New Faces

posted by drunkencarp Original SA post

Over the Edge: New Faces

Unknown to his friends, and unknown to himself, Debhed was a scorpion in his last life.

New Faces is the first OtE supplement, as near as I can tell. It's just 16 pages long, including the table of contents, and split into three unrelated parts. Generally it feels like material that was cut from the main book for space.

New Faces itself is a one-shot adventure originally put together as a quick convention scenario. It looks to me substantially better than the one-shot adventures in the main book, ie, it looks like something someone might actually run as a one-shot rather than as a didactic tool for introducing players to the Al Amarja setting, and it could be slotted into an ongoing game without much trouble. Which isn't to say it wouldn't work as a reasonable introduction!

A twentysomething German woman (former Sigma Epsilon Xi sorority sister) has gone missing, shortly after receiving some experimental surgery from Doctor Nusbaum.


The technique breaks down the surface tension of living cells and allows one to alter their shape at will. The process is lengthy, involving drugs, mental training, and a large device whose active ingredients are a secret known only to Dr. Nusbaum. Once the new face is shaped, it is set permanently.

The objective of the scenario is to find Konstanz, and there's a few suggested hooks to get the PCs looking for her -- maybe she's been their friend for a while and then she goes missing, maybe they know her parents (Annette and Waldo Nachbar, back in Germany, a couple of pretty well-off folks who could hire the PCs to go to Al Amarja in the first place), maybe Dr. Nusbaum has taken an interest and wants the PCs to find his recent patient, et cetera.

Searching for her, there's a few leads the PCs can get (from interviewing her mother by default) and follow up on. She used to like watching the cage fights at Sad Mary's; the bartender can tell her that she always ordered her beer jumped and on the rocks, then salted it. This unusual drink order may aid in identifying her. Her fellow Sigma Eps remember her; she used to hang out at the sorority house after graduating, which isn't too uncommon, and her friend Juice Petrelli got a letter from Konstanz just recently, talking about how great the New Faces method is and how Juice should totes go for it and they'll meet up once they both have new faces. Konstanz's boyfriend, an Algerian bike messenger Sommerite named Nuben Zimnalla...

One thing I like about OtE is "an Algerian bike messenger Sommerite named Nuben Zimnalla" is something you just take in stride.

Nuben got a letter, too, in which Konstanz asserted Nuben would really benefit from the New Face treatment a la the note to Juice, and adds "Things are getting a little strange where I'm at, but it's very exciting. By the way, if you could be any animal you wanted, which would it be?"

Dr. Nusbaum is extremely busy and unwilling to sit down for a meeting unless the PCs have something to offer him. But he offers some useful info, if they can wheedle it out of him: he suspects that Konstanz, along with several other recent patients, has been abducted by Dr. Alfonso Rodriguez, who collaborated with Dr. Nusbaum on the New Faces treatment and whom Nusbaum fired on account of he was mental. Yes, this is someone Dr. Nusbaum fired for being mentally unbalanced. If the PCs can, in the course of their investigation, capture Rodriguez (without killing him; his brain is no use to Nusbaum dead) and turn him over to the hospital, Dr. Nusbaum would appreciate it. He doesn't mention a reward, but he is one of only four people on the island immune to SACQ, so, probably good to stay friends with him.

So, finding Konstanz probably happens when the PCs stake out Sad Mary's and they see someone order a jumped beer on the rocks, which they then salt.

(A jumped drink, by the way, is a drink adulterated with uppers. A deep drink is one that's been adulterated with downers. Most beverage vendors on the island have standard cocktails they can squirt into your drink, like a flavor shot in your coffee. This was explained somewhere in the OtE main book, I forget where, and I skipped it at the time because one can only rattle off so many ways the Edge is zany without them all blending together.)

Konstanz is disinterested in talking to people, though if the PCs have Juice or Nuben with them, especially if someone has undergone the New Face treatment, that may change. Konstanz doesn't feel she's in danger or kidnaped or anything, she's just been really caught up in her new lifestyle and been too hopped up on the steady flow of communion that Rodriguez has been supplying her with to remember to call her parents or her boyfriend or Juice.

