Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Invincible Iron Man, Vol. 1

“The Five Nightmares” introduces the son of Obediah Stane out for revenge against Tony Stark.

With Marvel’s popular and successful foray into films with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve finally decided to get back into comics. I grew up a big fan of X-Men and other superheroes but haven’t really kept up since the 90s. Thus begins my grand catching-up of the last ten years of Marvel comics, events and stories.

Thanks in large part to trade paperbacks and the digital convenience of Marvel Unlimited I can make relatively quick progress, and I’ll write down my Final Thoughts for each collection here on my blog. Like my gaming Final Thoughts, this will be full of spoilers. You’ve been warned!

Invincible Iron Man Vol. 1Writer: Matt Fraction

Artist: Salvador Larroca

Issues: Invincible Iron Man #1-6

 

The first Iron Man film released in 2008, setting the stage for the incredible Marvel Cinematic Universe that’s seemingly taken over most of Hollywood, and cemented superhero films as the defacto Blockbuster genre.

To coincide with the film’s release, Marvel did the smart thing and started a brand new Iron Man comic series – Invincible Iron Man by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca. The timing was a bit weird – it actually started while Iron Man’s previous self-titled series was still wrapping up before ending with a brief War Machine Secret Invasion tie-in (which was quite enjoyable).

The previous Iron Man series was a bit hit or miss but ultimately came away glad I read it. I was never a big fan of Iron Man growing up (or the Avengers really). I’d go as far to see that Iron Man was teetering on C or D-list fame until 2006’s Civil War catapulted him to the spotlight. Suddenly Stark was Director of SHIELD and one of the most important people in the Marvel Universe, a theme that would continue to this day. Continue reading “Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Invincible Iron Man, Vol. 1”

Shadowrun 5E “The Bodyguards” Session 2 Report

Everything that can go wrong will go wrong when our shadowrunners work security at a rock concert in our funniest session yet.

Watch our sessions live on twitch.tv/gorbash722 every Sunday night beginning at 9:30pm Central.

Read “The Bodyguards” Session 1 Report

For our third Shadowrun adventure I really wanted to try something different. Our previous mission was very combat heavy as I shuffled my runners from scene to scene as they made their journey to downtown Seattle. This time I created a single, gigantic scene in Roll20 where multiple events transpire – and only a few involve actual combat.

In our previous session the runners had purchased eqiupment and scoped out the location of the warehouse-turned-concert hall The Dragon’s Maw. They’d been hired as temporary security guards to beef up the staff for an indie rock label and their star performing artist – Lana Grace. One night only, and anything can happen.

As a GM I like to overplan as much I can so I’m at least somewhat prepared for any unexpected things my players do. I also shepherd them somewhat, and even within a single scene I had events happening all around them to replicate the feel of being part of a security team. Since the players all split up to handle different tasks and areas, I also switched around to make sure I didn’t focus on any one player or situation for too long, and made sure everyone got to do something.

shadowrun

Before the opening band even took the stage I had a salvo of events lined up to take place. Most of them were just little side story kernels with a few notes. I was stepping a bit out of my comfort zone by having to ad-lib much of the specific dialogue and events, but it ended up being a hell of a lot of fun – I don’t think we’ve laughed so much and so hard in an adventure yet, and I was complimented on my voice acting (having a young child you read to every day helps immensely with this).

The folks backstage had to screen backstage passers to get into see Lana, a fun an direct way to screen people and use skills like Perception to find weapons and Judge Intentions to see how they were acting. I planted some questionable folks, some earnest ones, and even a creepy vampire – whom was totally allowed inside and subsequently had to be fought and put down! The dance floor area involved people trying to sneak backstage (which lead to a funny confrontation between the unstable decker of the group), and a drug peddler that was high on his own supply. The players guarding the entrance had to deal with a ticket scalper.

Most of these events were heavy on the role-playing and light on skill checks, and only the vampire ended up having any actual combat. It was a fun chance to let loose with some play acting and everyone ended up having a really fun time with it. Once the warm-up band took the stage I had a few more events transpire – like a streaker trying to run onto the stage.

