Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tuesday Tangent: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen - 1970s Style

I had so much fun putting together the 1980s League, I decided to do the same with the 70s.. the era of really, really bad fashion and disco music. I should point out that there are a few rules I am applying to the selection of these members:

1) The characters can't be a big/regular part of an established comic book universe- otherwise, I could just pick the Justice League and be done with it. The same is not necessarily true for characters from older comic strips. Nor does it apply to properties that were later turned into comic books.

2) I reserve the right to alter the background of such characters a little to fit my particular 'shared' universe or in order to 'resurrect' them from a scripted death.

Those 'ground rules' having been laid, on with the matter at hand. Here they are, then, your League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, 1970s.

Steve Austin (played by Lee Majors)

A pilot and former astronaut, Steve was gravely injured in the test flight of an experimental space plane. He was rebuilt by the government using experimental bionic components and was subsequently employed by a shadowy agency to right various wrongs around the globe. This 'bionic man', would serve as the leader of this team due to his military and command experience. His enhanced abilities would be a great asset in League field operations.


Lee (played by Bruce Lee)

A martial arts master and monk from China, Lee is one of the most capable fighters in the world. In addition, he is a philosopher and scholar of many ancient secrets of his order which may very well have applications in supernatural operations. Only his rather solitary and introspective nature prevent Lee from being chosen as team leader. Even so, he would work well as an advisor and second in command.


Foxy Brown (played by Pam Greer)

A nurse turned private investigator (after the death of her boyfriend at the hands of ruthless vice lords). Foxy single-handedly brought down an entire syndicate and in the process became a capable and fearless investigator and combatant. She is particularly skilled at undercover work (no pun or entendre intended) and would make an excellent information gatherer for her team in the field. Though smart and independent, Foxy has developed a rather ruthless streak when it comes to dealing with 'bad people'- a streak that could put her at odds with more idealistic team members.


Carl Kolchak (played by Darren McGavin)

A seemingly odd choice at first, this freelance reporter has lately come to specialize in occult cases- the most notable of which saw him tracking down and destroying a Vampire 'serial killer'. Though he is at best a 'passable' combatant, Kolchak's investigative abilities and first-hand experience with various paranormal incidents would make him a valuable member of the team. Carl is likely to be a reluctant team member, seeing himself as 'just a reporter'- however, his steadfast courage and calm in the face of true horror is a rarity- and a great asset.


Mark Harris aka "The Man from Atlantis" (played by Patrick Duffy)

The origins of this mysterious individual are unknown- though some theorize that he is the last surviving member of an extinct aquatic species- perhaps descendents of the Atlanteans of legend. Apart from his ability to breathe underwater, he is incredibly strong and resilient, capable of operating at great depths and swimming at incredible speeds with webbed fingers and toes. Suffering from amnesia, Mark (his adopted name) is something of a blank slate, learning all he can about a world he is completely unfamiliar with. Though he must return to water at regular intervals, Mark's exceptional abilities would make him an asset on just about any League mission.


Backup Members

The following individuals were considered for recruitment, but were passed over for one reason or another (typically that their area of expertise overlapped another member's).

Father Merrin (played by Max Von Sydow)

An aging, but incredibly dedicated catholic priest. Father Merrin is one of the Church's premier experts in the field of the occult in general and exorcism in particular. His age and failing health were the primary reason Father Merrin was not chosen for the team. He is to be considered as an information asset, however- though he is currently engaged in a mission in Washington, DC...


Jaime Sommers (played by Lindsay Wagner)

A 'bionic woman', rebuilt by the same organization as Steve Austin. Ms. Sommers is currently engaged in missions for that organization, but could be called upon if the team found itself in need. Her powers easily match those of Col. Austin.


John Shaft (played by Richard Roundtree)

A former police officer turned private investigator. Shaft currently works in New York City, and has become something of a legend there for standing up to various underworld figures as well as corrupt city politicians and police officials. His independent nature and distaste for authority (and even teamwork) was the primary reason he was excluded from recruitment.


Harry Calahan (played by Clint Eastwood)

An infamous police detective operating out of San Francisco. "Dirty" Harry Calahan has made a reputation for a particularly 'direct' form of police work that often makes use of his signature .44 magnum handgun. As with others on the 'standby' list, Harry was excluded from recruitment mainly due to his dislike of working with others.


Gator McKlusky (played by Burt Reynolds)

A moonshiner and smuggler operating out of the south (from Texas to Florida). Gator is an expert driver and capable boat-handler. He is also something of a show-off and has a distinct lack of regard for the law. While not a 'ruthless criminal' by any means, his nature prevented him from making it onto the recruitment list. He could still be considered for individual operations where skilled road or aquatic travel is required.


James Rockford (played by James Garner)

A hardbitten private detective operating out of Los Angeles. Rockford is a highly capable investigator and even hand-to-hand combatant- but he often finds himself battered and bruised in the course of his work. Indeed, he does seem to have a kind of 'hard luck' that some occultists theorize may actually have supernatural origins. Needless to say, 'bad luck' is not something a field team needs.


Tertiary Possibilities

These are other names that came up, but were disregarded for various reasons:

Jill Munroe, Sabrina Duncan, Kelly Garrett (played by Farrah Fawcett, Kate Jackson, Jaclyn Smith) - Aka "Charlies Angels"

Leann "Pepper" Anderson (played by Angie Dickinson) - Aka Police Woman

Theo Kojak (played by Telly Savalas)

Columbo (played by Peter Falk)

Dr. Quincy (played by Jack Klugman) - Aka Quincy, M.E.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Adventure Conversion: The Mummy - Part 3

EPISODE II: ACROSS THE DESERT

SYNOPSIS:


The expedition begins with a Sail Barge ride across the desert. Onboard, the heroes will meet the other adventurers in search of the lost city. Unfortunately for everyone, the journey is interrupted by an attack by Medjai extremists bent on stopping the explorers in any way possible.


CUTAWAY:

The sail barge makes its way along the banks of the canal, leaving civilization behind as it heads off across the desert towards another distant settlement. From a rise in the distant desert, a group of mounted nomads watch the vessel make its slow but steady progress. The leader of the group suddenly urges his mount into motion, calling to his fellows. “Come, we will deal with these dogs after the sun has gone down..” Another nomad replies. “But Ardeth Bey told us only to follow-“ “And allow these infidels to defile our sacred trust? I think not. Now, ride!” The nomads slip off behind the desert ridge, shadowing the course of the barge as it heads towards the sunset.

ADVENTURE:

The barge is a large, commercial vehicle that serves as both cargo and passenger transport between cities. Though equipped with repulsorlift technology, it relies mainly upon its sails for propulsion (a cost saving measure- and one that doesn’t really hamper the lumbering vessel’s speed very much). The lower decks of the barge are filled with various cargos as well as the mounts of both the party and the rival party of adventurers. The middle decks are filled with cramped passenger staterooms as well as a few ‘dormitories’ for poorer travelers. The upper and outside decks house the vessel’s limited galley and ‘recreational’ facilities- which consist of a few deckchairs and tables. In fact, the upper deck is also used as auxiliary storage, with all manner of cargo strapped to it- somewhat restricting movement. A luxury barge, this is not. Finally, there is a small ‘bridge’ located at the aft of the barge, from which the captain and a small crew guide its journey.

The barge travels along the route of an old canal that carries water between the major cities of the planet. In places, the barge will cruise along the banks of the canal, in others, it will actually venture out over the water- depending upon the terrain. There will be small farms and settlements along the banks, but these will get more sparse the further away from the city the vessel gets. If the players follow Evelyn and Jonathan’s advice, they will be planning on getting off the barge at a small stop far away from the city- a place where it is hoped they won’t be noticed much save for a few onboard the barge- and even then, they could pretend to be visiting one of the known archaeological dig sites in the area.

It is assumed that the heroes will have one or two staterooms reserved for themselves as well as space in the hold below for any mounts or larger supplies. Once they’re settled in, they can spend their time onboard in whatever manner they wish. Jonathan quickly looks for (and finds) the only bar-like place onboard- the ‘galley’ on the upper deck. Evelyn spends a fair amount of time reading on a deck chair or looking out over the surrounding desert. Gad Hassan (assuming the Imperial is along for the ride), will likewise gravitate to the bar and otherwise spend a deal of time planning what he’s going to do with his share of the loot- and planning how he might cheat the others out of theirs.

An exploration of the ship will quickly discover that apart from the normal local ‘worker’ types traveling from one city to the next, the ship is also carrying a decidedly uncommon group: Beni Gabor and his three ‘Partners’, Burne, Henders, Danis. Jonathan will, of course, recognize Beni and be suitably (though not physically) hostile. Beni will respond in kind. Burne, Henders and Danis are QUITE interested to find they may have competition, and will do their best to figure out just what the heroes are up to and how much of a threat they might be. The three will not be openly hostile. They won’t even start a fight. In fact, they’re much more likely to strike up a friendly ‘rivalry’ with the heroes. They will also be at least a little cautious in talking about their final goal- they don’t want anyone else to overhear any more than the heroes do. Beni will likewise try to ferret out any information from his rivals and may even attempt to sabotage their gear in some way (if he thinks he can get away with it- i.e., he won’t take any real risks to do so).

Give the players some time to roleplay amongst themselves and with the various NPCs. Talking with Jonathan or Evelyn could easily result in friendship or even romance (though the latter is liable to jump into anything too quickly- the former certainly is). Wait for things to naturally ‘wind down’ before proceeding to the next section- which will take place after sundown of that first day.


As the barge drifts lazily in the still-cooling night air, a band of dark-robed nomads (actually Medjai extremists) ride their pad-footed mounts out of the desert and quietly beneath the vessel. There, they fire silenced grapnels into its underbelly and ascend their lines up onto the barge- some stealing into open portholes, others climbing over the rail. They will first seek to eliminate any on watch. From there, some of the Medjai will head for the bridge with the intention of taking out the crew and heading the barge into the desert. Others will head below decks to find and eliminate the PCs and their rival adventuring group. Still others will prepare jury-rigged explosives to set the barge on fire. The plan of this group is take the barge off course, eliminate everyone onboard (because they aren’t sure exactly WHO knows the location of Hamunaptra), and then destroy the ship to make it look like a typical nomad raid (or at least destroy most of the evidence).

How this attack plays out depends a lot on the actions of the Heroes. Those who set watch may very well find out what’s going on before things get too out of hand. Once their cover is blown, the Medjai will attack in earnest- and with fanatical zeal. If it looks as though they are losing, they will set off their charges and set the whole barge on fire, even with their own people onboard.

During the attack, the normal passengers and crew will do their best to survive, but they are no match for the Medjai. Some may try to flee overboard, but many will be cut down in the fighting.

Beni will seek a place to hide during the fighting- or perhaps just cower behind his three ‘partners’- Burne, Henders and Danis. These latter three will meet the attack head on, taking cover behind the cargo on deck and gleefully pouring blaster fire into the fanatics.

Evelyn and Jonathan aren’t really soldiers, but they’re capable enough and will certainly help the heroes in whatever plan they develop. Gad Hassan, however, will seek only his own preservation- which may likely result in him hiding behind the PCs.

If the heroes pause to examine their attackers, they will find that under the robes, each of these men have tattoos with a strange Aegyptian symbol. Evelyn will be able to identify it as the mark of an ancient Pharoah- thus placing these men as part of his household guard- known as the Medjai. This particular group of Medjai is not acting upon orders from the leader of their sect, however, and will fight brutally and fanatically to the death.

The battle could be resolved in a number of ways, but a couple of the most likely are:

1. The heroes stop the Medjai attack cold and regain control of the Barge.
In this case, the players can continue on to their original point of disembarkation without further trouble.

