Pizza & Heroics & Muscled Digits

We played a new to us Lasers & Feelings hack this week, Pizza & Heroics by an unknown designer in which we play as teenaged superheroes out to protect our school and our town, Seacover. Our teens live in the same dorm together, which we all think is the teachers testing our ability to work as a team. We are Lotus, human avatar of the goddess Artemis; Elastin, a stretchy kid always reaching out to others; Maksim, whose super-powered fingers can knock down walls; Cybelle, the siren whose song controls plant-life; and SureShot, who can turn any object into a deadly weapon.

Pizza & Heroics Logo

Our story begins with us riding the bus on a field trip to Bumbershoot Labs, discussing whether the trip is worth our time. SureShot is flicking spitballs around the bus, generally cutting up, and treating it all as a lark, but Lotus is eager to enhance her bow at the weapons lab. Maksim also needs to visit the weapons lab to get his Squeeze Shockers repaired, but Cybelle is frustrated by still not having a costume our teachers approve of, the opera dresses she prefers impractical for hero-ing. She lashes out at Maksim when he pushes her too far, commanding vines to ensnare his entire head. Lotus talks them both down, and Elastin suggests she take Dramatic Posing 101 to learn how to wear her dresses better. Cut to the Labs, where two scientists are questioning the ethics of their super-serum and the real-world problems it could cause.

Once we arrive at the Labs, we split up, with SureShot roaming the facility to see what deadly objects he can find, including at the gift shop. Elastin and Cybele visit the fabrics division together (stretchy guys always have to worry about their pants) but mostly talk through her wigging out on the bus. Elastin recommends she try Dr. Richards, a wizard with materials, to see if he can help. In the weapons division, Maksim asks Lotus if she’ll keep him company while his shock gloves are worked on. He shares the story of being bullied in his childhood by a brute with massive thumbs, asking if she can help him hunt down and get revenge on this bully. While they debate whether that is a healthy path, they hear a scientist mention arch-villain Dr. Apocalypse and decide to follow to find out why. Maksim holds open the door the scientists disappeared through with his finger while Lotus gathers the rest of the group. Once we’re together, Elastin sends his ear into the room with the scientists and learns that they’re being compelled by Doc Apoc to create an ultra-concentrated version of their super-serum and that the villain is coming tonight to check on their progress. We decide to stick around and intervene.

Later, Dr. Apocalypse arrives accompanied by a group of street thug minions (his serum guinea pigs?) and a lieutenant with hypertrophied thumbs. They rendezvous with one of the scientists, who opens a secret lab behind his office to reveal injection vials full of untested and incomplete serum. Seeing a chance to destroy the vials before they’re finished, SureShot caroms a ball bearing off a wall into the rack the lieutenant is carrying across the lab, but Thumbie’s grip is so powerful the rack neither breaks nor falls. Cybele taunts him until he becomes so enraged that he uses two vials of the serum right there, one for each thumb, which immediately begin to grow even more massive, veins and muscles bulging. Seeing his old tormenter (for this is the same bully he knew as a child), Maksim freaks out and runs away, heading for the front door, so Lotus follows him, worried about his state of mind. Cybele calls forth thorns from the office lemon tree that go right into Thumbie’s thumbs, and SureShot grabs a couple of lemons to squeeze juice into the wounds. Elastin rolls into a ball and bounces past Thumbie into the lab, but Doc Apoc nonchalantly blasts him across the room and strides toward the door. Out in the atrium, where we have room to maneuver, Lotus catches up with and stops Maksim’s retreat. She and Cybele convince him that together, we can make a stand against even the most frightening of foes. Thumbie’s whole body is bulking up as the serum affects the rest of him, but Maksim knows how to defeat him and calls out our moves. Elastin wraps his legs around nearby pillars and his arms around Thumbie’s arms, and Cybele’s vines wrap about his legs, so he’s immobilized. Lotus and SureShot fire at him from a distance to keep him disoriented, and Maksim delivers the final blow, grabbing his face with both hands and delivering a double-shock that fells him.

While we’ve been busy taking down his lieutenant, Dr. Apocalypse has made off with a sample of the serum and scientific notes, but at least the scientists are safe and the serum incomplete. Later, we visit the Lab’s cafeteria for some well-deserved slices. Cybele shows off her new costume from Dr. Richard because, somehow, it looks wonderful but never gets in the way. Maksim suggests Lotus become a counselor for the way she helped him through his crisis, but he’s still a little dazed from the fight. When Cybele says, “that’s what friends are for”, he asks “we’re friends now?” Roll credits, play theme song.

Clash Atop Ikara

This week we played Clash at Ikara by Randy Lubin as a team of heroes in a land of honor and noble houses, determined to protect the mountain-top village of Ikara from raids by bandits with jump-jets that allow aerial assaults. Our group consists of the Sage, a retired elder long-sought out for his wisdom; the Charmer, a court diplomat here to secure the interests of his noble house; the Virtuoso, a taciturn gigantic warrior in a theater mask who clubs his way through life; the Veteran, a war-weary general who’s seen too many die on the field; the Untested Youth, the awe-struck child of a local farmer who we can’t dissuade from joining us; and the Returned, a dissolute ne’er-do-well native run out of Ikara hoping to earn the right to return by helping defend it from the bandits.