All these mini-events ended up taking up all our time for the session, and we ended before our star actually hit the stage. I was nervous going into this session how well this system of seemingly random events would pan out, and if I ‘d be able to handle multiple things happening at once with the party split up. It ended up working out really well, and I’m pleased to see everyone having fun on a much more role-playing heavy session. Tune in next time to see if any more shenanigans arise when the star takes the stage!

Watch our sessions live on twitch.tv/gorbash722 every Sunday night beginning at 9:30pm Central.

Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Secret Invasion

In 2008 Marvel launched their biggest crossover mega-event yet, a full scale alien invasion by the shape-shifting skrulls that pulled together all the Avengers.

With Marvel’s popular and successful foray into films with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve finally decided to get back into comics. I grew up a big fan of X-Men and other superheroes but haven’t really kept up since the 90s. Thus begins my grand catching-up of the last ten years of Marvel comics, events and stories.

Thanks in large part to trade paperbacks and the digital convenience of Marvel Unlimited I can make relatively quick progress, and I’ll write down my Final Thoughts for each collection here on my blog. Like my gaming Final Thoughts, this will be full of spoilers. You’ve been warned!

Secret Invasion coverWriter: Brian Michael Bendis

Artist: Leinil Francis Yu

Issues: Secret Invasion #1-8

For these Final Thoughts I also included the following tie-ins and limited series:

Avengers: The Initiative #14-19
Mighty Avengers #12-20
New Avengers #38-47
Secret Invasion: Dark Reign #1
Secret Invasion: Inhumans #1-4
Secret Invasion: Thor #1-3
Secret Invasion: War Machine #33-35 (from Iron Man)
Secret Invasion: X-Men #1-4

 

“He loves you.”
“Um, he who?”
“God.”
“Yeah? Well my God has a hammer!”

If Avengers Disassembled lead into the modern Marvel era of massive crossover events, then the time period in 2008 could be its pinnacle.  From ’07 the Planet Hulk revenge story/sequel World War Hulk and the cosmic sequel Annihilation: Conquest ravaged parts of Earth and the entire universe respectively. Without even catching a breath the X-Men experienced their biggest crossover in years with the epic Messiah Complex event. Directly afterward Marvel played their biggest hand yet: the skrull-powered Secret Invasion mega-event.

Spanning most of 2008, bringing together nearly every ongoing series at the time, and completely changing the ongoing structure and politics of the Marvel world for the following year, Secret Invasion was as big an event as Marvel had ever run. To pull off the long con, Marvel architect Brian Michael Bendis had to start crafting years in advance, sowing the seeds for the violent and shocking return of the shape-shifting alien skrulls as far back as 2004-05 – ironically the time period I chose to jump back into Marvel comics with.

The event had been teased and prodded in several issues of both Might Avengers and New Avengers – especially New Avengers #31, when the team kills Elektra only to find a dead skrull in her place. A similar shock occurs in the final issue of New Avengers: Illuminati. Black Bolt, leader of the Inhumans is revealed to be a skrull sleeper agent. Though he fails in killing the rest of the illuminati, the seeds of distrust and concern do their damage, breaking up the clandestine group of super-leaders.

Secret Invasion #3

From there the event moves into full swing. Like most major Marvel Events before it, Secret Invasion received its own special series that brought in just about every active Avenger at the time. This leaves the actual Avengers series scrambling to include relevant tie-ins, leading to a surprisingly eloquent solution of using those series to detail more of the skrulls’ backstory. The two main Avenger trades at the time all delved into the lead-up to the Invasion and how thoroughly ingrained the shape-shifting alien goblins were in our society throughout the last few years.

The biggest skrull surprises reveal main villains Spider-Woman and Hank Pym (Yellowjacket). Spider-Woman had been Bendis’ pet project for years; a relatively minor D-lister who was elevated to an interesting and compelling character that ended up joining both active Avenger squads at various points.

It was all a lie, as she’s revealed to be Queen Veranke, leader and religious figurehead of the skrulls. I found it quite fascinating that the skrulls were not simply alien invaders but religious fanatics that truly believed the Earth was theirs by right. All the skrulls repeat the line “He loves you,” and it’s quite shocking when we learn that they are referring to God.

