Monday, April 30, 2007

Lords of Awesome

Yesterday was the third meeting of the C-U Run Club '07, a group based upon this post over at ars luddi. The basic deal is that everyone in the club has to run at least once, but they get absolute freedom in selecting their game. So far we've played Iron Gauntlets, d2o-ified Star Frontiers, and now Tom Moldvay's genre-smashing Lords of Creation. It was my turn to GM and I was sick and tired of referring to LoC as my favorite RPG I've never played.

I ran a hacked-up and streamlined version of the official LoC module Omegakron, which takes place in the post-apocalyptic ruins of Akron, OH. (Uh... Spoiler Alert?) Basically, I used the innards of the module with my own intro and conclusion bolted on. The introduction was that each of the PCs had been summoned by Vroona, the Guardian of Progress. From her Glass Castle beyond time and space she monitors the Sea of Possibilities, where new universes are born. A parallel timeline where Earth suffered a fullscale nuclear war in the mid-21st century was solidifying out of the possibilities, threatening to replace the prime timeline where that war was only a brief exchange of battlefield-level tactical nukes.

Vroona regularly deals with these sorts of threats as Guardian of Progress, but some force from within the faux reality was resisting all her efforts. So she enlisted some agents to enter the post-apoc baby universe and stop it from becoming real. Enter the PCs. In case of just such emergencies Vroona has cultivated a number of uniquely capable individuals. From ancient Greece comes King Agamemnon (more specifically, the version played by Sean Connery in Time Bandits). From the late 19th century we get young Aleister Crowley, occult rake. Hailing from the swinging sixties is that superbad cat Counte Dante. And from the far future of Imperial Terra is Victory Jones, Space Ranger!

Arriving in the virtual universe of Omegakron thanks to Vroona's sufficiently advanced technologies, our heroes rough up some local kung fu gangers trying to scavenge the corpse of a long-dead cop in riot gear. Kathleen discovers just how deadly her 27th century energy weapons can be when she reduces one of the gang members to smoldering boots. The leader of the punks gives the heroes some useful leads, but then the gangs split when the shrieks of mutants can be heard in the distance. It is noted that 21st century riot gear is mechanically superior to a bronze breastplace, so King Agamemnon declares the stuff "Armor of the Gods" and totally calls dibs. This will be a recurring theme throughout the adventure. A practical fighting man like Aggy will not hesitate to take your weird future war implements.

The players head in the generally direction of downtown, where they see things like domed arcologies, dirigibles, and skyscrapers with laser cannons on top. They're searching for what the gangers refer to as the University, hoping to get some answers. On the way they stumble across some jet-cycle riding Hell's Angels trying to hijack a gigantic tracked vehicle. It's about the size of the thing they transport the space shuttles on, only bristly with construction and demolition tools like giant buzzsaws and wrecking balls and such. A couple dozen cyborgs are firing automatic weapons at the Hell's Angels, who are shooting lasers.

Our heroes decide that they can't really tell who are the good guys in this fight, so they opt not to help out. Instead, they decide to jack a couple of sky-cycles. That went about as well as can be expected from a group where only the cop from the future has the ability to pilot air vehicles. Count Dante was making a bold effort though, and only crashed his cycle a little. Aleister Crowley got a neat trick in at one point. He used his magical command of the elements to cause the jet cycle exhaust to wrap around the vehicles, obscuring the vision of the pilots and causing three cycles to crash. And when one biker survived a rough landing, the dude stood up next to Agamemnon and pulled out a light sabre. That guy was totally unprepared for Agamemnon's bronze sword to punch right through the forcefield projected from his beltpack. Magic swords do that.

