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Kingmaker: Blood for Blood, Session 13, Part 2

Behind the iron doors was a long, wide hall (D2). Four different-sized boulders sat on the ground at one end. The back half of the room was a series of stair-like platforms where each landing had a boulder-shaped depression in it.

Orseen the warpriest’s player Bill squealed with joy when he realized that they had found a dungeon puzzle! The muscular warrior looked around, assessing which stone should go in which hole, and then got to work. The “puzzle” was to move the boulders into their proper holes using Strength checks, with the larger rocks needing higher totals to move. After the first boulder is put in place, a generous timer starts; if the rocks aren’t all in their holes before the timer runs out, the stairs turn into a slope and the boulders roll down it, smushing all in their way. Orseen failed the first two checks on the smallest stone, which didn’t mean much since the timer had not started yet. And then his dice went on a hot streak and he made the next four checks all by himself – 1 for each rock. When the last stone was in place, a set of iron doors appeared at the top of the stairs.

You’re As Cold as Ice

The next room (D3) held another puzzle! The middle part of the floor was an iron square, bounded by four iron columns made of weapons fused together. In the center was a wheel. Orseen once again rushed in, and as soon as he stepped on the metal section of floor, a wall of ice went up all around it! As the temperature inside the wall dropped dramatically, the warpriest prayed for resistance to energy, which basically nullified any danger from the trap. Then he started turning the wheel. Did he need a Strength check, Bill asked? Nope. Did anything happen as he turned it, he wondered? Not really, though he noted there was some kind of spring mechanism that threatened to undo his labor should he let go. The players were a little perplexed about the nature of the puzzle, but Orseen turned the wheel nonetheless… and turned, and turned, and turned. Eventually some mechanism clicked and the wheel locked into position. Then nothing, and there was more confusion. Eventually the wall of ice melted, revealing another set of iron doors. “What a strange puzzle,” was the group’s consensus.

Beyond that portal was a wall of fog! The party figured they could get through it if they held hands and stuck to one wall as they proceeded. Now, the guards and wards effect that was generating the fog was also supposed to turn them around any crossroads half of the time. But unlike the dungeons of yore, Armag’s tomb doesn’t really have much in the way of crossroads. I decided to treat the side passages into the small burial rooms (D8) as such, and as a result, on their first foray they got turned around ended up back in the wheel room.

Their next attempt was more successful, and they found their way into an area filled with ancient Tiger Lord art objects. Those were scooped into the bag of holding, and then the group moved back into the mist. Following the wall brought them to a wide stair that was covered in thick, sticky webs. A torch was lit and used to burn away the webbing, but it was noted that the strands immediately started to grow back – albeit rather slowly. Beyond the burned webs was a blank wall. Skala the arcanist started to probe it, and was able to see through the illusion covering the next set of doors.

I Am Iron Man

The doors opened to reveal a cavernous circular chamber with a domed ceiling (D9), which was supported by four stone columns. In the center was a large iron statue of Gorum the war god, standing on a pedestal. As the PCs stepped across the threshold to get a better view, the statue came to life! With a metallic creaking sound, it stepped off its pedestal and silently stomped towards the group!

Skala hastily hasted the party, while Orseen gave himself what meager buffs he had remaining. Remesio the cleric warned the others that he was basically out of heals, and maybe they should turn back… but naturally they didn’t listen. Satampra the swashbuckler and Orseen ran forward to strike at the metal monstrosity with their blades! Though despite their mighty blows, the statue only suffered nicks to its divinely hardened form.

On the statue’s turn, its mouth yawned wide and a cloud of black smoke spewed forth. Satampra, naturally, failed his Fortitude saving throw, but luckily for him I rolled a 1 on the d4 for Constitution damage. The massive metal man then laid into its opponents, slamming each of them for considerable damage.

As the melee proceeded, Skala summoned Evard’s black tentacles to bind the statue, but the tentacles were not strong enough to stop it. Then he threw a fireball at it, but that actually seemed to heal the thing! As it felled the warpriest, the arcanist tried a metamagic’d aggressive thundercloud which… didn’t cause any damage, but it did cause the statue’s movements to slow dramatically. Skala followed that up with his old standby, the acid pit, which the iron figure dutifully fell into.

