By Bruce R. Cordell and Sean K. Reynolds
Internal playtesting is an important part of our design process for writing all of our books, including our most recent Cypher-System superhero supplement, Claim the Sky. And honestly, it’s just fun, too. When Monte originally wrote the “Superhero” rule module for the Cypher System Rulebook, playtests were also part of the process but that was six years ago! We wanted a fresh at-the-table experience to help guide our design on a book dedicated to superheroes. So, here’s what happened during our first design team playtest of Claim the Sky, where we played our original heroes in a session run by Monte.
Chicago’s favorite super team—the Sentinels—includes the dynamic duo Plum Devil (a second-tier Brash Warrior who Rages, played by Sean) and Lucent (a second-tier Impulsive Adept who Sculpts Hard Light, played by Bruce). Check out the end of the article, which includes character stats for both PC heroes!
ISSUE #1: BROOD X IS BORN!
Our heroes are dispatched to foil an in-progress burglary at an entomology and pesticide lab. They arrive on-scene in their high-tech SentinalJet and spot some well-armed soldier types on the roof, carrying things into a jet helicopter readying for take-off.
Lucent uses his hard light powers to entangle the helicopter’s landing gear, while Plum Devil, using his diabolically enhanced muscles, leaps from the SentinalJet onto the roof and tears open one of the chopper’s side hatches. Of the six henchmen crowded inside the cabin, only the two closest to Plum Devil are able to fire their pistols at the muscular hero, who has little trouble dodging these paltry attacks. Meanwhile, Lucent sets the SentinalJet’s autopilot to circle the building, then flies out to the intact side of the helicopter. He sculpts hard light into a set of metal shears to cut open the side of the vehicle. Plum Devil shouts his catchphrase, “Fist of Avernus!” as he yanks one of the goons out of the chopper, and follows up with, “Horns of Acheron!” as he knocks out a second foe. The remaining soldiers, who were just about ready to open the other hatch and fire their automatic weapons on Lucent, turn their attention—and weapons—fully to the Devil. The hail of bullets bounces off of the Heroic Hellion’s armored skin but hits hard enough to sting.
Unimpeded, Lucent’s shears cut open the other side of the chopper, and he spots the stolen equipment: two large external hard drives, each the size of a small suitcase. Realizing his intent, the soldiers fire on the Lord of Light, but he boosts his resilient force field and completely blocks their attacks. Seeing desperate measures are needed, the pilot activates the helicopter’s jet thrusters. This tears the chopper free of the entangling hard light, knocks down all the passengers, and dislodges the heroes. Determined to thwart their escape, Plum Devil leaps again, miraculously landing inside the open hatch, and Lucent flies at top speed to catch up to the fleeing helicopter, his light burning brightly.
Inside the cabin, one of the soldiers picks up a stolen hard drive. As Plum Devil racks his frenzied brain to figure out the best plan of action, an area of sparkling dust appears inside the chopper, from which a white-clad hand reaches out for the second stolen drive. With a flick of his mighty mauve wrist, the Devil seizes this mysterious arm and yanks it hard, producing a man wearing a completely white costume that obscures his face. Nonplussed, the new arrival says, “You shall not vex Dust,” and shoots a cloud of white powder into Plum Devil’s face. This unexpected attack catches the Purple Pugilist off-guard, and reflexively he draws this powder into his mighty lungs, instantly knocking him unconscious . . . to fall out the open hatch and hurtle towards the distant ground! The villain calling themself Dust takes a moment to grab the hard drive he first reached for, then vanishes in another cloud of white powder. Plum Devil awakens in midair, and has the sense to use his heightened dexterity to spin himself towards a large swath of bushes in an industrial park to cushion his fall. His body creates a small crater on impact, and his rolling recovery obliterates several dozen feet of landscaping. But he’s okay!
Moments earlier, having seen Plum Devil survive harder falls, Lucent remains in the fight and focuses a sustained light blast at the guard with the other drive, sending the man flying out the hatch. Lucent catches the falling guard who understands that his life depends on the hero’s goodwill; he clings to the hard drive with one arm and reaches out toward Lucent’s outstretched hand with the other. The flying hero lands safely with the soldier, just as people from the nearby business park come out to investigate the commotion. The local authorities (having pursued the airborne battle) arrive to collect the stolen goods as evidence and arrest the captured minion.
