DM Screen 28 – Where Lakitus Dare

One thing I’ve tried to do with this campaign is make each of the worlds the heroes go to feel different, which involves giving them different sorts of tasks to do. When I realized that this plot arc was probably going to involve a clash of armies, I wanted to take some steps to really differentiate the mass battle here from the one they had on Westeros. Obviously the dramatically different nature of the combatants did some of the heavy lifting there, but I also tried to vary up the sorts of tasks, challenges, and environments of this battle in comparison to the one at the end of the Westeros arc. I’m not sure how successful I was, but the players and listeners both seemed to enjoy it, which is all I can really ask for.

The scene opens in an area of the Mushroom Kingdom known as the Forest Maze, a dense collection of trees and bushes that crowd together, only allowing for the occasional narrow, winding path. These paths seem to have been designed specifically to foil any who enter, meaning that the forest is aptly named—attempting to navigate the Forest Maze without a map is just asking to disappear forever.

Hidden at the center of the Forest Maze is the secret base of the resistance movement known as the One United People. The rebels have had to be conservative in their construction, not only because of limited resources, but also because, even hidden by the shadows of the Forest Maze, they still don’t want to grow so large that Bowser’s patrols manage to catch sight of them. Nevertheless, through selective logging, donations from rebel sympathizers, and a little bit of actual legitimate magic, the rebels have put together a complex of low wooden buildings, camouflaged from above to blend into the forest canopy.

There are members from many of the races of this world counted amongst the rebels—even Goombas and Koopas who turned on their fellows to join the resistance—but the largest group by far resemble short, stocky humanoids with large spotted mushroom caps growing from the tops of their heads. Four of these mushroom people are standing guard at the southeast entrance to the rebel base when a noticeable tremor begins to shake the ground.

The mushroom people exchange a terrified glance and reach for their weapons—mostly consisting of tools and farming equipment—as the tremor grows louder, drawing every eye in the rebel’s encampment toward the border… just as a rainbow of hundreds of multicolored Yoshis seem to explode out of the darkened underbrush. The rebels are momentarily stunned, but then raise their fists in triumph, realizing that help has arrived.

And arriving with the Yoshis are the four members of the Extraordinary League dispatched to this world, as well as their new companion, the Shadow Siren called Vivian. Do any of you do anything noteworthy as you arrive in the rebel camp?

Give the players some time to interact either with each other or with NPCs, whatever they’re interested in. Eventually, the heroes will be able to claim an audience with Princess Peach—this happens naturally enough if they request it, but if they don’t, one of the mushroom people will approach them saying that the Princess is interested in talking to them in the central-most building of the camp.

The interior of this building is lit by oil lamps hanging from ceiling cross-beams and sitting on tables, illuminating several maps showing different areas of the Mushroom Kingdom and surrounding areas in varying degrees of detail and perspective. There are several of the mushroom people gathered around—from the setup it looks as though they were in the process of preparing some sort of guerilla military operation, but any thought of planning has been momentarily set aside as they seem to only be able to talk about the arrival of the Yoshis, which they do with wide-eyed, excited fervor.

Presiding over this gathering is the one person here who seems to have the size and proportions you would expect from a “normal” human being. She has fair skin, blue eyes, and long hair the color of gold currently tied back into a thick ponytail. She’s wearing a patchwork set of cobbled-together armor, including mismatched patches of hide and pieces of Koopa shells, although you can see pieces of pink cloth here and there, most prominently as a sash cutting diagonally across her waist.

“Greetings. Welcome to our camp. I understand we have you to thank for our new influx of recruits.”

I mentioned this in our third anniversary episode, but I had a few different ways I could have represented Peach in this story. One concept I had was to make her a badass, Furiosa-style freedom fighter. I eventually decided against this idea, however, as it both didn’t seem to come naturally from her pre-established character and also seemed to implicitly devalue traditionally feminine traits like empathy, patience, and kindness. I instead decided to characterize her as someone who was smart and insightful, who felt somewhat out of her depth with violence and war but valued the lives of her people enough to stand up and fight for them despite her misgivings.

