Right. Time to meet our players.
Rick is now Darya, who is Rick with some additional silliness. This was my fault. He asked me once if I knew of any particularly anti-authoritarian criminal organizations, and having thought about it, I suggested the vory v zakone – in my defense, I never thought he was trying to make a character, since most of his oddball questions relate somehow to his military fanfiction. Astute readers may pick up on a bit of a problem here.
I have no idea whose idea it was to make a female ex-Spetsnaz ex-Vor Triad member. I’m guessing the latter third was at Marty’s insistence to make her fit in and the special forces bit was to justify her being good with inconveniently heavy weapons. Somehow. We never learned which brigade she served in, forty years after Russia ceased to have an army (and how that was cool with the Vory), but honestly my eyebrows hit the ceiling at the idea of a female Vor, let alone a female Triad member who isn’t ethnically Chinese. You’d think it would kind of conflict with all the horrifying sex trafficking, but apparently Marty refuses to believe the mother****ing Chinese and Russian Mafia equivalents actually do anything “that criminal”. Incidentally, this is why I don’t let my players make characters with ties to expies of actual organized crime: I don’t want that kind of evil in my collaborative storytelling, except maybe implied in order to give the players a reason to indiscriminately massacre everyone involved. It’s one of the unwritten rules of my games: You see mafia, you go nuclear. Admittedly the substitute networks of gun runners and hackers put forward as options for player involvement have slightly schizophrenic moral codes, but I’d rather work back from that than try to sanitize slavery.
Leaving that behind before I’m reduced to incoherent rage, she acts a lot like Rick did; her player certainly has a type. She is Heavy Weapons Gal, and these are her weapons: at varying times, everything from an automatic grenade launcher to an anti-materiel rifle. Apparently these skills were useful to her adopted organization, subtlety be damned. No disrespect intended, but her impact on planning was minimal; she solved tactical problems and left the strategic planning to others.
By others, I refer primarily to Jin, at least initially. A GIA agent undercover in the Triads at campaign start, he was more or less the polar opposite of Darya. He was not a pacifist per se, more of a coward, and generally stuck to filling the role of decker. His player…likes to control things, and was my co-DM in the Deadlands game. Here, he controlled the party, and never got near the actual fighting unless forced. He also made it his business to get as much blackmail material on every other party member as possible, just to play mind games with us. If you were wondering, he and Marty are very, very good friends, and he was afforded latitude the rest of us were categorically denied – but, being not totally deranged, was sparing in how he abused it.
The third player was Tera, a Tager. Tagers are humans who have bonded to an eldritch symbiont, which lets them take on monstruous forms at will. On the side of the villains are their opposite number the dhohanoids. Same idea, but they’re always monsters; different symbionts simply eat the human and somehow gain the ability to adopt its form at will. It’s not perfect, but somehow they evade the DNA scans every citizen is routinely subjected to in order to verify their mortality by being members of the monolithic Chrysalis Corporation, your standard megacorporation employing three out of ten people on the planet. I’ll go into this more later, but for now: Tagers are good guys, Dhohanoids are bad guys, and the OIS can’t tell the difference despite Tagers being verifiably human.
Tera, fully cognizant of this, was also an expert martial artist so he didn’t need to transform to be useful, and was unique in having no affiliation to organized crime. He came in via some guy with a red beard who told Tera where to go to learn what had happened to his parents; apparently that was a thing with him. The same guy also saved the life of the fourth and most briefly relevant character, Jame, by having him order a different sandwich and therefore avoid being hit by a speeding car. Cthulhutech veterans have probably identified his cult affiliation, but that’s for another time.
