Furthermore, I'd like to introduce M'Elena to Vesper Tane, get her finally working for him, but I'm also curious how well an assassin will function against a space knight. Granted, M'Elena is 300 points and Vesper is 350, but I wouldn't expect that to be an absolutely dominating difference. Given that she doesn't have psionic powers, will he be stronger or weaker? Are his points "wasted points" and he'd be better off focusing entirely on martial arts over psionic powers and communion, or will they serve him well?
Vesper Tane vs Criminals and M'Elena
When we last left Vesper Tane, he’d been kicked out of his Space Knight Order for submission to the Id. He accepted this, because he’s always known his destiny was to destroy the Empire. In his heart, he believes the order knew this too, and set him on this path willingly, and that casting him out was the next step on his path to his destiny.
Now, he needs to reconnect with his old pirate allies, but he needs to find them first. This has brought him to a space port on the backwater planet of Temeris, known for its sullen swamps and jagged, foreboding peaks. He makes his way to the meeting, unaware that the Empire has placed a bounty on him for his anti-imperial activities, and that another warlord, who fears what a Space Knight pirate could do in this part of the galaxy, sent his best assassin, M’elena, to kill him.
And so, wearing his long, ragged, leathery cloak, his customary face-mask and bearing his now signature, red-bladed force sword, Vesper Tane sits with a couple of contacts in the dreary old cantina. Some sweaty band plays a soggy, sad song, and Vesper ignores the brownish drink placed before him, his eyes fixed on the criminal contacts who sit with him in negotiation for contact with his pirate allies. The well-dressed alien (having some kind of alien template, but one I do not know yet) is an Enforcer. He has a heavy blaster pistol in his coat. Towering next to him is a Bouncer. Vesper sizes him up, and then dismisses him. At a nearby table, a group of five criminal goons boisterously drink, while keeping an eye on Vesper. M’elene has secreted herself as one of the pretty hanger-ons, wearing something scandalous, but more than able to conceal her twin vibro-blades. She seems to ignore Vesper, her eyes on whomever is buying her drinks, but all of her senses focus on the Space Knight.
As the negotiations continue, it becomes increasingly obvious to Vesper that the enforcer is stalling. He rolls for Danger Sense and passes with a 5. He knows that he’s in a bad place and it’s rather obvious what’s going on. The enforcer prattles on about the difficulties of tracking down any pirates and Vesper stops responding. He closes his eyes and soaks in the sound of his environment, letting the seediness of the bar seep into him, and cultivating his growing anger.
“He’s closed his eyes, boss.” The Bouncer growls.
“So he has,” the Enforcer stops in the middle of his patter. “You know, don’t you.”
Vesper does not reply, hearing the disdain in the enforcer’s voice. He listens to the sound of the enforcer drawing his heavy blaster pistol, chromed and beautiful, from its sheath.
“I had hoped to wait for the boss to get here. The Empire put quite a nice price on your head, and we’re going to collect. You’re trapped, Tane. You have nowhere to go. You can give yourself up, or you can die.”
The bouncer begins to laugh, a low guffaw, taken up by the criminal thugs. Even the enforcer’s teeth, sharp and alien, gleam in the dim glow of the cantina.
Vesper Tane soaks it all in. The empire. The mockery. The helplessness. He focuses on it, on the primal rage it invokes. How dare they. He imagines himself as a bullied boy at the feet of thugs. He imagines himself as a prisoner at the feet of his captors. He focuses on that sense of powerlessness, on that rage. He is every bullied boy, every angry slave.
“Let me kill them. Let me kill them all.” He offers to the Id. He has prayed for 1d6 seconds. He has a legendary reputation, and he’s asking for the Power of the Id, a Rebellious Beast Miracle. He has closed his eyes and we can say that he’s made a few small gestures, a sort of hand mudra, to focus himself. He succeeds at his meditation roll, handily, with a 13. He’s also wearing red and carries a red force sword, which he intends to use to kill those around him, and he wears a mask. All three amount to a +3. He has a +4 to his petition roll, which will succeed on a 10 or less, and he gets precisely a 10. The Id definitely approves of this idea, and grants him a +4 reaction modifier. He also has a +1 for his legendary reputation. He rolls a 13 and gets +5 or an 18, which is a Very Good reaction, which means Dark Communion could give him a psychic nova, or call up a Dark Storm, or make him a Lesser Avatar. But Vesper asked for the Power of the Id, and he gets it. His vision goes red and he feels a growl growing in his throat as he feels himself become primal, powerful and swift. He gains +8(!) to ST, DX and HT for the next ten seconds.
