ONE WEEK AGO: Amaranth and Sonic-Ice introduce new recruits Blackout and Strawberry Pop to the team at their sub-island headquarters after meeting them during a battle against Evil Star and his Starlings. Meanwhile, new vigilante "The Kid" gets lucky and spots them heading towards HQ from the shore; he locates the hidden entrance to the underwater monorail and disables the security to get inside. The heroes allow him to come inside and question him. After some checking, they decide to take him on as a provisional member, mainly to watch over him and tutor him (The Kid is only 13 years old!).
NOW: Amaranth, Captain Thunder and La Tigra Bianca are trapped and powerless in their own detention cell by Luthor's "Guardian Revenge Squad": Circe, Cheetah, Rancor (now dead), Psycho-Pirate II, and Dr. Stratos. One of their own, sometime member Ellipse, has betrayed them to Luthor. Before the villains can complete their revenge, the skies outside go totally black. Moments later, crashing sounds and rumbling announce the arrival of the Black Lanterns! The villains are confronted by CHEETAH II (Sebastien Ballesteros), PSYCHO-PIRATE I (Roger Hayden), a newly “revived” RANCOR, and SILVER BANSHEE!
The heroes start this session with THREE Hero Points each instead of the usual one!
While the heroes try to get free of their cell, the Black Lanterns take a heavy toll on the villains. The two Cheetahs square off, with the undead one quickly getting the upper hand thanks to his rapid-healing and undead immortality. Silver Banshee's keening devastates Dr. Stratos, since she knows his real name and can easily kill him with her power; he is quickly on the ropes, losing Stamina rapidly. Rancor starts attacking the cell's force field to get at the ringless Amaranth. Roger Hayden goes after his successor, the new female Psycho-Pirate, duplicating his own death at the hands of Black Adam by shoving the Medusa Mask, her face, and her brains through the back of her head, killing her instantly. Hayden scrapes her blood and brains off the mask, dons it, and flies off to Smallville to confront Superman and Superboy (in the Blackest Night: Superman miniseries). The new Psycho-Pirate gets a black ring, rises, and creates a duplicate Medusa Mask using her power ring.
Circe, seeing where this is going and thinking about how many people she has killed over her millenia-long existence, teleports away to hide out until the whole thing blows over!
Luthor had already signed off his viewscreen to monitor the larger situation outside. On his screen, Ellipse looks offscreen and screams in horror as his screen goes black!
The captured heroes try to figure a way out of their own detention cells. They realize that the only way out is to get released from the outside, so Amaranth tries a trick that he read Green Lantern has done before, commanding his power ring from a short distance (Extra Effort Power Stunt). He connects to his ring and uses it to deactivate the detention cell, freeing them to join the battle. Rancor quickly removes Amaranth from the fight by threatening to fly to Brooklyn to kill Amaranth's parents, leaving him no choice but to pursue his former best friend into space and out of the melee.
La Tigra Bianca scoops up her wounded pet Bobby the Bobcat and whisks him back to the Med-Center's Autodoc to get him healed, then returns to help the others in the fight. Captain Thunder makes some early headway, easily smashing some of the Black Lanterns, only to see them reform in mere seconds, ready to fight again. Dr. Stratos, in dire straits and close to dying, takes advantage of the heroes' freedom to escape and flee the area under heavy fog cover.
Meanwhile, the new recruits (The Kid, Blackout and Strawberry Pop) witness the fall of Blackest Night back in the city. They contact HQ to find out what is going on only to get P.I.P.E.R.S.' answering service. Knowing that something is wrong, they head to the shoreline to access the monorail, only to be attacked by a new Black Lantern, an undead revenant antihero called Grave Digger that just got a Black Ring. The very sight of the creature scared the heroes enough to retreat to the monorail and HQ for reinforcements!
Once inside, Kid and Strawberry Pop joined the larger battle while Blackout connected to the compromised HQ computer to purge the virus and reboot it. He just managed to finish the job as Grave Digger found him, rising out of the twisting metal floor to loom over him menacingly. His courage paid off as Strawberry Pop tried a new trick, sealing Grave Digger in a Hard Rock Candy Shell! This trick also saved the unconscious form of the Cheetah, whose undead counterpart was about to deliver a killing blow. Blackout then redirected the detention cell's force field to contain some of the Black Lanterns.
