Friday, August 24, 2012
08--23--2012: GenCon Qags-in-a-Bag 2012 :Hardcore Insanity
Proof again that not only do I tread that line between genius and insanity, I pick up that line and skip rope with it.
Again, brackets “[ ]” denote pulls from the bag, while parenthesis “( )” denote my thought process and out of context comments to the players.
Brady and Kevin were the first to arrive at the table, pod-casters that were at the game last year and wonderful individuals that I invited back this year. We were able to talk for a while as more players made their way to the table. Apparently everyone was coming from the farthest side of the convention to get to my table. Needless to say, we didn't get started on time.
One thing that was nice was that everyone at the table had played Qags before except one person, but he caught on right away. After a 20 minute wait, we got started.
( I pulled a clump of papers out of my bag, something I rarely do. I even told the players that I was not happy with the clumping of the papers.)
the initial pulls (10)
man knows things he's not supposed to know
we are broken
people part company
thirst for knowledge
represent the dead
big bad bertha takes on giant monster
I question mother nature
the initial theme:
(at this point, I plant my face squarely in my palm. First off, this is the third time that [we are broken ] has been pulled from the bag. Initially, that's a trigger for some sort of genetic mismatch, i.e. broken ones from Dnd 2nd ed. Tying that idea in with [thirst for knowledge],[man knows things he's not supposed to know](which is a reference trigger for anything Lovecraft),[ I question mother nature] and [represent the dead], I've got a lot of pulls that kind of fit together in a large clump of WTF. )
(initially, my mind reached back to the concept of the broken ones, and I think of “the island of Dr Moreau” and I also remember the doctor from the HP Lovecraft story “Cool Air”. I reference the doctor in my Kindle and find the name of Dr Munoz. There's my main villain. My mind looks across the pulls again and sees the Big Bad Bertha and I Question Mother Nature pulls. This combination triggers a look back at 70's films like “I Spit on your grave” and it also pulls in a bit of the character “”Papa Ceasar” from the video game “House of the Dead: Overkill” which is supposed to be like a exploitation/Grindhouse film.)
So, with some reluctance, I tell my players that i'm going to put together some words that probably shouldn't go together in the first place.
Theme: Lovecraft Grindhouse.
Character' creation: I tell my players that i'm looking for characters from the 1970's that might be found in grindhouse films. Detectives, private eyes, scientists, intellectuals, etc. as they hash out their characters and talk amongst themselves about what they need, I try to piece together an initial bit of plot.
Here's what the players come up with
Dictionary Larry: a play on Encyclopedia Brown, a kid detective that solves crimes.
Silver Bullitt: an old stunt car driver and mechanic.
Eagle-Bro: a biker who think he's a shaman and might know magic
Johnny “Lightning” Barnes: actor/stuntman/kung fu badass/ movie star
Dr Bob: Former Radical Professor Hopper Type
Ted Zepplin: seedy nightclub owner
Spanky Diggs: PhD hippie psychic
after approval and general character intro, we got on with it.
the characters all work for a public company called The Syndicate, which does all sorts of stuff and hires people from all walks of life with different skill sets to do things. (OOOOOKKKAY!!!???) They are called into a meeting with Dr Barnes (no relation to Johnny) who looks like a grizzled Charlton Heston from True Lies. He gives the agents the task of finding Dr. Munoz (I state that there's a lot of doctors in this game apparently). Dr Munoz is the leader of the Zowlow Clan, which is a Haitian Voodoo/ Drug Running crime cartel thingie. Anyway, they are coming into the Miami airport to pick-up/drop off some drug called “grave dust” and that the agents must stop this transaction.
The group talks amongst themselves and formulates a plan to use johnny lightning’s personal plane (an eight prop doubled plane similar to Soul Plane with all the luxury accommodations) to trail the incoming Munoz plane, and then proceed to perform a car stunt with Silver Bullitt and drive her car into Munoz's plane. Ok, sounds like a plan to me.
So, as the group has a little bit of downtime, they party it up on the plane, when they all hear a loud bang and smell smoke. Apparently, there is another plane following them and shooting rockets at them while they themselves are following Munoz's plane. After losing a few engines, Johnny's personal pilot asks them what he should do? He tells the pilot to get as close as he can to Munoz's plane and has Bullitt get ready to drive. The group all packs into Spanky Diggs's bus, and the stunt driver shoots the vehicle out of her plane and into the other plane without a hitch. However, all planes collide and are heavily damaged. They fall from the sky and the group blacks out.
