Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Strange - Eschatology Code - Epic 100th Blog Post!


More Awesomeness Than You Can Handle


This blog entry is fan-damn-tastic for two reasons:

First, it's my 100th entry since starting up the blog this past January.  100!  Initially I was just looking for a home for the adventure summaries that I write after every game.  More importantly I was searching for a way to share my post-game summaries with the players in my games.  But when I noticed that other folks would check out the summaries, complete strangers actually, I got excited and started putting more effort into the posts.  

So for those of you out there who have been reading this blog, thank you!  I really enjoy reading game summaries from other GM's, and have picked up some cool tricks and ideas over the years.  I can only hope that I've managed to give a few of you something, even just a tidbit that you can share at your own table!  

So the second reason this entry is great is because it comes right around the anniversary of successful Kickstarter of The Strange.  If you remember, this time last year many of us were watching Monte Cook Games' Kickstarter for The Strange finish up its last few days.  In the time since, I've had a chance to playtest the game, both as a player and a GM, meet new Cypher System fans, and even spend some time chatting with the creators at Gen Con 2014!


Obligatory scene of me meeting the circle of awesome: Shanna, Monte, and Bruce!

What better way to celebrate my 100th blog post than by playing The Strange?  

So over the last few weeks I started recruiting players for a run at Eschatology Code by Bruce Cordell.  I had the opportunity to run this adventure twice at Gen Con, and if you read my Once Upon a Gen Con blog post you'll remember that one of the sessions still stands today as one of my favorite games as a GM, creating one of my best memories from those four days.  But since Eschatology Code wasn't released to the general public, I wasn't able to share any details of the adventure.  

Until now!

Last month Monte Cook Games released Eschatology Code on their website, so now anyone could download the gaming goodness for their own table!  Immediately I started looking for a crack team of players to run through this adventure, and put the call out on Facebook.  While I've played a lot of The Strange online, I wanted to play this adventure in person.  Also, as a member of the MCG Asset Team, I wanted to share The Strange with some new players, and was thrilled that I wrangled four (Emily, Jeremy, Bobbie, and Ethan).  Along with two of my Cypher Veterans (MCGeniuses) Andy and Jen, we were going to have a great time!  


Andy, Bobbie, and Ethan planning

Cast of Characters


  • Jonny "Flip" McDaniel, a Graceful Paradox who Solves Mysteries, played by Emily
  • Jacqueline Dingo, a Skeptical Spinner who Solves Mysteries, played by Jen
  • Arlo Coulton, a Sharp-Eyed Vector who Is Licensed to Carry, played by Jeremy
  • Chuck Lannigan, a Stealthy Spinner who Operates Undercover, played by Andy
  • Vanessa Torgue, a Tough Vector who Wields Two Weapons at Once, played by Bobbie
  • Dr. Sybil Holloway, a Lucky Paradox who Conducts Weird Science, played by Ethan



Adventure Summary


<SPOILER WARNING>

If you've never played Eschatology Code, but believe that you may in the future, please do not read any further.  This is one of those adventures that you need to experience! 

*     *     *

Okay, one last and final note before the summary starts.  Promise!

You are going to have to bare with me on this report - last night's game was crazy.  CRAZY!  At the beginning of the session I laid out all the cards on the table: my one session from Gen Con was so incredible that it would be very hard to come up with a more entertaining game, or that we'd have the same kind of outlandish hijinks.  Well for Emily, Jen, Jeremy, Andy, Bobbie, and Ethan my statement led to a full on "CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!"  Nothing about last night was what I expected, and it all happened so flipping fast that trying to keep track of the story was extremely difficult.  

But here goes…

*     *     *

Six agents of the Estate, a secret organization that monitors and defends Earth from the threats of the Strange and all its phenomena, were in flight from Seattle, Washington to Sioux Falls, South Dakota to investigate weird and unusual circumstances surrounding Father Foss of the All Souls Church of Deliverance.  The pastor had been performing miracles that would be impossible without the influence of the Strange or powers generated from other recursions.  The Estate feared that Father Foss had somehow come into possession of a quantum computer, capable of creating dangerous connections to the Strange and possibly allowing planetovores access to the Earth.  Further incriminating the good pastor, the September Project, a front for the Betrayer of Ardeyn, sold the War Code super soldier program to the All Souls Church of Deliverance.  This program provided special glasses that would grant users incredible abilities typically unavailable to those on Earth who were not already quickened to the dark energy network of the Strange.  