2. The heroes thwart the attack, but the barge is destroyed. In this case, survivors of the passengers and crew will flee to the canal to wait rescue. Beni and his group will struggle to get their mounts out of the hold and continue ‘on foot’ to the ruins. Evelyn and Jonathan will urge the players to do likewise. In this eventuality, the GM may rule that some of the PCs gear is destroyed and lost in the evacuation.

3. The heroes barely escape with their lives. The barge is destroyed- along with most of their mounts and gear. In this case, the players are really in a tough spot. It is likely that Beni and his group escaped in a similar condition. His partners might suggest a temporary ‘truce’ in order to survive the situation. The group can pool together their meager resources to continue- perhaps scavenging the wreck of the Barge or even attacking any surviving Medjai to replenish their gear.

In any case, the heroes (and Beni’s group) will then have to continue on to Hamunaptra on foot. This will take them through the desert sands and (if the GM feels the players have had too easy of a time) might include encounters with some dangerous wildlife (sand worms, anyone?) or natural hazards (sandstorms? Quicksand?), etc.

Beni’s group will likely shadow the course of the players (provided they aren’t traveling directly with the heroes). This group includes not only Beni and the three offworld adventurers, but also a half-dozen or so local workers (and perhaps even a couple beat-up labor droids) hired to help with the excavations.

After several days travel across the shifting sands (led by Jonathan’s sense of direction), the group actually WILL find Hamunaptra- seeming to appear before them from the heat haze in the distance.

Any Force sensitive players may very well get a sense of foreboding from these sand-swept ruins, though at the moment, there doesn’t seem to be a precise ‘source’ to these feelings. Likewise, both Beni and Jonathan will seem to be a bit nervous and even jumpy- though they won’t easily reveal why.


CONTINGENCIES

The main contingencies in this episode have mostly been discussed above and deal largely with how the players react and ‘weather’ the Medjai attack on the barge. There is also the possibility that the heroes might form a true enmity with their rival expedition (i.e. Beni and the others). The GM should work hard to prevent this. Burne, Henders and Danis aren’t looking for a fight. In fact, they realize that with the dangers they are facing, they might need help from the PCs. They certainly won’t start any trouble. But likewise they won’t be bullied or dissuaded by aggressive PCs. If the heroes go as far as to attack and kill their rivals on their own initiative, well… then they deserve what is likely to happen to them in the upcoming episodes…and it isn’t good.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times...

...but mostly it was the best of times.

My sparse posting of late has been due to a memorable 'long-weekend' vacation and visit from several of my old college buddies. I say 'memorable', because I've never had a weekend quite like this. We had an awesome time hanging out, playing rock band, eating out and (of course) playing Star Wars. My local friends Sharon and Philip joined in and I had an absolute blast.

And then on the other hand...

My air-conditioner went out. In Florida, in August, this is a problem. A big problem. An expensive problem, as it turned out. And on the same night THAT happened, I began to experience a tooth-ache. This is a pain I have never really encountered before. It is excruciating in a way I had never imagined. Between painkillers and several emergency dentist visits I got the pain under control- but the situation is still not solved (still waiting for the rest of my root canal).

So, yeah... as awesome of a time as I had, I can only lament the fact that it could have been so much more fun without the bad luck on my part. I'm just glad that my friends are understanding and I hope I didn't ruin their vacation too much with my misfortune. Truth be told, they were very supportive, which helped make what could have been a really terrible situation manageable.

As far as our Star Wars game went, we had a great time. The adventure was set one year after our last (run during January of this year). Here we had the Republic finally at peace- and looking to help keep the Empire from falling into the chaos of civil war (since Pellaeon was on his death bed).

The adventure began with the characters accompanying Chancellor Leia Organa-Solo to a 'summit' on the planet Bastion within the Empire (aka the 'Imperial Remnant'). The adventuring group consisted of (in alphabetical order):

Adrienne Olin: Jedi and New Republic Intelligence Agent (played by Sharon)

Arianne Volar: Jedi and Admiral in charge of New Republic Naval Intelligence (played by Steve)

Horatio S. Flynn: Former Pirate, Current Emperor of the Nagai, Hero of the Battle of Korriban, etc., etc., etc. (played by Todd)

Rick Oman (aka Mandalore): Former mercenary turned leader of the Mandalorian people (played by the other Steve)

Shagg: Youthful Wookiee Jedi and protege of Adren (played by Philip)

At the party, they rubbed shoulders with various Imperial personages. Arianne exchanged barbed insults with Admiral Daala. Adrienne hung out with Han Solo at the punch bowl and talked 'shop' with all the various Imperial pilots eager to meet Solo (a living legend). Horatio decided to hang out with the caterers, smoking, sneaking drinks and food and commenting on how awesome his life was. Yes, much fun was had by all. That is, until word arrived that Baron Fel (the chosen successor of Admiral Pellaeon) had disappeared while on patrol of the border with the New Republic. Leia and the NR delegation beat a hasty retreat as the Empire gears up for civil war- with Daala on one side (rumored to be backed by Sith) and officers loyal to Pellaeon on the other.

Leia asks 'our heroes' to investigate Fel's disappearance- both to clear the NR of any wrongdoing and to (if possible) recover the Baron before war breaks out again. Investigating the wreckage of Fel's flagship, the group rapidly determines that foul play is involved (much to nobody's surprise). A few leads later and the group finds themselves headed to a prison tower on the former (but now mostly abandoned and ruined) world of Byss, deep in the Galactic core.

What follows from there is an infiltration of the prison tower (actually based upon the 'Stars End' facility from the Han Solo/Corporate Sector novels). This turned out to be one of the most interesting adventures we've had in a while- and a bit odd, as well. The group actually PLANNED quite a bit of it, including an exit route. This is not something my group was known for. In my long-running campaign, my group's tactics could really be considered 'cowboy' at best- run in, shoot things up, run out again. But here, Mandalore (played by the other Steve), came up with a pretty good outline for a plan- and along the way, the other players executed it really well- improvising when they had to.

There was VERY little actual combat throughout the whole thing- which was VERY wise on the part of my players, considering the odds they would be facing.

Also unique is the fact that the players didn't actually CONFRONT either of the 'main villains' in the piece- at least not directly. Lady Lumiya, the Sith in charge of the Prison, was a constant background threat, but the players were INCREDIBLY careful about NOT using Force powers in order to not draw her attention. And so they never DID encounter her. Admiral Daala actually arrived at the prison during the middle of this all- but amusingly enough, the closest she came to encountering the players was inhabiting a toilet stall next to one of them (Adrienne)- who had actually gone into the bathroom to AVOID the encounter. Of course, there was the obligatory passing of the TP beneath the stall, but other than that? No contact!

I really, really wish I had taped that last evening's Roleplay, because there really were some awesome moments- and a lot of funny moments in and out of character. Horatio really hammed it up while disguised as an Imperial Doctor, playing the 'arrogant prick' angle to the hilt. Adrienne made a giggle-worthy comment about "Finding Nemo" when the group unwittingly stumbled upon Admiral Ackbar being held prisoner. Arianne played up the whole 'in-joke' of her always bringing Ackbar his coffee. And... crap, see! I'm already forgetting all the other awesome moments! If any of my buds are reading this, please feel free to add in anything I missed...which is a lot.

In the end, the group managed to escape with Fel AND Ackbar (who had disappeared- presumed dead- about a year prior). Again, it was an awful lot of fun. Makes me look forward to the next time we get to play.

Lets just hope the next time avoids failing Air Conditioners and ailing teeth.



Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tuesday Tangent: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen - 1980's Style

While I consider Alan Moore to be bat-guano crazy, I do think he’s had some interesting ideas over the years. One of those ideas is the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The whole thing is based on the premise of “What if” all the fictional characters of a particular era (in this case, the Victorian era) were ‘real’- and existed in the same, shared universe. Thus, you have Adventurer Alan Quatermain teaming up with Mina Harker (from the novel Dracula), Dr. Jeckyll (and Mr. Hyde), Captain Nemo and the Invisible Man. While I don’t really care for Moore’s stories with these characters, I really do LOVE the concept- so much so that it got me thinking what other “Leagues” might have looked like in other eras.

Since I am a child of the 80’s, and well versed in the movies and TV shows of the time, I have put together MY list of characters I think would make an…interesting LXG. It was VERY difficult to make the ‘final’ choice for the team- and I am still ambivalent on a few. It is also a bit disappointing (and telling) that there aren’t a whole lot of Female heroes in this era- at least ones that really stand out in my own (addled) memory. So, without Further ado, here are my picks for an 80’s era LXG.


Alan “Dutch” Schaefer (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger)

Here is the quintessential 80’s muscle-bound adventure hero. But Dutch has a bit more going for him than contemporaries like John Rambo or James Braddock- namely the fact that he’s had a very memorable run-in with an alien Predator in the jungles of Central America. I see Dutch as a survivor of that mission, recruited by the league to be the leader of this particular team. He is, of course, a highly skilled combatant, and physically powerful.


Dr. Buckaroo Banzai (played by Peter Weller)

In many ways the opposite of the ‘Dutch’-type hero, Dr. Banzai is a scientific genius who also happens to be a capable combatant. He has his own organization of scientist/adventurers to back him up and is an expert on all manner of strange technologies, sciences and even arcane studies. He is also a ‘renaissance’ man, exploring many different specialties and even the arts (through his rock band, the Hong Kong Cavaliers). Dr. Banzai would be the ‘brains’ of the LXG, responsible for coming up with plans and gadgets to overcome the obstacles they will face.


Connor McCloud (played by Christopher Lambert)

He’s an immortal- that would come in handy in ANY kind of team. McCloud is, of course, an immensely talented swordsman, but also has hundreds of years of first-hand experience with history and other cultures. He is also at least partially versed in various ‘occult’ knowledges- considering his ‘kind’ are certainly outside the realm of conventional science.


Sarah Connor (played by Linda Hamilton)

A waitress turned fugitive, Sarah Connor was involved in a temporal disturbance in which she was hunted by a machine from a possible future. She is supposedly the ‘mother of the resistance’ in the future. She is having a difficult time with what has been thrust upon her- as well as the loss of her love (the father of her young child). She is a kind-hearted person, but has had to harden herself in preparation for what MIGHT come to pass. She was taken on by the League at first for ‘study’- but has since been taken ‘under its wing’ on the off chance that this possible future might come to pass. Thus, the League is attempting to train her for what might come to be- as well as look out for ways to prevent that future- or at least delay it.


David Kessler – aka “An American Werewolf in London” (played by David Naughton)

Though supposedly killed at the end of the film, it is entirely possible that David could have been claimed by a top-secret British laboratory (perhaps one run by the League?) and ‘brought back to life’ in order to study his condition. He could have also been subject to a variety of tests and treatments designed to help him control his ‘condition’ and even use it ‘for good’. David, however, would likely be quite traumatized by all that has happened. He would be a powerful ally, but an untrustworthy one- with powers and a psyche that aren’t entirely predictable.


There they are, my ‘top five’. But there was a rather large list of runners up for this. Below are some of the folks who are waiting in the wings, as it were:


Mick “Crocodile” Dundee (played by Paul Hogan)
Though light-hearted, Mick is a peerless hunter and tracker and also seems to have an uncanny ability with animals. He would be held back, however (at least in the eyes of the League), by his unwillingness to kill.

Charlene McGee – aka “Firestarter” (played by Drew Barrymore)
Her incredibly powerful pyrokinetic abilities would be QUITE useful on League business. She is, however, just a child, and thus probably would not be formally ‘recruited’ until she has come of age (perhaps in the 90’s era league)

David Lightman (played by Matthew Broderick)
A computer hacker who managed to break into the U.S. Government’s ‘wargames’ computer, David almost accidently destroyed the world. His abilities as a hacker- as well as his resourcefulness- would make him a prime candidate for recruitment by the league- even if only in a ‘support’ role for field teams.

