STORY ARC 3
GM: KILLER SHRIKE
I was the GM for the duration of this arc.
At this point I resumed GM'ing for a while. Agent X's player had moved away to pursue
a job opportunity, but Chitin and John Wrath's players returned putting the group
at 6 players, 1 GM.
We also gained another new player who initially showed promise, but proved to be
short lived, only lasting a couple of sessions due to personality conflicts.
I was getting super busy at work at this point and didnt have time to gen up custom
material for everything, and coincidentally Champion's Battlegrounds became available
for playtesting. I got thru two of the adventures before the product was actually
released in a back to back marathon adventure. I didn't start at the beginning however;
I went for two of the more interesting later adventures.
I wanted to play to the strengths of the supers genre in this arc -- I felt like
some of the players still didnt quite get how powerful their characters really were
and were too timid and reserved in their approach to the genre.
So I decided to put them through a meat grinder to demonstrate just how survivable
and low-stress their characters really were.
Despite my general frustration level the campaign was very popular, with a high
degree of player interest. The table was full, to the point that we actually started
turning people away after it became clear that we just couldnt fit anyone else in
the physical space we had available for gaming.
Due to the heavy combat focus of this arc the background elements of some of the
better realized characters wasn't given the attention it probably deserved. But
that's a very minor kvetch, really.
***CHAMPIONS BATTLEGROUND SPOILERS FOLLOW IN THE NEXT SEVERAL POSTS***
Session 16, Part 1
This was a couple months of game time later from the end of the previous arc.
PRIMUS was in a tizzy; the mutant menace known as Holocaust had issued an ultimatum
on national television:
If a new high-rise going up downtown that was slated to house an office for the
IHA, Institute for Human Advancement, didn't evict the mutie hating lobbyists from
the rolls he would level the building.
What could PRIMUS do? They had fired the Millennium City Silver Avenger and did
not yet have a replacement fully ready. Further, the only hero who had ever survived
three encounters with Holocaust was none other than their fired Silver Avenger....John
Ah, alas and alack, the shame and ignominy of asking him to lend his assistance
after firing him...
This part of the session was an involved operational briefing in the PRIMUS "war
room", with a lot of roleplaying and character interaction.
Session 16, Part 2
So John Wrath and his Millennial Men companions in crimefighting were officially
asked to assist in the matter. They were also introduced to a sanctioned hero visiting
PRIMUS from their Boston office, Metis (played by the new player that didn't work
And assist they did. After Wrath got done gloating, he set out with War Man, Metis,
and Rook (who had recently returned from missionary work in Africa) to investigate
the background of this whole IHA thing while Major Savage took charge of assessing
the area for tactical considerations with Gravitic and Chitin.
With an uncharacteristic efficiency Wrath, Rook, and War Man effectively got to
the bottom of things, and Metis proved to be very helpful in this regard as well.
Rook hit it off with the foreman and construction crews, playing up his man of the
people angle, while Wrath sniffed out some suspicious architecture that he traced
back to the IHA.
Meanwhile War Man reached an accommodation with one of the primary investors in
the construction, and Metis lured another investor into revealing some dirty business.
The group even gave their first not-a-total-shambles press conference. All in all
a pretty good session.
Suddenly, as Holocaust's ultimatum cutoff draws nigh, a strange preternatural fog
rolls in obscuring normal vision.
Suddenly Holocaust was among them, punishing eye blasts pounding each hero in turn
to the ground from above, lazing out of the mists with brutal accuracy and cruel
In a overwhelming display of power Holocaust seized aerial control of the battle
in the first few seconds, and thereafter anything that left the ground immediately
drew merciless fire. Scattered around the construction site and unable to see clearly
the Mill Men were effectively isolated in the fog, and yet Holocaust's blasts them
out with unerring accuracy.
Holocaust shouted manifestos as he laid about him. Within moments the battlefield
was his, despite the best efforts of the heroes.
