Saving the Day: Marvel Superheroes Roleplaying Campaign Update

After their dramatic rescue of all the people who were trapped in the Overton Warehouse fire, our little cadre of superheroes has become quite popular in Seatropolis. They’re treated as heroes, and the smear campaigns appear to be a thing of the past.

This is due not only to the dramatic rescue, but to the marketing savvy of one Sydney Malloy (aka Titanium), as she has started recording all of their costumed activities with suit-mounted cameras and releasing carefully edited videos on the Official Titanium social media channels. These first-person views into superhero exploits are quite popular, even if they haven’t yet recorded any battles with supervillains in the peaceful weeks after the warehouse fire.

The peaceful interlude ends when Menagerie sees what looks like an unconscious person lying on the ground where a section of the safety fencing around the ruined warehouse has been knocked down. When she investigates, she finds that the person isn’t unconscious, but dead — and it’s the mayor, who had gone missing a couple of months ago. There’s a note pinned to the body:

It seems the elixir merely kills most people, so I’m giving this one back. If you want to know what happened to your superhero friend, return to the scene of the crime. And in the meantime, enjoy the collapse of the school system! Signed, The White Shadow.

Menagerie notifies the police and then meets with Titanium and Phantom to discuss what they should do. The “elixir” is worrisome, but dismissed as something they can’t solve at the moment. The “collapse of the school system” thing is just odd and cryptic, and also dismissed. But they’ve been unable to find any trace of Cyclone since he was kidnapped by the Humanoids (aka “Squeaky Toys,” aka “Chew Toys”) several weeks ago, so they’re very interested in what “return to the scene of the crime” might mean.

Eventually, they decide that it must mean they’re expected to go back to where they last saw the supervillains: the parking garage where they escaped a previous ambush attempt. (This surprises the gamemaster, who was sure they’d identify “the crime” as the kidnapping of their friend and return to where that happened, and where he has planned an encounter. But it’s okay, because contingency plans are in place.)

Menagerie’s player, at this point, also remembers that she has the Telelocation power, which gives her the ability to locate any person she’s familiar with (or, with a higher difficulty level, locate a person by touching something that belongs to that person). She’s tried it before — when her friend Vince, the bassist and vocalist for the death metal band Gothmog, disappeared several months ago, and of course shortly after Aleksi, aka Cyclone, was kidnapped a few weeks ago — but with no success.

This time, when she tries to use Telelocation to locate Cyclone, Menagerie succeeds. And it appears that he is either in the parking garage where they last encountered the supervillains or in the building directly above it. So off they go…to what may well be another ambush, but if Cyclone is there, they can’t not go.

Going Into Action

It’s the weekend, so the school district building and the parking garage below it are locked and mostly deserted. There’s some debate about how to go about getting through the locked garage door without alerting their enemies or blundering straight into a trap, until Titanium remembers that the school district has a banquet room on the same underground level as the garage, and that it has a street-level entrance on the other side of the building. With Phantom’s ability to teleport, they’re able to open locked doors from the inside, so soon they’re in.

They stealthily descend the long stairway and peer into the dimly lit banquet room, only to find the far end of the room, which is quite dark, occupied by what looks like at least 20 of the rubbery Humanoid robots, packed in groups amongst tables and chairs. But the Humanoids stand motionless and don’t seem to notice them. Are they powered down? Asleep? Or merely resting and ready to spring into action?

Phantom uses her invisibility to stealthily creep up among the assembled Humanoids and verify — by their lack of reaction to her tripping over a chair in the dark — that they are in some kind of sleep/rest mode. Titanium gets very excited, because this is a perfect opportunity to see just how many robots her new equipment can take out. Menagerie is much less excited and argues against it, but Titanium insists.

Together, the three heroes run Titanium’s heat cable around more than half of the rubbery robots. Titanium triggers the heat. Within only a second or so, the cable glows red and starts catching tablecloths on fire. She turns on the powerful winch in her backpack, drawing the loop suddenly tight. An awful stench fills the air as the cable begins to melt through the Humanoids’ synthetic bodies, cutting one after another in half with a pop… pop… as the polymers give way to pressure and heat.

Reconnaissance

While Titanium runs her robot-slaying apparatus, Menagerie and Phantom begin doing some reconnaissance. Menagerie turns into a dragonfly, and Phantom, still invisible, stealthily opens the door to the underground parking garage. The two slip through, the dragonfly going left into the back of the cavernous garage and the phantom going forward to the kiosk and office. They take a few moments to survey the scene, and each quickly sees what is going on: a crew of villains is wiring the concrete pillars with explosives and is getting ready to connect them to a detonator.

The “enjoy the collapse of the school system” line in the White Shadow’s cryptic note is suddenly very literal.

