Friday, February 12, 2010

Knights in Shining Power Armor, Part II

Earlier this week I talked about the structure for my power armor/classic fantasy mash-up adventure for Rifts and Chaos Earth, Knights in Shining Power Armor. A group of eight or so soldiers were given four suits of robotic power armor, giant shields and swords, and an assortment of upgrades to the armor that could be distributed as the players wished. The remaining players donned traditional armor and gear, and we were off to fight the monsters and save the captives. Check out Tuesday's post for the detailed setup, but that's the gist of it.

How It Went Down

As I recall, we had about eight players at the table. As many as four of them would be donning the famous Glitter Boy power armor, while the rest filled other roles. We took volunteers and soon had a group leader, a couple of scouts, a radio man, and some in-the-trenches fighters, ready to teach some bandits a lesson.

The next order of business was to figure out how to distribute the limited equipment and ammunition. This wrinkle was what I hoped would set the session apart from the typical generic convention game, and I was not disappointed. A while back one of the players wrote me an email saying that he wanted to run this scenario at a local convention, and asked to go over it with me. I was thrilled, of course, and sent him what I had. Through the course of the conversation, he told me, "One thing I loved about this scenario was the time we spent strategizing about how to allocate the equipment before we got to rolling the dice."

Yes! Home run! Exactly what I was hoping for.

Who Got What

The players did spend a great deal of time pouring over everyone's role, and exactly which armored suit should get what, and who should support whom, and in what roles. Ultimately, they came up with what I thought was a good plan.

The group's leader, good man that he was, took the Black Knight armor, without the benefit of optics, recoil suppression, or a Boom Gun. He took the sole set of jump jets and would wade into the enemy armed with a giant vibro-sword and shield.

The Crusader suit would act similarly, but would take Boom Gun without a recoil suppression system to use in an emergency. To use the weapon without the compensation of the recoil suppression was a dicy proposition.

The Squire was set up to be the group's stick-and-move heavy gunner, hanging back to provide artillery support with his Boom Gun and one of the precious recoil suppression systems, and using his greater speed to adjust positions quickly if needed.

I honestly expected the group to totally disregard the Old Man and his busted legs, but they surprised me. They opted to mount the hobbled armor on the back of their flatbed truck and tie the recoil suppression system to the vehicle's chassis, turning the power armor into a mobile gun, complete with the sole set of optics. This would prove to be a solid tactical move.

As for the Boom Gun ammunition, I put a dozen white poker chips on the table and had the players split it up, with each chip representing one devastating round. The Black Knight took two, and the rest were divided between the Squire and the Old Man.

Aside from the power armor pilots, we had a driver for the truck and a radio man riding shotgun, a sniper wielding the rifle with the targeting sight, and a scout armed with the scoped rifle and a dirt bike.

The Hunt

The group found the site of the battle and was able to do some tracking. They knew immediately from the corpses left on the field that they were dealing with a band of Orc raiders with at least some scrounged Mega-Damage equipment. It wasn't too difficult to follow their trail, despite the increasingly rocky terrain, as the bandits did not seem too concerned about anyone pursuing them. By the evening of the second day the group came to an unnatural formation in the side of a stony hillside.

The Fortress

The formation was more than unnatural. It was highly so. From a distance it didn't stand out, but the closer the group approached, the more obvious it became that the walls were too vertical, too smooth. They approached at what appeared to be the tip of a large wedge of stone protruding from the mountainside, its top level and running horizontally until it faded into the natural mountain. The structure was huge, standing over 100 feet tall. Some often-shaky climbing by the sniper, with the scout as his spotter, eventually revealed that the structure was similarly roofed in stone, save for a large, triangular opening in the middle. The entire structure was one huge, open area. The two soldiers observed a large number of stone domes far below, varying in size, each of which was apparently a hut for a family of Orcs. Their prey was discovered, but there was no sign of the captures villagers. What they did see, however, were a number of posts in the ground before a large stone altar. Definitely a bad sign.

Meanwhile, the rest of the group (the driver, the radio man, and the unarmored pilots of the Black Knight and the Old Man) had split up to investigate each outer wall of the fortress. With the help of their spotters on the roof, they were able to find cleverly-hidden openings through the thick stone walls and into the huge cavity beyond. Unfortunately, the doors were too small for the power armor to fit through.

The two soldiers on the roof kept their eye on the Orcs while the rest of the group armored up and strategized. They knew they would be outnumbered, but were equally certain of their advantages in both skill and firepower. A plan was devised, and the attack launched just before sundown.

The Battle

To make a long story longer, it was eventually discovered that the captives were being held in a number of the huts. While the Orc warriors were occupied in one of the larger structures in the camp, the scout and the sniper rappelled into the cavern and started going from hut to hut, rounding up the captives, nearly being killed by an elderly Orc woman in the process. The remaining soldiers then launched their attack and drew the Orc raiders outside and confronted them there. The Orcs had numbers on their side, but the good knights of River Town and Field Town had a solid plan and were winning the day, despite a strong showing by a set of animal totem-empowered Orc Shamans.

All was going well. The men on the inside were holding their own, desperately trying to hurry the terrified villager captives out another exit to make the rendezvous. Most of the Orc warriors were dead or scattered. The most powerful of the Orc Shamans had the group's fearless leader on the ropes until a perfectly-placed shot from the back of the flatbed truck by the Old Man found its mark in dramatic fashion. The battle was all but over and the day all but won, until...

The Dragon

If the players made one mistake, it was that they never really stopped to evaluate the overall picture presented when they arrived at this giant stone citadel seemingly grown from the mountainside. There was this inexplicably perfect structure, inside of which sat huts crafted from the very bedrock, plus a number of tall posts set before a large stone altar. I wouldn't have expected them to guess that a dragon with absolute control over the element of earth was behind it all, but they maybe shouldn't have been as shocked as they were.

Obviously an angry dragon changes the balance of a battle quite a bit. With his Orc worshipers all but destroyed, and his meal of human flesh escaping under the cover of rail gun fire, he didn't stick around for too long. By the end of the battle he had merely sent a clear message to the human interlopers, severely damaging a couple of the suits of power armor armor, burning alive several of the not-so-rescued captives, rending the scout in twain and carrying off the sniper as he withdrew.

All in all, you'd have to count the session a success. The group put together a winning strategy, and when a massive wrench was thrown in the works, stood tall and did what they could to roll with it. They were selfless, heroic, and did it all with style. What more could you ask from knights in shining armor?

Most importantly, the players had a blast and walked away smiling at their successes and laughing about their flubs. When you're only at the table together for four hours, never to adventure with the same group again, that's the very best kind of victory.

To Do It Over

Were I to run the game again, and I certainly expect that I will, I think that I'd like to run this as a dungeon crawl instead of the ol' fortress assault scenario. It would be pretty easy to present the player characters as either a band of adventurers or as questing knights errant and place them at the door to a mysterious system of giant caves in search of treasure and blessed experience points. It's another classic fantasy game that could be fun with a heavy dose of Rifts flavor.

Your Take

Love it? Hate it? How did I get this wrong? How would you run it? Always love to hear from the readers.


Grell said...

I really like the idea of limited parts for the armor. It turns a basic assault (or whatever else) into a question of risk vs. reward. I would've run it much the same way, maybe with different magic for the shamans though. Sounds like an awesome session!

Xar said...

Remember, kids. When rappelling down into a deep chamber, it's really better to roll low! 98 and 100 are just not advised.

And when you're one of two guys being attacked by a dragon in a relatively small space, attacking back will only make him mad. Instead, just run---and dodge like crazy. You'll still die, but it's much more entertaining for everyone.

Good times!

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