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The Phenomenal Phew

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  • The Phenomenal Phew

    The Phenomenal Phew

    3rd Edition Campaign, 10 Sessions


    Note: All players were new to table-top RPGs and many were only vaguely familiar with the superhero genre. As a result, many characters might seem to have been based in other genres. Although a long-time comic book enthusiast, I was a first-time GM as well as being new to tabletop RPGs. This made for an exciting ride, albeit with some sharp learning curves. Additionally, due to the players having little familiarity with comic books and my lack of naming creativity, many characters and locations are named in tribute or parody of comic lore. Kudos to those who recognize all of them.

    Pufflof: “Pufflof”

    Appearance: Child-size alien male with orange eyes and dark fur. He wears a costume with a full-coverage mask. Thus, he appears to be a child superhero rather than an alien. He has a voice that sounds like someone who inhaled helium, but uses a voice changer to make it sound normal.

    Capabilities: Immensely strong, has telekinesis, teleportation, ranged tactile sense, and a sonic screwdriver.

    Background: Pufflof was a chemist on the planet Taravangia. After destroying most of his planet in a lab experiment gone wrong, he fled to earth to escape the wrath of his surviving people. Distraught over the harm his experiments caused, he decides to try to make up for it on Earth.

    Player: Pufflof’s player is truly loves literature. An English major who reads tons of classics outside of class, he was extremely excited to put together a complex character.

    Donald Trump: “The Son of ENOS”

    Appearance: Generic-looking male of average height and build. Nearly impossible to pick out of a police line-up, melts into crowds, etc…

    Capabilities: Highly trained martial artist, possesses the Ring of ENOS, a unique ring which gives increased fighting ability, presence, invisibility, intangibility, teleportation, and the ability to shift appearance to look older/younger (but otherwise the same).

    Background: Virtually none. The player wanted the character to have received the ring in some way and to have the name Donald Trump (but to be a different person aside from the name). The rest of the backstory was left up to the GM (more in the session 5 notes).

    Player: The Son of ENOS’s player is an accounting major who loved min/maxing his character for the optimal point-cost reduction. Despite the lack of backstory and mish-mash of problematic powers, definitely not a “that guy.” Is always willing to give other players the spotlight or provide team support.

    Steve Tyranos: “The Phantom Menace”

    Appearance: Blond-haired, blue-eyed male in high-tech armor with a dark hood and cape.

    Capabilities: Telekinesis; telepathic terror; force lightning; ranged, radius, accurate mental sense limited to living beings; red lightsabers; biotech armor; and a tie fighter

    Background: An anti-hero who arrived on Earth when his ship, frozen in an icy comet, crash landed. Remembering little aside from having come from a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, he befriended Bob, a kindly archaeologist/explorer with a drinking/drug problem. Time in suspended animation made him less villainous, but still uses grimmer methods then some heroes would approve of.

    Player: As can probably be guessed, this player really likes Star Wars. Of all the players, he helped me grow as a GM the most through choosing the most unusual solutions possible. Additionally, his roleplaying and quips created some of the most derailing comedy I’ve seen.

    Kakarot: “Kakarot”

    Appearance: Humanoid with a monkey tail and incredibly spiky hair (which lights up when he fires lasers).

    Capabilities: Martial artist with super-strength, can fly at super speed, teleportation, can morph into an ape or a giant dragon (either are purely cosmetic), can heal by drawing energy from nearby plants/animals, has laser-beams, which can be charged to increase damage (at the cost of accuracy), has a prehensile tail.

    Background: Was sent to Earth from the planet Saiyan as a baby to conquer Earth. Due to a head injury upon landing, Kakarot forgot this and instead spent his childhood training in martial arts to be Earth’s protector. The head injury caused lasting damage to his mental faculties, producing rather poor judgment.

    Player: This player was probably the smartest person in the group. This made them roleplaying an incredibly dumb character very entertaining. Being new to rpgs, his character was strongly influenced by DBZ. His love of mischief and his legendary practical jokes IRL come through in character, but only occasionally.

    Emily Dazy: “Butterfly Princess”

    Appearance: A 5 year-old girl in a pink princess costume with fake butterfly wings. Consistently carries a stuffed unicorn dubbed “Angelisia Shiny-Hooves”

    Capabilities: Reality-warping psionic abilities limited mainly by the mentality of a 5 year-old. Shoots rainbow rays which can make people fall asleep, fires bubbles which burst and stick nearby targets to the ground, dances and showers areas with blinding glitter, projects bubbles as shields for allies, animates butterfly wings for flight, animates stuffed unicorn as minion, carries various toys which can be useful.