Peach will talk to them as long as they’d like. She recognizes Vivian from the struggle with the Thousand-Year Door, of course. She can tell them about Bowser’s takeover, although it’s probably nothing they haven’t heard already: after a period of piece, the Koopa Troop attacked with no warning, armed with overwhelming weaponry and technology. The mushroom people were overwhelmed and force to flee the capital city, Peach among them. She’s done what she can to rally supporters around her, but there’s only so much they can do against that type of military and technological might.

If asked about her brooch, Peach regretfully reports that her brooch, along with her crown and other jewelry, had to be left behind in the castle when they fled. However, if these heroes can help her drive Bowser out of the castle and restore peace to Mushroom Kingdom once more, she will gladly grant them the brooch as a well-deserved reward.

Eventually, Peach will announce to her assembled mushroom-headed advisors that the time has come to strike back against Bowser. The shocked advisors begin to whisper to each other; one of them, a mushroom person wearing a blue and white outfit reminiscent of a Revolutionary War general, and with a mushroom cap shaped somewhat like a tricorner hat, speaks up. “With all due respect, your Majesty, now is the time for us to gather our forces, perform reconnaissance, and construct a plan that can slowly and reliably wear away at Bowser’s forces.”

Peach nods at him. “Your advice is welcome as always, General Washingtoad. However, I must disagree. Bowser holds numerous advantages over us, and turning this into a battle of attrition will always favor him. The greatest advantage we have now is surprise. Up until now, he has been acting under the assumption that he has us on the run and has been content to spread his forces thin in order to conquer more territory—once he hears of the Yoshis’ breakout, that will all change. The more time we allow to pass, the more time Bowser has to construct new weapons of war and call his existing troops back to a defensible position. We know the layout of Mushroom Castle and have recent scouting information on the placement of his troops there. It’s true that, with more time and information, we could conceivably attack with greater strength, but Bowser will never be more vulnerable than he is right now.”

The assembled mushroom people advisors nod grimly, setting their jaws in determination.

Peach calls the League over to her and spreads out a large, detailed map of Mushroom Castle and some of the surrounding countryside. “We have a three-pronged assault planned. Mushroom Brigade will be leading the ground assault on the castle walls, assisted by Yoshis that can generate earthquakes. Flower Brigade will be their artillery support, performing long-range precision strikes on high-value targets, assisted by Yoshis that spit fire. Star Brigade will be attacking from above, providing air support and hitting enemy troop emplacements and heavy weaponry, and will be assisted by Yoshis with the ability to fly. From what I’ve heard from the Yoshis, it sounds as though the five of you are quite powerful and experienced in battle, so I’d like to ask you join Star Brigade for a special mission.”

She can go over the setup of Mushroom Castle as they know it. The area around the castle is thick with patrolling Koopas and robots. Most of the robots are human-sized or smaller, but there are a few models the size of buildings—these ones are less mobile, but are positioned at specifically-chosen chokepoints so that it’s very difficult to pull off a ground assault on the castle without running into one of them, especially since Bowser has filled the castle moat with lava. The castle walls are manned by other Koopas and robots equipped with long-range siege weaponry, and there are clusters of missile launchers mounted at six different places on the walls. According to some of the intel the rebellion was able to get their hands on, the robots and high-tech weaponry are controlled via a control center deep within the castle that only Bowser has direct access to, but the control signal is amplified by a hidden antenna inside the highest tower in the castle—destroying or deactivating this antenna will force all of the robots and weapons to undergo a hard restart and will revert to default programming, making them significantly more vulnerable to attack, especially without their coordinating network.

Peach explains, “What I need is a small team that will be able to slip through the enemy forces and take out that antenna. I would prefer not to damage the tower itself if possible, but towers can be rebuilt, so if there’s no other way, that’s how it will have to go. The team will be receiving some support from both ground and other air units, but we can’t devote too much of our forces to this without drawing unwanted attention from the Koopas—hence why we’re sending in a small team in the first place. The team will have to hold their own against Koopas, robots, and heavy weaponry the whole while. I’ve spent a lot of time working this situation, and I think it’s the best solution, but if you have any other ideas—or if you have any questions—I’m listening.”

