Thursday, May 30, 2019

Meat Grinder

After holding position for little more than an hour, the party was relieved by fresh troops. After some medical assistance, they were debriefed by Lt. Cmdr. Lars Thawaar, who had picked up camp and moved into the ravine. If all went well, he expected that they could break through the enemy defenses and hit the base where the rumored super-weapon was being deployed.

During their debrief, another group of recruits were deployed, this time shoving the line forward hard. They arrived en mass in an armored personnel carrier, and quickly set to defending the ravine from the newest wave of enemies.

The first onslaught was brutal, leaving several dead and dying, but the UEA troops gave as good as they got. One by one, the Duul'Tlak fell to the UEA guns. A tall spire between the two sides created a definite "our side" and "their side"; the Duul'Tlak took refuge behind the wall, and the UEA jarheads refused to advance past it. Grenades and gunfire flew in both directions, until the UEA troops were down to only a third of their original number.

Even so, they pressed their advantage, using their APC as a mobile shield and picking off the enemy one by one. A wave of reinforcements arrived, including a large mech, and soon the APC was taking fire! The two sides battled to a standstill, with the Duul'Tlak keeping out of sight of the APC's autocannon, and the UEA forces staying well away from the deadly gun of the Duul'Tlak mech.

The sound of a low-flying UEA troop carrier echoed up the ravine, and within moments, the jarheads were joined by the original party, as well as a few friends they had made earlier -  Lisa Tychus in her Fireteam armor, and Albert "Huffer" Huffman in his Heavy Weapons armor. Together, they opened fire on the enemy, quickly eliminating the last troops, and beginning to focus-fire the mech.

Suddenly, the ground beneath their feet rumbled, and dozens of creatures poured out! Some were the size of very large dogs (or small ponies), sporting razor-sharp claws on their backs, while others were tall, snake-like creatures with arms ending in wicked talons. Huffer was swarmed by the creatures, and fell, screaming, as they shredded his armor and tore him to pieces. The Duul'Tlak mech was surrounded by the snake-like creatures, and after two blasts of some sort of spikes or needles, it toppled over. The UEA troops quickly returned fire, with Lisa opening fire - literally - on the swarm of creatures, and the others hurling grenades and spraying bullets.

Surprisingly, they managed to wipe out most of the creatures almost immediately; the clusters of razor-dogs were no match for the grenades, and even the needle-snakes couldn't handle an APC blast to the face! The initial cheer was interrupted, however, as another wave of creatures poured over the side of the cliff, and from the direction of the ravine. While the APC slammed into reverse and provided covering fire, the marines leaped aboard and rode to the still-waiting troop carrier. Piling aboard, they saw several other carriers racing up the ravine; as the needle-snakes began spitting at their own craft, the pilot quickly pulled up and out of the ravine. As they rose into the air, it became clear just what was happening. Like a living carpet, the new creatures flowed down the ravine and across the plains to the south, while Duul'Tlak troops to the north opened fire on the newly-acquired target... but not for long. With no one left to eat in the ravine, the creatures quickly scaled the other side, and slammed headlong into the Duul'Tlak troops. The cannon fire targeting the carrier quickly faltered as the troops turned their attention on destroying the new threat.

The danger wasn't over, however; on the horizon, a large, blimp-like creature with dangling, fleshy tendrils floated slowly towards them. Smaller creatures flapped through the air, and suddenly dove towards the nearest ship! With a rending crash, the creature latched onto the fuselage, then suddenly exploded! The troop carrier fell from the skies, as more creatures began targeting other ships. Manning the guns, the marines kept most of the creatures from their own vessel, but another carrier took a hit. Dripping fuel, the only option was to escort the other ship to Outpost 7, one of the few military outposts nearby.

After several near misses, the ship managed to safely reach the outpost and land; the other carriers arrived as well, spilling out troops, medics, and equipment. Within minutes, they were once again rushed into a base... but this time, the battle wasn't for Quern, but for their lives. The Lt. Cmdr. estimated they had only a few days before the outpost would be discovered.

Luckily, however, Outpost 7 was well stocked with supplies; armor, weapons, ammo, and even surgery centers, if anyone wants to try a new limb on for size, or maybe get a few skills implanted?

More importantly, there is a discrete but urgent request for anyone with above-average intelligence for a super-secret project...

Friday, May 24, 2019

Musgrave Express

Unfortunately, I seem to have lost all my notes on this adventure! However, I'll try to reconstruct events based on my original notes...

The Musgraves and others begin packing up to leave, but Lord Musgrave uncovered a letter he had missed - there was a dig found by his "searcher" that may be interesting! He still needs to pack up, but he's sending the others ahead - on the Orient Express! After a day-trip to Munich, they board the Orient Express, en-route to Varna, Bulgaria.

