Game Log: “DoomOS” for Marvel Heroic Roleplaying

I ran a one-shot adventure of Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Friday night, both to get more familiar with the system and to, I hope, jump-start a new game night. I’ve only played the game once, and hadn’t run it myself till this occasion. But I’ve read the rule book three times—to prepare to run games that never materialized—and I find the system really unique and appealing.

Four players joined me for the game, only one of which had also played before. They were:

  • Jeff, playing Iron Man
  • Shannon, playing Spider-Woman
  • John, playing Daredevil
  • Kelly, playing Ms. Marvel

If you’re like me in thinking “One of these things is not like the other,” I’d like to mention that it impressed me how the Marvel system easily handles a group of heroes of what we’d normally think of as differing power levels; in a point-buy system, a street-level fisticuffs-based hero like Daredevil would be much less powerful than a cosmic-level hero like Ms. Marvel. But in this game, the two PCs playing those characters were able to take similar actions and it never seemed like one was less capable than the other.


The Event I ran (that’s what MHR calls adventures) was one I wrote for the occasion, called “DoomOS.” The heroes received a video distress call on their Avengers communicators. (By coincidence all the PCs were either current or former Avengers, so the players reasoned that this would be a good way to receive their mission trigger.) The call was from Willie Lumpkin, the mailman to the Fantastic Four.

“Thank God I reached you! Please help! The Fantastic Four are in trouble. The Baxter Building is under attack by…oh no!” The signal cut off.

The heroes didn’t see anything amiss when they reached the Baxter Building, so they opted to enter the building via the standard lobby entrance instead of the roof (or smashing through a wall). They learned a few things from the receptionist: the Fantastic Four aren’t answering their phone (a special blue one set aside specifically for calling them); only the FF can grant access to their suites (on the top 5 floors); and Willie Lumpkin was last seen heading up to visit the FF to deliver today’s mail and packages.

Iron Man tried to wirelessly hack the FF’s computer system, but failed. This surprised Iron Man, because he was certain that he was smarter than Reed Richards and could easily hack his systems. Iron Man did, however, manage to gain access to the restricted elevator to the FF suites. The heroes headed upstairs.

(GM note: I figured the PCs would try to hack the computers, but didn’t want them to succeed at that yet because that’s what ending the adventure would depend upon. So I was happy that Jeff rolled poorly against the Doom Pool–but I wanted to reward his smart thinking, so I granted that Iron Man would still be smart enough to hack the doors. If, instead, he had rolled well, I would have ruled that he successfully hacked the door system but there was some sophisticated foreign code preventing him from gaining further access.)

Jeff kicked off the Iron Man/Mr. Fantastic rivalry.

On entering the FF’s reception area on the first of the Fantastic Four’s levels (the 31st floor), the heroes were attacked by the building’s security system, in the form of electrified floors. Only Daredevil was hurt, and from then on all the PCs with flight took care to hover, and all the PCs without flight (Daredevil) stood on furniture or hung from a swingline.

Ms. Marvel set out to search the residential area for signs of life, but was attacked by a stun blaster that dropped down from the ceiling in the hallway. She and the rest of the team destroyed it, and Daredevil used his sonar sense to find two more defensive systems, which the group also destroyed.

Figuring it would be smarter to turn off all the defenses at once instead of fighting them in every room, Daredevil used his sonar sense again to locate the FF’s computer center. Once he got a fix on its location (the 33rd floor) and relayed this to the team, Iron Man blasted a hole in the ceiling and proceeded to the 32nd floor, finding himself in the gym. He figured Reed would forgive the damage, and it wasn’t too bad–the floor was smashed up, but the massive barbells and hydraulic presses that the Thing uses to keep in shape were undamaged.

The color printout is the Baxter Building.

Ms. Marvel continued Spider-Woman’s search, locating the Human Torch unconscious on the floor beside his desk. Resisting an attack by gas emitters in the room, Ms. Marvel brought Johnny back to the rest of the group. (I had decided in advance that two of the FF would be on level 31, and that I’d let the players decide which FF members were there as they found them. They picked the Human Torch here, and the Thing later.)

Spider-Woman flew up next and physically smashed through to the target floor, level 33. She made her way through the chemistry lab and past the medical center to the computer complex. There, she found a bank of security monitors that showed where the rest of the FF were: Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman were trapped in a glass chamber in the biology lab (level 33), and the Thing and Willie Lumpkin were snoozing on the floor of the kitchen beside an upended tray of cookies (level 31).

