Thursday, June 28, 2007

I rolled dice! I kicked ass!

He's blue, he's bad, and he's back!
I noted in passing a month ago that Bill's Wednesday roleplaying session had devolved into boardgaming. We'd retrenched the group to just 3 of us: Bill, Tony and myself; given some thought to what it was we wanted from our roleplaying; and turned to White Wolf's high-powered anime-style fantasy rpg Exalted. We'd played an introductory session or two using some pregenerated characters.

To my surprise (I have deep prejudices against White Wolf and all their works), I found that I liked the setting and enjoyed the game. Even the system wasn't too bad with Bill's tweaks. We were getting into the swing of things well enough for Tony and I to create our own characters, about which we were happily scheming. Then, just when we were ready to go, Bill couldn't GM for a few weeks. And, just when he was about ready to GM again, Tony couldn't play for a couple more on top.

Faced with these hiccups, and with little time at his disposal to put the work into Exalted he thought it needed, Bill decided to fall back on an old favourite- HERO Games' classic superhero game Champions. I confess I was a bit surprised at this, what with the fate of this much-loved game in its bloated 5th edition being a favourite rant of ours in recent times. But I needed no 2nd bidding when Bill told me I could play Katana.

Readers who know me might be wondering why it's taken me so long to mention ol' blue pyjamas here at RD/KA!. And this all the more so when I mention that I got my first ever tryout of Green Ronin's excellent Mutants and Masterminds (about which I was enthusing as early as March last year); that this tryout came in a Katana session Bill and I played as long as a year ago. My ace new superhero game; playing Katana; and I didn't mention it? There will be astonishment somewhere when this is read I can assure you dear readers!

Katana- or, to give him his full monicker:
Katana: Sword Against Evil™
A renegade ninja who has set out to destroy the Evil that spawned him.
Here he is, in all his original Champions character-template and cheap-felt-pens glory.

Anyhoo, Katana is the first Champions character I ever created. I can remember where I was at the time- the flat, the room, the very furniture are all vivid in my mind's eye as if I could reach out and touch them. I can see myself hunched over that rulebook. I can remember the thrill of being able for the very first time to create exactly the character I wanted. And I can remember my delight as I created a character which I was later to discover is every GM's nightmare PC: the psycho loner (I seem to recall that he had 50pts of Berserk disadvantages in that first incarnation; and that's 50pts out of a total of 150pts of disadvantages!). I just couldn't help myself. Y'see this was pure self expression.

That was nearly 25 years ago. Although Katana isn't all that experienced (he should hit 50EP next week), he's still my favourite roleplaying character. So the chance to get him out to strut his stuff again for a while was more than merely irresistible- it was a much anticipated joy. And so it proved.

For his part, Tony dug out a PC I'd GM'ed for him when we first started roleplaying together- Witchblade, complete with a shiny new character picture. (From Just Walls via the random Gnomes' random Lair; thanks for that tip matey!)

Of dubious parentage (half-Fey, half-daemon), Witchblade is a technomage with a nice line in costumes and a host of handy gadgets at her disposal. She is also even madder than Katana, since she has chosen to join the War Against the Ultimate Evil (you'll've guessed by now I imagine that this isn't regular 4-colour superheroics) with combat attributes little better than those of a fit human.

What went down
The opening session was simple enough: Katana and Witchblade (who've met, but have never worked together as such- Tony and I were swapping GM'ing roles at the time) arrive separately at the British Museum in London, where they are expecting skullduggery involving a new display of Atlantean artefacts. They conceal themselves in the area of the display. Skullduggery duly beginning in the dead of night, Katana did what Katana does best: he leapt in and started some serious thwacking.

A lucky hit almost took him out right at the start, but he soon started to deliver his infamous 1-punch takeouts to the goons. Witchblade meanwhile was doing some zapping with her magic weapon- which included swiftly levelling the villains' leader (suspiciously swiftly now that I think back- was he lying doggo I now find myself wondering); while her magic forcefield was absorbing most of the punishment the goons' own magical weaponry was dishing out, but soon she too was nearly down and out.

We recovered. We prevailed. Katana easily grabbed the last goon, who had finally decided that it was time to flee. Questioning was to ensue. This was interrupted by the 6 malicious-looking daemons who climbed out through the cracked rib-cages of some of the downed goons. Relishing a fight in which he could use Shadowsword-Alpha™, Katana attacked promptly. Taking 3 blows to fell a single daemon, he realised that these were not the soft touches their human hosts had been.

Meanwhile, one of the daemons had grabbed an artefact from the museum display and was making its escape. Unfortunately Witchblade had by this time fallen under the claws of 2 daemons. Fearing that they would feed, Katana had to rescue her, thus letting the unknown artefact leave in a daemon's clutches.

Grabbing Witchblade and slinging her over his shoulder, Katana crashed out through a skylight onto the museum roof in 3 acrobatic leaps. Unfortunately the 4 remaining daemons were right behind him. This was very bad, because the leaps had cost him most of his puff (he spent most of his END pushing his leaps), and his head was swimming with the exertion of his continued flight (END exhausted, he was taking STUN damage each time he spent END- only 1d6 sure, but rolling lots of 5's was a real scunner at this point!).