Sheena (played by Tanya Roberts)
Yes, I know. The movie and the actress are/were cheesy (cheesecakey) to the extreme, but the concept of a strong, capable jungle-woman who can converse with and command wild animals is an interesting one. Her talents could certainly come in handy, even in a ‘modern’ world. Unfortunately, her generally pacifistic attitude could work against some of the League's desperate missions.

J.J. “Lone Wolf” McQuade (played by Chuck Norris)
A Texas Ranger responsible for bringing down a major arms smuggling operation, McQuade is a highly skilled combatant and also has tracking and survival skills. His “Lone Wolf” attitude, however, would hamper his abilities to operate within the League.

John McClane (played by Bruce Willis)
A New York Cop (now working/living in LA), McClane has proven to be resourceful and nigh-indestructable in his single-handed foiling of a terrorist plot in the Nakatomi tower. Though quite capable, McClane is a family man, and moreso has a distinctly ‘cop’ attitude that might not work well within the bounds of the league.

Dr. Egon Spengler (played by Harold Ramis)
Operating with the Ghostbusters team, Spengler is a brilliant scientific mind. His knowledge of occult entities would prove invaluable to the League. However, he is no ‘combatant’- at least not against the living. He would thus work better in an advisory role for specific missions.

Angus MacGyver (played by Richard Dean Anderson)
An agent for the mysterious “Phoenix Foundation”, MacGyver is known for his unorthodox approach to problems- making use of a variety of on-hand materials and a strong knowledge of science in order to accomplish his missions. He is resolutely against killing, though he is quite capable in unarmed combat and subdual techniques. It is this code against killing that would limit his usefulness in many league operations.

Ralph Hinkley (played by William Katt)
This unassuming high-school teacher was given a ‘suit’ of alien design, evidently intended to give him amazing powers of strength, speed, invulnerability and even flight. Unfortunately, Ralph lost the ‘instruction manual’ to the suit, and must thus ‘muddle through’ on his own. He is currently (nominally) in the employ of the FBI through a handler agent (Bill Maxwell). This status, plus his inability to fully control “The Suit” have kept him from recruitment by the league thus far.

John Rambo (played by Sylvester Stallone)
A Vietnam-era special forces soldier, John Rambo has had significant trouble re-adjusting to civilian life, resulting in a bloody showdown with a small town sherrif in the pacific northwest. He subsequently moved to a monastery in southeast asia to try and find some peace. His mental instability is the prime reason he has been passed over for recruitment in favor of more ‘stable’ individuals such as Dutch Schaeffer.

Stringfellow Hawke (played by Jan Michael Vincent)
Hawke is an elite helicopter pilot who occasionally works for a branch of the CIA. It was during an operation for them that he acquired a prototype attack helicopter known as “Airwolf”. While he continues to work for the CIA, he has thus far kept Airwolf hidden from them (evidently not trusting them to use it ethically). It is for this attitude towards authority that he was not considered as a final candidate for recruitment by the League.

Remo Williams (played by Fred Ward)
A former cop, Remo was ‘recruited’ by a shadowy organization acting as a watchdog versus corrupt politicians and big-businessmen. Remo was subsequently trained in a form of martial arts that allow him almost supernatural abilities. He was not recruited by the league because he was essentially already ‘doing the job’- albeit for another employer.

Leroy Green – aka “The Last Dragon” (played by Taimak)
A pure-hearted martial arts master who has achieved- through training and confrontation with a powerful gang-leader- a supernatural power known as “The Glow”. His boyscout and pacifist attitude is the primary reason he was not recruited for the League.

Dr. Emmet Brown (played by Christopher Lloyed)
A crazed inventor who squandered his family fortune in pursuit of time-travel technology, Brown actually managed to achieve his goal. Unfortunately, he disappeared in time and his whereabouts are unknown to the League at this point.


In addition to these individuals, there are several notable people who fall into various groups. These people were omitted from recruitment for various reasons- many of which having to do with duplication of skills with others already in the league or distinct personal codes against killing or even a lack of real ‘combat’ (field) experience or aptitude.


Police Officers:

Jericho “Action” Jackson (played by Carl Weathers)

TJ Hooker (played by William Shatner)

Martin Riggs (played by Mel Gibson)

Gabriel “Gabe” Cash (played by Kurt Russell)

James “Sonny” Crocket and Ricardo “Rico” Tubbs (played by Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas)


Private Investigators:

Thomas Magnum (played by Tom Selleck)

Rick & AJ Simon (played by Geral McRaney and Jameson Parker)

Remington Steele and Laura Holt (played by Pierce Brosnan and Stephanie Zimbalist)


Misc:

The A-Team (played by George Peppard, Mr. T, Dirk Benedict and Dwight Schultz)

Ash Williams (played by Bruce Campbell)


In future tangents, I will explore just what kind of enemies this LXG-80 team might face.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Adventure Conversion: The Mummy - Part 2

EPISODE I: THE EXPEDITION BEGINS

SYNOPSIS:

Recruited by Aegyptologist Evelyn Carnahan, the heroes must somehow rescue her brother from prison in order to learn the whereabouts of the lost "City of the Dead", Hamunaptra. From there, they prepare for the journey into the desert itself.

CUTAWAY:
A battle rages in the midst of a desert ruin between a band of nomad warriors and a small group of mercenary soldiers. The soldiers are overwhelmed- one (wearing a fez) hides within the ruins. Another, in a pith helmet prepares to make his final stand in front of a crumbling obelisk. Suddenly, something stirs beneath the sand, roiling its surface throughout the ruins. The Nomads flee in terror- as do the two remaining soldiers- back into the open desert. From a ridge nearby, another group of nomads watch. One asks- gesturing to the soldiers. "Do we finish them?" The apparent leader of this group shakes his head. "The desert will do it for us. The secret is safe... for now." But even as he looks down upon the ruins, the sands shift once more, ominously.

ADVENTURE:
This adventure can begin in different ways depending upon the type of group involved:

For Independent smuggler types, the heroes could simply be recruited by Evelyn Carnahan- hired to join her on an expedition to a ruin on the planet Aegyptus. In this situation, it is likely she will not be specific about where they are going, but will point out there is likely to be some 'treasure' involved (which explains why she isn't willing (or able) to pay much in advance. She will negotiate with the heroes for equal shares of whatever they find- though she would like to arrange sale of the most archeologically significant pieces to a museum. In this case, unless the heroes seem VERY trustworthy, she will probably NOT mention the troubles her brother is facing (see below) until AFTER the group is on Aegyptus.

For Rebel (or New Republic) types, they could be assigned to the mission for several reasons. The rebellion IS cash-strapped, and could use any treasure found to help support itself. There is also a desire to keep these treasures out of the hands of the Empire. There is also the more idealistic reason of wanting to secure such treasures against exploitation or even destruction by unscrupulous people. For groups with Force types (Jedi), there may also be rumors of ancient Force artifacts rumored to be in the possession of the ancient Aegyptian pharaohs. Evelyn herself could have connections within the Rebellion/NR- Perhaps she is known by prominent historians within the organization (such as Arhul Hextrophon- the Alliance's official historian). In any case, in this scenario, Evelyn would be much more open with details about the mission- revealing just where they are trying to go (Hamunaptra) and the fact that her brother is in trouble and will require help (see below)

Once the heroes are officially part of the 'Expedition' (as Evelyn will refer to it). They must make their way to Aegyptus- which is currently under Imperial occupation (as noted in the previous Locations section). This means the heroes will have to go in 'incognito' and try to maintain a low profile. This Imperial presence is also one of the main tools that a GM has to ensure that the characters don't just avoid the dangers of the expedition by flying DIRECTLY to the lost city. In fact, Evelyn will warn them of this fact- if they go flying off into the desert, the Imperials are likely to get suspicious and investigate- which could compromise the location of Hamunaptra. In fact, Evelyn has gone as far as to officially register the expedition to the Empire- using fictitious credentials- and stating a fictitious destination at one of the planets numerous known (and already looted) archaeological sites.

Once on Aegyptus, Evelyn will explain that they must 'pick up' her brother, Jonathan. Evidently he sent her a message some time ago stating that he had discovered the location of Hamunaptra. It is at this point point that Evelyn reveals that her brother also said he was in trouble. Checking at Jonathan's hotel finds that he is a) behind in his rent and b) currently in the local imperial jail.

At this point, Evelyn will want to rescue her brother- pointing out that only HE knows the location of the city. How the players do this is up to them, but could include:

1) Jail break. The characters could simply try to break into the prison and bust Jonathan out. This would be difficult, but the jail itself is located in an old, 'native' structure of brick and stone- and isn't exactly as 'high tech' as your typical imperial detention center. Unless handled carefully, this approach might have the unwanted effect of putting the Empire on Alert. Prudent parties would plan on leaving the city VERY quickly after any jailbreak to avoid the patrols that would surely follow.

2) Negotiate. The characters could try to 'bail out' or otherwise remove Jonathan WITHOUT breaking in. Any attempt to do so will inevitably send them to the presence of the repulsive local Imperial Magistrate, Gad Hassan. Hassan has heard the rumors of Jonathan's knowledge of Hamunaptra, and is VERY unwilling to let him go. He will demand a stake in the rewards of any expedition. He will at first demand two full shares, but can be talked down to one. He will also insist on accompanying the group to 'protect his investment'. As a negotiating technique, Hassan might also order the immediate death of Jonathan by hanging. He may even allow him to hang for a little before finally agreeing on a price.

Please note that if Hassan DOES wind up joining the expedition, he will still counsel against flying a ship into the desert. He is only a mid level bureaucrat, and does not have the right to supercede planetary security sweeps.

Once Jonathan is secured, he will need some cleaning up. He will also need someone to pay his hotel bill in order to get his luggage out of hock. This should tell the players something about his character and what to suspect. He's a good guy, but... well, something of a freeloader and huckster.

When asked about Hamunaptra, Jonathan will relate the story of his previous expedition- inflating his own role within. He will also play up his own heroism in the battle against the nomad tribesmen- while at the same time commenting on the wretched behavior of some of his previous comrades- Beni Gabor, for one, who evidently locked himself into one of the ruins- and locked Jonathan and the others out. In fact, Jonathan (rightly) suspects that Beni is the one who tipped off the Imperial Magistrate about Jonathan's whereabouts. Jonathan also suspects (again rightly) that Beni is planning his own expedition to Hamunaptra. He downplays this a bit, though, saying that Beni was 'rubbish' with maps and a coward, to boot. Jonathan will not bring up the odd happenings at the ruins, however- not unless the information is ferreted out of him through conversation. On the one hand, it frightens him a little- on the other, he doesn't want it to scare others off from helping with a NEW expedition.

At this point, Evelyn and Jonathan will help the heroes plan out the next phase of the expedition. Jonathan is dead set against using any type of vehicle- mainly because the Empire's orbital arrays could pick them up. He suggests using local transport- this includes a sail barge for part of the way (such barges travel along the planetary canals between cities). After a couple days of this, the group will have to disembark and use riding beasts (Eopies) for the rest of the journey.

After a day of gathering the necessary supplies, the group is ready to board the sail barge and begin their expedition in earnest.

NOTE: It is entirely possible that the Imperial Magistrate, Gad Hassan, may insinuate himself into the mission. He will be an obnoxious companion, but is ‘trustworthy’ enough- he wants the expedition to succeed- afterall, he wants to become rich.