With a scenario like this, I always like to both give players a suggestion of how they could approach it, but leave it up to them as to whether they want to go with this suggestion or come up with something else.

Peach reveals that she will be going in with the team. Those of the team that can’t fly on their own will be granted winged Yoshis to ride, including Yoshi himself (who will gulp a blue Koopa shell immediately beforehand).

The heroes have time to hang around camp, prepare, or call for scenes as they wish. Once they’re ready, it’s time to move in on Mushroom Castle.

We see Mushroom Castle off in the distance on a hill overlooking Toad Town. Toad Town, of course, has always sat just outside the Castle, and while until recently it was a bright, cheerful place, the recent occupation by the Koopas has not been kind to this village. The stone and wood buildings that remain standing have been coated in a fine layer of grime from the industrial pollution hanging heavy in the air, making the sky appear a sickly yellow. The formerly green grass has wilted and died. The native mushroom people have been driven out, while high-ranking members of the Koopa Troop have brazenly taken over their buildings and live in gleeful debauchery under the watchful eye of the robots that roam the streets and keep watch overhead.

In a scene similar to the one in the Forest Maze from earlier, some of the robots and Koopas near the southern edge of the town hear an approaching rumble before a rainbow tide of Yoshis comes surging over a hill and charging down toward the town. Unlike in the Forest Maze, however, the arrival of the Yoshis causes an outright panic amongst the people living in Toad Town. Alarms are raised as the One United People flood toward Mushroom Castle, crashing into enemy forces like a tidal wave.

The Koopas scramble to respond appropriately, but the robots have no such hesitation. Large numbers of squat humanoid robots with rounded orange bodies and dome-shaped heads form the bulk of the robotic forces. Fast-moving robots with a body shape somewhat suggestive of an ostrich come speeding out on two legs, launching barrages of missiles from their sides. There are robots in a shape similar to beetles which launch cannonballs from long forward-pointing barrels. And these are just the most common models—there are smaller numbers of more unusual models which strike into the rebel forces unexpectedly.

The skies, too, are filled with the clash of enemy forces, as mushroom warriors mounted on winged Yoshis do battle with Koopa Paratroopas, flying goombas, and of course, the robots: bug-shaped, bird-shaped, humanoid shaped. On ground and in the air, the rebels hit the entrenched enemy forces hard, but the Koopas and their robotic allies are dug in hard and make their enemies fight for every inch of ground. The sounds of flying missiles, blazing lasers, and cacophonous explosions all blend together into a relentless, chaotic drumbeat.

And flying into this chaos comes the Extraordinary League!

And their NPC allies, of course:

Peach
F: Ex
A: Ex
S: Ty
E: Gd
R: Ex
I: Ex
P: Rm

Health: 56            Karma: 70

Slap Glove: Hits twice for Gd damage each
Golf Club: Str+10 damage and target must roll Endurance vs Stun
Tennis Racket: Str+10 damage and target must roll Endurance vs Slam
Frying Pan: Str+20 damage
Vegetable: Str+5 ranged blunt damage
Parasol: Gd gliding
Toad Block: When Peach blocks an incoming attack, the attacker takes damage equal to the amount that Peach blocked
Therapy (useable 5 times per plot arc): Fully heals one target and removes negative status
Group Hug (useable once per plot arc): Fully heals all allies and removes negative status
Come Back (useable once per plot arc): Fully heals one KO’d target
Sleepy Time (useable once per episode): All enemy targets must make a Psyche check or fall asleep
Mute (useable once per episode): All enemy targets must make a Psyche check or be unable to use special abilities or speak
Psych Bomb (useable once per plot arc): All enemy targets must make an Agility check or take (Y) 40, (G) 50, or (W) 75 damage