Having won a reprieve, Remesio and Satampra dragged Orseen’s body out of the room while Skala tried to magic missile the statue as it attempted to climb out of the pit. But the darts of magical force had no effect! And with that, they gave up and made their way out of the tomb, taking the hostages with them.

Next: ants in the pants!

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Where I Read: Captain Marvel, Part 20

Captain Marvel #18 (cover date November ’69)

“Vengeance is Mine!” by Roy Thomas (w), Gil Kane & John Buscema (p), and Dan Adkins (i). John Buscema is a Hall of Famer comics artist. He and his brother Sal were Marvel mainstays for decades.

Colonel Yon-rogg recaps the previous issue for us, and considers how to strike back at his hated foe, Mar-vell. Then he wonders… hey, what if something bad happened to Rick Jones? Cut to Rick walking along a desolate desert road… when suddenly, a car with a sleeping driver veers right towards him! The surprised teenager leaps out of way, and then bangs his wrists together after Mar-vell reminds him that he can totally do that. Rick Jones is replaced by our hero, who leaps in front of the out-of-control vehicle and safely stops it.

The driver wakes up, surprised that he fell asleep at the wheel, and Mar-vell concludes that this must be the dastardly work of Yon-rogg! Because no one ever fell asleep while driving at night down a lonely desert road before? Rick Jones is impressed by Mar-vell’s heroics, but he wants out of the Negative Zone. And also, a burger. The Captain flies to the nearest town before slamming the Nega Bands together. Rick Jones replaces the costumed Captain and enters the town’s only “jump joint” to get some grub.

The bar (?) has a live band, whose music Rick finds revolting! He gives them $5 to take a break and let him play, grabs a guitar, and blows everyone away. Everyone, that is, except for “Blackie,” a loud and obnoxious heckler. Rick is about to summon Mar-vell to take care of the lout, but the Kree objects to such a frivolous use of his power, so Rick punches the guy out himself, instead. As he’s leaving, a promoter with the unlikely name of Mordecai P. Boggs approaches the lad, but Jones tells him to get lost. He’s an angry rebel, and he ain’t listening to anybody!

Then Mar-vell’s head appears, and asks Rick to switch, because the Captain has “finally deduced where Yon-rogg must be!” While floating in the Negative Zone? How?! They swap and Mar-vell flies back to the secret Kree output from last issue. And that’s exactly where Yonny, and the captive Carol Danvers, happen to be! Additionally, Yonny knows Mar-vell is on his way, because “we have loathed each other too long… for me not to sense his nearness!” Yeah, that makes sense…

Carol thinks Yon-rogg should be worried now that Mar-vell is here, but he’s not, because he has… the Psyche-Magnitron, a device “long outlawed” by those killjoy Kree! “There is no power which equals that of one who stands in the glow” of the device, so naturally, Yon-rogg stands in said glow with the hope of becoming powerful enough to topple the Supreme Intelligence itself. “Make me master of a world,” he says to the machine, “a star… a universe!!!”

In a page that looks like it was drawn by a Buscema (Carol has a tell-tale pose), Yon-rogg demonstrates his newfound power – he can now “conjure up anything ever devised by Kree science!” Yon-rogg chooses to conjure a Mandroid (no relation to the later suits of armor), a “murderous man-thing,” whose purpose is to “hunt and execute traitors in our far-flung galaxies!” Wait… why isn’t one chasing you, then, Yonny?

While it’s not mentioned, I wonder if the Psyche-Magnitron is supposed to be how Yon-rogg was planning on bringing Una back to life (a claim he makes to Mar-vell back in #13, 2-3 writers ago). Probably not, given the radical shifts in story and direction the series has taken since then.

It looks like John Buscema handles the art for the rest of the issue, which is fine. His style is not as wild as Gil Kane’s, but it’s clear and attractive and he can tell a story. Mar-vell arrives, and does battle with the Mandroid. It’s big, it’s strong, and it can shoot lasers from its eyes. Mar-vell is no match for it, despite the Nega Bands (which don’t seem to be boosting his strength or anything, because he notes that he has the might of a regular Kree again), but still he wins the day by tricking the Mandroid into shooting the Psyche-Magnitron. The machine loses power, and the Mandroid fades away.

