STORY ARC 1
GM: KILLER SHRIKE
I was the GM for the duration of this arc.
I had a group mostly comprised of HERO rookies that had wet their feet on a cyberpunkish
campaign (the progenitor to
MetaCyber) and wanted to try out Champions. The one veteran HERO player
in the group, Wily Quixote, had never played supers with the HERO System, and really
wasn't crazy about the idea at first but was willing to give it a try.
After the game started a new player responded to an ad I had placed on the HERO
boards and we brought him in to give him a shot. He played Green Knight, which was
a very cool character. Unfortunately the player just did not fit in well with the
group and I let him go after only a couple of sessions.
The players wanted to enjoy the experience of playing in a Champions campaign, so
I decided to keep it pretty vanilla / true to the Champions Universe supplement,
the release of which had prompted the campaign. I wanted to cover all the standard
bases of a supers campaign since none of the players had any background roleplaying
in the genre.
All of the players claimed to have read comics at some point in their life and a
couple had collected. Based upon conversations that were had on the subject, I went
into the campaign confident that the players were comfortable with the genre. As
it turns out this was a mistake. While several players did "get it" and
did a good job with the genre, a couple had no feel for it at all and were basically
not very contributory. This caused a good deal of friction.
and 1st session
Various Bio-chem Labs working with a strange mud that has unusual regenerative properties
are raided by a crack team of super-mercs including Wu, Bulldozer,
Hypnos, Thorn, Wulfen, and Thunderbolt (II)
John Wrath, Millennium City Silver Avenger, arrived at the scene of
a the most recent heist-in-progress in Dearborn in his flying car. He boldly pulled
up and got out to aprise the situation, and came under immediate attack from the
fleeing speedster Thunderbolt but the speedster was unable to lay a finger on Wrath.
Wrath also noticed some activity on the roof and got back into the flying car to
hover up to see what was going on up there. Wu was up there with a souped up super
bike and vaulted off the roof, heading down the road with a back pack full of ill
Right behind Wu, the feral monstrocity known as Wulfen exited the building onto
the roof via an access door, and took a running leap onto the flying car where he
proceeded to smash thru the bullet proof windshield and lace into the irascible
Wrath with a vengeance.
Meanwhile Chitin, whose father worked at the plant and liveed very nearby, responded
as did Rook who worked at a Home Depot in a nearby mini-mall.
A raging super battle broke out as Wu, Wulfen, and Thunderbolt sought to escape
with a container of the strange mud substance.
Wrath wrestled valiantly with the dogged Wulfen while Rook stymied Thunderbolt and
Chitin interfered with Wu's escape.
Eventually the villains gained a momentary advantage and made a break for it. Rook,
Chitin, and Wrath determinedly pursued.
As the running battle spilled out onto the highway and became a full fledged pursuit,
Gravitic and The Green Knight joined the chase, having been alerted to the event
via the news and police bands.
Finally Rook was able to incapacitate Wu and Thunderbolt via the expedient of smashing
them with a semi trailer. However, just as the heroes were taking control of the
situation an urban assault vehicle driven by Bulldozer careened cross-country to
intersect the highway, and out spilled Thorn and Hypnos. In the ensuing knock-down
drag out fight all of the villains managed to escape in Bulldozer's truck, but they
definitely knew they had been in a fight.
After the fight John Wrath got pushy with the other PC's regarding registering with
PRIMUS and they all beat feet without even exchanging contact information.
Gravitic's player had been out of town the previous week and Green Knight's player
was a new add to the group.
The end of this session irritated me. The entire purpose of the first two sessions
was for the group to meet and start working as a group. Instead they all scattered
to the winds with barely two words to each other, effectively invalidating the two
They didnt even bother to check the robbery site for clues, injured civilians, or
what have you. Literally they none of the characters ever set one foot into the
crime scene. Very frustrating.
Later that same night Rook was watching the lab to see if anyone returned to the
crime scene. Unbeknownst to him, the Green Knight and Chitin as well (from his home
across the street while in SecretID) had the same idea.
Noticing some odd activity in a copse of trees nearby all three converged independently.
However, this was some thing else entirely -- it looked like a drug deal going down.
Rook moved in to stop it, and much to his surprise the "gangers" in the car and
several more hidden in the bushes popped out and began shooting him with strange
guns that drained his powers away!
Nevertheless the three were able to capture the agents, with the assistance of John
Wrath at the end, who flew in to investigate reports of a disturbance.
Again given the opportunity to reach a formal arrangement, Chitin, Rook, and the
Green Knight flee the scene after the baddies are dispatched without so much as
exchaning a phone number.
