Tuesday, August 27, 2013

SUETHULU: Shutting Down Darya

SUETHULU: Shutting Down Darya

Darya was not as easy to break as Ian, just because there was no subsystem only she used. She was our combat specialist, and any change to the combat system might impair the Tagers.

Marty tried, though. He'd throw random action penalties at her for reloading: "two actions to get the clip out, one to insert it, another to draw the bolt back." He'd randomly determine the effective radius of heavy guns based on "the environment being less conducive to explosions." Remember that, everyone: fog makes fragmentation grenades useless, reducing the effective radius by a decimal order of magnitude. However, this alone wasn't nearly enough; as long as guns worked, she'd shoot them happily.

Now, the reason she could carry around heavy weapons was that she was now a member of Blackspire, and we had been assured they had the authority to get whatever they wanted from any other branch of the NEG, no questions asked. Apparently this initial description was rather exaggerated, largely because the NEG no longer conducts "heavily manned warfare."


"Mecha revolutionized warfare. Instead of big squads of cannon fodder, there are just a few elite pilots. With self-repairing, self-fueling, self-maintaining mecha as the basic unit of warfare, human-scale weaponry just isn't needed, especially when the police are all in powered armor." I think I can explain this. Marty participated in NJROTC in high school, the naval junior officers reserve training corps; for our non-American readers, the JROTCs function as a workaround to the stipulation that our armed forces can't recruit minors by "facilitating recruitment". One of their stated functions, to quote Cadet Command Policy Memorandum 50, is "to sell the Army story." Somewhere along the line, Marty was under the impression that rather than an advert it's an accurate representation of military service, "which is mostly drilling and button polishing" -- and in Marty's calculus that makes most military servicepersons superfluous.

At the same time, you have people like me asking if the party can be assigned (under some fiction of being liaisons) to one of the NEG battlecruisers, because we could relatively easily hide the energy output from our research in a floating city of 3.5 thousand conveniently designed to defend itself from threats within and without. It'd be obvious to people onboard, but we can handle that; we are good at people. I liked the smirk Jin gave at that. His response was inspired: "They're desperately trying to get away from that for precisely that reason; people are the weak link. The Victory is famous for being entirely automated down to the nanorepair units, other than the command crew and the mecha pilots -- all of whom are far too high in rank to be corrupted. You aren't getting your hands on it, by the way; it's in dry dock right now behind yards and yards of nanoconcrete hangar covered in seismometers and laser tripwires, and anyway the A-pods are protected by literally unbreakable codes, as are the personnel doors, and there's a ten-minute delay built into the doors so no one can get in without base security knowing about it. So whatever you want the ship for, forget it." Well, since you so obviously want us to have it, can we poke the nanites, start them eating the ship because the NEG RIAA are insane, and then futz with things while everyone is running around screaming? "No. Copy protection is for civvies; the NEG isn't going to put up with that crap. All the nanites are totally unhackable unless you physically change the master blueprints from the bridge, and that system isn't accessible from outside the ship. In fact none of the systems are; everything but communications and sensors is totally separate to make it completely hacker-proof. The people are mostly there to bridge the gaps between consoles; one man, sufficiently fast, could run the whole ship. " Bear in mind I'd never wanted to steal it. Marty is just that paranoid; he's willing to erase a 3500-man crew and replace it with nonsense just so we don't think we can get a cool ship. Three guesses who is "sufficiently fast".

So that, readers, is the kind of military we're dealing with, and the reason Darya couldn't get anything fun. There are no crews, no troops, and no human-scale weapons anymore. All the fancy weapons in the book are "mostly antiques and for idiot rednecks in the boonies." Aw, I always wanted a hillbilly rocket launcher, and so did Darya. Nope, Blackspire's extremely limited supply of heavy ordnance is doled out only after a nightmare snarl of waiting periods and forms, and then only "in direct support of your mission objectives." The mission objectives we don't know about. Have I mentioned yet how much Marty loves obstructive bureaucracy? He will actually try to make you fill out forms. For a game. He will imply your character is doing more forms. He will hand you back forms you have filled out incorrectly and make you redo them. FOR A GAME.

Marty: because anyone can run a fun game, but it takes a real genius to look at anime mecha cthulhu funland and ask if you've properly filled out your TPS reports. "If you want to try to scam the NEG's best special forces out of their stuff, you'll at least do it by the book." WHAT SCAM, MARTY?! This isn't a con, this is legitimate use of equipment by authorized personnel! This is literally why we have that hardware. Our bosses give us weapons, we go and shoot monsters with weapons. When the weapons don't work, we tell our bosses that, and they give us bigger weapons. I know I'd flog them onto the first criminal I could find, but at least have the decency to recognize Darya is making a perfectly valid request.

Eventually he lets her have a sniper rifle. We wanted an antimateriel rifle, since Dhohanoids shrug off bullets, but apparently "[they're] worried about collateral damage, given the usual tenor of your operations." Well of course they are. That's why we need the guns: directed explosions are better than undirected explosions for obvious reasons. Instead of that, we get told things about "calculated risks" and our best combat agent gets a long-range weapon for urban fighting. A long-range weapon that Marty "always felt did a ludicrous amount of damage" and was therefore depowered down barely better than a heavy pistol. You know, for realism. See, Marty noted that "at their normal ranges, heavy pistols and sniper rifles put about the same amount of energy into the target, so they should do equivalent damage." Naturally, the question of where the sniper is aiming did not come into play, nor did that whole sentence being a blatant generalization and logically inconsistent. Without going into gun nut territory (and please, if you must debate this in the comments, do so with some dignity) there is a fairly wide range of conversion efficiencies between projectile kinetic energy and target tissue disruption, which nicely aggravates existing issues with hit points. This is why terminal ballistics is its own field. Nonetheless, sniper rifles are really long pistols. So saith Marty; so it is.

So Darya had her sniper pistol, and there wasn't much else he could take; he'd gotten Darya to sign so many forms to keep existing weapons that her player didn't even notice it anymore. The rest of us had to do as much, too, "in order to register [our] weapons' ballistic profiles so they can exercise discretion in permitting external investigations into your activities." That's just lovely. Let's just paint a target on our butts in case our bosses feel like letting anyone else shoot. Note, again, chronic hedging. We MIGHT get burned at any time, if they feel like exercising discretion. More control, more stultifying insistence that we are nothing, more trying to jerk us around on a string.

Par for the course, really, but at this point Darya's player was too busy to really react. She did, however, make good use of that sniper rifle.

Monday, August 26, 2013


And now the chronology gets confused. See, we didn't play for a period of about a month; Marty kept cancelling at the last minute. To be fair, spring break happened right in the middle, but we used to use spring break as an excuse to run a longer-than-usual session. Not so this time. He offered a lot of excuses, but on reflection, I think the real reason was the obvious one:

He desperately needed to shut us down, and he couldn't do it to us all at once. We were too quick and worked together too well. In actual play, we could take anything. He'd try to break our latest plan, someone would turn it into a joke, and we'd all laugh and come back even more enthusiastic. We'd bounce ideas off each other, cover for each other...he could stop us succeeding, but he couldn't stop us trying, and there was a lot we could do with failures.

Given that, I'm going to be splitting this bit up into each of us four, and how Marty labored diligently during the interim to make sure we could do nothing.

Magic Ian:

He started with Ian, since he could do that purely by rules. Marty had already nerfed Ian beyond belief with the nonsense about an enchanter's thurible. (Crucible, Marty. It's a crucible.) Without it, all magical research and enchantent are at a -10 penalty. In a d20 system. Making one was around a DC 35 check (at first)...that also took the -10 penalty. It's like asking for the origin of the first anvil in Dwarf Fortress, except we don't have strange moods. He also refused to admit the near-certain existence of less effective, less impossibly advanced hardware with which previous mages presumably developed thuribles. So he's got a -50% penalty already, but that isn't nearly enough. We need the spell treadmill, too.

In theory, there are spell levels in SUE System casting, just as there are in D&D, and the idea was that they were roughly equivalent. Magic Missile should be a first-level spell, for example. In practice, anything first- level he actually wanted was "more a second-level spell, really." Marty, apparently, had "always felt that particular spell was overpowered for a first-level spell" whatever spell it might be. He never wanted to simply admit he didn't want Ian casting spells, oh no; it was always just bad luck that he kept wanting the broken spells. We asked, once, what spells were at the correct level. Apparently it varies on a "case-by-case basis." Meaning, of course,Sephiroth Cullen!Marty gets everything and the PCs can humbly beg to be allowed to cast something as game-breaking as Light.

Incidentally, his phrasing was carefully calculated to piss us right the hell off. He didn't veer into euphemism too much on magic, but he loved corporate jargon almost as much as legalese, since it let him say less with more words and felt official. I know I've harped on this before, but it got so much worse where Ian was concerned. His magic system was totally arbitrary, and that let him pad everything with vagueness. Things were "closer to" spell levels; effects were "more in line with" one skill or another. Not only was this obfuscatory, it just took too damn long. I'm used to DMing being a hectic, rapid process; four people are talking to you at once and expecting simultaneous answers. Conciseness is important, as is clarity of expression. Obviously I don't hold to this in my handouts, but at least for actual DMing I try to answer questions as quickly and completely as possible so people aren't waiting on me. Marty, on the other hand, delighted in pauses to think and long, convoluted caveats. He had a phobia of certainty; he would do well in public office.