Secret Invasion #3bAlthough the skrulls’ main tactic was to infiltrate and take over Earth from the inside, the main series starts with a bang as they attack with a full-blown assault and invasion while the bulk of the Avengers are mired in the Savage Land. A skrull ship crashlands and out walks a bunch of Avengers in old costumes from the 70s, a classic alien abduction story-telling device that reminded me of the end of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Unfortunately our heroes spend way too long dealing with this weird development as both sides yell “No, you’re a skrull” before devolving into a battle royale.

Meanwhile back in New York (the only place alien invasions really take place), the defense of Earth is left up to the Young Avengers, and they have a hell of a time against the newly super-powered skrulls. Not only have the skrulls developed technology to remain completely undetected, but they can also replicate just about every superpowered person in the Marvel Universe. Apparently the costume is part of the package deal, so our heroes fight skrulls dressed as Cyclops, Thor, and even Galactus, leading to some incredibly epic and fun battles.

It helps that the art is absolutely fantastic. I’d commented before that Leinil Yu’s art was very interesting and pencil-heavy on New Avengers. Here it evolves into a nice balance between evocative, detailed faces and explosive colors. His style lends to a slightly polygonal shaping to figures which I kind of dug, making it distinct without becoming too distracting. After Secret Invasion, Yu may have become one of my favorite Marvel artists.

Our Savage Land, Avenger-skrull problem is dealt with by Agent Abigail Brand of SWORD, Earth’s liason into space (sort of a cross between SHIELD and the Men in Black). Brand was actually created by Joss Whedon back in Astonishing X-Men, an awesome half-alien, no-nonsense woman with green hair and some minor powers.

Her ship is blown to hell when the skrulls invade but she manages to get inside another one and single-handedly free the captured and tortured Mr. Fantastic. Together she and Reed Richards fly down to the Savage Land where Richards’ quickly assembled super-device (as he does) reveals all the skrulls in an area. Drama ensues, fights break out, and our heroes finally get back to New York where the real giant battle commences.

Secret Invasion #6

Meanwhile Nick Fury has finally revealed himself, and he has his own team of Secret Warriors he’s assembled himself. Fury was one of the few people on Earth that sensed the skrull threat, and had been off the radar (and written out of most Marvel comics) since his Secret War event in 2004. The twist that he’d been working on fighting the eventual skrull invasion this whole time is a neat idea, and I liked that he was just as ornery, grizzled, and unlikable as I remember him. The backstory on his ragtag team of new heroes is detailed in one of the Mighty Avengers tie-ins, and they eventually spin off into their own Secret Warriors series, which I’ll definitely be reading.

The final battle is supremely satisfying, with issue #7 just one gigantic battle between the superpowered skrulls and all the various Avenger teams, as well as Red Hood’s street-villain group and Norman Osborn’s government-approved Thunderbolts. Lots of crazy cool moments leap off the page, like The Watcher showing up, Marvel Boy crashing in, and Hawkeye wielding a bow and arrow for the first time in years to shoot Veranke in the face.

The skrulls get the last laugh, however. Remember how Hank Pym was really a skrull? He’d previously given his ex-wife Janet (The Wasp) a new growth formula that was actually a deadly biological bomb. Skrull-Pym uses his dying breath to activate it, and she suddenly grows with a strange energy. Thor is forced to put her down using tornadoes to blow her particles away to save everyone else. Our heroes are not pleased, but it’s Norman Osborn, the recovering Green Goblin turned government man and leader of the Thunderbolts that gets the killing blow on Veranke.

Secret Invasion #8

From there the skrulls finally surrender and the war is over. The government praises Norman Osborn and his team, dissolves SHIELD, and puts Osborn as head of a new world order. Osborn immediately gathers together a secret team of would-be super-villains – the anti-illuminati, as his Cabal. He tells Namor, Doctor Doom, Loki, Red Hood, and Emma Frost that they can work together, and as the man on the inside he can let everyone get away with it.

Without yet reading the Thunderbolts tie-ins, Osborn’s sudden rise to power felt a bit rushed at the end, but I am intrigued by this new world that embraces the Freedom versus Security theme that Marvel had been exploring for years. Dark Reign sounds like we go full on 1984!