The next day Wrath holds a press conference detailing the initial battle of the
day previous and asks the heroes that assisted him to come forward at a specified
time at PRIMUS HQ.
Some comply; Rook, Chitin, and the Green Knight to be exact. Gravitic shows up late
After a smile-for-the-cameras meet the press on the steps outside, Wrath maneuvers
the heroes into PRIMUS HQ itself. He song-and-dances them into registering, but
when he leaves to go set it up Chitin and Green Knight panic and literally bust
their way out of PRIMUS HQ.
While at PRIMUS HQ Rook and Gravitic [and Wrath, though according to back-story
he already knew him] are introduced to The Mod, a Texas-based Superhero that has
been investigating Bio-chem lab murder-thefts all over the US for the past decade
that have a similar MO to the ones occurring in MC currently.
The Mod, a sanctioned superhero with long experience working with PRIMUS, offers
to assist Wrath and the PCs in the investigation.
The group seemed bound and deteremined to avoid making any sort of attempt to gel
together. I had to scramble with the press conference and when even that failed
I trotted in a NPC I happened to have handy so I could take a more active role in
shaping the group in game.
Green Knight's player was part of the problem, sabotaging various attempts and overtures
towards teaming up, and finally spearheaded the violent exit from PRIMUS. The player
was also proving to be somewhat obnoxious in general, so I gave him his walking
Gravitic, on a patrol looking for clues to the robbery, tried to contact Green Knight
via a frequency that he had reason to believe GK monitored based upon an earlier
observation, but to no avail.
Meanwhile Rook and The Mod took to the streets in Dearborn and did some investigative
work at the plant. It turned out that one of the security agents that wasn't there
during the robbery (and thus wasn't killed) was of the opinion that it was an inside
job, since the villains seemed to know where everything was at and disabled all
of the security cameras with too much precision.
The security guard gave the two heroes the name of a guy that had worked security
at the lab for a few months and then suddenly quit a couple of weeks ago.
Meanwhile back at PRIMUS Wrath received several conflicting reports of Green Knight
spottings in several different places. With typical aplomb in the face of uncertainty,
Wrath simply ignored all the sightings equally.
Green Knight's background had coincidentally meshed with some plot elements I had
already wanted to use, and had been tweaked to fit even more closely. Rather than
abandon the thread when I booted the player, I just adapted to it and started using
the Green Knight for my own purposes.
4th Session part 2
The Mod and Rook retire to discuss the matter of the suspect ex-guard, and killing
two birds with one stone they checked out an abandoned warehouse in a seedier part
of Dearborne close to where Rook lived at The Mod's suggestion that they find some
kind of building the ragtag collection of heroes could use as a base.
The warehouse was a bust being in poor condition, but while they talked in supposed
privacy The Mod sensed a lurking presence. After a little bit of excitement it was
revealed to be Chitin, who had noticed the two when they were investigating the
lab and followed them here.
Rook and The Mod encouraged Chitin to turn himself in and make things right with
PRIMUS before matters got out of hand, but Chitin flatly refused. After talking
a bit, Chitin gave them an email address where he could be reached, and the three
However The Mod secretly followed Chitin back to his house and saw him change into
his secret ID -- the hulking brutish man-bug was really a young boy!
The Mod revealed himself to the boy and after cautioning him to be more careful
with his Secret ID in the future, he told him that he would straighten things out
with PRIMUS, and he that Chitin could register without fear of his Secret ID being
Meanwhile Wrath was catching hell from his superiors at PRIMUS for not catching
the perpetrators, not solving the crime spree, and bumbling around a bit with the
whole escape from PRIMUS bit. Despite this interference from on high, Wrath persevered
and questioned the agents captured at the fake-drug bust the night before.
It was finally determined that the agents, all of whom were Eastern Europeans of
various sorts with high-quality fake IDs and an assortment of equipment, were agents
of The Fixxxer, a former KGB agent turned black marketer and general go-to-guy for
They flatly refused to give any useful information in general, but Wrath managed
to break one of them and was able to get out of him that the Fixxxer had been hired
to get rid of the man-bug that was killing drug dealers around the greater Old Detroit
area. They were operating on the belief that the man-bug they are hunting and Chitin
are the same person. So when they saw Chitin active in the area on the news earlier
that day, they set up their ambush nearby in the hopes that he would return to the
However while still in questioning a team of crack lawyers descended on PRIMUS HQ
and veritably hammered on the doors.
Basically since the heroes that interdicted the agents were not sanctioned, it was
a clear cut case of improper procedure and word-vs-word self defense. PRIMUS got
'em for the fake ID's and deported them, but it was the best they could do in the
face of heavy lawyer presence.
