Dateline – Gammatoba

This past Sunday was the final session of the Gammatoba mini-campaign I’ve been running as a break from the Storm Point D&D campaign that’s been going for about two and a half years.

When we last left our heroic mutants, they had just entered the Karney Key Library, after overcoming the ark defenses. The dying ark leader laughed at them and said that they Librarian would take care of them. We opened this session with the heroes opening the doors of the library and seeing what waited for them.

Now, I haven’t been very strict with making encounters in Gammatoba. I just throw a number of cool monsters together, and run things off the cuff. For this game, I came up with the Librarian – basically, I reskinned the Eater of Knowledge Mindstrike from Pyramid of Shadows as a cyborg-centaur kinda thing, with a couple of new tweaks. For the rest, I threw in a double-handful of ark minions and some interesting terrain.

The first room had some sandbag fortifications and over a dozen of the ark minions. The looks from my players – all seven of them were present – were worth the price of admission all by themselves. They were hoping the arks were minions, but they didn’t know for certain, and I’d told them that I planned to leave a few of them dead on the floor this session. They took those out in very short order, with the last three fleeing into the main reading room of the library, where I planned the final combat.

I had expected the group to take a short rest before pressing on, but they didn’t – they just charged after the fleeing arks. So, I started placing every figure I had brought with me1 on the balconies and behind the shelves, ready to open fire. I used a sword spider figure for the Librarian, and rubbed my palms together in anticipation of the mutant blood about to be spilled.

The players were scared, which was the right reaction. They knew they were going to die.

And then they proceeded to completely dismantle the encounter.

A lucky draw from the Alpha Mutation deck got one of them machine control, which he threw at the Librarian because I had described it as a cyborg. It only gave him one round of control, but it also kept him dazed for a few rounds. Then the stun whips came out, and the Librarian was repeatedly stunned. Meanwhile, the bulk of the characters concentrated on taking out the ark minions, keeping them off the backs of the mutants taking turns putting the boots to the Librarian.

I got one round out of the whole combat (about eight or nine rounds in total) where the Librarian could attack. He blasted the brains of the group, and then used a special power I had given him to summon in some defensive data constructs2, but went down before his next turn came up.

Still, it was a tough fight. The group fought smart and used their resources well, but the sheer number of the minions and the damaging aura that the Librarian had almost did for a couple of them.

At the end of the fight, they were all still standing.

I had thought about a skill challenge kind of thing to hold the building until the Ishtarian forces arrived to take possession, but it was getting a little late, and I judged it to be kind of anticlimactic after taking down the Librarian and his minions, so I had the fish-warriors of Ishtar drop in on columns of light and erect a force dome over the library. The group got the crystal charging device they had been promised, wrenched the flying saucer out of the ground again, and flew home to Fort LoGray as heroes – the Fort LoGray Legion’s First Airborne Wing.

That’s where we closed the game.

I want to thank all my regular players for indulging my desire to take a break from D&D to try Gamma World, and to thank Cody for sitting in and playing with us. I had fun.

Now, it’s time to get back to the Storm Point game. I’ve got plans for that one.

  1. Well, almost every figure. I didn’t place the chuul figure that I had been using for the warrior-accountant giant crayfish. []
  2. Basically, some more minions to mess things up. []

Dateline – Gammatoba

Last Sunday was the penultimate session of the Gammatoba mini-campaign. We’ve almost made it to the end of our little excursion into the weird post-apocalyptic world of the future.

This session was set to be a big, knock-down, drag-out assault on the Carney Key Library, currently held by the Mad Tooth gang, trying to secure it for the fish-priests of Ishtar1. I expected it to last the entire session, and it did. I also told the players that, because we were coming to the end of the mini-campaign, I was taking the gloves off.

We started with a sketch of the crashed flying saucer and the defensive wall in front of the library. I put a bunch of figures on the board, both on top of the wall and in behind piles of rubble in front of the wall, and told the group they could see more of the Mad Tooths converging on the location. The top of the wall had laser ballistae on top of them, and I brought out one of the mutant crayfish warrior-accountants early in the first round2 to put the pressure on.

I didn’t really balance this encounter too much. The Mad Tooth gang is made up of arks, so the bulk of the opponents were ark whelps – minions – with some ark scouts manning the ballistae on the walls. The mutant crayfish was a giant crayfish I found in the Monster Builder: it was a solo, which I decided was too tough as I was putting it on the table, so I reduced its hit points by half. I also had stats for an ark hand-taker that was going to be leading from behind the wall.