Oh, and she also noticed a large robot looming over her.

(GM note: At this point I realized I’d forgotten that I’d planned on the heroes finding Willie unconscious in the reception area where they first entered the FF suites, so I put him in the kitchen with the Thing instead.)

(Additional GM note: after the heroes discovered the Human Torch and the Thing, I opened them up as playable characters. We thought of a few ways to play this: (a) a player could trade in her current hero and start playing as one of the FF; (b) a player could take on the role of a FF member in addition to his current character; or (c) we could place the FF characters in a pool, and then each turn one player could take an action for one of the FF who hadn’t acted yet in lieu of taking their other character’s action. By this point, I think all the players had settled into their roles and were happy with who they were playing, so nobody controlled Johnny or Ben. I was fine with that, and just wanted to provide it as an option in case any of the players were hard-core FF fans and really wanted to try those roles.)

Spider-Woman saw that the robot was built from a haphazard-looking collection of parts: computer monitors formed the head, roughly-joined computer cases served as arms, and random pieces of doors and other metal odds-and-ends made up the legs. A symbol glowed on each of the two computer monitors that served as giant eyes–an iconized version of Doctor Doom’s mask.

Spider-Woman decided the makeshift Doombot could wait, and concentrated first on shutting down the building’s security system. She was successful, and turned to fight the robot.

(GM note: At this point Spider-Woman also learned that the FF’s computer system, which the players decided normally called itself “FourOS”, was now branding itself as “DoomOS.” She also learned that the system was transmitting a tremendous amount of data to an IP address in Latveria, the country Doctor Doom rules. But I forgot those details at the time she was accessing the computer, so had to slip them in later! I did this by simply telling the players I’d made that mistake, and caught them up on the info they should have had.)

Downstairs, the Human Torch woke up. Ms. Marvel and Daredevil asked him what he remembered. Johnny said he was uploading photos of himself to Facebook, and recalls hearing the doorbell, then loud footsteps that must have been the Thing going to answer the door, then the same footsteps heading back toward the kitchen. Ms. Marvel and Daredevil filled him in on the current situation. Johnny asked Ms. Marvel to help him find his teammates. She agreed, and Daredevil left them to crawl through the ducts to the lab level.

Back in the computer complex, Spider-Woman blasted the Doombot. Wait, that’s not true–her Venom Blast does less damage than her Superhuman Strength, so she punched the bot instead. When it tried to punch back, she tore off its arm. The Doombot didn’t last long after that. While Spider-Woman was cleaning its clock, Iron Man achieved a spectacular feat of hacking and shut down the Internet data feed that was sending FF data to Latveria.

Elsewhere on the same floor, Daredevil located Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman. The chamber holding them turned out to be Reed’s experimental power nullifier. (It was, obviously, functional.) Unfortunately for Daredevil, the chamber blocked all sounds, so he couldn’t hear the captives tell him which of the many nearby buttons would open the nullifier. But Sue had an idea—she tugged up the hem of her pant leg enough to show her green socks, and pointed to them. Daredevil got it, and pushed the green button, releasing the couple. (And now you know, True Believers, that the Invisible Woman wears green socks.)

Probably these.

Back downstairs, Ms. Marvel and the Human Torch found the Thing and Willie Lumpkin in the kitchen. Since the security systems that had knocked them out were now disabled, the Thing was already waking up. The heroes helped Willie recover, and the mailman told them his tale: he brought up the mail, and right after the Thing let him in and headed to the kitchen to grab some cookies to share with Willie, one of the parcels flew open and spewed hundreds of tiny metal doohickeys that skedaddled every which way. That’s the last thing he remembered.

Leaving the Torch with Willie, Ms. Marvel followed the Thing as he headed for action, jumping up through the hole in the ceiling leading to the gym. Before our heroine made it through the hole, she saw the Thing punched into the far wall by a second Doombot. Landing in the gym, Ms. Marvel faced off with a Doombot with dumbbells for arms and hydraulic presses for legs.

“Kneel before Doom!” the cobbled-together Doombot said.

Ms. Marvel declined, deciding instead to blast the bot. Her first shot dealt serious damage. The rest of the heroes joined her soon after, and made quick work of the bot. At about that time, Iron Man shut down the DoomOS system and stopped the stream of stolen Fantastic Four data that Doctor Doom was stealing from his Latveria base.