Yon-rogg pulls out a laser pistol, and Mar-vell leaps for it. The two struggle over the gun, until it fires, hitting Carol in the shoulder. Mar-vell is pissed, and Yonny lamely claims he wasn’t responsible. This triggers Mar-vell’s memories of Una’s death, where Yonny similarly avoided taking responsibility, and our hero goes to town on the villain with his fists. When Yon-rogg is unconscious, Mar-vell briefly considers whether he should kill him or not, and notes how hollow it feels to finally have gotten his vengeance.

But the decision is taken out of his hands in true comic-book style. The Psyche-Magnitron is building up to an explosion, and Mar-vell has only the strength left to rescue one person. He chooses Carol, leaving Yonny to die in the blast and resulting cave-in. Once outside, Mar-vell places the unconscious Carol on the ground and switches back to Rick Jones. Rick immediately collapses, because with the switch he has inherited all of Mar-vell’s strain, exhaustion, and weariness, which is too much for his normal human body.

That’s the last appearance of Carol Danvers in this book, at least for the foreseeable future. When Rick wakes up next issue, she’s not there, or at least she’s not shown or mentioned. She doesn’t show up again at all until early 1977, more than 7 years later, in Ms. Marvel #1. What a huge gap of time! Unfortunately, her debut issue doesn’t have her origin – it’s too busy trying to make her into the next Spider-Man – and the issue that does (#2) isn’t available online. But I know from osmosis that the explosion of the Psyche-Magnitron is supposed to be her origin event. How strange that Marvel would tie their new 1970’s feminist hero to an issue of a failing comic book from so long ago. In any case: Carol, you’ve come a long way from these early days of being a damsel in distress, an absolutely ineffective security chief, and a Captain Marvel groupie.

Yon-rogg eventually reappears as well, in a 2013 Avengers/Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers, not Mar-vell) crossover called The Enemy Within.

Next: the rat race!

Where I Read: Captain Marvel, Part 19

Captain Marvel #17 (cover date October ’69)

“And a Child Shall Lead You!” by Roy Thomas (w), Gil Kane (p), and Dan Adkins (i). Roy returns to the book that he helped create, hopefully with better ideas this time around! Gil Kane is a comics legend and Hall of Famer. This is, IMO, the best art that this title has seen to-date.

I really love this cover! It’s not a very exciting image, but it’s very evocative to me for some reason. If one had been paying attention to this title all along, I don’t know that you’d recognize the figure as Mar-vell. But maybe that’s a good thing; a solid break with past conceptions of what this book is about. Up until this point, Mar-vell has always been drawn as a big, broad-shouldered figure. With the white hair and square jaw, he’s looked almost like your stereotypical 1950’s father figure. All he needs is a pipe! But Kane’s figures are slimmer, and white hair aside, Mar-vell looks much younger here. Ditching the space-man uniform for a more traditional super-hero costume may play a part in that, as well.

On to the actual issue. Mar-vell is trapped in the Negative Zone. Over on Earth, we see Bucky (?!?) running around town. No, wait, it’s Rick Jones dressed as Bucky, and he’s looking for Captain America. Unbeknownst to him, the Red Skull has used the Cosmic Cube to take the Captain’s body, or something. I think that has been the essence of every single Red Skull plot for the past 45 years. When Rick catches up to Cap, he gets the back of the hand to his face! Feeling dejected and rejected, Rick heads over to Avengers mansion, packs his stuff, and hits the road. “Just tell ‘em Rick Jones said good-bye,” he tells Jarvis, the Avengers’ butler, on his way out, “and then mail me both the tears they shed…!” That’s Rick Jones for you: moody and full of self-pity.

We get a couple of pages recounting Rick’s past with the Hulk and the Avengers before he starts hitch-hiking across America. At some point, he feels like he has to stop right here and gets dropped off in the middle of nowhere. A glowing image of Captain America soon leads him to a cave that’s full of “weird machinery… weirder lighting… and statues of things that never walked this planet!”