The newcomers' arrival was timely. After a fierce battle of wills, Captain Thunder fell under Psycho-Pirate's influence and was turned against his own teammates! Meanwhile, The Kid got clever and lured Silver Banshee into their Training Room, where he activated the first combat sequence he could think of: Kryptonian gangsters! Out came three robots made up to look like General Zod, Ursa and Non! The sidekicks forced Banshee to the ground, while their leader declared "Kneel before Zod!" as he belted her in the jaw! La Tigra Bianca followed and started putting the hurt on Banshee, keeping her off-balance!
Meanwhile, Strawberry Pop interposed to take the brunt of the assault from Captain Thunder, who was unable to penetrate her bubble-gum force-field.
Despite their progress and cleverness, the heroes were slowly losing the battle, until the sound of electric insects once more filled the air. But this time, the power rings weren't black...
(BOXED TEXT ALERT!)
“Rey dé Reyes of Earth: You are capable of great Rage. Welcome to the Red Lantern Corps.” (The Kid)
“Axel Issaacson of Earth: You are capable of great Avarice. Welcome to the Orange Lantern Corps.” (Blackout)
“Timothy Kenneth McCormick of Earth: You are capable of creating great Fear. Welcome to the Sinestro Corps.” (Grave Digger)
“Raymond Gardner of Earth: You are capable of overcoming great Fear. Welcome to the Green Lantern Corps.” (Captain Thunder)
“Strawberry Pop of Earth: You are capable of great Hope. Welcome to the Blue Lantern Corps.” (Duh!)
“Diana Forrester of Earth: You are capable of great Compassion. Welcome to the Indigo Tribe.” (La Tigra Bianca)
“Bobby of Earth: You are capable of great Love. Welcome to the Star Sapphire Corps.” (Bobby the Bobcat)
As each ring lands on you, it transforms your costume into a Lantern-variant appearance. All of your wounds are healed, your power restored! Grave Digger's black ring shatters, and Captain Thunder is free of Psycho-Pirate's control!
Above you, a short, glowing blue bald woman wearing a flowing white robe floats calmly in mid-air. Behind her, you see Amaranth, unconscious and in street garb, contained in a blue energy aura.
“I am Sayd, Guardian of the Blue Lantern Corps. I welcome each of you as temporary deputies of your respective corps for the next 24 hours. The time has come for us to save the universe from the threat of the Blackest Night!”
TO BE CONTINUED…Notes and Extras
This session required a hell of a lot of planning. It also required a lot of last-minute adjustment based on which players/PCs were active in the game, especially for determining which PC got which power ring! I knew that we had three new adult players joining the game after Issue 1, so I used a Flashback to show them joining the team a week before Blackest Night even started. This made the transition a lot smoother.
There were a few wild cards. Boomer's player is out for the foreseeable future due to his player's work schedule; he was supposed to get the orange power ring due to his egomania. Fortunately, Blackout gave me the seeds for his PC's former greed in his backstory, so he truly deserved the Avarice ring! Sonic-Ice's player is a 12-year-old with a short attention span; he decided to play video games that night, so his PC did not get the blue hope ring as I'd planned. Strawberry Pop got it, and it made perfect sense for her as a video-game character. They tend to be driven by hope more than most other human emotions.
Grave Digger was created for the Blackout player's 7-year-old son, who decided to play video games with the 12-year-old. I don't blame him, he's a bit shy and has never played a RPG before. So I decided to borrow Grave Digger as an NPC Black Lantern (he was going to have to make a few Will saves for that anyhow) and scare the PCs some more.
Originally the violet love ring was going to Strawberry Pop, but I realized Hope worked better for her. So having run out of PCs, I gave it to Tigra's sidekick Bobby, who really loves her!
I had originally planned for a bunch of the more personal Bystander-level Black Lanterns to show up, but this big battle took about 2 hours to run and I knew I would never have time for them. They got bumped to next issue's story. Don't ask me what I was thinking when I planned this!
I knew going into this that there was potential for frustration. This is how the story went in the early issues of Blackest Night, before the Black Lanterns' weaknesses are discovered by the heroes. They regenerate 2 points per round (Regeneration 20) and come back from death/destruction in 3 seconds (Immortality 20), so fighting them straight up is a losing battle. Thinking outside the box is required.