Wrath vowed to "Fix the Fixxxer" one day.
Was trying to send a message here to encourage sanctioning, which was increasingly
becoming a sticking point for group cohesion. This session also gave Wrath a chance
to play into his background as the Silver Avenger.
Later the same day The Mod returned to PRIMUS HQ and clued Wrath in on the security
guard lead. Meanwhile Rook had decided to check things out for himself, but decided
to swing by PRIMUS and pick up his registration card first.
Arriving there he met up with Gravitic who was also coming to pick up his card,
and were both intercepted by Wrath and The Mod who took them out with them to question
the suspect former security guard.
When they arrived at the suspects house, Rook, Wrath and Gravitic went in while
The Mod watched the back.
The three supers easily took control of the situation and started questioning the
subject. However just as it was getting to the good stuff The Mod gave warning that
something was going down outside. Suddenly a crack team of paramilitary goons fast
roped in from assault helicopters and attacked the building. Caught by surprise,
the heroes were never the less able to overwhelm their attackers who were good but
only normals, and thanks to Rook's Force Field they even managed to keep their suspect
A) Clearly someone did not want that guy talking to the heroes.
B) Clearly someone was keeping tabs on them.
After calling in PRIMUS agents to secure the assailants, the four heroes climbed
into the Flying Car to return to PRIMUS HQ, with their suspect as well.
En Route they were attacked by what seemed to be the Green Knight on his flying
This was the best session to date. With the Green Knight's player gone a lot of
the dissension evaporated and the group started clicking. Chitin's player wasn't
able to make this session unfortunately due to school commitments, but otherwise
it went well.
After his initial attack failed to put the Flying Car down, the Green Knight proceeded
Wrath bore down on his stogie with a growl and pursed.
A lengthy aerial battle / chase ensued with Wrath and The Green Knight engaged in
incredible death defying aerial gymnastics with their respective flying vehicles,
while Wrath's passengers tried not to throw up, and the suspect passed out from
Wrath even managed to maneuver out of a stall caused by Gravitic using his Gravity
Powers to attack The Green Knight out the window, which disrupted the Flying Car's
Meanwhile the long aerial pursuit continued and was picked up by several news helicopters.
In Dearborne Chitin flipped on the TV and saw what was going on. Slipping out of
the house as best he could, he turned into bug form and started to fly out to intercept
Finally, after an almost 20 minute high speed chase, Wrath pulled off a nearly impossible
aerial stunt to power dive in and get close enough to the Green Knight for Rook
to latch on to him with his force limbs.
However, the Green Knight rappelled down to the ground, pulling Rook out of the
Flying Car and taking him down with him. Gravitic flew out as well, and the Mod
leaped out the passenger door leaving Wrath to madly try to land the now un-aerodynamic
Chitin arrived about this time as well, and a raging battle against the Green Knight
ensued, with the Green Knight surprisingly holding his own and almost escaping several
Finally working together the heroes were able to incapacitate the Green Knight....only
to discover that their opponent was really a robot!
This session was a blast from start to finish. The chase scene was great, Wrath
got to really show off his Combat Piloting skill, and the Flying Car got put through
its paces. The fight with Green Knight was the group's first vs a single opponent
capable of giving them a run for their money.
The funny thing was the only thing I did to the Green Knight build was to add a
Robotic template. I left all of his existing abilties as is. The group really had
to work for it, and without Rook I think GK would have gotten away. The character
is all over the place, but is effective.
The entire time the players kept trying to talk to the GK, and when they finally
beat him and realized it was a robot you could see the suprise around the table.
Good cliff hanger.
Taking stock of the situation, Wrath first off indicated his displeasure with Gravitic
and forbade him from every riding in the Flying Car ever again. Or even being near
it. (Gravitic's powers are all gravity related, and the anti-grav based Flying Car
had a Disadvantage that affected it in Gravity Fields).
Then Wrath "arrested" Chitin and told him to go to PRIMUS HQ to settle the busting
out issue, or else things would get serious.
Finally Wrath tossed the robot into the car with the unconscious suspect, and along
with Rook and The Mod proceeded to return to PRIMUS HQ.
En route however the suspect woke up and started getting hysterical, so the Mod
knocked him out again with a nerve pinch. Then Wrath heard a faint ticking coming
from the robot in the back and declared that it was a bomb. Hovering over a relatively
empty industrial park he had Rook hold the wheel while he tried to investigate the
bomb over the front seat.