I just kept pouring the whelps onto the board, adding a couple more each round. Some lucky teleportation got many of them, as well as the mutant crayfish, flung a mile away, and the heroes made it to the top of the wall. At that point, I put a bunch more arks on the table, hunkered down behind sandbags at the front of the library, and gave them guns. I also put the hand-taker on the table, and a second crayfish3.

There were some memorable moments:

  • L’Unite Cinq, the AI Reanimate, going down under a horde of arks, all on his own on the ground before the wall.
  • Ikto Umoo, the Gelatinous Mindbreaker, blasting the hand-taker down in one amazing shot with his leaky fusion rifle.
  • Vant, the AI Shapeshifter4, invisibly wrestling for control of the laser ballista.
  • Skitter, the Ectoplasmic Arachnid, switching the ballista to automatic and opening up on the defenders in front of the library.
  • Barto Melu, the Temporal Gravity Manipulator, sacrificing himself to use unsafe Omega Tech, and spending several rounds unconscious because of it.

In the end, though, they got into the library, barred the gates, and heard the dying words of the ark leader:

“The Librarian will take care of you.”

Everything wraps up next session.

  1. Just the fact that Gamma World means I get to write sentences like that makes me smile. []
  2. Which prompted a quote so good, I had to tweet it: “Which is the bigger threat – the laser crossbows or the mutant crayfish?” []
  3. The group was pretty battered by that point, so I reduced the hit points down to a quarter of the solo total. []
  4. That’s right, AI Reanimate for the T-800 and AI Shapeshifter for the T-1000 []

Dateline – Gammatoba

Slowly catching up.

Sunday before last was the latest installment of my Gammatoba mini-campaign. It was a small group; we had only four players, the minimum for quorum. Still, we’re in sight1 of the end of this little excursion into the wacky post-apocalyptic wasteland of the Red River Valley.

In the previous session, our heroic mutants had managed to acquire the Illudium Q-36 Space Modulator and recharge the energy crystals for the crashed flying saucer. They ran back to the ship, minds awash in images of raining fiery death down upon their enemies from their sky-chariot. And then they got to the engine room, tried to plug in the parts, and I smiled and said, “Let’s roll some dice.”

You’d think I had stomped on a puppy.

I ran the repair as a modified skill challenge. I set a moderately high Science DC to get the parts installed properly, and didn’t tell the group what the DC was. They rolled appallingly well to get the space modulator slotted in, and I was getting a little worried that the repair would be done in two rolls – not really bad, but I wanted it to be interesting.

I shouldn’t have worried. They blew the roll to install the power crystals by more than 10, which I had already decided meant there would be a mishap. I had one of the four crystals discharge, blasting the primary character working on the repair with a bunch of energy, almost killing him. Plus, now one of the crystals had no power. They continued on, with a few more failures, though none as severe as that first one. With each failure, I had them roll a supplementary check of some sort to avoid making things worse: a Dex check to keep from dropping a crystal, a Mechanics check to keep from breaking one of the power couplings, things like that. They did break one of the power couplers, and then had to repair that before they could proceed.

Finally, after some interesting play where the characters successfully used different skills to augment the Science check, they managed to get the crystals properly installed. The ship was powered at 75%, and I decided that the computer would automatically prioritize certain systems: life support, engines, computers, sensors, communications, and gravity. Weapons and shields were offline, and would remain so until the ship was at full power.

This made the players sad2, and they decided to go back to the Ishtar ziggurat to try and trade for their own crystal charger. After getting jumped by some Mad Tooth construct soldiers in the ruins, they made it to the Ishtar site and got another audience. The fish priest explained that they really didn’t want to trade away one of their portable solar crystal chargers, because it would cut into their market for power services. However, if the heroes would do them a very large favour, they might consider it.

The favour? Seizing the Carney Key Library, with its wealth of Ancient information, from the Mad Tooth gangs that had claimed it. Once the Library was in the hands of the characters, they could signal the Ishtar, who would come take possession, and bring the crystal charger with them.

Seeing as the original plan had been to loot the Library for Fort LoGray, the group agreed to this, figuring a solar charger and a flying saucer should pretty much guarantee their admittance to the Fort LoGray Legions. They scampered back to the ship, and decided to use it to fly themselves in to the Mad Tooth compound, and land on the Library roof to secure the building.

We had some more fun with them trying to fly the ship. I decided that there were four consoles: Piloting, Navigation, Power Control, and Tactical. Most of Tactical was dead, but that was where the scanners were. One character manned each console to get the ship pulled free of the collapsed building – we ran it as a series of mini-skill checks, with me deciding what rolls were called for based on what they were trying to do, and narrating the outcome based on which rolls succeeded and which failed.