Even so, Ian persevered, and sometimes he could make even the level+1 spell work. Then came stage two: the lesser-greater shell game. If the original spell was level N, level N+1 was the Lesser version. Lesser could mean many things, but it usually meant that whatever he wanted it for wasn't something it could do. In a dark parody of many point-buy systems, "a limitation that doesn't limit you doesn't count." Rather than implement that intelligently, Marty would just nerf-bat everything: Lesser spells got a reverse Empower, knocking all the numbers down 50%, and then ad hoc penalties on top of that. The normal versions got some random array of nerfs, and finally "Greater" whatever was like D&D. Now, on top of that, you had the adjustment for the setting. Ian had arcane magic; it worked "just like any other." But the setting didn't support arcane magic, so we had a penalty of Whatever the Hell Marty Feels Like. I asked, once, why he had all the penalties spread out, instead of just one sum total, while he was trying to teach me how to DM.

"I learned it from banks. See, if you just have one big penalty, people have sticker shock and don't want to try. If you keep adding up little bits, they won't notice and you can make the penalty as high as you want."
Marty, if you haven't grasped it yet, is pure evil. Emulating banks...some things you just don't do! But seriously, any plan that hinges on a bunch of engineers not comprehending basic arithmetic is indicative of a fatal lack of pattern recognition.

At any rate, he could get a few actual spells. Attack spells were more favorably recieved than noncombat magic -- but they "really just did damage" as soon as we applied creativity. Gamma ray hand lasers yes, VACIS no. Fireball couldn't even light fires. Power tricks, Marty, you insufferable sleazebag: let us have them! Spells dealing with information were even more heavily restricted. We considered, for example, magic RSA (Mostly for MRSA jokes) in order to protect our communications: Instant, vociferous denial as soon as he learned what public key encryption is. I will get to how Marty thinks encryption works later, though.

So that was spells. Enchantments suffered even more from the lack of a thurible, and even the most basic things would have taken months. A +1-only-to-hit reflex sight for Darya, for example, was months away; all we asked for was something that automagically computed wind effects and bullet drop to the target and skewed its dot accordingly. Sadly, we could not take Bigby's Windage.

Actually, the scope fell prey to the other sword of Damocles: technology. "Magic wasn't made with technology in mind so it's less effective in dealing with it." Invisibility, for example, might not work on cameras; stone to flesh might fail on concrete. I have no earthly idea why. You'd think it would make some kind of hamburger, come to think of it. There's no logical sense to it, of course. Invisibility explicitly bent photons around the target. That was itself weird (especially since it didn't make the target blind), but if it's what we're going with nothing based on electromagnetic radiation should detect us. Of course, that deficiency could always be repaired...with more spell research and a bigger penalty.

Ian was, if I recall correctly, never happy with any of his spells. He couldn't be; all improvement was asymptotic with respect to standard. Marty "believed strongly in meeting [his players] halfway": halfway to whatever they wanted, and then half again, and then half of that, et cetera. Always with that smile of his, like he's just doing you such a big favor to even get you this much. The costs, though, those didn't go halfway. Those just went up and up and up. It's the tenth time he's let you work on the spell, after all.

So that was Ian. He had a magic gun that fired spells, but no way to reload it. He had the ability to invent spells, but astronomical penalties to trying. He could remove those penalties if he could soak them and had time. And through it all, Marty was there, condescending to dangle some new tidbit of effectiveness in return for ever more XP and time. Pavlov would have appreciated the method. Keep the mage jumping for smaller and smaller treats, and eventually he'll jump for nothing at all.

If you were wondering why I never bothered being a better parapsychic, this was why. Marty's magic sucked so hard you could levitate by casting upwards. Of course, he never admitted it; according to him, magic was potent and impressive "when used properly and without constantly trying to bend the rules." Fireball, you see, bends the rules of magic beyond what they're intended to do. Fun Marty trivia: We never got told what we SHOULD do, or what properly meant. "That would be gamist and unrealistic. You don't just arbitrarily know what to do."
Without the magic he was promised, Ian was mostly our cleric; healing he could do, sometimes, without dying, and so he tended to patch us up. It was that and waiting on spell research. It really sucked, too, given how much more of a help he wanted to be, but at least he was invaluable in tactical planning. He's a good sounding board, and I think he enjoyed running through the plans for flaws.

Friday, August 23, 2013

SUETHULU: We Had Ideas

nd now...we open the box!

Seriously, first thing we did after the night gaunt and random death thing was pop open the box and look inside. We find a dagger, and I am informed that Yog-Sothoth calls and says it's the Eye of the Mahdi.

Yes, that Mahdi.

On the one hand, I'm impressed with his diligence in finding ever more messiah figures to absorb. On the other...Marty, everyone. Who needs cultural sensitivty when you've got ego?

Once we get it out, we learn that it is not, in fact, all that real of a dagger. It's a little jewelry dagger on a chain, made of "unknown, silvery metal" with two ribbons on the extended crossguard. On the ribbons were two short phrases in Marty's made-up font. We didn't translate them until later, but they read as such:

"Peace through Prosperity."
"Prosperity through Order."

Now, I'm not a political scientist, but this sounds just a touch totalitarian to me, not to mention plutocratic. This kind of reminds me of how my parents raised my sibling and I: the objective is not justice or fairness, but silence. Marty, though, adds a whole new dimension of classist tomfoolery by believing economic prosperity ensures peace. As we all know, only poor folks are ever unhappy with their government. That's why lobbyists went extinct.

Regardless, we didn't have the ribbons translated, but we did have this dagger thing. I wanted to find out what it was made of. Thus did we dive into Hell.

I wanted, first off, to mass spec the thing and see if it had enough carbon for radiometric dating so we could possibly find out if it was really old. That was more or less how I phrased the request: can we [do this cool science thing] to learn [this] -- and I do this partially to stop myself from leading my GM down a blind alley with analytical science. As much as I despise movie forensics, where one photogenic technician poking a roomful of blue-lit machinery can do the work of six people and read the murderer's hometown off of his shoelaces, I do like how it effectively turns objects into plot hooks, and I try to phrase my requests so that what I'm after at the end is immediately apparent and can be dealt with sans an understanding of the underlying science. If I can learn what I want, great. If the results are inconclusive or will take a while, that's cool too. I try to be specific in what I'm asking, but that doesn't mean I'm trying to befuddle or outsmart the GM. It's just my way of asking for more plot hooks in case we miss the obvious ones.

Not that Marty grasped that; as soon as I asked, his face was a perfect mask of confusion and fear before he started stammering out objections. Cael couldn't know about this. Blackspire didn't have anyone with a lab so equipped and none were for hire. No one made those machines anymore and they'd junked all the old ones. Radioactive material was banned from the NEG. (I don't think Marty knows how radiometric dating works.) On and on and on he went; I didn't mean, at all, to so affect him, but apparently he's petrified of mass spectrometry. Eventually he explained that the NEG had essentially outlawed science outside of the Ashcroft Foundation. There would be no labs available for hire and no "fancy technobabble you pull out of your ass" could solve anything for us. Okay then, home testing time.

We learn, in a nutshell, nothing. Its physical properties are almost totally random, although it is immune to everything. The only reaction we get from it occurs when Ian picks it up. It glows red when it's near an Authyr. We also attempted to distance it from Ian; it appears to return to being around an Authyr's neck.

Three guesses who this is for.

And GM!Marty confirmed it. Not in a straightforward sense, of course; he just did his usual i-can-see-how-you'd-think-that smirk and pointed out that we didn't know who Marty actually was. That was all the confirmation we needed.

Another problem emerged: Darya, actually, pointed out that it is called the EYE of the Mahdi. Eyes see things. We have an surveillance device of unknown purpose irremovably secured to the neck of our mage. Naturally, our first thought is that the Tagers clearly knew something about this (having confirmed that neither we nor the Internet do), so we ring up their Operator and try to arrange a meeting.

What we asked for was to speak to Phil, their Lorekeeper; I proposed sending or handing them a file to read and pass on to him detailing what we knew and having him see if he could make sense of it. We knew from Marty's description of what Lorekeepers do that they take security very seriously and don't often come out into the field. I had hoped that might be sufficiently secure. It was not. We were categorically denied any way to communicate with the person whose job it is to know things. Apparently even this sort of supervised, chaperoned penpalship was simply out of the question.

Failing that, then, we managed to arrange to meet with the Operator and those pack members who would be free that day. Toby's is a wreck "that the OIS is going over with a fine-toothed comb."  We ask if we can meet somewhere a bit more surreptitious and without drunken crowds.

Park? There are "kinda like lawns, but nothing with trees." Abandoned buildings are all watched carefully by the OIS. Our apartments are "almost certainly bugged." The Tagers don't trust us enough to suggest a meeting outside the arcology. Hotel rooms are totally not safe, and we can't rent a conference room. Apparently "real businesses have their own buildings and small-timers just deal with it." Finally he says we can find a coffee shop. I guess we're meeting there then, fellows.

That night, I did the vision thing, this time holding the Eye in my hand during the process. It...helped. Four pages this time, sadly lost to a hard drive crash, but as usual only one paragraph mattered. Some "eyeless old crone" sitting in front of a hologram and telling someone unseen that "what happened in Nanjing was only a test. We need the Eye for full implementation. Retrieve it by any means necessary."

What followed was interesting. Nery's already sitting in a booth when we get there. I don't want coffee, so I sit and talk with her while the rest of them are getting their immense vats of coffee and donuts. As an aside, Marty ran the barista as a completely incompetent, catatonically lazy imbecile, because respect for people in service industries is just so passe.