The train was slightly delayed, departing at nearly 8pm. After meeting a number of the train's occupants, and causing a little trouble here and there, the Musgraves and friends settled in. Here and there, they cause glimpses of drama - tension between guests, and eventually, a murder! A man was thrown from the train!

There is a layover, and police question the group, but eventually give up. One of the guests, a Bulgarian named Küçük, seems very upset about a shipment of his, yelling at the conductor.

After some investigation, the party found a young Romanian boy; they freed him, and eventually smuggled him off the train. They had Küçük arrested for kidnapping, and additionally helped the American, James, find who killed his friend - a pair of mobsters!

A few days later, Mr. Musgrave joins them, and they continue on to the new dig.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

First Blood

With the War on Quern well underway, new recruits signed up daily, wanting to do their country - er, planet - proud. After a fast, grueling bootcamp, the fresh new recruits were flown from Nahundi to the staging area on Quern. On the flight over, they chatted briefly with the quiet Marcus Andwards, the young Joe "Over the" Hill, the wiry and well-tattooed Lisa Tychus, the gruff Jason Abshire, and the somewhat-plump Albert "Huffer" Huffman. Huffer joked, "Big muscles, fast reflexes... Say, any of you pass the IQ test? I hear they were looking for some smarter-than-the-average-marine types for some super secret experiment or something..."

Tuesday, April 12th, 2535

Almost immediately after landing, they were hustled into a large meeting room in the main bunker, where they listened to an address from General Acetus, an older man with a well-chewed cigar.

"All right, people, listen up. I'm sure you've heard about the big, red, dumb idiots that are shaking their sharp sticks at us. That's wrong. 100% wrong. These Duul'Tlak are crafty, smart, and a lot tougher than a couple skinny army boys like you lot. They've got tech like ours - gauss rifles, even some early prototype laser weapons. They have heavy armor and more troops than... [sigh] Look. They've got us outnumbered, and there are rumors of a super-weapon they've got. We need to stop them, and we need to stop them now. This won't be easy, but we do have a way. We need recon, though, and that's where we're sending you now. Get out there, and do us proud, soldiers! Dismissed!"

The troops were loaded up, and rushed to the front lines. The first sign of the enemy was a simple engagement - four scouts, quick but not well armed. Advancing forward, the group next found a slightly larger group, this time with a pair of melee fighter, much tougher than the scouts! Even with sniper fire, they managed to destroy all resistance, quickly rooting out the snipers.

That area cleared, they were picked up and taken back to camp for a quick rest. One soldier, wounded in the line of duty, managed to spot the entrance of a ravine, something that might work as cover.

Wednesday, April 13th, 2535

The next day, they were once again roused for another meeting;the room wasn't as full as it was the day before. General Acetus shared the night's planning:

"All right, boys. The recon was a success. We found a hole in the enemy defenses - a narrow chasm that runs perpendicular to the enemy fortifications. Hopefully, they haven't found it, and we can sneak in unperturbed. I can't stress this enough - you need to kill every last creature in this ravine, or yesterday was for nothing. Get moving!"

Once again, the troops were herded into troop carriers, and shuttled into the forest. The first skirmish of the day was much rougher than the day before; wounds were taken by several marines, but the enemy was beaten back once again. Again they clashed, and this time, two of their number fell - one permanently. They called for assistance, but were told not to fall back - the camp was coming to them. They bunkered down, and waited for assistance...

Thus concludes the first session of the Battle for Quern! Rough, but rewarding, I hope. As a note, everyone who survived (and everyone who gets a new character next session) gets an advance: improve one skill currently equal to or over its linked attribute, improve two skills currently under their linked attributes, improve one attribute, add one edge, or remove one hindrance!

Friday, May 3, 2019

Monster Mystery Makes Mad Mage Meet Machete

In an attempt to bolster spirits, the party traveled to Dallas to eat some delicious food. It cost a bit of money, and unfortunately Alistair's roommate tagged along, but forgot his wallet...

After a lovely meal, Will overheard two men discussing an ABC - Alien Big Cat. Catching up, he asked if they needed any assistance; once they realized he wasn't just going to make fun of them, they offered to show the group what was going on.

Just off Rowlett Nature Trail, at a branch of the stream that drained into the lake, they had found an ABC, a large, black, panther-like creature. It kept to itself, for the most part, but recently, it had gone missing. The two men showed where it had been living, and after some discussion, left.

The party found traces of a ritual - wax from burned black candles, a crushed rattlesnake rattle, and other things. Then... the weirdness started happening. First, bark flaked off of a tree, revealing flesh beneath; once exposed to air, the flesh toughened back into bark.