So, they managed to pull free from the rubble with a horrendous screeching sound, got a feel for the speed and control of the ship through trial and error, and then took her up several miles, where they found that the horrendous screeching sound had been the hull tearing as the ship pulled free of the ruins. They hastened back down to a safe altitude, and located the Library on the scanners. They came in high, and then dropped down, seeing the Mad Tooth Arks running for cover, and the giant crayfish warrior-accountants readying for battle, strapping on their armour plates and stowing their abacuses on their backs3. Then a series of flubbed rolls had the saucer plow into the ground in front of the Library, with the Mad Tooth forces converging on it.

And that’s where we left it.

  1. Two sessions, at my guess. []
  2. Yay! []
  3. The giant crayfish warrior-accountants come from a throw-away comment in the background of one of the characters. The other players aren’t pleased that he came up with something that I’m using to hurt them. []

Dateline – Gammatoba

Wow. I’m behind on my blog posts. Nine days and two games since the last one. Sorry, folks. I should catch up this weekend.

So. The last Gammatoba game – almost two weeks ago – went a little differently than I expected it to. The brave mutants of the Red Valley, in their expedition to Great City One to prove themselves worthy to join the Fort LoGray Legions, had found a crashed flying saucer. After clearing out the strange creatures and automated defenders, they managed to get the computers online enough to run a diagnostic on the engines. They discovered that the Illudium Q-36 Space Modulator 1 was damaged and needed to be replaced, and that the energy crystals were drained.

I let them know that the inhabitants of Xi were the best bet to get another space modulator, while Ishtar were most likely to be able to recharge the energy crystals. I had pointed out a Xi cube and an Ishtar ziggurat on their way into the city2, and expected them to mount an assault on both the other sites.

The group surprised me. So far, the most complex their strategies got was, “Get ’em!”3 But instead of charging in, they decided to barter with the others to get what they needed. So, I sighed to myself, tossed the encounters I had prepared aside, and started improvising madly.

The meeting with the Xi Trade Construct went well, and everyone seemed to have fun with it. It was a neat chance to riff on some interesting ideas I’d picked up from a bunch of sf novels and movies about AI and transhumanism4. Over at the Ishtar ziggurat, I had them meet with a priest in his fish outfit, who agreed to recharge the energy crystals in exchange for retrieving some sacred scrolls from the Badders who had stolen them.

This let me recycle an encounter that the group had avoided previously, beefed up somewhat to handle the higher level of the party. The fight went pretty well, with some neat tactics on the parts of the players, and some close calls for them, as well5.

So, things wrapped up with the characters returning the scrolls to the Ishtar, and getting the crystals recharged. I think there’s probably two sessions left in the Gammatoba mini-campaign, then we’re going to return to Storm Point.

I’ve got some plans for that brewing, too.

 

  1. I think I might have called it a Q-13 Space Modulator, but I can’t remember, now. I meant Q-36. []
  2. I wanted to show them something from Xi, Ishtar, and Area 52, so I described the cube, the ziggurat, and the crashed flying saucer, immediately derailing my plans for the game right at the start. So, I wanted to bring in the other two alternate world sources of Omega Tech, by having them deal with them to get the saucer flying again. []
  3. I’m being unfair, I know, but that’s the style of play they’ve shown so far. []
  4. And also to get the group to trade in a whole bunch of Omega Tech in return for the space modulator. []
  5. The hidden badder guards opening with a barrage of grenades can really put a damper on the player’s actions. []

Dateline – Gammatoba

The Sunday before last1 was the second installment of the Gammatoba mini-campaign. We were only one person short of a full complement, which meant six players clustered around the table.

When we’d left things last time, our intrepid mutant heroes had killed a strange giant beetle in a crashed flying saucer. They decided that bringing back a real flying saucer would be a great way to prove their worth to the Fort LoGray Legion, thus earning their stripes. To that end, they began exploring the ship, which proved to be much larger on the inside than on the outside2.

Along the way, they rescued two prisoners of the aliens, who decided to join the group3, and looted a nice pile of Omega Tech. They spent some times and Science checks on trying to figure out how they could get the ship back in the air, and found that there were two main problems: the engines and computers were both offline.

To my immense surprise, they decided to split up, one group going down to the engine room and one to find the computer core. I hadn’t expected this, so the big fight I had planned for whichever site they chose to investigate this session got split into two smaller fights in the corridors while they were searching for the engines and computers. So, each group got a bunch of robots that tried to electrocute them.

