DM Screen 19 – Conquer Your World

As I’ve said before, I really wanted to make sure that the different matches in the Nexus Tournament weren’t all straight fights, especially since I knew that there was going to be a big fight—maybe a couple of big fights—once the PCs realized what was really going on with the tournament. I really liked the idea of pulling in the Lightning Round from our regular Smash Fiction matches, and the best party-based Lightning Round I could come up with was a battle of the bands. As always, the players killed it.

The stage suddenly begins to reshape itself. You and Team Adventquisitions Zonecorporated are each raised on your own respective platforms as stacks of amplifiers rise around you. Simultaneously, instruments are lowered from the ceiling and set around the platforms: guitars, basses, drums, microphones on stands, keyboards, and many other instruments, all waiting invitingly to be chosen.

“Fighters, you will have just a few minutes to set up your band. Decide who’s playing what instrument and what sort of song or songs you’ll be playing. Will you be improvising or playing covers? Once you’re ready, the two bands will play, and the audience will vote on who wins and proceeds to the final match!”

The six fighters of Adventquisitions Zonecorporated immediately begin to start picking out their instruments—what do you do?

I came up with some extremely basic mechanics for the battle of the bands. Basically, the heroes would roll an appropriate ability based on their chosen instrument: vocals used Psyche, guitars used Agility, bass used Endurance, drums used Strength, keyboards (or church organs) used Reason. I figured the players might choose a non-traditional rock instrument, which I would deal with on a case-by-case basis.

The two teams/bands will play three rounds total, with each character rolling on their chosen instrument each round. Each White result gets the team 0 points, Green results get 1 point, Yellow results get 2 points, and Red results get 3 points. Whichever team gets the greater number of points wins the round, and the team which wins two out of the three rounds will be declared the winner. The opposing team’s chosen instrument, and the abilities they were rolling on, are:

Omin Drahn: Vocals (rolls on In)

Taako: Lead guitar (rolls on Ex)

Jim Darkmagic: Also lead guitar (rolls on Ex)

Magnus Burnsides: Bass (rolls on Rm)

Binwin Bronzebottom: Drums (rolls on Ex)

Merle Highchurch: Jug (rolls on Ty)

If Hannah Montana said nice things about the heroes at the end of the last episode, they get +2 CS on their rolls for their last song; if she was negative, they get -2 CS instead.

“This match has been decided. Your winner… Team (?)” The crowd cheers with rapturous excitement.

As always, I didn’t assume that Team Ohana was going to win. In fact, you’ll see below that I had planned equally for their defeat.

Troy McClure smiles broadly at the crowd. “What an incredible match. But we’re not done yet! There’s still two teams here, and I know EVERYONE wants to see which one is going to meet up with Team (?) in the finals! So let’s not waste any more time. Team Power Rangers versus Team Soul Edge in…” The screen behind him flashes with possible locations, before settling on the image of a tranquil forest grove surrounding a pond fed by a waterfall. “The Emerald Grove!”

The warriors from both teams are engulfed in light, disappearing from the stage at the same moment that they appear on the screen in the grove. Team Soul Edge are momentarily disoriented from the teleportation, but that’s all the time Team Power Rangers needs. “Let’s do it, guys!” says the red-clad member as the other four take up a conspicuous wedge formation behind him. “It’s Morphin’ Time!”

All five of them produce small belt buckle shaped objects and hold them in front of them, calling out the names of various prehistoric animals. Rainbow-colored light bursts forth from them, and in the next moment, the teenagers have been replaced by warriors in brightly-colored spandex wearing dinosaur-themed motorcycle helmets. By this point, Team Soul Edge has gotten their bearings, and the two groups head for each other, Team Soul Edge dashing forward with visible bloodlust, while Team Power Rangers leaps and flips toward their foes.

The resulting battle is absolutely ferocious. Team Power Rangers have much, much stronger teamwork than Team Soul Edge does, but they seem used to fighting one opponent at once; any time one of them has to square off against a single member of Team Soul Edge, they make a fine show of it, but are clearly out of their comfort zone. Eventually, the five Power Rangers, all five visibly exhausted, combine five colorful-looking weapons together into one gigantic tech-crossbow, which they use to fire five multicolored beams of destructive light at the enemy team. The resulting impact creates a huge explosion, and when the dust clears, Team Soul Edge lies unconscious… except for Tira, who stands, panting and on the verge of unconsciousness.

“Give it up, Tira!” the Red Ranger calls. “It’s over!”

The single camera filming the scene flies over to Tira and zooms in dramatically on her face. Her eyes flick over at the camera and her face suddenly breaks into a terrifyingly manic grin as her blade ring lashes out and the camera goes to static.

[Have the PCs make Intuition+Perception checks. Those that get a Green or better notice that, just before Tira lashed out, it looked as though another ring had begun to form in her other hand… although this one didn’t look like it was made of metal, but of flesh.]

The audience moans when the image cuts out, but Troy McClure is quick to try to calm them down. “Don’t worry, folks! Just a minor malfunction—we have another camera deploying as we speak!”