Then some new foe entered the arena; with a massed thunder of discharging weapons,
three giant robots rendered the mutant Stormfront into a fine red mist and descended
thru the dissapating fog.
One of my typical cliffhanger endings. As an aside, I was using a tweaked version
of Holocaust that I revised to make him a creditable match up to such a large group
of such powerful heroes. I don't recall the salient details any longer, but a major
upgrade was to put him on an END Reserve for his blasts, which I also amped a bit.
In general I turned him from a Tier 2 villain into a Tier 1 villain, on par with
a Magneto or Doom style character -- able to beat the crap out of a super team and
make them work for even a partial victory.
Session 17 Part 1
With Stormfront nothing more than a gently falling red rain, the fog almost instantly
cleared up to reveal Holocaust flying triumphantly, the three giant robots
coming in from above him, and the heroes scattered here and there in various states
The robots were quickly revealed to be Minute Men, and they issued a decree
as they came closer. Something about killing mutants, of course. Then they opened
fire on Holocaust.
Holocaust sneered off their best attacks however, and maneuvered into a superior
aerial position from which he proceeded to blast all three of the robots to the
ground in turn.
Where Rook and Wrath obligingly destroy them.
The robots that were attacking their current enemy.
Heroes are such unpredictable creatures, after all.
With the Minute Men disposed of, both sides paused to take stock for a moment, which
also allowed the badly battered hereoes to gain a free breather while Holocaust
pontificated against the evils of the IHA and invited his "mutant brothers"
among the Mill Men (Rook at this point) to join with him. When that didnt fly Holocaust
appealed to the heroes to at least step aside and allow him to teach the IHA maggots
The heroes refused this entreaty as well, and battle was rejoined.
Having lost the initiative, Holocaust had to work a lot harder to regain dominance.
Almost all of the heroes took majorly heroic actions, putting themselves in the
line of fire despite taking a terrible beating and pressing the attack constantly.
Metis on the other hand cowered behind a bulldozer for most of the fight,
afraid of being turned to paste by Holocaust's punishing eye blasts.
Major Savage proved his moxy and his worth, harrying Holocaust and making Savage
pay attention to him.
WarMan resolutely refused to stay down, getting knocked out and getting back up
to immediately blast again several times thanks to his huge Recovery.
Wrath failed his first Find Weakness roll against Holocaust, which left him with
little chance to hurt the highly resistant megalomaniac, but he used PRE Attacks
and DCV to contantly heckle Holocaust successfully, drawing a number of shots from
him and thus helping the team absorb punishment considerably.
Rook was the MVP of this battle however, actually ringing Holocausts bell hard with
an I-bar weilded with Rook's stretching.. After that Holocaust kept his distance
from the Human Fortress. Rook kept pursuing, and after finally managing to latch
on to Holocaust, the villain graced him with a rapid fired salvo of 20d6 to the
face three times, finally knocking Rook out.
Eventually Holocaust wore almost all of the heroes down to the point that only a
few were able to keep going. War Man, Rook, and Savage had all tangled with Holocaust
directly and earned lengthy periods of unconsciousness for their efforts, though
each in their own way got Holocaust's attention.
The remaining heroes employed increasingly desperate tactics to throw themselves
at Holocaust or force him to pay attention to them, as otherwise each time he had
a free moment he sent a punishing attack streaking into the infrastructure of the
partially constructed building and it was starting to show signs of structural instability.
Finally only Chitin, Metis, and Wrath were still up.
Wrath was unable to penetrate Holocaust's and Holocaust was becoming inured to his
contant verbal abuse.
Chitin had taken a nasty hit early on and accomplished very little the rest of the
fight up to this point.
Metis had basically cowered the entire time, afraid to do anything, or at least
it would appear so to an observer (in reality he had used a few fully invisible
EGO blasts successfully, and had used Mind Scan to identify Holocausts position
when the fog was still up, and tried to communicate that info to other characters).