CONTINGENCIES:

As mentioned above, getting Jonathan out of jail could go in any number of ways- and if any of those ways draw too much attention, then the Empire may crack down on the city or even the entire planet. This could very well serve as a warning for future actions by the heroes and help the GM keep them 'grounded'- something that is very important to this adventure. While I dislike 'railroading', there are certain aspects of this adventure that could be ruined if the players could simply fly their ship to the lost city and bring its weapons to bear to take out any obstacles. However, a GM should never just arbitrarily say they can NOT do something. There should be reasons behind it. Just like any other obstacle a GM sets up for a group in his game, there are effective and less effective ways to overcome it.

In this case, those reasons have been mentioned above. There is a LARGE Imperial garrison on the planet and in Orbit. If the players draw attention to themselves and their expedition, the Empire will send scouts first- and then troops. Lots and lots of troops- more troops than ANY gaming group should be able to handle. If players insist upon doing things that will draw attention, then a GM has no other recourse than to bring that full weight against their characters. This can be done incrementally to try and URGE them to be less conspicuous, but persistence could result in the Empire completely foiling the rest of the adventure. Hopefully the players will not let it come to that.

Also note that in the planning portion of the expedition, the GM should not necessarily have the NPCs present the 'plan'. He can use them to help guide the PCs in coming up with their own plan. Players might, if aware of the unique situation on the world, come up with the idea of using riding beasts themselves. They may also come up with some other solution that no one can foresee. By all means do not squash other ideas just because they don't go according to the 'story'- if they come up with something good that isn't in the 'script', then by all means, let them do that. Just take a moment to try and see how you can still work elements of the adventure in with the 'new plan'. If they wind up coming up with something that DOES bypass big parts of the adventure? Oh well, good for them!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Adventure Conversion: The Mummy - Part 1



Here is the first part of my Star Wars conversion of the 1999 Film "The Mummy".

ADVENTURE CONVERSION: THE MUMMY

OVERVIEW:
In this adventure, the heroes become involved in a hunt for an ancient tomb reported to house vast treasure (both archaeological and monetary). The group must overcome rival treasure hunters, the traps of the 'city of the dead' and ultimately the ancient force of darkness that dwells within- a force determined to find new life in this 'modern' world.


BACKGROUND:
Thousands of years prior to the events of this adventure, a powerful Force user named Imhotep served as the priest/advisor to the Pharaoh-Emperor Seti of the star-spanning Aegyptian empire. The power of his position corrupted Imhotep, who began researching ancient sith rituals designed to place himself in power and overcome death itself. He also began to covet the Emperor's wife, Anck-su-Namun. Imhotep professed his love for the Queen, only to be rejected. In a fit of rage, the priest lashed out, accidently killing the object of his obsession. Unwilling to let death deprive him of his prize, Imhotep stole the Empress' body and took it with him back to the royal necropolis of Hamunaptra. There, he began a ritual designed to bring his lost love back from the dead.

Pharoah Seti soon learned of his high-priest's actions and gave chase- leading his palace guard into Hamunaptra's underground tombs. In the battle that followed, many were slain- including all of Imhotep's corrupted servants. The ritual to bring the Empress back to life was interrupted and Imhotep himself was captured. In his rage and grief, Seti had his high preist entombed alive in a sarcophagus and then had the entire series of surrounding tombs sealed off.

Empress Anck-su-Namun was given a proper burial. Her body was placed in the royal tombs of Hamunaptra. This tragic story had evidently come to a close. Or so it seemed. Unfortunately, due to his mastery of the Dark Side, Imhotep's spirit survived his horrendous death- soon 'tainting' all of Hamunaptra with his evil. Thus the whole place was abandoned and stricken from the knowledge of any save for a loyal group of the Emperor's guards, the Medjai, chosen to watch over the tomb and ensure that Imhotep never return to plague the living.

As the millennia passed, knowledge of Imhotep and the Necropolis passed into the realm of legend for most. Even so, rumors of the treasure kept within the ancient 'city of the dead' was enough to keep adventurers visiting the former throne world of the Aegyptians- now little more than a galactic backwater desert world, strewn with the ruins of it's past glories.

Recently, a ruthless mercenary treasure-hunter by the name of Kir O’con came into the possession of an ancient map to the lost city of Hamunaptra. He recruited a band of unscrupulous adventurers like himself— a band that included ne’er-do-well “Aegyptologist” Jonathan Carnahan (see below) and a devious rat of a thief named Beni Gabor (see below).

The expedition traveled to Aegyptus and into the deserts. They did indeed find the Lost City, but soon came under attack by hostile nomad tribesmen. Beni survived by sealing himself into one of the sheltered tomb entrances (and locking OUT all his fellow expedition members). Kir O’Con and the rest of the expedition were then killed by the tribesmen and Jonathan would have joined them were it not for the sudden emergence of a dark ‘presence’ beneath the sand that frightened the triumphant nomads away. Jonathan and Beni likewise fled the ruins. Somehow, they managed to make it back through the desert to the city of Cairos. Both soon found themselves hunted by other unscrupulous “adventurers”, criminals and greedy Imperial officials eager to learn about the fate of O’Con’s expediton (and get their hands on any treasure found by it…).

Jonathan was eventually caught and thrown in jail by a low-level Imperial Magistrate, Gad Hassan. The Imperial is determined to FORCE Jonathan to reveal what he knows (before killing him). Jonathan, realizing this (and motivated by his OWN greed for the treasure he HOPES is in the ruin), has thus far held out despite the horrendous conditions and threat of execution. He had actually managed to send out a plea for help to his sister before his capture and hopes that she will be able to extricate him from his current situation.

Meanwhile, Beni Gabor had managed to avoid capture and planned to gather the necessary gear to make his own return to Hamunaptra. Unfortunately for him, he was subsequently found and ‘hired’ by a group of Adventurers (Burne, Henders and Danis) to be their guide to the lost city, whether he wants to be or not.

Out in the remote desert, the re-awakened spirit of Imhotep waits and the Medjai guardians prepare for what is to come.


MAJOR NPCs:

Imhotep
Imhotep begins this adventured as the disembodied spirit of an ancient Dark Force user. He exists in torment, haunting the ruins of the necropolis of Hamunaptra, looking for a way to escape his fate. He still holds onto the twisted hope of being some day reunited with his 'love' Anck-Su-Namun. He is driven by a desire to claim the power that was 'taken' from him by the ancient Pharoah and sees himself as a tragic figure.

During the course of the Adventure, Imhotep will partially regain his physical form due to the accidental reading of incantations from an ancient text. In this 'undead' form, he will attempt to put the pieces of his former life back together- using his Dark Side powers to drain the life of others. In this way, he will slowly regain 'true' physical form- and to grow in power. Along the way, he will discover that one of the heroes' companions is the reincarnation of his beloved Anck-Su-Namun. Once he discovers this, all his efforts will be directed at finding her and at completing the ritual he started all those thousands of years ago. It was not just a ritual to 'bring her back', you see- but one that would forever bind her soul to his.

Due to his undead nature, Imhotep will be a truly terrifying enemy. Most weaponry will do nothing but slow him down and even if his physical form is 'destroyed', he will be able to transfer his essence to a new 'host'. The only way he can be defeated is to perform an ancient ritual upon him- found in the "Book of Amun Ra"- to make him truly mortal again.

Physically, Imhotep's mummy form will be fantastically strong and resilient. He will also have an arsenal of Force powers at his disposal- not the least of which including telekinetic control of the sands, mental domination of the weak-willed and the previously mentioned ability to drain life essences.


Evelyn Carnahan
Evelyn is a student of Archaeology. One of her specialties is the history of the ancient Aegyptian Empire. She is able to read and speak their ancient language and has a deep knowledge of their history and legends. In fact, she has always felt drawn to these stories, despite having been raised in the Core Worlds. It will be revealed that Evelyn bears an uncanny resemblance to the ancient Queen Anck-Su-Namun. Imhotep believes she is the reincarnation of his 'lost love'. It is quite possible that Eve is indeed a distant descendant of this line.

Eve is young, bookish and naïve, having lived a sheltered life in the libraries and universities of the core worlds. She is an 'expert' on Archaeology who hasn't actually ever been on a dig. With the death of her parents (who were also scholars), she has had to support her own education by taking on a job as an assistant librarian.

Jonathan Carnahan
Jonathan is the younger brother of Evelyn Carnahan. He is intelligent but impatient, and dropped out of school in an attempt to 'strike it rich' by finding and raiding the tombs of ancient cultures throughout the Galaxy. Though part of several expeditions (of a dubious nature), he has not had much luck. He has thus supported himself by becoming a bit of a card-shark, con-man and even petty thief.

Jonathan basically a good guy, but is just a little greedy and self-centered. He feels that the discovery of Hamunaptra will finally give him the acclaim (and wealth) he has been striving for all his life. While he may be a bit self-destructive, he draws the line at betraying friends and family, and would never knowingly do so.


Beni Gabor
Beni is a greedy, self-serving thief. He is on the run from several different law-enforcement agencies and criminal organizations who want him in jail- or dead for various transgressions. He weaseled his way onto Kir O’Con’s expedition mainly to dodge any pursuit. Though terrified by what he witnessed at the ruins of Hamunaptra, his greed far outweighs his fear. He desires wealth above all things- including any companions. He would do anything to save himself.

Burne, Henders, Danis
The three young men are treasure-hunting adventurers looking for a ‘big score’. They don’t put any credence in the legends surrounding Hamunaptra- but they do believe in the treasure reported to be found there. Of the three, Burne is the ‘smart’ one, an ex-scout with a basic understanding of Archaeology (and Aegyptian languages). Henders is an ex bounty-hunter and gunslinger, proud of his heavy blaster and quickdraw. Danis is a smuggler and the overall ‘leader’ of the group. While the three men are money-grubbing, and quite willing to step over others in pursuit of wealth, they aren’t murderous and generally don’t resort to violence unless provoked. They managed to catch Beni Gabor after hearing rumors of his expedition. They intend to use him to guide them to the lost city, but (wisely) don’t trust him further than they could spit.

Gad Hassan
Fat, sweaty and greedy, Hassan is a low-level Imperial Magistrate. His position as law-enforcer has given him intimate knowledge of the Cairos underworld. It is through these contacts that he heard the rumors of Kir O’Con’s failed expedition- and it is through his officers that he was able to capture Jonathan Carnahan. He hopes to learn the location of Hamunaptra and become rich and powerful. He realizes that to do so, he must not let word of this reach his superiors. Thus, he tries to keep the rumors under control until he can capitalize on the situation himself. As with others involved in this ‘treasure hunt’, Hassan is extremely greedy, and will try to weasel his way into any expedition to the lost city. See the information in Episode I for more on how Hassan will play into the events of the adventure.

Ardeth Bay
Ardeth Bay is the leader of the Medjai- the descendants of the Pharoah’s royal guards, tasked with protecting Hamunaptra- or rather, protecting the rest of the Galaxy from what is contained within. Bay had watched Kir O’Con’s expedition- and in fact had planned to attack it himself with his followers. Thankfully, that proved to be unnecessary when a tribe of Nomads attacked. Upon seeing the two survivors (Jonathan and Beni) escaping into the desert, Bay assumed that they would be killed by the elements- or at the very least too frightened to attempt to return. Unfortunately, informants in Cairos have told him that more expeditions have been planned. Bay has since gathered and prepared his bretheren. They will try to deflect these treasure hunters- to warn them off. But if they cannot, then more drastic steps may be required.