Yoshi
F: Ex
A: Ex
S: Rm
E: Rm
R: Ty
I: Ty
P: Rm

Health: 100         Karma: 42

Tongue: Can be used as a Rm-strength grapple; anyone snared can be pulled into Yoshi’s mouth and turned into an egg (stunned for 1 round and can be thrown as a weapon)
Speed: Ex
Jumping: In, can be done in midair
Adaptive Abilities: Yoshi temporarily gains special abilities after swallowing certain colors of Koopa shells:
                Fire Breath: Am damage, useable after swallowing a red Koopa shell
                Earthquake Stomp: Rm damage to all ground-based enemies in Yoshi’s area, useable after swallowing a yellow Koopa shell
                Wings: In flight, useable after swallowing a blue Koopa shell

There are two obvious paths that the League can take as they head toward Mushroom Castle: they can either attempt to fight their way through the large aerial melee where most of the fighting is going on, or they can try to cut through some of the areas where the fighting is less or nonexistent—but those areas are empty because of the large, obvious clusters of surface-to-air missile launchers set up on the ground below. Neither path is going to be without peril, but there may be other options they could come up with.

If the heroes decide to head through the melee, they’ll need to make their choice of Fighting, Strength, Endurance, or Intuition checks. Yellow results in 10 damage, Green is 20, and White is 40.

If they try to fly past the missile launchers, they’ll need to make their choice of Agility or Reason checks. Green or higher means they avoid damage altogether, but a White result means they take 50 damage.

At some point during this challenge, Stitch will be attacked by a swarm of small, flying, bee-like robots. They will attempt to knock Stitch off of whatever perch he is riding on, or otherwise send him flying as appropriate. Whether they do so or not, Stitch should be able to recover easily and quickly enough, take no damage, and the swarm of robots flies away.

This, of course, was my way of setting up the loss of the DDC which would lead to the final chunk of the story in this plot arc.

The heroes have broken past the main fighting and are making a beeline toward the castle when suddenly, rising up from a hidden silo in the ground, is a towering robot many stories tall. It has the same squat, rounded humanoid body of many of the ground units, but these ones are made of gray and black metal and lock on with a single glowing red eye on its swiveling, dome-shaped head.

The heroes can attempt to fight this thing if they want, but if they come up with a way of disabling or otherwise evading it, they should have a chance to do so.

Death Egg Robot Sentinel
F: Pr
A: Pr
S: Un
E: Un
R: Pr
I: Pr
P: Pr

Health: 208

Body Armor: In
Eye Laser: Am damage
Weak Point: The sentinel’s eye has Sh0 Body Armor, and any hits dealt to the eye inflict +40 damage to the sentinel as a whole

The heroes close in on the castle, evading the incoming missiles and laser blasts from the robotic forces below and knocking aside any Koopa Troopers that come flying at them. They close in on the tallest tower in the castle, easily distinguished by the large stained-glass window depicting a looming turtle-dragon-looking creature roaring in triumph. (Peach looks particularly upset that Bowser replaced her stained-glass window with one of his own.)

If the heroes want to attempt to bring down the tower from the outside, they can certainly do so; otherwise, if they decide to try to head in, they’ll find the antenna inside surrounded by a cluster of six warp pipes, all of which sprout snakelike Piranha Plants as soon as the antenna is threatened.

Piranha Plant
F: Gd
A: Gd
S: Gd
E: Gd
R: Fb
I: Fb
P: Fb

Health: 40

Bite: Ex damage and target is grabbed

When the antenna is inevitably destroyed or otherwise shut down, the pitch of the massive battle around Mushroom Castle noticeably changes as the countless robots, who had been turning the tide against the invaders and beginning to turn the attack into a rout, suddenly jerk to an uneven stop. The lights on their metal bodies flicker unsteadily, their limbs twitching, as they pause, seemingly lost in thought, as if listening for a noise they can’t hear any more. That moment of hesitation is all the beleaguered members of the One United People need—they unleash devastating counterattacks, damaging, dismantling, and destroying their mechanical enemies. The Koopas, who had been delighting in the destruction that their allies had been providing, suddenly realize that this battle has almost certainly just turned against them.

Deep in Mushroom Castle, Bowser bangs his fists angrily against the buttons on the console in front of him, but the robotic armies displayed across several screens fail to respond, standing aggravatingly still as they are slaughtered in vast numbers by the suddenly emboldened rebels. Smoke boils from Bowser’s nostrils as he turns to another, separate console and bangs on the buttons there. A shadowy figure appears in the console’s screen. “Something wrong?” the figure asks.