Session 17 Part 2
Finally the only hero left in a position to interdict the megalomaniacal villain
was Chitin. With a brace of I-Beams in tow Chitin leaped from the higher levels
of the building frame on to Holocaust and tried to bear him to the ground. But while
his initial assault was promising, Holocaust's reprisal was irresistibly punishing
and Chitin was knocked out.
He also managed to put Wrath down as well.
Holocaust was going to do it; one or maybe two more blasts would finish off the
building and almost all of the heroes were down for longer than it would take to
do that, at the least..
Hiding behind a bulldozer across the construction yard from Holocaust, Metis finally
accepted his potential fate and stepped out to get a clear line of sight on Holocaust.
Using his strange mental powers, the hero projected an image into Holocaust's mind
that the building was collapsing already. It was a close run thing, but Holocaust
believed the illusion and after a moment spent to salute the unexpectedly valiant
heroes strewn about the site for a well fought battle, he flew off into the sky.
Battered, bruised, and badly injured in some cases the Millennial Men gathered for
a well-earned victory whoop.
Unfortunately for them, Holocaust was not the only villain at play on that day;
a PRIMUS Lt. approached the site and informed them that many criminals had seized
the opportunity of the distraction caused by Holocaust.
Heroes from around the city such as Nightwind, Hype, and the Millennium City 8 were
fighting villains all around the city, but worst of all the Black Harlequin had
seized control of the grand opening of the Omega World Amusement Park outside the
city proper, and the heroes were needed to save the thousands of innocents there!
This was really a great slam bang wall to wall combat session. I was very happy
with how it went. My inspiration was comics I remembered as a youth of the single
villain laying down the smackage on a group of heroes until they are defeated by
something other by brute force, and this played out perfectly to that recipe. Basically
the entire session could be translated directly to the pages of a comic book and
lose nothing in the translation, so I consider it to be highly successful.
With a groan of suppressed bruises and cracked ribs, Rook, War Man, Wrath, Chitin,
and Metis prepared to go to deal with this problem. The badly injured Major Savage
remained behind to assist PRIMUS with cleanup and continued security of the site
in case Holocaust came back.
Arriving at Omega World twenty minutes later, the heroes were confronted with androids
based on the villains of the supers-soap "To Save The World" coldly slaughtering
and gunning down terrified and panicking civilians. There were hundreds of casualties
already at the gates as people vainly tried to escape Black Harlequin's deadly Arcade
Infuriated the heroes sprang into battle without bothering with a plan, and charged
into the area trying to save people as best they could.
Metis was slain almost instantly by one of the androids, a representation of Captain
Thunder, and Chitin was knocked unconscious as well. Rook, bleeding profusely from
internal injuries sustained fighting Holocaust streaked in to destroy one of the
robots with a high speed charge, and then saved people from a madly spinning and
Meanwhile War Man tried everything he possibly could to save people on an out of
control rollercoaster while fighting off another android. Despite being severely
damaged, War-Man eventually managed to defeat the android and then through sheer
grit, EGO rolls, Pushing, determination, and ekeing every possible nth of an advantage
out of the system to seperate the part of the roller coaster with the bomb in it
and save all the passenger cars from the train. It was here that War-Man's true
reknown was born.
Rook sped in an opposite direction to save people from some kind of castle based
attraction from which screams were emananting, but was set upon by sword wielding
androids and trapped in a room with an axeman!
War Man pressed on to another out of control attraction, trying to stop a gravity
drop ride from dropping all the way to the ground. Rook managed to escape the knights
and sped out into the park in time to assist War Man.
Wrath meanwhile was trying to save people from a gas and laser filled mirror maze
and fighting off killer buzzsaw-wielding jack-in-the-boxes.
Session 18, Part 2
Rook and War Man struggled heroically to save all the Falling Star cars, but just
when it seemed like they might pull it off, suddenly flying buzz bombers and strafing
fighter toy planes descended upon them, and a giant laughing jack in the box with
lasers for eyes popped up out of the central tower of the attraction park, which
was a citadel designed to imitate the superbase of the heroes on the "To Save The
Chitin quickly woke up and sensed the Captain Thunder android continuing to wreak
havoc nearby; he leaped into combat with it and finally managed to destroy it after
a few dicey seconds of traded blows.
