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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Order of Magnitude V: The final chapter

So this should be the final entry. The entire campaign lasted a bit over a year and a half but unfortunately a lot of the exact details were lost due to my faulty memory. However this part is still fairly fresh.

After fleeing the ruins of Shan Fan (and cursing the fact that their plans to steal the Denarians airship came to nothing) the posse heads south along the edge of the Maze, tracking a rumor that one of the coins was lost somewhere in this area. Unfortunately at this point Nicodemus and co. are in hot pursuit. Normally the posse would probably have stood their ground and fought. However, they've found through several tussles with Nicodemus that he's fairly unkillable, seemingly completely invulnerable to even the most lethal headshots or Max's hexes (those who have read the dresden files know why). With this in mind they decide to high tail it away from the Denarians ASAP.

However, the airship is closing in fast and they're running out of supplies in the california deserts. It's at about this time that they run into a band of native americans. They manage to make peaceful contact and with some decent Persuasion rolls from Jethro they are invited back to the tribe's village. It's about this time that the Denarians appear on the horizon. It looks like a horrific battle in the making but then the Indian shaman who leads the village stops it cold. He calls lightning to turn the airship into torch and when Nicodemus and crew arrive on foot he banishes them from the tribe's lands. It's clear to everyone at this point that they have stumbled upon Plot.

So, spending some time to talk to the indians they learn some important things. First that this tribe does possess the coin they're looking for. It's kept at the bottom of a deep well in the center of the village along with several other nasty artifacts of evil. The shaman is bound by a duty to the spirits to guard any sources of wickedness and evil here, never permitting them to leave. In exchange the spirits grant him gobs of power while he remains in the tribe's territory and the rest of the tribe defends him from physical dangers. What's more he's able to fill them in on some information such as the source of Nicodemus's invulnerability (an artifact called the noose of judas he wears around his neck) and where he's headed next (Death Valley). Since he wasn't able to collect the coin here he'll likely just kill one of his own denarian crew and take their coin to complete the set he needs to forge the Crown of Tears (Plot Device...of EVIL!) and gain the combined powers of the 18 denarians he'd forge into the crown. That's not the only bad news though, which brings us to Max...

You see, Max hasn't had Lasciel's coin for a long time but a shadow of her power and personality sticks around in his head, offering him power, influencing his behavior and granting him the ability (if he agrees to complete their bargain) to summon the coin and gain the power of a full Denarian, combined with his own. Now, Max has never given in to this final temptation but he's never outright rejected it either. In fact, by this point in the game I was still strongly considering the possibility that Max might end up being the game's "Final Boss", using Lasciel's power to bump Nicodemus out the way in time to claim the Crown of Tears for himself. The player (much like Max) couldn't decide one way or the other whether she wanted to go to the Dark Side.

However, it was time for Max to make a choice. Because of the tribe's oath to prevent evil from leaving their lands they can't allow Max (with the evil spirit lurking in his mind) to leave. The shaman isn't unsympathetic. He offers Max two choices: he can stay with the tribe, he'll be well cared for and they can provide aid in keeping the dark spirit from harming him or he can engage in a dangerous tribal ritual to excorcise the last traces of Lasciel from his mind. Lasciel's shadow offers him a third choice: complete the bargain, get the coin and together the two of them can escape, all he has to do is stab the shaman so there's no chance of him stopping them.

It takes a disturbing amount of time for Max's player to make this choice.

Finally Max decides he'll go for the excorcism. The ritual involves stripping max to his briefs, putting him in a ritual circle about the size of a large room and cutting both his wrists with a stone knife. After his wrists are slashed they're tightly bound in cloth and he's given the blood-soaked knife. Then the shaman and his crew begins a chant and dance that causes the dark spirit of Lasciel's shadow to manifest inside the circle. Max must defeat her in combat (only the bloody knife can harm her) and she will be banished. It takes some luck and all of his Fate Chips but Max does manage to eventually land the killing blow on Lasciel's shade and purges her from his body. So he's now only...sort of...evil.

So, with that taken care of the crew is free to leave the tribe's land to pursue Nicodemus. The shaman offers them aid to find him and track him down. He can send a guide and food to help them find the swiftest path to try and catch them or pursue them to the edge of Death Valley or he can open a way into the Hunting Ground. By entering the hunting ground the players would fight Nicodemus in the spirit world, bypassing his invulnerability but risking their immortal souls in the process. If they choose this path they would first have to appease a powerful spirit to serve as a guide into the depths of the spirit world. The spirit would ask for a price from two of the characters, one to open the path and one to guide them. Once a character volunteers the spirit asks them for an initial price which they can refuse, but if they do the spirit will demand a steeper fee, and if they refuse again the third price will be by far the harshest. The price would be different for each character and based on their individual quirks and personalities. I wrote up several pages of different "offerings" the spirit might demand. For example if Max offered one price would be his adulthood (essentially never growing older), another would be his ignorance of his afterlife (constant nightmares of Hell) and the third would be his magical powers (taking his Power Points leaving him with only the ability to use Deal With the Devil). The rest I remember less clearly. I know one for Miss Hart would have been giving up her creativity, making her only able to make copies of inventions she's already produced. Patches would lose his innocence, realizing fully what a monster he is.

