Sunday, April 1, 2018

Anthropomorphic USR Rides Again! Session Report #4



This session brought two PC's out of Capital City and away from the shores of Lake Eerie to the hot desert country of southern New Mexico. One of the PC's was new to this “side” game I run when the regular session of Clockwork & Cthulhu is running light of players for the scheduled game. He was a bit skeptical of playing a homemade furry animal and other strangeness game, but threw himself in with gusto. Since Anthropomorphic USR runs on the (U)nbelievably (S)imple (R)oleplaying chassis he had a character made up in around five minutes or less. So Bob the Platypus joined Gorilla Dave and the agents of CHROME in their attempt to get to the bottom of the PC's kidnapping from the zoo, their genesis into enhanced beings, and who is behind all this madness. CHROME, understandably, finds secret underground genetic labs complete with nuclear reactor rather dubious. Not to mention posing unacceptable safety concerns for the two million plus inhabitants of Capital City!

I used the PC's Specialisms as jumping off points for starting the session. Bob chose Detective +2 Wits as one of his Specialisms so he was put to work pouring over the data CHROME had gathered from the destroyed lab and the zoo's security cameras and computer logs. The result of this research revealed the zoo's security system was hacked from an IP address in Moriarty, New Mexico. This happened to be the last known whereabouts of Cybermind, a notorious criminal computer hack. If Special Agent Scott Roger Scott could tie Cybermind to the zoo kidnapping he would be able to do what the FBI failed to, bring this international bad guy down!

The PC's were outfitted in the latest CHROME livery, stretchy combat suits which provided +2 Damage Resistance. Bob armed himself with a short katana and an auto pistol while Dave stuck with his robot-head helmet and acidic poo-flinging powers. S.A. Scott was in charge per usual and assigned four other agents to round out the squad. They boarded a chartered jet out of Capital City airport and flew down to Albuquerque. Bob and Dave wanted to approach the target at night, so after the sun set they rolled out of town in a nondescript van provided by the Albuquerque field office. Their ultimate destination being the abandoned amusement park and ghost town of Snake Gulch.

I started making my USR hacks in an attempt to leverage my existing setting books while at the same time doing away with crunchy rule sets. For Anthropomorphic USR I am digging through my old Champions material I purchased in the early two thowws, more for nostalgia than anything. Some of you may recognize Snake Gulch as from Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth. Coupled with the Millennium City source book you would think I would have all I need to run some fantastic Supers action. They both retailed for $24.99, but scored them each for $10.00. The game store in my parent's town was going out of business so everything in the place was slashed. Both books are rather nice to look at. Glossy cover, fine production values and each one over a hundred pages long.

I had to really dig through these Hero published books with a highlighter to find useful text. Text which would invoke the feel of four colored comics. There wasn't much to highlight actually. Many maps of locations, stats of the major NPC's to be met along the way. The usual long and pointless backstories of the villains, snore. This is the adventure, the city book, well maybe more useful. It gives me a street map. What? There is organized crime in the city? Street gangs? I never would have thought!

I have to say the DIY OSR products being produced over the last six or more years have really shined a light on the poor utility of standard RPG products that are usually on offer. Once you use Vornheim, the Complete City Kit in like every game you run the pages of useless information in your usual city guide can just make you angry. I recently used AugmentedReality, The Holistic City Kit For Cyberpunk Games, majorly influenced by Vornheim, (at PWYW it way punches above its weight) to prep for my next Classic Traveller session. It took me seconds with random rolls on a few tables and I had an adventure outline, all hooky, which could sustain open, sandbox play as well as providing enough color to breath life into my game environment. It seems a game like Champions, which Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth and Millennium City were written for rests on the thick, crunchy combat rules. No need for imaginative content because the game will grind to a halt as soon as combat starts. It's what I remember back in high school and it is what I experienced again at GenCon last year. Which misses out on a lot of what supers role playing has to offer. So I guess on my list of RPG projects to complete now I must add Supers City Kit and Supers Secret Hideout Kit to give poor GM's like myself a chance out there. A chance to do what we do best; take some interesting game elements and run fast with your players, letting them move the action and drive the story. Once you strip the stats from Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth you are left with a predictable railroad led by bread crumbs to standard set pieces. Ugh.

There is actually one interesting bit. The opening gambit is set at an old west theme park. I got rid of the original Viper staff and replaced the characters with automatons. Old and unused the PC's came at the place at night and started poking around. Bob headed straight to the Sheriff's office. After listening to the automaton brag about the good old days running with Wyatt Earp and the like Bob liberated the robotic sheriff of his badge, hat, boots and six shooter. A three foot platypus with spurs a jingling now hit the streets of Snake Gulch, bad ass Ape and several CHROME agents in tow, determined to sniff out the bad guys!

They eventually entered the saloon where they found tracks into the cellar. Here the automatonic poker players activated, started accusing each other of cheating, and one stood drawing his smoke wagons squaring off with the PC's. The novelty of the situation quickly wore off when the robot started squeezing off live rounds. After taking out the stiff limbed robot it did not take long for the PC's to find the secret cellar entrance to a more modern part of the theme park. With different use of their Specialisms and reacting off of their die rolls they eventually penetrated secure doors and found what could only be described as a complex computer lab plus living quarters. Surely this was Cybermind's secret hideout. But where was he? 



The PC's did subdue a man in army fatigues, horribly disfigured, green skin, frothing mouth filled with fangs, the usual. He was able to draw blood on Bob the Platypus. Hopefully he isn't infectious. A difficult hand to hand struggle ended with gorilla Dave dropping the bed on top of the disfigured army guy. The ID scan done by the CHROME agents came up empty. Was this Cybermind? Has he been so transformed the ID scan cannot recognize him? Two of the CHROME agents carried out the unconscious stranger while the rest of the squad penetrated further. Here the PC's encountered the central computer room, in alert, plus all the wires in the room, from the computers, lights, generators, bound into a central form crackling with electricity. It forms facial features and speaks! “My specimens, my children you have returned!”

Now your average Champions combat, let's see, with two agents, two heroes and a big bad could take like an hour to run. We had six minutes left in the session. Instead of counting hexes, tracking endurance and stun the PC's could concentrate on how to take out their unknown adversary. The strange creature could make multiple attacks, striking out with various electrical cords. One of the CHROME agents was fried to death before Bob the Platypus, still wearing a cowboy hat and badge, was able to cut the main power cable. Gorilla Dave soaked damage from electric cord creature so it took a coordinated team effort to take down the creature. Here the session ended and began my game design deliberations.

There is a few things to tweak and/or modify with my rules set. That is to be expected. The big takeaway, for me, is to stop looking at adventure and game books for game and adventure material. Unless they are being done with this OSR spirit, of trying to facilitate the GM at the table in real time, the shit is useless. Today's session got more mileage out of the PC's leveraging small bits of color than anything else out of these once expensive game books. For source material I need to go to source material! Much like I did with USR Sword & Sorcery the best bet for good gaming “stuff” is go read the actual comics which got me excited in supers to begin with. That and making stuff up myself, Nuff said!