From where M’Elena drapes herself, she recognizes the importance of Vesper Taon's hand-mudras and closed eyes. She sees the criminals laughing and thinks “Don’t they know what he can do?” She waits, watching his building rage, and waits for a moment to strike.
Turn 1 (Vesper: ST 19, DX 20, HT 19, 11 fatigue)
Vesper makes a precognitive (13) fast-draw (20), which means that his blade into life the moment he rises to feet.
The Enforcer was waiting for him to make a move, and fires immediately. The room is dim (-2) and Vesper is at point blank range (-0) and the enforcer is making a sighted shot (all-out (Determined), +1), so he needs an 11 or less to hit and hits with a 10.
Vesper currently has a parry of 17 (His Force Sword skill is currently 26). He’s close enough that he doesn’t need to make a precognitive defense and so doesn’t bother. He rolls a 6, which is a critical success. Rather than bother with the Critical Defense table, the GM just rules that Vesper parried the man’s arm rather than his weapon, and so with a flash of red blade, the enforcer’s arm comes off, and after the enforcer screams, he collapses, out of the fight.
Vesper makes a rapid-strike shove of the table and attacks the Bruiser with his force blade. He makes an ST-6 roll to throw the table to the side as part of his rapid strike and succeeds with a 12. He smashes it out his way and creates some impromptu cover between himself and the mooks at the other table. Then he swings his force sword at the Bruiser as a Deceptive (-6) rapid strike (-3), needing a 15 or less. He succeeds with a 14. The Bruiser must dodge with 4 or less and fails with a 14, which is a critical failure. Vesper inflicts 44 damage on the Bruiser (8d6 = 28 +16 = 44), which is enough to force him to take one survival check, almost two. For a henchmen, that’s enough to make him collapse into a hot mess.
M’elena's eyes widen at the speed with which Vesper Tane is dispatching his foes. Sensing that she won't have much time to act, she sheds her pretty shoes and rolls for Stealth to vanish from the scene and find a way to sneak up on Vesper. She needs to roll Stealth-5 to escape and she does so easily with a 10. While everyone is distracted, she makes her way around the chaos, attempting to get behind Vesper and strike him where he is vulnerable.
The goons draw their guns. They are at pistol (-3) range from Vesper.
Turn 2 (9 seconds remaining on Power of Id)
With a roar, Vesper crosses the distance between himself and the criminal goons and makes a Move and Attack (Slam), which will not deprive him of his all-important parry. He rolls Brawl to hit (-2 for gloom) and does so with a 5. The criminal goon is surprised to see him but gets a Dodge anyway, but fails with a 13. Vesper inflicts (19 x 8) 1d+2 damage vs the goon’s 1d-1. He’s probably going to go down, and anyway, he’s a mook so he’s out of the fight.
M’elena draws her blades and activate them for her turn, the low hum hopefully not giving her away in the chaos of the bar fight. People scream at the raging, red-bladed warrior in their midst as she makes her way closer to him.
The remaining four thugs defiantly open fire, using “gangsta shootin’”, an all-out (Determined) sighted attack with a bad (-1) angle. It’s a 10 or less, 8 or less if we account for the dimness of the scene. One hits, and Vesper parries with a 7, ruining his opponent's weapon and leaving it a smoking ruin in his hands
Vesper Tane rampages among the criminal thugs. He makes a triple rapid strike (-9) in the dark (-2) attack. He needs a 15 or less to hit 3 times: 6, 12 and 7. All the criminal goons made “all-out attacks” last turn so none may defend. He casually cuts down three of the remaining criminals, standing over the one he knocked down last turn, and facing down the last, terrified goon holding a ruined weapon in his hand.