While the two main Avengers trades covered various backstories, Avengers: The Initiative went in a crazy side-story direction. Delroy Garrett the, er, 3-D Man, pulls a They Live when he realizes his special hand-me-down goggles can see who’s really a skrull. Around the same time Camp Hammond, home to the main Initiative training base and recruitment is fully taken over by skrulls, led by skrull-Pym, and 3-D Man embarks on a crazy odyssey to warn the other Initiative teams around the country and fight the skrulls.

secret invasionThe weird thing about The Initiative series is that all the original characters I enjoyed all graduated and went their separate ways in the last volume. The Secret Invasion issues solve that problem somewhat by having 3-D Man meet up with many of the members, now dispersed amongst their own various state-sponsored super-teams. Most of them are incredibly dorky with some of the lamest superhero costumes and concepts you’ve never heard of.

The story goes in some weird places and eventually ends in an climactic multi-stage battle involving skrull-Pym’s plan to use a weapon of mass destruction – which you never hear about in the main Secret Invasion story. It’s completely ancillary and very skippable, though the art is quite nice and the story remains entertaining, even if it involves the most D-list of D-listers.

Like many Marvel events Secret Invasion launched with multiple limited series, allowing characters and teams to be involved without taking over their current series (a welcome strategy). Of the half-dozen or so limited series, I read X-Men, Inhumans, and Thor, as well as the end of the then-current Iron Man series which is taken over by a brief but fun War Machine arc that spins off out of Avengers: The Initiative. Whew!

James Rhodes wasn’t a big character at the time but I really enjoyed his brief spotlight, which includes using a giant mech-satellite to kick skrull spaceship ass, then going to Russia and helping out their superteam against the skrull invaders. I had no idea Rhodey was now a cyborg who needed the armor to live, and combined with brief flashes of him as a bullied but stalwart teen made War Machine a pretty fantastic character to read about. I’m looking forward to reading the official series that starts up next, though it looks like it only lasted twelve issues.

iron man war machine secret invasion #34Secret Invasion: Thor was definitely the strongest of all the limited series tie-ins I read with fantastic art and a short story that respects what J. Michael Straczynski is doing with Thor in his then-current series. Thor’s first job is to protect Asgard, and following that it’s to protect the people of Broxton, Oklahoma, where Asgard currently resides.

Thor shares a body with Doctor Donald Blake, and Dr. Blake delivering a baby amidst the stormy crisis of the skrull invasion juxtaposes wonderfully with the war the Asgards wage against the alien threat. It also brings in Thor co-star Beta Ray Bill, aka that weird alien horse Thor who’s all kinds of awesome, and they spend the majority of the comic fighting their own super-powered skrull. It’s short and sweet, but also action-packed and intense – a wonderful tie-in.

Secret Invasion: X-Men was unfortunately the weakest, with a dull, bland art that made many of the X-Men look eerily similar to the goblin-like skrulls they were battling. The skrulls invade the X-Men’s new home of San Fransisco, and they respond accordingly. Everything’s fairly boring and predictable until the final issue, when Cyclops pulls off a rather hardcore biological attack, infecting the skrulls with the same Legacy Virus plague that nearly wiped out mutants years ago. Cyke’s willingness to do whatever it takes nicely reflects his recent character evolution, but the whole adventure just came off super forgettable. Sorry X-Men, you’ve got plenty of your own problems!

secret invasion inhumans #2The Inhumans series is a bit of a mixed bag. It starts out well enough, with the royal family still reeling from the knowledge that Black Bolt was a sleeper agent skrull for some time. Just as the seeds of suspicion are planted, the skrulls openly attack the moon-based Attilan. While everyone fights, Medusa, Gorgon, Triton, Karnak, and Crystal (the only Inhumans that are ever really given any personality or recognition) mount a space-faring journey to rescue the real Black Bolt, who’s currently being tortured and weaponized by the skrulls.

Medusa ends up meeting up with Ronan the Accuser and forges an alliance, which has interesting repercussions going forward. Things get a little crazy as we split up into three teams to go to three different planets and gather McGuffins to track the skrulls. Eventually Black Bolt is rescued in the nick of time, and the Inhumans declare their official alliance with the Kree, and their continued distaste of Earth and all its problems, leading the Inhumans to enter the more Cosmic-side of Marvel stories going forward. It’s an interesting development and makes Secret Invasion: Inhumans quite important, but as its own story it’s just okay. None of the characters are interesting or compelling and the plot and action are just too much to squeeze into a four issue arc.