Speaking of her new life, there's a gargoyle shadowing her. He's not really a gargoyle, he's an Italian man who flips out and transforms into a hideous monster-man if (when) the PCs try to capture Konstanz or follow her. Antoni is fairly badass, with 3 dice of attack, x3 bony spurs, and 3 defense dice in gargoyle form. He's learned to shapechange at will, and when he's not in gargoyle form he's strikingly good-looking and sharply dressed (though he rips his clothes up during the fight). When killed, he turns to a goo-covered skeleton.

When authorities show up -- the Aries gang or the Peace Force -- the PCs probably want to search Antoni's pockets and split. Konstanz probably ran off in the fight. The PCs may have some fallout for their apparent ability to melt people.

In Antoni's pockets are whatever it takes to get the PCs to the next scene, specifically ticket stubs and receipts for businesses all located on the Plaza of Justice (Lou's Booze, the Last Supper, the Archives). At the Plaza of Justice, the PCs are drawn to the clothing boutique Neat Fit, proprietor one Jesus Rodriguez. Jesus is letting his no-good cousin use his basement as a hideout access; the PCs maybe see Konstanz going into the business and not come out, or what have you. They can try to negotiate for information and Konstanz through Jesus, or break in and raid the place, or sneak in, or whatever.

In the basement there's a not-very-well-concealed and not-very-well-locked door that leads to the basement of a disused warehouse next door, which is the actual hideout of the Proteus Club. The Club is, basically, the lab where Rodriguez perfects his shapechanging drugs and living quarters for his patients/cult/followers. Rodriguez's drugs work -- his patients can alter their form like Odo from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine -- but the unfortunate side effect is that the human brain was not meant to be connected to a shapechanging body, and folks tend to go slowly mad as a result. You can't shapechange into a dog without, to some extent, becoming a dog, and most of these people prefer to shapechange into hideous monsters.

Besides Konstanz and Rodriguez and Antonio, all of whom have been taking the drugs, there are four other Proteans. Nuko, Konstanz's roommate in the hideout, is a bodybuilder who uses the drugs very carefully and slowly, because she's not very good at shapechanging, which has had the side effect of not making her crazy. Instead she uses weightlifting to sculpt herself, and has become an incredibly muscular 4'9" (because her total mass is still a fixed number) who wears a very skimpy bikini. Ahmed is the exact opposite, he shapeshifts like crazy, to the point where he can't really control it any more, and melts over things like a semisolid. He rolls one die and one penalty die to do anything you can't do while being a fluid, but he rolls five dice for shapeshifting. Finally Xaiver and Annabelle are lovers who have shapeshifted themselves into a single being, hooking up their nervous systems and making one big four-armed thing with a woman's head and a man's face sticking out of her belly.

So the PCs have a few options, and presumably triumph, and Konstanz gets separated from the rest of the Club and comes down off the communion, and she apologizes to all her friends and relations for worrying them, but the shapechanging may cause long-term psychosis. The end!

The second section is the Agaras . Remember how back in the description of Sad Mary's I said that one of the prostitutes was a furry, specifically a ratgirl junkie? Turns out she's an Agaran, the descendents of a clan of Muslim Al Amarjans who, in the 13th century, were cursed by God for their sin and inquity to become rat-creatures. Their spiritual leader, Maroum Bismallah, remained in human form, and was made apparently immortal. For centuries he's been ministering to the rat-creatures, urging them to live pure, simple, virtuous lives. They live underground in a cave network, where they're fed by a tray that miraculously fills with food each morning, and watered with pitchers that miraculously are filled with water and milk and a lamp that burns without consuming its oil. Over the centuries, more virtuous rat-creatures give birth to slightly more human-looking rat-creatures, until now in the 1990s there's a generation that's human enough to shave their excessive body fur and wear pants that conceal their tail nubs and hats that minimize their big round ears, and can go up to the surface. There are others whose ancestors have not been so successful, who look like Skaven, and others whose ancestors weren't holy at all, who are still ROUSes. Portia, the Agara prostitute and junkie, is a massive backslide/throwback who turned her back on her culture and whose children, if she has any, will be hideous rat-creatures. Maroum is still around, and has centuries of wisdom, though he's been in a cave ministering to giant rats for most of that so is maybe less of a font of hidden lore than one might expect. The Agaras were originally written up for Ars Magicka, but Jon Tweet didn't use them, and just transplanted them into OtE.