Knowing the bandits attacks are certain, we must prepare the village to fight them off. The Sage has said that if Ikara can withstand this assault, despite the bandit’s superior technology, it will show that order can overcome chaos. Knowing that the mists that roll across the mountain face make visibility poor, the Sage instructs the villagers in constructing decoy defenses to draw the bandits fire. He also discovers in the village records, a history of a unique missile weapon once used to clear the mountain of a particularly dangerous beast and where to find the long-lost store of these weapons, so the village can use them in the battle. The Veteran tries to fortify their perimeter and drill the locals in basic fighting techniques, and when a village elder starts to lose his nerve, he scares him straight with tales of the horrors he’s witnessed. He also encounters bandit scouts alongside the Youth, who is knocked to the ground and killed before the Veteran strikes down his foe. Never having encountered battle before, the Youth is frightened but hides his fear when the Veteran asks what he has learned.

The Charmer is here more to protect his family’s interest in the ancient meteorite embedded at the top of the cliff face. When someone suggests that it be prepared to create a landslide to use against the bandits, he convinces the villagers that it must be a last resort, though he cannot stop them from prepping it for use. He does convince them to prepare traps to negate or take advantage of the bandit’s flight abilities: covered pits that will collapse when they try to land and covered alleyways that they cannot fly out of. Meanwhile, the Returned returns to his old haunts, the gambling dens and bars, to drink away his fear, but in one of them he finds an old compatriot. This former rake has gone legit, married and settled down. He tells the Returned that he too could be more than he was before, could make something of himself, make himself a life here. The Virtuoso prepares for the battle, as all life is a battle to him, readying fires to light when the bandits arrive that will deprive them of sight and precious oxygen for their lungs and their jump-jets. For he has learned the most important information of all—how the bandits refuel their jump-jets between flights, and how to prevent them from refueling in the midst of battle.

At last, the day of the battle arrives and alarms sound throughout the village. We’re ready as the bandits come out of the sky. The Virtuoso lights his fires and crashes through swaths of bandits, taking out three at a time with each swing of his club. The Charmer uses his pit traps and blind alleys to ambush and take out many bandits. The Veteran general sees the moment when the releases the meteorite will create the greatest advantage for the village, and doesn’t hesitate to start the landslide. The Sage is the first of us to fall, cut down while freeing a group of young taken prisoner by the bandits, willing to sacrifice his few remaining years for their many. The Youth chases a group of bandits into the village temple to find them preparing to destroy it with the fuel cells for their jump-jets. Without thinking, he engages with them, striking one or two down before the others run out. Seeing the bomb they’ve left behind, he grabs it and follows them, but dies when the bomb explodes in his hands after escaping the temple. Finally, the Returned enters the fray when he sees his friend endangered, but he’s cut down while saving him. He dies thanking his friend for this chance to be good for once and to do something noble.

Through our combined efforts, the village of Ikara is saved, and the bandits decimated, their power and organization dispersed. The Veteran must mourn once more for those who’ve died while he lived, in particular the idealistic Sage and naive Youth. He spends the remainder of his years putting the honor he’s accumulated on the battlefield to promote the Sage’s ideas about resilience and peace. The Charmer must return to his court and explain why the meteorite of Ikara is no more. He tells the story of the battle as a signal of his family’s strength, when even the smallest of their villages can repel such powerful invaders. This lets him keep his life and to remain at court, but he loses prestige and the esteem of his family. The Virtuoso disappears back to wherever he came from, oft-remembered by the people of Ikara but spoken of only in hushed tones.

A Clown Venture

We played Venture by Riley Rethal this week, but placed our troop of adventurers in the early twentieth century. We are the quiet rogue, Shadowblade, who values freedom above all else; Ember Suzudz, a soothing and compassionate cleric who definitely will not be sacrificing herself for you; the unarmed fighter, Calvina, who fights to protect the weak; Zizzo the clown who entertains by inciting joy; and Menalania, a good-natured, cheerful wizard whose magic is very enchanting.

Our story begins with Menalania meeting with Zizzo after a show, asking him why he pretends those mishaps are part of the act when we both know that his magic makes it happen. Zizzo complains that these things just happen, that he can’t control them. Menalania chides him for never seeking any training to better control his powers, and she suggests he needs to find himself a wizard to train with. Now, if he only knew a wizard….

While walking through town, Calvina and Shadowblade encounter a group of thugs roughing someone up, probably a mugging gone wrong. Calvina dances around and taunts them, relishing the opportunity to fight, which takes Shadowblade aback, but he manages to get the victim to safety. Later at the temple, Ember sees all the injuries on Calvina and insists on performing the healing rites. Zizzo comes to Menalania asking why she’s been avoiding him, and she admits she doesn’t know how to teach someone to do magic. They discuss how she learned, and the exercises that her mentor would have her perform, but how to do that with magic that causes mishaps to befall people? Calvina recommends a magically imbued straw-man, like they use in martial training.

As we make the straw-man at the temple, Shadowblade keeps having bad things happen to him: an impossible water balloon falls from the sky, slipping and falling, and mouse running up his trousers. He decides to slip away before things get worse; he hates drawing that sort of attention. Prompted by Calvina, Menalania animates the straw-man, which seems to suffice to activate his power, as a fish emerges from a bucket of water and interrupts the straw-man’s attack. They keep at it for some time, but Zizzo never makes the bucket do exactly what he wants. Calvina and Menalania conduct an experiment, in which one boos a Zizzo performance while the other cheers. Each time, no matter which of them it is, some mishap befalls the heckler: a heretofore unseen monkey jumping at her face or a rubber chicken falling on her head. It seems Zizzo’s magic protects him, non-lethally, from the ill-intentioned. He’s taken his first steps into a wider world.