For the Secrets of Quail City

At the other table, we played For this Ungrateful City by Alexi Sargeant and Cloven Pine Games. We are the City Watch: indestructible Rollbar, refracted light artist Lux et Partiis, cold-powered Captain Winter, and people-powered paragon Echelon. The leaders of Quail City have called upon us to deal with a rising threat: supervillain Solstice has built a machine that fills the city with mind-control fog, encouraging the residents’ worst and most violent impulses.

Lux (a.k.a. George Harvey) has only come to town recently, but finds inspiration in the city’s breadth of culture and street artists. The city’s leaders have tasked him with restoring the old clock tower, with the help of his old-money friend Norman. He takes note of the residents’ civic pride that drives people to get involved, and its flip side, the cruelty reserved for people who are seen as taking advantage of the city. While many locals believe that Norman is one of these advantage-takers and that his kindness is a front, George knows that Norman’s enthusiasm for the common people is genuine.

Captain Winter is a scientist who gained his powers in a lab accident while trying to solve global warming, and rose to prominence after freezing the getaway car of some mobsters who were robbing a bank. He longs to be a hero and do anything to help the city, which inspires him with its sense of community and different groups of people working together. His faith in people recently inspired him to forgive an enemy, seeing their potential for good. While his powers are so strong that he could easily condemn the city to endless winter, the Captain is optimistic that the city will continue to appreciate his help.

Echelon, generally recognized as the leader of the City Watch, is widely renowned for his seemingly infinite skills and expertise. What most people don’t know is that he draws his knowledge from all the people around him, and in fact moved to this large city in order to have more people to draw power from. While the people love him, and have built a statue in his honor, the city’s political leaders and law enforcement dislike vigilantes and feel threatened by his popularity. Thanks to his powers, Echelon knows that the chief of police is Solstice’s son, and she plans to use her machine to make her son look like a hero by creating more crime in the city. Echelon respects Solstice’s brilliance, and is tempted by her offer to trade information on other criminals in exchange for staying out of her way.

Rollbar (a.k.a. Finley Holland) honed their powers of strength and durability in the underground fighting scene before joining the City Watch. After years of homelessness as a teen and young adult, during which they saw a friend die without any help, Rollbar feels they’ve seen the worst the city has to offer, and they’re skeptical of the vastly different treatment available to a member of the City Watch. Nevertheless, they’ve made a promise that if the city is in danger, they will be the last to leave. They don’t trust Lux, a newcomer who’s always skulking around and doesn’t want to be associated with the Watch. The fog machine frightens them, but they put on a brave face because the people need to believe it will be okay.

Finally, Solstice’s machine goes haywire, and all hell breaks loose in Quail City. Lux heads downtown to protect small businesses and people who need help, while Captain Winter goes to his lab in search of a scientific solution. Rollbar is relieved to have something they can fight, so they grab a sledgehammer and go with Echelon to the planetarium, where Solstice’s machine is hidden. Solstice pleads with the heroes not to destroy her machine, and plays on Rollbar’s resentment, asking why they should save a city that never cared about them. While Rollbar hesitates, we see George walking around downtown; in all the chaos, he didn’t have time to put on his usual disguise.

Back at the lab, Captain Winter has found the cure, which must be distributed via Solstice’s machine. He rushes to the planetarium, where Rollbar has shaken off Solstice’s influence and is about to destroy the machine with a sledgehammer. Just in time, the Captain freezes Rollbar mid-swing. Echelon, affected by all the emotions running wild in the city, lets slip that he’s known about Solstice’s machine for a long time, but was letting her run it without interference. Now that she’s out of control, she must be stopped by any means necessary, so Echelon starts brutally attacking the villain. Captain Winter dodges through their fight to get to the machine, where he plugs in the can of cure and reprograms the machine. A blue cloud rolls out over the city.

Downtown, George sees the city residents calm down and return to normal, wondering at the unusual fog that has turned to snow in the summer. He sneaks away before anyone can see him out of his disguise. Once the people of the city calm down, Echelon does too; he’s beaten and badly injured Solstice, but stops just in time to avoid killing her. The police chief is upset by what’s happened to his mom and throws us all in jail. Fortunately, before too long, Norman makes friends with the police chief, who sets us free and thanks us for saving the city.

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