    Background: A young child who thinks life truly is all fun and games. Throws temper tantrums when taking too much damage, sometimes attacking teammates as a result. Can be scared by gritty, violent acts.

    Player: Butterfly Princess’s player is my wife IRL. As such, she occasionally knew more going into certain sessions than the other players did. This often took the form of realizing half-way through the session why I had been researching certain obscure topics. Additionally, her love of writing and acting rounded out the group nicely. She also gets the “player who gets the party back to the main plot” award.

    Avianna Gianno: “Most Marvelous Lady Finesse”

    Appearance: Attractive woman of Italian descent with green tights and a gold mask/cape.

    Capabilities: Acrobat, stage magician, knife-thrower, has a lion tamer’s whip, swallowable sword, juggles pins, and magician’s flares.

    Background: The child of two circus performers (an acrobat and a magician), Avianna traveled the world with the circus. Eventually, she decided to used the skills taught to her by her parents and other performers to have adventures of her own. She is very showy and enjoys the spotlight, but is a heroine in every sense of the word.

    Note: This is the second character for Butterfly Princess’s player, and thus does not appear for most of the campaign.

    Campaign Setting
    The majority of the campaign takes place in Paragon City, a city representing a sterling-silver age of America prosperity, Paragon City is a beacon of future hope, while having

    a comfortable "retro" feel. The setting is present day, technology such as cellphones being widely available, and so on. However, Paragon City has many parallels to the 1950’s, with printed newspapers being the major source of information for the man on the street. Additionally, darker villains, such as serial killers are almost unheard of. Thus, it is a brighter, softer game world than reality often proves to be.

    Being a silver-age style game, things such as the rule of cool are prevalent. Additionally, every player character was given a session which put their backstory in the spotlight. Any special requests they had prior to the session were included, even if it strained believability at certain points. These points are noted in the post-session notes (other inconsistencies can be attributed to my limited creativity as a GM).

    Throughout the session write-ups, some things will be in italics. This will note someone speaking out of character. Given how the group operates, many things would make little sense without including the OOC conversations. Additionally, every session will have notes at the end highlighting certain aspects of the story. These sessions took place almost a year before these write-ups. Each session will have the original date and GM notes and (hardly infallible) memory will provide most of the details.

    Session 1: FATAL Circumstances (10/27/2018)
    Players: Pufflof, Son of ENOS, Kakarot, and Butterfly Princess

    It’s a fine summer day in Paragon City. The annual seafood festival is underway in Patriot Park. Delicious smells fill the air as citizens happily go between various stands and displays. A fishing competition is starting at the pond sponsored by Walrus Man. Walrus Man is a mildly popular hero in Paragon City, but is often considered to be somewhat lame. Many passersby are sampling the fish and chips while more adventurous people seek out squid, fried gator, and other exotic treats.

    Butterfly Princess is enjoying running around the park while her inattentive mother tended a food stand. Kakarot, feeling extremely hungry, decides to obtain and devour some fried fillets. Pufflof and the Son of ENOS are hanging around the different points on the outskirts of the festival, enjoying the atmosphere, but keeping to themselves.

    Such an idyllic day in Paragon City can only tempt bored supervillains, however. Repetitive crashing noises disturb the peaceful setting, with the noises becoming progressively louder. A robot reaching around 30 ft. in height emerges from the foliage line at the edge of the park. The robot has arms with vise-shaped hands and a thick, cylindrical body and head. Aside from the gleaming chrome finish, the robot seems to have little effort put into cosmetic style. Lurching forward, its massive footfalls continue the previous crashing noises. A young boy cries in terror, trying to run away. The robot continues its journey, knocking over food stands and decorations. The young boy will be trampled withing moments. With no police around, people begin to panic. An awkwardly long pause occurs. No action is taken to help the child or stop the robot. Suddenly, Walrus Man rushes forward, shoving the boy out of the robot’s path. Turning to face the robot and striking a heroic pose, Walrus Man has no time to avoid the robot’s arm. Struck violently, Walrus Man is thrown back into a wall, clearly unconscious. Pedestrians begin to panic even more, declaring their need for a hero and clamoring for the police.

