GM’s Blog – Union Dues (like) Game – Session 3

If you’re just joining us you can read about the first session here or if you need to catch up the last session is here.

Last week the group finally rendezvoused in Baghdad to try and track down the Metahuman Jihad. In the closing minutes of the previous session Blue Sun found a minion of the terrorists and tracked him back to their lair. Flashbang was stranded outside Baghdad in a minefield and started to make his way to the city and The Purist and Jed & Harvey were wandering around the streets in their cunning burqa disguises while they waited.

I started things with a compel. The Purist is curious about humans so it only made sense that he’d wander around a bit and get the group in trouble by talking with the locals, revealing that a) he doesn’t speak the local language and b) that he’s a man in disguise (not realising that Burqas are worn by women only). His player negotiated with me a bit to tone it down from widespread exposure to a complication involving a couple of people at most and I was fine with that.

He approached a young butcher who was cutting meat in a side alley and opened a conversation in English. Much confusion resulted and at length the butcher went and got a bearded older man who came back and started shouting at The Purist. One thing led to another and the butcher tried to attack The Purist with his meat cleaver. With swift reflexes the alien dodged out of the way and disarmed the butcher.

At that point Black Amaranth made his return from hell, clawing his way out of a hellish crevice. After a moment of hesitation he flung the old man into Hell just as the crevice slammed closed (remember, superheroes!).

The butcher ran away and returned a few moments later with a jeep of armed militia who proceeded to try and arrest Black Amaranth and The Purist. They decided discretion was the better part of valour and ran around the corner of the alley only to find a walk blocking their path. The Purist used his earth manipulation power to build a fake wall out of sandy earth while Black Amaranth turned the wall into dust with his infernal magic, thus allowing them to escape.

The group reconvened using Blue Sun’s telepathy to co-ordinate with one another and waited in a bombed-out house for Flashbang to walk in from the desert. Their next plan was to steal a car and make their way out to the mountain base of the enemy, around 60 miles away from Baghdad.

We had a couple of fun Successes at a Cost here, with Harvey using his shadow manipulation abilities to bust the door lock and then start the ignition. The airbags were all released when he hotwired the car, hitting Jed in the face and giving him a bloody nose (a minor consequence).

So they drove out and found the back of the mountain. Initial investigations revealed several goatherders dotted around that they suspected might be guards or spies for the Metahuman Jihad. After debating for a while how to take them all down without triggering an alert, Jed had Harvey grow into the mountain’s own shadow and launch a terrifying array of shadow shapes at the shephards, knocking each of them catatonic with fear (remember, superheroes!).

Black Amaranth experimented with turning a goat into stone and then back into flesh. Purist briefly suggested adding on extra stone to see what happened but Black Amaranth decided this was not a good idea. He turned the goat back into stone for later.

They searched the goatherders and found out that they were indeed guards for the mountain as they were carrying radios and guns. Blue Sun read the mind of  a herder and found out that they were supposed to check in every couple of hours with the next check-in due imminently!

He impersonated the herders but something wasn’t quite right – another success at a cost. He was called in to the mountain for a debriefing by Insha’Allah to ensure that he was still operating with the right degree of faith. Not speaking the language he didn’t understand this at first, but then he hit upon the idea of using the unconscious herder’s mind as a living translation computer.

He implanted Bruno, his psychic snake, into the mind of a herder so he could obtain translations at range and then proceeded into the base, finding the mechanism for starting the lift from the herder’s mind.

The group meanwhile discussed strategies. They ultimately hit upon using Flashbang’s power of illusion to cloak the car and then drive it into the cave. But! The interior of the cave was very dark… I compelled the darkness and Flashbang’s arrogant assumption that everything will go according to plan to suggest that he forgot his powers wouldn’t work in the cavern’s darkness, revealing them and their car to the security cameras hidden in the cave’s ceiling.

Blue Sun was taken to speak with Insha’Allah, who turned out to enjoy a plush office environment and speak with a very thick American accent from the deep south. Not wanting the psychic Islamist to read his mind Blue Sun set up a sort of neural shunt between him and the goat herder outside, meaning that should Insha’Allah try to read his mind he would instead read the mind of the goat herder.

This worked perfectly but Insha’Allah chose to reinforce the faith and loyalty of the herder as well, attempting to create or reinforce the aspect of *Suicidal Loyalty to Jihad*. For his defence, Blue Sun shunted the psychic attack through to the herder, and was successful.

