Venting Pyrokinetics

Our fourth and fifth in-game sessions of the 23rd Letter saw quite a lot of action! I’ll give a brief summary, and then talk about some of the rules that I think were interesting. I’ll put a * and a number on some rules I’m going to talk about at the end.

Everybody woke up in the morning after not having slept very well, and discovered that they had had similar dreams … after some discussion, they determined that maybe the baby’s mother was being held captive somewhere near the Gateway Arch and a McDonalds. Richard (the precog) had an inkling that something big was going to go down, and made a few preparations[*1]. Meanwhile, Vonbella (the telepath) was able to remotely connect to Poppy, the woman in their dreams and the presumed mother of the baby, and find out that she was going to be moved out of the city later today!

Richard (backed up by Jenny the detective) met up with Royal, the Cell’s command and control contact, and got some info that helped fill in some gaps: Poppy had been a double agent within a government Project, secretly working for the Network to help supply them with Psilence (a necessary drug to help reduce Stress). The group pieced together that she’d been compromised and had tried to escape but had been caught, succeeding only in smuggling out her baby (and hiding a stash of Psilence somewhere also). Just as Richard finished up chatting with Royal, Vonbella got an urgent telepathic message from Poppy – she was being moved now!

Luckily, it turned out that she was halfway between Richard/Jenny in one car and Vonbella/Bryce (the pyrokinetic) in another[*1]. Joy (the nurse) had decided to take the baby back to her apartment … thankfully! Both pairs got into their car and tried to use Poppy’s weak telepathic messages to help triangulate her position. They eventually caught up to the SUV that the agents were transporting her in, but by this stage they were all on the freeway and heading out of the city.

Bryce used his powers[*2] to burn out one of the tyres on the government vehicle, causing it pull over onto the shoulder. He and Vonbella pulled in front, and Jenny/Richard pulled in behind. Everyone put on on their clown masks and got ready to for action (well, Vonbella kinda cowered in her seat, but she was there!) (end of session 4)

Two armed and armoured soldiers got out of the vehicle and drew a bead on each car, while a third agent tried to radio for help. Bryce and Vonbella, despite their antagonism, worked together for the greater good by creating a Gestalt[*3] and using Vonbella’s telepathic powers to see through Poppy’s eyes and allow Bryce to target his pyrokinesis to superheat the soldiers’ weapons and the radio, causing everything to be dropped (although bullets were sprayed wildly). The attempt was successful, but given all the Stress that Bryce and Vonbella had, it caused Bryce to Vent[*4] creating a massive pyrokinetic explosion which destroyed the car they were sitting in and sent fiery debris flying across the freeway. Several cars crashed into each other on the other shoulder, and one went spinning wildly out of control and did several flips, killing everyone inside thankfully nobody was killed.[*1] The explosion was enough to kill one of the soldiers, and set a second one on fire. Jenny quickly finished off that one and the third with some skilled shooting, while Richard hustled up to the SUV and helped the heavily sedated Poppy back to Jenny’s car.

Bryce and Vonbella left their “car” (by this stage it was just the two seats they were sitting in, and a large, blackened crater) and hustled into Jenny’s car. They took off before backup could arrive, and found a safe spot to wait for Joy to come pick them up in her minivan–Richard took Jenny’s car and ditched it in the Missisippi, while Jenny reported it stolen, in an attempt to cover their trail.[*5] They got back to Joy’s apartment, fixed Poppy up with a saline drip to help her recover in bed, and that’s where we wrapped session 5.

OK, let’s look at the rules that helped this story move along.

1. Richard is a precog, which means when he wants to see the future, he makes a roll with his ability and each success gives him one ‘preparation’–a secret thing his character has done ahead of time, but that he as a player doesn’t have to think of until the action is actually happening. Richard’s player rolled 3 successes. Where did everyone get clown masks? That was one of his preparations. How come the bad guys were halfway between Richard/Jenny and Bryce/Vonbella? A second preparation (which in Richard’s case is part of his ‘things just happen the way they are meant to’ view on life). The third preparation went on saving the lives of the folks in the car that flipped: Richard had seen it coming and had called the cops to report *that* car stolen earlier that morning. Those poor folks had been hassled by the cops and never made it onto the freeway, but hey–at least they were still alive!

2. Bryce is a Major Pyrokinetic, with 2d12 in his Psychic Talent. However, he and Vonbella were both Stressed (mostly caused by each other!) – Bryce had 2 Stress and Vonbella had 3, so when he rolled to blow out the tyre, he had to roll 2d12 + 5d6 – 1d6 for each Stress in their shared pool: all psychics share their Stress pool when in close proximity. Luckly, he rolled 1 success and 1 bane, which was enough to blow out the tyre, but it also gave him another Stress (rolling a bane on a Psychic talent roll adds a Stress dice), bringing his total Stress up to 3 (and the shared pool to 6!)

3. Now Bryce and Vonbella are working together, they create a Gestalt – a unified effort to use both their powers in a single, combined psychic action. In this case, using Vonbella’s telepathy to view through Poppy’s eyes so that Bryce could easily see the guns and radio and superheat them. Vonbella is a Minor telepath with only 1d6 in her ability, but because the Stress pool is so high, she gets to roll an additional 6d6 and add those on. Each one has the chance of giving her a success, but of course, each one also has the chance of a bane … Bryce also has to roll 6d6 + his 2d12. After both players had rolled, they had 3 successes. They needed 1 success to heat 1 gun, and an extra 2 successes for the extra two targets, so they just made it! However, Bryce had rolled 3 banes, and rolling 2 banes (snake eyes!) on a Psychic Talent roll means that the Esper Vents!

4. What’s a Vent, you ask? Well, it’s those times when psychic stress builds up too much and explodes out of the Esper in a wild and uncontrolled fashion, wreaking havoc on the people and environment close by (but leaving the Esper intact, and now drained of Stress). Sometimes this is pure mental energy, and people around them might get nosebleeds, aneurysms, heart attacks … in Bryce’s case, it was a massive pyrokinetic explosion. To work out the size of the Vent, he adds on the additional Stress he just rolled (3) to the current Stress pool (6) and adding in his psychic power dice (2d12). So, he uses 2d12 + 9d6 to determine much damage is done – every success on that roll will do 1 damage to everything in close proximity! Bear in mind, 3 damage is usually enough to cause a critical injury, so this was a HUGE explosion! Luckily, because she was part of the Gestalt that resulted in the Vent, Vonbella is also unaffected by the explosion. However, the car was more or less vaporized, and the explosion rolled out in a huge fireball … one dice drops for every zone (10m), so there effects felt up to 100m away!

5. The Network Cell tracks a score called Heat, which is a measure of how much external observation and pressure there is on the group and their activities. The group’s Heat score went up by three over the course of this session, 1 for each crime they committed (the freeway shootings/explosion and then ditching a car in the river), and an extra 1 for the extravagance of the explosion–it was certainly newsworthy! The higher the Heat score, the more likely there will be some kind of external interference, in the form of police, feds or worse …

Anyway, we have one last session to do for our playtest, where we will wrap up the story line of Poppy and Baby Blue, and then have some Downtime–more on that in my next write up.

About AJ

Gamist: 14%, Simulationist: 29%, Narrativist: 57%. Ah, the irony.
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