M’elena has the chance to attack. The smartest thing to do would be to simply leave, as obviously Tane is too powerful to deal with right now. Even so, she’s under orders, and is faithful to her master. The most direct route would be a simple, straight forward attack with both of her blades from behind, which is -2 to his defense (he’s a weapon master), with a dual weapon attack (which is -1 to his defense). The net result would push him down to a 10 in most cases, 11 with a precognitive parry (and 13 with a Feverish Defense). If he parries, both of her blades are gone. That’s quite a risk, and is what I did the last time I ran this playtest, and she was promptly defeated. To be fair, there might be little she can do against him at all, but she has a few clever tricks she can try.
So, M’elena goes for a pommel strike (-1) to the skull from behind (-5). She needs a 12 or less, and she hits with a 7. Vesper cannot parry with his force sword (Unarmed Etiquette). He can dodge, though, and currently has has a dodge of 13. at -2 because this is an attack from behind. He fails his dodge with an 14, so she strikes him for 1d6 (3) damage, just enough to do 1 damage past his skull DR, which means he takes 4 damage and must check for stun as he’s taken Shock to the Head. Unsurprisingly, he passes with an 11 (he has an HT of 19 currently).
The remaining, unarmed goon takes the opportunity to run.
Stars burst in Vesper’s vision, his connection with Communion unable to give him sufficient warning to react. He rounds on her and sees her. Struck both by her beauty and by her pommel, he’s currently suffering a -4 to all of his DX and IQ rolls, which isn’t enough to stop him, but he’s reluctant to kill her out of hand. He steps back and Evalutates for a +3, also giving him a chance to ask the GM for additional information, to really notice things about her. The GM informs her that in addition to her lascivious outfit and her dangerous blades, she wears a slave collar, likely with some kind of tracking device therein. Vesper brings his crackling force blade between the two of them.
M’elena sees she has the upper-hand, but needs to maintain it. Her primary concern is removing Vesper’s force sword from combat, so she makes an off-hand Proof of Arms. She steps suddenly into close combat, the warmth of her body brushing against his and locks her vibroblade hilt around the crosspiece of Vesper’s force blade. She needs a 15 and rolls a 10. He can attempt to dodge, again with a 13, and in addition he retreats, giving him a 16. But he rolls a 17. She has his blade locked, and her second blade poised to strike.
Vesper drops his force sword and the blade winks out: if she wants his force sword so bad, she can have it. His weapon is Communion. He focuses all of his attention on an Extra-Effort TK grapple. He spends 2 fatigue and then spends 8 from Dark Communion and applies a -4 to his Will. He rolls a 5 and succeeds in increasing his TK grapple by 160% to ST 20. He then makes his grapple roll with TK-Control making it deceptive (-2) for a total of -5 to her Dodge. She has, thus, a dodge of 6, which she can improve to an 8 with an acrobatic defense, but it won’t matter: She rolls a 13 and he grapples her.
M’elena struggles to break free, her ST 11 vs his effective ST of 25. She fails, unsurprisingly.
Vesper lifts her from the ground and pins her against the wall, effectively a take-down. She can use her best grapple skill (16) vs his ST (20). He wins again, 14 (hers) to 10 (his). She’s pinned against the wall. The GM, to save time, rules it as an actual pin. She’s at his mercy.
M’elena struggles against her invisible bonds and then spits at him. “Just kill me.” she speaks in her thick, exotic, alien accent.
The Id rages within Vesper. It demands he repay her for his humiliation and wounds. Like a beast, it wants to tear her apart. Vesper Tane fights the impulses and instead focuses once more and draws on the power of the Id. He wants to know more about this lethal beauty. He senses something about her, something profound. He calls upon Dark Communion again. This is a generic miracle, so his trappings are only +1, and he’s cast a miracle already, so he’s at -1. He’s meditating, though, so that’s +1. He needs a 7 or less. Surprise surprise, he gets a 7 (if he hadn’t, I would have spent a Destiny point, provided I could justify this as a move against the Empire, though given that the Empire is trying to kill him, that might be justified enough). His reaction roll is only a +1, because the Id is already focused on her, and is eager to tell Vesper what he wants to know. He rolls a 10 (+1 from his reaction modifier and +1 from his legendary reputation is a 12). That’s a neutral reaction. He was hoping for something like Sense Passion, but he’ll accept Visions of Dark Communion.