Ghost-Cap leads Rick to a pedestal that holds a pair of golden bracelets. When Rick puts them on, the disembodied head of Mar-vell appears and speaks to him. The trapped Kree directs Rick to slam his wrists together as hard as he can. When he does, Captain Mar-vell and Rick Jones swap places: now Mar-vell is on Earth, and Rick is trapped in the Negative Zone, although he can appear as a floating head to talk to Mar-vell. Rick isn’t too happy! “Fear not,” reassures Mar-vell, “you won’t stay there forever – as I would have done – if not for these millennia-old Nega-Bands! They are the only recorded antidote to the kind of radiation that blasted me to the anti-cosmos! But I thought they had been forbidden – !” Those Kree are real big on forbidding things, it seems. Pretty convenient that the only cure to Mar-vell’s inexplicable case of Negative Zone-itis was just sitting on Earth, and Mar-vell somehow knew how to find them and direct a human to them. And that human just happened to be Rick Jones, professional superhero-wannabe.

In another coincidence, Colonel Yon-rogg appears! He finishes Mar-vell’s thought, saying that the bands were outlawed for the powers they bestow to their wearer. Yonny shoots Mar-vell with a “protonic burst,” which Mar-vell survives. Yon-rogg is flabbergasted – no one has ever survived a protonic burst before! So the Nega-Bands must provide some protection to the wearer, maybe a personal shield? Yonny causes a cave-in to slow down his foe and runs back to his ship, revealing that he followed Rick Jones to the cave because his sensors indicated that Jones was under Mar-vell’s mental control. Maybe the glowing Captain America was somehow created by Mar-vell’s Zo-granted illusion powers?

The Kree ship takes off and Mar-vell wonders if he can catch it. “What do I know of my speed – or any other of my former powers? For, I now possess no powers – but those which the Nega-Bands bestow upon me!” Wait, we had just established that he did possess his former powers at the end of the last issue! How and when did he lose them? I guess Ghost-Cap wasn’t an illusion after all? But then where did it come from? How was Rick under Mar-vell’s “mental control”? Anyway, the Nega-Bands allow him to fly, and he takes off after the spaceship. Yonny tosses Carol Danvers out of the ship in order to slow Mar-vell down, but surprise! That’s not Carol, that’s a Carol-shaped bomb! *snort*

The bomb doesn’t do much to Mar-vell, much to his amazement, which seems to confirm that the Bands protect him somehow. But when our man of the Kree stops thinking about flying, he starts to fall, and then halts his descent when he thinks about flying again. “That, then, is the all-but-forgotten power of these bands… to transform mental energy into physical… just as they also exchanged my negative atoms… with the positive ones of the young Earthling!” Did someone say Earthling? Rick Jones wants to get out of the Negative Zone, so Mar-vell bangs his wrists together and the two swap places again. Then Rick walks off into the sunset, intent on finding Yon-rogg. For now he has merged in some way with Mar-vell, and he too desires revenge upon the Colonel!

So, Roy Thomas has said that the idea here was to make Marvel’s Captain Marvel more like Fawcett’s Captain Marvel, in that you have a young boy who changes places with a superhero. That seems like an oddly superficial goal for this reboot. I mean, Marvel’s character and Fawcett’s are just completely different, so while the latter was very successful in its time, it is strange to me to focus on that one element as the one to emulate. But then again, why not? You never know what’s going to be a hit; you might as well throw everything you can out there and see what sticks. And in any case, as we’ll see, the new status quo will lead to rather different stories, with less focus on aliens and robots and more on the life of a lonely teen rebel…

Next: REVENGE! For reals, this time. We promise!

Kingmaker: The App – Update 15

This is a minor update that is mostly bug fixes. There are also a few new settings that were added at the request of some users. The main feature of interest for most folks is probably that when you select a random event in the Manage Events window, the program rolls on the actual random tables from Ultimate Campaign to choose the event(s) (previously, it just picked a single event, giving them all the same chance of being selected).

As always, you can visit the application’s page to download the setup file. After installation, if you click on Help -> About, the version # should be 1.1.1.11.

Features

  • When creating a new kingdom event using the Manage Events window (Turn menu -> Event Phase -> Manage Events or Turn menu -> Turn Wizard), clicking the “Choose For Me” button will use the tables from Ultimate Campaign to select the random event(s).
  • Added a new feature to the Turn menu, Select Random Hex/Settlement/Building. This feature is for those times the DM is running their own material and needs to pick a random spot for some event to occur.
  • Added a new setting, Settlement.District.IgnoreHousingRequirement, which defaults to false. Setting it to true will cause the adjacent house requirements for certain buildings (e.g. Shop, Inn, Market) to be ignored when constructing those buildings.
  • Added a new setting, Settlement.Item.IgnoreBaseValueCap, which defaults to false. Setting it to true will cause a settlement’s Base Value to be ignored when generating random magic items, allowing items of any value to be generated.