    A moment of “Ah, I think the party is supposed to fight the robot” goes around the table. Cue slow clap. Kakarot soars upward, almost a blur as he flies towards the robot, smashing into it with the force of a cannonball. The robot is rocked backwards, barely retaining its footing. A large dent has been smashed into the chassis of the robot. The Son of ENOS turns invisible and runs forward to one of the wrecked fish stands and begins gathering buckets of fish. In a brief flash, Pufflof teleports from his position far away from the battle and reappears several yards behind the robot. Reaching out with his telekinesis, he propels a concrete park bench at the electronic menace’s head. The robot moves with computerized precision, dodging the bench. Butterfly Princess flies in, showering the area with dazzling glitter. Both Kakarot and the robot have trouble seeing clearly through it.

    The whir of the robot’s motor gets louder as it swings a massive, alloyed arm at Pufflof. Pufflof grunts as the blow connects, clearly hurt by the attack. Kakarot gives the robot an uppercut, but the armor plating seems undamaged. The Son of ENOS charges at the robot invisibly, swinging the buckets to launch the slimy fish towards what appears to be the robot’s eyes. Between the fish and the glitter, the robot is nearly blind. Pufflof, fighting through the pain, uses his telekinesis to levitate more of the fish, spreading them out on the ground in a straight line between the robot and the lake. Butterfly Princess waves her hands, enveloping Pufflof in a protective bubble.

    The robot attempts to crush Butterfly Princess, but its arms fail wildly due to its hampered visual capacity, causing it to miss her completely. Kakarot flies into the robot, pushing it instead of striking it. The robot slides across the trail of slimy fish that Pufflof had made and splashes into the fishing pond. Sparks and thick plumes of smoke ascend from the robot, with loud crackling noises announcing the destruction of its circuits.

    The enemy was defeated, but many questions remained as to where it came from. Ever-curious pedestrians approached with caution. Police sirens in the distance announced the arrival of the authorities. Walrus Man was in need of medical attention, but not in critical condition. As the heroes were about to leave, a police car pulled up. A man with graying hair and a wrinkled forehead jumped out of the car. He wore a suit and tie. Addressing the heroes, he said: “Hello. I’m Inspector Bill Henderson of the Paragon City Police Department. I assume you had something to do with keeping this from spiraling too far out of control?” Hesitant nods around the table. “We appreciate the help. This type of high-tech crime is disturbing. A few days ago we had another odd occurrence. An engineer named Hugh Morgan was kidnapped from his workplace: Giffen Laboratories. You all did such a great job here, I’m sure you could help with that case too. Anyways, I need to take witness statements here and coordinate emergency services. See you around!”

    General discussion among party members decides to investigate Giffen Laboratories. Kakarot, however, did not get his seafood and got fish guts splattered on him. Kakarot flies around residential areas until he finds an outdoor pool to rinse off in. When the rest of the arrives at Giffen Laboratories, they see a broken window 7 floors up from the outside of the building. Deducing that this is likely where the kidnappers went, the party sneaks past the lobby secretary and heads to the 7th floor. Upon arriving, a fat man in a trenchcoat can be seen stomping around grumpily. A young, skinny man in a patrolman’s uniform is standing off to the side writing on a notepad. The grumpy man swaggers over to the party and says gruffly: “What’re you doin’ here? This is official police business.” Better adjusted to NPCs talking directly to them, the party is ready. Deciding that this stranger is going to be difficult to work with, they appoint the party member with the best interaction skills, the Son of ENOS to deal with him. The Son of ENOS said: “Who are you?” The grumpy man squinted his eyes: “Detective Harvey Burnstein, PCPD. Now why are you messing with my investigation?” The Son of ENOS smiled and apologized for the mistake, motioning for the team to leave. However, immediately after the party had rounded a corner, the Son of ENOS used his ring to make himself appear much older. Marching back to Detective Burnstein, he authoritatively declared that he was Donald Trump. However, he tried to convince the detective that he was the actual Donald Trump and was the commander-in-chief of the U.S. government rather than simply sharing the name. Amused smiles were prevalent around the table as an absurdly high deception bonus was complimented by an extremely high roll. Detective Burnstein sputtered apologetically and decided to take the rest of the day off. The Son of ENOS brings the rest of the team in.