LOCATIONS:

The Adventure takes place on the arid world of Aegyptus. This was the center of a star-spanning empire that collapsed some 5,000 years ago. Most of the cities and architectural wonders of the world were destroyed in the fighting that marked the fall of the Aegyptian empire. Many more were consumed by the sands of the world's expanding deserts. Even so, Aegyptus never entirely lost contact with the rest of the Galaxy, thus 'modern' technology is still in use. Due to the economically poor conditions of the world, however, such technology tends to be in a battered and out-of-date condition (something common to a lot of backwater worlds). There are still several large settlements on the planet, located along the coastlines of the world's few rivers and seas- anywhere that water can be processed for irrigation.

The Aegyptians themselves are human, though they are of a dark skinned, dark haired variety. They have lost much of their traditional culture due to contact with the rest of the Galaxy. The Old Republic (and now the Empire) have governed this world for centuries due to the presence of some mining concerns that have since since played out. Now control is maintained simply because it has become 'tradition'.

Apart from the civilized city-dwellers, there are various Aegyptian tribes that make their homes in the desert- either as wandering nomads or in remote oases scattered across the world. Some of these tribes are decidedly hostile- being little more than thieves and raiders who attack other tribes and occasionally raid the outskirts of the larger settlements.

With the upsurge of the Rebellion in the sector, the Empire has actually stationed a sizable garrison on Aegyptus, using it as a supply depot for its operations in surrounding systems. Though they make routine shows of force for the local population, the Empire actually has very little to do with the day to day lives of the Aegyptians- unless there is trouble. This they will crack down on fiercely (if only to counteract the boredom of being stationed here).

Hamunaptra itself is located in the midst of a vast desert- and in fact has been mostly buried by it. Those few ruins still above the sands are sheltered amongst a rocky outcropping. Being made of stone (with the more ‘technological’ areas deep underground), it is nearly indistinguishable from any other rock outcropping- both to sensors or the naked eye.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Chicken Like Creature



Oh, and by the way, here is the 'Chicken Like Creature' mentioned in the previous post. The one who tortured Jacen Solo into turning to the dark side. He reminds me of the 'hyper-chicken' from Futurama or Foghorn Leghorn. His name is Vergere, a fallen Jedi.. though I refer to him as:

Darth B-GAAAWK!

I can just hear him terrorizing Jacen now. "Listen up when I talk to you, boy! (aside) Boy's like dead horse- got no get up and go! (to Jacen once more) I say pay attention, boy! I'm cuttin' but you're not bleedin'.. oh, well, actually you are, but.."

Terrifyin', I say, Terrifyin', aint he? Not at all silly...

(b-gawk!)

The Expanded Universe...Again



Yeah. Once again, this comic I found pretty much sums up my feelings on the Star Wars EU. Pretty much anything after the Thrawn trilogy.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Tuesday Tangent: Thundarr the Barbarian



While this site is intended to be about Star Wars, and Star Wars gaming, I have (on occasion) strayed from that mandate. In an effort to legitimize my failings, I am instigating something new: The Tuesday Tangent, where I can (without guilt or lame attempts at trying to string things back to Star Wars), talk about any subject I want.

In this inaugural edition of this new feature, I will be discussing something very near and dear to my heart: Thundarr the Barbarian.

Though it only ran for two seasons on Saturday morning (from 1980 to 1982), this cartoon made a huge impression on me. It took various things that I was already interested in and lumped them all into one huge, imaginative ball of action.

First you had the whole 'fantasy barbarian' thing going- referencing things like Conan and other sword and sorcery films of the era. Then you had the sci-fi aspects like the ‘Sun Sword’ and Ookla the Mok- referencing Lightsabers and Wookiees (respectively) from Star Wars. And if this wasn’t enough, you had the whole post apocalyptic setting thing to really push things over the edge.

Looking back on it, I’m surprised a show like this got onto TV, especially in the 80’s, where ‘action’ cartoons didn’t allow much in the way of violence. And here we have a show with swords and monsters set in a world where our own civilization DIED thousands of years ago. Its rather dark when you think about it, and maybe that’s why it appealed to me: it was different than all the other brightly-colored shows of the same time. And by ‘dark’ I mean in setting, not tone. I mean, Thundarr and his crew were champions of justice and freedom who always seemed to win. I LIKED that aspect of the show. To me, this heroism was made even more pronounce by the bleakness of the setting.

Another huge draw for me was the combination of familiar technology (stuff we have today) with the fantastic. One memorable episode had a band of pirates utilizing an aircraft carrier as their primary mobile base- festooned with crude log ‘pontoon’ stabilizers and even sails, but also featuring big cannons, some of which seemed to be crudely taken from other vessels. Another episode featured a still functional train being run by a group of lizard mutants. It was all just so interesting- and seemed to make anything possible.

I will be the first to admit that the story-lines and characters of the show were shallow. But this was one of those things I didn’t really mind/notice until I got older- and even then, it doesn’t ruin the show for me. Yes, the dialogue was cheesy, but it was actually quite a bit better than most other shows of this type at the time. So much so that it was always at the back of my mind that I would LOVE to play a game that was like Thundarr the Barbarian.

There were a couple different options for this through the years. Gamma World was the most obvious choice- but truth be told, the setting seemed too ‘gonzo’ for me- even moreso than Thundarr itself (which was pretty gonzo). One of the things I liked about Thundarr was the presence of ‘modern’ technology. Gamma World focused on ‘futuristic’ tech and even the ‘ruins’ you would explore were ‘futuristic’- automated factories and the like. Gamma World’s ‘apocalypse’ happened in some future time, not in ‘the modern day’ and that just didn’t appeal to me as much as Thundarr’s setting.

Likewise, the game Rifts followed this same pattern- the apocalypse happened in the ‘future’- in a time where the world was already markedly different than the one I would recognize. However, rifts did offer a lot more explanation as to how the ‘fantastical’ elements of that world came to be. It didn’t rely upon ‘radiation’ to explain how everything had changed. Rather, Rifts introduced the idea of a multi-dimensional apocalypse- where energies and creatures from other realms of existence came to our world and changed it forever. As interesting as this may be, the extremely dark tone of Rifts (not to mention its very lethal system) just didn’t appeal to me in the same way Thundarr did.

Adding to this dilemma was the increasing realization that there was no ‘real’ way that a world like Thundarr’s could exist. In the opening narration of the Cartoon, we’re told that it is 2,000 years since the cataclysm that destroyed the world. There is no realistic way that the trappings of our modern world could survive in the numbers and conditions shown in the cartoon. The cities would largely have been obliterated and covered up within 100 years- rotted and collapsing in on themselves due to exposure to the elements. So to imagine that things like cars or clothing or other short-lived artifacts from the pre-apocalyptic days would survive was just too far-fetched to believe- at least as it was presented in the series.

I read one fan-site justification for the world of Thundarr that went something like this: during the cataclysm, the “runaway planet” that passed between the earth and the moon actually took with it (in its wake) a fair amount of the Earth’s Atmosphere (this is actually ‘shown’ in the intro to the cartoon as a cloud layer being peeled away). This leaves the Earth with a much thinner atmosphere, which supposedly translates into things on the surface being more ‘well preserved’. I am somewhat dubious as to the scientific plausibility of this- to say nothing of the fact that it doesn’t explain away erosion by plant-life (which is seen to be very thick in most areas of Thundarr’s world).

And so I have been ‘stuck’ without any satisfactory explanation for this fantastic world for years now. Not that it has been a great ‘pain’ or anything, its just something I would like to figure out on the off chance that some day I might actually run a game in the world of Thundarr and I’d like to have SOME explanation (however far fetched or fantastical) for the way things are the way they are- other than “just because.”

Just a few months ago, I came up with something.

It is (admittedly) largely stolen from the ideas put forth by the Rifts game, but with a significant twist that (to me) suits the world of Thundarr in particular. This idea is as follows:

As in the Cartoon, the man’s civilization on earth is “cast in ruin” by a runaway planet, “hurtling between the earth and moon”. This causes severe weather systems, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

Now, borrowing from Rifts I posit that the psychic (or psionic) energy of so many people (billions) dieing all at once unleashes even MORE destruction in the form of various ‘rifts’ being opened and spilling out an unknown form of energy- we’ll call it ‘magical’ energy. Along with this energy comes some denizens from other dimensions. The energy ALSO mutates various species of animals (and even humans) across the globe, setting in motion the monstrous races and beasts that will evolve into the world of Thundarr that we know. These energies are also responsible for the rise of the Wizards- mutated or extra-dimensional beings who strive to dominate the world. They often ‘meld’ their magic with various technologies to create the ‘super-science’ of the era- fantastical creations powered by magic itself and far surpassing anything found before the Cataclysm.

But there are further side-effects from this burst of magical energy- most importantly that some of the ‘rifts’ that open are actually temporal in nature. Huge swathes of the world (or sometimes just individual objects) are literally torn out of time and strewn into its future. In most cases, only the non-living matter of these areas survives the trip, with living creatures being obliterated or otherwise killed in its energies. And so you have a world in ruins, with many great cities being overgrown by jungle and eroded by time and neglect. But at the same time, various parts of that world are continually re-emerging over the years, depositing landmarks and artifacts from the era of the cataclysm- many of which are then taken by survivors for use in the current world. Thus, wizards, warlords, primitive tribes and even adventurers would be constantly drawn to these sites as they are discovered, plundering what they can and sometimes claiming the area as their own.

Thus, you have a world in which the things we see in the cartoon are possible. And a campaign set in this world could even occur in a time period where these ‘temporal rifts’ are most active. It could be 2,000 years since the Cataclysm, but some ruins and artifacts are only decades or years or months or even DAYS old. For me, this strikes the right kind of balance and allows for huge variety in the ‘technology’ of surviving tribes. Some might be completely primitive, living in wooden huts and wielding spears, others might have just recovered some huge artifact that emerged from a rift (say they find a cruise ship, now beached in the middle of a jungle, and use it for their home), still others might have recovered functional weapons or vehicles from the cataclysm and finally some might live in the fantastical techno-magical citadels of wizards, typically as their slaves.

Does it work for you? It certainly does for me. And darnit, now I want to play some Thundarr. DEMON DOGS! Ookla, Ariel, RIIIDE!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Adventure Conversion: Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone - Part 2 (of 2)

Here is the continuation/completion of my conversion of "Spacehunter"

Episode III: The Journey

SYNOPSIS:
The characters (likely with a 'native' guide), must brave the dangers of the wasteland and make their way into the Zone. Along the way, they encounter a rival would-be rescuer as well as dangerous mutant guardians.

CUTAWAY:
Zoner airships fly over a blasted landscape to land inside a bunker-fortress-complex built into a cliffside. The survivors from the escape pod are ushered out of the vehicles and inside. There, they are studied by a deformed man in a ratty military uniform who comments on their beauty and 'purity'. Leeringly, he remarks that the Overdog will be quite pleased with them, quite pleased indeed.

ADVENTURE:
The heroes set out into the wastes (most likely on the ground- and most likely with their native guide Nikki). The terrain is mostly rugged canyon country- a veritable maze, but one that Nikki (true to her word) seems to know. There are several dangers along the trail- in the form of rock slides and sudden wind-storms.

Due to the length of the journey (and dangers of the trail), the heroes are forced to camp for the night. They are ambushed that night by a rival group of would-be rescuers (of roughly the same size as the character's group). This group of spacers had responded to the distress call as well, only to be shot down while in space. They managed to escape, but their ship was destroyed. These spacers (led by a man named Hudson), aren't a completely rotten lot. They don't necessarily wish to KILL the heroes, just take them out of the hunt, steal their ship, strand them here and take the reward for themselves. Thus, they'll attempt to 'get the drop' on the characters and get them to surrender. Failing that, they will attack with weapons on stun. Hudson's band will resort to lethal force only in response to the same. Let the situation play out as it will.