(GM note: I had other ideas for Doombots made of different components—such as the Fantasticar—and figured I’d decide during play how many to throw at the PCs. Fighting the security systems took us longer than I’d estimated, so to keep the game from running too long I stopped at two Doombots.)

Reed Richards thanked the heroes for rescuing him and his family, purging the invading operating system, and thwarting Doctor Doom. Iron Man offered to help Reed get the computer systems back in order, using his obviously superior Stark technology. Before Reed could respond, Sue put her hand over his mouth and said they all appreciate his help.

System Impressions

This was the biggest my Doom Pool got for this session.

Before running this game, I had my doubts about the Doom Pool mechanic. The Doom Pool is a special pool of dice set aside for the GM. (The GM is called the Watcher, but I’ll stick with GM here.) One use of the pool is to resist the PCs’ actions when there isn’t a specific NPC to target (such as when they want to break down a wall). Another is to add dice to a villain’s dice pool. The Doom Pool can grow whenever a player rolls a one and the GM chooses to claim the “opportunity” by buying it with a Plot Point.

I had assumed I would not take frequent advantage of the players’ bad rolls to increase the Doom Pool, because I don’t like to make things TOO hard for my players. Also, I am accustomed to cheating mercilessly behind my GM screen, adding or subtracting dice or just making up whatever result is dramatically appropriate at the time.

With this game, though, it feels more natural to roll everything out in the open. Maybe part of it is that we were all learning the system together, and wanted to demonstrate how the opposition put together their dice pools. At any rate, I quickly became addicted to seizing the players’ bad rolls and maximizing my Doom Pool. Another motivation for me is that a story typically starts out at a 2d6 Doom Pool, and the heroes were succeeding too often early in the game when they were rolling 4 or 5 dice vs a Doom Pool of only 2.

Also, the strategy of how best to improve the Doom Pool turned out to be fun. When cashing in on a player’s bad roll, the GM can either add a d6 OR increase the smallest die by one size (existing d6 becomes a d8, for example). Choices! Better yet, if the player rolls TWO ones, the GM can add a d6 AND step it up to a d8 without extra cost! This became my goal in life.

I was happy that Plot Points flowed like water during this game. Too often in games with a point-reward system (Bennies, Hero Points, Power Points) players are hesitant to spend them, or the GM forgets to award them often enough (I can be guilty of both). But in this game—perhaps due to my “buying” every possible Doom Pool upgrade by giving players Plot Points—the players spent them well. My favorite Plot Point award was to Shannon, for inventing Spider-Woman’s theme song.

Notable Quotes

“I bet it’s Dr. Doom.” – Shannon, immediately after Willie called the PCs for help in the first scene.

“Are you playing ‘Can’t Touch the Floor’?” – Shannon to John, after John spent a third turn explaining in detail how his Daredevil was carefully avoiding touching the electrified ground.

Valentine’s D&D

For our Valentine’s Day game session, my girlfriend suggested we decorate the place with hearts and pink banners and lovey-dovey streamers and shit, just to see what kind of reaction we’d get out of the players.

The names of all the players. I know, barf, right?

How do you like the finished product? Yeah, pretty nausea-inducing, right? That’s what Jay said. Which made my day.
In addition to the decorations, we got candy hearts for me to give out to any player who did anything especially clever or entertaining. Also, we got heart-shaped candy tins for the players, and a special prize for the player who ended up with the most candy hearts at the end of the game.
For this session, we played the first part of Episode 3 of the D&D 5th edition campaign “Hoard of the Dragon Queen.” (We took a break from Numenera because we were down two players, and it wouldn’t feel the same without Catastrophe and Boomshakalaka.)
While I don’t want to go so far as to log all of our sessions from published D&D adventures, I would like to brag about my players’ clever actions in this session. If you’re a D&D player and you plan to play this adventure, you might want to skip reading the rest of this due to possible spoilers.
The party this time was:
  • Dain, male dwarf barbarian, played by Christi.
  • Naeris, male drow paladin, played by Jay.
  • Copello, male human sorcerer, played by Jerrod.
This episode starts with an NPC hiring the PCs to return to a site full of enemies that they scouted—and had to escape from—last time. The players were unwilling to do so for the simple reward of gold the NPC was offering. I’ve read criticism of this campaign for not offering much in the way of material rewards for the PCs, and I think that’s what the players were starting to feel here. They each had around 300 gold already from previous quests in the campaign, and nowhere to spend it (being based in a small town that had been robbed blind in Episode 1).
I don’t have the new Dungeon Master’s Guide yet, so the only source of treasure at my disposal for 5th edition was a few items in the supplemental downloadable material for the campaign. So I had the NPC offer each of the PCs his choice of a +1 weapon or +1 armor. This did the trick; the players’ eyes lit up and they agreed to the mission.
When the party returned to the camp they were to scout, they found it had been abandoned except for some hunters out front and some other forces in a cavern. Upon learning that the hunters provide food for the enemy, Dain suggested they poison the food and let that do the work of taking out the enemy. So that’s what they did—a little charcoal on the meat, plus some of Copello’s poison spray mixed in, add a dash of Copello disguising himself as one of the hunters, and they put their plan in motion.
This made me nervous, because this episode is set up as a standard dungeon crawl—enter area 1, find (or spring) some traps, fight some monsters, move to area 2, repeat. I didn’t really want the PCs to short circuit all of that and be led right to the heart of the cavern base, and yet I didn’t want to punish their creativity either. So I tried to let things happen naturally and roll with it.
I decided the guards immediately inside the cavern wouldn’t let just anyone in, even the hunters they knew provided their food. So they blocked Copello (in disguise) from passing further into the cavern, but didn’t attack him either. The PCs put their heads together and decided Copello should take the guards a plate of poisoned sandwiches. This worked; the guards ate the food and before long were making sounds of distress.