    Kakarot, now cleansed of the fish guts, decides to fly to a nearby Comet Burger restaurant to satiate his hunger. Due to the unforeseen departure of Detective Burnstein, the skinny patrolman is now important. The skinny patrolman is still in the labs. When the party enters to investigate, he greets them with a young, overly-enthusiastic voice. “Hi, I’m Rookie Tom Norton. Anything I can help you folks with?” Pufflof answers: “We’re here to try to solve the kidnapping of… that guy who was kidnapped. That one police guy from the park sent us.” This raised some eyebrows, but none of the other players remembered the names, so they decided to just see how the rookie would respond. Rookie Norton was clearly unphased. Glad to have anyone besides Detective Burnstein to talk to, he gave what little helpful information he could, that Hugh Morgan had been kidnapped from that very lab room, quickly and easily. However, once he ran out of things to say that his new friends would care about, he began spouting a stream of inane babble. Butterfly Princess distracts him while the rest of the team examines the lab. The Son of ENOS finds marks on the wall outside the broken window. The marks are deep holes in the brick. The window has some blood on a jagged edge. Already being in a lab, Pufflof uses the equipment onhand to analyze the blood from the window. The group decides to see if the blood matches DNA samples in police files. Butterfly Princess asks Rookie Norton if he can check the police database about the blood sample. Rookie Norton has no idea how to do that, but calls the police station, who runs a quick check on Pufflof’s data. The police inform them that the DNA matches Arnold Smythe, a criminal with several prior convictions and known to hang out at the Merry Boozehall. The players want more information on the Merry Boozehall. They are amused to hear that it is known as a hive of scum and villainy.Kakarot arrives just in time to accompany the team to the bar.

    The group splits up inside the Merry Boozehall to try to find Arnold Smythe. Butterfly Princess and Puffloff have to talk their way inside (one is a child and the other looks like one, making entry to a bar difficult). The Son of ENOS and Kakarot ask the bartender about Smythe. They are pointed to a booth towards the back of the establishment. A man is at the booth who is clearly day drunk and has a bandage on his arm. He greets the players as new drinking buddies. After some questions, the man seems to be in no condition to help with anything, starting as clueless and becoming agitated as they continue to question him. After a short while his frustrations make him aggressive. The two heroes subdue him almost instantly. The Son of ENOS takes Smythe’s phone and reads the recent text messages. Finding mentions of a recent job and an address for the abandoned Wesker Textiles Factory, he concludes that they have found where Hugh Morgan is being held. Concerned that Smythe will warn his comrades that the heroes are coming, the Son of ENOS decides to use his car trunk to keep Smythe out of trouble. Groans and chuckles alike go around the table as the Son of ENOS decides to take all the money in Smythe’s wallet as well.Pufflof and Butterfly Princess, who have smooth-talked their way past the bouncer, find the handling of Smythe to be questionable, but decide to just go to Wesker Textiles.

    After arriving at the run-down factory for Wesker Textiles, the party decides to sneak in stealthily. They successfully infiltrate the main building without being detected. Once inside, they see numerous men in black uniforms with ski masks and flak jackets. Sophisticated rifles hang at the ready on straps for the men. Two men have no masks, jackets, or rifles. They are clearly cyborgs, having half of their head look robotic and the other look human. A scared man in a lab coat is tied to a folding chair in a corner. On the far side of the room, a half-finished robot can be seen. It is similar to the one in the park, but is considerably larger. All of the kidnappers are looking at a monitor screen. On the screen there is an elderly man with sinister eyes and a cruel voice berating them. After listening for a short while, it becomes apparent that the elderly man is chastising the kidnappers for the failed test of the robot from the seafood festival. He orders them to get the scientist to finish the upgraded version. The party is overall unsure of how to proceed. Pufflof, however, steps into the room and attacks.

    Pufflof uses his telekinesis on the rifles, yanking them upward and catching the necks of the kidnappers on the straps. They are held aloft by their weapons while they choke. A cyborg takes aim and fires a laser from his hand at Kakarot. The scorching blast dazes Kakarot. The Son of ENOS turns invisible, rushes to Hugh Morgan, and starts trying to remove Morgan’s bonds. Butterfly Princess fires a ray of rainbow-colored light at one of the cyborgs. It is stunned by the energized ray. Kakarot wants to fly to a cyborg and punch them, but is dazed. After asking what the dazed condition means, Kakarot asks how much his character weighs. The whole table performs the laugh/groan that is quickly becoming a staple of our group. After realizing that he weighs 400lbs, he uses his move action to teleport as high the ceiling over a cyborg. Kakarot disappears from the doorway and reappears high in the air over a cyborg. He crashes down, injuring the cyborg.