The players tried removing the rings, which unfortunately is impossible at this point in the story. Even clawing and ripping the rings off their hands wasn't effective. It WAS very messy! The bits and pieces just grew back together!
Using the HQ force-field cells was a clever move, as was luring them into the Training Room. Hero Points for those maneuvers!
On Amaranth: At the end of each combat round I did a cut-scene where I showed Amaranth's conflict in space. The text of that battle appears below. It added nicely to the overall horror mood of the adventure:
These three cut scenes should be read at the end of each combat round, in order, until completion.
MEANWHILE, IN SPACE (ROUND 1)
Amaranth pushes to his limit to catch up with Rancor in mid-flight. They are at the edge of the atmosphere; Amaranth realizes he must be trying to use a parabolic arc to cut short the time needed to reach his parents’ brownstone in Brooklyn.
Focusing his love for his parents, Amaranth creates a large energy hand to grab Rancor, halting his flight.
R: “What’s the matter, Jeffy? I thought you loved reunions!” He summons a black energy hand to pull free and then arm-wrestle Amaranth’s force construct.
A: [Rage, Will, Love] “Come on, man, knock it off. You’ve been dodging me for years. You walk away from a friend without word one of explanation like that, you owe a brother, you know?”
R: “Are you that clueless, Jeffy? I’ll make it simple: You took Jane Sweet away from me! You remember her, don’t you? Maybe I’ll visit her next…”
A: [Avarice, Compassion, Love] “Jane? For real? Bro, I ASKED if you were interested in her before we hooked up! You said no! And now you say THAT’S what ticked you off so bad? You’re kidding me!”
R: “Man, you really ARE clueless! I was mooning over her like a lovesick calf. I shouldn’t HAVE to have said anything if you knew me as well as you thought you did!”
A: [Rage, Will] “You know what? It doesn’t matter anymore. You made a lot of bad choices, Steve…not being honest, walking away instead of working it out, letting your jealousy and hate overwhelm you…you know what? I’m done feeling bad about it. I’m just going to stop you from making another bad choice before someone else gets killed!”
Amaranth launches a series of violet shooting stars at his undead foe, tearing holes in him that quickly repair themselves. Miles below, the battle at Guardians HQ rages on…
MEANWHILE, IN SPACE (ROUND 2)
As his face comes back together, Rancor taunts Amaranth:
R: “Yeah, you wouldn’t want your precious Mommy and Daddy going belly-up because you made kissy-face with some girl years ago, would you? What WOULD they say? Oh, don’t bother, you can ask THESE kind folks here…”
Flying into view are the Black Lanterns that used to be Amaranth’s grandmother and grandfather!
Granny: “Jeffrey? Dear, is that you?”
A (shocked): [Avarice, Hope, Love] “Oh my…Granny? Gramps? You’re back! But…what’s happened to you?” Forgetting about Rancor, he flies forward to embrace his long-deceased grandparents!
Gramps: “Well, all of us dearly departed got a second chance to come back and visit, Jeff. I must say, you’ve done well by yourself! I do wish you’d finished college, of course, but you’re doing all right with the music thing!”
A: [Compassion, Love] “Awww…thanks Gramps!”
Granny: “But, Jeffrey…there’s something we need to talk to you about. Something important you need to know.”
Gramps: “She’s right, Jeff. You’ve been deceived.”
A: [Fear] “WHAT?”
Granny: “Remember those space hussies that gave you the ring? Well, they didn’t tell you EVERYTHING about how it works, or what they’re really up to.”
A: [Fear, Love] “What do you mean? Explain.”
Gramps: “Well, Jeff, the Star Sapphire Corps are devoted to love…TOTALLY devoted. They take a hard-line approach to their goal that pretty much means ‘love conquers all’…no matter what the cost to the rest of us.”
Granny: “He’s right, dear. When they can’t get someone to agree with them, they lock them up in a big cocoon-like ‘conversion crystal’ that reprograms their mind and heart so they become slavishly loving, and want to make everyone else feel that way too!”
A: [Rage, Fear, Hope] “You…you’re kidding, right? This can’t be true! That’s nothing more than a mind-wipe…and that isn’t love, it’s anything BUT love!”