Bug Fixes

  • Included Commander Boon bonuses to DV and Morale into an army’s stats, as they should have been from the start.
  • Fixed an issue where cancelling the creation of an army can create a phantom army that is not attached to a kingdom. (Found by Tm Carter)
  • Fixed an issue where deleting/defeating an army on the map did not remove the army icon from the map.
  • Fixed an issue where the cost and consumption of the Siege Engine army resource was not calculated correctly after opening a saved kingdom file.
  • Fixed an issue where Thorps, Hamlets, and Villages had the wrong maximum Base Value. (found by Dave Sherman)
  • Fixed an issue with conflicting popup message windows. (found by Dave Sherman)
  • Fixed an issue with exporting the kingdom stats when the kingdom has armies.

What’s Next

Trade Edicts, some day…

Kingmaker: Blood for Blood, Session 13, Part 1

After Satampra the swashbuckler was raised and restored, the group contemplated its options. Clearly, they would need help to get past the Black Sisters, but their usual go-tos were unavailable for various reasons. And so they contacted Skala the arcanist via sending to ask if he could lend a hand. As it happened, Skala was getting a bit bored at the siege of New Stetven. He also saw the threat posed by Armag and the Tiger Lords to his own country of Brevoy, and so he replied that he would teleport over to Stagfell in order to assist the other PCs.

The next issue was the upcoming kingdom turn, which was a couple of days away. The rulers decided that getting to Armag before he claimed his predecessor’s artifacts was paramount; the Empress Sojana could fill in for Satampra, and there were not any great penalties for High Priest Remesio not being around. Orseen the warpriest and Skala didn’t have any leadership roles, so it seemed that the PCs could all take the week off to go adventuring!

With that settled, the party had to figure out how to get back to the tomb and what to do when they got there. I forget exactly why they didn’t want to have Remesio the cleric to teleport them to the outside of the tomb; perhaps he wanted to hold onto his single prayer of teleport in order to escape if necessary. Satampra wanted to get the hostages back to Stagfell before dealing with the Black Sisters, but as there were 5 catpives and the teleporters could only take 3 others with them on a trip, doing so was going to probably consume a day’s worth of spells. In the end, he was overruled by the others.

In order to reach the tomb, they figured Skala could scry on a captive that was named and described by Kassandra Numesti and then teleport the group to that location. The generic hostage failed her Will save against the scrying, and the arcanist saw an image of the young woman tied to a white statue, instead of outside in a crude pen as he had expected! He could also hear chanting, and the prisoner looked fearful. The group didn’t exactly know what it was getting into, but they buffed up and Skala managed to transport them all to the captive’s side!

I had thought of what the Black Sisters might do after the group retreated. Create undead from the fallen barbarians? Seal the tomb entrance with stone shape? And what of the hostages? In the end, I decided that they would simply move the prisoners into the tomb with them, and send word for more Tiger Lords to guard the place.

I’m Gonna Sing The Doom Song Now!

Anyway. Three large white statues of warriors stood against one wall, and the captives were bound to those figures. In the middle of the space, the two Black Sisters knelt in prayer before an impromptu altar to their dark goddess. A natural tunnel led from the room to sunlight – presumably the entrance – and there were no other visible exits from the chamber.

Before the Sisters could react, Satampra and Orseen charged! Then Skala followed up their sword strikes with a Persistent glitterdust that blinded both of them. Finally it was the Sisters’ turn, and… I cheated. A bit. I only had stats for them buffed, and while I mentally subtracted some bits that didn’t affect their overall numbers, such as spell resistance, I let them keep the rest of their adjustments. I also didn’t realize that one of the 2 auras on their sheet came from a spell (aura of doom) and let them activate both with the same action (the other aura was from the Madness domain). The Sisters stepped back from their attackers and turned on their auras of fear and madness. As there were 2 Sisters, each PC had to save twice against each aura, and aside from Remesio they all failed at least one save, leaving them shaken and confused.