Anyway, I took the opportunity to quickly lay out the issues. I phrased it like this:

"Here's what we need:
1. We know next to nothing about the dhohanoids. Anything you can tell us regarding their physiology could be invaluable in devising some kind of test.
2. We know absolutely nothing about you guys. I know you're probably loath to divulge information on your weaknesses, but if you have anything to distinguish you from normal humans, we can have our analysts ignore that so we can stop bothering you.
3. We found this thing, the Eye of the Mahdi. If Phil can run it through your archives, we desperately need anything you have on it.
4. Whatever happened in Nanjing may recur in the future on a larger scale if the Children recover the Eye. If there's any reference to a ritual involving the Eye, we'd like to see if we can pinpoint its preparations being made."

The above was enough to send Nery into catatonic shock from which she cannot recover without "months of therapy." She was trying to stuff an entire pack of cigarettes into her mouth by the time the Tagers separated us. I offered to Suggest that "it's not that bad and we need you with us on this one" but apparently I'm never allowed to speak to her again.

Admittedly, I'm not the most socially careful person. I tend to be extremely blunt, so if the above is like a verbal slap to the face I missed it. On the other hand, though, Nery seemed like a seriously capable woman. She fought side by side with Tagers, for goodness' sakes, and took Dhohanoid lasers without crumpling. A status report should not send her weeping into the fetal position.

Still,it did, which means instead of Nery we get one of the packlings grouching at us about how to identify dhohanoids. This took hours, because he insisted that we couldn't just read about them and he had nothing prepared, so we just kind of looped over the same bits of information ad nauseam. We made dhohanoid flash cards OoC to pass the time while he rambled in this bizarre accent/tone of voice. It missed gravelly by miles and went into Bad Dick Cheney Impression.

What we got was a classic GM!Marty infodump: long and guaranteed to be full of information and simultaneously useless. He told us what the different types were, and that's great, and he mentioned their different special qualities, but we needed base qualities. Yes, great, this kind is slightly faster than the norm...but what is the norm? Any questions on that point were dismissed with an indignant "lemme finish."

Finally we're allowed to go. He knows nothing of the Eye or any ritual, and he "might" pass the query on to Phil. Of the Tagers he will say absolutely nothing. Apparently Nery is the only one who trusted us. "This [was] a watershed moment" in a very poorly constructed watershed. We concluded the meeting and tried plan B: we needed a way to study this thing with real instruments, and we needed a way to keep the Eye, and therefore Ian, away from Chrysalis' ability to detect it. Conveniently, Ian apparently could handle being mystically undetectable, so we had to worry about figuring out a skunkworks undetectable by the single most powerful cult/corporation in the world.

And Blackspire, our alleged bosses, wouldn't help at all.

Er...what, Marty?

This was the beginning of our difficulties with our bosses. Apparently this was "a self-determined side-mission" irrelevant to our actual goal of securing the Tagers' cooperation. I was puzzled at this, since they clearly care about it and we need each others' resources to figure it out before we're both in for it. Apparently reacting to new developments is outside our mission parameters -- and when I asked, I'm "technically not GIA, so I can't see classified documents." Grr. Then again, the actual Blackspire members couldn't either.

At the same time, it turns out Blackspire doesn't actually have that much. Their entire staff, which covers the whole world, is fifty people, and they have a single facility. They maintain no scientific equipment whatsoever and have no archives. "They're police and spies, not scientists." Similarly, there is no lab space or equipment for rent anywhere at any price. Apparently universities no longer do science, corporate labs don't exist anymore, and the government outsources everything to the Ashcroft foundation -- and they will utterly refuse to help us.

This was the point where we effectively stopped being Blackspire agents. I mean, we weren't being paid and were flatly ignoring our (lack of) orders. The  Tagers needed us to have a way to differentiate Dhohanoid from human from Tager, and we wouldn't have tried this if a little thing like absolutely no support was going to stop us.

Jin was looking at the problem from a social perspective. Our enemies were using a colossal megacorp to hide among the human population, so if we could start competing with and absorbing their assets we could limit their support structure. He's also an Erfworld fan, so we got to listen to his plans to found Charlescorp. It was ambitious; a carefully calculated program of weaponized economics that would hand us a third of the world's GDP within ten years, assuming we could find a way to destroy, disrupt, and generally play merry hell with their operations on a small scale. I'd say more, but it was shot down so fast I never got a chance to learn more.

At the same time, I was looking at it from a scientific point of view. We needed to hide a reasonably sized lab and life support for at least a few people, and we needed to mask a heck of an energy signature. Fixed facilites were out. We could buy one, but the Cult would track it "within days." Apparently they have a network of spy satellites that the Migou couldn't find and they can detect anything on or above the surface of the earth. We can't drill without them detecting it via seismograph, and "they've got orbital IR scans so sensitive they can see individual maggots on a bit of roadkill." Fine, say I, and I start sketching a very upscaled version of a UROV I built in high school. If the cartels can hide tons of cocaine underwater, I can hide a few guys and a mini machine shop.

My thinking ran like this: two of the major engineering challenges with a submarine are power and movement. If you let it sit on the seafloor, you don't need neutral bouyancy so you can devote much less space to ballast tanks without needing a vertical powered drive; if you have an emissionless infinite energy source, power is not a concern. So I figured out, in essence, a watertight legged tank covered in next-gen anechoic paneling and powered by banks of large D-cells that doubled as ballast. (D-engines were vetoed.) Picture a jet-black, lumpy, angular Kabuto about a third the size of a Landkreuzer Ratte and filled with lab equipment, crawling over the bottom of Lake Michigan-Huron. Very few of the parts were actually novel; I wanted to repurpose mecha parts, since Blackspire had access to mecha and the legs are watertight anyway. We'd just run a charter fishing service out of a surface vessel with a moon pool and surreptitiously drop a bathysphere and power cable along with the anchor, always in a different place to throw off anyone trying to track us; I assumed 5% efficiency on the legs, so we'd only need recharging every month or so anyway. Move slowly enough and you're just a bump on a seafloor full of debris anyway -- and apparently the Cult rarely ran active sonar sweeps of the lake, so we'd be in the only place they couldn't see us with all the power and lab supplies we could want. It'd be a cool little mini-quest to put together, at least; I suggested dropping a nanofabrication suite stuffed inside automated power armor on one of the wrecks.

In retrospect, we should not have suggested these two ideas almost simultaneously -- and I should probably not have tried to estimate the thing's sonar return after CADding it together. Hey, I was bored waiting on my cells. He spent about an hour detailing how Charlescorp was impossible, because "everyone already gets what they need from existing companies selling at the lowest price physically possible." I ask about, say, trees, or lab equipment. "No demand for those whatsoever. If there was, someone would already be selling them." We, of course, do not count as demand; there is no one else in the entire world who needs centrifuges or pipettes or anything. Freaking hell. At the same time, we can't innovate and make something trivially better, like "the Iphone 40,000" proposed by Darya. Apparently "innovation needs tons of capital and an existing corporate structure." Wonderful. Garage labs are a passing fad, apparently.

My idea for a secure facility was "cutesy but impractical." Sure the engineering is sketchy, but I thought it was feasible in concept. Ah, but. It's impossible, he says, to hide any 3d shape from sonar, even if we did what I wanted and hid in the wrecks like a little hermit crab. It's equally impossible to electroylze breathable oxygen out of freshwater, or distill drinking water, or exhaust CO2 with some kind of swingbed desorbing it into the water. I didn't know CO2 was "totally insoluble in water", Marty. Funny thing: he never got to the part where he said Cael couldn't do anything like that. He just kept going with how such a device was totally impossible, regardless of what mecha implied about our ability to put together topologically complex pressure hulls. Metal alone could get us to 100m; I expected nanofabricated materials to handle it easily.

Apparently nanotech is the most controlled technology in the NEG outside of microfuge tubes and smoke detectors. We got a long, long earful. The nanofabricators cannot be opened, moved, accessed by unapproved devices or unplugged without self-frying. This is built inextricably into the technology itself; the NEG invested heavily to make sure this type of nanofabrication was "the best one." The state-enforced monopoly is absolute. Unlicensed nanofabrication is high treason. Further, the schematics for nanofabricators are "encrypted." I pointed out that at some point someone has to decrypt them to use them. "Nuh uh the encryption is flawless." But...but...

And that was that. "I'm okay with you guys trying this stuff, but not when it's so ridiculous."

Monday, August 19, 2013

Not SUETHULHU: Marty, the Player

Right. I've been horribly neglectful of the blog; sorry for that, lab's been a bit of a bear. I'm weeks behind on everything, etc. etc. I've also been meaning to do this for a while: Marty as a Player. Hooray for pitiful time management skills. Incidentally, this has spoilers concerning a fairly central aspect of Deadlands, but it doesn't really wreck the plot if you know it. If you don't know what "Harrowed" are, you will sort of by the end of this.

Honestly, he's hard to place. I've had much, much worse powergamers, albeit very respectful ones who would only ever ask to play Pun-Pun once. There was one guy who was almost scripted; every time he'd ask he'd keep explaining in this ceaseless torrent of words how theoretically optimized it was until everyone else was crying with boredom. Marty never did that.

He did, however, insist on being the best blaster -- and I mean that literally. Marty only ever played one type of character, mechanically speaking: he wants a big damn gun that never runs out of ammo, he wants to sit in one place firing it until all the bad guys die, and he wants everyone else to take care of the other combat-related tasks. Everything he does mechanically is related to being the best at that one thing, to the exclusion of basic competence.

This is not ipso facto an unforgivable problem in some campaigns. I just like to nudge my players out of their comfort zones and make them get creative, and Marty usually takes this as a personal affront and reacts by being useless. Loudly useless, with theatrical sighs, eye-rolling, and crossed arms. This isn't just when he can't do anything, mind. This is when he can't be perfectly optimal.