And finally there's the Roentgen Operatives , a team of cloaks, basically an OtE version of the cast of Leverage . They can be allies, rivals, or pregen PCs for one-shots. They work for Roentgen, a massive conglomerate like GlaxoSmithKline that you've never heard of that owns other corporations that you've never heard of that own a bunch of corporations whose products you use every day.

There's Debhed , the hitter, who's uncouth on account of he's a reincarnated scorpion, but who is very good at hitting people on account of he's a reincarnated scorpion. There's Eagle , who has brain damage such that his brain lacks the filters the rest of us use every day to protect our fragile psyches from all the unhealthful revelations that surround us every day, which almost ruined his life before he learned to a) stop telling people about the things he noticed about them and b) stop looking in mirrors. Now he 'merely' has a phenomenal ability to read people. There's Shades , who as a child read a magic book that taught her how to pass into other worlds, and who came to this reality from an almost-but-not-quite identical parallel earth where the vice-presidents had different names. She doesn't quite fit in here, which causes people to subconsciously ignore her, which makes her very stealthy. There's Surfer , who is incredibly good at picking up local customs and fashions, always blends in and is treated like a native wherever he is, though he needs a minder because otherwise he'll forget he's a secret agent and just wander off to live whatever life he falls into. There's Tec-Doc , who has some gadgets he's built that jam and control electronics in different ways, but who misunderstands social cues. And there's Teeth , who is just beautiful enough make a good impression but not beautiful enough to intimidate, who independently developed Moving and who flies into a rage whenever she doesn't get what she wants.

The operatives mostly have industrial espionage skills in addition to their schticks, as well as multiple sets of ID, wads of cash, notebooks, knives, et cetera.


posted by drunkencarp Original SA post

Over the Edge: Airwaves

"This restaurant specializes in highly spiced crabs. Their evening business has always been good, but to increase lunch traffic they added exotic dancers from 11 AM to 3 PM."

Airwaves is another 16-page short adventure, by Rembert N. Parker, which looks like it's an anagram for something but BARREN TREK PERM isn't very helpful. According to the indicia Rembert hangs out in the AOL Gaming Information Exchange, so point your AOL to keyword GIX and ask him about it yourself, I guess.

The indicia is actually kind of a hoot, as it's laden with cutting-edge avant garde 1993 internet lingo like their email address -- -- and this bit:


For those of you in the Dark Ages (no offense to our favorite Grumpy Guy at the post office), we still have a slugmail address, too: PO Box 406, Northfield MN 55057 USA. Send us a self-addressed, stamped envelope, and we'll send you back some propaganda, like our latest catalog.

On the first page of the adventure -- actually page three, after the table of contents and the indicia -- there's a boxed text that proves the existence of storygaming swine even twenty years ago:


Special Note to GMs

Over the Edge is a system that allows the GM and players much more freedom than is normal in determining the outcome of an adventure. This resource book is intended to give you a major new establishment (television station AXTC), several new shops, a number of useful GMCs, and a setting for potential adventures. Read it all the way through once... (blah blah blah)

There is a danger that you will have a preconceived notion of how the adventure will be played by your gamers. Try to resist this urge, as it is the players who sould determine the outcome of the adventure... (blah blah blah)

Okay, anyway, the adventure itself. Basically this is the story of Kralepok, an alien superbeing made of pure energy who has almost exactly the same powerset as Quislet from the 1980s Legion of Super-Heroes: it can inhabit any conductive material, leaping from object to object, and if that conductive object is, say, a microchip that's part of a computer, it controls the computer. Kralepok isn't here on Earth willingly: it had been just passing through in between jaunts to other dimensions and somebody's secret orbital laser spotted it and shot it to pieces. Whose secret orbital deathray it was doesn't matter, probably it was the Pharaohs', they seem like the types, but it's not important. What's important is that Kralepok beamed itself to a communications satelitte and from there to the global telephone network and what passed for the internet during George H. W. Bush's administration.

