The Defenders, Vol. 2, Issue 3 - They Took My Toy(man)!

The group blundered about the city in search of...something. Perhaps going a'hero-ing, but turned up empty handed in the end, retiring to their rooms, where Beast found a small dark-skinned halfling sitting cross-legged on his bed. Magneto was also there, and after the rest of the team had been called into Beast's chamber, he presented the group with a mock-up of the component, which they had sent him the blueprints of after Toyman copied them for the group.

Though Magnus' component followed the printed plans, his copy was made from steel, and he noted that a metallurgist of more skill than himself would have been required to construct the component pieces, and he wasn't sure what metals would be used in the final product. He did note that he felt an inner sphere on the component would twist freely within, meaning a powerful magnetic force would also likely be used.

Taking this newly gained knowledge, our heroes attempted to make another appointment with House Cannith to meet with Winslow Schott, the Toyman, but he was not on Cannith grounds. The receptionist, remembering them from their earlier meeting with the artificer, recommended they visit his small, personal business and gave them the address.

Upon arriving, they found Schott's Toys and Wonderments to be eerily empty in the storefront. They called out, heard nothing, then ventured to the back, where they found the obvious signs of a struggle. Metal shards and blood splattered and scattered throughout.

Exodus robbed the Toyman's lock box while Beast and Jean searched the room where the apparent attack had taken place. The back door had obviously been smashed in, and on the outer back wall of the shop, they found an odd etching that resembled a crane or peacock. Questioning of the neighbors also led to no leads as to what had transpired or the whereabouts of Schott.

Beast had caught a faint trail of the Toyman and his presumed assailants, but Bennet pushed for certainty and some amount of time was spent finding and using a scroll of Scry. This magic use was fortuitous, as Bennet saw the Toyman, beaten and bloodied, with other figures around him - the mercenary assassin Deathstrike and some of her Reavers, as well as the Valenar noble, Pierce, known as The White King of Hellfire. The Toyman's abductors spoke briefly of the Tinkerer and needing Schott for 'his grand design'.

The party then moved into action, Beast taking the lead, as he followed a weak trail through the city streets of Fairhaven, to Chalice Center, the transportation hubof the city, where they floated up/climbed the airship docking tower, much to the delight of the wealthy nobles in the VIP lounge awaiting their flights.

A short investigation and verbal confrontation with the security posted here led them out onto a docking pier where a ship was moored that bore that same crane-like emblem on the prow. They told the security that they feared a kidnapped man was aboard and security escorted them onto the ship, where they began a search belowdecks. Jean had been scanning for harmful intent during their search and pinged above them, so they rushed to the main deck to find Pierce with Lady Deathstrike and some of her Reavers present.

Pierce demanded the departure of the heroes or face a fight, at which point the security departed, wanting no part in sparking any kind of Aundairian/Valenar conflict, since the airship was technically Valenar soil. The PCs were under no such obligation, however, and quickly engaged with the Reavers, finding out where the metal shards were from when a member of the mercenary team began flinging them from his own body!

The battle was quick, and saw the three most deadly enemy combatants - Pierce, Lady Deathstrke, and Skullcrusher - flee into chambers behind the wheel. Beast gave chase in a running battle with Skullcrusher, but stopped in his tracks when he saw a former ally, a young student of Xavier's named Warlock, physically melded with the airship.

The young hero initiated "Expulsion Protocol' and Beast was levitated into the air before the ship vanished, seemingly teleported from the area. The heroes, not having been touching the airship at the time, remained above the streets of Fairhaven, much to Beast's chagrin, since he was unable to fly, and fell, smacking hard against the airship tower, but holding on and climbing up to the top to meet with his companions, who both had been levitating.

The group began a frantic search of the interior of the tower, but had yet to find a trace of Schott.

Next issue, the heroes come to their Senses. And...new team members emerge (maybe)!

Cast of Characters
Jean Grey, Elan Psion 4|Wilder 4  - Angela
Bennet du Paris (Exodus), Human Psion 4|Spellthief 4 -Taylor
Henry (Beast), Artificer 4|Anthropomorphic Ape 2/Monk 2 - Paul

Bonus Feature: Running A Superhero Campaign Using D&D
This game is challenging to DM, because even though I have a rough draft of where I think the logical course of the plot is, my notes are just bullet-pointed and the players shape the story. Only two things (I'm not telling which) in the third session was "scripted", and one was written entirely differently than it turned out to be, so I don't even know if you can say it was scripted to begin with.

This player-driven campaign, coupled with unexpected tussles and random night-time hero scenes has meant that I have to come up with stats I otherwise wouldn't have. The fight with the Reavers, for example, was certainly not something I had anticipated this early in the campaign, so what do you do in a time like this?

First, don't have the heavy-hitters stick around. They have stuff to do and goals to achieve, and it really pisses off your PCs when their enemies get away, and they'll be itching for the fight later on where they get to wreck faces. And be sure that fight does come down the road. Especially in a game like mine, which is decidedly D&D, and a group like mine, who are hard to convince to back down from fights, frustration can build fast when they can't engage (and beat) enemies they've seen before. Recurring villains is more a trope of comics than it is D&D, and you have to find that balance.

Part of the problem with the "Name" baddies is they might mop the floor with your PCs, and that wouldn't tell a good story. The flip side to this is, I simply didn't have stats for them. I have rough ideas, of course, because I will stat them, eventually, so I could make them take some pot shots, but otherwise, I just have a blank slate with them.

Second, break the fight up, so that there still are combatants for the PCs to engage. This reduces tension that might build between the DM and players when they might otherwise be feeling like their ability to hero hard is constantly being deflected by the escape of bad guys, and gives a little purpose and release for the heroes, even if it doesn't really advance the plot much.. Even if you haven't planned for something, it's ok to wing this, or even to open up a monster tome and finish out the fight, but don't bog the game or your prep time down with eventualities like this.

The Reavers that the team actually engaged were just reskinned Warforged with a couple of light modifications. I wanted the one dude to shoot pieces of his metal body, so I didn't change anything on the stat sheet. I used his crossbow stats and said he was flinging bits of robotflesh at the party. I've learned over the years that KISS is the best method when running something on the fly. Don't fall into Snowflake Syndrome if you can avoid it. A cool 5-second description of something can be worth a lot more than 30-60 minutes of prep time.

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