killer, leaving a blood-flecked trail of terror and agony, could not escape O'olish's keen lupine tracking senses.  And as O'olish feared, the serial killer did indeed turn out to be no less than another Garou: Ferren Kisses-the-Girls, a Ragabash who had gone missing from his Get of Fenris pack, now fallen into the ranks of the Black Spiral Dancers.  But O'olish was not alone in hunting this deranged murderer: The New World Order, a Convention of the Technocracy who sought nothing less than a world of perfect function, perfect order, perfect safety and perfect obedience.  A world in which no place existed for paranormals like O'olish and his quarry.  With hyperadvanced technology many decades--if not centuries--ahead of what most of mankind has at hand, the New World Order learned of the serial killer's supernatural origins.  And they set out to find him.  And they did find him...or, rather, some of him.  When the Men in Black arrived at Ferren's cabin, they were greeted with the ghastly spectacle of fresh blood splattered about the interior, still dripping in gory sheets from the ceiling.  In the fireplace they found Ferren's head, brutally torn away by savage claws no smaller than those of a grizzly bear.  And still clenched in Ferren's rigored jaw and jagged teeth was a swatch of torn blue denim, its fabric still pierced with tufts of coarse, black fur...."
Ben:  "Dude!  My backstory kicks ass!"
--Ben approves of O'olish's pre-campaign history.  Smile


Me:  "The limestone cavern walls peal with whoops and hollers as the Black Spiral Dancers, with their woefully inbred and malformed kinfolk, hound Tori down the winding passages of their remote desert home...and, unfortunately, into a dead end."
Cat (as Tori Dyson, her Daughter of Ether):  "'Now, wait a minute, guys!  I'm sure we can talk things out....'  And then I act all sweet and innocent and pretty, and I use Seduction to maybe talk them out of killing me."
Me:  "Seduction?  You're sure?"
Cat:  "Tori has a pretty good Seduction score, so yeah."
Me:  "Okay.  Charisma plus Seduction, Difficulty 6.  Roll 'em."
Cat:  *rolls*  "Four successes."
Me:  "Good news!  The Black Spiral Dancers no longer want to kill Tori!"
Cat:  "YAY!"
Me:  "Bad news!  Now they want to chain her up and use her for breeding stock!"
Cat:  "NO!!!"
--Cat reminds us that we should always use our characters' social skills judiciously.


Meanwhile, our troupe's Technocracy party had uncovered a plot about the Neo-Technocracy (a secret splinter group within the Technocracy) trying to usurp control of the Technocracy itself by wiping out several Technocratic control stations and whatnot...

Kenneth (as Agent Echoes):  "Hicks!  I'm inside the warhead, taking fire from two sides while I'm trying to redirect the guidance system!  What are your orders?"
Ben (as Lieutenant Hicks):  "...hold your position."
--Echoes was crammed inside the warhead of a Neo-Technocratic antimatter nuke, sitting on the ICBM's antimatter containment unit and reprogramming the guidance computer so that the missile would come right back down on the Neo-Technocracy base and detonate, all while Hicks and the rest of the Last Resort team were exchanging fire with Neo-Technocracy defense teams on the other side of the missile silo and the other side of the missile.  It was a very precarious place for Echoes to be.   Shocked

Then the Neo-Technocrat base got obliterated and we alternated back to the paranormal party.

Me:  "Shortly after noon, the Magical Go-Go Metro arrives in Stuttgart, Germany.  O'olish, being freakishly huge and muscular even in his human form, has no problem grabbing his duffel and everyone else's bags out of the trunk as Tori and Mister Chalk stretch their legs and take in their surroundings.  Today is September 30th, and Oktoberfest is in full swing, as conveyed by the lively, milling throngs of German townsfolk and the oom-pah-pah music thundering from the city square...."
Ben:  "If I see lederhosen, I'm shifting to Crinos!"
--It so happens that Ben took two years of German class in high school.  He was not a fan of traditional German dress.


Kenneth (as Mr. Chalk, his albino Corax):  "If that's who I think it is, I want his autograph!"
--Mr. Chalk believes Baron Eisenhelm (their long-lived Tzimisce host) to be none other than Dracula himself.


Kenneth (as Mr. Chalk):  "We can't let you prey on the people anymore, Eisenhelm!  But before we kill you, is there any chance that you could get me Dracula's autograph?"
--Mr. Chalk soon found out that Eisenhelm was just an Austrian mercenary who served under Dracula in the Ottoman Wars, eventually earning a place as one of Dracula's lieutenants.  Though disappointed with the find, Mr. Chalk was never one to pass up an opportunity.