Now, we tried to give him versatile tools. Have an example: He played Ziggy in the Deadlands campaign MM&I is detailing, and one of his things was a magic hat that produced temporary props. (Minor spoilers: he was a Harrowed, and this was his Relic.) Thumb tips, cards (with whatever back and face you wanted), handkerchiefs, bouquets, prop swords, live doves, fireworks, guns loaded with blanks...really, as long as he made his Sleight of Hand/Spirit check he could drag out any of a huge table of things and it'd last about five minutes. I was kind of proud of having come up with it, since it wasn't really useful for combat but was as useful as the user was creative outside -- it also gave the (unknowing) Harrowed a good reason to buy up his Spirit.

(This is irrelevant, but I thought the thing's backstory was cute: young Ziggy pickpocketed the hat off a magician 'cause he was hungry and rabbit is tasty, said magician caught and took pity on him, trained him in (more) sleight of hand, and left him the slightly ratty hat as a parting gift; it only got magic once Ziggy became living-impaired.)

He almost immediately asked if he could pull nitroglycerin out of it, and that was all it was used for from then on, every turn. The same thing happened with his other abilities; the only Harrowed power he ever bought all the way was the one that had fireballs as its capstone. Marty's as monotonous as a dial tone. The other players had, even when everything else was unusable, fists and an indomitable will. Marty just had things to throw.

Now, he at least had the good sense to confine his bragging to those instances where he didn't feel useless -- unless his many immunities came into effect. The biggest mistake of the campaign, aside from including Marty, was making him Harrowed; nothing could happen without him gloating over being immune to it. Drowning? "Harrowed." Toxins? "Harrowed." Fire? "Immune." About the only time he smiled was when everyone else was suffering some hardship to which he was immune -- and then he had this stupid backpfeifengesicht smirk, every time without fail. Oh, aren't I just so clever to be immune to things from campaign start? It wouldn't have minded if he did anything, but usually he'd just sit there chuckling and mentioning how immune he was at every turn-- and no one cared, he knew that, and he kept on making useless noise in a group of ten people.

Of course, the campaign intersected churches time and again, and then Dismissive Marty would come out. See, Marty wasn't content to be a one-trick pony. He had to be the best-trick pony, but not by picking a frequently useful thing. By definition, whatever he was doing was the most important thing; anything he couldn't do, like walk on holy ground, was definitionally trivial, worthy of only a quick grunt of acknowledgement before the story got back to the important bits. Everyone else was at least curious what the rest of the world was doing; Marty couldn't see past his own fireballs.

The exception to the above was a weirdly truncated version of being the party face. Marty didn't want to interview witnesses, coordinate with NPC forces, report to superiors, or really interact with other people. That was all unimportant, non-blasty stuff. However, once someone said "reward", Marty was suddenly a very attentive "party leader".

I hate this. It's one of my biggest pet peeves; I used to troll students who did it in my labs. Launch into a big long explanation, wait until they start playing with their phones, end with "which usually appears on the test" and watch them morph into perfect, smiley little apple-polishers. Twits. They'd turn around so fast papers would flutter. Yes, if you're wondering, I was a horrible TA/high school teacher. I did something similar when I was captain of the academic team in high school. Everyone wanted to be "on the A-team" for college once we'd won so many things, and they'd rush to sit for the yearbook photo to prove it. We had thugs who couldn't spell their own names claiming to be there for "da sports partz." Somehow, only ten people actually competed, but we had fifty "members" listed on the roster come April. I also had marvelous photoshop skills and was dating the yearbook club captain. Petty, yes, but if the parents are petty enough to complain about it, I'm vindictive enough to censor out their lying bastard spawn. Point being, this was as much my fault as Marty's. I just have a massive, bottomless chasm of spite right where he tried to peddle his opportunistic tricycle of puerile greed. You're welcome for that image, by the way.

Now, as you can imagine, his efforts to "negotiate" for as much as possible for "whatever it is we did" did not go well, and he concluded everyone was prejudiced against him. If they were female, they were "misandrist" or worse. If they weren't white, it was obviously "reverse discrimination"...and nearly everyone was "undead-phobic" even after he was insistent no one could possibly tell he was undead. Ironically, he could have plausibly made a case for being discriminated against for being Italian or Catholic in parts of 1870s America, but this never occured to him. He wasn't, of course, but at least the words coming out of his mouth could concievably have made sense. So he usually ended up ignored/laughed at while extant (or, to be charitable, cooler) heads actually dealt with things -- especially since the rest of the party would be happy with someone's savings instead of demanding "whatever else they can raise before we leave wherever we are." Oh, he certainly was every bit the "best negotiator" he claimed to be.

Even this was not the worst of it. The worst of it was the his utter inability to admit weakness. I know no one likes to call themselves weak, but RPGs are based on people having varying strengths. Even so, I could have taken his refusing to admit being useless at noncombat stuff -- but not his fervent denial of what he provably was. To finish spoiling Harrowed: they're formerly dead people posessed by both the original soul and that of a demon providing the animating force in return for periodically controlling the body. They're feared among those who know of them, and rightly so -- they could theoretically fall under the control of a purely evil entity at any time, and even when they're in control of themselves they're prone to depression and existential crises.

Except Marty. He liked being Harrowed; it let him use fireballs. It also let him ghost and phase through solid matter (except ghost rock), which he argued also let him stop falling without damage since "it clearly makes me massless and therefore inertialess until I move, so I must stop moving relative to the ground." Any suggestion that something be contrived to control him when his demonic roommate took over was angrily refused. I could see that for the automated beheading device (not fatal for them), but not for, say, the remote-triggerable fire suppressant grenades. This was someone who could be presented with 3-d audiovisual evidence of him trying to burn innocents to death, refuse to believe he was doing it, and then refuse to admit out of character that Ziggy was delusional. "That's not me. That's someone else who uses my body. Restraining me because of what he does isn't fair." He would even quibble agonizingly over "possessed." It was like his hedging all over again, but defensive and even more stubborn.

Now, I admit, I could have been more selective in targeting his other self's fireballs, but come on, the incorruptible little Blessed child was cripplingly pyrophobic. It didn't help that, long after he decided he was not a loose, happy-go-lucky-con-man Moist von Lipwig expy (with magic!)but a mob boss (he re-wrote his backstory to be "more badass"), his other self insisted on being, well, an evil magician -- and I played him way too creepy. "How about a trick? [hands and eyes ignite] I'll make your skin disappear." Said Blessed even decided that the best way to resolve the conflict was to resurrect him at great personal expense/risk...and Marty threatened to burn her to death if she tried. He knew he wouldn't lose XP; I'd confirmed he'd get it back to re-spend as he liked, because I wanted this over. Nope. He wanted fire. I didn't even plan on him having fire, but here we were.

It only got worse from there. He didn't just like being useless, he gloried in it. I've seen this before, in a particularly odious television announcer who moderated some of our academic team competitions. He needed to wear a wired mic, like all of us -- only he'd make sure to make one of the actual Board of Education people run and get him something once he was "wired in" just because. He's one of the reasons I so dislike people who think they're powerful -- Marty is another. This particular trait of Marty's came to a head after the Fuel Truck Incident.

Hell on Earth, Deadlands' post-apocalyptic setting, has a wonderful fuel called spook juice that is more or less colloidal ghost rock in alcohol. A truck of this delightful substance was barreling down the road at the party. Most of them got off the road, reasoning that the truck probably couldn't stop or meaningfully alter its course on a single-lane road flanked by rocks. Marty stood his ground, and responded to the "attack" like this: "I jump up and ghost into the cabin with my claws extended to catch her in the throat." Do remember that ghosting robs you of inertia.

He took a huge amount of damage from being hit by a chair at 120 kph (and whined about that for days. Marty, a car doesn't stop being a speeding car because you're inside it), and the truck started to careen off the road. Naturally, he ghosts out, more or less motionless relative to a five-meter-long tank of rapidly moving colloidal ghost rock that he can't phase through. I found a squelching sound effect just for the occasion. He was left with his head and an arm, and thereafter would ask "who's carrying me" a hundred times a session. He didn't want to be a cyborg, and he didn't want to regrow his legs. He wanted to be carried. It didn't help that the actual driver was favorably recieved by the party, although she died shortly after.

Then, of course, he pulls another of his stupid ultimatums after he loses control. Picture it -- a visibly undead guy threatening a little girl in the middle of town. "I am in control, I am always in control, and if you suggest otherwise I'm burning you until your bones char, you little bastard." And this was him, not the demon! This after said little girl had just helped exorcise a haunted building to the elated cheers of the townsfolk and was again offering to revive him. Of course I had a takeover happen immediately after he said it; by that point he was so low on Dominion it was almost automatic, and everyone knew it but he wouldn't hear of it.

He should have died then, but they made some amazing rolls to calm down the lynch mob. The mayor and sheriff also owed them several dozen favors, and he did technically help...so he was offered being cyborged, which would restore his body and lock down his demon, along with a full pardon. They'd even give him a disguise system so he could walk around without being lynched. For once, he was reasonable, and accepted rather than being quietly exiled.

He never did anything in the campaign again. Just wandered around on autopilot and reminded everyone how helpful he might have been if "SOMEone" hadn't "taken all his powers away." Oh, yeah, and the crapload of cyborg systems are just paperweights now, Marty? He left the campaign shortly thereafter.

There were other things, but they didn't impact the campaign much. So really, that's Marty as a player.

Don't play with Marty, folks. The stupid, it burns.

