Sunday, February 23, 2014

Bikini Shop Troubles & Commie Illithid Ninja

Ok, this is the long-awaited 3rd and final session of Encounter Critical.  For those keeping track, 1st session here, 2nd session here.

With a catch-all RPG that heeds no warning about genre boundary restrictions, as well as, pick and choose what you like from the thousands of books, movies, and tv shows that have ever been made, you've got a gonzo recipe for something disastrously awesome... or awesomely disastrous.  In a game like EC, there's no one looking over your shoulder telling you what to include, what to leave out, how far is too far, etc.  Similarly, there's no one to tell you, "Hey, look out for that oncoming truck!"

Not all gaming groups are alike.  Mine has had to deal with me for quite awhile.  For the most part, I'm fast, flexible, and willing to risk utter game collapse if it means the table might laugh instead of groan... or just walk out (no one's done that yet).

Anyway, I was getting to a point a paragraph or two ago.  What was it...?  Oh yeah, the dichotomy of too much and yet too little material.  When almost anything can be included, the creative center of the brain can feel overwhelmed.  Luckily, Joachim Heise tagged me in a post about a mysterious map of Illithid communists and Catholic schoolgirl shenanigans.  I felt like challenging myself to incorporate this weirdness into our EC game.  After all, why not?

A new player joined us!  I gave him the gist of what the party had been up to the last two sessions.  Shaking his head with laughter and bewilderment, he sat down to play a human warrior - practically unheard of in EC history.  Well, he rolled a human randomly and wanted a class that was easy to play.  Makes sense.  Luckily, everyone else convinced him to roll the maximum number of times on the Mutation Table.  His first roll was dwarfism or something that made him really short.  Think Tyrion from Game of Thrones.  His second was a birthmark entity (roll again to determine if good or evil).  A player joked about the angel/devil on his shoulder.  He rolled evil as I rambled on about Kuato from Total Recall.  His last mutation roll was the same frickin' thing!  So, we determined (yes, in a game like this most things are interpreted) that meant he did have a little part-of-himself creature on each shoulder.  Sure enough, that one turned out to be good.

Before the game, I tried my best to come up with a marriage between commie Illithids and what I thought was the lamest/best premise for an adventure.  Namely, Uncle Sal's Bikini Shop was in dire financial straights.  Unfair regulations were killing Sal's business and all because Senator Maximilian Deekstrung was forcing the Bikini Shop to go bankrupt so the Senator's son could buy it for a song.

So, the PCs traveled from the 17 headed serpent's lair - where they found a prisoner who was a human warrior midget (or little person, if you prefer).  There was talk by Lobstertron 500 (because now he was 5th level) about making this new PC his minion, sword shiner, or even slave.  Needless to say, this new addition to the party would have to prove his worth.

Along the way, they encountered a trio of Space Guild Assassins.  Didn't take too long before they were creatively dispatched.  Although, before they were all finished off, I said to myself that one of them should have a mutation of his own to make things more interesting.  Would you believe, I also rolled "Magic Birthmark Companion (50% odds of evil)!  And yes, I then rolled low enough to make the little sucker evil.  That birthmark thing had its own tiny laser which it blasted in the face of the NPC slave/hypnosis victim the party were using to do some of their dirty work.

But that was not the end.  After the little guy and the new guy saved against a fireball thrown by the itch magic finger of the Klengon Warlock, they determined the birthmark companion knew the bank account number of the dead Assassin he was attached to.  The Lobstertron 500 used his machine friend skill to turn his lightsaber into a laser scalpel.  The procedure was a complete success.  He went onto the shoulder of Sslash the lizard man criminal/bounty hunter who wielded a sun sword.  Throughout the adventure, his birthmark companion (complete with diminutive voice and Mexican accent) was outfitted with little cool extras like a laser eye, tiny ninja attire, and a couple strands of a Rambo-red bandanna to make his own badass fashion statement!

Before the session, I detailed Joachim's map, with a sentence or two for each room or area of interest.  Store rooms, guard rooms, a piranha spawning pool, worship room decorated with a giant wooden Cthulhu Jesus - two characters worshiped Cthulhu and pleaded with the Warlock to clone it and shrink it down so each could wear it around their neck.  Did I mention the Illithid ninja?  Yeah, there were a lot of those.  A few PCs took some damage, but healing is relatively easy.  Robodroid repair should have been as well, but Lobstertron 500 doesn't worry about bullshit like that.

And... that's how he got blown up.  This was towards the end of the session.  He failed his save, went down to negative hit points, and then failed his survival roll.  The lizardman rolled a zero one on his percentile roll for machine friend (which doubled as Robodroid repair, we assumed).  All fixed up and ready to use his mechanical lobster claws to destroy those who would oppose him.  BTW, there was a routine machine friend roll to transform his laser scalpel back into a lightsaber - natural 100.  Not only was his lightsaber permanently a laser scalpel, but it did 1d6 damage to him as he attempted to convert it back.  Those who play and Journey Master EC (along with similar games) live for the times when a critical success or failure occurs, respectively.  Those are the moments when making up shit is given carte-blanche, encouraged by the rest of the table, in fact!

Before the session ended, the PCs encountered a Unicorn Cyclops Shark (too much Mountain Dew or just enough?).  They were going to use monster friend and bypass it when I decided to become the laziest and most voyeuristic Journey Master ever as the Unicorn Cyclops Shark told them, in lieu of nothing, "Don't take my magical horn!"  The PCs, after a solid minute of laughter, couldn't chop that thing's horn off fast enough.  Turns out, it was basically a wand of purification.

After pulling the self-destruct levers on the Illithid base, they hopped into the psionic submarine and made for greener pastures.  Oops, almost forgot.  There was something cool looking on the map near the submarine.  I decided it was The Cursed Emerald Diamond of Zalula-katan!  Jon (playing the lizardman bounty hunter) asked if it was or just looked like the LOC-NAR from Heavy Metal.  How could I say no to that?  I mean, not only is it one of my favorite movies, but we were listening to the Heavy Metal soundtrack for Taarna's sake!  So, just like that, it became the LOC-NAR.  Without touching its glowing green sentient evil - "A green jewel they must possess." - they took it with them and promptly sold it for 100,000 gold credits.  After all, the Venusians say it has spiritual powers.

Even though we have no plans to play EC again in the near future, everyone wanted to know if they leveled.  "Sure."  I said, and then 10 minutes later they finished advancing their character.

[Sigh] Wow, that was a lot of stuff.  4 hours of gonzo gaming that pretty much felt like a scifi-fantasy-pulp choose your own adventure spliced with a post-apocalypse comic book with balls, penises, and vaginas penciled into the margins.  Adolescent fun, logistical nonsense, and a hilarious romp in the Romulan Champagne Room!

Lessons learned?  Hmmm... let's see.  My normal GMing attitude is "just go with the flow", but times that by 3 for RPGs like Encounter Critical.  Attune yourself to what the players are doing, thinking, feeling, expecting, dreading, etc.  Don't always cater to them; it's fun to have things go against the PCs.  Keep your interpretation hat on at all times.  As the GM, you'll be expected to have some kind of answer or make a swift ruling - but also feel free to ask the players what they think.  A few will volunteer something totally awesome - even if it doesn't benefit them.

Can this kind of "anything goes" be inserted into your current RPG du jour?  Is the new guy wearing Transformer pajamas (Deceptions, I rolled "evil") because one of the Space Guild Assassins was bringing it back as a gift for his son and you made your Happenstance roll?  Sure, why not?

Hope you enjoyed this half as much as we enjoyed playing it.