Me:  "And even as his head rolls to a stop, Eisenhelm looks up from the stony floor, beholding Tori--the spitting image of his long-dead wife--one last time, her golden hair and bright, innocent eyes being the last things he ever sees in this world.  And in seeing her one last time, he smiles, even as his head crumbles to ash and drifts away in a breeze which is neither felt nor heard.  After so many centuries of undeath, Eisenhelm is no more.  His mighty vozhd lies in rapidly cooling tatters, ripped to pieces and scattered by O'olish's savage claws.  His servants are fled, his ghouls lie broken and for one fleeting...."
Kenneth:  "Let's search his castle!  What kind of stuff does Eisenhelm have?"
Me (crestfallen):  "...all right.  Eisenhelm's longsword is of a very old Hungarian design yet still holds an edge and looks as good as it did the day it came from the forge; either its a very convincing modern-day replica or Eisenhelm was very good at cleaning and maintaining his weapons.  Among the many paintings and framed messages in his study, one badly yellowed message is framed in gold and mounted higher than all the others."
Kenneth:  "I read it."
Me:  "It's written in Old Romanian.  How's your Linguistics?"
Kenneth:  "...nonexistent."
Cat:  "Ooh!  Tori doesn't speak Romanian, but she has Linguistics 3.  Can she try to read it?"
Me:  "Intelligence and Linguistics, Diff 8."
Cat:  *rolls*  "Cool!  I got three."
Me:  "Even though Tori can't make out every word, she discerns enough to realize that the letter is one written to Eisenhelm from a Hungarian prison, apparently asking Eisenhelm how the war against the Turks is going.  The letter was written in the April of 1464, and it is signed, 'Wallachia Forever, Vlad III Dracula'."
Kenneth:  "Yes!  I finally got Dracula's autograph!"
--Mr. Chalk's noble quest comes to a triumphant end.


Then we tried Wraith: The Oblivion for a while, though I had my players roll up characters who were ordinary mortals, under the false pretense that it was going to be a Vampire: The Masquerade campaign...


Ben:  "Okay, hold on a minute.  We're still in the prologue, right?  Cat just got shot dead by a douchebag who blamed her for getting him fired, so he came back to the office and went postal.  Zack got drained to a husk by vampires, Kenneth got sliced in half by a guywire that got wrapped around a cement mixer, and now my Challenger's speeding towards the edge of a cliff, with no brakes, my seatbelt's stuck and I'm buckled in for the ride."
Me:  "Yeah, pretty much."
Ben:  "What is this?  Final Destination: The Game?"
--Ben hasn't grasped the premise yet.  Wink


Me:  [lowering my head, pausing, sighing a heavy sigh and trying to act all mournful]  "By the cruel whims of fate and tragedy, all of you..."  [pause for gravitas]  "...have died."
(I pause, still hanging my head low, while my trusting players fidget, sigh or remain silent.  When I figure that the pregnant pause has been long enough, I take the binder clips off my Storyteller Screen, toss them aside and, for my masterstroke, lift the Vampire: The Masquerade screen away, revealing my Wraith: The Oblivion screen right behind it...much to their alarm.)
Me:  "...and that's only the beginning."
Ben:  "Oh, shit on a pogo stick."
--The curtain finally drops.


Me (as Walter the Ferryman, bringing the PCs across the Tempest in a cramped old bass boat):  "Now, your Deathmarks are the remnants of the way you left the world, the scars of death on your Corpus.  You'll see many of them down here, and it'll be pretty unsettling at first.  But after the first couple of decades, Deathmarks'll be just another way of telling people apart.  Blond, brunet, redhead, grayhaired, bald.  Black, white, Hispanic, Oriental.  Brown eyes, blue eyes, hazel eyes, gray eyes.  Young, middle-aged, old."  [pauses, nodding slowly]  "Shot, stabbed, burned, hanged, crushed, drowned, frozen, electrocuted."  [focuses on Ben...or, rather, Ben's character Damian, pointing at the steering wheel embedded in his chest]  "Let me guess: Bad car wreck."
Ben (as Damian):  "Really bad car wreck.  Went off a cliff."
Me (as Walter):  "Guess you should have slowed down."
Ben (as Damian):  "I had no fucking brakes!"
--Walter gives us the skinny about Deathmarks.