So, of course the players choose to pursue and fight nicodemus in the real world. FINE! WHATEVER!!

So the posse loads up the tumbler with supplies and with the help of their guide (a hawk that flies ahead of them) they reach the edge of Death Valley. Shortly after they enter the desert the posse spots a dust cloud on the horizon. Closing in on the cloud they run into a massive crew of Union Troops including steam-tanks. After hailing them and making sure no one shoots anyone they find out that these are troops from Fort 51 accompanied by a young prodigy scientist named Tesla. Tesla had been working with the scientists at the fort and invented a device that gauges and locates danger. Once the device was switched on it immediately went off the charts and directed them to Death Valley.

With some great Persuasion rolls by Jethro (seriously, the guy has a d12 persuasion and +4 charisma, there's just something about a toothless hobo with a chainsaw and dynamite that people trust) they manage to join up with the Fort 51 squad and get limited run of their armory. They load up on specialty ammo, Jethro literally sews 20 sticks of dynamite into a jacket and commandeers a mule while Tesla shows Miss Hart his Megawatt Cannon (that's not a euphemism).

Fully equipped the crew camps out when night falls only to be assaulted by Devil Bats dropping mind controling parasites (like braincrawlers but faster acting). Fortunately the players manage to make all their rolls to avoid infection but the union troops aren't so lucky. There are several casualties, including the commander. After the battle with bats and mind-controlled soldiers the players learn that some of the puppets were being used to destroy the unit's water supplies. They estimate they've got enough water to catch up to nicodemus but not enough to make it back out again. With Tesla's backing and Jethro's insane persuasive ability the team manages to rally the remaining troops and head deeper into the desert.

After crossing through an evil sandstorm blocking their way they come across a rubble strewn ruin filled with horribly mutilated corpses. At this point they've got a couple of small steam tanks and one that's been outfitted with Tesla's Megawatt device. The Device is a powerful vehicle-scale Bolt effect which requires either a team to spend several rounds cranking to build up power or Miss Hart can charge it more quickly using her Galvanic Umbrella (downside being that this risks backfiring). They've got several horses and the Tumbler as well. Upon entering the valley they see nicodemus elbow-deep in a human sacrifice, standing near an ancient crumbling stone structure. Not wanting to waste the element of surprise Jim whips out his rifle and fires. The range here is just under 200 yards and firing a called shot at the noose around his neck. Jim nails it perfectly and cuts the noose off, just grazing Nicodemus's neck in the process. Damn that guy's a good shot.

Of course, Nicodemus is none too pleased and he shouts out, in a voice that echoes across the valley "BE BLIND" and Jim's eyes explode in a gout of blood. This is one of the few times I've ever truly stunned my gaming group into silence (it's quite a feat). Everyone freaks out as combat begins, drawing their cards and their weapons. Fortunately Jim picked up the sidekick edge and just today his sidekick (a Blessed) drew a Legendary chip and nabs the Joker card and I let him use those as leverage to cast a Greater Healing spell (which he manages to pull off despite the net -5 penalty or so) to restore Jim's eyes. Meanwhile the battle is joined as the mutilated corpses across the valley rise as a horde of walking dead to descend on the players. Nicodemus is far enough away that most of the shots sent his way miss, but a lucky hit does some damage after a few rounds forcing him to retreat into the ruin.

The posse pushes the advantage, fighting back the walking dead and just as they're about to surge through the rest of them the ruined structure explodes and Nicodemus goes full One-Winged Angel on their asses.

So, to give you an idea of the scale of this fight...When I game with savage worlds I use papercraft minis which puts the average human at just about 1" tall. Formerly the biggest enemy I had thrown at them was probably the Walking Fossil they used to decorate the tumbler. That came out about almost 4 and a half inches tall.

To create the final opponent I used three sheets of standard 8.5 x11 cardstock, formed into triangle using a picture I nabbed online (from this terrific deviantart account) to create a monster that scaled to the players like so...

The fellow in the lower left is Killian's mini, to scale with this image. So when I bust that out (I had hidden it under a layer of papercraft walls and blocks on the far end of the map) they became just a little distressed.