The heroes return to the laboratory and speak with Dr. Sanjay, who explains that the thieves seemed to know exactly which external drives to steal. However, the information on those drives is of no interest to anyone except entomologists—it details various aspects of the large cicada swarms expected this year, with unusually high swarm activity in a rural part of Indiana.
Despite foiling the hard drive heist, the heroes fail to protect Dr. Sanjay himself, who subsequently goes missing. The scientist knows the location of a site across the state line in Indiana with a particularly intense concentration of cicada emergence so, his kidnapper—probably Dust—will certainly learn it, too.
Fearing the worst, the Sentinels dispatch Lucent and Plum Devil to investigate. Jetting out to the location, our two heroes find a massive egg-like globule poking out of the ground. A group of local farmers is already on the scene, offering various pithy observations to all and sundry. The heroes learn the mass only recently emerged from the soil. Their investigation is cut short, however, when three supervillains appear through a glittering portal: their new foe Dust, a woman who controls shadow called Darkwave, and Amnesia, a young woman whose touch is like a psychic punch. Dust claims the pod as theirs.
Not today, buster!
The dynamic duo weather the villains’ first attacks, and even manage to push Darkwave and Amnesia back on their heels. But this gives Dust enough time to trigger the egg’s rupture. In a spray of flying soil and buzzing insects bursts forth the monstrous BROOD X! Over 20-feet-tall and made entirely of swarming cicadas, the creature begins to indiscriminately smash. Plum Devil and Lucent fight it, withstanding massive blows and delivering equally concussive punches and coherent light blasts unrelentingly. As Brood X begins to decohere, it lashes out at Darkwave and unintentionally wings Dust, sending the mastermind flying.
Realizing they don’t have control of the creature, Dust and the other supervillains flee the scene, leaving Plum Devil and Lucent to finally end the threat. The fields of Indiana are safe once more!
Character Sheets: Lucent & Plum Devil
An Impulsive Adept who Sculpts Hard Light
Tier: 2 Effort: 2
XP: 0 Recovery Rolls: 1d6 + 2
Intellect: 20 (Edge 2)
Armor: 2 (+1 from Resilience shift, +1 from Ward)
3 Subtle Cyphers:
[rejuvenator (CSR p 395)- level 4]
[rejuvenator (CSR p 395)- level 6]
[energy boost (CSR p 401)- level 6]
Patience, willpower, or discipline (inability)
Onslaught (CSR p 167); eased, +3 damage [used 2 power shifts, Accuracy & Power]
Entangling Force (CSR p 136); eased [eased because of Accuracy shift]
Defense and Movement Abilities:
Ward (CSR p 196)
Distortion (CSR p 130)
Flight [applied 1 power shift to get this higher tier, new ability granting short-range flight each round]
Sculpt Light (CSR p 180) [applied 1 power shift to get this higher tier ability)
Automatic Glow [new ability from Sculpts Hard Light focus]
POWER SHIFTS APPLIED
Power (Onslaught, +3 damage)
Upgrade (replace Temporary Light with Sculpt Light)
Upgrade (gain new short range Flight ability)
A Brash Warrior who Rages
Tier: 2 Effort: 2
XP: 0 Recovery Rolls: 1d6 + 2
Might: 20 (Edge 1)
Speed: 14 (Edge 1)
Armor: 2 (+2 from Resilience shift)
2 Subtle Cyphers:
[analeptic (CSR p 384)- level 5]
[effort enhancer—combat (CSR p 388)- level 6]
All strength-related tasks other than attack rolls (specialized)
Speed defense (specialized)
Might defense (specialized)
Light bashing attacks—unarmed
Movement involving acrobatics/dexterity
Overcoming/ignoring fear or intimidation
Frenzy (CSR p 143) “I AM ARISEN”
Control the Field (CSR p 121) “FIST OF AVERNUS”
Successive Attack (CSR p 187) “HORNS OF ACHERON”
Unarmed (trained), attacks eased two steps (11 points of damage)
Throwing something heavy (10 points of damage)
(Already figured in: Combat Prowess, No Need for Weapons, Skill with Attacks, Trained without Armor, Movement Skills, Greater Enhanced Might)
POWER SHIFTS APPLIED