Around then the team drove into the cave in their supposedly invisible car, alerting the Jihadists and setting off an alarm in the base down below. Flashbang paused for a second and then turned on the car’s interior light, re-enabling his powers and once again making the car invisible.

With a bulkhead door now sealing the exit to the cave and the lift itself in lockdown the team began to prepare an approach for getting down into the secret base. At least the lockdown meant that the enemy couldn’t get to them too… Then suddenly in a flash of light Hajj the teleporter appeared with a team of armed, night-vision goggle-armed henchman and a flame-wreathed mid-30’s metahuman: the fire manipulator Ifrit. Hajj vanished again, leaving them to deal with Ifrit and his armed henchmen.

Harvey to the rescue once again. With another terrifying display of shadow manipulation he used the tooth-like stalactites and stalagmites to cast horrendously fearsome shadows, terrifying the henchmen into catatonia. Ifrit alone was left.

Black Amaranth used his magic as an attack for the first time, trying to turn Ifrit into stone. I resolved this as a standard attack with consequences being burned as normal. He put a lot into this attack, burning two fate points to deal a total of 10 points of damage. This left Ifrit with his skin turning stony and his flesh beginning to stiffen (mild and severe consequences).

The Purist seized on the stony skin, using his elemental manipulation powers to literally tear the calcified skin and flesh from Ifrit’s body. The fire-manipulator rolled well to defend himself however so The Purist burned the two free invocations on Ifrit’s injuries to deal him two damage, filling his second stress box.

Jed had Harvey attak Ifrit with a shadowy punch, but fortunately for the fiery jihadist he was able to blast upwards on flames of righteousness, disrupting Harvey’s shadowy material and avoiding the attack.

Meanwhile, below, Hajj appeared in Insha’Allah’s office to evacuate him, having already taken Jihad to safety after their leader activated the base’s silent and un-stoppable self-destruct sequence. Blue Sun struck instantly, encasing the telepath in an enclosed cylinder of energy and thus preventing Hajj from escaping with the man. Hajj hesitated for an instant, trying to work out how to react, and Blue Sun seized the chance to telepathically try and force Hajj to stay. The boy’s will was strong and he defended himself from the psychic onslaught and then teleported to safety.

Ifrit’s turn and he tried to turn himself fully into fire to temporarily overcome the stony skin and flesh dealt to him by Amaranth. Inconvienenced by his injuries and by chains conjured by Amaranth he failed this and decided to surrender, considering that it was better to be alive and find out more about the interlopers than to die at this time. The group agreed to this concession as long as they got what they wanted – which was the lift into the complex activated.

At least, this is what they wanted until Ifrit told them about the bomb… Instead they got him to override the bulkhead door and let them out of the cavern.

And so they left with a car full of catatonic Islamists and Ifrit. Blue Sun flew overhead with the now-unconscious-from-lack-of-air Insha’Allah still in his enclosing cylinder. Behind them the base was destroyed in an immense explosion and they decided to head back to the States in a construct jet… though not before Amaranth paused to collect the stone goat as a souvenir.

Meanwhile, somewhere in another place or dimension, shadowy alien figures watched the satellite footage of an entire mountain’s shadow coming to life to terrify goat herders into unconsciousness and said, “So that’s where he got to…”

Things that went well

Cut scenes. I enjoyed giving away some details of what was going on in the base while the group was up top, and the scene at the end was a classic chance to do some foreboding foreshadowing in the form of a cut scene.

The group also had a lot of fun playing with manifestations of their powers, having the first opportunity to use them in a purely offensive way. It felt like the superhero combat went well, with the powers feeling meaty without completely overpowering the metahuman opposition.

I also felt that we got some good compels in tonight, with some of the characters who hadn’t yet been compelled getting a chance for centre stage with their own compels.

Things that didn’t go so well

I would have liked to challenge the group a bit more with Ifrit, but once he failed to turn into fire he was in a bit of a bad situation. With a few invokes he could have managed it but I didn’t set his Aspects up in advance and invoking stuff that ‘just happened’ to be appropriate would have seemed a bit unfair… so I ended up not invoking and allowing him to stay in the weaker position. I’ll make an effort to have aspects defined for characters before they get into a fight next time.

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