The villains are a rather motley crew. Phantom and Menagerie instantly recognize two that they’ve seen before: Lizard and Beetle. A crew of Humanoids is carrying a heavy spool of wire from the back of the garage, trailing it from column to column as Beetle connects the explosives on each column to the wire. Lizard is standing at the back of the garage just watching the proceedings, too pea-brained to do much else.

Standing behind a pillar in the middle of the garage and watching the front entrance is another familiar figure: Boomerang, last seen careening out of sight on out-of-control rocket boots and screaming in pain after being stung by Menagerie as a tarantula hawk wasp. (Side note: As a kid in southern Utah, I saw these from time to time, and was always fascinated by their odd behavior and metallic coloring. If I’d known what they were, I might have been more wary.)

There are also two new villains. Only Phantom has ever seen them in person, but they’re recognizable to Menagerie from her detailed description: Formalist and Deconstructionist. Formalist is a bit taller, while Deconstructionist is stockier and more muscular. Both are masked and dressed in nearly identical body suits that are difficult to look at for long, as they keep shifting from white to black and points between, defeating the eye’s ability to get a fix on their color. Deconstructionist stands with a group of Humanoid bots near a nondescript, medium-sized box truck, which is parked next to the ticket kiosk and seems to have been the villains’ transportation. Formalist stands nearby, fiddling with what looks like a radio receiver sitting atop an array of batteries.

So it seems their anonymous adversary, the White Shadow, has got his old crew back together and given them new leadership. And they’re almost done setting up the demolition of the school district building.

To Menagerie, the two new villains in their color-shifting costumes both seem oddly familiar (the gamemaster had previously made a secret roll on Menagerie’s intuition). Something about their movement and mannerisms strikes a chord, but it’s not something she has time to ponder.

The Battle Begins!

At this moment, the double doors to the banquet room burst open, attracting the attention of everyone in the garage, hero and villain alike. The death throes of the doomed Humanoid robots in the banquet room have awakened their companions who hadn’t been ensnared, and Titanium has narrowly escaped being overwhelmed by superior numbers. She jams the leg of a broken table through the door handles, blocking the Humanoids inside…for the time being at least…and there’s a frozen tableau for a moment before everyone springs into action.

Formalist motions to Beetle and his Humanoid manual laborers to hurry up and deliver the wires, which is the invisible Phantom’s cue. The radio is jerked suddenly from beneath Formalist’s hand and then flies, as if self-propelled, to smash into the concrete wall of the garage and break into pieces.

Formalist is leading this villainous crew for a reason, and instantly realizes what’s happened. “It’s the invisible one!” he shouts.

However, he can’t use his previous tactic of stunning Phantom with a light burst, because he doesn’t want to stun his own team. Instead, he tries to move closer to the wall of the nearby office kiosk to protect his back, while Deconstructionist keeps his back to the panel van and sends his crew of Humanoid bots across the garage after Titanium.

Menagerie

Meanwhile, Menagerie changes into a tarantula hawk wasp and goes for Beetle, who is nearest to her, looking for a chink in his insectoid armor.

He perceives that he’s being buzzed by a flying insect and reflexively waves it away, which necessitates a series of delicate maneuvers on Menagerie’s part. Her wasp form is fragile, and it’s difficult to avoid getting inadvertently crushed by her armored target, who has begun shooting energy bolts at Titanium from his forearm gauntlets.

Titanium

After an “oh, crap” moment when everyone simultaneously stares at her loud entrance to the garage, Titanium uses her situational awareness power (an actual superpower, and very useful, despite its very modest potency) to determine that she can do the most good by moving to the back of the garage, drawing the enemy’s attention away from where her teammates are most likely to be.

Beetle and Boomerang are positioned in the middle of the garage, so that their ranged attacks can cover their fellow baddies. And in the shadows at the back of the garage, sulking in boredom (wiring a building with explosives isn’t something you’d trust to a psychotic rage-monster), is the Lizard.

Titanium’s focus instantly snaps to Lizard. She needs to distract Boomerang and Beetle — and provide a safe target for Lizard, who is physically powerful enough to seriously damage her teammates. She calls taunts at Lizard as she closes the distance, making sure that he focuses on her. She is really looking forward to a rematch, now that she has a hero toolkit with some ways to immobilize and maybe even damage him. And the more enemies that focus on her, the less her teammates will have to worry about.

Beetle hits her with several energy bolts, to no effect. But when she’s almost to the back of the parking garage, where Lizard is slavering and raging at her, she is abruptly slammed to the ground and pinned there by an invisible weight. It’s like a gigantic hand is pressing her to the floor. Her situational awareness, while accurate about the general lay of the land, isn’t powerful enough to warn her of an enemy’s hidden capabilities (a la Spiderman’s spider sense), so Boomerang was able to tag her with a previously undisclosed weapon: a “gravityrang,” which generates a localized gravity field of Incredible intensity.