Kenneth (playing Damian's Shadow):  "You're a failure.  Your mother never loved you.  And by the way, you were adopted."
Ben (as Damian):  "Shut up.  You're a dick."
Kenneth (as Damian's Shadow):  "Also, you always got picked last for Tee Ball teams.  Know why?  Because you suck at everything!"
Ben (as Damian):  "I bet I don't suck at kicking your ass!"
Kenneth (as his Shadow):  "Good luck with that.  I'm inside your head!  I'm inside your little pointy head!  Now do as I say!"
Ben (as Damian):  "Nope.  Not gonna listen to you."
Kenneth (as his Shadow):  "...I'm inside your head!"
--Kenneth made a lousy Shadow.


Ben (as Damian):  "Eww!  That thing's been inside your uterus!  Stop hitting me with it!"
--Damian being attacked by the spectre of a teenager who died from a botched back-alley abortion.  Her Dark Relic (and weapon of choice) was not pretty.


Cat (as Serena):  "'We should get out of here.  Didn't Walter say something about spectres having some kind of hive-mind?'"
Kenneth (as Hoagie):  "'I'm sure we have time to grab a few things first.'  Okay, [Me], what did those spectres have?"
Me:  "You pick through the sifting piles of black ashes and dust.  Damian finds two Oboli where the hitchhiker-looking spectre fell, and Wade finds another Obolus nearby, between the ex-burning arsonist and the ex-pregnant girl.  And, of course, there are the spectres' Relics: The broken pocketwatch, the gasoline can and the monstrous coat hanger, which no longer looks like it's made out of barbed wire.  It's just an ordinary unwound wire coat hanger now...still dripping blood, though."
Ben:  "Eh.  I'll take the gas can.  Maybe it'll come in handy."
Kenneth (as Hoagie):  "Hey, Damian!  That coat hanger did a pretty good job kicking your ass!  You want that too?"
Ben (as Damian):  "Only if I get to hit you with it."
--Divvying the spoils, Wraith style.


Cat:  "So if our Shadows take over temporarily, it's Catharsis.  But if we ever give in to our Shadows and let them take over completely, we become spectres.  Right?"
Me:  "Right.  Shadows can help you every now and then, like feeding you information or making you Hulk out in times of need.  But they're still your dark side given sentience, and they can cause you serious problems and ultimately drag you screaming into Oblivion."
Zack:  "So spectres are like us, only it's like surrendering to the Dark Side of the Force and becoming Darth Vader."
Me:  "...if Darth Vader is constantly raging on PCP, yes."
--Me explaining the differences between wraiths and spectres.


Me:  "Cat?  Okay, Cat.  Calm down.  We're stopping now.  No more Wraith, all right?  We'll play something else."
Ben:  "Well, it was cool, but Wraith is pretty hardcore for some people."
Kenneth:  "Yeah.  Like Call of Cthulhu."
Me:  "Bitch, please.  Call of Cthulhu is what gamers play when they take a break from Wraith: The Oblivion."
[pause a beat while Cat dries her eyes]
Me:  "Hey, Cat.  Wanna play Call of Cthulhu?"
Cat, Kenneth and Zack:  "No!"
--Yeah, Wraith can get pretty heavy...not an RPG for the faint of heart.  Even I got a bit teary-eyed when I was killing off their PCs in the first place, because that was pretty hard for me to do.  Like "George R. R. Martin writing the scene for the Red Wedding" hard on me.  I still enjoyed Wraith, and so did Ben and Kenneth, but we went back to the Supernaturals-versus-Technocracy campaign the week after that.


"Don't split the party" is common gamer advice, but it's too bad that so many gamers feel this way (and that so many Game Masters enforce this idea), because some of the best tabletop times I've had with my players were with that aforementioned Technocracy party, where splitting the party was A) a common occurrence, and B) usually the key to success.  "Okay, we have eight minutes to find this antimatter bomb.  Agent Echoes!  Keep leaning on that desk sergeant we captured; he's bound to know something.  Dolph!  You and Helsen search the power plant; pay particular attention to any reactors you find.  I'm taking Deepwell and Applebot to search the tower from the ground floor up.  Contact me immediately if any of you find anything.  Let's move out!"


And sometimes, splitting the party is done out of necessity.  That Wraith campaign was one such time, since (as Walter the Ferryman explained to the PCs) there are three big factions in Wraith: The Hierarchy (the government over the Dead established by Charon himself waaaaay back when), the Heretics (the religious types who basically believe that God/Goddess/the Gods/whatever--and not other wraiths--should govern the Dead) and the Renegades (the ones who don't want to kowtow to any sort of authority).  There's also Oblivion and all of its little spectres and other monsters, but they don't count because no one in his or her right mind would want to join those guys.  And even though a Circle of wraiths can be comprised of PCs from all three factions*, it's best to not let your faction's bosses know about your friends from the other side of the fence.