The group awakens, having manage to survive the crash with barely a scratch. They realize that they are no longer in Miami, but on a large jungle island with much dense vegetation. Their ride, the bus is completely trashed and unable to be repaired by the mechanic/stunt man. The hippie decides to climb a tree and finds that there is one lone beach directly to the east and a large mansion to the north of the island.
As they travel through the dense jungle with the hippie at the lead, they fail to notice (on several different occasions) that the jungle sounds are extremely different in this area. ( I was going to have them try to notice that there were sounds of some creature nearby that seemed to be some sort of growling form of communication, but the players failed the rolls every time.) As the group nearly reaches the mansion, the hippie sees a large shadowy creature trailing them on the left side of the jungle he gets a bit freaked, but he has Johnny Lightning come by and take care of the situation the best he can (which at times was great because the character was a big mean talker, but would often either make the matter worse, or react completely different to the way you'd expect him to.) The creature leaps out and gets the drop on poor Johnny Lightning, who is now screaming like a little girl. Both the hippie and the seedy nightclub owner try to help out and eventually get the creature subdued with a serious handful of downers.
Upon examination of the creature, they see that it is a composite animal, a hybrid of human and animal [we are broken] put together with some sort of operation. This discovery leads them to [question mother nature] but They shrug this off and move on, being more cautious as they finally get to the mansion. Spanky knocks on the door and is greeted by a curt and callous small german fellow. The crazy hippie manages to get into the mansion, talking his way in and admitting he has to use the bathroom. He gets in and the rest of the group follows in. the german heads upstairs and a loud conversation starts with what can be assumed to be the master of the house. After a few minutes, the german comes back to the room, and offers lemonade to the group. The german lets the group know that he is supposed to offer hospitality to the group, but that they must leave soon because they are very busy running the mansion.
As the hippie searches the house, he gets a look around and sees several other servants running around and each is more diminutive in stature than the last. Also, the hippie is more lucky than good (his gimmick) and finds a hidden passage. The hippie returns to the group, then leads them down into the passage where they find a huge rough laboratory, there are several animals in cages, and some are being occasionally shocked by electricity. Others are being force-fed chemicals and IV's of various meds. Johnny assures the group that this is all necessary for good makeup products (typical meathead machismo, and a great spot to drop it). Additionally they see a large bay door that has been torn and bent as is a large creature escaped. The group assumes that the creature was the one that they subdued in the jungle. Further research around the lab reveals a door that has been weakly padlocked. Strange sound emanate from the room beyond the door.
The kid detective decides to try and pick the lock. He gets a quirky success. He takes the lock off opens the door and stares directly into the yellow eyes of a panther that jumps out and takes him down. The action star tries to help out, but ends up getting scratched across the face for his efforts. The action star and hippie try to find a natural predator to the panther, perhaps a large lizard that’s poisonous enough to subdue the big kitty. As the two go off and start looking for a predator, the stunt woman whacks the panther over the head with her wrench and rolls ridiculously well. So the scene that unfolds goes like this:
“The Hippie and the Action Star are going through a montage with “Come on, get Happy” playing over the whole scene. They are going through several different doors in a hallway, and each time emerging from a different door. They have a few good laughs as they play hide and seek. Finally, they find the cage of a large lotus eating lizard of reasonable lethality. The duo smiles, slaps high fives, thumbs up, etc, then return to the panther, only to find the beast dead on the floor with a wrench sticking out of its skull an a self satisfied smirk on the face of the stunt driver mechanic. The soundtrack “Come on, get Happy is abruptly cut off with a loud scratch on the album.”
Eagle-Bro , the biker-turned magic man gets an idea, knowing that this panther larger than what it's supposed to be, and decided to imbue the dead panther with the metallic soul of his motorcycle that was destroyed in the plane crash (yes, it was on the plane. Go with it). So now, we have a large panther cycle for transport. I decided that this was an [epic] moment. Anyway, the group looks around and finds that this is the room where the hybrids are held and prepped for shipping. Apparently there is a company called Optimus that better then half of these hybrids are being shipped to their warehouse. It seems that whoever is doing these experiments is being paid quite well. At the back of this holding room there is a large cellar door with a rusty lock. Again, the kid detective picks the lock and heads down into a crypt where there are pieces of the dead everywhere. Some of the pieces are fresh, some are on the verge of rotting, but it becomes all too obvious that these are some parts that are being added to the animals to make the hybrids.