If a fight breaks out, and the heroes win, any survivors among Hudson's group will attempt to negotiate for their lives. They'll first offer to help with the recovery of escape pod survivors in exchange for a ride off the planet. Failing that, they'll ask that the players leave them and at least send someone else back to pick them up. Failing THAT, they plead that the characters leave them with enough gear to defend themselves.

If the heroes surrender or are defeated, Hudson will graciously allow them to keep some of their weapons and gear (though none of their vehicles) and will promise to send help back for them once he's rescued the escape pod survivors. Depending on how the heroes handle the situation, Hudson may even offer to team up with the group for the final entrance into the zone. Heck, he may even promise to cut them in for a reward. A lot depends upon how the players react to all of this- especially since they hold a BIG card in the form of having the only known means to get off the planet. They also hold a card in the form of having Nikki as their guide.

If the players leave Hudson's group behind (or simply drives them off), they might still show up later...

If the groups decide to team up, play Hudson's people for a bit of comic relief and/or rivalry. They're money-grubbers and not particularly brave, but they are competent enough where they might be of use in the upcoming situations. They can also be used as 'fodder' for the monsters/dangers in the upcoming scenes.

The next day, the heroes (possibly with new 'partners') set off again, directed through another maze of canyons by their guide. Unless they take particularly extensive precautions (like abandoning their vehicles), the heroes approach will likely be sighted by Zoner airspeeders. This can lead to a firefight in the canyons, with airspeeders sweeping in and party vehicles racing over the canyon floors, avoiding and returning fire. This shouldn't be TOO big of an attack, as the Zoners are just patrolling.

Eventually, the heroes are forced to abandon their vehicles (assuming they have any) and head into a cave that Nikki assures them leads into the Zone. Unfortunately, the caves are inhabited by hideous, bloated mutant humanoids who suddenly emerge from pod-like growths in the walls. This would be a good spot for some dramatic deaths of some of Hudson's group (assuming they tagged along). The characters can either fight these hordes or run. Note that Nikki hadn't encountered these things in her previous trip


Either way (assuming they survive!), the heroes eventually reach the cave exit. From here, the party gets a look at the Zoner fortress, and see that it is actually the remains of a planetary military base, complete with anti orbital defenses as well as anti-fighter and other defensive weapons and shields. There are even a few airspeeder patrols roaming around the cliffs/canyons.

At this point, Nikki points out that she's never actually been INSIDE the base...

CONTINGENCIES
As with previous sections, a lot of this episode assumes that the players are using ground transportation. It is possible that particularly stubborn characters may try to fly their way into the Zone. As mentioned before, this should be akin to suicide due to the amount of firepower the zoners have at their disposal. Even if the characters take the 'low altitude' approach, they will have to wind their way through canyons to keep 'under the guns'- and will burn up even more power. And again, once they reach the final canyon barrier, they must decide whether to try and risk flying in or land and proceed through the cave passage. GMs may also wish to throw a wave (or two) of Zoner airspeeders at the heroes ship- which will be particularly vulnerable in the limited space of the canyons.

Ship-borne parties will avoid encountering Hudson's party altogether, though there is nothing to say that when the players land, their ship won't be found (and possibly captured) by the rival group of spacers.

It is also possible that the characters may have refused the assistance of Nikki. In this case, the characters are going to have to try and find their own way. Unless they are extremely lucky, it is doubtful they will find the secret 'cave entrance' into the Zone. This means they'll either have to try an aerial approach (suicide), drive/fly to and then try to climb over the cliffs surrounding the zone (dangerous) or try to storm one of the fortified guardposts blocking the ground entrances into the zone (also dangerous- and with the added possibility of raising the alarm in the main fortress). Characters who refuse Nikki's help and then get 'stuck' somehow might be given a second chance- the GM can rule that Nikki took it upon herself to follow the group (using another scav vehicle), and will show up once again with an offer of help.


Episode IV: The Overdog's Lair

SYNOPSIS:
The heroes finally reach the villains lair. They must figure out a way to get inside and then rescue their 'bounty' from the clutches of the evil cyborg known as the "Overdog". Of course, these kinds of plans are always fraught with peril, and things rarely go as expected...

CUTAWAY:
The survivors from the escape pod, now dressed in 'suitable' slave attire, are ushered into a huge, machine-filled room. A large form descends from above, apparently supported on metallic 'tentacles'. This is revealed to be a hideous mutant-cyborg, covered with metallic armor and sporting four metal tentacles 'growing' from his back. He introduces himself menacingly as the "Overdog", explaining that it has been years since he enjoyed the company of ones as lovely as this- and that over the coming weeks, he will enjoy getting to know his new guests. Alas, he must first preside over the 'games' tonight. He goes on to say that he hopes the girls will enjoy the show- it will be one to remember.

ADVENTURE:
The cave lets out at the base of the Overdog's fortress. Though Nikki has never been inside before, she had noticed that there was a possible way in- through an exhaust duct. Unfortunately, said duct is located high up in the cliff face. It would require a dangerous climb to reach and would also require some means of getting past the grate that blocks it. A quick survey of the area shows that the Fortress itself has guards patrolling its upper 'battlements'- and within the large airspeeder hangars built into the cliff-face. There is a ground level entrance, but its gate is thick and heavily guarded. There is, however, a fair amount of traffic passing through the gate. It appears that various groups of Zoners from around the valley are making their way into the Fortress. Seems as though there is some 'gathering' going on. The occasional airspeeder cruises overhead as well, some leaving on patrol, others returning. Every now and then, one of them will do a circuit of the fortress, shining their spotlights on its cliff walls to check for any infiltrators.

At this point, the heroes must decide how to get into the base. The methods of entry could include:

1) Taking Nikki's path. This would require some climbing skill rolls and perhaps some stealth checks along the way as guards from the battlements above patrol and look down. The grate itself is actually quite rusted, and could be wedged out the the way (with some strength). It could also be cut through by tools or lightsabers with relative ease. Once inside, the heroes have to make their way through some disgustingly slimy vent shafts that haven't seen real maintenance in years. There would be dangers along the way- perhaps a huge, stealthy snake-like beast that tries to pick off any stragglers in the party and drag them into a pipe. Perhaps there is a sudden incline on a particularly slippery shaft that threatens to drop players into one of the few still functioning vent fans. Once the heroes are finally out of the vents, the adventure can continue in the main fortress.

2) Trying to ambush a Zoner patrol, using their clothing/armor as a disguise to get past the guards at the main gate. The guards aren't particularly observant- as long as the players look like Zoners and don't draw too much attention to themselves. One of the guards might try to engage the party in conversation, perhaps requiring some type of con or other fast-talking to get past. They may even ask for a 'password'- which, of course, there isn't. The Zoners seem to be talking amongst themselves about the 'games' that night- evidently some kind of big event the Overdog puts on to keep them entertained. Once the heroes are finally past the gates, the adventure can continue in the main fortress.


3) Climbing up to one of the airspeeder hangars located in the cliff-walls of the fortress- or up to the 'battlements' on top. This would be a dangerous climb in and of itself, with the added problem of having to make several stealth checks along the way as guards check occasionally down the cliff face. Once the party reaches its destination, they will have to overcome the guards- which could result in an alarm being tripped. Thankfully, the comm-system in the base is in disrepair, meaning that a response might take a while. This could give the heroes time to disappear into the main fortress itself and continue their search.

4) Anything else the players might hatch. This could include a frontal assault on the base, either from the ground or the air. Such an assault would face heavy opposition- and any party foolish enough to do this should be held accountable for their actions. Heroes are heroes, yes, but even heroes should have the judgment to know when they are overmatched in a 'stand up' fight.

For her part, Nikki will be apprehensive about entering the fortress- having heard stories of the depredations that go on within. It is up to the heroes to decide whether to take her along or leave her to wait. Either decisions could have consequences later.

Once the party is into the main fortress itself, they have quite a few options. Likely, they'll just want to find their targets and escape with them. Ambitious parties may well want to destroy the base by sabotaging its generators. They might also wish to try and steal airspeeders to aide their escape. At this point, the GM is on his own as far as 'contingencies' go. This can be a very free-form part of the mission. There are, however, a few events and locations within the Fortress that can affect how things play out. These include:

1) The games. In a huge, central chamber of the fortress, a deadly maze has been set up, filled with death traps- spikes, flamethrowers, spinning blades, pits, etc. Through this gauntlet, prisoners of the Overdog are forced to run- with the promise of freedom given if they make it all the way through. They are 'urged along' through the maze by a huge, buzz-saw wielding droid that follows behind them at an slow but inexorable pace. This is dubbed "the Persuader".

Most of the Zoners are here, watching from the multiple gallery levels overlooking the 'game pit'. The Overdog is here as well, hanging like a spider from an array of machinery in his 'private box'. Though it is difficult to notice, his box is actually protected by a shield generator that can absorb most weapon-fire directed at him. Near the cyborg-tyrant, in a hanging cage (displayed for his own pleasure and the delight of his servants) are the escape pod survivors, looking terrified, but otherwise whole.

The games will already be in progress as the heroes arrive, with a hapless 'Scav' meeting a grisly fate within the maze. The next victim depends on several things. If the characters left Nikki behind, then the GM can rule that she was subsequently captured by the Zoners and taken here to run the gauntlet. Likewise, if the characters left Hudson or any of his people behind, they could now show up here as captives. Depending on the heroes, they might feel compelled to rescue these victims. If neither Nikki nor any of Hudson's people are at risk, substitute another sympathetic scav. Of course, anyone trying to rescue a person from the maze will likely have to confront "the Persuader". Nikki will prove to be quite adept during these scene, navigating the maze rather well, despite her fear. Even so, the Persuader remains a danger. The whole thing should serve as a dramatic background for whatever the characters are planning- perhaps urging them to hurry as Nikki (or whoever else is stuck in the maze) just BARELY overcomes its dangers.

Any attack during the 'games' will cause mass confusion amongst the zoners- especially if the attacks seem to be coming from 'some of their own'. This will likely touch off violence between the various 'sub-tribes' of the Zoners, who will then turn on each other- essentially creating chaos. Likewise any remaining prisoners (scavs or hudson's men) will use this as a chance to turn against their attackers.

The Overdog will respond to any direct attack by trying to snatch a 'hostage' and then flee via machinery ducts back to his sanctum. His first choice of a hostage would be Nikki- whom he can swoop down to snatch up from the Maze. His second choice would be any one of his new 'slave girls'.

2) The generator room. Reaching this is going to be difficult. It is located in the bowels of the fortress and stands at the end of a featureless hall, behind a massive blast-security door, guarded by a pair of Zoner robots (similar to the "Persuader" in the game chamber above). Even after the guards are subdued, getting through the door is problematic. It can resist most weapon damage and the security locks are very difficult to bypass. All this security is not without reason, though- as the Generator room is actually the lair of the Overdog himself. It is possible that the heroes may reach this room via another passage- following the Overdog through the machinery conduit from the game chamber above. There is only ONE security door blocking their way in this case- this one is less durable and has only a moderate security lock. Apart from the generator machinery, there are 'comforts' here for the the Overdog and his 'guests'- including several plush couches and a bed. Any characters hoping to find the Overdog's fabled 'treasure' will likely be disappointed. The technology here is the true treasure on an otherwise devastated world. He would have access to some modern medicine (medpacs and the like) as well as the cyborg parts necessary to keep him going. There may also be some rare wines and the like, but they wouldn't be a particularly lucrative treasure.

3) Airspeeder hangars. There are a dozen or so airspeeders in here at any given time, half of them the smaller patrol types and half the larger passenger types. There are also several guards present (about a half-dozen) and a like number of Zoner mechanics. As with others in the base, they are likely a bit distracted and lamenting the fact that they can't be at the games.