An "18" on Wrath's Demolitions check led him to believe that the robot was going
to explode immediately, so Wrath ordered The Mod to get rid of the robot. Not strong
enough to lift it, The Mod took the expedient of leaping out of the car with the
robot, using his thrust for extra force. Him and the robot plummeted a few hundred
feet to the ground, where the robot broke into many pieces, and the Mod got very
badly busted up.
Fortunately he regenerates.
However, there was no actual bomb in the robot; the ticking was just a broken actuator.
Arriving at PRIMUS HQ with the robot's head and the suspect, Wrath turned the robot
bits over to the R and D team, and proceeded to question the suspect.
The suspect caved and easily revealed that he had been paid good money to sell out
the lab's security plans. He claimed that Wu was the person that contacted him and
that he had encountered Wu on several occasions at a seedy bar near the docks district
of Dearborne to go over the plans. He sang like a canary and gave it all up.
Later that night Wrath went to check the bar out on his own but didn't see Wu. However,
leaving the building he saw a bike that looked like Wu's pulling around the corner.
Unfortunately the driver saw Wrath too and promptly peeled out and sped off.
Chasing as best he could on foot (he's faster than he looks), Wrath managed
to see the bike pull into a warehouse close to the docks thanks to his CyberEye
and some Overall Levels to throw against the range modifier, but even as he was
calling in back up several speed bikes and Bulldozer's van came careening out of
the warehouse. The lot of them managed to escape across the nearby bridge into Canada
before a cordon could be closed.
Ensuing investigation of the abandoned warehouse was somewhat revealing, but not
Wrath was able to determine that the perpetrators had been staying there for some
time, perhaps as much as three months. Further, various clues provided some weak
links to previous Lab heists in the tri-state area that had previously been unsolved.
Other than that...bust.
For some reason Wrath's player stubbornly decided to do this as a solo mission,
leaving the rest of the group to sit around the table twiddling their thumbs and
irritated. It was going to be a big fight for the arc, closing the robbery chapter
and opening new clues into the real master villain behind it all.
I couldn't let Wrath face them all alone; a couple of the villains (most notably
Wulfen) are lethal and would have killed him. Also it was getting quite late in
real life and most of us were getting tired. I decided to go with the get away dodge,
but in retrospect it was a mistake.
I should have let Wrath sneak around a bit, and ended the session with him getting
lead to the warehouse with the bad guys none the wiser and left it at a cliffhanger.
Then I could have talked with the player between sessions and made it clear that
he should get the other PC's involved.
I consider this to be one of the top 5 mistakes I've made as a GM, and it would
prove to start a domino effect. I actually got pretty irritated with Wrath's player
as well, for not taking the thirty or fifty hints and general mood at the table
to stop stealing the limilight.
The next morning at PRIMUS HQ Wrath was roundly berated for botching the job on
picking up Wu.
With an eager media pressing for details of the heist investigation, Wrath was ordered
by the Station Chief to give a press conference that afternoon and to make it sound
Later that afternoon Wrath reluctantly gives an interview, but when informed mid-way
thru by the station chief that another lab break-in is underway Wrath obstinately
informs him that he wanted Wrath to give a gawd-dam interview, and it could just
wait until the gawd-dam interview was over.
Following the interview Wrath had a tense phone conference between himself, the
Station Chief, and the Director of PRIMUS to discuss his recent actions. Unwilling
to take a little heat, Wrath mouthed off quite a bit and was subsequently fired.
They called it an "early retirement", but that was just a polite fiction.
Meanwhile The Mod, Rook, Chitin, and Gravitic responded to the new break-in which
was pulled off by the same villains as the first one, and played out similarly
to the first, save that this time when the erstwhile heroes had almost run their
quarry to ground and had managed to recover the payload of bizarre mud, a mysterious
woman dressed in a rather inappropriate fashion appeared in a flash of darkness
and held the lot of them with some kind of mystic bands.
She simply divested the heroes of the strange mud, said a few pithy things,
and then departed with Wulfen in tow via the same means she appeared. The other
villains escaped in the meantime.
After the battle the heroes all agreed to return to the scene of the crime later
that night and do some skulking around.
[GMs NOTE: I never understood their repeated efforts to watch places AFTER they
had already been robbed]
The Mod and Rook returned to PRIMUS HQ, where they reported the situation and discovered
the identity of their mysterious assailant was none other than Incantrix, and also
that Wrath was no longer the Silver Avenger.
Digesting that information, they parted.
Basically, for reasons unknown, Wrath's player was not having a good day today.
I think he had been taking heat from some of the other players (who were also his
roommates) thru the week about botching the Wu thing.