*  ...or perhaps all three wraith factions plus Oblivion too.  Wraith's spin-off (Wraith: The Great War) also lets players play Mortwights, the spectres of people who met extremely violent demises.  And rules from the Dark Reflections: Spectres supplement allow players to play even more Castes than that, though the almost perfectly wraithlike Doppelgangers are most recommended for adding a Doctor Smith to your troupe's Robinson family.  The skullduggery, subterfuge and politicking of a Hierarch/Heretic/Renegade/Spectre party probably make for quite a mess.

So Serena (Cat's ex-corporate manager turned Usurer) and Hoagie (Kenneth's ex-construction worker turned Spook) decided to join the Hierarchy, while Damian (Ben's ex-gearhead/street racer turned Harbinger) and Wade (Zack's ex-beat poet/artist/coffee grinder turned vampire food turned Proctor) went Renegade.  So Walter dropped Hoagie and Serena off in Stygia, then dropped Damian and Wade off at some Renegade camp set up at the Shadowlands version of Bunker Hill.  Hoagie was surprisingly well-behaved as he sat down with his and Serena's new boss: Jean-Pierre LaCroix, a spice merchant who got guillotined during the French Revolution.

Ben:  "I like this game!  It's part Final Destination, part The Shining and part Beetlejuice!" (on hearing me describe to Kenneth and Cat how Jean-Pierre just walked into the room carrying his own head, set his head down on his desk and started talking to them through his head on the desk while his body settled into the chair behind his desk, twiddling his thumbs and jotting down notes.)

So Jean-Pierre gave Cat and Kenneth their "Welcome aboard, now prove yourself" quest: Find out what happened to some kid's ghost who stopped hanging around the playground at his old school.  Then Damian and Wade got to meet their new boss, and things didn't go so smoothly:

Me (Storytelling their new Renegade boss, Jakob Baronowski/"Jakob the Jew"):  "So the two bulky Hell's Angels lead you into something resembling an old Army tent, then go back outside and stand watch at the entrance.  After about two minutes, the tent flap on the far side opens, and in shambles a bald man as naked as the day he was born.  He's unsettling to behold, as he's very gaunt and almost skeletal in appearance, with dark eyes deeply sunken into their sockets and skin stretched tight enough for you to make out the fixed joints in his ribs.  Puffs of faint, spectral blue gas drift from his nose and mouth as he stops before you and strains to speak.  'Perhaps you are wondering why you are here....'"
Zack (to Ben):  "Perhaps we are wondering if we should have brought this guy a cheeseburger and a pair of pants!"
Me:  [silently listening, not even bothering to ask them if they're talking IC or OOC, because it's an established rule at my table that, if I'm talking IC, you shouldn't talk OOC without giving me a heads-up first.]
Ben (to Zack):  "You can count his ribs.  Better make it a dozen cheeseburgers."
Zack (to Ben):  "Or a hundred."
Me (as Jakob, raising my voice and leaning over my screen):  "I died at Auschwitz."  Evil or Very Mad
Zack:  "Oh."
[Zack and I stare awkwardly at each other for a few seconds.]
Zack (as Wade):  "Shutting up now."
Me (as Jakob):  "Thank you."


So it turned out that Jakob was an old Polish rabbi who died like he said he died, but he figured that the dybbuk weren't doing enough to depose the Deathlords, tear down the Hierarchy and replace it with some better form of government, so he left the Dark Kingdom of Wire, joined the Renegades and worked his way up to become one of the local underbosses after a few decades.  I used to live down the road from an old Polish lady back in St. Louis, so I can do a fairly decent Polish accent (like I did for Jakob).  So anyway, Jakob gave Damian and Wade their "Hello" quest:  "We've heard about a Nihil opening up in such-and-such location west of Buffalo, New York.  Go there, come back and tell me what you found."  Yadda yadda.

So Serena and Hoagie got a boat to the ruins of the Saint Louis Arch (since almost everything in the Shadowlands is an old, crumbling version of what it is in the Skinlands), while Damian and Wade drove there using Damian's Dodge Challenger and a bit of Argos.  So they all met up again, talked about their errands and decided to take care of the Hierarchy quest first.  They found that a bunch of Striplings had come to the playground and tormented the boy's ghost until he became a Stripling too, so they took out a few of the Striplings (including the boy himself) and ran away from the rest, because a playground full of evil little kids is creepy as hell.  Then they went to find the Nihil.

Ben (as Damian, getting out of his car):  "I bet he's sending us into some God-awful deathtrap, because you couldn't keep your mouth shut about cheeseburgers!"
Zack (as Wade):  "Hey!  You were a part of it too, you know!"