4) Battlements. Various walkways, towers and watchposts line the top of the cliff-top fortress. These are manned by reasonably alert guards, perhaps a dozen spread in groups of two throughout the area. Each group has access to an intercom at their main patrol station- and are thus able to alert the base 'command center' if there is a problem. Also located on the roof are the various sensor dishes and the defensive batteries of the fortress itself- these include Turbolasers, Anti-fighter battiers, a massive shield generator tower and a scattering of long range anti-vehicle and anti-personnel cannons covering the ground approaches to the fortress.

5) Command center. This is a bunker housed just below the 'battlements'- within the rock of the fortress and accessible only through a single, guarded choke-point manned by a half-dozen Zoners. It is typically manned by the Overdog's trusted lieutenant- a deformed former military officer. He is assisted by another half-dozen other Zoners responsible for directing the fire of the base's defensive batteries. Destroying this room means that the weapons would have to be manned directly in order to fire (at reduced accuracy).

6) Dungeons. Again, located deep within the fortress, these dank cells and passages would be empty and unguarded- with the prisoners having been taken up to the 'games' above for execution. One of the cells has apparently been recently cleaned up- and was evidently used to house the survivors of the escape pod crash.

7) Other areas. There are barracks, mess halls, an armory and storage bays within the fortress. The details of these are left to the GM, though the armory should contain little more than the crude barely maintained weapons the Zoners use. Most of these would be lightly populated during the player's entrance into the fortress- with everyone attending the games.

Eventually, the heroes are likely to have a show-down with the Overdog. The tyrant will flee to his sanctum at the first opportunity. Once there, he will attempt to hide amongst the machinery itself, his own mostly-metal body 'blending in' with the various pipes and ducts. He will also use any hostages taken as bait to lure the heroes into an ambush- dangling them over some danger like a pit of spikes or perhaps a sparking power electrode or some other nastiness. Anyone who goes to rescue them is liable to trigger a trap or be attacked by the Overdog himself, who may be hiding nearby.

Though quite physically durable, the Overdog knows that a stand-up fight against a group of well-armed attackers is likely not to go in his favor, so try to play him as intelligent and have him retreat to hiding when hard pressed. His metal tentacles allow him great mobility. He's able to climb walls, dangle from the ceiling, etc. He will use this to his advantage.

Once the Overdog is defeated, it is up to the characters to make their escape. Since the final showdown is likely to take place within the generator room, they could easily set the fortress to explode- or it could happen by accident during the fight. A spiteful and mortally wounded Overdog may even trigger a 'self destruct' when he thinks all is lost.

There is likely to be a good amount of chaos in the fortress following the Overdog's death- especially of the generator starts to overload and parts of the base begin to explode. This would be a perfect time to escape- and heroes shouldn't have too much trouble- as the Zoners will be more concerned with saving themselves than stopping anyone else.


CONTINGENCIES:

It is possible that the characters may be captured by the Zoners at some point during the adventure. They may even try to gain entrance into the Fortress by allowing themselves to be taken. In either case, they would be searched, disarmed and taken directly to the 'game chamber' to await their chance to run the gauntlet. Their escape could take many forms- they could try and get through the gauntlet and earn their freedom (the Overdog won't grant it, however), or more likely, they could try to escape or overpower their guards. This would be difficult- but could be aided by NPCs. If Nikki or any of Hudson's men weren't with the group when they were captured, this would be a good time for them to swoop in with a diversion.

Some groups may adopt a 'wait and see' attitude about the games- allowing whoever is in the maze to either die or get through it on their own. They may then try to stealthily rescue the pod survivors at a later time. This plan has its own problems, though, as the girls are kept in a cage in full view of the entire arena. And when the games are over, the Overdog will take them back to his sanctum- thus providing him with SEVERAL hostages if the heroes seek him there. If left to her own devices, Nikki WILL make it through the maze, but she will subsequently be taken by the Overdog to join him in his chambers. Also, after the games, the other Zoners will return to their duties, and might very well begin to question any strangers within their midst...

Some heroes may try to formulate a plan to kill the Overdog while he watches the games- perhaps by sniping him from a distance. Due to the crowded nature of the area, this would be difficult to do- with the crowds of Zoners, odds are that the shot would be spoiled by jostling or someone might notice a hero lining up the shot. There is also the (previously mentioned) fact that the Overdog's private box has its own hidden shield generator- that should thwart most attacks. And as mentioned above, the Overdog will attempt to flee from any direct attack outside of his sanctum, preferring to lure heroes into a fight on his own terms.

Due to the open-nature of this last episode, there are quite a few different contingencies- too many to account for them all. GMs will have to be flexible to handle whatever plans the characters might come up with.


Episode V: Epilogue


SYNOPSIS:
Everyone escapes from the Overdog's Fortress and retreats to safe ground. Preparations are made to leave- though there may be a few wrinkles

ADVENTURE:
Depending how the battle within the Fortress went, the characters could have a very easy or a difficult escape. If the Fortress was destroyed, then the Zoners will be scattered and fleeing- offering no fight to anyone. If the Fortress is somehow left intact, then there may be some semi-organizes zoner pursuit- either on foot or by vehicle.

Eventually, though, the heroes will make it back to their ship- hopefully with all of the pod survivors intact. It is possible at this point that if the characters left their ship in a vulnerable position that some of Hudson's people (assuming they didn't accompany the heroes and weren't encountered elsewhere) might have captured it. If so, there may be a bit of a stand-off with Hudson's folks trying to negotiate the most favorable (for them) deal possible.

The GM may also rule (again depending on how well hidden/defended) the ship was, that some Zoners or even some weird mutated beast may have found and boarded it- and may wait in ambush for the heroes return.

The pod survivors will be quite grateful and friendly to their rescuers, but are rather useless in any fight the characters might run into. Any particularly gallant rescuer might become the object of affection from one (or more?) of the girls.

There is also the matter of Nikki. Assuming the characters took her up on her deal, she will be expecting both a cut of the reward and a ride off planet. It is up to the characters whether or not they'll honor this bargain. There is also the question of what to do with Nikki once she is off world. She could join the party as an NPC 'sidekick' or simply be left to her own devices on some starport somewhere (though that's a rather harsh action). A 'nice' end to this might be that Nikki is taken in by the family of one of the pod survivors- and given the life of comfort and safety Nikki thinks she wants. Of course, someone as adventurous as that is bound to turn up somewhere else at some future time...

Once the women are safely returned 'home' (in this case to the nearest civilized star system), their manager will pay the reward and the players are free to do as they will. The manager may wish to 'hire' the characters for a while to do a publicity tour based on the daring rescue- its up to the heroes to determine what to do next...

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Adventure Conversion: Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone



OVERVIEW:
In this adventure, a group of heroes attempts to rescue the survivors of destroyed starship, stranded on a remote world that had been quarantined decades ago. They must brave the dangers of the world and its post-apocalyptic society and eventually rescue the survivors from the lair of a local cyborg warlord.

Independent/Smuggler type characters could become involved simply for the reward. Rebel/New Republic type characters could just happen to be in the area and respond to the call. Plus, there’s nothing to say that rebels don’t need a little reward money either.

BACKGROUND:
Decades ago, before the outbreak of the Clone Wars, the planet Terros IX was in the grips of a vicious civil war. Efforts by Republic peace-keepers failed and open conflict raged across the planet. Massive bombing raids destroyed much of the civilization, and what was left fell to a particularly vicious bio-engineered plague. This latter event prompted the Republic to Quarantine the world until a proper relief effort could be launched. Unfortunately, the outbreak of the Clone Wars resulted in Terros IX being pushed to the ‘back burner’ and eventually just forgotten.

The survivors of Terros’ civil war were reduced to scavengers, picking at the skeleton of their technological civilization. One group, however, gained control of the sole surviving planetary defense fortress. Unfortunately, it was located in a highly contaminated ‘Forbidden Zone’. Many of these scavengers perished, still others were deformed and mutated by the radiation and disease. These became known as ‘Zoners’ by the other ‘Scav’ tribes. Using the superior technology they found at the base (mostly in the form of functional airspeeders and blaster weaponry), the ‘Zoners’ strike at the other tribes with near impunity, killing for amusement and taking what they want.

The leader of the ‘Zoners’ was actually a military scientist. Driven insane by the losses in the war (which he was partly responsible for), he took on the persona of the “Overdog”, a brutal warlord. Over the years, illness and deformity has forced him to ‘augment’ his body with technological components. He became a monstrous cyborg, which served only to further his terrifying reputation among his own people and all the other tribes of the wasted planet. And so things have gone right up until the present day…

…the present day, in a completely unrelated incident, a trio of up-and-coming female pop-star singers was enjoying a leisurely trip to their next concern onboard a corporate yacht. A hyperspace collision of some sort sends their ship careening out of its hyperlane and, by sheer chance, into the Terros system. As the ship begins the break up, the trio are hurried onto an escape pod. They manage to eject as their ship is destroyed…and face an uncertain future on the planet’s surface.

The Yacht’s distress signal is picked up by the comm-net. Immediately, the manager of the trio puts out a reward for the safe rescue of the group- hoping that 100,000 credits is enough to prompt someone to brave the dangers of a quarantined world…

MAJOR NPCs:

The Overdog: A former scientist, now quite mad. The Overdog sees Terros as his own realm now, his personal ‘hell’ to rule. Though he does have a functional off-world comm-transmitter, he refuses to use it, preferring the power his isolation has given him. The Overdog has kept himself alive by gradually replacing failing pieces of his body with home-made cybernetic components. Currently, his body is mostly metal, with only a few ‘original’ pieces left (such as part of his face). He has augmented his strength and added a four new limbs in the form of metallic tentacles ‘growing’ out of his back. These he can use to move around on- and even climb walls and the like. They are also equipped with vicious claws. The Overdog took control of, and continues to lead, a group of ruthless mutant raiders known as the Zoners. They operate out of a fortress (actually an old planetary defense base) in the “Forbidden Zone” of Terros IX. Having picked up the descent of the escape pod on their base’s still functional sensors, the Overdog desires to capture its occupants who are, in his twisted viewpoint, intruders on ‘his’ world. Upon learning of the beauty of the survivors, the tyrant lusts after their beauty and ‘purity’.

The Zoners: These are a motley collection of mutant tribesmen led by the overdog. They dress in ragged clothing mixed with pieces of makeshift armor and usually with turban-like head-wrappings to protect them from the sun. They are armed with various vicious looking home-made knives, axes and clubs, but also carry blaster weaponry taken from their base. The latter is functional, but only barely due to years of abuse. Zoners make use of armed airspeeders to raid other scavenger tribes, using smaller ones to patrol and attack and larger ones to land raiding parties and recover goods and prisoners. Prisoners taken are typically forced to run a deadly maze-like ‘gauntlet’ for the entertainment of the Zoners- none have survived thus far.

The Scavs: There are many different tribes throughout the wastes of Terros, eking out a living through hunting, gathering and scavenging whatever they can (hence their name). They dress similarly to Zoners as far as head-wraps and ragged clothing goes, but take more care in their cleanliness. Overall, Scavs are a peaceful lot- willing to defend themselves, but unlikely to instigate attacks. One of the tribes closest to the ‘Zone’ resides on a huge repulsorlift platform they had salvaged- turning it into a mobile village. They are the first to stumble upon the trio of survivors and actually take them in to provide shelter- perhaps with the hope of making off-world contact or even receiving the help promised to them so long ago by the Republic. Most scavs have access to only primitive weapons- a few have blasters, but most must rely upon crude projectile weapons, including crossbows and the like. Most scav tribes have also salvaged other vehicles, these are typically crude ground vehicles (wheeled), but a few have managed to find (and keep) speeders of various sorts.