The PCs dispatched the suffering guards easily. However, before they could finish the last one, he stumbled deeper into the cavern and accidentally tripped the first trap the PCs would have encountered. (I made it fair, giving him the same chance to escape it that they would have had.) This had the further benefit (from the PCs’ perspective) of revealing a patch of camouflaged violet fungi that would have likely sneak-attacked them. The fungi instead attacked the guard, helping the PCs out even more.
I loved that all of those circumstances in the PCs’ favor had trickled down from their outside-the-box plan to poison their enemy.
The party explored a few more rooms, then found one that featured a group of kobolds and a pit containing three guard drakes. (The drakes were isolated for training purposes and couldn’t get up to the PCs unless the kobolds could manage to let them out.) On the party’s first attack, Copello fumbled his spell attack, and I went with the result that Jay suggested.
Earlier, the PCs had noticed that the ceiling of the adjacent room was covered with bats. They were stealthy enough that they didn’t disturb the creatures at the time, but Copello’s badly aimed blast landed right next to the bats and pissed them off royally. The bats turned out to be no threat at all, but among them were hiding a group of stirges, which attacked.
Since the PCs and the kobolds were close together, the stirges went for all of them. Copello was the only PC to get bit, but the kobolds were far less lucky; all but one of them were killed outright by the first attack by the stirges! Naeris noticed that the stirges that had killed the kobolds were still attached to them, slurping up their blood, so he tossed a kobold (plus stirge) down into the drake pit. The party added the other kobolds to the feeding frenzy, too, and by the end of the scene had neatly taken care of the kobolds and stirges and pacified the drakes enough that they calmed down and didn’t pay any more attention to the PCs.
Copello’s critical failure resulted in all but one kobold being slain in the same round!
That’s part of the reason his player earned the Valentine’s prize of the evening.
Notable Quotes:

  • “I’m not gonna go berserker over a fuckin’ plant.” – Christi politely rejected Jay’s suggestion that her barbarian use her rage ability.
  • “I give great diarrhea, but that’s about it.” – Jerrod modestly ducked Jay’s compliment which implied that Copello might distract the guards in a specifically adult manner.
  • “It’s a 50 Shades of Grey corner.” – Christi thought it odd that the drake-training room contained “long poles with lassos at the end…leashes and collars; sharp prods…human-sized dummies…with ridiculous expressions painted on their faces.”

Numenera Session 2: The Great Slab

Drawing of yours truly by our youngest player

Previously…our heroes were on their way to the Great Slab (Numenera, p. 187), the most impressive landmark in the land of Dessanedi, in the Beyond. The party aquired a trio of adolescent scutimorphs to serve as mounts.

We added two players to our Numenera game this time. They are regulars in the gaming group, they just weren’t available for the first session.

  • Christi played Casper, a stealthy nano who exists partially out of phase.
  • Jerrod played Dr. Deth, a tough glaive who works miracles.

The existing party (Catastrophe, Boomshakalaka, and Sparkles!!!) met Dr. Deth on their way to the Great Slab. Deth was a military doctor who’d been left behind by his unit when he insisted on taking care of a wounded soldier who couldn’t keep up with the rest of the army. The soldier had ended up succumbing to his wounds, leaving Dr. Deth alone. After meeting the party and helping Sparkles recover from the reality spike wound in his foot, Deth joined their expedition to the Great Slab.