Oddly enough, each confused PC kept rolling the same result. Satampra kept getting “attack nearest creature”, which I randomly allowed to be one of the Sisters at the start. Orseen consistently rolled “hurt self” a few times, until he too got the “attack nearest” result, which led to him charging Satampra. This led to the two of them attacking one another due to a quirk of confusion that I was previously unaware of – if you’re attacked, you fight back against that creature instead of rolling. Skala stood around “gibbering and doing nothing.” The cleric was left trying to dispel the auras, which failed, smiting the Sisters with a flame strike, and trying to keep Orseen alive.

While all that madness was going on, the Black Sisters summoned demons, called forth flame strikes of their own, and unleashed phantasmal killers. But the adventurers managed to hold on long enough for Skala to roll “act normally”! He summoned an acid pit under one Sister, which not only trapped her but moved her auras out of range of the PCs. The remaining Sister was killed, and then Orseen leaped into the pit, sword-first, intending to impale the other on the tip of his blade. He missed.

That act of foolishness lead to Skala jumping into the pit himself so that he could caster fly on Orseen, and then Orseen carried the arcanist and the dead Sister out of the hole. Meanwhile, Satampra freed the prisoners and Remesio started doling out prayers of healing.

The party was victorious, but… now what? The natural tunnel led outside, where they had fought the Tiger Lords on their first visit. There were no other exits. The group searched the statues. They searched the walls. They came up empty. Skala tried a spell of detect secret doors but it revealed nothing. Eventually, Orseen discovered an illusion hiding a pair of iron doors on the wall opposite from the tunnel. They had found their way deeper into the tomb!

Next: wrath of Gorum!

Where I Read: Captain Marvel, Part 18

Captain Marvel #16 (cover date September ’69)

“Behind the Mask of Zo!” by Archie Goodwin (w), Don Heck (p), and Syd Shores (i). Back to monthly; I guess the previous issue was (gasp!) late, a rarity in those days thanks to the rules of newsstand distribution. Archie is probably best known as an editor, but he co-created Luke Cage, the first Spider-Woman, edited Epic Illustrated, created Marvel’s graphic novel line (the first of which would be The Death of Captain Marvel!), and oversaw Marvel’s first creator-owned line, Epic Comics. Don Heck’s return is a welcome sight after the last few issues. I get the feeling that whatever Arnold Drake and/or Gary Friedrich had been planning just got thrown out the window, because Goodwin wraps things up in a hurry.

That’s a nice cover.

The Kree pagans are holding Captain Mar-vell prisoner, and one reveals that they knew he would be coming, and why. They let go of their captive, and Tam-bor’s great magnetic forces pull Mar-vell upwards, towards the pagan idol. He uses his jet belt to reassert some control over his trajectory, and then smashes his way inside the huge metal tower/idol/thing. Inside, he finds a Kirby-style tower of machinery and realizes that the design is Kree, and not that old, either. One of his own people must have built Tam-bor in order to destroy the star system! But why?!?

Ronan the Accuser, long glimpsed over the vid-phone in issues past, materializes in the flesh near Mar-vell. He’s there to beat the traitor down, but Mar-vell is defiant. “While the star system of by birth hangs in the balance, I’ll defy even you!” But the Captain is no match for Ronan and the Accuser’s Universal Weapon. In desperation, Mar-vell holds onto consciousness long enough to activate the self-destruct mechanism on his helmet (that’s a brutal tool to give every soldier!) and toss it towards the generator chamber of Tam-bor. The idol blows up – without destroying the planet as previously promised, as it happens. Ronan and the Captain survive, although Mar-vell is unconscious. Ronan muses that the energies of his hammer that were knocking Mar-vell around must have also protected him from the blast. Ooookay?

Back on Earth, Carol Danvers wakes up in a hospital, rushes outside in order to run to Captain Marvel’s side, and gets into a car with a stranger who claims to be the Captain’s friend – Colonel Yon-rogg! Oh Carol, didn’t your parents teach you not to do that?

On Kree-lar, the Super-Sentry that is pictured on the cover – thought to be a legend or a fairy tale – shows up and demands Ronan’s surrender. Ronan attacks instead, but the Super-Sentry reflects the blast back upon Ronan, who… vanishes? Then the Super-Sentry lifts up Mar-vell telekinetically and flies him off to the Hall of Judgment.