Now, the campaign started just before Hastur’s armies began a push into China, and the characters were dealing with the incipient evacuation. Being criminals, they were dealing with it by profiting off of the chaos; they were facilitating the handover of a bootleg ebook of the unabridged Necronomicon for a million Tn. Bear in mind this is their first month on the job. Jame and Darya were bringing the money; Tera was watching from the warehouse roof and Jin “happened to be walking outside” when the shooting started. Apparently they botched some kind of thief countersign thing, and lo and behold the buyers are dhohanoids. Tera beats two to a pulp, killing one and reverting to human form to stab another. Conveniently, the rest of the party only saw the latter and couldn’t tell claw marks from blade wounds. This left them in possession of both the book and a million Terranotes. As I understand it, they claimed they lost the money while Tera resolved to steal the book from the Triads and hand the Necronomicon exactly as written by Abdul Alhazred to his superiors in the Tagers. This is a book so dangerous the OIS circulates abridged copies in the arcane underground to frustrate efforts to find the real thing, and they’re passing it around like it’s a hacky sack.
Somehow, they survived telling their bosses they’d blown the deal, and while a giant furry Dhohanoid with eye lasers nearly killed Tera, he ran with the book out of the ensuing fracas, 1 hp left and nowhere to go but with the party, who was being given a mission to redeem themselves. They had to steal something from some liquor store, and while it was specific they were told nothing but that “you’ll know it when you see it.”
Hilariously, it was an invisible box, and they totally missed it. Tera, having thought ahead, had brought along a sheet with eyeholes in it under cover of which to transform. This actually worked, and so The White Phantom started becoming a minor local celebrity, because of course you can hide eight feet of sinewy, inhumanly jointed killing machine under a crappy Halloween costume. Oh yes, they made the news. They made the news frequently, especially as Jin finished his entrapment operation to force them into the GIA properly and they started hunting dhohanoids. They were, in effect, celebrity spies, and it was all Jin could do to confuse official inquiries into their activities and keep them employed. From what I can tell, they were all having a ton of fun running roughshod over their enemies at Jin’s instruction; although Marty kept saying nothing they were doing mattered, he was at least content to let them waste time; he had other campaigns sucking up his planning time.
This lasted about two sessions. Then the lich happened.
Cthulhutech has liches, oh yes. They’re fairly pointless, since Cthulhutech has dozens of monsters to fill the “bastard trolly planner” role. This one is, appropriately enough, named Dick, and he comes from New York and likes throwing fireballs around. They’re sorcerers, not parapsychics, but somehow they’re D&D style magic users. He’s also got a Yog-Sothoth’s Guard up as a matter of course, so naturally the party can do nothing against him. Tera jumps in front of a fireball to buy the party time to escape, except for Jame, who had wanted to leave anyway – and at the same time, the goddamn Infinite Improbability Drive fires “somewhere” and teleports a spherical cow above the melee.
On it rides Ian, who is Tera’s replacement, and he carries a book with ice-based magic spells in it. The book is Lily’s, from the prequel campaign – although, since it’s set later in time, the book was sent back in time, with the only justification being the IID firing somewhere. Ian, on the other hand, is from Earth Prime, and is an exact expy of his player. This, and nothing less, is what Marty requires to let a player use anything other than his stupidly involved rituals in the Cthulhutech setting.
He survives the landing. The lich sets the cow on fire, but it was squished in the first place. Things get a bit chaotic after that, and Darya messes up and screams Jin’s real name over their comm.
And there goes his cover.
They flee Nanjing, and China, for the Chicago Arcology, with their entire livlihoods going down in flames. Jin somehow gets a promotion out of the whole fracas – and to be fair, the party did kill a lot of dhohanoids. Their flight and subsequent integration into Chicago was facilitated by their new membership in Blackspire, the “best of the best of the best of the whole GIA”. Their assignment is to help unify the Tagers and the GIA in their hunt for the Dhohanoids, since they apparently have the most experience dealing with Tagers in the field. The fact that that got the Tager in question killed is apparently inconsequential.
The campaign was to get more serious at that point, and coincidentally, that’s when I was to come in, but that’s for the next post – and for the record, I knew almost nothing of this but the highlights when I started.
Yes, I get my own post. I’s a special snowflake, y’know.