Titanium is indestructible and has the strength of an Olympic athlete, but with 10 tons of force holding her to the ground, she can barely breathe, let alone move. Believing her to be out of the fight for good, Boomerang moves off and begins searching for another target.

Menagerie

Seeing Titanium go down, and having been unsuccessful in finding a place to sting Beetle, Menagerie changes tactics. She’s not worried about Titanium taking any damage, but a group of the Humanoid bots is charging toward her immobilized teammate, and she doesn’t want them to take another prisoner.

So she transforms into the most powerful thing she can imagine, at least that could fit inside a relatively low-ceilinged parking garage — an ankylosaurus — and charges out into the middle of the garage to meet them. The ankylosaurus tail club doesn’t do much damage to the squishy-resilient bodies of the Humanoids — but it does fling the rubbery nuisances to the far ends of the garage, away from her teammates and at least temporarily out of the fight.

Titanium

Meanwhile, the Lizard has seen his hated enemy, Titanium, turned into a perfectly immobile target. Rage takes over and he charges, hitting her with everything he’s got.

Rage and speed carry him straight through the gravity zone, even though it’s technically strong enough to pin him. He hits Titanium with his Amazingly powerful tail at a full run, hitting hard enough to rip her out of the gravity field and send her flying across the garage, taking chunks out of thick concrete ceiling beams along the way and making a crater in the concrete wall at the front end of the garage.

Titanium clambers out of the hero-shaped hole in the concrete a few seconds later, unharmed (of course). Her equipment isn’t so lucky. Her backpack got ripped off when she hit the ceiling, and its contents — batteries, heat cable, spool, motor — are strewn across the floor. One of her gauntlets is smashed, but the other seems functional, so she has at least two blasts of pepper spray she can still deploy, and a few of the dozen thermite spikes mounted on her belt have also survived.

It seems her idea of drawing the enemy’s attention has succeeded wildly. Almost every bad guy in the building is now focused on her. This is a bit of an “it’s working…oh, crap, it’s working!” moment. She may be invulnerable, but she’s not strong enough to stop three supervillains, plus a dozen robotic minions, from overwhelming her — and she’s in danger of being cornered.

Menagerie

After figuratively knocking the Humanoid squeaky-toys out of the park, Menagerie decides to direct her Monstrous intuition toward Formalist and Deconstructionist. The idea they they are somehow familiar has been nagging at her. And then it hits her. They seem so familiar because they are. She has known both of them for quite some time: Formalist and Deconstructionist are her friend Vince and her friend and teammate Aleksi (aka Cyclone).

Somehow, her two friends have been brainwashed or otherwise controlled into working for the enemy.

Formalist (aka Vince from the death metal band Gothmog) is currently getting hammered by Phantom, who is using her invisibility to charge him from unpredictable directions and repeatedly slam him into various immovable objects. He is standing despite having taken an amazing amount of punishment, but is stunned and reeling.

Deconstructionist, after sending his Humanoid robot squad out into the fray, has been standing frozen in place. He seems unsure of what to do. With the benefit of her intuition, Menagerie discerns that this is likely because his most effective power — disintegration — amounts to instant death if used against people, and he has always been wary, almost terrified, of inadvertently hurting someone with it. Whatever compulsion he is under is warring with his true nature, and he is standing frozen by indecision. Facing an enemy who could literally vaporize her should be frightening, but somehow she is absolutely certain that he will not use it against his erstwhile friends.

She wants to tell her companions what is happening, but there’s no effective way to do it in the chaos of battle. And she is still an ankylosaurus, which takes speech out of the equation. And would telling them do any good anyway? It might only prove a distraction. So instead, she reevaluates the situation and looks at what she should do next.

It seems that Titanium’s idea of attracting attention to herself has been a wild success. Beetle is flying on mechanical wings toward Titanium, closing the distance since his (her? its?) energy bolts have had no effect. Lizard is stalking toward Titanium, also. Boomerang has already thrown a couple more of his augmented boomerangs at Titanium — one that exploded on Titanium to no effect, followed by a bladed one, also to no effect — but has now been blocked by Beetle and Lizard and doesn’t have a clear shot. If there’s another gravity boomerang, it might be a problem, but Menagerie guesses that Boomerang wouldn’t throw it anyway, for fear of pinning his own teammates.

Menagerie doesn’t need to intervene there…probably. The only way the enemy can take Titanium out of the fight is to immobilize her, but they’re not likely to do it again, and they can’t really hurt her. But the Humanoids are regrouping, and Titanium can’t be expected to fight three supervillains plus a bunch of evil, spongy androids.

The bunch that she swatted to the back of the garage has joined with Beetle’s bunch, and as she watches, the two groups merge. Literally.