So they didn't find any Nihils there, but they did find a few Tindelhounds (who only appear in the Shadowlands after a Nihil opens up and spits them out).  So the four of them went back to the Arch and went their separate ways to report back in with their successes.  Of course, I had to remind Ben and Zack that they had already gotten off on the wrong foot with their new boss....

Me (as Jakob):  "So...did you find any evidence of a Nihil opening?"  [leaning over my screen and glaring at Zack again]  "Or are you just here to give me a hundred cheeseburgers?"

I like tormenting dumb players.  Apparently, so did Cat.  Wink

Cat (as Wade's Shadow):  "Hey, Wade!  I dare you to walk up to Jakob and kick him!  I bet he breaks right in half!"
Zack (as Wade):  "No way in hell!  I'd get my ass beat!"
Cat (as Wade's Shadow):  "Whatever.  You wanna do it and you know it!"
[even though dialogue between wraiths and their Shadows is usually internal, Jakob, being an old rabbi, happens to be a Pardoner (which is how he survived living so close to the colossal permanent Nihil at Auschwitz-Birkenau for so long).  And wraiths with a rank or two in Castigate can tell when a wraith and his Shadow are at odds with each other....]
Me (as Jakob):  "Is there a problem, Mister MacGrath?"
Zack (as Wade):  "Yeah, my Shadow's telling me that I should run up and kick you right now."
Me (as Jakob):  "I see.  That would be a...very unfortunate thing for you to do."
Zack (as Wade):  "I figured.  That's why I'm telling my Shadow to piss off now."  (then to Cat):  "Piss off!"


Anyway, splitting the party can be fun, so you should definitely split the party at every opportunity.  Later, I might chatter about my friend Rachel's Vampire campaign, my Assamite and how we split the party for great justice there too!


So what memorable times have you had at the game table?  Smile
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Spirit of the Tiger
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PostSubject: Re: Memory Lane: Tabletop RPGs   Sat Jun 17, 2017 8:15 am

Very funny stories, but in my opinion you forget to mention one of the most humorous aspects of the Marvel Villains Campaign.  You correctly mentioned Whodunit's Mystique like power, but you forgot to mention his other power which was mutant detection.  Now that power sounds cool on the surface except that the two people he hung out with most were a guy with four arms and a little guy with a tail.  

I remember it being used something like this.
Drakon (as Whodunit) strolling through the park on a warm sunny day ,when all of a sudden his mutant detection power goes off.
Whodunit (with a surprised look on his face): "Look everybody that guy over there with four arms. HES A MUTANT!!!"
Me (as Mr. Four Armed Bad Guy):  Points all four arms at himself and says, "Not Me."
Whodunit:  "And that short fuzzy guy over there with the tail.  HE A MUTANT TOO!!!!!   THEY'RE EVERYWHERE!!!!"
Multiple people standing around with a, is this guy serious, look on their faces.
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PostSubject: Re: Memory Lane: Tabletop RPGs   Sat Jun 17, 2017 6:14 pm

Oh, yeah!  I did forget about Whodunit? having Mutant Detection, didn't I?  He just happened to hang out with a couple of freaky-looking Mutants (and occasionally -- whenever Robert's pride would allow him to play a big, beefy moron -- Blockhead, who was an Altered Human if I recall).  Very Happy

I never did figure out how useful or practical that power would be.  I guess it would come in handy if a normal-looking mutant like Professor X (or, yes, Mystique when she's all morphed out) was trying to sneak up on him, but it wouldn't do diddly-jack for getting the drop on anyone else...Techies, Altered Humans, friggin' Aliens...even your ordinary Joe Schmoe rank-and-file ninjas and Green Berets could sneak up and tap him on the shoulder, huh?  Razz

On the other hand, "Hey, Bad Guy!  See that section of wall that I'm pointing at?  Magneto's lurking behind it.  Shoot him with the cannon.  Yeah, the big, gigantic one made out of plastic.  It'll blow through the wall, right?"  I could see something like that happening.

(Yeah, I know.  Mutant Detection is in the game because of Bolivar Trask and all the other neo-fascist witch hunters who dedicate all their time and energy to hunting the mutants among us in the comic books.  It still doesn't explain why Trask would create the Sentinels to hunt down some weird little girl whose mutant power is conjuring butterflies from her hands, when non-mutants like the Hulk and the Abomination end up leveling entire city blocks every time one of them knocks over the other guy's beer.  But whatever.  Trask is an idiot in denial.)

So what do you think of Whodunit? and his crappy Mutie Sense superpower, Drak?  Very Happy
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