Mar 292017
 

“Hello, I’m your neurosurgeon, Doctor Michael Clauberg. Don’t worry, this won’t hurt—much!”

It’s usually a bad idea to screw over the rest of your party, but, just sometimes, it’s awesome, possibly even necessary…

Our Sunday afternoon sci-fi survival game follows five members of a penal squad. Their rather dubious mission goes horribly wrong when the “cargo,” a psionic, prematurely thaws out of cryostasis. Later discovered to be the twin brother of the squad’s captain, things escalate when, during a firefight, the crew attempts to escape through a wormhole only to find themselves rerouted by the psionic to an unknown planet in an uncharted galaxy. It soon becomes clear that Cain, the psionic, will do anything in his power to stop the crew from returning to known space and the government he is fleeing.

My character, Dr. Michael Clauberg, was serving time with the squad for his sadistic contraventions of the Hippocratic Oath. An ex-interrogator for the Black Coats, and a drug addict, Clauberg is dangerously overconfident, while his open disdain for the military brings him into constant conflict with the ship’s captain, Odin. From a player perspective, Dr. Clauberg was a much darker character than I usually like to play, and the GM and I had talked about changing things up. An opportunity was about to present itself.

After crashing, the squad heads out in search of civilization, which they eventually found in a tribe of savage humans. At this time Dr. Clauberg discovers that Cain had a hemorrhage in his brain—a likely side effect of the crash—and stepped in to help. Since the first encounter with Cain, when he was defrosting from cryostasis, Cain had been averse to any form of sedation, fearing that he’d be imprisoned again. Dr. Clauberg, insisting that an injection was necessary to relieve the pain, knocked Cain out cold. Grinning at the chance to explore the complex biology of this advanced human being and to rid the party of a constant irritation, Dr. Clauberg injected highly illegal nanobots into Cain’s cranium. Surprisingly, the nanobots were quickly destroyed by Cain’s mental defenses. Intrigued, Dr. Clauberg tried once more.

This time he succeeded, destroying Cain’s defenses and a large part of Cain’s higher brain function.

Dramatic pause.

Cain had been a constant thorn in our side, but now, when he woke up, he was going to be an uncontrollable, powerful menace. Not only that, but Odin, who was having a hard enough time with Cain as it was, probably wouldn’t be happy that one of his crew had fiddled with his brothers brain, especially when there was still so much we didn’t know about either of the twins.

On the player’s side, no one expected this, supposedly not even the GM—although I suspect he had planned it all along. He’d created all the characters and their abilities, after all. The rest of the session kicked off in a big way, with a renewed energy.

Cain started coming to, and the hallucinations that had heralded his presence when the group first met him started plaguing the group again. Our tech officer, Blaze, began arranging radio beacon components to spell out “HELP,” while the doctor started seeing his dead patients walking again.

Odin became suspicious and questioned the doctor about Cain’s health. Dr. Clauberg replied that “yes, he’ll be fine, but it may take some time before he’s his usual self.” Nice cover, Clauberg. Captain Odin didn’t buy it though, and he carried his estranged brother from the village out into the wilderness, where his psionic tampering would have little effect. That’s when Odin had the vision.

Odin and Cain, both young boys, were playing in a field. In the distance, a man in a black coat watched. He flickered in and out of view, appearing closer each time. Then all they could see was a face, Dr. Clauberg’s face. As the vision ended Cain turned to Odin and whispered a single word: “Run!”

The blast of psionic energy released from Cain’s mind was likened to a small atomic explosion. It annihilated the surrounding landscape and wiped the village from existence. Thanks to Odin the squad and some of the villagers escaped, but barely. It turned out that Dr. Clauberg had destroyed not only Cain’s mental defenses, but also the mental cage that kept his psionic powers somewhat stable. The team now knew the truth, that Cain was a living weapon, intended to destroy any trace of them and their mission.

~~~

One of the best things about roleplaying games is the “collaborative storytelling” aspect, which asks every player, not just the GM, to give something to the story. Destroying a major NPC had a big impact on the game, even though I felt it was a choice based purely on “what my character would do,” and not the best course of action for the party. Besides feeling more invested in the story, and in my character, I figured out how to make the jump from “Evil Dr. Clauberg” to “Straight and Narrow Dr. Clauberg”. Many lives had been lost due to the doctor’s actions, and I felt he had no choice but to turn over a new leaf.

Have you ever screwed over the party?  How did it work out?

More awesomeness...

Rodney Sloan

Rodney Sloan has been writing adventures for the South African convention scene since 2009, for such systems as Dungeons and Dragons 3.5, 4th Edition and Pathfinder. He gained notoriety for creating Dr Frank and his flesh golum, Stein, who took an entire army of LARPers to put down. By day he enjoys rock star status as a teacher of English in several Japanese high schools. You can read more on his blog over at Rising Phoenix Games.

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