Monday, August 12, 2013

SUETHULU: And a Worse GM

It's been pointed out that I left out a lot of Marty's meddling. Here's an attempt to partially rectify that, especially the bits at the bar when I was trying to put together a trap with a GM who doesn't understand how burning works.

First, although this is transcluded so about 90% of my readership can skip it: this whole process involved a lot of dice rolls. Every camera needed five. Every observation needed two or three -- one to see anything and at least one to make sense of it.

Because, really, who hasn't needed to sit and think for a while about the deep significance of where security cameras are pointing? There are, of course, a ton of them, most of them centered on the alcohol store noted on the map in the last post; I only knew about them from poking my head up through the drop ceiling and looking around, and even then I "had no idea where they were pointing."

Minimum competence please, Marty. It's sitting in a corner of the room. Either Toby really likes his wallpaper or it's looking out from that corner. When I point this out, he just gets this smug little smile. "I can see where you'd get that impression."

I hated this so very much. For one thing, it's transparently a cover for his later changes to the setting to thwart me. That map in the last post is what we eventually settled on; for a while, the various rooms would shift in dimensions if not placement, and the walls went from "inches" to "several feet" thick. When I wanted to cut through them, they were impregnable; when I wanted to use them as shields, they were tissue paper.

Beyond that, though it's just so...fiddly. He did this a lot more with me than with the other players, especially this session. I think it's his way of trying to be clever, but there's a reason it's "razor wit" rather than "whiffle bat wit." Literally every other sentence was some kind of smug, ha-ha-isn't-this-clever noncomittal word game that just reeked of incipient technicalities. They'd come back, as well. "I never said [x], I said basically [x]."

He'd overuse "basically" too. I do it, I know, but at least I don't draw it out and start every declarative statement with it. "Baaasically, you can't because..." Well can I maybe know why I really can't?

But his obsession with fiddly language ran far deeper. Take this, for example:

Me: "How much weight can the ceiling tiles support without obviously deforming?"

Marty: "Roll...knowledge: architecture?"


"Okay, how about Engineering?"


"Materials science?"


"You have absolutely no idea."

"Okay, I'll determine it experimentally. I'm going to put a metal bowl from the kitchen in the middle, on top of my little scale thing, and slowly fill it with wat-"

"But then it'll break."

"I'm not filling it to breaking point. I'm putting my laser pointer in a glass on the bar, pointing it up to the tile at an angle, sticking my hand mirror on one side of the tile and marking the dot on the floor. When it moves significantly, the weight's bending the tile and mirror and therefore the light path, yeah? Then I can just read off the weight."

"Science roll even to think of that."


"Okay, fine. Repair, Engineering, Stealth, raw Dex."

<i pass them all>

"Okay, you get the bowl, laser, mirror, and water in place. The dot quivers when you add water."

"Is it moved from my mark?"

"It's quivering."

"Right, but can I tell if it's moved in any permanent sense from my original mark?

"It's definitely moving."

"Okay, so it's moved."

"Not really; it's still basically in the same place."

"Yes or no, Marty. Has the dot moved?"


Hedge, hedge, hedge. Always with that arrogant little smirk.

It gets worse, infinitely worse, when the supernatural is involved, but that's skipping ahead. It's probably an insult to your intelligence, reader, to point out that this another way to avoid making a declarative statement that can then be "twisted around" via such vicious and underhanded tactics as basic deductive reasoning.

If you're wondering why I'm fiddling with drop cielings in the first place, well, that's down to fancycrete. Obviously real concrete isn't suitable for arcology construction, and Marty here reads "advanced composites" in the Ctech book and loads onto them every smart material property ever theorized. In this case, they're "vigorously self-cleaning", to the point where nothing sticks to them, and they're "programmable" so they don't need extra voids to handle utilities. Apparently with the proper equipment you can just press armored cable into the wall and it will sink into place, and for this reason there's no cavity bigger than a junction box. The logic, it burns...

So anyway, apparently there's an exception for drop ceiling-related bolts, so rather than futz with the "harder than diamond" ultra-slippery adhesion-repelling magic concrete, I dealt primarily with the drop panels. Incidentally, apparently no one in the city has any idea how this magic building material is constructed, because it uses "such advanced nanotech it drives the builder insane." Yep. Magic, brain-melting concrete.

Now, at the same time, there are issues of measurement, especially as relates to pressure waves and the movement thereof. Apparently I have to roll for these. Not because it's hard, but because "Cael never had formal college training in scientific procedures." Using a meter stick (and I had to pay triple for a METER stick as opposed to a YARDstick) is a "scientific procedure." Okay, fine, in the sense that accurate measurement is important, but...carpenters, anyone? Just for a start?

Unfortunately, he's unshakeable on this point, and it's sticking me with a -5 penalty on all Science rolls: without formal education it's impossible to know anything. This, when he's at an institution whose teaching methodology is essentially one of neglect. This, in fact, when he wants to be an engineer. I did bring up autodidactism with him at one point. "That sounds like a high-level Telepathy power." Given the scorn he reserves for actual college classes, I can only assume college degrees are magical didactic scrolls that instantly grant the bearer encyclopedic knowledge. Don't get me wrong, college in general is awesome, but it's hardly the only way to learn anything, especially in a field where it's a full-time job just staying current. Not that Marty does, mind.

That said, he does have a point concerning availability of reference materials. Feinstein nonwithstanding, "bombmaking instructions" are everywhere from your local library to the Library of Congress. Now, I'm not advocating following them. I'm just saying it's so thoroughly embedded it'd take a concerted, intelligent, and above all expensive government censorship effort to remove-- or we could just burn all the libraries. That works too, Marty.

Yes, folks, welcome to Oceania. Wikipedia's gone, libraries are gone, and chemistry textbooks are banned. Apparently I only got my technical manuals because I inherited them; "no one sells them now." I have to say, this offended me more than the ugly-people-are-insane nonsense, although the latter is undoubtedly more offensive. Apparently the people went along with this "out of patriotic fervor." I wish I couldn't believe that.

In addition, they've also taken steps to reduce the supply of dangerous chemicals -- "and if you want it, it's probably dangerous." Chemical supply houses no longer exist, and many of the substances we've come to rely on are no longer sold. Not out of government control, perish the thought that our benevolent overlords would ever do that; apparently "no one wanted them." Instead, we have "composites" that do the same thing, "only better." They are also prohibitively expensive. So what, you might ask, does someone with a headache do when they can't afford nano-neo-aspirin? "They do without; it's not important in wartime." I ran through a list of around two hundred useful chemicals or usably pure commercial preparations thereof, none of which were particularly esoteric. Nothing doing. They don't even have baking soda anymore; I would pity every unimaginative science fair entrant with a defunct volcano if they still had science fairs.

So benevolent, the NEG. We are, by the way, skipping way ahead, but this might explain some of the more totalitarian aspects of the NEG: they're functionally a corporate state. Marty thinks, and I am not making this up, that this is a great thing, because "successful people obviously know how best to run things."

I had wondered, once, why he never really got the idea of Shadowrun.

Thankfully the total lack of industrial chemicals isn't presently relevant; I apparently have "enough" materials on hand. I need only make ten rolls per installation, covering four to six different skills depending on where it's going. Now, I don't get to know whether or not any of them will work, because of course the rolls are blind. I don't even know which roll is for which. "Just roll a bunch of d20s. I'll tell you when you're done."

And when we're all done, after everything's gone off and we're laughing over how relatively effective we all were: (Skipping ahead only slightly.)

"Of course, I was specifically giving you a chance to shine. It won't work so well next time."

How charitable of you, Marty.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

SUETHULU: Marty Is A Bad Human

When last we left off, we used a truck to flatten eldritch horrors and then ran. The Tagers “dispersed”, and we were left at our apartments.

Jin and Darya apparently had one, and Ian half of the other. This was lucky, because it meant I was invited to move into the apartment with the ritual magic circle I needed to talk to Yog-Sothoth. This was an interesting development, because no one had ever told me anything about any five foot wide intricately carved circle in a magically cleansed ritual space.

This is not entirely Marty’s fault – at least, not the ritual requirements. These are purely Ctech’s thing. Someone decided that these rituals need to take weeks or months and require truly bizarre things of the participants, like being freshly bathed without perfume or deodorant. For three months. Sounds like fun! I still like Shadowrun’s magic system better. It might have odd things, but at least they conform to a sort of generalized hippie ideology, and there’s some predictive value in that. Cthulhutech is just this weird mishmash of the demonic, the “natural”, the properly eldritch, and the purely random. I know asking magic to make logical sense isn’t the point of magic, but it’s nice when you get the sense of an internal logic, no matter how divorced from physics.

That said, if you’re going to DM a game with nonsensical ritual requirements, let your ritualist characters have a reason for knowing them. Don’t put them in a “cult” where no two members know each other and there is neither initiation nor organon. I looked at his diagrams for the ritual circle; there are several hundred characters without any underlying pattern, and each one has precise polar coordinates. I really, really want to see the vision where Yog-Sothoth explains the process to the prospective recruit, especially given that the visions are always cryptic and need the ritual circle to happen.

The ritual circle is unfortunately not easily usable. There’s the dragons to deal with. Apparently Ian summoned two dragons from “across time and space”, and they’re morphologically identical to the Dragons of Eternity in every way but scale: they’re reptilian housecats. They get into everything, and they keep poking in my stuff and burping little flames. I admit, I honestly found them really cute in concept, but Marty did their voices in this awful squeak, and he kept emphazing how they were disrupting my ritual preparations.

I have what is in retrospect an awful idea.