Digging around through digital archives, Kralepok figured out that Earth is a pretty dangerous place, even for an quasiomnipotent energy being like itself, and so it fled to Al Amarja, which seemed like the best place on the planet to hide. It set up shop inside the Al Amarja Life Insurance Company's servers -- sorry, mainframe, this is twenty years ago -- and embezzled a pile of money into a shell identity it created, Larry Davis.

Resemblence to the star of Curb Your Enthusiasm sadly coincidential, though I wish the cover identity were actually Larry David, too.

Anyway, Kralepok's original plan was to use its ill-gotten gains to fund construction of a small space probe with just your basic FTL drive, nothing fancy, but it turns out you can't build a fast-than-light stardrive with off-the-shelf circa-1990 technology. So it's stuck in the Edge for the time being. While it waits for someone to develop an FTL stardrive or for aliens to invade so it can steal their stardrive (no rush) it's amused itself by creating a sort-of public-access television station, AXTC TV.

Look, I don't know how alien superbeings think.

Kralepok's powerset may make you think hey, don't human nervous systems conduct energy? And yes they do, and yes Kralepok can control human minds in much the same way it can control computers and blenders and telephones. It's a little tricky for it to interface properly, though, and the mind needs to be prepped by exposure to subliminal messages first, hence AXTC and all its subliminal messages.

AXTC is a fully-functional television station, with a studio built from a closed-down movie theater a block from the Plaza of Flowers, and admin staff and technicians and such, who know Larry Davis as a reclusive voice on the phone. Kralepok set up a sophisticated trust-fund instrument to ensure that the station will retain enough funding to operate, even without Kralepok's continued conscious involvement and even if they can't sell enough commercial time to turn a profit.

The Benning Theater, now AXTC HQ, is mapped out, along with the street it's on, which map connects directly to the Plaza of Flowers map in the main OtE book. The stores along one side of this street -- the Ramble -- are listed, and they're mostly forgettable. Crablegs is the crab place that hired strippers for lunchtime. There's a couple of clothing stores, an arcade, a nightclub, all with a little bit of a twist, like the arcade only takes tokens that are only available by mail-order subscription, and the newsstand sometimes has future issues in with its smattering of back issues, the pub has no mirrors and only plastic utensils, that kind of weird for weird's sake.

Anyway, AXTC. AXTC's broadcast system is kind of wonky; Kralepok came up with, basically, HDTV digital broadcasting, so viewers need to hook up a converter box to their TV to see the signals. The box and accessories are available from the station for a one-time fee of $19.95. The broadcast schedule is uneven and irregular, more weird-for-the-sake-of-it stuff:


The Weather Report

The reports are prepared and delivered by George Answan. He rambles, he usses maps and displays that are contradictory, he uses symbols that are not standard, and he is 100% correct. Unfortunately, even though he insists the forecasts for the next day, they are actually for a random day in the following week.



the Evils of Drugs Addictions

This public service show works hard to keep residents of the island warned about the latest drugs that are available on the island. Volunteers use the various drugs on camera, and viewrs are then given complete descriptions of the effects and side-effects. Rumor has it the show is sponsored by local drug dealers in an effort to build up their clientele.



the Conspiracy Show

This one hour show does shallow exposes of various secret conspiracies, some of which actually exist. The host is Chris Denning, an obnoxious whiner who alienates most viewrs. Each week Denning interviews someone who has special knowledge of a conspiracy, after which the members of the audience and phone callers can ask questions.

Meet the SMOCs

This half-hour show is hosted by Carol Weinning, a woman in her forties who seems too intense to carry on a normal conversation. She insists that the Secret Masters of Conspiracies are fooling people into ridiculing true conspiracies by sponsoring shows like the Conspiracy Show and stories in the tabloids that make the conspiracies seem like paranoid delusions. Weinning often follows up the Conspiracy Show by doing a tirade on how the conspiracy "exposed" on the show is much more dangerous than others believe. She films without a studio audience, has no guests, and takes no phone calls.