While Secret Invasion relies heavily on its initial surprise twists and reveals of ‘They were a skrull the whole time,’ the story of an explosive alien invasion with a lot of premeditated planning is a fun event for the Marvel-verse to tackle. The mostly lame skrulls are used in awesome and terrifying ways, though the actual consequences of the war don’t feel nearly as harsh as Civil War‘s. I loved their religious fanaticism and Queen Veranke (as Spider-Woman) is a fun villain – the quick scene where she tries to convince a sick Tony Stark that he’s their top skrull agent is absolutely delicious, and I wished the story had gone more in that direction. Instead we end up getting a fairly standard, albeit awesome battle at the end, and Yu’s art is phenomenal. I’ve generally been a fan of Marvel’s events thus far, and Secret Invasion definitely didn’t disappoint.

Secret Invasion #8 cabal

New Article – LEGO Worlds Early Access Preview

LEGO Worlds expertly captures the feel of playing and building with LEGO bricks with the addictive open-ended exploration and building of Minecraft.

Read the full Preview on Pixelkin

lego worlds

The biggest and most obvious inspiration for Minecraft is LEGO. Those venerable little stacking bricks rose from humble Danish beginnings to become one of the most popular toys in the world. Over the last decade, the brand has successfully expanded into video games using its incredibly lucrative licensing deals, making games of popular franchises like Star Wars and Batman. The focus on kid-friendly, cooperative gaming has made these games hugely popular for families.

Now we have finally come full circle, as LEGO returns to its block-building roots by lifting core gameplay from Minecraft. LEGO Worlds was recently released in Early Access on Steam, meaning the game is still in active development, but can be purchased and played right now. Despite a current lack of major features like multiplayer, LEGO Worlds expertly captures the feel of playing and building with LEGO bricks with the addictive open-ended exploration and building of Minecraft.

Read the full Preview on Pixelkin

New Article – Technobabylon Review

Despite the aging Adventure Game Studio engine, Technobabylon succeeds thanks to an intriguing story, diverse cast, and satisfying puzzles.

Read the full review on CGMagazine

Technobabylon review

Wadjet Eye Studios have quietly been carving out a stalwart niche among traditional Point and Click Adventure game fans. In recent years, the genre has grown and segmented to include more narrative-rich, dialogue-heavy adventures, spear-headed largely by Telltale’s successful licensed Episodic Adventure games. Fans of old-school Adventure games, however, ones full of complex puzzles and creative worlds, can still turn to studios like Wadjet Eye and their latest release, Technobabylon. Despite the aging Adventure Game Studio engine, Technobabylon succeeds thanks to an intriguing story, diverse cast, and satisfying puzzles.

The story opens with Latha, an orphaned young woman living in poverty. Like many people in 2087 she’s addicted to the Trance – Technobabylon’s equivalent of a virtual internet of the future. Escaping her apartment after a power surge serves to act as a tutorial as you learn how to manipulate the game’s most unique gameplay hook – downloading and rearranging programs of the various electronic devices around her.

Read the full review on CGMagazine

Shadowrun 5E “The Bodyguards” Session 1 Report

A new adventure kicks off as our runners are tasked with working security at a rock concert.

Watch our sessions live on twitch.tv/gorbash722 every Sunday night beginning at 9:30pm Central.

A new adventure begins! One of the aspects I like to incorporate into my game writing and structure are my players’ back stories. In our previous adventure I teased Mauta’s back story, eventually causing her to reveal her darker past to her fellow runners in a fun, tense moment, and giving her a crisis of conscious with a choice at the end.

For our new adventure I used an NPC from our troll shaman Ursev – his estranged brother Benton. I got with the player and had him detail a bunch of information so I could role-play the character effectively. The idea was to have the brother track down the runners after their recent exploits and offer them their next job – joining his private security team in protecting a famous singer during her show at a concert hall.

BentonThere was a lot of role-playing and dialogue during these set-up prologue events. I feel like it went over smoother than previous set-ups as it was more back and forth rather than having me just dump a bunch of information at the players’ feet. The players asked questions and I answered, and it all felt much more natural and interactive.