The flight was going well, drinks had been served and the flight attendants were collecting trash with just a half hour left in the trip.  That's when events started to devolve for the Estate Agents.  Vanessa and Jonny were looking outside the aircraft when they saw a single, hair covered "gremlin" on the wing tearing at the materials.  Vanessa told the rest of the team about what was going on, but noticed that Arlo was missing… apparently to the call of nature.  Dr. Sybil was confident she could deal with the threat, and Chuck believed that the captain needed to be notified.  While the stealthy spinner moved forward in the airplane's cabin, Dr. Sybil used her "shatter" revision to blast a piece of the aircraft's broken cord in the gremlin's face.  This bothered the gremlin, but didn't seem to stop him.

Unfortunately, using the revision power alerted two allies of gremlin that were already onboard the aircraft.  A pair of sunglasses wearing gentlemen, one in front of the party and one in the back stood up in a threatening manner.  Arlo had just passed Chuck after using the facilities and using his ability to find a flaw noticed that the glasses were war code enabled.  

These were SUPER SOLDIERS!

Jackie Dingo immediately stood up and pulled her bull whip.  She successfully slapped the glasses off of the face of one of the super soldiers, allowing Jonny, who was climbing across the rows toward the threat, the opportunity to start wrestling for the device.  Jackie would've further assisted Jonny but was tackled by a passenger who thought she was a terrorist.  Chuck managed to get into the cockpit and started telling the captain to land the plane, but the captain wasn't sure if he could land any sooner than the thirty minutes that it would take to get to Sioux Falls.  The threats would have to be dealt with in the air.  

When one of the super soldiers tried to blast Dr. Sybil with a bolt of lightning, Arlo realized that the threats needed to be neutralized through any means necessary.  For Arlo that meant guns.  The sharp-eyed vector pulled his pistol and shot the nearest threat in the head but missed the second.  Vanessa pulled her pair of batons and chose her first target: the stinky bystander that had tackled Jackie.  She knocked the man out with two hits and then turned towards the second super soldier.  Between the screaming passengers, who were still intervening with the Estate Agents, and the gremlin's activities outside, things were getting dicey on the 737.  As retaliation for Dr. Sybil's shatter attacks the gremlin pulled off one of the aircraft's flaps and started to ram the windows on the side of the plane.  Arlo pointed his gun at the head of the captain (no s##t!) and commanded him to bank the plane, but that didn't seem to have an affect on the supernatural creature.

Jackie, Vanessa, and Dr. Sybil were dealing with the last war code empowered super soldier face to face which allowed Chuck to sneak up behind the crazy spell caster.   Using sleight of hand, the stealthy spinner pulled the glasses from the man's face, and given the wounds he had already received he fell over dead.  

This left the incredibly dangerous gremlin who was ramming the side of the plane.  Jonny summoned forth the revision called "exception" and started to bend the laws of reality outside the aircraft.  When the first bird strike hit the gremlin, it was moderately perturbed.  When the seventh impaled his chest, the gremlin fell over and de-rezzed.  Chalk one up to exceptionally summoned crows!  

When the plane landed the team had a lot of explaining to do to the FBI.  Luckily they called an Estate "fixer", and between the reports of the team's two spinners, and a call from command, the FBI backed off and allowed the team to move on to the rest of their mission.  There was a church to infiltrate, and materials found in the super soldiers' carry on bags clearly connected them to Father Foss and the All Souls Church of Deliverance.

After a short jaunt in their rental mini-van, the team set up shop at the most well-equipped base of operations available to the Estate:  a Holiday Inn Express.  Taking up three rooms on the second floor, the agents settled in for a short lunch while Dr. Sybil took one of the sets of glasses apart and derived its abilities.  The war glasses would enable an ordinary person some pretty incredible "gifts", and even a quickened agent of the Estate could use the glasses to enhance their own powers and become more effective in combat.  The trade-off was that the user would be susceptible to the influences of the Betrayer.  