Storytime! Right, need a story… I’m bad at improv.

I start telling them everything I remember from the Fenian Cycle, albeit in simplified form, while oiling/maintaining my various apparatus. I was expecting them to pick up on the whole “crazily effective warrior” thing and go competitively hunt rats or something, as cats do; instead, Marty heard “Fianna” and thought “Irish ninjas”, and now they’re playing hide-and-seek. I even nat 20’d the check, so now I’m beset with hyperintelligent micro-dragons trying to be undetectable. They do, however, leave me alone for a while.

Right, paging Yog-Sothoth.

And thus I get the first of many “actual” visions, as opposed to the pre-interpreted one from earlier.

They’re awful.

I get that they’re supposed to be cryptic, but these are about three pages long for a few sentences of actual information. The first page is utterly worthless; just some garbled things about space and vampires and the moon. The next page was some stupidly meta stuff about the prophecy itself and how history proceeds inexorably between certain indelible moments. Apparently the moon landing was one; “sometimes the flag or the person or the craft changes, but the moment remains the same.” There is also Marty’s standard line about how no matter what you do, history adapts and forces events back into line with fate. The “inverse butterfly effect” or whatever he calls it is stupid in several ways; the butterfly effect refers to divergence from predictions in deterministic nonlinear systems based on their dependence on initial conditions, not fate. The whole concept flies in the face of free will anyway, but then again, that’s Marty’s modus operandi.

The third page finally has a bit about going to Toby’s the next day, sitting down with the Tagers, and shortly thereafter having a byakhee land on the ground outside while a bunch of dhohanoids charge through the hallway behind the bar and start eye-lasering everyone.

Yeah, okay, I can work with this.

Then I learn how the arcology is in fact constructed.

It is not, as one might expect, a vaguely pyramidal structure, as with many proposed arcologies. It’s more like the Costco from Idiocracy; the Chicago arcology is roughly 175m tall while covering 606 square kilometers with a perfectly flat roof. Inside, it gets even stupider: there are no internal supports. Most of the buildings are five stories tall, with five meters of air between them and the next ceiling. They’re arranged in clusters of four, with a little + of alleyways within them and slidewalk-lined streets outside. This arrangement repeats over the entire land area of Chicago, across five floors, except where they have warehouses. Two-story warehouses built like a standard building cluster without the alleyways. The wastage of space here is amazing, let alone the material stresses of kilometers of concrete with a city built on it. That’s a lot to ask of five meter thick reinforced concrete. I asked about why they didn’t just run the buildings up to the ceiling and use them as supports.

“Because they put gardens on top of the buildings.”

Right. So we have to needlessly endanger millions of people because no one wanted to put their petunias in window boxes. The cars in this setting apparently all fly; why not just replace the vehicle streets with median gardens, stick landing pads at the intersections and have done with it? It’s not like most people are allowed to have cars anyway. The streets are usually empty. People move solely via the conveyor slidewalks, which must be hilarious for anyone trying to go a long way.

Whatever; Marty normally assumes everyone is as sessile as him anyway.

Toby’s, by the by, is on the ground floor of its particular building, and like everything else in this arcology is built into a corner. Thus the map:

I’ve never seen a bar laid out like that, but there we are. The furry dhohanoids with the eye lasers come down the passage behind the bar, just after the byakhee lands by the s in “slidewalk.”

Right. Step one, I call all six of my associates.

Wait, six?

Apparently we’ve gone from “dozens” to six because “not many people want to play Psycho Pan and the Lost Boys with you, dude.” Lost Boys, you say, Marty? I have an idea.

It takes me a bit, but the shopping list is surprisingly short. A toothbrush, high-test fishing line, Yamaha children’s recorders, air horns, high-pressure piping, several potted plants, several bowling balls, a shopping cart, plywood, an umbrella, charcoal, an old oil barrel…scrapyard time.

And here’s where I lose the ability to describe half of what went on, because under SP 419 (one of several bits of legislation called the Feinstein Amendment), it’s not legal to distribute information about “bombmaking” with criminal intent. Now, obviously no one’s going to read this and go out and try to defend an impossibly tiny bar from Martian carebears, but the problem remains that the chemistry, demolitions, etc. are both realistic and feasible to emulate experimentally, this country is run by increasingly crotchety epistemophobes who think this newfangled Internet thing is an irredeemable hotbed of unprofitable criminality, and I can’t afford lawyers sleazy enough to convince a jury otherwise. So when I get vague, it’s not to impede your enjoyment, reader. It’s to dissuade the FBI from breaking down my door, shooting my cats, seizing my stuff and beating me senseless.

Sorry. Didn’t want you all to think I was hiding anything by choice, including the disappearing trees that spawned this whole thing.

Moving on, two of the lads are weaving a quick net out of the fishing line. Marty’s quick to point out that it won’t do anything like hold the byakhee. It’s thankfully not meant to; it’s anchored to the bowling balls, which are themselves in the pot plants. Marty is of course confused as to why I’d waste my time with a net that won’t catch and hold the target. It’s not supposed to; it’s supposed to foul its wings in mid-dive and pelt it with heavy weights after an uncontrolled five-story fall. He’s equally eager to point out that it can probably see the net – although of course I have no idea how.

Well, hopefully Mie scattering still works. I have another two go grab a load of the cheapest meat they can find, along with a bunch of charcoal and certain chemicals good at producing smoke when chucked into a fire a bit at a time. Apparently this only costs $50 in crazy future money – and better yet, Marty has no idea what solicitation is, so we can park the thing right outside Toby’s all day. After much sawing/ painting of plywood and bolting of oil drum grills into a hacked-apart shopping cart (and twenty-six Repair checks), Crazy Pete’s BBQ was born: quite possibly the most ramshackle barbeque stand ever wired to energetically deconstruct itself. “Pete” himself was told, more or less, to arm the thing and walk quickly away at my signal – but just in case, his “Kiss the Cook” apron was also a partial plate carrier and we hid a helmet in his oversized chef hat. Let no one say I don’t take care of my people. Heck, he even spent the night practicing grilling.

The rest I had to do personally, together with my security expert. For some reason, while my Security skill is through the roof, Open Lock is a completely unrelated skill; I could use Security to hack the back alley’s security camera, but when I try to open the bar’s back door, I “slip with the tool and mar the lock face.”

Uh, Marty, I’m using a Leatherman with a ground-down brass blade on it as my torsion tool and you said the lock face was tool steel. I’m not entirely certain, but I think we have a bit of a hardness differential here. Besides, how the heck does one slip with the tensioner?

“I didn’t see that tool on there.”

“Here’s the message where you said I could have it, here’s that tool on the list…”

“But I didn’t see that tool on there.”

Fine. Whatever. So the expert pops the lock and we’re in. Things are stuffed in places, and I note that Toby keeps a shotgun and a truncheon behind the bar – but, annoyingly, it’s directly opposite the hallway the dhohanoids will be coming down. It would be acutely unhealthy to be there; I move them both to the far end of the bar.

Incidentally, Marty overestimated the size of everything involved by about an order of magnitude, and had no idea what brisance is. The man wants to design jet engines for a living and never learned the mechanics of deflagration…we’re gonna be here a while.

Or not. Apparently midway through installation, dawn breaks and “it would be a very good idea if we left.” We get done with everything but the thermal, which worries me—I’m thinking they probably have thermovision, given the rest of the party’s stories of their accurate shots in darkness. Before we leave, I clog the toilet and vastly accelerate the wear on most of the kitchen apparatus (read:sabotage), because I’m an optimist.

I also send a text to Darya: “If anyone asks, you drink neat Everclear.” Sure I can’t get thermal. Sure, Marty.

Naturally, Ian’s awake when I get back to the apartment.

“Your dragons ate my toothbrush, so I had to get a new one.” Thus the toothbrush in my hand.

“At 4 AM?”

“Oral hygiene is very important.”

He shrugs, and we go over to the other apartment to see Jin and Darya laughing at the news. Apparently “dissidents” attacked a shipping depot yesterday afternoon and a rare coding glitch disabled the internal cameras. Well, that explains Jin’s fiddling with his PDA during the fight. On my entrance, he throws me a Guy Fawkes mask and says if I’m going to be so far afield I ought to be more careful about showing my face.

At this point I should mention that Jin is, at least in appearance, intellect, and certain mannerisms, a partial expy of L. We start joking that we need letters for the other PCs.

Still, we have more immediately important things to do. Apparently Marco slipped Jin his phone number, and they call and ask to hand over the box at Toby’s. Off we go.

When we get there, Darya goes and buys from the BBQ stand, against my warnings. Apparently Pete is awful at cooking—clearly he can’t run a grill to save his life, I say. I mean, look at the smoke. At least the bar is full of people trying to get the taste out of their mouths.

The Tagers are already there – that is to say, Jill, Marco, Nery, and Lily had scattered themselves around the bar. Ian and Jin sit at the Tagers’ booth. Darya, at my subtle nudge, sits at a stool opposite the hallway.

I ask Marty if there’s anyone here who’s looking at Darya.

“Sure, there are a couple of jocks leering at her.”

Okay then. Mass Suggestion time; having hung back slightly, I walk in, and immediately feign shock that “such a striking lady as yourself has to buy her own drinks. Why, I’d think every red-blooded lad in here would be rushing to buy you one. What are you having?”

“Neat Everclear, apparently.”