The players were also given time to shop around for any new equipment they wanted, as well as explain any character advancement thanks to the rather substantial karma and nuyen rewards they received at the end of the previous adventure.

As a GM I’m not too terribly concerned with role-playing and nit-picking the downtime stuff. I use some slightly modified house rules for buying equipment that seems to work for us, and everyone pretty much relies on the team’s Face/Adept for his superior Negotiation skills.

The bulk of this first session was actually just the prologue – buying equipment, gathering information, and talking with the quest-giver. In a twist from previous adventures, I offered the runners a chance to visit the venue they’d be guarding.

Benton escorted them through the building which gave me a chance to give detailed descriptions without the added chaos of the upcoming event. It also gave the players a chance to explore the building and plan on how they wanted to handle their protective duties.

For once there was actually no combat in the whole session. The players had a ton of prep time to get the proper equipment, learn about the mission, and even scout the venue they would be pulling guard duty at.

The Bodyguards Scene 1

I’m excited about this mission as it was the initial story idea I had when I first got into Shadowrun role-playing. I’m hoping I didn’t overextend myself too much with events surrounding a full-fledged rock concert, and it should provide a ton of opportunities for multiple exciting events and incidents.

Watch our sessions live on twitch.tv/gorbash722 every Sunday night beginning at 9:30pm Central.

Shadowrun 5E “Road Rage” Epilogue & Recap

We break down our second Shadowrun mission, “Road Rage,” in our Epilogue & Recap episode.

Watch our sessions live on twitch.tv/gorbash722 every Sunday night beginning at 9:30pm Central.

Read “Road Rage” Session 1 Report
Read “Road Rage” Session 2 Report
Read “Road Rage” Session 3 Report
Read “Road Rage” Session 4 Report
Read “Road Rage” Session 5 Report

For every mission we run in my Shadowrun role-playing group, I like to end with an Epilogue & Recap session. This gives us a chance to go over the events of the mission and pull back the curtain a bit on how I run the adventure. I welcome and encourage any and all feedback and criticism to the adventure itself (written completely by me) as well as how I run everything. It also gives me a chance to talk directly to the players about how they approached certain situations, and perhaps point out alternate paths or answer questions about other methods that were available to them.

It went over really well. We’re all old friends and family so everyone is comfortable talking frankly about what all worked and what didn’t. In general everyone was super positive over the “Road Rage” adventure, enjoying it more than the first mission. We all agreed it was a very combat heavy mission, but all the battles and scenarios were different and varied enough that they all remained fun and unique.

“Road Rage” was composed of five total scenes, using four custom built tactical maps in Roll20. It took us five total 2-3 hour sessions, not including this final recap session, making it much longer than our previous three-session adventure. I wrote it as a direct follow-up to the events of our inaugural adventure, “Not With a Whimper.” The players were contacted by their new fixer and contact, gang leader Jeremiah Redd, to escort an armored truck full of goods to an Ares MegaCorp buyer at the downtown Seattle docks.

The shipment came from Jay-T’s Automotive, the location of the final scene in the previous adventure. Reusing a previously built map was a huge time-saver for me, and I used the opportunity to create an entirely different scenario than the drone infiltration of the the last adventure. The players stumbled upon a hostage situation, and opted to go in guns-blazing, violently but effectively ending the hostilities with the gangers [Read Session 1 Report].

Shadowrun Road Rage Lapis LuzilThey also met their new NPC allies I saddled them with: freelance runner and sword-wielding Adept Lapis Luzil, and ex-ganger professional driver Crank. Crank was a fun callback to the last adventure as a previous minor adversary that the players specifically captured alive (as the driver of the DocWagon Ambulance) and turned over to Redd. I had him flip sides and embrace Redd’s gang. The players gathered the rest of the shipment into the truck, decided on how to split the party and what vehicles to take, and got started on their highway to hell, err Seattle [Read Session 2 Report].