The giant robot takes our Captain into outer space, and then to Hala, the “headquarters planet” of the Kree (wait, Kree-lar was the capital last issue!). Hala’s sun is named Pama, thus explaining the source of Mar-vell’s exclamations: “Hala!” and “Great Pama!” The Sentry drops Mar-vell off in the Hall, right in front of… the Supreme Intelligence of the Kree! This isn’t the first appearance of the Supreme Intelligence, but I do believe it’s the first time we see it in this book. Mar-vell fears that he is to be judged for failing his mission on Earth, or entering the service of Zo, but it is the blue-skinned Imperial Minister, Zarek, who is on trial! And, surprise! Zarek is Zo! Wait, what?

The SI explains that Zo’s planet from #11 was a small world whose interior contained a “vast multi-sensory illusion chamber! But,” notes Mar-vell, “their use has been outlawed for nearly two thousand years!” See, Star Trek, holodecks are bad news. The Kree show more sense here than the Federation ever did! The SI also states that Ronan was part of Zarek’s treachery, and they conspired to assign both Mar-vell and Yon-rogg to the Earth mission, knowing that Yonny’s jealousy would eventually deliver Mar-vell to their little holo-planet. What? They knew Yon-rogg would drive Mar-vell to steal an Earth rocket and then the Colonel would fling the rocket into deep space, on a trajectory that would take it to their holo-deck after a few months of drifting? Um. And how does that explain Zo’s conversations and conjurings over the last couple of issues, which took place in deep space? Sorry, Archie, but this explanation doesn’t hold much water.

The Captain wants to know why Zarek and Ronan would inflict such suffering upon him, and Zarek angrily proclaims that they needed an outlaw to pin Tam-bor on, and that he and Ronan were supposed to come out of the situation as heroes. They would then use their fame to overthrow the Supreme Intelligence! As blue-skinned Kree, which is to say, the original Kree, they hate the current state of the empire and blame the SI for how things are. If they were in charge, they could restore the empire to its glory days!

The next page or so is a bit confusing. From what I can make out, Ronan teleports into the room; for while he holds his hammer, he has the “power to use Kree teleportation lanes at will!” So that’s how he vanished before. He drops a bomb – a “negation sphere” in the room, grabs Zarek, and teleports out. Mar-vell jumps on the grenade, and “waits for the dreaded death by disintegration,” but he survives! But only, it turns out, because the chamber is shielded against such weapons. Still, the SI is impressed by Mar-vell’s display of bravery, and says he will be rewarded.

The SI then informs our hero that Ronan and Zarek have already been apprehended off-panel, and so the only co-conspirator remaining is Colonel Yon-rogg. The Intelligence prepares to fire a “hyperspace bolt” that will destroy the Colonel. But won’t that also destroy the Earth, asks Mar-vell? Well, sure, but so what, shrugs the SI. Mar-vell objects, and while the SI is offended at being questioned, it relents. The Captain was promised a reward for his bravery, and so Mar-vell is given leave to deal with Yon-rogg personally. And as part of his reward, the SI transforms Mar-vell’s uniform into a familiar red and blue number with some gold bits.

“You may no longer wear the garb of an ordinary warrior,” explains the SI, “for you have been honored by the Supreme Intelligence himself! Yet, though I honor your bravery, your sympathies for Earth make it impossible for you ever to advance beyond your present rank! Now – and for all your life – you shall be – Captain Mar-vell!”

As he prepares to leave in order to finally get his revenge, Mar-vell now wonders – what of the powers given to him by Zo? Yeah, Archie, how are you going to explain that? Well, he still has them, apparently, and he sets off for Earth. For varying levels of “still has them,” anyway; he hasn’t used his illusion powers since #12, and I don’t think he will do so ever again. “Although Zarek must have used me as the test animal for some untried process,” he thinks to himself, “what can it matter – for he has made the universe my province – the very stars my stepping stones!” That’s a heck of an “untried process” that increases one’s strength, confers the ability to project optical illusions, and the power to teleport across the entire fracking universe! Seems like Zarek should have used it on himself after seeing how well it worked on Mar-vell. I mean, who wouldn’t want all of that?