What he sees her her kneeling at his feet as his slave, his assassin. He rolls Philosophy to understand and succeeds with a 12. Obviously, Dark Communion would like him to take her under his control. That’s what the id does. Moreover, she should be. Her destiny is to be his lethal left hand. But Vesper Tane personally finds the idea of keeping her as a slave repulsive. He seeks to free the Galaxy from people like that. Nonetheless, he understands the greater implications of the vision, because Vesper Tane has studied the ways of Communion. The Beast rescues people from slavery, and those people come to serve him and, eventually, one will betray him. Thus, he cannot walk this path alone. He needs someone to serve him. That person could be her.
Using his ST 20 TK, he crushes her slave collar. The pieces rain down over her shoulders, and he slowly lets her drift to the ground. “How about I free you instead?” he says. Within him, the Id howls and lashes, hungering for a more complete dominion over her, and he suspects it will not be so compliant in the future (probably a penalty to his next miraculous reaction roll), but he is its master, not the other way around. He lifts his hand and his force blade flies to it, and he places it on his belt, then turns his back to her.
She narrows her beautiful, alien eyes at him. “This is a trick. You hope out of gratitude that I will serve as your slave-assassin, or worse.”
Tane shrugs. “Our paths will cross again, but they will cross because of the choices you make, not because of the chains you wear. You serve a master? Go back to him, if you wish. Tell him of your failure to kill me. Or come with me, become a pirate, and serve no one but yourself.”
He needs to make a reaction roll. He has a Charisma of +1 and he has his Legendary Reputation of +1 which, as a breaker of chains and destroyer of order, definitely applies. He makes the case that freeing her from slavery is worth a +4. The GM agrees, and he rolls a 9, which gives him a 15, which is a “good” reaction. Tane’s player asks if he can spend a Destiny point to boost that margin by +1, and the GM agrees. She has a Very Good reaction. She definitely likes him, and for a loyalty roll, that puts her in a position of willing to put his interests ahead of hers. She absolutely believes in his cause.
She slowly reaches down to gather up her blades and then growls “I will choose what I wear and who I kill. If I serve you, I serve you my way.”
Beneath his mask, Vesper Tane smiles.
Uh, wow, that exceeded expectations. Vesper Tane was an absolute monster. A single Communion miracle can evidently make a huge difference. Of course, you have to get lucky, and sometimes characters won't, but even if Vesper Tane had gone with something other than Power or the Id, he could have done something worse, like called down a dark storm that ripped apart the Cantina itself. Communion can be subtle, but it doesn't have to be. Furthermore, Vesper is evidently quite competent in combat, with all forms of his power being exceptionally useful. His PK is enough to fling people around (to the point where I'm hesitant to even bother with things like TK-Push), and his force sword absolutely dominates melee combat, as I would expect, but I didn't think he'd mow throw everyone in less than two turns.
I wrote this about the time that my martial arts were first releasing, and a discussion about signature moves came up on the forum. I noticed that in these playtests, I hadn't really tackles signature moves, and I should, that's one of the purposes of this playtest. Moreover, M'elena's initial performance was pretty sucky, making me wonder if the Assassin Template was good enough, so I tried again with slightly different tactics, and this time she didn't instantly lose. She still lost, of course, because Vesper Tane looks virtually unbeatable in this fight, thanks to the Power of the Id, but she proved she could make her mark.
The fight also proved that the dynamism between force swordmanship and psionic powers is a good one. Vesper Tane isn't split between his two approaches, but can use them together, to improve one another. In fact, in general, I'm more impressed with TK than I thought I would be. This fight also proves that GURPS is GURPS, and that's something important to remember: a few different rolls and superior tactical choices make a huge difference in a fight.
My impression right now is that a Space Knight is basically perfect at 300-350 points. He hits all the right notes for a not-Jedi. He's a little particular (more focused on TK than on ESP or telepathy, though Communion gives him a little bit of all of the above) but that's fine for Psi-Wars.