Apparently he knows what he’s talking about, because it’s only about 30 seconds before the image comes back on. The screen shows an overhead view of the forest as the camera drone begins to swoop in toward the battle scene… but when it arrives, the battle is already over. The five Power Rangers lie motionless on the forest floor. Up until this point, their costumes hadn’t suffered any actual physical damage during their fight with the enemy, but they are visibly torn and shredded in places. Even with the kinetic dampeners engaged, the Rangers suffered tremendous damage in the unseen moments of the fight. Standing triumphant over all of them is Tira, laughing ecstatically. [Those who noticed the weapon forming in her hands earlier also notice that her metal ring is still lying off in the background, where she threw it when she destroyed the camera. Whatever she used to defeat the Rangers, it wasn’t her usual weapon.]

“This match has been decided. Your winner… Team Soul Edge!”

Both teams onscreen are once again surrounded by light, but only Team Soul Edge reappears on stage, with the Power Rangers presumably being teleported to the Tournament’s infirmary.

“There you have it, folks!” McClure says to the audience. “We have our finalist teams: Team (?) vs. Team Soul Edge! Thanks for joining us here tonight—I think I speak for everyone when I say, I can’t wait to see the finals! See you then!”

With that, the cameras pull away, the credits roll, and the audience cheers. Eventually, as you all are back in your dressing room preparing to head out, Cambot swings over to all of you. His exterior shell has been repaired where Balrog had cracked it earlier—it’s now sleeker and tougher than it was before, and he now sports stylish pink lighting instead of his previous red. “Obviously it’s been a big night for everyone,” he says. “Can I ask how you’re all feeling right now? What are you thinking is going to happen in the final match?”

Cambot will interview them for a bit; feel free to let this go as long as is entertaining.

At this point, I decided to provide a branching path for whether Team Ohana won the Lightning Round or not…

—If they won the semifinal

Eventually, you all exit the green room area and head for the parking garage, where your vehicles (Archer’s Aston-Martin, Dante’s motorcycle, and the Turtle Van) are parked. The garage is largely empty and quiet, but as you make your way to your rides, you can’t help but feel a sensation of being watched.

Call for Intuition+Perception checks.

You notice a figure standing some distance away in the shadows. Their features are largely obscured, as they are wearing a fedora, a trenchcoat, and a large pair of sunglasses. [For those that got a Yellow or higher:] It takes you a moment, but you realize that the figure actually isn’t as far away as you initially thought they were. They’re actually just very small—maybe just over three feet tall. The figure is watching all of you intently.

If they attempt anything with the small figure, at some point something that looks like a thick whip lashes out from a shadowed area of the parking garage, wraps around Luna’s waist, and yanks her into the darkness. The League will find her hugging Venusaur. (The small figure in the coat is, of course, Wartortle.)

The two Pokémon will want to bring the League with them. If they are allowed, they will take the League through some of the now-empty concrete halls beneath the stadium. The League find themselves led through areas they haven’t seen before, separate from the green room and the dressing rooms. The whole while, Venusaur and Wartortle visibly have their guard up, as if expecting trouble at any turn.

Finally, the League are led to a large boiler room beneath the arena. The room is lit with red light, large machines squat in pools of black shadow, and a humming, throbbing sound is loud and all around. The Pokémon lead the League through the maze of machinery, ultimately arriving at a featureless cinderblock wall. Venusaur snakes out one of its long vine tendrils and presses in one of the cinderblocks, which sinks into the wall as a section of the wall itself slides aside noiselessly. There’s a slight shift in the air flow around as the heroes see a stairway descending down. The string of lightbulbs running along the ceiling are currently off, but the stairway is nevertheless lit by a strange, flickering green light from somewhere below.

You descend the stone staircase, the green flickering light growing stronger with every step. After an eternity, you emerge into a cavernous room. The entirety of the room is lit by a flickering green light: the light of hundreds of tubes, similar to the ones you found yourself in when you were kidnapped by Phyrexia, but these are filled with a strange glowing green substance. The tubes are arranged in overlapping rows rising up along the walls, like the pipes of a huge pipe organ. There are motionless forms within each, and you suddenly realize you recognize many of them: Team Battletoads, Team James Bond, Team Cage… the tubes contain the past losing teams of the Nexus Tournament.

—If they lost the semifinal

As you are walking through the dark and empty parking garage beneath Balboa Arena, you suddenly feel the unmistakable tingling feeling that accompanies the teleportation that the Nexus Tournament uses. Light springs up around you and the world seems to drop away. In an instant, all of you find yourselves in a situation you remember with no fondness whatsoever: you are each in your own transparent, liquid-filled tube. However, this is a very different situation from your experiences with Phyrexia: the liquid you’re in is green, sludgy, and seems to be glowing slightly; just being in it makes you feel dizzy and weak, and it seems to be getting worse by the second. In addition, you find yourselves completely unable to move. It’s as though the signals from your brain just aren’t making it to your limbs.