After smashing his way out the new entity strikes the ground, opening a pit into Hell and allowing a continous stream of demons to pour forth. Killian, Jim and Max use their powerful accurate attacks to gun down the demons as they swarm across the map, Patches stands ready to rip apart any that make it through to keep them from getting to the steam tanks which bombard the gigantic Final Boss Form Nicodemus with cannon fire. Miss Hart meanwhile uses her umbrella to charge up Tesla's cannon.

Notice I didn't mention Jethro? We'll get to that.

The battle rages for quite a while. Nicodemus shrieks, causing blood to pour from the posse's ears and noses and nearly kills the fort 51 crew. Then he begins launching artillery scale Bolt spells to demolish the tanks. It's at about this time that someone's lucky Notice roll spots the glimmer of silver in the thing's flesh. The coins Nicodemus used are still imbedded in giant beast. Jim takes a shot at one and after a miss or two manages to strike it, causing an immediate reaction. The monster apparently has a weak spot but there are still over a dozen coins left and they're tiny, tiny targets. At one point Miss Hart and Patches decide they need to get into the thick of things. They drive the tumbler through a couple of demons, ramp it off a rock, zap a monster in mid air and smash another demon flat on landing. Due to some truly amazing luck by Miss Hart this is done with no injury to themselves or the Tumbler.

Here's where things take a turn. Remember Jethro. Well he had a mule which he has been trotting across the battlefield at a snail's pace bearing the Arkensaw, a shotgun and his jacket. Fortunately he's able to avoid most of the demons and any that get close to him are gunned down by one of the others. Reaching the firey hell chasm Jethro uses the one charge left in a pair of rocket boots to leap the gap and lands right in front of the eldritch horror itself. Catching it's attention with a shotgun blast he yells a challenge up to it, screaming at it to eat him. Well...he's very persuasive so the monster snaps him up and swallows him down. Now Jethro planned to detonate a clockwork grenade he'd been carrying around, planning for that to set off the entire jacket full of dynamite he was toting around. However, an unlucky roll means that he gets knocked unconscious from the monster's bite damage and he's unable to set off his bomb. However I offer the possibility that major damage to Nicodemus will have a chance to set off the explosives. The very next round Tesla fires off his fully charged Megawatt cannon. He rolls terribly for damage and barely shakes the monster but I roll for the chance to detonate, offering that on an even roll nothing happens, on odd it will go off.

Roll 1d6, get a 6. Unfortunately nothing. Jethro's player claims that, given the Ace rule, I should reroll and see if the final result is even or odd. I decide to go with that and roll again, getting a 1. That makes it a 7 and the human bomb detonates.

Now, Jethro had a truly obscene amount of explosives on him. The final total works out to a whole handful of d6's and he rolls several aces. Working out the math quickly I realize that this is more than enough damage to turn my final boss into a greasy stain. However the same can be said for Jethro.

However, like I mentioned before Jethro is tough as nails. He has both Hard to Kill and Very Hard to kill. So first things first he rolls to see if he survives the blast naturally and fails. Looks like Jethro's due to the boneyard...except Very Hard to Kill says that any situation where he would normally die he has a 50/50 chance of survival. So I roll a d6 saying that if it's even he lives, if it's odd he dies.

I roll...I get a 6. Jethro's player celebrates...then I point out the same argument he made earlier applies here as well. I roll again...another 6....roll again...another 6!

At this point the entire attention of the group is on the dice roll which seems to be set on making sure we never find out if Jethro lives or dies. I roll again...a 2.

So, Jethro was swallowed by a gigantic multi-headed fallen-angel-composite, which was struck by lightning and exploded and he survived. There's a moment of stunned silence as the rift to Hell closes, the demons wither to dust and the last bloody chunks of the final boss rain down around everyone.

With the sandstorm around them dying down the group loads up and tries to make it out of death valley. However after a few hours they find the battle cracked one of the tumbler's water tanks (the steam tanks were wrecked totally in the fight) and they've lost all the remaining water they were gambling on to get them out of the desert. Desperately they trudge on, patches carrying both the unconscious Miss Hart and Jethro. However they quickly succumb to the intense heat and dehydration, collapsing one by one. The final one to go down is Killian who vaguely sees a figure approaching in the distance as he slips into unconsciousness.

He wakes up to find them all in a hotel room. Miss Hart and patches are sleeping on a sofa. Max is sprawled out on a nearby chair and Jethro is practically swathed in bandages in a side room with Jim snoozing on a blanket on the floor. He looks around and finds a huge table spread with a warm, hearty breakfast. nearby is a small book which turns out to be a bible and a biscuit on top of it. Opening the book Killian sees inscribed inside the cover: "The reward for work well done is more work"

Just as he puts it down he hears from outside the window someone yelling "WE ARE ROBBING THIS BANK!"

(and yes I stole that from dresden files too.)

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