So after all these hijinx the party ends up with their own personal forefield belts, some laser rifles, and a light sabre that goes to Aleister Crowley. At this point I handed out some XPs, which people used to boost their stats and buy some skills. Suddenly Crowley knew how to wield a light sabre and King Agamemnon was an expert sky cycle pilot. And, thanks to the oddities of the Lords of Creation skill system, Count Dante became a trapeze artist. In LoC each skill has both breadth and depth. When you increase a skill your percentile chances go up, but you also gain new uses for the skill. Count Dante wanted to be a better Acrobat, which also gave him the ability to swing through the air with the greatest of ease. I find the skill system to be one of the more interesting aspects of the game, but the results can be a little... weird.

Victory Jones pulls an all-nighter fixing the sky cycle that Count Dante had tried to pilot. Meanwhile the rest of the party make a supper of some scavenged Spaghetti-O's and sips from Crowley's flask of absinthe. Don't feel too bad for Space Ranger Jones. She has cybernetics that make things like sleeping and eating unnecessary. She also has a built in laser with the emitter in a fingertip. Being from the future has its advantages.

The party then flies a reconnaisance of the city. That's when they discover a strange field of inky purple blackness several blocks in size. Victory's geiger counter goes wild, and something inside the blackness sets off Agamemnon's Electrosense. (For reasons unknown all the Greek heroes in the rules have Electrosensing and various psychic abilities, so I gave Aggy similar powers.) When they land nearby they see members of another gang flinging the corpse of one of their members into the blackness. Count Dante finds some locals without gang affiliation. They explain that, for as long as can be remembered, the traditional method of burial in Omegakron is to toss the body into "the Bone Hole", this swirling vortex of strange energies. Aleister uses his occult abilities to determine that the Bone Hole is coursing with necromantic power.

The party decides that they will enter the Vortex, because they believe it may contain the source of whatever power is drawing Omegakron into the prime timeline. Count Dante strolls into the blackness, spots some zombies, and strolls back out to get the rest of the party. The whole group passes through the strange blackness and finds themselves in a gloomy realm where the dead attempt to continue their lives as before. A skeletal man is walking a skeletal dog. A zombie woman is hanging filthy rags on the clothelines. But the dead crave life and soon the group is under attack George Romero style. After fighting a dozen or so walking dead, the party is able to survey their surroundings further. At the center of the Bone Hole is a gothic castle, upon which is contructed a weird Kirby-tech device that is coruscating with purple energy. Thanks to their powers of Dimensional Sight (which all LoC pcs possess) they can tell for certain that this castle and it's strange machine are the force trying to replace the real world with the post-apocalyptic horrors of Omegakron.

So the group goes back and gets their bikes. They fly over the armies of the dead, heading straight for that castle. As they approach they come under heavy laser fire from robot cowboys manning the parapets. Why? Because I wanted to include some robot cowboys, that's why. The sky cycles are abandoned just before they crash into two of the four castle towers, taking out half the generators powering the eldritch transdimensional device. King Agamemnon pulls out his ace in the whole, a one-use Head of Medusa, which petrifies half the android cowpokes. Victory Jones is handing out her Quick Heal packs while trying to zap the foes at the same time. Crowley uses elemental shaping to bring a third tower crashing down, while Count Dante plants some dynamite at the base of the machine. (He had the dynamite because he was about to blow up a rival dojo in Chicago. No, seriously.) That's when Dracula shows up.

Dracula was my boss monster of the whole adventure, but it didn't go down anything like I had planned. I didn't get to use my little dice chart labeled "stupid Dracula tricks", nor did I get in my villainous monologue where Drac explains that civilization is nice and all, but the Herd was getting out of control and needed to be culled. Instead Aggy and Dante use their psychic powers to stop Dracula dead in his tracks, the machine is exploded, and the inky blackness begins to recede, exposing Dracula to direct sunlight. He melted like a Nazi gazing into the Ark. The reality warping machine destroyed, a silver portal opened and the PCs returned to the Glass Castle just in time to see the Omegakron reality fade out of pseudo-existance.

Everybody had such a good time that after the run we talked briefly about playing a sequel.