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Subject: Managuard - A sci-fi/fantasy game made up at the table rss

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Mark Buetow
United States
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Combat Commander Archivist
Move! Advance! Fire! Rout! Recover! Artillery Denied! Artillery Request! Command Confusion...say what?!
Four players: Susan, Josh, Jason, and Alex. We followed the setting creation rules from the Journey book: Picked a genre, set up some details, and then made characters. Here’s what we came up with:

A Sci-Fi/Fantasy hybrid where magic exists. Magical power (mana, magical energy) can be controlled by technology or by arcane skill. There is the *Managuard* which oversees and governs the use of magic by means of technology and works to prevent any magic use without the technology that can harness it. The Managuard is headed by a woman called Adelaide who is very, very young in appearance and perhaps has a limitless lifespan. The Managuard is opposed by the *Library,* (and refers to it as the “Collective”) the people who can use magic purely by understanding arcane arts and channeling power. They work to preserve its use without technology, training some to use and teaching others to use their innate connection the mana. The Library is headed by an ancient wizard, Matthew. There also exists the *Shenobi Guild,* an organization of ninja style thieves who profit from the activities of both the Managuard and the Library. Finally infrastructure is built by the reanimated dead! When people die, they are recycled by the Managuard into automatons that can perform labor functions.

Semi-recently it came to light that mana is a fixed resource. It is also learned the when a person dies, their departing life-force replenishes the pool of arcane energy. It turns out the Managuard knows this and not only keeps the life force in the reanimated workforce, but is also harnessing it when people die, so that they can gradually increase their own supply of this finite resource. A man known as the “Crazy Professor” attempted to reveal this secret for all to know, but got nowhere. He finally detonated himself in a magical explosion that caused chaos in the capital city of Narfal. He was instantly known as the *Necromartyr.* His actions led to a surge in individuals seeking out and supporting the work of the Library. Amidst the chaos, the Managuard seeks to block the Library’s activities.

Against this backdrop the characters were created:
Ms. Winona (Susan) the curious paper pusher, armed with her data tablet and her knowledge of having been in the offices of the Managuard.
Ellion (Josh) - the Shinobi Guild bodyguard, disgusted with the monopoly on magic held by the Managuard.
Dr. Albert Nostrand (Jason) - a telekinetic surgeon with limited physical ability.
Kade (Alex) - a Managuard operative affected by the Necromartyr’s display and now seeking to help the Library.

The characters met at the Tilted Tome, a bar, of course. Ordering the “Fizzy Tadpole” was the password. A man named Emmir approached them and led them to a secret office where he introduced himself as a high level Librarian. He interrogated them as to their motives and gave them a first mission: to infiltrate St. Thesia hospital and put the “death ward” mark on bodies in the morgue. The Death Ward is a rune which prevents the life force from being harvested from bodies that are dead, and enables the life force to dissipate immediately upon a living person’s death. The goal is to prevent the reanimation of the dead and thus renew the mana energy with life-forces. Before they go, each of them is asked to receive the Death ward. Winona declines because although she is against the Managuard’s activity, she is terrified of death.

At the hospital, Dr. Nostrand is able to begin putting the Death Ward on the 16 bodies in the morgue. Winona has set a loop on the security camera. When they get to body number 9, they recognize Callista Drsicoll, the daughter of one of the biggest tech corporation owners. No one has reported her missing but most strangely, she has no Death Ward, but no rich family would let their offspring become zombie workers! They are interrupted by a Managuard doctor and two operatives who have come to claim the bodies. Their doctor runs and is stunned. Kade fights with the hospital security guards; the doctor sends scalpels flying. Winona grabs the Managuard doctor’s data tablet and checks in after the fight is over. They are instructed to take “her” to “the location.” The make contact with Emmir via their pick up driver. He tells them they have to take the body to whatever location it was going and find out what’s going on.

After a supply stop handled by the Library, the van (which didn’t have room for all those bodies; seemingly only one important one) takes them far out of the city to a dead end road in the woods. Two Managuard operatives escort the party along a path and into a clearing. There sits a large stone table at the foot of three rows of conical stones that form the Death Ward rune writ large. As they wait, Ellion is off to the side in the forest, keeping an eye on things out of sight. A large sound of flapping and branches crashing nearby alerts him and then out of the woods and into the clearing walks a very young but feeble looking woman clothed in a black dress covered in glowing green lines. She touches her forehead to Calista’s, whose body is lying on the table. When she does, Dr. Nostrand can detect a pulse in the corpses life force. Not much longer and the whine of engines is heard. A well dressed man flanked by two bodyguards with rifles steps into the clearing: it’s “Mr. Driscoll.” The Managuard operatives shoo the characters back along the path until it curves slightly and they can’t see anything. It is apparent that a ritual of some sort is underway.

Kade grabs a rifle; a firefight breaks out. Dr. N sends needles into the other operative’s eyes! They finish hem off and make the Death Ward on their bodies. Ellion with some inexplicable hatred of Adelaide (for that’s who this woman is!) fires at her with his rifle. The two body guards run toward him in the woods but not before he tosses a pack of explosives toward the table. The blinding flash and explosion knock Adelaide and Driscoll to the ground but they get up and the fight is on. Ellion makes it up into a tree and is trading fire with the bodyguards; Kade arrives and kills one; Ellion kills the other. He also takes some shots at Adelaide. Winona is on the horn with Emmir who, at the mention of Driscoll and Adelaide meeting wonders whether the rumor of “The Diode” is true. They are instructed to find “The Diode.”

Adelaide is under attack; Driscoll can’t quite protect her. She manages a wailing yell to call her beast which comes out of the woods. It has leathery, dragon-like wings but four legs ending in bird like claws and bird like head and beak. It scoops her up and gets her onto its back. They begin to ascend. Kade is able to fire off a few shots but they get away. Driscoll is on the way back to his transport, into which Winona has already found her way. When he arrives, he recognizes her. Dr. Nostrand has detected something on the man and when the party gets to the ship, they take him down. Inside his pocket is a cube made of circuitry which organic filaments coming out of it. The Diode! Contacting Emmir, they learn that they must bring it to a safe house along with Calista’s body. That happens and they are congratulated on their work. The Diode is left in the hands of the arcane technicians and the party is given some time to rest. In the cooler, where Calista’s body lies, her hands twitch and one eye opens…

This game went so much better than I expected! After just about an hour of world-building, we had fleshed out this weird hybrid setting and then dover right in with this mission. The players were all great about contributing the details of the world, and playing their characters with their fears, goals, and traits in mind. The mechanical aspects were simple: d10 + stat bonuses or penalties. Adjusting the difficulty was easy and starting out NPCs and even the flying mount was a piece of cake. I really had no idea where the story was going to go, I just tried to keep it rolling by thinking up ideas and queuing off the characters actions and player comments. Everyone seemed to enjoy the system, they enjoyed building that weird world, and had a lot of fun playing. The doctor, who became a sick one, putting needles in peoples’ eyes we nicknamed “The Optometrist.” Alex, who says he doesn’t like games without visuals, was plenty happy with how it turned out, with the meagerest of sketches outlining the final battle area. I was genuinely nervous about a completely freeform game with zero preparation but boy did it turn out really fantastic and fun. Even after as we discussed it, we had more questions about people and events; it could easily continue with another session and that’s a good way to end it!

The clearing with Death Ward stones and "altar."
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