Nikki: A spunky young Scav girl (in her mid-teens). She is a scout and gatherer for her people, but often ranges far beyond where the should. This has given her intimate knowledge of the routes leading into the Forbidden Zone. Being an adventurer at heart, she desires to eventually get off Terros and see the galaxy. She is something of a mercenary as well- wanting and expecting ‘payment’ for her services as a scout (even if she does have an overall good-hearted demeanor).

The Trio: Nova, Reena and Meagan. Three up-and-coming pop star singers who are caught in a situation well out of their control. They are reasonably capable individuals, but are NOT combatants and have never encountered any of the dangers they suddenly face on Terros. Thus, after their crash landing, they must rely on others to help them out of their predicament. All three are quite attractive- which unfortunately draws the unwanted attention of the Overdog.

LOCATIONS:

The Wastelands: Much of the surface of Terros has teen reduced to a blasted, desert wasteland. The terrain consists mostly of areas of steep, twisted canyons and broad expanses of rocky flatland. Dotting the landscape are the ruins of cities and other installations, now mostly collapsed or covered by years of wind-blown dirt. Vegetation is sparse and stunted, but exists enough to support a small population of various animals- some of which are dangerous and even mutated.

The Forbidden Zone: This is a huge box canyon situated in the midst of a maze of rocky canyons. It is entirely surrounded by sheer ridges of stone, forming an ‘outer wall’ that shelters a blasted valley. Various Zoner tribes live within the caves lining the inside of the canyon and there are two main ‘gates’ through the outer ‘wall’- both of which are heavily guarded. One spur of the cliffs extends out from the wall and into the center of the canyon. On this is perched the old planetary defense installation where the Overdog has made his lair.



Episode I: Distress Signal

SYNOPSIS:
In this episode, the characters follow up on the reward offer for the recovery of survivors of a hyperspace accident. Unfortunately, the passengers have been stranded on an isolated world that had been all but destroyed by civil war, decades ago. Upon arrival at the planet, the heroes must run a gauntlet of fire from still-active planetary defense batteries in order to make it to the surface.

CUTAWAY:
A scene of a luxury Yacht cruising through hyperspace. Suddenly, it suffers some form of hyperspace collision, sending it spinning out of the hyperlane, trailing smoke and debris. As the ship breaks up, its captain looks for a safe place to land- or abandon ship. They get a fix on a nearby planet, but can't immediately identify it. The passengers, a trio of lovely young women, are taken to one of the escape pods and eject, just as the ship breaks up completely and explodes. The pod arc away from the destruction towards the vaguely menacing planet below.
The pod lands and the women emerge dazedly, surveying a wasted landscape. Off in the distance, one of them spies a dust cloud- some kind of vehicle? They hope it is a rescuer...

ADVENTURE:
The heroes are (for whatever reason) out in a remote area of space when they pick up an alert on emergency frequencies. A space yacht has suffered a hyperdrive accident, throwing it light years off course and into a remote system where its passengers are forced to abandon ship for the nearby planet of Terros IX. A reward of 100,000 credits is being offered by a private citizen for the return of the Yacht's VIP passengers. The characters just happen to be in the area and could get there before any other would-be rescuers.

Some research shows that the planet Terros IX was quarantined several decades ago, during the old republic, following a planetary civil war and subsequent apocalypse brought on by a series of bio-weapon induced plagues. Though a relief mission was planned, the outbreak of the Clone Wars and collapse of the Old Republic insured that it was never carried out. Thus, nobody is quite sure what to expect on Terros IX- though any medical experts might theorize that any bioweapons would most likely have 'run their course' by now. Probably...

It is assumed that from here the party will travel to Terros IX to attempt the rescue. Once in orbit, their sensors will reveal a wasteland below- largely desert, with scattered ruins the only remaining sign of the civilization that used to be here. There are signs of life, however, and even a few power signatures- possibly generators. It will be a relatively simple matter to pick up the distress beacon on an escape pod and follow it down. This is where things get interesting.

Any ship getting close to the planet (either by flying high and scanning or by going in after the escape beacon) will come under sudden attack by powerful and accurate fire from below- and indeed from orbit. Evidently part of the planetary defense system is still active. The heroes will have to evade this fire to get to the surface- otherwise, they might be forced to land due to damage. Worst case scenario, they might actually crash land. GM Note: This threat of fire is essentially a tool to keep the player's ship grounded- or at least operating at low altitude. It is hoped that players will use ground-transport to continue their search. If not, refer to the 'contingencies' section below.

CONTINGENCIES:
Since much of the action in this adventure takes place on the ground, it would be more of a challenge if the players were 'forced' to rely on ground transport instead of using their ship to fly from place to place. This would also prevent them from solving all their problems by simply bombarding them from the sky. The main deterrent to this are the planetary defense batteries- still active and controlled by the main 'villains' of the piece in a fortress located in the 'zone' (an area of toxic wasteland). The earliest stages of the heroes exploration on the surface might allow them to fly at low-altitude without coming under fire (since they would be beyond the horizon from the 'zone'). But as they near their ultimate goal, the ship would face direct fire from those same batteries (which should prove more than a match for a single armed transport). There is also the matter of fuel conservation to consider. Flying/hovering within the atmosphere of the planet burns a lot of fuel. Thus, if players DO insist on flying everywhere, they will find their fuel reserves running low. This should be pointed out to the players so their characters can make educated decisions on how to proceed. If the players do decide to use their ship in the early stages of the adventure, it shouldn't affect too much- and there could be threats to help counter this so the heroes can't simply 'cakewalk' through the threats.

Particularly brash (or bullheaded) characters may wish to attack this planetary defense base head on. Every effort should be made by the GM to discourage this through description of the 'base' itself- heavily shielded and armored, with long range (anti-orbital) and short range batteries. If characters persist, however, the GM should let the (heavily slanted) battle play out as it will. Barring some miracle on the character's part, their ship will likely be damaged or destroyed.


Episode II: Meeting the Locals

SYNOPSIS:
In this espisode, the heroes begin their search for the crash survivors and stumble upon a battle between resident factions of the planet- the evil 'Zoners' and the beleaguered 'Scavs'. The timely intervention of the characters saves the Scavs, but is (likely) too late to keep the Zoners from abducting the crash survivors. Thus the heroes must prepare for a dangerous journey into the wasteland known as the 'Zone'.

ADVENTURE:
The heroes will likely want to start their search at the escape pod's crash site. They might even be able to land nearby- or even survey the site from low altitude. Either way, they will discover that the pod is empty- though if they are performing close fly-bys, they might obscure some of the evidence with the wash of their engines kicking up sand and debris. Closer inspection will show numerous footprints and some tracks in the dirt- evidently left by some kind of primitive ground vehicles. These tracks can be followed off into the wastes- a task that is accomplished much easier from the ground than the air due to the relative size of those tracks. The characters have a couple options at this point, following the tracks or starting a search pattern from the air (keeping at low altitude, beneath the arc of the planetary guns). Anyone using sensors (either in the air or on the ground) has a chance to notice the approach of several 'bogeys'- evidently airborne and moving fast- though not in the direction of the heroes, per se. If these are followed, continue with the scene below.

Eventually, the tracks (or the search) will reveal a huge, ramshackle repulsorlift platform, evidently serving as some kind of mobile 'village'. It moves via a series of large, makeshift sails. It is also, apparently, under attack. Weapon batteries on the platform fire at circling airspeeders- which include both gunships and smaller attack craft. All these vehicles are beat up, but seem quite functional- and deadly. On the barge itself, hand-to-hand fighting is going on between boarders dropped by the airspeeders and the denizens of the 'village'. The attackers are dressed in piecemeal armor and seem to be mutated humans (with a few other alien species mixed in). The villagers are likewise- but not mutated- and they also seem to be outgunned.

It is hoped that the heroes (being heroes) will join in on this fight- against the obviously aggressive attackers. If players are having a hard time determining who the 'bad guy' is here, make sure to describe the brutal actions of the attackers, cutting down women and children, etc.. The heroes will likely be the deciding factor in this battle, driving off the attackers- though the 'villagers' will have taken many casualties. Any particularly observant characters might notice some prisoners being taken by the bad guys as they flee- namely the three women from the escape pod! Evidently the 'villagers' had rescued them, only to be attacked by the bad guys, who now fly off with them.

After the battle, the villagers will tentatively contact the heroes, thanking them for their assistance. The Village elder (gravely wounded) will tell them a bit about their world. These people are one of several groups of survivors who call themselves 'Scavs'- they survive off the leftover tech found in the various ruins and are generally peaceful. The people who just attacked are known as 'Zoners'- they are a gang of mutants and other outcasts who control the last functional planetary defense bunker- located in a devastated area known as the 'Zone'. They are ruled by a being known as the 'Overdog'- a brutal cyborg.

The elder will also inform the characters that the passengers of the crashed escape pod were taken in by his own people- but unfortunately were just stolen by the Zoners in this attack (the characters may have seen this for themselves, see above). Battered as they are, the Scavs have little to offer the heroes, except for directions to the Zone itself- which is surely where the girls were taken. They strongly recommend against following, however, as the Zone is a huge canyon, surrounded on all sides by massive cliffs and heavily defended from the air and the ground. At this point, a young Scav girl (Nikki) points out that she knows a secret way in. She refuses to help, however, unless the characters agree to 1) take her with them on the mission, 2) take her with them when they leave the planet, and 3) give her an equal share of the reward.

The characters have several choices at this point, they can abandon the search (boo), try to get into the Zone by themselves, or take Nikki up on her offer as a guide. The latter is probably the most expedient- and remember, time is of the essence, as others may come in response to the reward. Indeed, at some point thereafter (perhaps if the characters accept the Scav's invitation to spend the night), they will notice what appears to be a starship arcing through the sky, only to be shot down by the Zoners planetary defenses. Evidently someone else HAD responded to the call. Characters wishing to find the crash site should be notified that it clearly lies within the danger zone of the Zoner's planetary guns- so...it's probably not a good idea to go looking from the air.

CONTINGENCIES:
In order to keep the adventure moving, all efforts should be made to ensure that the women from the escape pod are NOT saved by the heroes at this point. In the heat of the battle, their presence may not even be noticed by the heroes. Even if it is, the heroes may not be able to get to them in time. To be fair, however, the possibility of rescue should not be arbitrarily eliminated. Particularly clever, lucky or fast actions might work, but they should be difficult. One tactic to counter 'early rescue' could be that the women are being taken onto different Zoner airspeeders. Even if the characters are able to rescue one or two, the third might STILL be taken away to the zone, thus keeping the 'motivation' for the subsequent adventure intact. If all three women are somehow rescued, there could still be motivation for the heroes to take on the zone: they might be moved by the plight of the scavs and want to help them overthrow this pillaging tyrant. Also, they might want to take out the planetary defense batteries to avoid being shot down as they leave (though clever characters could avoid this by flying low until they are out of the battery's fire arc). As a last-ditch effort for GREEDY characters, a GM might have one of the scavs talk about rumors of the Zoners guarding a 'great treasure' left over from before the war. If the characters manage to rescue all the girls at this point, and want to just cut and run? Well, that's their prerogative- and oh well.

Note that characters utilizing their ship in this episode will find that it becomes a rather large target for the Zoner attack airspeeders. It is quite possible that it could suffer damage or even get shot down during the battle. This is yet another way the GM can 'hint' that using a ship might not be the most prudent thing in this case.

If the players do not have any ground transportation (or if they need more), you can have the scavs provide them with some- in the form of beat-up ground vehicles or maybe even a rare, makeshift landspeeder or skiff they were able to fix. As far as the 'look' of the vehicles go, think "Mad Max" meets Star Wars.

To be continued...in 3D!