Around the time the party got their first glimpse of the Slab in the distance, they spotted a woman being menaced by a pack of broken hounds. The woman, Casper, had taken cover in a tree, and the party rushed to her aid. (All but Sparkles, who was mourning the loss of one of his wine bottles during the journey.)

Catastrophe drew first blood with her crossbow, killing her target, and then made the rest of the party uneasy when she started skinning the creature in the middle of combat. After overcoming their nausea, the other party members made quick work of the remaining hounds, displaying great skill and still refusing to use Effort. The only dicey moment was when Casper botched a buzzer shot and fell out of the tree.

After the fight, Catastrophe made a few shins by selling crafted items to her colleagues. Dr. Deth now sports a new sheath made of broken hound leather, and Boom is the proud owner of a fancy feathered hat. Deth and Casper each climbed onto one of the party’s scutimorph mounts behind an existing rider, and the party resumed their journey.

The Great Slab! The party members had heard the legends, but none had seen it in person. The slab is a giant rectangle laid flat on the ground, measuring over 900 meters tall, 2 miles wide, and more than 4 miles long. (Based on the name, at least one party member expected it to be standing upright, like a monolith.) Approaching the western side of the Slab—one of the short sides—the party discovered a small shanty town made up of various sizes of tents perched within a quarter mile of the Slab walls. Sparkles suggested they avoid it for now, and his curiosity for the mysteries of the Slab itself was infectious.

Before they could reach the Slab, though, a man called out from behind the party. He had come from the shanty town and caught up with the group by using his hover boots.

Catastrophe immediately wanted the hover boots.

The man introduced himself as McLin Terbone, the owner of the Great Slab, and earnestly welcomed the party. He even wore a sash, embroidered with the word “Owner”, to back up his story. Our heroes swallowed their surprise and politely asked the man how he had come to own such an enormous landmark. “That’s a long story,” he said, but he did go on to share what information he did have about the Slab–which wasn’t much. He told them that it had been around for longer than anyone remembered, and that he didn’t know of anyone succeeding in their attempts to climb it or fly over it. He also didn’t know the makeup of the reddish-black oil that constantly flows down the sides of the Slab, but mentioned that a scientist in one of the nearby tents was studying the substance. Indeed, the Owner said, she is offering to pay anyone who will drink some of the stuff so she can study its effects, if any.

Boomshakalaka immediately ran to find the scientist’s tent. (His comrades believe his dedication is to shins rather than science.) Casper followed along.

Sparkles and Deth headed over to the Slab to examine it up close, and Catastrophe worked to get more information out of the Owner. He had said that the way he became the owner was a long story, and she convinced him to take the time to tell it to her. We’ll see what he told her later. Be patient.

(I didn’t have anything in mind to reveal about the Slab’s origins, so when Catastrophe’s player asked if she could make it up, I was happy to oblige her. She worked on the story while the rest of the party continued adventuring.)

Over at the shanty town, Boom and Casper searched for someone looking like a scientist. They passed numerous small tents, a grand one where some sort of merchandise was being sold, a pen with two aneen, a tent with smoke pouring out of it, and then the largest tent of all, before Boom decided to stop. People in hooded robes were coming and going from this grand tent, and Boom asked one if this was the scientist’s tent. No, one said, that’s the smoking tent next door.

Boom and Casper ducked inside the smoking tent. A white-haired woman wearing thick glasses was working with a variety of vials and other containers on two large tables. Most of the vials held the oily liquid from the Slab—let’s call it Slab oil. Boom got right to the point, telling the woman that he’d heard she was offering 20 shins to anyone who would sample the liquid. Caught by surprise (and lacking any other takers), the scientist agreed. (She’d been offering 10.)

The scientist led Boom to a chair with straps at the arms and legs. “For your own safety during the experiment,” the scientist explained. Boom initally balked, until the woman paid him in advance. Then he helped her strap him in. He gulped down the oil. Said it wasn’t too bad. The scientist asked him lots of detailed questions about how he was feeling. Fortunately, Boom suffered no ill effects.

So far.

Meanwhile, back at the Slab…Sparkles and Deth determined that the Slab felt smooth and solid behind the flowing liquid. Sparkles used his Scan ability to learn a few details:

  • The wall is one meter thick.
  • There’s breathable air on the other side of the wall.
  • There is evidence of power conduits on the other side of the wall.
  • An energy field covers the outer wall.

