Saturday, May 14, 2016

Agents of The Estate - Project ESPER

A Strange Birthday

To celebrate my thirty-seventh birthday I told my family that all I really wanted was to play a role-playing game.  I've had a lot of ideas brewing, and this would give me an opportunity to test them out on some willing participants.  Using a vacation day, I spent the morning and early afternoon finalizing my Strange Cinematic Universe, and by evening I was ready to bring everyone to the table. 

This blog entry broken down into several sections.  

  • First, I'll cover ESPER's, the super heroes that exist in my campaign for The Strange.  
  • Second, you'll find an adventure outline for Pittsburgh Pulp, allowing you to run this very same adventure with your own Strange or Cypher System Super Heroes groups.  
  • Finally I give the summary of what happened at our table, along with some of the quotes.

Lawbreaker Serum

Following the events of my current Cypher System Fantasy meets The Strange campaign, there becomes a way for recursors from worlds other than Earth to retain their powers.  The Estate R&D division learned how to synthesize the power of the Baezedaar Bracers of Ardeyn  creating a special serum (in the form of a cypher) that grants users the ability to permanently retain  recursion laws while undergoing inapposite gate travel.  

Official Estate designation for the serum is LB-X3, which stands for "Legendary Baezedaar Experiment #3", however most agents refer to it as "Lawbreaker".  Typically when someone (or something) travels through an inapposite gate, they lose their native laws (magic, mad-science, super powers) in a few days.  But with the Lawbreaker, they can keep any powers and abilities as they travel from recursion to recursion.

Unfortunately, it didn't take the Estate long to learn that they weren't the first to figure out how to engineer Lawbreaker serum.  The shadowy Bradley Cooperative had access to a Baezedaar bracer, worn by the Dragon-God Rhilan.  They created their own serum, and the Estate believes it was released onto the black market to the most powerful criminal organizations in the world.

New Cypher:  LB-X3 or Lawbreaker Serum
  • Level:  1d6+3
    • Earth:  A vile of purple-tinged liquid, often delivered via syringe 
    • Arden:  A thin, ceramic replica of a Baezedaar Bracer
    • Ruk:  A canister filled with a purple jelly
  • Effect:  Lawbreaker Serum permanently grants the user the ability to retain their native recursion laws indefinitely.  World to world, recursion to recursion, their foci and any special abilities never fade.  This has the most effect for recursors traveling from recursions where super powers or godlike abilities are available.  Power shifts are covered under this effect as well.  A significant drawback to the Lawbreaker Serum is that it cannot be used by someone who is Quickened.  While the original Baezedaar Bracers granted anyone this power, it did so at the risk of alerting Planetovores to the Earth's presence.  The Lawbreaker Serum's power is more limited, and only works on those who have strong connections to their own home recursion.   


Faced with this new threat of wizards, dragons, super villains, and mad scientists coming to Earth to take up residence, the Estate decided to start recruiting super heroes.  This new division would be called E.S.P.E.R., or "Estate Supernatural Paranormal Extraordinary Ranger."  Lead Operative Katherine Manners placed star agent Lily "Dance Tank" Hayes (as played by +Darcy Ross in my second playtest of The Strange) as the new chief of ESPER.  Potential ESPER agents and operatives (often just called "ESPER's") were located in their home recursions, given the LB-X3 serum, and brought back to Earth.

ESPER's are specially trained and equipped to deal with the strongest threats that face the Earth.  While the program was created as a direct counter to other super-power wielding forces, ESPER's are often dispatched against threats traveling through inapposite gates, as they wield special abilities for a few days.

