DM Screen 6 – Tyrannosaurus Phyrex

I tend not to write my notes too far in advance, as that will either a) railroad players into going down something I’ve overly planned, or b) result in me wasting a bunch of time and effort when they, inevitably, do something I don’t expect, and I end up having to go back to the drawing board. The below notes I wrote out after we released the previous episode 5, so there’s some contextual notes reminding me of where everyone was at the end of that episode.

The scene opens with Archer rappelled partway down a cliff while a T-Rex does battle with Phyrexian scouts above; Mordin and Lara are on the roof of a low concrete building inside the compound that the Phyrexians have taken over; Stitch and his raptor are wearing charming grass skirts and doing the hula just outside the electric fence perimeter; and Dante, Roland, and Zero have just ridden an armored transportation vehicle through the electric fence into the compound.

Can I just say, by the way, that the idea of Stitch and his raptor doing a hula dance as a way of “distracting” the Phyrexians from the gigantic vehicle that, moments later, crashes through the fence, is maybe the most delightfully nonsensical thing that has ever happened in this game.

There are still four Phyrexian guards posted in the compound: two lanky Phyrexians with large glowing pits for mouths (Blinding Souleaters), and two burly, gorilla-like Phyrexians (Insatiable Souleaters). They have all immediately dropped into combat poses upon seeing the armored vehicle come roaring through the electric fence.

Because Mordin and Lara are already in the compound and the Phyrexians haven’t spotted them yet, they get to act in the surprise round.

The surprise round is an idea lifted directly from D&D—it’s a round before actual combat begins during which an especially prepared character can act with no fear of immediate repercussions. It basically gave Mordin and Lara an opportunity to exploit their hidden position to start the battle off with a slight advantage.

Blinding Souleater
F              Ty
A             Gd
S              Gd
E              Rm
R             Gd
I               Gd
P             Ex

Health: 56

Command: Target must make Psyche check or be (W) stunned for 1 round or (G) blind for 3 rounds

That’s my shorthand way of denoting consequences for failing to resist an effect. Basically, if a character was exposed to the Blinding Souleater’s Command ability, they’d need to make a Psyche check. A Green (G) result would blind them for three rounds (-4 CS to anything requiring sight, like attacking), and a White (W) result means they’re stunned for one round. A Red or Yellow result means they completely resist it and are fine.

Insatiable Souleater (2)
F              Gd
A             Gd
S              Am
E              Gd
R             Fb
I               Fb
P             Fb

Health: 80

Trample: If the souleater drops a foe, it can immediately move to and attack a new target

This was my way of translating the Magic keyword ability Trample into the Marvel system.

Pith Driller (3 join when dramatically appropriate from within the structure)
F              Ty
A             Ty
S              Ex
E              Ex
R             Pr
I               Ty
P             Ty

Health: 52

Body Armor: Gd
Drill: Ex damage
Weaken: Target must make Endurance check or lose 1 rank of each physical stat until the end of the encounter

Tyrannosaurus Rex
F: Rm
A: Gd
S: In
E: Un
R: Fb
I: Fb
P: Fb

Health: 180

This represented the T-Rex that was menacing Archer, and would later end up helping the League to defeat the T-Phyrex, which was of course the mate of this creature that had been horrifically mutated by the invaders.

Phyrexian Dinosaur
F: Rm
A: Ex
S: Am
E: Un
R: Fb
I: Fb
P: Fb

Health: 200

Body Armor: Ex

The interior of the building has two floors, although the higher floor is at ground level and the lower floor is set into the ground. The upper floor features numerous large windows along the walls for watching the yard, as well as several tables which have been cleared of whatever their native contents were and replaced with Phyrexian computers and devices. In the center of the floor is a large open space lined with a railing, which looks down into the lower floor, dominated by four small glass-walled laboratories. Or rather, there were four glass-walled laboratories; only two are still intact, as the other two were demolished and cleared away to make room for a large, rough-walled hole that’s been drilled into the ground. (Normally there are three pith drillers working to burrow into the floor here, but if they notice the heroes arriving in the yard, they’ll let the infected dinosaur out into the yard and then join the battle.)

There are two items of interest in the structure. First, the Phyrexians had grabbed and begun to experiment on a nest of T-Rex eggs. Most of the eggs have become too corrupted and the embryos have died, but one of the eggs still holds a viable baby Rex, although it’s not immediately clear if this creature has been infected. The heroes can decide what they wish to do with this.

This would be the tough choice that I had in mind for this arc. Initially I thought they would have to decide whether to take the egg with them, return it to its mother, or decide they didn’t want to take any chances and destroy it. As it turns out, the egg’s mother ended up dying during the fight with the infected T-Rex, so the choice came down to save or destroy. If you remember from the episode, Stitch wanted to save the egg, but Archer wanted to destroy it, and in fact attempted to shoot the egg while Stitch was holding it.

I had to stop the session at this point and have a discussion about player vs. player conflict. There is absolutely nothing inherently wrong with having a game where the players are antagonistic toward each other, but many players can’t have fun if they feel like they can’t trust each other fully. Furthermore, Stitch had already decided that he wanted the egg, and Archer wanted to take that away from him, which can be a deeply frustrating thing for a player. Similarly, if Archer failed to destroy the egg, Miles could have felt frustrated that his voice as a player and as a character wasn’t being heard.

We talked it over briefly, and everyone was fine with this level of occasional conflict and were more than willing to allow the dice to decide how the scene ended up going. As it turns out, Mordin came to Stitch’s aid and Archer failed to destroy the egg, which came back with the heroes to Castle Grayskull. If anyone had been uncomfortable with this sort of player vs. player action, I would have made the players come to a mutual agreement about the situation out of character as opposed to having their characters fight it out.