Some NPCs are outlined: Lorenzo DeRosa, the administrator, who was raised by Italian monks and ended up doing the books for the monastery and invented a whole new kind of filing system that no one else can understand, involving stacks of things; Eric "the Wall" Portwood, former star NCAA athlete who suffered brain damage and got studied at D'Aubainne University for a while (they thought maybe he was a latah, but no), whose brain damage makes him easy for Kralepok to control; and Phylicia Nasrallah, a sympathetic secretary built along PC lines (including 3 dice of Rahmakti, an ancient Egyptian martial art) who's lonely and seduce- or befriend-able.

So two things are going on more or less at the same time. First, there's this Frank Gunther. Gunther is a troubled guy, tortured animals, sociopath. He works at AATV, another TV station, where he fell in "love" with a folk singer who did a public-access show there. When she moved to AXTC, which offered her a better deal, Gunther couldn't handle it and he's trying to get her back to AATV.

His plan involved hiring the Hooligans, a gang of troublemakers for hire whose business model is take X dollars from Bob to prank Jim, and not stop until Jim has paid them 5X dollars. They're kind of dicks, these Hooligan guys, but they don't try to hurt anyone physically, just break into their homes and smash all their stuff, or paint the windshield of their cars, or so on. They don't go after targets protected by the Aries gang, but Kralepok didn't think to pay the Aries protection money when it set up the theater.

The station starts getting junk mail, unordered merchandise delivered COD, prank phone calls fill up the answering machines, lowlifes showing up after having been told they're welcome to live in the station lobby, local elementary schools showing up under the impression that they've arranged a field trip to tour the station, including a free lunch for all the kids, harassing late night phone calls of performers, slashed tires, the aforementioned home vandalism, and then who knows? Lorenzo is not cool with this at all, and assuming the PCs end up investigating, they can pretty easily figure out that it's the Hooligans behind it. Solutions available include recruiting the Aries gang to shut it down and provide protection ongoing or spread lies that the Aries gang got paid by AXTC but is doing nothing to protect them, or contacting the Hooligans and finding out they want $80 000 to stop. Which is literally nothing to Kralepok, so on the phone Larry tells Lorenzo to just pay them already.

The Hooligans get listed out and statted up, but they're not especially interesting people. They've managed to make a lot of enemies very quickly, which they hadn't realized was a consequence of their business model, but they have a variety of skill sets and none of them have a trait like "sociopath" or "cruel," and one of them has "sense of justice" and another is "protective of her husband," so, s'allright.

Once the Hooligans are dealt with, Gunther takes matters into his own hands and confronts Dara Blake, who has no idea who he is. I mean, yes, he's been calling her and sending flowers and such, but she's a reasonable popular local minor celebrity and genuinely didn't notice she was being stalked by one guy rather than the usual crowd of overeager well-wishers. He kidnaps her, live on the air maybe, and someone has to go find and rescue her, presumably the PCs.

MEANWHILE there's this whole other thing about Arnold Wallace. Arnold was a programmer at Al Amarja Life Insurance, and got fingered for Kralepok's wrongdoings, mainly because when he noticed a rogue program screwing up the mainframe and tried to shut it down, he crashed his boss's football betting pool program (?). Arnold plays with AI software in his spare time, and decided that Kralepok is a rogue AI. By tracing the funds, Arnold figured out that AXTC is a front for Kralepok which, again, he thinks is an unfriendly AI. He's embezzled lots of money himself to buy the kind of equipment needed to launch an assault on AXTC. His plan is to isolate Kralepok in the AXTC mainframe, cut it off from outside influence, and hook up his special Kralepok-killing dongle and load his special Kralepok-killing program, which will actually just push Kralepok out of our dimension (painful and annoying). The party may become involved with Arnold a number of different ways, either as someone to protect the station from or else they could be recruited to help him defeat mankind's greatest foe, the rogue AI.

This situation can end basically any way, with Kralepok and Arnold making peace (Arnold is not receptive to the notion that Kralepok is an energy being from another universe), or Arnold 'killing' Kralepok, or Kralepok using subliminals to control Arnold, or Kralepok using subliminals to control some but not all of the PCs, or what have you.