Tuesday, July 22, 2014

[Actual Play] Misspent Youth - The Protection Corps, Episode 01: Runaways

Gemma Hastings (Me) - Daughter of the local head of the Protection Corps' Enforcement Division, Gemma is a model straight-A student at the local high school and moonlights as a teen detective. She also has psychic powers, which she has managed to keep secret from her dad until now.
Natalie Nairn (Heather) - One of Gemma's classmates who possesses the power to control the elements. She and Gemma became friends after Gemma was assigned as her student mentor to help with her classes.
Sarah Wilbourne (Judith) - An escapee from the Protection Corps' nearby re-education camp with molecular manipulation powers, rescued from the Seeker Hounds by Gemma - after she found the fugitive hiding out in her backyard - who concocted an impromptu herbal mixture to confuse the Seekers' senses. They've been friends ever since.

The girls are hanging out at Gemma's house, listening to Sarah's stories about what happens in the re-education camps, when their conversation is interrupted by the TV issuing a mandatory news report announcing the capture and execution of the terrorist group calling themselves The Resistance. Shortly after the announcement, Gemma's father – Captain Mark Hastings of the Protection Corps' Enforcement Division - barges in, about to say something to her when he notices that she has Natalie and Sarah with her. When he recognises Sarah as an escapee from the camps, Gemma tells him he must be mistaken and tries to use her psychic powers to throw him off. This is the first time she's used her powers on her father – who is an empath – and he struggles against it. Sarah panics and takes Gemma and Natalie 'hostage', grabbing them both and using her molecular manipulation power to phase them through the wall of the Hastings' bungalow home, and the three of them flee before Captain Hastings can call for backup.

Finding a place to hide out. Gemma wonders if the reports of the Resistance's annihilation are true, and thinks maybe they could seek the Resistance out if they still exist. It seems the Resistance has found them though, when they are approached by a man who claims to be McCallum, the leader of the movement. He tells the girls to 'come with him if they want to live'. However, before the girls can agree, the sound of Seeker Hounds can be heard nearing their hiding place, and McCallum vanishes before they arrive. The girls try to escape, with Sarah phasing them through the walls to get them out of the building quicker. The Seeker Hounds are soon hot on their heels and about to spit their venomous darts at the girls. Natalie tries to use her elemental powers to put up a shield of flame around them, but the concentration slows her down, and they're knocked out by Seeker venom before the shield is in place.

The girls wake up in the back of a van, handcuffed – with Sarah restrained with special cuffs made of phasium, a metal that is resistant to the molecular manipulation power – with Captain Hastings sat across from them. The van is presumably on its way to a reeducation camp. Gemma pleads with her father to help them, but he claims that he is helping them and that this is for their own good. Sarah starts ranting at him about the crimes committed against fledgling supers by the Protection Corps, just before the van lurches to the side and Captain Hastings is knocked unconscious in the crash. The van doors open and [the resistance leader], assisted by his super-strong associate Martha, undoes the girls' restraints. They get out of the van to find themselves surrounded by Seeker Hounds, which Natalie hold at bay by forming a bubble of ice around the other two girls and the two resistance people. Captain Hastings recovers, threatening the resistance leader with a gun. Sarah is able to use her molecular manipulation power to phase herself, and the others through the ground and into the sewers below.

As McCallum and Martha guide the girls through the sewers towards a nearby safehouse, he explains that they are really after Gemma, because she is the only known true psychic they've discovered, and potentially a very powerful one. Captain Hastings and his Seeker Hounds enter the sewers and continue the pursuit. Natalie is able to use her elemental power to manipulate the sewer water and hold them back by sending waves of sewage along the way they came, blocking up the passages, but it doesn't keep the pursuers at bay long. When Captain Hastings and his lackies break through the barrier, Sarah uses her molecular manipulation power to phase him and his team through the sewer floor, effectively killing them. Gemma screams and goes into a state of shock as the resistance members guide them through a hatch into the safehouse.

However, as the door locks shut behind them, they find themselves surrounded by a dozen Protection Corps guards armed with tasers, in a room lined with phasium, and 'McCallum' reveals himself to be the shapeshifting head psychiatrist of the reeducation camp, Dr Johan Schmidt. Schmidt reveals that Gemma's father had actually gone rogue, and really was trying to help them escape the Protection Corps. Sarah phases one of the non-phasium bolts fixing a strip light to the ceiling, bringing it crashing down on top of Martha and knocking her out cold. Schmidt orders his troops to fire, but Natalie summons up a shield of water, diffusing the electricity. Schmidt then transforms into a bear-like monster, and advances towards them. It's at this point that Gemma snaps out of her state of shock and psychically dominates all of the guards, ordering them to fire upon Schmidt. The number of guards firing - and the fact that they just don't stop - means that the normally non-lethal taser guns fry Schmidt to a smoking crisp on the floor. With that done, she then orders the guards to kill themselves with their service pistols, to Natalie and Sarah's dismay.

Searching for a way out of the facility, the girls stumble upon a holding area where they find the real McCallum and his people have been held captive. The reports of their execution were a lie. After knocking out the guard on duty, the girls release the prisoners, at which point an alarm goes off. With no time to waste, they decide to double back the way they came in and hope to find a way to break down the sewer access door. On the way, they encounter a guard patrol with seeker hounds on their way, and Gemma influences some of the freed prisoners to keep the patrol busy while the rest of them escape, sacrificing their lives to save the majority. When they reach the sewer door, Natalie uses her elemental powers to melt the door to slag with a fireball and they escape through the sewers with the freed resistance members.

After they have all escaped to one of the Resistance's safehouses that wasn't compromised during the previous assault on the movement, Gemma grimly notes that the Protection Corps will not stop hunting them or others like them...unless they make them stop by taking them down. Sarah agrees with this assertion, while Natalie remains horrified by the actions of her friends. McCallum reveals that he's been listening to their conversation, and indicates that he can help them with that...

Post-Game Reflection
We had a good first game, though it took us a while to get used to the scene structure and struggle mechanic. Martin did a decent job as the Authority, though the Authority's objectives in struggles could have been better and more varied, with the majority of them being 'the chasers catch you'. As such it felt more like a session of Psi*Run at times. The other players also had complaints about Martin arbitrarily throwing in phasium and the fact that electricity could harm Sarah even when she was out of phase, essentially devaluing her power. It was a bit heavy, I'll agree, at least at such an early point in the story. Power-nullifying stuff like that would be more appropriate for the second or final episodes, I would have thought. Still, we all had fun, and we're looking forward to hopefully having our next couple of episodes at the end of the week.

Note: I couldn't remember the resistance leader's actual name, except that it started with an M, so I've used McCallum as a placeholder for now. I'll fix it when Martin gets back to me with the actual name.

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