The Pittsburgh ESPER's

Our family created the following characters for this new adventure:

My wife Jennifer played Megara Parr, once a villain and now trying to become a hero.
  • Clever Speaker who Commands Mental Powers
  • Native to the Metroville recursion (The Incredibles)
  • Power Shifts:  Erase Memories 3, Spin Identity 2

Cooper, my five year old, played Ciron Man, his homage to "Iron Man," but with a letter "C" for "Cooper"
  • Swift Explorer who Fuses Flesh and Steel
  • Native to a Marvel recursion
  • Power Shifts:  Recovery Rolls 2, Melee Damage (Spiked Glove) 2, Ranged Damage (Palm Blaster) 2

Evie, nine, played Athena, the Greek Goddess of Wisdom
  • Noble Warrior who Carries a Quiver
  • Native to Mount Olympus
  • Power Shifts:  Ranged Damage (Athena's Bow) 2, Ranged Attack (Athena's Bow) 1, Armor 2

Finally Carrie, twelve, came up with The Doodler, a young girl who can bring art and animation to life
  • Creative Adept who Exists in Two Places at Once
  • Native to a Marvel recursion
  • Power Shifts:  Duplicate 3, Onslaught 2, 

Adventure Outline - Pittsburgh Pulp

I threw together a quick adventure for my wife and kids, so I thought I'd share the full adventure outline.  Feel free to expand on this skeleton and turn it into something much bigger for your own home game!  I may even give this a shot with a grownup group, or at a future convention.
  • The player characters are ESPER's, members of a special arm of the Estate
    • Recent ESPER recruits, have not been sent on a mission yet.
    • Working out of a small office park in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, just east of Pittsburgh.  
  • The ESPER's receive word from Chief Hayes that something terrible has happened at the Carnegie Science Center on Pittsburgh's North Side.
    • The call comes through very early in the morning, around 7am.
    • Chief Hayes says that a madman has taken over the Carnegie Science Center, along with a force of mechanized soldiers in some kind of weird power armor.  
    • The ESPER's are to travel to the Carnegie Science Center, clear the area of civilians, infiltrate, and bring the maniac to justice.  
    • The villain is needed for questioning, and is not to be killed.
    • The ESPER's are to operate undercover, and not openly reveal their abilities unless absolutely necessary.
  • Pittsburgh Traffic
    • Once the ESPER's get the information, they will find out that the road's are jammed.  Parkway East traffic is at a standstill due to activity around the city.  
    • Estate orders mean that the ESPER's will need to come up with creative ways to get to the other side of the Squirrel Hill Tunnels fast. 
    • Driving with a car is next to impossible, unless the ESPER's plan to drive through backroads at speeds that will most certainly be dangerous.
    • Getting to the Carnegie Science Center in less than an hour will be a level 5 driving difficulty, and a level 6 difficulty in less than a half hour. 
    • A similar test for evading the police will be necessary, at a level 6, should the half-hour attempt be made. 
      • GM Intrusion!  Flat tire, difficulty 3 repair skill to change.
  • Unwelcome Visitors of the Eleventh Reich
    • The Eleventh Reich is featured in Worlds Numberless and Strange
    • Doctor Walther Goering is a recursor from the Eleventh Reich who stumbled upon an inapposite gate connecting his home recursion with Heinz Field (where the Steelers play). 
      • For Doctor Goering I just reskinned the "Mystereon" from The Strange Bestiary.
      • Instead of Stealth at a level 6, Doctor Goering gets Mad Science at a level 7.
    • Along with a group of super soldiers, Doctor Goering traveled to Earth hoping to learn about any potential technological advances that could help the Fuhrer.  A "science center" seemed like the perfect place to start.
      • Doctor Goering's super soldiers have the following stats:
        • Level 4
        • Health 12
        • Speed Defense at Level 5
        • Armor 3
        • Long Range Machine Gun attack, 5 damage
        • These boosts are due to the War Walker artifacts each are wearing, from page 63 of Worlds Numberless and Strange
    • Dr. Goering is a mad scientist, capable of creating incredible pieces of pulp technology with limited resources.  He carried enough spare parts with him to build new equipment if necessary.  
    • After learning everything he could of this modern Earth at the science center, the Doctor planned to convert the USS Requin into a fully-functioning super-submarine.  Then he could make his escape!
  • Arrival at the Carnegie Science Center
    • A map to the Carnegie Science Center can be found here
    • 2 Nazi armored soldiers guard the front of the building, and 5 the are between the building and the U.S.S. Requin display.  
      • The U.S.S. Requin a previously functional World War 2 era submarine.
      • There is a lot of commotion happening inside of the submarine, and the 5 guards here are keeping a close eye on anyone approaching.
    • There will be a crowd on the eastern edge of the building, held back by a row of police cars.  
    • Several small boats are creeping towards the scene via as well, and the police do not notice.  If not dealt with quickly, machine gun fire will erupt from the 1st floor windows, shooting up the civilian boats.  
  • Entering the Carnegie Science Center
    • Doctor Goering is only interested in the 1st level of the science center right now, and has assembled a work space in the River View Cafe.
    • Doctor Goering is protected by 5 of his super soldiers.  At any time 2 are standing near him, and the other 3 patrol the 1st level.
      • GM Intrusion!  A custodian arrives on the scene inside the building, and starts up a conversation with the ESPER's, oblivious to what is going on, potentially blowing everyone's cover.
  • Chased!
    • If Doctor Goering believes that he is at risk of getting overtaken by either the ESPER's or the police, he will run to the Requin carrying a large case (with the help of two of his super soldiers).
    • Once inside the Requin, he unleashes the mad science fury, powering up the submarine.  The Requin is a Level 7 submarine, and will dive after 2 rounds.
      • GM Intrusion!  The submarine dives early, and a player character gets dragged under water.  
  • Reward!
    • If the player characters capture Doctor Goering alive they each receive 2 experience points.
    • If the player characters manage to capture Doctor Goering without giving away their own abilities they gain an additional experience point.  