Chitin joined Rook and War Man at the Falling Star and the three of them managed
to disable the death trap.
Then Chitin and War Man flew towards the top of the tower, getting punished by the
laserjack on the top of it and the annoying flying buzzers while Rook streaked across
the park to the other side to find Wrath.
Hearing screams from inside the mountain-themed rollercoaster Rook got up inside
of the coaster to find a woman dangling from a rope over the abyss, with animatronic
teddy bears sawing at the ropes! Rook managed to save her, but in the process ended
up collapsing the mountain coaster onto himself.
Meanwhile Wrath was slowly choking to death on noxious fumes in the mirror house
and was forced to shoot a hasty retreat out through a wall.
Recovering from that ordeal, he found himself on the receiving end of several buzzbombs,
but Wrath ignored their incoming rounds as they pitter-pattered all around him and
calmly shot several of them out of the air easy as you please.
I wanted to play up the Joker-esque qualities of Black Harlequinn. Why is he so
dangerous despite seeming to be so lame? Because he's a psychopathic killer and
his "toys" are lethal. Everything was a Killing Attack. As a result the
heroes, many of whom were carrying a good deal of BODY damage from the Holocaust
fight, were very badly hurt during this time frame, losing BODY quickly.
This was one of the most important of all the Mill Men sessions. Many of the players,
particularly Joe (War-Man) really rose to the occasion and got into the right mood
of 'save the innocent civilians at any cost'. Everyone left happy except the player
For some reason at the very beginning of the session the player blew a gasket, and
after some argument I asked him to leave, permanently. After that we took advantage
of the lethality of the encounter to let Metis get offed.
Session 19, Part 1
As Chitin and War Man fought their way up the tower they determined that they couldn't
get in that way, and the laserjack was too accurate to face for long. War Man was
grievously injured at this point and was pushing forward on pure grit. Only Chitin's
rapid regeneration was keeping him together.
Thus the two decided to skirt the building, too close for the laserjack to draw
an LOS on them. Still plagued by the buzzer toys they managed to make their way
to a ground based entrance to the building. Which of course was guarded by another
android villain. Gritting their teeth they engaged the android, with Chitin providing
a distraction so that War Man could make it to a stair well and begin his assent.
Meanwhile John Wrath was calmly walking towards the main building as well, narrowly
sidestepping the laserjack and blasting buzz bombs out of the air two and three
at a time.
Rook managed to squirm his way out from beneath a mountain of debris, and entering
the open again came under fire from the laserjack. Grabbing a piece of steel from
the collapsed coaster for cover, he started to slide towards the main building.
Finally, after drawing close enough, Wrath sighted in on the laserjack from over
a hundred feet away and shot it once between the eyes, destroying it in a colorful
Chitin dispatched the android guarding the HQ building and took to the stairwells,
but downward instead of upward.
With all visible threats gone Wrath and Rook moved toward the faux HQ, and spotted
two more androids in prime condition. Too battered to take them on the pair took
shelter for a while to consider their options.
Meanwhile War Man reached the top of the building to find a lot of tied up and frightened
people, mostly stars of the real TV show the park was themed on, but not Harlequin
has he had expected. Starting to fade, War Man checked out the roof and found the
laserjack destroyed, so he sat down to conserve energy.
Session 19, Part 2
Chitin found his way into the depths of the parks infrastructure, avoiding patrolling
kill-toys in the process. Finally he found his way to the main control center deep
beneath the park, only to discover that it was guarded by a buzzjack and some kind
of funky inertial dampening field.
Fighting the dangerous buzzjack robot and taking major damage, Chitin put his high
intelligence to work and cleverly used the inertial dampening field in his own favor,
managing to destroy the bot and gain access to the control room. Puzzling through
the complex controls, Chitin shut down all non-emergency power to the park.