While the two men studied the Slab, Catastrophe presented them with the Owner’s tale of the Slab’s origin.

The story must be true. She wrote it in a reporter’s notebook.

The Origin of the Slab, as told by its Owner, and recounted by Catastrophe:

“Long, long ago, the people who lived here worshipped the Slab. At that time, the Slab was made of bacon. Someone banished or killed all the worshippers and ate all the bacon. Then other people made a new slab out of pork. The pork slab was eaten too. The people of the region then went for years without food; over 10 million people died. Then 3 people got together (including me) and we built a new Slab out of metal and synth. It took 2,368 years. The end.”

Apparently the Owner is older than he looks.

Sparkles and Dr. Deth were unconvinced about the accuracy of this tale. Sparkles moved on to using a detonation cypher to try and blow a hole in the wall.

Boom and Casper left the scientist’s tent after hearing the noise and headed back to the Slab—along with a large group of villagers. The 9 hooded villagers took the lead, looking angry as they marched toward Catastrophe, Sparkles, and Deth. (Catastrophe tried to defuse the situation by putting on a hedge magic show, but it only generated interest from the non-robed folk. Still, she ended up earning some shins.)

Boom and Casper got separated in the crowd, but both had the same idea: get back to the Slab before the villagers do, in case their allies are in danger. Casper swung by the aneen pen and “borrowed” one. She took off for the Slab on aneenback.

Boom spotted a creature, too: a balloon bird (level 3, flies as level 4). He had heard of these, but had never seen one. Though they are actually lizards rather than birds, they do have the ability to inflate their bodies an enormous amount with lighter-than-air gases. Boom figured such a creature would be a great aid in getting back to the Slab quickly, so he jumped on its back. Unfortunately, he wasn’t as successful in winning over the balloon bird as he had been with the scutimorph, and it bucked him off. When he got back up, he was confronted by two angry-looking women.

“Why were you bothering Cloud?” one of the women asked. Boom tried to talk her into letting him borrow the balloon bird for a while, but she didn’t buy it. In fact, the woman was so offended she took a swing at Boom. In an astounding change of fortune (meaning Boom’s player rolled a 20), Boom ducked under the punch, leapt onto the back of the balloon bird, and took off into the air.

Back at the Slab, Casper arrived in time to make a stand with Sparkles and Dr. Deth when the robed villagers strode forward angrily to confront them. “How dare you blapheme this holy place!” The robed ones turned out to be a group of Slab worshippers. Dr. Deth stepped forward and smoothed things over with the worshippers, convincing them that nobody was trying to hurt the Slab, and asking them to tell him more about themselves. The lead worshipper introduced himself as Tharu Abanazad, and said that he and his fellows had all had different visions of the Slab; in his own, he saw the Slab opening up and releasing wonders into the world. Tharu believes this vision will come to pass soon.

The Priest of the Slab also mentioned his belief that attempts to enter or climb the Slab are folly. For one thing, he said, some force seems to be protecting the Slab from these activities. Numerous accounts of such attempts have failed, many of them attributable only to “bad luck.” If the makers of the Slab wanted it climbed or entered, Tharu reasoned, they would have provided stairs or doors.

During this discussion, Sparkles performed some experiments on the Slab using his sheen of ice ability. He found that he could freeze the oil to the side of the Slab for brief periods, so he used this technique to start climbing up the wall.

Most of the Slab worshippers and other villagers present watched Sparkles’s ascent with awe–except for those who had been won over by Catastrophe’s magic show. Her show became so popular among her fans, in fact, that they brought forth a supply of wood and built a stage for her.

While Sparkles and Catastrophe were putting on their respective shows, Casper attempted to phase through the Slab wall. It worked! Well, eventually. It took her a long time to squeeze her molecules all the way through the dense wall.

As Casper moved deeper, Sparkles moved higher. Thanks to his skill with ice, his knowledge of ice manipulation lore, and a lot of luck, Sparkles neared the top of the Slab wall. Then he activated a cypher which allowed him to funnel his freezing Slab oil upward at great speed—and he shot up onto the top of the Slab!