In the center of this crypt, there is a pedestal that has a large book upon it. It turns out to be a scientific journal/ledger/black book that has all sorts of bad bad stuff in it:
to paraphrase (and this is where I was able to really offload a ton of my initial pulls), the passages of the book had the following info.
Journal area: the writer says that he has [learned something that man was never meant to know] and that his [thirst for knowledge] has led him to new discoveries about life. He has [represented the dead] by giving dead tissue a second chance to live, and that the living that uses it has a chance to benefit from such a union. He also mentions that the shocking of animals and chemical induction can both augment the creatures on the molecular level, making them [overly energetic] and more aggressive/ docile (whatever the needs of the clients might be.)
Ledger area: the book holds information about this Optimus group. The writer refers to them as a [“people part” company] it seems that this company is bringing in the components to make these hybrids, and in return the hybrids are being brought to optimus to put them into slave labor, such as mines and dangerous work. There is also a bit of information that optimus wants to get into [deep space operations] which is something completely unheard of in the 1970's.
Upon further examination, the handwriting is clearly that od dr Munoz. The group hears footsteps coming down the stairs in the laboratory, so they take the book and hide as best they can. Dr, munoz emerges from the upper lab, looks around the crypt, then notices that the book is missing, he goes to leave, but the action star kicks some equipment onto the doctor, while another drugs the doc to subdue him.
The doc is interrogated some more, and tells them that he's a bad guy. The drugs (grave dust) is just his side business, but this is where the money really is. He's defiant even under sedation. He does tell the group that there is a group of [axe-wielding maniacs] on the east side of the island, and that is why there are so many hybrids in his possession. He also mentions that he has a boat standing by on the west side of the island, manned at all times by a servant named pedro.
The group thinks that the best plan of action is to get munoz off the island and back to the syndicate. They wish to avoid the axe maniacs at all costs. So they head out. Munoz gets more courses of drugs from those select few that took some drugs from the lab. (mostly the professor, the hippie, etc.) munoz realizes in a drugged stupor that the time warp can indeed be created again with just a jump to the left [rocky horror picture show](yes, that's an actual pull from the bag)
the group comes across a large bayou with a ramshackle shack. There's an old black woman sitting on the porch with a shotgun in her hands. She's rather mean spirited to the group as they approach, but the whole conversation gets cut off when a large bear-like creature breaks through the tree line. The woman, who is known only as big bad bertha, begins fighting the giant monster [big bad bertha takes on giant monster]. The action star gets in on the action, but again proves to be ineffective against the giant beast. Big bad bertha takes the monster down, looks at the action star and calls him a “sucka”. (the action star's dumb fact was that he was a sucka, just once. It was a sore point for him) anyway, the two get to fighting, and the action star takes the woman down. He is glorified and feels that he has reached the apex of his conditioning. I go along with this, and let him see if he can obtain this zen-like pinnacle of perfection. He makes the roll, I reach in the bag, and extract [lake wizard] on a piece of paper. The action star, now has lake wizard powers, and gains a [talisman] that grants him his powers.
The new lake wizard tries to use the bayou to make a wave to ride to the west side of the island. After several attempts, he gets a small wave that makes it a little faster for travel.
The group makes it to the dock with the boat. They find Pedro on the dock...and on the boat...and in the boathouse... there's blood everywhere. The group looks to the treeline as the mechanic tries to hot-wire the boat. As the boat roars to life, and everybody piles in, an axe comes flying out of the treeline and embeds itself into the hull of the ship. There are axe maniacs everywhere on both sides of the dock, and they are flinging their axes with some seriously crappy accuracy (stupid dice)
as they are traveling, the lake wizard is trying to navigate by locking his senses onto the nearest lake, which should take them back to Florida at least. During this time, the professor is “science-ing the panther” and mounting the shotgun from Big Bad Bertha into the mouth of the panther. Additionally, the several course meal of drugs is still being administered to Munoz, who is looking green and sickly. He's still slightly coherent, but pretty much is in a semi vegetative state.
The group gets back to Miami. They dock the boat, head to the Syndicate building, when all of the sudden the whole building collapses into a large [pit]. The group looks down into the pit to see a gibbering mass of tentacles, teeth and eyes rise up to greet them. The colossal beast emerges from the depths, looks squarely at the seedy nightclub owner and demands the book. (mainly, the creature picks out this player because he failed his nerve roll) the nightclub owner is grabbed by the large Cthulhu like creature, and is carried off into the city.