Father Foss still needed to be dealt with, and the party started to hatch a plan to infiltrate the All Souls Church of Deliverance.  

GM's Note:  Let me say now, this was the most convoluted plan that I've ever seen attempted in a role-playing game.  It also had the least room for error, which is why it failed so quickly requiring Andy to save the day.  We'll get to that in a second…

In a nutshell, here was the team's plan:

Jackie Dingo would masquerade as a nurse for a dying rich man who wanted to have last rites administered by the famous Father Foss.  Once the pastor would arrive at the site, Father Foss would be captured, questioned, and then someone would use Jonny's disguise hat cypher to take on the appearance of Father Foss and infiltrate the All Souls Church of Deliverance.  

Great plan right?

Here is how that very same plan fell apart:  

Jackie Dingo called and asked to speak with Father Foss, but stumbled when asked for her name.  She then stumbled again when asked about the name of the dying rich man and just managed to spout: Sir Georg Siegfried.  She made the dying man german, which would require accents and access to a language none of the agents spoke.  When Father Foss arrived, he found it strange that the dying rich man wanted to spend his last days in a Holiday Inn Express rather than a hospital, hospice center, or at home.  Jackie Dingo met Father Foss in the lobby, and answered that Sir Georg spent a lot of time traveling, which is why he wanted to die in that particular hotel.  Father Foss still went along with the request, but then brought three news teams claiming that he could possibly do something amazing to help the dying German, and wanted the miracle shared with the media.  When Father Foss, Jackie, and the three news teams went upstairs, they found Dr. Sybil standing outside of the hotel room, along with some hired muscle: both Arlo and Vanessa were standing outside and Vanessa insisted on having her police batons (a pair of tonfa) on display.  Dr. Sybil thanked Father Foss for arriving, and insisted that he go inside to meet Sir Georg by himself.  Vanessa then started "twirling the batons" in a rather uncomfortable fashion, which spooked Father Foss, causing him to back up and get lost in the crowd.  As Father Foss fled the Holiday Inn Express, he was followed back to the church by Chuck.  

Still hoping to get some attention, and maybe frame Father Foss for being a complete jerk by not seeing the dying man, Dr. Sybil allowed ABC news to come into the hotel room and meet "Sir Georg Siegfried."  Using Chuck's disguise kit, the party did a pretty great job making Jonny look like an old man.  Unfortunately, it would be Jonny's strange German accent and odd use of words that would change the story around…

… completely…

Jonny started by trying to speak broken english in a german accent, using german'sh words like "fazha" instead of father to try to make some kind of weird point.  When ABC news offered to put a translator on the phone, Jonny (who did not speak german) started quoting a german song he heard while pulling off his own glasses, saying fazha, and handing them to the reporter.  From this encounter ABC news started broadcasting that an ex-Nazi concentration camp guard was trying to meet Father Foss.  

The news team left and the mission would have been a bust, if Dr. Sybil hadn't received a text from the stealthy master of disguise Chuck Lannigan!  

Chuck was texting from inside the All Souls Church of Deliverance.  When he arrived at the church he started speaking with the media.  Apparently there was some kind of shindig going on inside the church, and from what Chuck could find out, there were at least fifty church members in attendance.  Chuck convinced the news that he was a member of the church, but that he was concerned about what was going on inside.  Chuck hinted at the church's motives being dangerous, and potentially cult-like, and agreed to sneak inside and possibly be an "inside man" for the KELOLand news, a local paper. 

The stealthy spinner was able to convince Sheila at the front door of the church that he was a member, and that she just didn't remember him.  Once allowed inside, Chuck partook in some casseroles and punch and did a quick case of the joint.  The parishioners were waiting for the end of the world, which according to Father Foss was supposed to happen that evening.  Father Foss was nowhere to be seen, however, as he was in the basement taking care of "arrangements."  The rest of the Estate team soon texted Chuck, telling him that they were outside with the rest of the media.  