Instead of a dozen-plus, there is now one giant Humanoid with ten times the bulk — and a lot more strength — followed by three or four stragglers. It is clear that being immobilized and captured is the worst-case scenario for Titanium, and it is alarmingly close at hand. Menagerie cannot allow it to happen.

This is where being an ankylosaurus comes in handy. Menagerie positions herself between the Humanoids and Titanium… and… pow!

A swipe of her armored tail sends the supersized Humanoid chew toy flying backward to bounce off one of the support pillars with a thump that shakes dust from the ceiling. The stragglers, she simply ignores as they scrabble ineffectually at her armored sides. Easy peasy. And then she lumbers onward to go help Titanium, who is surrounded and fighting like mad.

Titanium

The villains are coming her way, and fast. And since Lizard has punted her into a corner of the garage, she is…well, cornered.

The wall is to her left, and to her right, a squad of Humanoids are closing in. To the front, Lizard is coming in hot at 12 o’clock and Beetle and Boomerang are coming in at 3. Titanium knows there’s not much she can do to the Humanoids, but figures she has a better than even chance against Lizard and Beetle. And she guesses that Boomerang won’t throw another “gravityrang” if she’s too close to his teammates.

So Titanium rushes straight at Beetle. A bit taken aback by the sudden rush, Beetle slows his flight and fires another energy bolt, forgetting that his previous shots had no effect. This lets Titanium get right up into his insectoid-armored grill — and she pumps a blast of pepper-spray right into it. The Beetle’s respirator isn’t equipped for complete chemical filtration, so in goes the concentrated oleoresin capsicum and down he goes. Ouch.

Now it’s a tricky dance to keep herself from being surrounded. She moves to put her back toward the wall and keep the Lizard between herself and Boomerang…

Then Deconstructionist (aka Aleksi, aka Cyclone) comes out of his trance, and all hell breaks loose.

All Hell Breaks Loose

Suddenly the parking garage is filled with the sound of shrieking winds, as a small tornado spins into existence around the Deconstructionist and lifts him into the air. He rides the spinning column of air, floating inside it with his head mere inches from the ceiling. The winds are so strong that they tip the cargo van onto two wheels, briefly threatening to topple it before pushing it aside, panels buckling and tires protesting.

The cyclone moves quickly, sucking the bruised and battered Formalist into its wind column and just barely missing the speedy Phantom, who dives out of the way just in time. It continues across the garage at incredible speed, sweeping up Beetle, Boomerang, Lizard, and a handful of Humanoid chew-toys as they converge on Titanium…and then Titanium gets swept up in the maelstrom, too.

It seems that Deconstructionist has decided discretion is the better part of valor, and that the entire team of supervillains is retreating with him whether they like it or not.

Whether they like it or not remains undetermined…but Titanium has been sucked into the cyclone with them, and the good guys are absolutely determined that the bad guys will not kidnap another one of their friends.

Menagerie runs as quickly as an ankylosaurus can go and interposes herself between the cyclone and the exit ramp. The garage door is closed, but she knows that’s no obstacle to her mind-controlled friend, who can vaporize it with a thought. She’s not sure what exactly she’s achieving by standing in the way, but she is still sure that he won’t vaporize her… And then the tornado passes right over her. Being an ankylosaurus, and as heavy and tough as a tank, the shrieking tornado can’t do much to her — but she can’t do anything to help her friend, either.

Meanwhile, Titanium is frantically working to help herself. After a moment of disequilibrium, she reorients herself and finds that she can at least control her own orientation relative to the twisting vortex she’s stuck in, although not where it takes her. Most of the supervillains haven’t fared so well. Beetle and Formalist are pretty much out of commission. Lizard is flailing and raging uselessly. Boomerang is very much conscious, but quite discombobulated. And Titanium has noticed a certain boomerang on his belt…the same size and color as the one she had no choice but to stare at while she was pinned to the floor by an intense gravity field.

She tries to grab Boomerang as he flies past, but fails. Once, twice, again…and then they’re flying right over top of ankylosaurus-Menagerie…and then, finally, she manages to grab Boomerang’s leg and hold on. She claws her way up to his belt, grabs the boomerang — and then realizes she has no idea how to activate the thing. Does it need activation? Or does it just have to hit something? She decides that her best course of action is to throw it at Deconstructionist, since the whole uncontrollable-whirlwind thing is his creation.

Titanium cocks back her arm to throw, but the boomerang catches the wind and is ripped from her hand. The boomerang is now a superpowered piece of detritus, whipping around in the tornado with them. And then, suddenly — she can’t see how — it triggers. Everyone hits the ground with a painful thud. The whirlwind continues for a few seconds, then sputters and stops.

The villainous plot has been foiled, and the supervillains are all trapped by one of their own weapons. But it’s not quite game over, because most of the Humanoid robot chew-toys are still active, and they’re converging on our heroes.

Stay tuned, because there’s more action and surprises to come.

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