“I’ll say something’s wrong!” Bowser responds. “Your machines are hunks of garbage! What’s wrong with them? They’re getting destroyed out there! You said they could stand up to anything!”

“There’s nothing wrong with my machines. Perhaps you’ve been deploying them poorly—there’s no substitute for tactical intelligence.”

“My tactics are flawless!” Bowser roars, ripping the console from the wall. As the image of the shadowy figure blinks from the screen, Bowser screams at it one more time. “If your machines can’t handle one little threat, then I’ll have to take matters into my own claws!”

That’s it for the plot, but before I go, I leave you with the greatly expanded table of Power Block contents that the heroes rolled on for this episode!

Block Contents:

1: 1-Up Mushroom: The next time the recipient is knocked out or killed, they return with full Health next turn. This is a one-time effect but lasts indefinitely.

2: Bee Mushroom: user gains Gd Flight, Gd wall crawling, and can walk on clouds; they must make an Endurance check when damaged or touched by water or will revert back to normal

3: Blue Shell: user can give up their turn to gain Am body armor for 1 turn, and can perform charge attacks at +2 CS accuracy and damage

4: Boo Mushroom: user gains Ex invisibility and intangibility; user must make an Endurance check when damaged or exposed to sunlight or water or will revert back to normal

5: Boomerang Flower: user gains boomerang projectile which deals Rm damage and can be used to bring light objects back to the user

6: Cape Feather: user gains Gd Gliding and Gd Leaping, and can make a Fighting check as a reaction to completely negate an incoming projectile attack

7: Carrot: user gains Rm Gliding and Rm Leaping

8: Cloud Flower: user can create up to three clouds at a time that they can use as platforms

9: Copy Flower: creates a clone of the user. This clone imitates every action the original performs but only has 1 Health.

10: Double Cherry: creates a clone of the user. This clone imitates every action the original performs but only has 1 Health.

11: Frog Suit: user gains Rm Leaping and Rm Swimming

12: Goomba Mask: anyone who encounters the user must make a Yellow Intuition check or believe they are a Goomba

13: Hammer: user loses the ability to do anything other than move, jump, and swing the hammer. Hammer deals Str+30 damage.

14: Hammer Suit: user can throw hammers which deal Rm damage; they can also perform a crouch as a reaction—this acts as a block but any Green or higher result is instead counted as a Red

15: Ice Flower: user can throw ice balls—anyone hit must make Endurance check or be frozen; user can also make an Agility check as a reaction to counter incoming fire-based projectiles

16: Metal Cap: user gets Ex Body Armor (or increases existing BA by +1 CS), +1 CS to Strength, and life support

17: Penguin Suit: user gets +1 CS to charge attacks, Ex Swimming, and can throw ice balls (target must make Endurance check or be frozen)

18: Power Balloon: user gains Pr flight but is unable to do any other physical activity

19: Propeller Mushroom: user gains Ex Leaping, Ex Gliding, and can perform a ground pound when in the air for +1 CS to hit and damage

20: Red Star: user gains Am flight

21: Rock Mushroom: user can roll as a boulder for +3 CS damage on a charge attack

22: Spring Mario: user gains Am leaping and can perform a ground pound attack when in the air for +1 CS to damage; user must make Endurance check when damaged or touched by water or will revert back to normal

23: Super Acorn: user gets Rm gliding and Rm wall-crawling

24: Super Bell: user gets Claw attack (Str +1 CS damage) and Ty wall crawling

25: Tanooki Suit: user gets Ex gliding and can use their turn to turn into an immovable statue with Am body armor

26: Vanish Cap: user gains Ex invisibility and intangibility

27: Wing Cap: user gains Am flight

28: Super Leaf: user gains a racoon tail which gives them Ex gliding, Ex flight (after a running start), and a spin attack which deals Str damage to all enemies in the user’s area

29: Super Star: user gains Rm speed, immunity to damage, and ShX Strength for one turn

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