DC doubled for being an implied suggestion, but I still make it, and Darya encourages them beautifully. I’m cracking up OOC, and it works beyond my wildest dreams as they basically try to outdo each other in buying her ever-larger drinks. Between them, two more Suggestions from me, and people caught up in the spirit of the thing, Darya has one hundred liters of Everclear on the bar in front of her. Thank you, Marty, for thinking people are that stupid, or that buying people drinks works in bulk. Bowing out, I sit by Jill at the booth, where Jin and Marco have made the handover.

At that point, Marty tells me I hear the phrase I’d heard “about half a minute” before things started in the vision, and I start the countdown music over a conference call with the lads. After that Lost Boys crack, could it be anything but Skrillex?

Shout to all my lost boys… Sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-shout to all my lost boys…

Pete’s at the BBQ stand, of course, and I have a lady on the opposite roof garden chilling with camera glasses. Both are in place, and tap their mics.

We rowdy.

Everything works. No one’s in the bathroom because it’s out of order, and the kitchen staff have the day off until someone can come by and fix the kitchen.

Then I ask where Toby is. Apparently he’s right in the danger zone, mixing drinks. I order something from the far end; apparently “he’ll be busy for a few minutes.”

Right, new plan – and again, I must stress that I am bad at improv. Hey, Toby keeps the truncheon in case of bar fights, right?

I spontaneously hug Jill.

Tager reflexes are as quick as I hoped; she punches me out of the booth and into the bar, breaking Darya’s stool and the adjacent one with my spine. She gets up, still incensed, and Toby goes for his stick just in time, while Pete starts walking right on cue.

Finally, everyone’s out of the way, with literally a second left to go, and I put on my mask.


Every window in the bar shatters from the boom outside. Simultaneously, the hallway is filled with smoke, fire, and debris; much of it flies out into where we are and would have hit Jill full on had she not morphed and phased through it. Somehow the ethanol doesn’t ignite from this; on my first turn, I reach over and light it. Marty points out that I’d blown open the sprinklers directly overhead.

Yep. Water on an ethanol fire. Safety Tip: Ethanol remains flammable down to around 40% v/v with water.

The patrons are fleeing, although I note with some satisfaction none are hurt. The Tagers ready for a fight, as does the party; they all make their Intelligence checks to look down the hallway for something.

What staggers out “look like shaved Wookiee cyclopses and burnt octopi.” They actually miss with their eye lasers, and instead blow much of the window out. So begins all the machine gun fire from Nery and Darya, shoulder pimple fire from Lily, and carving from Marco. They don’t want to leap over the flaming bar; instead they go around, which gives us enough time to get over the table and start running. Ian and Jin get out first; I start running the next turn, and then Nery takes an energy beam to the shoulder.

Darya drags her out, keeps firing, and gets a beam in the chest for her trouble. It was around this time that the byakhee rips through the fishing line. It is pissed that we shredded its wings and dropped three bowling balls on its head – and while it’s screaming at those two, Ian and Jin run headlong into a night gaunt barreling down the road.

Then Jin gets control of the slidewalk impellers routed to his PDA.

The gaunt trips as his slidewalk revs forward and backward, and Darya/Nery are launched away – but not before she lobs her last grenade between the byakhee’s feet and significantly improves our tactical position. No dhohanoids emerge from the remains of the bar, so we only have the gaunt to deal with. Thankfully it’s too big to take advantage of the slidewalks with more than one foot, so we get on run while Jin sets it to carry us forward. As we clear each segment, Jin reverses it, and the gaunt nearly falls a few times. It nearly falls a lot more as Jin starts handing me satchel charges – and then we’re out of boom, and it’s gaining.

I notice it has no visible eyes, and I really hope it has sensitive ears. Improvised air horn/recorder-based sonic device, I choose you!

I make the Repair roll for it to land correctly, and everyone goes deaf as all the windows shatter because Marty doesn’t know how sound works. Even the gaunt staggers, especially as it starts treading barefoot on broken glass Hey, I hated recorders as a kid OOC and I’m decidedly sadistic.

It buys us enough time for OIS to get there and kill the thing for us, anyway. They do the same thing with the remaining dhos, while Ian heals our ears.

This next part may well be triggering for, well, just about everyone.

He also heals Darya’s chest, which was apparently “seared down to the bone, which is especially psychologically scarring given the location. With the current cultural emphasis on humanity, disfigurements that rob someone of their attractiveness also detract from their sense of self. She’d have lost a couple of points of Wisdom as well as Charisma if it had scarred.”

Marty, if it wasn’t already apparent, is a terrible person.

I didn’t confront him about it then; to my eternal shame, I waited until I could speak to him (okay, yell at him) without breaking his stupid face. Hooray for IMing. To his miniscule credit, he acknowledged it was a stupid, chauvinist, shallow thing to say, agreed never to do it again, etc. It’s the only time I ever knew him to actually, earnestly apologize, without caveat or qualification. Jin’s player also went out of his way to convince me to stay in the game, so I gave him one last chance.

Still sickens me that I didn’t end up leaving over that. Of all the things I, being a guy, am definitionally incapable of getting right to the satisfaction of a consensus of concerned activists, dealing with this kind of filth is near the top.


Lily died, and this puzzled us, because she didn’t lose nearly enough HP to die. Apparently “it just wouldn’t have been dramatic if nobody died.”

Right, well, that’s my efforts shot. It was also curious that no dhohanoids died without Tager help, and the explanation for that one was just a gem.

“Oh, we were working under cinematic damage mechanics. Basically, they would have all died, so to make the story better I had Cael’s charges strip off their DR and healing instead of damaging them, and then they just died as and when the story dictated.”

So basically I was too effective, so Marty had to manually decide who lives and who dies.

There is the tiny germ of a reasonable idea here. It is kind of boring to have one player just push a button and end a fight. Still, here’s an idea: have more enemies. Take the nightgaunt and add more. That way, I get to do my job and there’s still a way for the other party members to have fun, we all enjoy ourselves and no one dies based on nonsense.

Except monsters.

There was one bright spot: this was the last time anyone but Marty and Jin actually tried to preserve this game, and the conversations it spawned led to the rest of us considering a lot of ways in which we had, in the past, previously failed at either GMing or being human -- including my little stunts above. We’ve all been a lot more conscientious since then, and our games at least have certainly improved.

Next time, we open the box.

Incidentally, sorry about the formatting on the last part of this post. Blogger can't handle my text colors apparently.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