But while in transit, something happens! “I feel strange – as I did once before – in the moment that the negatron sphere exploded!” Mar-vell gets whisked off to the Negative Zone. I don’t think the “why” is ever explained. Some delayed side effect of the sphere? Anyway, what’s one more nonsensical bit? And that’s the end.

I just can’t buy that Zo was intended to be a trick played by some Kree politician, given the pages and pages of weirdness and cosmic-level displays attributed to the entity. The off-hand explanation for Mar-vell’s new powers strains credulity as well. It seems to me that, Yon-rogg aside, they just wanted to sweep the whole misbegotten storyline under the rug so that they could establish another, and hopefully more appealing, status quo.

Next: the new status quo! And new creators; it looks like Goodwin & Heck were just brought in to clean up the mess.

Kingmaker: Blood for Blood, Session 12, Part 2

Zohar the Tiger Lord shaman led the party to an opening in an otherwise nondescript rocky hillside. Camped outside of the cave was about a dozen other Tiger Lords, berserkers by the looks of them. A large pen made of rough-hewn logs squatted next to the camp, with several filthy and bedraggled humans huddled inside.

The players landed their flying carpet in some nearby woods and discussed their options. They were certain the prisoners were the children of Baron Drelev’s lieutenants, that had been surrendered to Armag Twice-Born some time back. Satampra the swashbuckler wanted to get the kids to safety and then deal with Armag, while Orseen the warpriest figured that if the children lasted this long, a few more days wouldn’t kill them. And so he buffed himself to the gills and strode out of the woods, towards the barbarian camp. “I challenge Armag Twice-Born to single combat in the name of Iomedae!” he boomed as his giant, shining form stomped towards the startled Tiger Lords, flaming greatsword in hand.

The berserker leader stepped forward and replied angrily, “This ground is sacred to Gorum! Take your piddling fire god and begone with ye! My campfire burns hotter than you!” Nevertheless, the warpriest continued to advance, implacable and terrible to behold, intoning threats as he did so. This was a rare Intimidate check, and the chief ended up shaken for 4 rounds as  result. “Hey!” complained Drew, Satampra’s player, “social skills are my thing!”

Naturally, a fight ensued. Satampra and Remesio the cleric brought up the rear as Orseen was surrounded. As the barbarians were only 4th level, they did not last long despite outnumbering the PCs 4-to-1.

With the only apparent threat dealt with, arguments about what to do with the Fort Drelev captives resumed. There were five of them, which presented a problem when the group only had one teleport a day and no room on the flying carpet. The discussion wasn’t really going anywhere, so I decided to interrupt it with an attack.

Sister, Sister, Sister Time

So, I had redone the Black Sisters a bit. After playing around with making one of them a different divine class, and/or adding a hag that the players had encountered before into the mix, I decided to keep it simple and leave them as clerics without any additional support. I did tweak their feats and spells, though, to give them some augmented summons and improve their channel energy ability.

So after buffing themselves, they hid inside the cave entrance and started praying for demonic aid. From the players’ perspective, though, demons just started appearing and attacking them! First was 2 babaus, humanoid creatures so thin that they looked almost like skeletons. Orseen eagerly summoned his battle companion, a hound archon, in response and charged into righteous battle! The babaus were not terribly effective against the PCs, but they could take a beating which was good for getting more summoned monsters into play.

Next came 2 schirs, goat-headed demons that were even less effective than the babaus. One got dismissed by Remesio, while the other joined in the melee against Orseen and Satampra. Finally, 2 dretches appeared, and while they were physically weak they did have the useful ability to conjure stinking clouds! One was created on top of the melee, and the other on top of the cleric.

Satampra failed his saving throw, which basically took him out of the fight. Everyone ran or stumbled out of the noxious vapors, only to find two women dressed in black from head to toe standing at the cave entrance! On the first round, the Black Sisters both flame strike‘d Orseen. Then they both hit Satampra with phantasmal killers, the 2nd of which succeeded all the way. The Emperor collapsed, dead of fright.

Remesio hurriedly ran over to his liege and called for Orseen to follow. The hound archon bravely guarded their retreat (while a distraught Orseen desperately called for him to heel) as the cleric then teleported the group back home in defeat.

Deaths so far in this adventure: Satampra, 2.

Next: take two!