Casper had moved almost halfway into the Slab wall when Boom returned, riding his stolen balloon bird. Seeing Sparkles reaching the top of the Slab, Boom aimed to land nearby. When he got close to the wall, Boom and his ballon bird were buffeted by strong winds–winds that weren’t at all in evidence moments before. Realizing his chances for reaching the top of the Slab–and perhaps even landing anywhere safely–were plummeting, Boom activated his danger translocation cypher. This gadget would supposedly teleport the user to safety immediately after the user was hurt in any way. Boom tested it out by leaping off his mount and aiming for the Slab wall. He struck the wall, and vanished!

Around that time, Casper finished phasing through the wall and became the first party member to reach the Slab interior. She found herself in a dark, cool space. Activating a glow globe showed her that she was in a long, tall corridor made of smooth metal, the walls of which ran parallel to the Slab wall. Casper picked a direction and started exploring.

The first thing she found was the skeletal remains of a human. Casper looted a cypher and a book from the body. The book was so brittle it was mostly unreadable, but Casper managed to make out two noteworthy entries. The first was text: “1 17 32 805 67 83?” The other entry was a drawing of a vaguely human outline, sketched in red ink (or was it blood?). Casper continued her search, and in another hallway located a panel that activated overhead lights.

Elsewhere…Boom reappeared inside a high-tech-looking room. The air was cool and the room was lit by overhead lights and an array of waist-high instrument panels. Boom couldn’t resist touching one before leaving the room to explore. (It beeped, and turned off a humming sound Boom hadn’t noticed until it was gone.) Boom called for his friends, but the reply was only silence.

Up on the top of the Slab, Sparkles looked around carefully to make sure he wasn’t in any immediate danger. All was quiet on the Slab’s surface. He took in the magnificent view of the surrounding region, then set out toward the center of the Slab, where he could see an enormous valley bisecting the Slab from one long wall to the other.

Reaching the valley, Sparkles encountered a few strange hybrid animals, such as a half-lizard/half-bird, and a half-feline/half-animate-plant (all level 2). The animals seemed to be created by design, since their features weren’t blended in an evolutionary way but looked more like they had been grafted together–the left half of one beast connected to the right half of the other. Sparkles was cautious and did not prompt an attack by the hybrids, even when he captured a lizard/bird for later study. Indeed, a cat/plant became fascinated by Sparkles and followed him around.

Sparkles peered into the chasm bisecting the Slab, and estimated that he could climb down into it safely. Well, relatively safely. But first, he headed back to the edge to send a message to his allies.

Back in the Slab, Casper found a square room that featured floor tiles that illuminated in an indecipherable pattern. Before she could reach the other side of the room, a figure entered from the opposite door. It was translucent, and vaguely human shaped, and red.

To be continued!

Next time: Will the red figure be friendly? Is Boom in the Slab with Casper, and if so, is he close enough to her position that they’ll see each other in their lifetimes? Will Sparkles find a way to communicate with his friends (or more importantly, his cat/plant)? How long will Dr. Deth wait for the others to return before he gets bored and wanders off? And will Catastrophe end up bilking every single villager out of all their shins? Tune in next time to find out!

Player Quotes:

“Pardon him, he’s taken too many blows to the head.” – Dr. Deth (Jerrod) to the Owner, after Sparkles mentioned he thought the Slab would be made of bacon. 

“Super-fast working montage!” – Kaitlyn, describing Catastrophe’s crafting. 

“I run toward the town!” – Juan, revealing Boom’s avarice upon learning the scientist was paying people to drink Slab oil.

Our First Numenera Session

My most recent game session was my group’s introduction to Numenera. I haven’t even read the whole corebook myself, but couldn’t wait to dive in, so that’s what I did. (Plus I did read all of Numenera’s sister game, The Strange.) For this session I ran part of “The Beale of Boregal” from the Numenera corebook.

The players were Jay, Juan, and Kaitlyn (Jay’s daughter).

  • Juan was Boomshakalaka, a rugged glaive who fuses flesh and steel.
  • Jay was Sparkles!!!, a learned nano who wears a sheen of ice.
  • Kaitlyn was Catastrophe, a graceful jack who crafts unique objects.

PC relationships:

  • Sparkles can extend his sheen of ice to Boomshakalaka.
  • Sparkles talked Catastrophe into joining him by promising to help her learn about her past.
  • Catastrophe is expecting to be paid for her involvement.

Before we started, the players decided their reason for being in the region was that they wanted to explore the Great Slab (one of the options suggested by the adventure).

In the adventure’s first encounter, our heroes met two young people who arrived riding on the back of a scutimorph, a giant millipede-like creature. Catastrophe and Boomshakalaka (hereafter referred to as Boom because ow my fingers) took to this idea, and wondered how hard it would be to tame one of these monsters.