SUETHULU: Drivers' Ed

Right. Cael, still with that new-character smell (of toner), gets his first mission:
“Yog-Sothoth’s all-seeing eye has found a place it cannot look. About a year from now, there is a nexus in spacetime: an event so monumentally world-shattering that even an Outer God cannot predict the extent of its effects. For the first time since you’ve listened to him, he feels…afraid.”
Right. First Mission: find bar, get blue-blind paralytic drunk, teetotaling or no, await the coming of the Martssiah. Am I right?
“At any rate, you’ve got something else to do. The first Tager pack to consider amiable relations with the GIA is about to meet their Blackspire handlers, with a view to removing the Dhohanoid infiltrators from the upper echelons of the NEG. This is a watershed moment. You must be there to ensure events unfold according to plan. In particular, they require an activity through which to bond. You must direct them to retrieve the thing from Nanjing; it is being moved through the city under Dhohanoid guard to the cargo hangar here. Attend their meeting at Toby’s Bar. Suggest its recovery. Assist events. Ease the future. You must leave immediately.”
Hey, I was right! Also, what the hell did I just hear?
Okay, so first, Yog-Sothoth is a dude? What? How the heck is an Outer God male? It’s a bunch of glowing balls; how does it even have gametes?
Secondly, since when is Yog-Sothoth capable of fear? Hell, since when is it capable of  not seeing something? It’s coterminous with all space and time; it’s not a matter of seeing beyond anything, it’s a matter of already being there. And since when is it capable of letting moody introspection distract it from keeping its appointments? It’s omnipresent, and it’s too distracted by Marty to give me a day’s notice to prep stuff?
And what the hell, just generally? I’m playing camp counselor to a bunch of spies and monk-monster-people now? Join the Scions, see space and time, cheerfully suggest lethally dangerous outings to have fun. It’s like I’m supposed to be Fred. Come on, gang, let’s go solve a freakin’ mystery! Only it’s not a mystery, it’s a bunch of pissed-off monsters from beyond time and space who do not want us to steal their shineys – and in what I fear may be a distressing pattern, I agree with them!  I don’t want us to steal their shineys either!
Ah, well. All right, let me call the Tagers and—
I don’t have any way to contact the Tagers!?!
Apparently, “as a Scion, [I’ve] always just shown up when I needed to.” I have no way to actually contact them; no phone number, no email, no dead drop, no nothing. Now, I know Tager packs are organized weirdly and I’d hardly expect to have every member of the pack on speed-dial, but they literally have a member of the pack dedicated to this kind of thing. But, okay, maybe their Operator is horrifically antisocial. Fine. I’ve worked with these people for how long?
“Five years, on and off.”
And never once in that time did I think to get their cell number?
Okay. Whatever. So they’re at Toby’s, and I’ve got to run there. Apparently I have none of my gear “handy” at present, except my stupidly pathetic needle gun, my coat, and my hat. FINE. Off I go.
I’ll post the diagram of the bar when it’s relevant, but it’s tiny and stupid and utterly generic. Big solid oak bar, stools, array of glasses, some booths, and full to capacity at nine AM. I asked; apparently there is no such thing as last call anymore, but still, how depressed does this city have to be to fill the bars before noon? Not just filling, mind – he mentions as I walk in that we’ve got someone chugging neat vodka, not two hours after artificial dawn. Hey, maybe they’re a fellow Scion who just heard the facepalm-worthy news.
I should mention here that Marty hates alcohol, but come on, it’s not like you have to get drunk to know how it works. I’m alcohol intolerant, for goodness’ sake, and even I don’t mess up how bars work this badly. Whatever; I ask for “whatever’s the most concentrated” and ask if I can get it to go, because apparently everything else about bars is insane now.
And that, my friends, is how I ended up sitting in front of two GIA spies and four Tagers with a 128-oz “to go” cup of 191-proof liquor, with a straw and everything. What packaged goods license restrictions?
Negotiations go well. The Tagers recognize me, and on their recommendation the GIA guys listen to me – okay, mostly because of inter-party loyalty, but still, partly plot. They’ve apparently been making introductions, and so we meet our babysitters/eternal rescuers:
Nery, the token Nazzadi of the group. She’s a chain-smoking alcoholic, because that’s a personality to Marty. She’s also the group’s Operator. This means she doesn’t turn into a monster herself; she’s more of an agent type of thing, responsible for coordinating the pack’s activities with the larger society and generally being the voice of reason while everyone else is a bit weird from sharing their head with an eldritch horror. This is the responsible one of the group, and it’s all I can do to keep from saying “GENTLEMEN!” Pack-a-day smokers I’ve heard of, but not pack-at-a-time.
Marco, pack leader, who is the Kebab Hobo about a minute after he’s introduced. He has a kebab stand; he does not have a home. He also has a major chip on his shoulder, and turns into a Vampire. He flies and shreds things; I find his choice of vocation suspiciously fortuitous.
Jill, who is a Spectre in combat and at all other times Marty’s version of an “ice queen.” He describes her as “tsundere”; I describe her as a textbook case of intermittent explosive disorder. She phases through walls, too, which means she’s usually the scout. As far as I know they just follow the screaming.
Lily is the Nightmare, which is a sort of super-Tager with shoulder pimple cannons. I wish I lived in the kind of world where I was kidding. She can also belch a 400-foot beam of utter annihilation once a day. Marty says she’s “kinda genki.” I’m ducking reflexively.
The rest of them are only ever background, really. There are a couple guys who become Phantoms, but they never do anything significant. Phil the Lorekeeper is “basically the most beta guy you could imagine.” He works in the Eldritch Society’s archives doing data retrieval, and apparently doesn’t ever leave. We’d obviously very much like to talk to him; apparently that’s just not done.
Whatever. After introductions, there was really nothing to talk about, so I went for broke and mentioned “something from Nanjing being moved through the city.” Having nothing else to do, we try to strategize.
It doesn’t work. There are no NEG assets in the area – of their own headquarters – and apparently they can’t bring down the truck. Jin’s facepalming over the staggering idiocy, but apparently “they’re in a hole in the defense grid” so we can’t just flag them for the AA guns to take down. We can’t interrupt them anywhere else along the path. We can’t track them. We can’t go down the outside of the arcology; “the air defense grid will pick up on you in seconds”. That’s a mighty specific hole, Marty.
Okay, fine. How about we go to the hangar, fellows? On the way, I ask what weapons we have, and I’m handed a smoke grenade. Darya has the only weapon heavier than a pistol.
It is not what I’d normally think of as a hangar. It’s a box; the far end is joined to the outer wall, and the near end has a little personnel door toward the left. Naturally, there’s a smattering of boxes. There’s a truck parked there near the left wall pointing outside, and two guys slouching by the truck, conveniently watching the gap between the boxes and the door. Oh, but it isn’t just a truck, it’s an air truck; instead of wheels, it has “four articulated A-pods, one on each corner. Otherwise it’s basically a U-Haul truck.” Aerodynamic.
It occurs to me I’m holding a gallon of potent liquor.
Hey, Marty, are there pets in the arcology? There are?
Some splashing later, I’m staggering through the door, hitting the near wall, slurring “here, kitty kitty…thas’ a goo’ kitty, c’mere…” and naturally being immediately noticed by the guards. While I’m belligerently describing my cat “Mishter Mishtoffeleesh” (hey, I’m not good at improv), the party is sneaking.
“Hesh quiet an’ schmall, he ish black/ from hish earsh to the tip of hish tail…”
Thankfully, Marty hasn’t read much T.S. Eliot, and I allow myself to be forcibly removed from the premises without violent incident (apparently the arcology does not, in fact, allow pets without a very rare permit, which led to the immense bonus on their Sense Motive roll); the humans of the party are safely behind the crates, and the Tagers positioned as suits their abilities. I totter off and slump over, waiting.
Four more guys show up, carrying a jet-black box “about a foot square.” They are through the door and then shooting starts.
Darya goes down immediately. Everyone not on our side is a Dhohanoid, and two of them spew paralytic poison needles. She fails her saves in round one, and that’s it for her contribution to the fight. Jin and Ian handily demonstrate that our pistols cannot penetrate their damage resistance, which leaves…sigh…the Tagers.
They are being peppered with poison needles, and they “look like they’re wavering.” Well, at least we have something to do.
Jin and Ian take potshots, and they notice hands rising from the floor to start disemboweling one of the non-spitters; furry things with enormous mouths. Two more of them could fly, because they were giant demon butterfly things; these left their hands alone so they could rain heavy pistol fire on the Phantoms. There is no sign of Marco.
Then I finally get back to the door, and ask if I can drop the smoke grenade so the smoke drifts into the room but is not pushed. It’s an inexact science, I know, but I’m aiming to get the radius of the effect to brush the door, and the winds are favorable. Thus begins the hell of nickel-and-diming that is unorthodoxy. I have the Demolitions skill, but not Military Explosives, so that’s a -5; I haven’t studied the grenade so that’s -2, we’re in combat so -2, and so on and so forth until I’m looking at a -20 penalty. Fine, whatever, drop the thing and hope for the best.
Shrouded, it’s parapsychic time. Illusion, centered on my hand, of a power armor helmet of the type used by Internal Security. Apparently it “stretches” the size limits of a level 1 illusion and adds to the DC, but I barely pass the test to avoid fatigue, leaving me free to shout “OIS! EVERYONE ON THE GROUND NOW!” and lean the helmet out into the doorway.
Marty reflexively points out that “it’s a level 1 illusion; it’s semi-real and indistinct.”
Yes, and in a smoke cloud, what isn’t?
Weirdly, this works. It buys us all of one round of Tagers and Dhohanoids alike looking confusedly at the door, which let us finally confirm the uselessness of pistols. Ian switches to acid bolt spells, damaging one and Jin starts messing with his PDA, but at least the nonhumans can all heal a little. The next round, one of the dart launchers decides to go after me, and the mouthy one grapples Ian to the ground. I also learn that apparently my illusions break on damage; that would have been nice to know earlier.
What followed was essentially static. Darya failed saves against poison, Ian failed against grappling, Jin did his thing in the corner and I danced around avoiding bolts. The Phantoms killed some. At one point, I tried to use my slightly stronger pistol shot to affect things, and learned that offensive powers require “expansive, whole-body movements to direct your energy.” Right. Gun kata time. When your gun is a prop to let you fire psychic bolts by punching the air, faking it, at least, is handy. I even had concealment from the smoke, so the needle guy missed a lot. It did not help.
Then Jill sliced through him, and one of the flyers swooped down to grab the box and escape—at which point Marco drops in from outside and starts with the melee. Yeah, remember that outside route we couldn’t take? Apparently it has some tactical value. Who knew?
By some quirk of fate, Jill julienned my guy right when Jin finished his coding, and we both asked if there was anything we had that could actually damage them. Marty responds with a hearty “nope. These are dhohanoids. They can shrug off pretty much all small-arms fire” and we both get the same idea.
I reached the truck first. I ask what roll it is to hot-wire the air truck. It’s Security. Okay, I have Security…and now it’s Electronics. I have that too, and he gives up and lets me do it. I finish as Jin reaches the seat, and I slide over.
And this is why I liked playing with Jin’s player:
Me: “Can you drive?”
Jin: “Let’s find out.” With this perfect devil-may-care grin.
Marty, of course, objects, saying we can’t leave because we aren’t cleared. How the heck were they going to leave, then? It’s irrelevant; we aren’t going forward. We’re going back and up, hard, aimed at the dragonfly guy with the pistol.
“We squished a bug!” We barely made the damage roll to crush a guy with an airborne U-Haul, but it works…and Marty decides it’s bent the frame, so we can’t stay level and we’re rolling driver’s side up. Jin starts rolling to stabilize it before we decide to roll into it, and I pull out my shillelagh as we start drifting toward Ian and the dhohanoid pinning him down.
Jin: “Come on, say it.”
Me: “I’m not going to say it.”
Jin: “Say itttt…”
Me: sigh “’Drive me closer, I want to hit them with my stick.’”
And there we go; I’m within clubbing range above them.
Marty pipes up to say there’s a flat 50% chance of hitting Ian.
Bear in mind, we’re hovering above the thing spread-eagled over Ian, pinning him to the floor. Still, flat 50%...and naturally I hit Ian. Lily’s cannons apparently have no such limitation, leaving us free to fail a check to stay stable and flip upside-down. One guy left.
Well, backing up worked once… we ask if the truck has a ramp, and it does not. We start trying to figure out how to capture the last one in the truck, but when we drive backward (and upside-down) into the wall, somehow the last Dhohanoid is squished.
That done, we run like hell – and the Tagers take the box, unopened. We agree to meet at the bar again the next day, and we get a nice long description of how they melt “perfectly” in the crowd. The session ended with us returning to our apartments, me having been offered the spare half of Ian’s suite.
Yes, we took out more dhohanoids than any one Tager. Marty was ticked.