Every player is different, and every group is different, and it’s important to recognize that there are many things which some players love but which will actively interfere with another player’s fun. The only way to tell the difference is to talk with each other and figure these things out.

Secondly, the pith drillers have burrowed a 10-foot diagonal hole into the bottom floor of the facility. Set into one of the walls at the bottom of this hole is a smooth metal plate about two feet by two feet—not the organic black metal of Phyrexia, but steel. It looks like the Phyrexians were just starting to try to excavate whatever this is when the heroes attacked. The heroes can try any number of ways to remove this object.

It turns out that the object is a metal cube, two feet by two feet by about eight inches. There is a very slight seam running all along the narrow edge; the cube can be pried open here to reveal a tome within. This book looks very old but quite well-preserved. The covers appear to be made of smooth gray stone and are marked with a symbol—it looks like a stylized upraised hand, with five finger-like points raised upward and a single downward point. The thick vellum pages within contain lines of illegible text; the heroes’ Phyrexian translators seem to be having difficulty interpreting the meaning of the lines, and at best the readers will be able to glean only meaningless flickers of understanding from the text. There are, however, woodcut illustrations on some of the pages, and the heroes can find pictures of creatures which are unmistakably Phyrexians being driven back or destroyed by figures holding some sort of small objects above their heads.

Once the heroes have what they—and the Phyrexians—came for, their new companions urge them to make their way to the nearest extraction point. Demona is still loose in Castle Grayskull.

The DDC will lead the heroes out of the Phyrexians’ compound and up a narrow pass through the jungle.

The way is steep, but not particularly long, and after only a few minutes of hard travel through the close green confines of the jungle, you emerge into a stunning view overlooking the island itself, its primal power and glory reveling defiantly against mankind’s attempts to tame it. Leather-winged creatures circle slowly in the air above a herd of powerful but placid herbivores drifting serenely across a pasture. For a moment, the intense and lethal struggles against the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park and the invaders of Phyrexia are forgotten.

When the League is ready to move on, the DDC will have to be overcharged to accommodate all eight passengers. Thankfully, this is much easier here than it was atop the London Eye, as Mordin doesn’t have to worry about getting eaten by Phyrexians right this second. Once the DDC is appropriately adjusted, it snaps open and a bubble of crackling, tingling white light springs out and surrounds the League. The heroes experience the now-familiar feeling of falling in every direction at once, then the hot and humid air of Jurassic Park is replaced with the cool, dry air of the interior of Castle Grayskull.

Stitch’s raptor immediately freaks out at the change in environment; Stitch will have to make a Psyche check to try to get the raptor to calm down or a Strength check to muscle her into submission, otherwise she will refuse to leave the room.

If the heroes go looking for Demona and/or Doc Brown, they run into the Doc first—likely in the infirmary, but he’s wherever they try to look. He looks momentarily surprised to see all of them, but immediately looks relieved that all of the lost League members were able to be rescued. If asked about Demona, he says that he finished patching her up a couple hours ago and she retired to her room to rest.

(At this point, pass a note to Kit: Stitch can smell that “Doc Brown” isn’t actually Doc Brown.)

I’m not normally one of those GMs that passes notes, but I was curious to test the waters and see how much the members of the League felt that they could trust each other at this point. If Stitch insisted that there was something wrong with Doc Brown, but *I* hadn’t said anything, would they believe Stitch?

This caused a little bit of friction when some of the other players felt as though the understanding of the game had been upended by this—there was an unspoken social contract in which information flowed transparently from the GM, and having a player deliver this information, seemingly out of nowhere, was a bit jarring for some of them. In retrospect, I probably should have, beforehand, asked the group how they felt about me possibly giving certain players privileged information in secret. It would have lessened the suspense of the moment, but it would have made the players feel more comfortable, which in my opinion is generally more important.

If the heroes go along with Doc Brown, they open the wooden door into one of the rooms the League uses as a barracks to find Doc Brown lying unconscious on the floor. The door slams behind them and is immediately sealed shut with magical force of Mn strength—it’s easier to go through the wall (In strength material—there are no windows).

If confronted, Doc Brown’s disguise drops, revealing Demona, who may briefly fight, but will teleport away if seriously outnumbered.

I didn’t give Demona any actual stats because I didn’t intend for the fight to be very intensive. If they players had come up with a particularly clever or effective way to trap or incapacitate her, I would have made up relevant statistics on the spot based on what I knew of Demona’s abilities in Gargoyles.

When the battle is clearly going against her, Demona will use her turn to teleport away.

After the situation with Demona is settled, the scene shifts to later that day, after Buffy’s cell has returned to Grayskull. Zelda has performed an extended and exhaustive ritual over the tome that the heroes uncovered in Jurassic Park, and has discovered that the text of the book was magically protected from being translated, but that enchantment has been dispelled and she has learned what secrets the book contains.

The tome tells the story of a world called Dominaria. Many millennia ago, Dominaria was invaded by the Phyrexians and nearly conquered. The Dominarians managed to assemble an artifact of tremendous power, and it seemed as though it destroyed Phyrexia altogether, but the parasitic world was able to reconstitute itself and begin the cycle of conquest all over again, even stronger than before.

A group of exceptionally powerful mages called planeswalkers, who were capable of traveling between worlds, bent their considerable power toward creating a means of destroying Phyrexia permanently. This took the form of five different gems, each representing a different type of magic, which were then scattered to different worlds. If the gems are brought together, they can be used to cleanse the multiverse of Phyrexia’s evil.

If the League is to succeed in their goal, these gems must be found and assembled.

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