The adventure assumes that the PCs will either accompany one of the NPCs toward town or follow the other back to the site of a battle. My players weren’t excited about either of these options–they were still more interested in seeing the Great Slab. (Who can blame them? It’s not just a slab, it’s a GREAT slab!) But since the battle site (a village in the False Woods) was roughly on the route toward the Great Slab, they figured they’d check it out on the way.

This let me run Encounter 2, where the PCs entered the woods full of fake trees and found that each one was home to a scutimorph.

Jackpot, thought the players. Time to practice some taming.

Boomshakalaka immediately jumped onto the back of one of the monsters. The scutimorph exuded a layer of slippery goo and easily bucked Boom off, but that didn’t even phase our glaive. Sitting in the crater caused by his fall, Boom started working his mojo on befriending the creature. (Being rugged, he is trained in animal interactions.) It didn’t work, and the scutimorph attacked. Rolling two ones in a row, Boom had his shield eaten, and was then eaten himself.

But while relaxing inside the creature, he succeeded at befriending it, and safely climbed back out of the thing’s mouth. (The rest of us were glad about this, because before befriending the scutimorph Boom had considered fighting his way out through the other end.)

The taming complete, Boom lost interest in the scutimorph and let it go free. Thanks to a goo-cleaning device that Catastrophe crafted, Boom cleaned himself up.

The party then climbed onto the mesh covering the False Woods and set out toward the Great Slab. They spotted a village down at ground level–the one the adventure would have them defend in Encounter 3–but said “fuck it” and passed it by. (Kaitlyn didn’t say “fuck it.” She’s too young.)

A pack of pallones–flying disc-creatures that are invisible when turned sideways–attacked the party soon after this (as stolen from Encounter 3). These guys drew a lot of blood from the party, except for Catastrophe, who spent most of the battle hiding inside a cooler. And even when Boom threw that cooler at the pallones, she danced away unscathed.

The party’s first use of a cypher was pretty exciting…because Sparkles fumbled and jammed his reality spike through his foot. He had intended to use it as a barrier between himself and the charging pallones. It did help out in that respect, but Sparkles found himself attached to the pallones and none of them were happy about it.

Employing a bit of teamwork, though, the party survived and defeated the pallones. Since I had described the pallone attacks as having a metallic sound when hitting something solid, the players reasoned that the pallone remains would be metal shards. This sounded like a good idea, so that’s what they found. Catastrophe crafted these shards into semi-invisible swords.

While they were resting up from this encounter (which took two recovery periods, thanks to some high damage and low recover rolling), the party heard the villagers below fighting the creatures also. Boom and Catastrophe visited the village for supplies. Catastrophe and Boom bartered off the pallone swords in exchange for food (“a feast” was Catastrophe’s demand) and leather (for more crafting). Boom talked to Lowd, the town leader, who mentioned his feeling that the cause of the creature attacks originated from the west. Boom decided not to follow up on this, joining the others in their desire to travel east to the Great Slab.

Before departing, though, Boom befriended three adolescent scutimorph to use as mounts. Sparkles’s mount took to him immediately, but it took Catastrophe two tries to make friends with hers.

The party set out on their two-day journey at scutimorph speed to the Great Slab. They camped out that night, and were attacked by “the skulking bands” from the adventure (p. 370), actually a creature called a zaelem. This time Catastrophe didn’t hide inside the cooler; she got some practice with her crossbow and clawed gauntlets. Boom was almost eaten (again), but the PCs were triumphant when Sparkles froze the creature’s back and Boom shattered it. Luckily, he had already forced the creature to regurgitate the treasure in its guts before it was shattered; this included a whopping 6 cyphers.

In Numenera, each character has a set amount of cyphers they can carry safely. Sparkles decided to keep the excess in his wagon. We’ll see if that turns out to be a wise decision.

XP rewards
+1 to everyone
+1 to Boom for taming several scutimorph
+1 to Sparkles for taking detailed notes of all Boomshakalaka’s interactions with scutimorph
+1 to Catastrophe for creating (and selling) pallone swords

(I forgot to inject any GM intrusions. Oops.)

Next time: to the Great Slab!


This is my roleplaying blog, where I plan to put recaps of my game sessions, info about gaming topics that interest me, and eventually adventures I’ve written.

I love chatting about this stuff, so please leave comments! (Decent ones, of course. Please follow Wheaton’s Law.)