Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Big Game Wednesday - Digger Returns, But Then...

After a couple months of diversions, what with Gary's attempt to run Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, followed by mine, Gary decided to resume Champions again. He told me up front that I could bring Digger back if I wanted. Digger was a fairly well-conceived character with some history behind him, and importantly not a min-maxed monstrosity. When I mentioned that Digger had, you know, died along with everyone else in D&D land, he waved it off with a "characters in comics return from the dead all the time."

So Digger ended up being the only one who returned from an alternate dimension brush with death, and a new team was formed. With Digger being the only experienced character in the group (and since there had also been churn within the gaming group due to older players graduating and newer students joining up), he became the de facto leader of the New Champions.

I also decided that his return from apparent death would be a good time for a costume change, a not-so-proud tradition for comics characters with a new creative team trying to find a new creative direction. What I ended up with was the horror you see above--striped military pants out of Star Blazers, combined with the shirt from the original X-Men uniform, with a weird (and non-functional) anime-armor piece thrown over the top. I also included the signature poncho I'd had him wear whenever he tried to go out incognito and switched the boots to have an insanely large flap hanging down.

Plus a short-cropped haircut and a beard.

All in all, it was an almost total change from the previous look. The only common factor was the presence of the Drillers, and I'd even decided to have him weld on little fins to make those look cooler.

Unfortunately for Digger, the new look didn't make things any easier for him. His unlucky streak still held, and Digger was simply unprepared for the demands of leadership. The new group was younger and more volatile than the old one, but Digger was slowly beginning to grow into the role of leader.

And then he accidentally awakened an ancient Aztec deity from his ages-old slumber in a subterranean chamber. Tlaloc, God of Storms, emerged to conquer the world. Digger and the New Champions tried to stop him, but he overpowered them and sent them into the future.

This happened for a couple of reasons. Number one, Gary and I both liked X-Men, and "Days of Future Past" was still fairly fresh in our minds, as it had only been published a couple of years before.

And number two, Hero Games had published a new rules variant called Autoduel Champions that adapted the futuristic road combat of Steve Jackson Games' Car Wars into Champions terms. Gary was eager to try it out, and this was his way of doing it.

The big problem for Digger: he had lost his main powers. In those days, the Drillers were still defined as foci (obvious, inaccessible)--defined as unique bio-metal power batteries that could be removed for maintenance purposes. Tlaloc, after defeating the New Champions, had removed the batteries from the Drillers, then sent Digger fifty years into the future without them.

Still, I decided to accept the challenge so I could maybe develop Digger's skills in other ways, make him a really multi-pronged threat. I even drew up a special new character portrait of an anime-influenced Digger, his beard shaved off and his hair grown long again, surrounded by flames, with his shirt torn and that silly chest-piece missing. Dramatic, don't you know? Digger at bay, trapped in a world he never made.

We learned that Tlaloc had managed to take over the entire country (perhaps the entire world), establishing a totalitarian order that demanded obedience and human sacrifice. But there was an underground resistance, and they determined to help us do something to try to defeat him. I don't remember what the specific MacGuffin was, but it involved a road trip.

So we convoyed in two separate vehicles, and on the way, were intercepted by a cop (a trooper working for Tlaloc's evil regime, that is). That's when everything turned to shit. The driver of the lead vehicle decided to panic stop or something and failed his control roll, at which point we learned that we were traveling really fast, like 100 mph. That car rolled, basically incapacitating everyone inside. Half the team was out of the fight instantly.

Meanwhile, one of the guys in the car with Digger said, "Don't worry. I've got a force field. I'll draw their fire." He flew out and did just that. The laser on the cop car was really powerful, though, and Gary rolled amazing on the stun multiplier, so there was another hero out of the fight.

At that point, it was like Digger and one other hero (a martial artist or something lame), plus a female NPC who was not so combat oriented. As the other two characters tried shooting it out with the cop car, Digger grabbed a shotgun and leapt on top of the cop car's turret, using his clinging to stay balanced while firing down through weak spots in the car's armor (using his Find Weakness skill).

After a few rounds, the other PC and the NPC were both down, and only Digger remained. The car stopped and the cop got out to shoot Digger off the top of his car. This was the moment Digger had been waiting for, his crowning moment of cool. He would single-handedly prevail against this guy who had wiped out the rest of his team (though to be fair, half the team had actually wiped themselves out).

Digger did not have his blasters, but he had the highest allowable human strength, and insane speed and dexterity. He jumped down and punched the crap out of the cop, putting him down for the count. Sweet Victory!

At which point, the partner which Digger did not suspect was still in the car rotated the turret and shot him with several d6 of laser-fueled Killing Attack. And since at the time, he still had his damage resistance as part of a multipower, meaning he had to state he was consciously resisting damage--this due to the ridiculously low point totals Gary had instituted at the beginning of the campaign--he took full damage from the attack.

Digger died. Again. Like before, this was in an alternate world scenario using a variant rules set, but still...

This time, it wasn't so easy to handwave away. He hadn't had his form magically changed to a legendary monster, nor had he been killed in a land which included magical resurrection spells (as far as I know, anyway). He had just been shot through the chest by a really powerful laser.

I was devastated. I had played Digger at that point, off and on, for well over a year, so having him die suddenly like that really hit me hard. I went out and drowned my sorrows at Fatburger. The big lesson I learned? Don't try to jazz up your campaign by changing the rules on people. Players get used to the way the world works, and it is really hard to adjust mentally to a sudden change in rules, especially something that affects combat and lethality.

As far as I know, that was the last game of that campaign. We were coming up on the end of another school year IIRC, so we left it on the cliffhanger, and I think everyone just decided to let it hang. It wasn't as if the other players were real gung-ho to keep going after the serial embarrassments of losing to Tlaloc and a Highway Patrolman, and without Digger, I didn't see the point. I was going through my own troubles at the time anyway, since I was flunking out of Cinema Production.

We continued to game, but I really don't remember much about it. I know that we had a new guy come in at one point claiming to be a very experienced Dungeon Master with an awesome set of house-rules designed to create very powerful characters. He ran probably the most boring session I had ever sat through up to that time. We didn't really do much other than meet some powerful NPC who was pretty evidently his pet character, an elven princess who wore a distinctive crown of leaves. He spent probably five to ten minutes just describing her, including a leaf-by-leaf and dewdrop-by-dewdrop description of her crown (apparently just the kewlest magical item in his campaign , and he wanted to make sure we knew it).

I think I rounded out my time in L.A. playing Bushido and Runequest with Brian running while I worked a couple of horrible part-time jobs over the summer, trying to make it in L.A. When my dad called a few months later to tell me I could come home and stay rent-free in his house in Oklahoma City, I said 'yes' in a heartbeat, thinking I would take some time to regroup, get my screenplay writing honed, then someday come back.

I never did. But Digger did.

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