What followed was a series of two unavoidable combat encounters. My initial plan was to offer a branching path depending on how the players handled the first encounter with the troll biker gang. After I started writing and building the tunnel map, however, I decided to simply force the issue so as to give the players another path and different encounter. It did feel a bit ‘railroad-y,’ a problem that crops up when using pre-defined visual aids like Roll20 in for a role-playing game, but ultimately all the players said they were fun and enjoyable encounters.

The highway chase scene with the troll bikers was a lengthy combat encounter, and our first use of vehicles in combat. Since starting Shadowrun I definitely wanted to jump into vehicular usage as it’s not exactly something that comes up during fantasy RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons. The players took right to it, using a few special chase combat attacks like Cutting Off and Ramming, as well as unleashing spells and guns at the trolls.

My trolls got some good hits in on the truck as well, including setting off a demolitions charge, adding a dire sense of urgency to the situation. Ultimately the players were able to defeat most of the trolls, but more appeared on the horizon, prompting Crank to suggest the tunnels as an alternate route [Read Session 3 Report].

While the highway was a typical action movie set-piece, the tunnels were dripping with horror and the unknown. I used Roll20’s fog of war system to limit the players’ vision, and once they were forced to move an obstacle I unleashed my ghouls upon them. We’d never fought feral, monster-type creatures before (most Shadowrun opponents are fellow metahumans) and I was unsure how many the players could take.

Turns out I had my worst rolls ever that night, as my ghouls continually tied on their attacks (which is basically a miss) while the runners wiped the floor with them. Ghouls have little defense so their danger comes in their numbers and their relatively high attack, which didn’t end up amounting to much. Still my players said they enjoyed the encounter, and the dread of not knowing how many of them were out there.road rage scene 2 highway

The last 20-30 minutes of our fourth session was the highlight of the adventure for me, as our players reached the guarded entrance to the docks and began panicking over how to approach it. Mauta began confessing her previous relationship to the buyer which might cause interesting problems, while Saran simply leapt over the barbed wire fence using the nearby shipping containers I’d placed. It was a fun and zany moment of player drama that as GM I can’t write for, but always hope for [Read Session 4 Report].

The players made it inside using Ursev’s powerful Jedi Mind Trick, err, Control Thoughts spell. The actual exchange and deal went off relatively problem free, with Falkirk the charismatic leader using a point of Edge to extract an impressive additional payout from the buyer (I totally didn’t consider Edge when writing my Net Hits to Money ratio on that Negotiation test).

At the end, right before being paid, the players were suddenly attacked by an unseen mage via a two-pronged attack – casting Mob Control on everyone in the immediate vicinity of the exchange site, and summoning a water spirit to attack everyone else. To make things even more climactic, the water spirit summoned a powerful thunderstorm localized right over the docks.

My players completely panicked and it was glorious. I only ensnared one of them in the mind spell (Falkirk) as Ursev was adamant about staying the truck the whole time, and I definitely wanted to follow the line of sight rules for the spell. Saran had to deal with the surprise attack of the water spirit, while Muata had a good elevated position to discover the spell’s source – a mysterious figure on a boat in the harbor. The players were burning Edge points left and right to both avoid attacks and disable the spell on Falkirk.

shadowrun

I was pretty lenient and merciful with the players at the end, mostly in the interest of time and not to completely screw them over with this unavoidable surprise attack (had they killed the buyer, they wouldn’t get paid). When Mauta took a shot at the boat, I had them immediately drive off, dissipating the spell. I originally planned on having the water spirit stick around as a pseudo final boss fight, but the climactic relief from the players after the mind control wore off motivated me to actually just have the water spirit retreat. The players got thanks from the buyer (they kept both his guard alive, though they were heavily injured), and received their substantial monetary award [Read Session 5 Report].

The players received a bunch of karma and money from the mission, quite a bit more than the first adventure, and everyone gave it an enthusiastic thumbs up. The finale was their first real look at the overarching villain of this campaign. The players have had a few opportunities to discover their identity but so far have come up short, leading to more mystery and questions. Will we find out more of the overall plot beginning in next week’s session? Well we dive into some of our runners’ backstories? Will Saran continue to act like a hilarious psychopath? Stay tuned to Sunday evenings for more of our Shadowrun live-streaming adventures!

Watch our sessions live on twitch.tv/gorbash722 every Sunday night beginning at 9:30pm Central.