Meanwhile on the surface, the intrepid Gravitic had heard of the Mill Men's ongoing
battle at the park. Still injured from previous engagements, Gravitic suited up
and flew out to assist. Finally arriving he drifted in only to encounter a buzzjack
that Wrath had been unable to defeat back by the Mirror House, and between fighting
that and ending up in the gassed Mirror House for a time, he to was barely hanging
Rallying at the faux HQ, all four of the Mill Men present determined that they could
not go on; they were battered beyond the point of rational action and either required
medical attention directly or were only hanging on due to features of their superpowers.
Making the call out to PRIMUS to send in reinforcements was difficult, but none
could doubt the heroics of the Mill Men that day.
The word came from PRIMUS, four members of the Millennium City 8 were inbound to
This was a great session. Everyone was on their last legs and working for every
gain. Real "once more unto the breach my friends" stuff.
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more,
Or close the wall up with our English dead!
In peace there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility;
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger:
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood.
I believe that heroes are most defined by how they act when the chips are down.
Many of my favorite moments in comics were when the villains had the heroes on the
ropes but they dug deep and pressed on. In the end it was clear that though the
heroes minds were willing the flesh just couldn't stand to lose any more BODY.
So I threw out the opportunity to call in the cavalry in a genre appropriate fashion
and the group agreed.
At this point the four players remaining (Chitin's player had to leave due to a
prior commitment) chose a member of the MC 8 from Digital HERO #13. El Aguijon,
Stalwart, Lady M, and my own Commando Rubberbando were chosen by the players; matched
up as follows:
Player of -->Chose MC 8 member
War Man -->Commando Rubberbando
Gravitic -->El Aguijon
Wrath -->Lady M
After a pause to handle intros and shuffle the normal PCs off to be healed, the
four fresh heroes proceeded to dismantle the two killer-androids remaining and hunt
thru several other attractions looking for Black Harley. Finally figuring out which
building he was in, El Ag shrunk down and stealthily flew into the control room
without being noticed. Catching Black Harley off guard, he zapped him with his stinger
attack, badly injuring him. Meanwhile the other three heroes waited outside, near
the escape hatch that they had found in the roof.
Without wasting time Black Harley popped the hatch and tried to get away with his
Rocket Boots, but Commando Rubberbando sprang into the air and snatched the psychopath
back to earth. Unfortunately the combination of El Ag's stinger attack and being
slammed into the ground at high velocity was too much for Black Harlequin, and he
died on impact. It was entirely accidental; the players were all like "whuh?
We barely touched him!"; it never dawned on them that he was a mastermind sort
of villain, not a toe to toe beater.
Meanwhile, Lady M and Stalwart fought two more androids Harley had kept back for
his own defense.
Though many lives had been lost, the Mill Men and MC 8 managed to bring an end to
Black Harlequin's sick reign of terror.
Amusingly, the players played the MC8 characters, which they had never seen before,
much more like a team than they ever did their own characters. Life is strange....
Synopsis so far
This series of sessions marks the highpoint of the Mill Men. It seems brutal, and
it was -- intentionally so. Basically I showed them just how much their characters
were capable of, how far they could push themselves, what they could survive.
It was during this stretch of grueling slugfests that War Man established himself
as the de facto leader of the group, the most heroic and noble. When several of
the other players were ready to give up, War Man was still pushing forward no matter
what the cost. As long as War Man was still going, no one else was willing to throw
in the towel.
Further, at the end of the last session of Omega World, the four players that were
left at the table were basically the definitive Mill Men team; Rook, War Man, Gravitic,
and the indescribable John Wrath are the quintessential line up, with the most longevity
across the topsy-turvy attendance that plagued the Mill Men campaign as people finished
school and graduated, other people started school, other campaigns started and went,
and other major life changing events occurred -- for example, I got married (again)
sometime between Lord Arcane and the Zoo fight. :D
Unfortunately the classic lineup didn't last long, but this session remains the
apex of the campaign for me.