Diggs, our hippie drug user who communes with the spirits, has a fantastic idea. He attempts to switch spirits between the seedy nightclub owner and the lizard that they saved from the mansion. (yes, they still have the lizard, go with it). Diggs enters a trance like state, and manipulates the energies to make this happen, and surprisingly it works, so the nightclub owner is now a kung-fu fighting lizard.
Instead of giving chase to Cthulhu, the group peers down into the depths of the pit and see a distant fire burning on the bottom of this pit, and there is the sound of chanting wafting ever so faintly from the pit. Using both the motorcycle panther and a stunt car, the group gets to the bottom by death spiraling around the pit at top speeds to keep them stuck to the side of the crater. (genius!) they reach the bottom to find a makeshift alter, torched mounted on the wall, and there is a walkway leading into another room. The group goes through the passage to find themselves in a large circular room with metal catwalks on the walls and an empty floor with a large seam that run across the room from north to south. A very large window is up high on one of the cylindrical walls. The lizard decides to climb up the wall, and takes the professor along for a ride. The two scale the wall with reasonable difficulty, but make it up to the window to peer in. they see people in robes with hoods manning several different stations with technical readouts, keyboards, and monitors. There are also five men in orange jumpsuits with numbers on their chests chained together, and one of the robed figures hands each a different weapon (generally something that looks scary and does a lot of damage in the right hands. Machete, chainsaw,etc.) odd, right?
the large circular room gets bathed in red lights and sirens go off all around the group. The seam in the floor splits open [beneath their feet] and a large rocket rises into the room. The group realizes they're in a missile silo, and that they need to stop that thing from launching. It is about this time that the lizard and the professor bust into the room, and the professor uses a vial that he procured from Munoz's lab. The vial breaks open upon impact and there is a [gooey caramel nexus] that looks like the Mars company made a black hole weapon. It swirls around the room and takes the cultists and killers with it before it seals itself up again. (cool!)
meanwhile, Diggs decides to have a close look at the rocket, and climbs up into the cockpit area. There, he finds a file called “project alpha: aka [serial killers on the moon]. For what purpose this project was for is still unknown, but Diggs was sure that their math and theory was way off and that the project was doomed to fail. Moreover, Diggs shuts down the rocket.
Now the epic part:
there's still a cthulhu running around town, and that needs to be taken care of immediately. The team decides to create a fighting machine out of the motorcycle-panther. With many rolls and yum yums, the group disassembles the rocket, then builds it into the panther. The result is Giga-Panther
this robotic beast was described as such:
shotgun enabled roar
powered by lakes
the soul of a motorcycle
the heart of a panther
it has the gooey caramel nexus laser
it is kung-fu compatible
instantly, I think that the creature is missing something (having seen way too many monster movies) I look over my list of pulls and notice that i've forgotten something. I tell them that the cultists had found a special weapon from ages ago, and now the group had [found the cathedralpult]. Needless to say, we all decide to mount the weapon on the Giga-Panther
we break the workload down into several stations before the fight with Cthulhu
Johnny Lightning controls the power systems (lake wizard powers)
Eagle Bro and Spanky Diggs are using a spiritual guidance systems
Silver Bullitt is running the engineering
Dictionary Larry is looking through the book, trying to find any sort of ritual that could weaken or banish Cthulth
Dr Bob is running the science area
Ted Zepplin/ lizard is hooked into the kung fu interface and running weapon systems.
So the battle rages on for a while, then eventually the cathedralpult is fired. The damage roll is terrible, but it's enough to stun the creature. The Giga-Panther grabs cthulhu and throws him high in the air, then fires the gooey caramel nexus at cthulhu, who basically turns into a heath bar and is trapped and ported away to another dimension.
The game ends with the character's planning on rebuilding and running the new syndicate, they find that Munoz is dead due to extreme chlorophyl poisoning, and the group lets Giga-Panther free to defend the world, which walks away in the tide towards the setting sun, raising a steel paw to the sky and roaring loudly.
So I have to say this: the game was fun, though I really had to work just to get several pulls out of the way all at once. It was still random, but slightly more structured than most years. I really look forward to next year, and I hope to get to run this event real soon.
That's all for now