Gramps: “Well, Jeff, if you’re so eager to be certain, there’s only one way. Ask your ring. It won’t lie to you.”
A: [Fear. Hope] “Ring…is what they’re saying true?”
Ring (in Majel Barrett’s voice): “Affirmative, ring-wielder 2814.2. You can summon the conversion crystal as needed.”
A (shocked): [Rage, Fear, Compassion, Will] “NO! That isn’t love! And if that’s what the Star Sapphires stand for, then I will NOT stand for it! This is going to change!”
Ring: “Ring-Wielder 2814.2 doubts the mission statement. Reprogramming is necessary to make him an ideal agent. Commencing.”
The ring envelops Amaranth within a crystal shell that spreads across his body, rapidly enclosing him inside! Soon all but his head is trapped in the cocoon!
MEANWHILE, IN SPACE (ROUND 3)
As Amaranth struggles against his own power ring, the Black Lanterns leer over him.
Rancor: “You always did look pretty in pink!”
Granny: “Oh, dear. This can’t be good for Jeffrey!”
Gramps: “Don’t worry, honey. I’m sure he’ll man up and handle it!”
A: [Rage, Fear, Will, Hope, Love] “No…freakin’…WAY!...is this happening! I…will…NOT…become…a…ROBOT! NEVER!”
Straining his will to the limit, Amaranth finally shatters the crystal, freeing himself!
Ring: “Ring-Wielder 2814.2 is no longer a suitable agent for the Star Sapphire Corps. Initiating search for a replacement.”
With that, the ring flies off Amaranth’s finger and departs. His uniform reverts to Jeff Johnson’s street clothes, and the protective aura that keeps him alive in space is gone. Gasping for breath but finding none, Jeff reaches out to his beloved grandparents for help! [Fear, Hope, Love]
Granny: “Oh dear. I don’t think Jeffrey is going to make it, do you?”
Gramps: “No, honey-bun. I don’t think he is. Such a shame. But it’s really his own damn fault for becoming a good-for-nothing hippie!”
Granny: “Yes, I suppose you’re right. Oh well, we tried to warn his parents. Such a shame they didn’t have more children…”
And Jeff Johnson, out of breath and out of time, goes numb with the cold as his sight grows dim. The last thing his grandparents see before he loses consciousness is a small glimmer of HOPE.
I had planned to include the Black Lanterns' "Emotion Vision" detail in the main combat, where they literally "see" the heroes' emotions as the corresponding colors of the Emotional Spectrum (red for rage, orange for avarice, etc.). I wrote in specific notes for this in Amaranth's sidebar. It's much harder to remember to do this while running a mass-combat!
Obviously, I had this plot point in mind for Amaranth for a long time. He has a firm personal code when it comes to personal freedom, and the idea of altering someone's emotions against their will, even to make them a "better" person, amounts to psychic rape as far as he's concerned. Of course, he never KNEW his ring had this power because the Star Sapphires, who really didn't like him from the get-go, didn't tell him about it. This led to his "fall" at a very dramatic and lethal point in the plot. I teased the players by saying, "By the way, did I mention that this issue's cover has the blurb 'The Final Appearance of a Guardian' on it?"
It was a plot convenience to have Sayd, the second Blue Lantern Guardian, come along as this precise point to save him and help the Guardians in their darkest hour. I had planned to do something special and give the heroes power rings for this adventure. It's a temporary thing, but it will help them through the crucial plot problem of destroying the Black Lanterns and getting to the bigger threats later on. It also lets them play with special powers and new Complications that come with wearing the various rings.
Amusing side note: When a Black Lantern ring claims a corpse for membership, it announces their real name as it takes over the body. I had never given the new Psycho-Pirate a name, just a personality (manipulative amoral psychologist). So I took a similar character, Marvel's Moonstone from the Thunderbolts, and made PP's name "Sofia Carlin" after Moonstone's name, Karla Sofen.
An even more amusing sidenote: I forgot to note the best line of the night. As Amaranth was talking to his grandparents about the Star Sapphires and their dirty little secrets, grandma referred to them as "those space hussies!!" The players loved the line so much I awarded myself
a hero point!
I ran this session last week. Due to holiday plans, we're suspending the adventure until January, when we will continue with issue 3! Now that I've given the PCs Power Rings, it's time to kick it up a notch...
- Andrew <:-(}