Running a combat with only half the players involved was sub-optimal, but not as bad as I thought it might be. The wackiness of Gamma World meant that most of the players stayed interested in the fight that they weren’t in, looking for the cool stuff to happen. That was an unexpected bonus; still, I tried to get through these two fights as quickly as possible.

That’s about when I realized that I didn’t have a good, thematic encounter left for the big fight of the session. I had a number of encounters that would have kinda worked, but they would have been out-of-place, and I really wanted to use them in other situations, like when the characters have to go out into Great City One looking for spaceship parts.

So, I stalled a little bit, letting the group in the computer room fiddle with getting the computers on, and finding out that they didn’t have enough power to operate at full capacity. They did have enough juice to give them a basic diagnostic of the ship and point them to the engine room, though, so at least I got the group back together.

By the time we got to the engine room, I had decided to throw a couple of orlens at the party4. I hadn’t prepped a stat sheet for them, like I usually do, so I ran them straight out of the book, and that worked better than I had feared.

It was a pretty good fight, but the team is loaded down with Omega Tech, so it wasn’t as tough as I thought it would be5. The group managed to get the laser defenses operational, which helped them take out the monsters, and now they have a (broken) flying saucer. Next session is going to start with them trying to figure out what’s wrong with the engines.

Because this is a mini-campaign, I’m not bothering with experience points. Instead, I’m just letting the characters level up at the end of certain sessions, and I’ve decided that this session was one of them. Next session, the gang is going to be second level. We’ll see how that goes.

  1. I’m really getting behind on these posts, aren’t I? Sorry about that. I’m trying to catch up, but there is another demand on my time that actually has a deadline, so it’s getting priority. []
  2. As such spaceships often do. []
  3. These are, of course, the characters of the two players who couldn’t make the fist session. []
  4. Yeah, it didn’t make any better thematic sense than the encounters I had prepared, but orlens are cool, and I had them bickering with each other about how they should have known other people would be investigating the ship, as well. []
  5. Something for me to keep in mind for the next session. []

Dateline – Gammatoba

I’ve been down with a nasty flu for the better part of the last week, so this post is a bit later than I had intended. Feeling better now, and playing catch-up.

Sunday before last was one of our regularly scheduled Storm Point games but, as I mentioned previously, we’re taking a hiatus to play some Gamma World. Thus, that Sunday was our first Gammatoba installment.

This game is working a little differently from the Storm Point game in a couple of different ways. First off, while we’re still playing quorum-style, I’m doing some hand-waving to have the different characters enter and leave play if the players aren’t at the game. I don’t do that in D&D because the party composition is such a huge part of 4e and I don’t want to have to do all the messing around with the encounters that I did in the 3e campaign1. But in Gamma World, things are a lot looser, so it’s not such a big deal.

We’ve also added one player for the duration of the Gammatoba run2, giving us a potential party size of seven if everyone shows. That’s a pretty big group, but should be doable, though not long-term.

In setting the game up, I sent out the pitch I posted here previously, and got the players to each submit a short paragraph about their hometown in the Red Valley near Great City One and Fort LoGray. I also asked them each to give me a rumour, something cool they’ve heard about within Great City One that would be a good way for them to earn their stripes with the Fort LoGray Legion. This worked pretty great, in my opinion, giving us a number of towns in the area, a bit of an understanding of the political situation, and a bunch of good hooks for adventures in the ruins of Great City One3.

For this homework, I gave each of them an extra Omega Tech card at the start of play. It’s not a huge reward, but it’s a fun one. It also does a little bit – not a lot, but a little bit – to mitigate the high mortality of default Gamma World. Again, it’s not a huge impact, and I don’t want to completely defang the higher mortality threat, but I intended it to make certain that the party survived the first session intact without me having to do any dice-fudging.

And it worked, as far as that goes.

So, what happened in the game? Well, the group got together, looked over the rumours they had about Great City One, and decided that their target was going to be the Karney Key Library, near the heart of the city, in the territory of a mysterious gang known as the Mad Tooths. They bundled into their car, and drove down the highway towards the city.

I hit them with a gang of porkers on motorcycles, with some hybrid boar-wolf pets4, who took out the tire of the car, forcing them to start and fight. Due to some good rolls with some Omega Tech, the fight wasn’t all that tough, though there were some tense moments as a couple of the characters wound up split from the main group and thumped pretty thoroughly.

After the fight, there were some rolls to repair the car, and they salvaged one of the motorcycles, as well. Then they were off on the highway again. Where the highway crossed the Primter, they found a series of fortifications set up by the local badder tribes. Rather than fight their way through, they decided to hide the car and try and cross between the forts stealthily on foot. It was about this time that they asked me what time of year it was, and I told them winter5. That got a lot of groans, because crossing open ground in a Manitoba winter is nobody’s idea of fun.