Witchblade had come to in the meantime, and was firing off blasts from her eponymous weapon- to little effect unfortunately. Things were looking seriously dodgy: a couple more bad rolls and Katana would pass out, leaving us both at the mercy of the daemons. In the nick of time he pulled just far enough ahead of the evil feckers to pause for breath. This advantage was never lost, and the chase petered out in the streets below, the daemons slinking off into the darkness of the night-time alleys of London.

The rest of the session involved sneaking around, lurking, calling in a favour, and a bit of breaking and entering as Katana and Witchblade followed up leads in search of clues as to who was behind the raid on the Museum, and to their purposes. Katana was his usual brusque and obtuse self throughout, while Witchblade rapidly established good cat-fighting relations with Sarah West, the contact who owed Katana that favour. By the time the session drew to a close, we had learned that we were dealing with the Children of Atlantis, a two-bit cult who we presumed were patsies for larger powers dedicated to those tragically familiar goals: raising sunken cities and awakening Elder Gods.

Don't be misled by the brevity of my treatment of that sequence. It was a lot of fun. We got plenty of laughs, enjoyed some good roleplaying, and savoured the feeling of getting into our stride again. This was what we'd wanted. It's just that, well, the fight was thrilling (it's what Katana does best after all- hitting things). More than that though, Bill was using several variants, most important of which was one dispensing with the SPD table in favour of initiative rolls. We all liked how this worked; Bill especially because he didn't have to do any record-keeping.

More even than that: that chase sequence across the roof of the British Museum? It was as dramatic as it was precisely because of the uncertainty inherent in the initiative rolls. The fixed sequencing of the classic SPD table simply couldn't've generated the same feeling of imminent doom. I liked it a lot. (Although I have to note, Bill, that I'm still not 100% sold on the idea that using a d10 instead of a d12 is a matter of indifference.)

And that was that: the return of Katana: Sword Against Evil™, that renegade ninja who has set out to destroy the Evil that spawned him. There'll be more. :D

PS. We got 2 EP's. ;)


Anonymous said...

We never ran away from a fight in my day.


William King said...

You had hero points!

Nothing like those 4d6 HKA for generating a bit of fear in people with no resistant defences I always say. Paricularly when they outnumber you 3 to 1.


"A bit political on yer ass!" said...

Hero points! Yes, I'd meant to ask about those but forgot. We'll have them next time I suppose Bill?

Another thing Ali: Witchblade really is mostly a norm in combat terms. She has NCM, Dex 14, SPD 4, and 1 level which can go to DCV (others for OCV natch). She only has 24 STUN on top of that. And Tony hadn't optimised his VPP for melee yesterday. So even regular goons are a bit of a struggle for her. But she was outclassed by those daemons.

Oh, and the Cat's used to having a team to cover his pretty-boy back, so he can get away with playing stupid when discretion should be the better part of valour. We don't all live in that comfortable world y'know.

John ;)

Anonymous said...

Pfft.I can only ever remember my team pulling my arse out of the fire once.

The Cat was ko'd in a fight on top of Skyscraper and was hurtling to his squilchy death when the Mantis came to his rescue.

14 dex? Are you sure she's a Hero and not one of the goons? :)

gnome said...

Ok, seems I'll have to try and find a way to get to Scotland... Rare chance to play (even for a while) Exalted spotted!

"A bit political on yer ass!" said...

Well you never know what could happen should a gnome manage to pay a visit to a future DiceConWest...!

John ;)

Tony said...

Of course WitchBlade has a 14 DEX - but that is balanced by her Techno-Mage Power Pool: at the moment set to extra armour and Invisibilty.
Yes Bill - 4D6 killing attacks made her panic, but she will survive.

Take care guys - WitchBlade will win out...

Tony said...

Never felt that Witchblade was second to Katana John. VERY powerful in her own way. Enjoyed the games mate. Tony.

"A bit political on yer ass!" said...

Your mutant ability to reply to my remarks under headings other than where I originally made them continues to amaze and amuse Tony.

I'm glad that you didn't feel that Witchblade was second to Katana Tony, but I have to suggest that your reference to power level indicates that you might've missed my point (with which you can reacquaint yourself if you go here). I was talking instead about how putting your PC alongside Katana made her a guest star in Katana's continuity; ie. the games we played amounted to a Team-Up interlude in the main Katana: Sword Against Evil™ storyline. This is what I am saying was a bad thing.

This is important because those games, however genial they might've been (and they were perfectly fine in that respect) manifestly failed to generate anything that gripped Bill and I the way our first gaming time had done. We both kind of felt we were going through the motions is what I'm saying here.

The reasons for this would be interesting to pursue, but the main point here is this: faced with a challenge in terms of getting some regular roleplaying going, Bill and I took the easy way out, and turned to familiar old riffs. These riffs were built around an itinerant group dynamic which meant that all our other players (no matter how well established or powerful) had been guests in Katana's story; for the simple reason that I was the only constant player in that storyline. This is what I was getting at when I referred to Witchblade being a "co-star".

So, this is not a matter of how you felt about your PC Tony. Rather, it's a matter of actual psychodynamics that were in play, which none of us understood as they were happening. Hope this makes sense. ;)