They found tracks, and while following them, a small calico cat approached them, and laid a small heart at their feet. Moments later it dropped dead.

Reaching the far creek, Alistair overestimated his balance, and slipped off the fallen tree he was using as a bridge... one foot on each side. Wincing and groaning, he pushed himself to the other side, as Will and Toby managed to make it across without any trouble.

Continuing to follow the tracks, they found themselves walking out of the woods and into a very nice development... with a rather strange artifact of some sort. Nearby, they spotted man watering his flowers, and walked up to ask him some questions:

"Can I help you?"
Have you murdered any cats recently?
"What are you talking about?"
Anyone looked like they murdered a cat...?
"Why do you ask?"
Why do you think, there was a dead cat!
"Why would you think I would know anything about it?"
We were following tracks that lead us here
"Why were you following tracks?"
To find who murdered the cat
Turning to another member of the group: "Are you with this guy?"

This back-and-forth continued for over half an hour, with Toby and Alistair trying to get a straight answer, and the man only answering in questions. Eventually, fed up, Toby demanded the man actually answer, and the man suddenly grabbed his head, screamed, and passed out!

Stunned, the trio could only stare at each other in confusion. After a few minutes, a large owl flew up to a nearby window, pecked the glass until it cracked, then flew away.

Just as they began walking back, the sun suddenly skipped forward in the sky! Checking their watches and phones, they realized 84 minutes just went missing. Realizing the weird events were growing closer together, they hurried back to the site of the original ritual. In the underbrush, they caught sight of a strange, goat-faced creature...

Then, bursting out of the brush, they found a young woman chanting, already having started a ritual! Will dashed forward and kicked over half the black candles she had burning, and Toby tried to bull-rush her, only to miss as she dodged aside. Alistair, possibly going insane, unclipped his gun and started taking pot shots at her. He struck one or two glancing blows; Will continued disrupting her ritual, and finally, just as she chanted the last words, Toby managed to land a solid blow, knocking her out.

The ritual was complete, however, and a split second later, a wavering portal opened... with a roar, the strange white creature they saw earlier careened into the portal, just as a large, black panther leaped out! The portal crackled and snapped shut, as the leopard loped off into the woods.

Alistair quickly rifled through the young woman's... person... and discovered the ritual she had been using: Leofrick's Preternatural Scourge. He and Toby left; Will, unsure of what to do with the young woman, stuck around until she moaned and sat up. Seeing him there, she screamed and pulled out some mace! She sprayed it at him, but missed, only managing to get a little in her own eyes. "Why did you do that!?" she demanded.

Will tried to explain about the ritual, and why everyone thought it was a terrible idea, and how they were trying to stop it because magic is bad, and importantly, "I have a gun too, but I didn't shoot at you, I knew that was a bad idea!"

She stared at him, red-eyed, and shouted, "IF YOU KNEW IT WAS A BAD IDEA, WHY DIDN'T YOU STOP THE OTHER GUY!?"

Eventually, Will managed to calm her down, and escorted her to the others. Alistair, meanwhile, realized that he had neglected his roommate in his vehicle; somehow, the roommate had emptied the car of its contents and created a rather intricate artistic sculpture on the lawn. Groaning, Alistair had him collect it all and put it away; he was just getting into his car when Will and the young woman - Virginia Scott - showed up. She stalked over to his car and demanded her grandmother's ritual back; after a tense standoff, Alistair finally gave up the paper.

Fun fact: this was a completely random adventure, originally created to eat a little time until everyone showed up, then expanded because no one could figure out why the guy was talking in questions...

Supernatural: A creature, ghost, demon, or human with supernatural abilities is on the prowl.
Double Trouble: There are two forces at work here.
Two Cryptids: A natural but unproven creature such as a chupacabra, skunk ape, or night panther. (In this case: a night panther, aka ABC, and the Lake Worth Monster)
Missing person: Someone is missing:
Paranormal: The victim is a supernatural creature; it may be good, redeemed, or the lesser of the evils. (The Night Panther, again)
Ritualist: The perpetrator practices the black arts. A master. (Virginia had a d12 in ritualism, though she hadn't done much black magic... yet.)
Why Accident: The antagonists didn’t mean for anything to happen. (The portal wasn't meant for the night panther)
Where Out of Town, in Dallas
All Hell Breaks Loose: Magic or Ritualism gone awry causes a dimensional rift. A number of creatures enter our world and run wild. (The Forth Worth Monster, and the portals causing High Strangeness!)

I don't know about anyone else, but this was a fun way to end - certainly silly! We'll start up next semester; in the meanwhile, prepare yourself for the Battle for Quern!