Some decent stealth rolls got them past my planned fight at the Primter fortifications, but I came prepared for this. For this crew, I always try and keep a couple of floating encounters in my notes that I can drop in where needed. I was looking for a good place to spring the encounter on them, and describing the weird mix of timelines and realities in that part of the city, amid the normal industrial parks. So, I mentioned the machine tower from Xi, and the Ishtaran ziggurat, and the crashed flying saucer.

Yeah, you see where this is going.

They broke into the flying saucer with some good Science checks, and then started exploring it. The encounter I had prepared was a parn, so it struck me that this would be a good Alien-style scenario, with them exploring the downed ship while the sword-beetle stalked them from the shadows.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to do much of that. It was getting late in the evening, so I cut the creepy ship bits short, gave them some info about a monster on a spaceship that they picked up with Conspiracy checks, and let them face the bug in its lair.

The fight went very quickly. The parn was stunned for two rounds, and then dazed for the next two, which meant it didn’t get to unload nearly enough before dying. Still, it worked nicely, and was a fun fight. I pulled together a quick deck of only Area 52 Omega Tech for the next draw, figuring it made sense inside the flying saucer.

That’s when the hippogriff moment hit.

The characters are talking about salvaging the flying saucer and bringing it back to Fort LoGray. And really, I’m okay with that. In fact, I think it’s awesome. So, I’m preparing the next session to be about them finding out how to get the ship back in the air. I figure they’ll need some specific parts, some Science know-how, and maybe an alien to help them pilot it.

I’m looking forward to it.

  1. Admittedly, such messing about is much, much easier in 4e, but it still produces some strange things both narratively (Well, the fighter suddenly catches up to you this session, after sleeping in last session and missing all the fun.) and mechanically (Differing experience and treasure amongst the characters make it difficult to properly build appropriate challenges). []
  2. Welcome aboard, Cody! []
  3. It also gave me some real insight into what sort of game the players were looking for. Don’t tell them that, though, okay? []
  4. Yes, that’s right. Road hogs and schweinhunds. []
  5. I hadn’t decided before this point. Indeed, I had made up a couple of other encounters in case they wound up with a keel boat and decided to take the river into the city. []

Welcome to Gammatoba

So, the Storm Point crew and I are looking at taking a bit of a hiatus from D&D to play some Gamma World. Maybe. If the whole gang wants to. I’m kind of pumped to give it a try, so here’s the set-up I pitched them to drum up interest:

The settlement of Fort LoGray in Red Valley grew up in the early years after the Big Mistake. It coalesced around an old set of fortifications that grew and multiplied as the various timelines overlapped and stayed. The strange combination of walls and buildings provided safety and security, even so near the devastation that struck the Great City One to the south (called in the oldest stories Winter Pig, though no one knows why). In the Red Valley Confederacy, Fort LoGray stands as the vigilant protector, providing elite soldiers and armaments to the villages and towns of Red Valley, and the young people of Standroo, Selk, Locks, Raw’s Deal, Eepul, and Weepul all dream of joining the ranks of the LoGray Legions.

You have all come to Fort LoGray in order to attain that honour. Each of you is a hero of your home village, with unique abilities and the mixed blessing of the Flux, the twisting of timelines and parallel worlds that grant you your various mutations. You have also each been given a valuable piece of Omega Tech and the best wishes of your friends and family to aid you in your endeavour. You have passed the initial interviews and gone through basic training, getting to know your fellow aspirants. More than half of your initial class of recruits has already washed out and been sent home. Now, you have one last test to prove your skill, adaptability, and determination.

As with each new squad of Legionnaires, you are being sent south down the river, to Great City One. To gain admittance to the Legion, you must return with some great artifact of the Ancients. Many before you have turned aside on their final quest, fearing the rumors of the Energy Spirit, the Black Bombers, and the Forks Tribes. But you will not shame your clans in this way. You will succeed, and take your place among the elite warriors of Red Valley.

If they go for the pitch, I’m planning to have them each write up a sentence or two about their hometown in the area (north of Winnipeg along the Red River), and another couple of sentences describing a rumour or legend about Great City One1. I’ll probably toss them a reward for doing that homework, something like an extra piece of Omega Tech. Or maybe start them at second level.

Anyway.

I’ll let you know if they decide to go with Gamma World or D&D.

  1. If you’re wondering where that name came from, the slogan for Winnipeg is, for some lame reason, One Great City. []