When I came down on him with the station chief I think it pushed him into obstinant
mode, and after gaffing off the robbery, I tried to further reenforce the idea that
if he was going to play the Silver Avenger he needed to play appropriately. He (in
character) got very lippy with the Director of PRIMUS and the Station Chief an said
some pretty inflammatory things.
I tried having them put him on suspension to give him time to cool down, but Wrath
basically told them to shove that too. I was left with no choice but to fire Wrath
from PRIMUS, and the player left the session in a huff.
The fight with the villains went pretty well despite Wrath not being there and was
a lot of fun.
That evening almost all of the heroes appeared as agreed at a 7-11 near the crime
scene, including a ragged looking Wrath via taxi, who smelled like he'd been drowning
his sorrows for a few hours.
The Mod, however, did not appear. Now, some folks might be curious that a straight
shooting dependable guy like The Mod just vanished, but not this band of heroes.
Instead they settled down to watch an effectively empty building for no apparent
reason amid random surly outbursts from Wrath.
However, mid-way through their vigil a gentlemen dressed primly in the style of
a 1920's era well-to-do Englishman simply faded in amongst them.
Apologizing for being late (for what he didn't specify), he introduced himself as
"The Lord Arcane". Lord Arcane proceeded to lay some heavy exposition on the heroes.
Time for them to be given a clue as to what was going on since they seemed unable
to pursue the matter on their own.
After giving his spiel and putting a Spell of Isolation on an insulting Wrath, Arcane
Deciding to give up on watching the defunct crime scene the group split up and returned
to their homes. Rook "thoughtfully" paid a cabbie to take Wrath, still affected
by the Spell of Isolation, back to PRIMUS HQ, apparently forgetting that Wrath didn't
work there anymore. Smelling of booze and catatonic, Wrath was dropped off at PRIMUS
and everyone laughed at him OOC.
The player said he still wanted to play, and still wanted to use Wrath, so I redesigned
him to get rid of all the PRIMUS stuff. In general I made the character simpler
and more streamlined and it may have been overall a good thing, though without the
Flying Car Wrath did suddenly have transportation issues.
However once play started Wrath was generally obnoxious to everyone. I'm not sure
what was up with the player during these couple of weeks -- but he was doing everything
completely in character so I let him run with it for a while even though it was
getting on my nerves.
Lord Arcane's spiel
Lord Arcane indicated that he was generally responsible for the mystical well
being of the entire dimension in precisely pronounced, grammatically correct sentences.
In short it had recently come to his attention that an ancient artifact of some
power had been accidentally unearthed by a chemical company who had discovered mysterious
healing properties in a patch of mud on the site of an abandoned spa and sanatorium
near old Detroit. Apparently the chemical company had simply dug the entire lot
of muck up and sent samples of it to various labs for testing of it's strange properties.
What they don't realize is that the properties of the mud come from being exposed
to the artifact buried somewhere in the soil that they took from the site.
The artifact is powerful enough that in the wrong hands it could do great harm.
One set of those wrong hands would belong to Incantrix.
Could the good heroes assist him in preventing her from getting the item?
Apparently not. Wrath was outright insulting to the good fellow, earning him a spell
of isolation, and the other heroes were rather ambivalent. In the end they kind
of shrugged and gave a "Sure, whatever" response.
Somewhat disappointed Lord Arcane departed.
As far as Lord Arcane, due to the timing getting thrown off back when Wrath hosed
the warehouse fight, I was basically scrambling to try to get the storyline back
After half the session went no where and the players just kind of sat there like
bumps on a log not doing anything and waiting for something to happen I decided
to try the old mysterious stranger routine to jump start things. Not only did it
not work, the PC's just sort of collectively went "eh" and wandered off
I was starting to get irritated with the general apathy of a couple of the players,
Wrath's internal combustion, and various things that were going on in real life
at the time, so I just put the game on hiatus.
Objectively the arc was a failure from a plot perspective, as the overarching plot
never got investigated or followed up on by the players, who on many occasions seemed
to be completely incapable of pursuing a lead or looking for a clue, and had to
be walked thru even the most basic information acquiring efforts by an NPC, which
I hate to do.
However, there were many moments of pure fun, some great dialogue, several of the
characters were very neat and memorable, and the fights were the sort of over the
top knock down drag outs that the HERO System does so well. More sessions than not
the group walked away from the table happy and people were generally excited and
anticipated the next session. So in that regard it was a success.
I guess I would say that the players were satisfied by it but the GM was not. I
wanted more. Part of this is from my overestimating the ability of several of the
players based upon previous games.
Part of the problem stemmed from me launching one of my trademark Machiavellian
multi-layered wheels within wheels hidden masterminds (plural) sort of plot lines.
I really should have fought the urge and just kept it simple.