    A thug twists out of his rifle strap and pulls out an energy pistol. He fires a round into Pufflof’s chest. Pufflof is wounded. The cyborg that Kakarot attacked delivers a powerful jab to Kakarot’s side, but it doesn’t have any noticeable effect. Puffloff drops the other thugs that he was holding up and uses a telekinetic blast to incapacitate the thug who shot him. The Son of ENOS searches for something sharp to cut the hostage’s bonds. He finds a razor-sharp piece of scrap metal and uses it to free Hugh Morgan. The other two thugs open fire on Butterfly Princess, but unable to damage her due to her personal bubble shield. The stunned cyborg is unable to attack. Butterfly Princess again uses her rainbow ray on the cyborg, incapacitating him. Kakarot’s player asks how sturdy meeting point of flesh and metal on the cyborg’s face is. Cue everyone else looking slightly horrified. I sigh and say that logically it would only be as strong as the flesh side. Kakarot reaches towards the cyborg and rips the metal half of the face from the human half. Kakarot’s player asks if he can grab the cyborgs fist and ram it into the newly opened face to make the cyborg punch himself in the brain. More slightly horrified looks around the table. I facepalm, but since the cyborg is already beaten I agree that he can make the cyborg brain-punch himself. Pufflof’s player says: “Are… Are we the bad guys?” Butterfly Princess starts crying because the violence is too much for a 5 year-old.

    Pufflof propels one of the remaining thugs into a wall with enough force to knock him out. The Son of ENOS uses the metal shard to stab the remaining thug. The Son of ENOS’s player just shrugs at the inquisitive looks, knowing he’s not surpassing the previously demonstrated brutality. With all of the enemies down, the fight is over. The Son of ENOS becomes visible again.

    Before Hugh Morgan can thank the team, the monitor crackles to life. The elderly man has been watching the entire fight. “You meddling fools. I am Professor Fatal, founder of F.A.T.A.L. , the Faction Attempting Total Annihilation of Liberty. Your interference is only a minor inconvenience, but you still must die for it.” The monitor goes dark.

    Hugh Morgan is scared out of his mind after being kidnapped and witnessing such a violent rescue. He manages to thank the team and mumbles a bit about being forced to build a giant robot. Before much more can be said, however, reporters and police begin to enter, having been alerted by the commotion of the fight. The swarm of eager reporters ask the team what they are called. There’s an awkward silence. The players talk about some name ideas, but can’t think of anything that more than half of them like. All of the heroes fly or teleport away instead of answering the reporter’s questions.

    They meet at an old-fashioned diner for breakfast the following day. A newspaper is on a nearby table: the Paragon City Herald headline is “Walrus Man Saves Child From Giant Robot” by Kirk Brent. The players realize that reporters will have a hard time writing about them if they don’t communicate with the media.

    Session 1 Notes:

    This session had lots of growing pains for everyone. None of the players were remotely familiar with the rules and I had never run a game before. Some players had little frame of reference for a superhero game, falling back on their knowledge of other genres (such as a player who watched lots of anime violently executing a cyborg). In hindsight, I should have discussed the world with the players more before the first session and probably given a longer crash-course in the rules. Some story quirks were never fully realized. For instance, by the end of the campaign, it still hadn’t come out that Walrus Man was actually Kirk Brent, a newspaper reporter writing favorable articles about himself. Still, despite some shaky morals, the group was on the path to true heroism.

    Pushing the robot into the lake on a slide of fish guts threw me for a loop. The robot was intended to take up more of the session, but the creative thinking and teamwork was too good to not succeed (I'm also a huge fan of the goofy, light-hearted antics characteristic of silver age comics).

    Rookie Norton wasn't even supposed to get a name. Detective Burnstein was supposed to be difficult to work with, but reluctantly helpful. When the players immediately deep-sixed him, an unnamed NPC was used. Rookie Norton's overly-cheerful enthusiasm, incompetence, and fanboy admiration of the heroes developed him into the funnest NPC I've ever played. The players despised him, but also recognized how easy he was to use for any menial task.

    Lots of introductory stuff in this session. F.A.T.A.L. is the main source of opposition throughout the campaign, with Professor Fatal managing to threaten, taunt, or otherwise be antagonistic towards the party as the story progresses (with the party getting a big showdown in the finale session).
    Last edited by CoolTieGuy; 9th July 2019, 10:05 AM.