A quick plan was tossed together using the disguise cypher.  Since Jackie Dingo had made contact with Father Foss directly, she could use the disguise cypher to make herself look and sound just like the pastor.  Jackie put the cypher on, and started proclaiming to all of the news journalists outside that he was the real Father Foss, and that an impostor attacked him at the local Holiday Inn Express and tried to take his place.  The news teams bought this, as did the church parishioners, who let Jackie and the rest of the Estate Agents into the building.  Jackie, as Father Foss, told the parishioners to leave the building so that she and her assistants could take care of the fake Father Foss in the basement.  The door to the church was closed and locked.  

It was time for a face-off!

Chuck had found the entrance to the basement, and told the rest of the party that the stairwell was actually a translation gate to Ardeyn, a fantasy recursion and home of the Betrayer.  Just walking down the steps would cause a person to translate into their Ardeyn form, and take on a new focus.  Once they were all ready for the change, the Estate Agents started walking down the steps into Father Foss' inner sanctum.  

Both Jackie Dingo and Dr. Sybil's forms changed into those of jackal headed Qephilim, a race native to Ardeyn with strange powers.  Arlo's gun was replaced with a bow, as he was now an amazing archer.  Chuck started channeling a mystical energy known as Sinfire.  Jonny turned entirely to stone, becoming a powerful golem.  Finally, for Vanessa nothing really changed except her clothes and her weapons, since Ardeyn was her home recursion.  

The chamber below was a temple in extraordinary flux.  One moment it was the basement of the All Souls Church of Deliverance - the next it was a temple sitting at the edge of the world overlooking a vast black sky.  Earth to Ardeyn, Ardeyn to Earth, the recursions were changing every few moments as the world was tearing itself apart.  At the center of the room was a giant machine, controlled by a war glasses wearing Father Foss, and behind both was a massive demonic form that everyone immediately recognized as the Betrayer!  In front of these were three gremlins that were slipping in and out of existence.  

The gremlins charged the party and attacked with claw and fist while the party started their assault.  Vanessa started twirling a pair of sabers, slicing and dicing at the smaller creatures before taking a charge at the Betrayer.  Father Foss remained a threat until his war glasses were ripped off of his face by Jackie's whip, and then fell to a combination of arrows and sinfire.  Arlo opened up with arrows also, but then switched over to a nasty radiation cypher that would incinerate two of the gremlins before the last would also get lit up by Chuck's sinfire.  

This left the Betrayer and the machine.  Using his ability to find a flaw, Arlo told the party that if the machine was destroyed, it would sever the connection to the Betrayer.  Jonny led the assault on the machine, opening with a corrosive explosion cypher while the rest of the team fired away.  But the Betrayer wasn't going to go down so easily, and began swinging a massive club at the party.  Each time he swung, multiple members were at risk of being battered, however this team of Estate Agents was far to clever to be struck by the hulking behemoth.  Focusing one last powerful blast in the form of an "exception" revision, Jonny destroyed the machine, thus severing the connection of the translation gate.

The Betrayer as banished from Earth!  


Quotes from the Table


Jeremy:  "I'm a sharp-eyed Vector…"

Ethan (whose character had been injured in training by Jeremy's):  "Not that sharp!"

I'm basically a dancing Benedict Cumberbatch! - Emily's translation of "Graceful Paradox who Solves Mysteries"

"Put zee glasses un." - Jonny pretending to be Sir Georg Siegfried, talking to ABC news.

"I just picture an obese middle aged girl with a Sailor Moon wig on." - Emily was trying to think about what would appeal most to Father Foss' singular tastes.  



The wife Jen, adorned in her "Qephilim Ears" tries spinning a tale



Our Thoughts


We had a great time running through this adventure last night, and I can't recommend this title enough, for either an experienced group of Estate Agents or to kick off a brand new campaign.  My favorite part about this adventure is that it opens with some fantastic action, but then becomes a sandbox adventure.  The players get to decide how to infiltrate the church, plan their own mission, and use everything at their disposal to take down Father Foss.  I've been through this adventure three times now, with three entirely different plans.  I'm sure if I ran it another dozen times, no two groups of Estate Agents would tackle the problem the same way.  

You can pick up Eschatology code either at DriveThruRPG or at Monte Cook Games' own website.  The adventure comes with six pre-generated characters - all you need is a copy of The Strange to play!  Get your copy now!