Session Summary

Our local team of Pittsburgh based ESPER's were sent in to capture Dr. Goering and bring him back for questioning.  After braving Parkway East traffic, the team arrived at the scene and tried sneaking into the school bus entrance of the Carnegie Science Center.  The Doodler and Megara Parr made it past easily, but Athena and Ciron Man were stopped by the police, even after The Doodler created a pair of sentient pillows (her duplicate) to soften the cyborg's steps.  Megara tried sweet talking the cop, but he became infuriated and tried to arrest the Clever Speaker.  The Doodler was able to glue the police officer's hand to his cuffs, and the team ran inside the science center.

Once inside, the ESPER's found Dr. Goering working on a strange suitcase while laughing maniacally.  Although a nearby janitor, unaware of the situation, made shooting difficult, Megara Parr fired off some stun gas bullets, taking two of Dr. Goering's guards out of action temporarily.  Since they wanted the Dr. Alive, The Doodler convinced Althena to put an arrow in Dr. Goering's knee.  

Megara tried reasoning with Dr. Goering, asking him to come quietly for questioning.  The Doctor explained that he wanted to go to the submarine, but Megara kept him from doing so.  Everything was going fine until the psychic admitted that they weren't planning on killing the Nazi scientist.  Dr. Goering injected himself with a healing syringe and ran off.  Megara, accompanied by The Doodler's pillow-based alter ego, chased down Dr. Goering, and knocked him to the ground.

A firefight opened up, with Megara and the Doodler's duplicate getting blasted by power-armor clad soldiers.  Athena, Ciron Man, and The Doodler made short work of the ones inside the Carnegie Science Center, and by the time they joined Megara, the psychic had the situation under control.  Megara zapped Dr. Goering's mind and made him forget the entire incident.  She even implanted a memory, suggesting that he wanted to accompany the party back to headquarters.  

The team was almost done, but they stopped to let Dr. Goering hand off his briefcase.  One of the guards took the case and put it in the USS Requin, causing the submarine to gain power and speed off out of control towards the city of Pittsburgh!  Dr. Goering warned that if the sub impacted a building there would be a great explosion.  Quickly The Doodler drew some jump boots on her feet while Athena fired an arrow, tied off to a rope, at the sub.  The two heroes boarded the craft, and Athena used a shield cypher as a blade to destroy the briefcase powerplant.  


The Doodler:  "Bow and Arrow girl, let's go."
Athena:  "Excuse me?  Call me by my goddess name!"

"Aww, he's gonna take an arrow to the knee!"  - Carrie

"Take him down, Pillow Fort!" - Jen

"Have you met my buddy Ciron Man?  He takes care of those who shoot."  - Megara 

Carrie's gift to me, a portrait!

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