Outside of your tubes is a staggering sight. You’re within a much larger, almost cavernous room. The entirety of the room is lit by a flickering green light: the light of hundreds of similar tubes, arranged in overlapping rows rising up along the walls, like the pipes of a huge and terrible pipe organ. There are motionless forms inside each, and with a start, you realize that you recognize many of them: Team Battletoads, Team James Bond, Team Cage… the tubes contain the past losing teams of the Nexus Tournament.

You attempt to struggle against your unexpected captivity, but your body staunchly refuses to respond and you find your consciousness beginning to slip away. Suddenly, Luna, you are snapped awake by the sound of a great cracking noise: something heavy and powerful just whipped across the outside of your tube, leaving a gash in its transparent surface. This is repeated three times more, each impact further damaging the tube, until it shatters apart and you are swept out on a tide of green goop and broken glass. You are about to hit the floor uncomfortably hard when you feel the sensation of something wrapping around you, like a constrictor snake—only instead of being greedy and hungry, it’s protecting. You find yourself drawn safely over the ground and the broken glass… toward Venusaur.

Venusaur and Wartortle will help free all the League members. The League notes that Ash and his other Pokémon are similarly imprisoned, but appear to be comatose.

-Either way, once the League is free to look around the underground area:

It looks as though there are hundreds of cables, glowing with the same green light, that run out from the bottom of each of the tubes. They all feed into one massive machine against one wall of the huge room. The machine is multi-leveled, and has two separate stairways leading up to higher levels. At the highest level is a series of gigantic screens, many of which display the cheering crowds of the Nexus Tournament, many show vital readouts of the fighters imprisoned within the surrounding tubes, many seem to be charting the influx of some sort of energy source. The largest and most central of these screens displays an impressive cross-section of the different sections of Nexus City itself, showing some sort of complex web running beneath all of it, crossing between universes.

Before you can act, your body stops moving. It’s just that simple. You try to move or react in some way to what you’re seeing, but it’s like the signals from your body suddenly aren’t reaching your mind. You remain in this state, paralyzed and confused, for a few seconds, before a familiar voice rings out.

“Hi! I’m Troy McClure! I remember YOU from such events as the Nexus Tournament and staying the hell out of things that don’t concern you.”

The yellow-skinned Nexus Tournament host suddenly steps from the shadows. He’s holding a tablet in his right hand, and his usual amiable smile looks somehow more sinister in the flickering green light. Venusaur and Wartortle let loose a battlecry and begin to charge him, but he raises his left hand. A skull-shaped ball of fire rockets into Venusaur. Wartortle leaps through the air at him, but he shifts his posture and, with a gesture, seems to pull a greenish light out of Wartortle. Both Pokémon drop to the ground, writhing in agony.

“Ah, you two. I was wondering where you’d gone to. Odd—I’m sure I had you injected with the translocator nanos. Strange that they didn’t take. Ah well, a mystery for another time, perhaps.”

McClure is happy to villainously monologue to his heart’s content at this point. When the moment arrives, he will reveal his true form:

The form of Troy McClure momentarily seems to become liquid, his features flowing like water into a new shape and colors. Within no time flat, he’s changed into a man with Asian features, sporting long white hair and a long beard and moustache, wearing a black and red robe. “Allow me to re-introduce myself. You may call me Shang Tsung.”

Shang Tsung explains that he had been captured from his world by a group of aliens called Phyrexians, but escaped and ripped the soul out of several of the scientists which had been attempting to study him. He stole a strange spherical device they had been studying from another world and managed to escape to Nexus City. Finding himself in a world with thousands of powerful warriors, Shang Tsung realized he had a potential feast on his hands. With the knowledge he drained from the Phyrexian scientists, he was able to develop his own version of their tubes, but he combined it with his sorcerous knowledge to drain soul energy from its subject. He further realized that the sphere he had stolen was a device capable of manipulating emotions—he made hundreds of duplicates and scattered them throughout Nexus City, linking them all through the central command center here. His plan is simple: use the orbs to make everyone in the City completely crazy for the Tournament, creating a prize too juicy for any warrior to pass up. In order to participate in the Tournament, the warriors have to agree to an injection of translocator nanos, which secretly give Shang Tsung the ability to remotely shut down their bodies if need be (he waves the tablet for emphasis). The more the warriors fight in the Tournament, the stronger their souls become. When warriors fall in the Tournament, Shang Tsung takes them out of the public eye under the pretext of giving them medical treatment, but is in fact draining their accumulated soul energy to increase his own power. By the end of the Tournament, he’ll have access to the souls of hundreds of battle-tested warriors, making him… godlike.

Of course, my players have very little patience for villainous monologuing, meaning that they actually didn’t discover any of the above information. But now you know!

Eventually, Shang Tsung will tire of monologuing and begin to prep the League for the tubes. A shame that he won’t be able to properly finish the Nexus Tournament, but by this point, he has access to so much soul energy that there’s no one left on the plane who can realistically stop him anyway.

One obvious way that the players can overcome the nanos is by changing their form (as was hinted by the fact that the two evolved Pokémon were freed), but there may be other ways for them to break out if they’re particularly creative. In any event, once they free themselves, the battle with Shang Tsung will begin…

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